In Daniel 12:4, 9, 10 we read -- |But thou, O Daniel, shut up the words, and seal the book, even to the time of the end: many shall run to and fro, and knowledge shall be increased. ** And he said, Go thy way, Daniel: for the words are closed up and sealed till the Time of the End. Many shall be purified, and made white and tried; but the wicked shall do wickedly: and none of the wicked shall understand; but the wise shall understand.| As we shall yet seek to show this prophecy is a composite one and its fulfillment is being manifested in many different directions. That to which we would now direct attention is the manner in which this prediction has been accomplished in connection with the Scriptures and particularly in regard to the modern interest and wide-spread study of Prophecy.
As is well known, the book of Daniel is largely composed of prophecies, prophecies which refer frequently to the closing days of the Times of the Gentiles. The Scripture now before us makes known seven fats, namely -- first, that the contents of Daniel's prophecies were to be |shut up| and |sealed;| second, that the book of Daniel should not remain a |sealed| book for ever; third, that at |the Time of the End| it should be unsealed, for it was to be |shut up| only |to| and |till| the Time of the End; fourth, that at the Time of the End there should be a |running to and fro,| in other words, there should be a revival of interest in the prophetic word, an earnest inquiry and seeking for light; fifth, that as the result of this revival of interest in and study of the prophetic word |knowledge shall be increased;| sixth, as the consequence of this |increase of knowledge| many would be |purified, and made white, and tried;| seventh, that notwithstanding this, the wicked would |do wickedly| and none of them would |understand,| thus are we told in this last item that the understanding of the Word of God is a matter of spiritual discernment and not a question of intellectual acumen: if it were the latter then the wicked might understand as readily as the righteous (compare Matt.13:10-15). Let us briefly consider these seven points and note how remarkably they are verified in present-day conditions.
Daniel was informed that the things he had seen and the communications which he had heard were not to be turned to use for the present. All was to be as a sealed book until a distant day, in fact would be |shut up| until the Time of the End. How accurately and literally this part of our prediction has been fulfilled may best be seen by reviewing the writings of theologians and commentators who lived prior to the last century. For the most part the prophecies of Daniel have been utterly neglected until recently, and where attempts were made to open up its contents the wildest theories were indulged and the most absurd interpretations were adopted. There was no spiritual understanding. The book was |shut up!| But the book of Daniel was not to be shut up for ever. God had some wise purpose in making these disclosures to His prophet, He had some good reason in making known to Daniel the trend and end of the various world empires.
At the Time of the End the contents of the book of Daniel were to be opened and unsealed, for many would |run to and fro| and knowledge would be |increased.| How plainly has this mark of the end been manifesting itself during the past century! Though, the masses still turn from prophecy as from a sealed book, yet what a stir and study has it awakened in many earnest minds! |Many| have turned to the word of prophecy (witness the great number of books now written on the subject) and given their most sedulous attention to the understanding of its contents. Particularly has this been the case with the book of Daniel itself. Large numbers of God's people have been moved to inquire concerning the things recorded therein and have spared no pains or cost to obtain a knowledge of them, and under the blessing of God and the guidance of His Spirit light upon this book is steadily increasing and its mysterious hieroglyphics are becoming clearer and plainer as the fulfillment of its predictions draws nearer. Expositors of this important book may differ in details but in the main they are agreed and their leading conclusions are the same.
The result of this earnest and widespread study of prophecy is seen in the increased devotion and consecration of God's people -- |many shall be purified and made white.| Side by side with increasing light on prophecy has come a deepened sense of responsibility toward the lost. It is a striking fact that the remarkable growth in Foreign Missions of last century synchronized with the widespread turning to the prophetic Word. Until the beginning of the nineteenth century the heathen were, with rare exceptions, utterly neglected, so also was it with the book of Daniel. On the other hand, it strict accord with Daniel's prophecy, side by side with the increase of prophetic light and its purifying effects on the people of God, we find the |wicked doing wickedly| and that none of them |understand| -- i.e., that the wicked are in utter ignorance of the terrible times (referred to in Daniel) which lie just ahead of them.
One of the most marked and blessed results of the widespread inquiry and enlightenment upon the subject of prophecy has been the recovery and revival of the Blessed Hope. We believe it is to this that Daniel's prophecy (in its present-day application) refers when it says |but the wise shall understand.| The |wise| are those who are governed by God's Word and whose thoughts are formed by the teaching of Holy Writ, for |The entrance of Thy words giveth light| (Ps.119-130). What is it that the |wise| understand? They |understand| the meaning of the days in which they are living. They |understand| that the last days of the age are upon us. They |understand| that we have now reached |the Time of the End.| They |understand| that |the coming of the Lord draweth nigh.|
Parallel with the prophecy of Daniel is the teaching of Christ in the parable of the Bridegroom and the virgins. This parable sets forth the several attitudes of the Lord's people, in different periods of this Dispensation, with reference to their expectation of the Redeemer's Return and was uttered in response to the disciples questions (recorded at the beginning of the previous chapter) |What shall be the sign of Thy coming and of the end of the age?| At the beginning of the Christian era all His followers were waiting for the Lord's appearing. Then followed a mixed condition -- part were wise and part were foolish. Then, while the Bridegroom tarried, |they all slumbered and slept.| The Blessed Hope was lost and the church lapsed into a condition of spiritual apathy. But this sleep was to be broken. It was foretold that at the midnight hour a cry should be made -- |Behold, the Bridegroom cometh; go ye out to meet Him| (Matt.25:6). This was a prophetic announcement that just before our Lord returned, a loud and distinct testimony concerning His coming would be sounded upon the dull ear of Christendom. This Cry is now going forth. Everywhere the servants of God are proclaiming the news that the Lord is at hand. All over the world the cry is being raised, |Behold, the Bridegroom cometh; go ye out to meet Him.| Never since the days of the apostles has there been so much yearning and longing, preaching and teaching, watching and praying, upon the subject of Christ's second coming as there is now.
The parable of the Bridegroom and the virgins corresponds very closely with the prophecy of Daniel 12. The midnight Cry -- the recovery of the Blessed Hope -- matches the unsealing of the prophetic word and the |increase| of |knowledge.| The arising of the virgins agrees with the |running to and fro.| The |trimming| of their lamps -- preparation for the Lord's appearing -- tallies with the many being |purified.| The two classes -- the wise and the foolish virgins -- corresponds exactly with the two classes mentioned by Daniel -- the |wise| and the |wicked,| for just as it is said that |none of the wicked shall understand,| so the foolish virgins shall declare |our lamps are gone out| -- they will be in the dark!
One other Scripture which confirms us in saying that one of the Signs which heralds the Return of Christ is the midnight Cry, is to be found in 2 Pet.3:3, 4 -- |Knowing this first, that there shall come in the last days scoffers, walking after their own lusts, and saying Where is the promise of His coming? for since the fathers fell asleep, all things continue as they were from the beginning of the creation.| Observe that it is in the |last days| (of this Age) that there should arise a class who shall scoff at the promise of Christ's return, which is further intimation that at the Time of the End there would be a renewed and special testimony to the Blessed Hope.
To return to Daniel's prophecy. |But thou, O Daniel, shut up the words and seal the book, even to the time of the end: many shall run to and fro, and knowledge shall be increased|(Dan.12:4). These words must not be limited to an application which confines it to the increase of light on the prophetic word, but should be taken in their widest signification. We believe they have reference to the recent and phenomenal increase both in Travel and Knowledge. The words |run to and fro| would seem to point to modern methods of transportation. How this mark of the end time is being manifested today is well known to all. |Railways cover the earth, and steamers track the sea like a mighty spider's web| (Blackstone). Automobiles have become commoner than horses, and appearances indicate that within a few years at most aeroplanes will be used as a regular means of travel. Observe that our text says, |Many shall run to and fro.| Restlessness now seems to be common to human nature. The rising generation is obsessed with this spirit of running to and fro. Witness the enormous growth of immigration. Study railroad statistics and mark the rapid increase in the number of passengers carried, now numbering hundreds of millions annually. How accurately these words |many shall run to and fro| describe present-day conditions! Everything is in a turmoil. Everybody is on the run, and hence it is that the Day of Rest has become a thing of the past.
|And knowledge shall be increased.| What advances have been made in the educational realm! Facilities which hitherto were available to only a privileged class are now open to the children of the artisan and common laborer. Illiteracy will soon be a thing of the past. By the multiplication of schools, colleges and universities |knowledge| has been marvelously increased. Another agency for increasing knowledge is the press. |The public press, with its ceaseless streams of news and information, covers the earth with its ever increasing circulation, like falling leaves from some mighty tree of knowledge. And of the making of many books, there is truly no end| (Blackstone).
Witness the remarkable increase of scientific knowledge. Contrast our present-day knowledge of astronomy, archeology, zoology, physiology, psychology, with what was known about them even one hundred years ago. How wonderfully man has harnessed to his service the forces of Nature! Things never dreamed of by our grandparents are now actualities, and many of them mere common places. What discoveries have been made! What inventions have been perfected! What triumphs have been achieved on land and sea, in the air and under the waters! How the discovery and utilization of electricity has revolutionized every department of our life! Truly, scientific knowledge has been increased.
But perhaps the prediction of our text refers more particularly to the increase of spiritual knowledge. During the last century hundreds of millions of Bibles and Testaments have been circulated by our Bible Societies. The Word of God has now been translated into more than four hundred languages and distributed all over the earth. By means of thousands of missionaries laboring upon the foreign field, spiritual knowledge has been marvelously increased. So at home. Bible training schools, Bible conferences, and Bible classes, are multiplying annually. Wherever we look and wherever we go we find that knowledge is being increased. And all of the things to which we have referred have appeared during the last century! Surely we have indeed reached the Time of the End.
Our Lord's parable of the growth of the seed is in striking accord with the prediction of Daniel that at the Time of the End knowledge should be increased -- |And He said, So is the kingdom of God, as if a man should cast seed into the ground; and should sleep, and rise night and day, and the seed should spring and grow up, he knoweth not how. For the earth bringeth forth fruit of herself; first the blade, then the ear, after that the full corn in the ear. But when the fruit is brought forth, immediately he putteth in the sickle, because the harvest is come| (Mark 4:26-29). Like all of our Lord's utterances, there is more in these words than meets the eye at first glance. In this parable we have five things. First, the sowing of the seed. Second, a period of sleep following the sowing. Third, the growth of the seed. Fourth, the order of growth described -- first the blade, then the ear, after that the full corn in the ear. Fifth, the harvest.
The above parable corresponds very closely with the first three found in Matthew 13. Like them it is prophetic in its scope. Its dispensational application is simple yet remarkable. The sowing of the seed here is the same as the sowing of the seed in Matthew 13 and relates to the gracious mission of the Lord and His apostles at the beginning of this dispensation. The seed was the Word of God (Luke 8:11). The period of |sleep| (Compare Matt.13:25; 25:5) was the spiritual lethargy of the third and fourth centuries which merged into the |Dark Ages,| and corresponded with the order of nature. The natural seed sown into the ground becomes corrupt and dies, or almost dies; and so it was with the Divine seed. The epistles of the New Testament furnish evidence of how quickly and how sadly the purity of the Word became corrupted with the grossest errors and adulterations. But yet it lived. And more, it |grew.| The language used in the parable describing the order of growth corresponds exactly with its prophetic fulfillment. There was first the |blade,| which in nature continues in a feeble state of vitality for a long time. So it was with the Divine |seed| all through the |Dark Ages.| |Then the ear:| does not this point prophetically, to the Reformation period when copies of the Scriptures were multiplied a hundredfold and given once more to the masses in their own tongue. |After that the full corn in the ear.| How remarkable! as the harvest approaches, the original seed now re-appears, though greatly multiplied in quantity. And this is exactly what we are witnessing today. Many long lost truths, truths which have been buried beneath the soil of human tradition, have been given back to the people of God. And, as to multiplication in quantity, contrast the millions of copies of the Scriptures now in circulation with the limited number in use in the first century when printing was unknown. Yes, the Seed has |grown| though man |knoweth not how.| But note the next words: |But when the fruit is brought forth, immediately he putteth in the sickle because the harvest is come.| How unspeakably solemn! What follows the |full corn in the ear?| |Immediately,| we are told, |he putteth in the sickle because the harvest is come.| Compare with this Matt.13:39 -- |the harvest is the end of the age.| And compare further Rev.14:15 -- |Thrust in thy sickle, and reap: for the time is come for thee to reap; for the harvest of the earth is ripe!| Thus by putting side by side our Lord's teaching in the above parable with the prophecy of Daniel we find that the |full corn in the ear| corresponds with |increase of knowledge| and |immediately he putteth in the sickle because the harvest is come| (|the harvest is the end of the age|Matt.13:39) agrees with the |Time of the End.|
To review and sum up: From Daniel 12 we learn that at the Time of the End knowledge shall be increased; from Matthew 25 we learn there would be a recovery of the Blessed Hope and a proclamation concerning the imminent Return of the Bridegroom; from 2 Peter 3 we also learn that in the |last days| there is to be a renewed and special testimony borne respecting the second coming of Christ; and in Mark 4 we learn that the Divine seed (the Word) was to grow until it brought forth the |full corn in the ear| and that this increase of fruitage occurred |immediately| before the harvest. How wonderful and how perfect is the harmony of Scripture! The fact that these things are now spread before our eyes declares in language loud and clear to all who have ears to hear that the Time of the End has been reached, that the Bridegroom is now at hand, that the |last days| are already entered upon, and that the Harvest -- symbol of Divine judgment -- is impending and to be expected |immediately.|