“But you, Daniel, shut up the words and seal the book, until the time of the end. Many shall run to and fro, and knowledge shall increase.” (Daniel 12:4).
Does this prophecy, the famous one in Daniel, mean that technology and science and widespread travel are a sign of the end times? Yes and no.
First of all, the end time has been since Jesus ascended and will end when He returns. In that case, the advances of the Romans in installing indoor plumbing, aqueducts, hot and cold running water, as many roads as are equivalent with the United States Interstate system, and the Colosseum are indicators of the end time as much as our current Interstate, the Houston Superdome, and Kohler’s no-touch kitchen faucet are.
As a matter of fact, no one still knows the how the ancients came up with the technology behind the Great Pyramid at Giza, as mathematically, architecturally, and astronomically perfect as it is.
So what does the verse in Daniel mean? Barnes’ Notes proposes one interpretation:
“Many shall run to and fro – Shall pass up and down in the world, or shall go from place to place. The reference is clearly to those who should thus go to impart knowledge; to give information; to call the attention of men to great and important matters. The language is applicable to any methods of imparting important knowledge, and it refers to a time when this would be the characteristic of the age. There is nothing else to which it can be so well applied as to the labors of Christian missionaries, and ministers of the gospel, and others who, in the cause of Christian truth, go about to rouse the attention of men to the great subjects of religion; and the natural application of the language is to refer it to the times when the gospel would be preached to the world at large.”
MacArthur explains it this way:
“At that time, many shall run to and fro and knowledge shall be increased.” Now this is a most interesting phrase, been interpreted many ways. Let me give you what is the basic interpretation, the words, the context that I think makes real sense. It is not talking about the increase of scientific knowledge primarily, although that may be an allusion or an implication that could be drawn. What it is talking about is this, many people in the Tribulation, the time of the end, are going to run to and fro trying to find out answers to what’s going on. And they’re going to find the book of Daniel and at that point, their knowledge will be increased.”
So I don’t think we can be dogmatic that this or that is definitely what the verse means. After all, the Lord said to seal it up until the end. If we are still debating what it means then obviously He hasn’t unsealed the meaning to us yet, though we do have more of a clue today than in Daniel’s day, I believe, because we are so close to the end
Francis Bacon, English philosopher of the 1600s Restoration was influential in insisting that the advances in science currently underway should be for the betterment of man. He urged a more utilitarian approach instead of a contemplative one, and thus, he was a forerunner of the Industrial Revolution. However, just as ominously, Bacon said in his major work, “Novum Organum” (the second part of the Instauration), he stated his view that the restoration of science was part of the “partial returning of mankind to the state it lived before the fall”, restoring its dominion over creation, while religion and faith would partially restore mankind’s original state of innocence and purity.” (source)
In this way, Bacon kicked us into high gear in replacing God with science.
Bacon’s motto was “Multi pertransibunt & augebitur scientia” = “many will pass through and knowledge will be the greater”, as seen on the frontspiece of his major work. It is a direct reference to Daniel’s verse.
The title page of Novum Organum depicts a galleon passing between the mythical Pillars of Hercules that stand either side of the Strait of Gibraltar, marking the exit from the well-charted waters of the Mediterranean into the Atlantic Ocean. The Pillars, as the boundary of the Mediterranean, have been smashed through opening a new world to exploration. Men have been unleashed to sail new waters of thought, science, and technology. Bacon hoped that empirical investigation will, similarly, smash the old scientific ideas and lead to greater understanding of the world and heavens. The Latin tag across the bottom is taken from the Book of Daniel 12:4. Bacon is thought of as the father of empiricism.
So each age has been amazed by science and technological advances. However up above I said ‘yes and no’ to the question as to whether technological advances are a sign of the end time. I don’t think it can be related firmly to the Daniel verse but I also think it can be seen as a mirror of man’s status a la Tower of Babel.
As man’s achievements grow, his pride grows too. The prouder man gets of his works the more he says he doesn’t need God. I also believe this generation has seen the most growth in God-dishonoring science and technology than any generation before. “Safe abortions”? What an oxymoron. Safe for whom, exactly?? We go into space to prove God is not there. Though we have heeded Bacon’s plea to create things from science and technology for the betterment of man, we have also gone far away from God with it.
I believe that we are in a state of future shock now.
Though things did change dramatically between 1950 and 1970 when Toffler observed and prompted him to write of the advances and their impacts in society, that change has accelerated even more dramatically from 1970 to now. This isn’t just a feeling. It is actually related to technological change, and has been observed in Moore’s Law.
Moore’s law is the observation that over the history of computing hardware, the number of transistors on integrated circuits doubles approximately every two years.
“The capabilities of many digital electronic devices are strongly linked to Moore’s law: processing speed, memory capacity, sensors and even the number and size of pixels in digital cameras. All of these are improving at (roughly) exponential rates as well. This exponential improvement has dramatically enhanced the impact of digital electronics in nearly every segment of the world economy. Moore’s law describes a driving force of technological and social change in the late 20th and early 21st centuries.” (source)
Vernor Vinge popularized his ideas about exponentially accelerating technological change in the SF novel Marooned in Realtime (1986), set in a world of rapidly accelerating progress leading to the emergence of more and more sophisticated technologies separated by shorter and shorter time intervals, until a point beyond human comprehension is reached.
This accelerating trend has continued for more than half a century.
My half a century.
When I was born, man had not gone into space yet. Now a man jumped from space to the earth. I believe this most rapid change in technology and science has been due to the birth of the modern computer age in 1970. The world’s first general microprocessor came out on Nov. 1971 and we have never been the same.
In this bewildering world of advanced quantum technology, iPhones, space jumping, Mars roving pace, please remember that the Lord never changes. He is steady constant, and eternal. His timing is perfect. At just the right moment He will call us home, and our joy will be complete. Personally, I’m looking forward to a world without cell phones 🙂