Only weeks apart, I received the same question from two dear friends. It is a question many have asked, and it is one that has the potential to cast great light on much else. Here’s how one friend put the question:
“It is clear the nameless one (described in Dan 10:4-11:1) is the Lord Jesus given clear unity with Revelation 1. How do you understand His being delayed and receiving help from Michael to release the word?”
Even among those commentators who see verses 5-9 as depicting a pre-incarnate appearing of Christ, most will argue that beginning at verse 10, another figure has come into view. The proposed change from Christ to an angel is assumed only because it is thought to be inconceivable that the pre-incarnate Son could need angelic assistance to push past the resistance of the demon Prince of Persia to complete his errand to Daniel (Dan 10:13).
[And what a strategic errand it was! It was to be an exceptionally long, uninterrupted (two chapters), unparalleled, narrative style prophecy that would lay out in astonishing detail “what shall befall your (Daniel’s) people in the latter days.” No wonder the demonic realm was so invested to impede the messenger’s mission. It is important to note what this mighty, history-determining breakthrough of divine revelation cost Daniel, as well as the place that sovereign providence had brought him in preparation for it.]
Yet, does the view that an angel has stepped in in place of the glorious Christ really solve our problem? It still leaves the question, why would the holy angels, sent by God, ever be successfully detained? Wouldn’t it be expected that the only assistance they would need to fulfill their mission would be amply supplied by God Himself? What then is this mystery of demonic resistance? What is its purpose in the great scheme of God’s eternal purpose? Why the struggle?
Could it be that God desires a concerted effort of participation by those who are partakers of His divine nature in a relationship of union? I like the following explanation by commentator, Gleason Archer:
“While God can, of course, override the united resistance of all the forces of hell if he chooses to do so, he accords to demons certain limited powers of obstruction and rebellion somewhat like those he allows humans. In both cases the exercise of free will in opposition to the Lord of heaven is permitted by him when he sees fit. But as Job 1:12 and 2:6 indicate, the malignity of Satan is never allowed to go beyond the due limit set by God, who will not allow the believer to be tested beyond his limit (1 Cor 10:13).”
More than this, why has God made believing prayer so much the issue in His fluctuating war with the fallen powers of this age? Apparently, the holy angels receive their strength over the demon princes of this age according to this rule: when the flesh is weak and its power broken, when the heart is tender and contrite, the veil of the flesh gives way to life, light, and revelation. Where this deep breaking has occurred, there is a corresponding release of the Spirit that grants great access and mountain moving power in prayer.
This is the secret that gives prayer its power. It is the issue of the veil. The strength of the veil to hide and blind is through the strength of carnal self reliance. When the power of the flesh is broken, the veil gives way to transforming revelation of the liberating light of the gospel (Deut 32:36; Dan 12:7; 2Cor 3:14-18; 4:4, with Isa 25:7).
Therefore, my answer would be, the demonic resistance, like the mystery of lawlessness itself, exists for the glory of grace. As Paul says, we have been brought into the fellowship of a hidden mystery, namely, that through the church (composed of necessarily weak, the frail jars of clay), the manifold wisdom of God is being demonstrated, even to the principalities and powers. This is all “according to His eternal purpose” (Eph 3:9-11).
The design in this conflict comprehends the whole story of God’s foretold work. Manifestly, He hasn’t merely permitted the resistance, He has ordained it as indispensable to an eternal purpose that had no beginning in time. In this light, it is not inconceivable that Christ should choose to require angelic assistance, particularly if Michael’s arrival was inseparably related to Daniel’s self abasement and prayer.
Not only here in Dan 10:13-21, but all of history proceeds from a pre-ordained purpose to permit a demonic resistance under Satan to hinder and oppose the coming of the kingdom on earth (compare Dan 10:13, 20; Rev 12:10). These are the opposing angelic powers that stand over and behind the great usurping kingdoms of man.
So the resistance was perfectly ordained from the beginning to serve the greater plan of God, since in no other way could His eternal purpose in Christ be realized (see Ro 8:19-21). By the same pre-creation decision, God has predetermined the bounds of this resistance (“who says to the proud waves, this far and no further”).
This is why we see the threefold seven (21 days). It is also why we see such language as “the set time to favor Zion” (Ps 102:13), with many such predetermined time indicators, (e.g., “time appointed” (Dan 11:27); “seventy weeks are determined” (Dan 9:24); “that which is determined shall be done” (Dan 11:36) and many more.
Yet, none of this takes place apart from the equally preordained, indispensable means of grace, chiefly, in this case, as in so many since, “the effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man.”
We may be sure that nothing of the end time victory of the church over the beast, and the witness by which gentile believers will make Israel jealous, will happen apart from this supreme grace of prevailing prayer.
This brings to mind what I see as a principal divine use of the first half of Daniel’s 70th week. I call it the “straightening (or constraining) of the church”. This is when the well defined signs of the first half of the week mark the near approach of the tribulation, which begins with the removal of the regular sacrifice and the placing of the abomination in the temple in Jerusalem (Dan 9:27; 11:31; 12:11; Mt 25:15-16; 2Thes 2:4; Rev 11:2).
The signs that confirm the final week has begun are divinely calculated to move the living members of Christ’s body to a deeper place of corporate intercession.
Through deep self-abasement and a Daniel-like depth of spiritual travail (Gal 4:19), not only will the church come to the promised maturity (Eph 4:13), but the mighty Michael will again be sent, this time to fully and finally expel Satan himself (not merely one of his ‘princes’) from his present position of hindrance in heaven. This happens significantly in the middle of the week at the threshold of the final persecution.
With Michael’s middle of the week expulsion of Satan (Dan 12:1; Rev 12:7-14), the mystery of lawlessness can be revealed in the full empowerment (we believe incarnation) of the man of lawlessness (2Thes 2:7-9). It is this great event in heaven that intersects with the key, signal event on earth (the abomination of desolation) that sets the last 3 1/2 years in motion (the half week of Dan 7:25; 9:27; 12:7, 11; Rev 11:2-3; 12:6, 14; 13:5). This great transition in heaven and earth must first take place before the the “mystery of God” can be “finished” with Christ’s return at the 7th trumpet (2Thes 2:3-8; Rev 10:7; 11:15; 12:10)
Seeing then that these things must be fulfilled before Christ’s can come, how urgent must the church become with strong cries that the necessary events fall soon into place, so that Satan might be dislodged from his position in heaven as the one who hinders? (compare Dan 10:13 with 1Thes 2:18; 2Thes 2:7; Rev 12:7:14). Perhaps we will not see this degree of intensity until the door of the final seven has closed fast behind us, but the evidence is strong that we will see it.
When the church will travail, Michael will prevail! That is to say, a considerable body of evidence from the scripture leads us to expect a convergence of God’s set time with a Daniel-like depth of holy travail of intercession. When this corporate cry comes up before God, Michael will prevail to cast down Satan. This makes possible the revelation of the mystery of lawlessness in the man of lawlessness that brings the overarching mystery of God to its predestined conclusion (2Thes 2:3-4; Rev 10:7).
This certainty of well marked, well defined events that establish the certainty of the time will prove a priceless provision for the preparation of the church and the release of kingdom power and authority that God has invested in “those days” of greatest transition from this age to the next (Dan 12:1; Mt 24:19, 21-22, 29)
By these clearly foretold events, the “wise” who “understand” (Heb. “maskilim”, simply the godly remnant) will be able to instruct many and turn many to righteousness (Dan 11:33, 12:3, 10; Rev 7:9, 13-14). From what we can observe by a careful comparison of parallel scriptures, the great transition that takes place in heaven to start the final tribulation will also result, not only in the revelation of the mystery of lawlessness, but also, on the side of light and truth, a mighty, Pentecost-like outpouring of power and strength (Rev 12:10) that will come upon, not only the two witnesses, but also the ‘maskilim’ (defined as the forerunner remnant appointed to teach and evangelize; Dan 11:33; 12:3, 10).
This can be seen by observing that the scripture reports a mighty power to do exploits coming upon the maskilim. This is significantly reported immediately after the placing of the abomination of desolation has been placed in Dan 11:31. Noting what we have seen about the great transition that removes the accuser from his long held access to heaven, and noting that the two witnesses receive power at this time (see below note), is it not significant that just now, with the placing of the abomination, the scripture announces the power of the maskilim to perform exploits amidst the final martyrdom? (Dan 11:32-35).
… the people who know their God shall be strong, and carry out great exploits … (Dan 11:32 NKJV)
[Note: That the ministry of the two prophets occupies the second half of the week is shown by observing that their death and ascension happens in connection with the 6th trumpet, which is also the 2nd woe. This is very “shortly” prior to Jesus’ return at the 7th trumpet, which is also the 3rd woe (compare Rev 8:13-9:1, 12-13; 11:11-15).]
Note too, it is just after Michael has cast Satan down that Satan begins his “short time” of rampage upon the “earth dwellers” (Rev 12:10-12). Again, it seems most significant that just here, we are told of the triumph of the saints.
“And they overcame him by the blood of the Lamb, and by the word of their testimony; and they loved not their lives unto death” (Rev 12:10).
Is it too far to infer that this glad boast of spiritual triumph (unparalleled?) is shown to immediately follow upon the removal of the accuser of the brethren (2Thes 2:7; Rev 12:10)? Surely this intends to indicate that something without equal or precedent has only now taken place in heaven that has completely and forever removed Satan, not only from his position of hindrance to the arrival of the kingdom by holding back the necessarily preliminary “mystery of lawlessness” (2Thes 2:7; Rev 12:10); he is also denied access to the now fully liberated consciences of sealed and fully secure believers.
He no longer has access to challenge or question the identity of the living members of Christ. Of course, this reality is available now to what the writer of Hebrews calls, “the full assurance of faith”, but here, this liberty of triumphant assurance and gospel clarity of conscience is being realized on, I would suggest, an unprecedented corporate scale as essential establishment in grace for the last battle. All’s to say, there has been a mighty, truly unprecedented breakthrough in the heavenlies, and this will have its outworking in the power that comes upon the saints who have been deeply processed by the events of the first half of the week.
This is not a metaphor for the entire inter-advent period, as some teach. It may indeed be a reiteration of the historical pattern of Christ’s victory over the Dragon, but this is clearly future, at the threshold of the final, very short tribulation. It particularly concerns Michael’s pre-tribulation victory over Satan, as foretold in Dan 12:1 and Rev 12:7-9). From this point on, in some unprecedented way, what Satan could do before, he can do no longer.
What will such a victory in heaven mean for the saints on earth when Satan will no longer have any more access to heaven to accuse them? That this has not yet come, even for such a saintly saint as Job is shown in Job 1:6, 9-12. The same removal of the accuser is foreshadowed in the case of Joshua, the high priest? (Zech 3:1), and will be even more fully enforced to the penitent survivors of the last tribulation when “… I will remove the iniquity of that land in one day.. (Zech 3:9 with Isa 66:8; Eze 39:22; Ps 102:13).
Such freedom from the accuser’s accusations will not, of course, be anything entirely new (Jn 5:24; Ro 8:1). It does, however, seem that from this point forward, as from no other, Satan will be completely cut off and cast down from whatever access to heaven he had before Michael’s pre-tribulational victory. Could this be why the saints of this time are spoken of as sealed, beyond reach of Satan’s accusations?
It certainly raises many interesting questions that will doubtless come to greater light as the time nears (Dan 12:4, 9).