Problems of Increasing Knowledge

ONE of the outstanding characteristics of the times in which we live is the rapid increase of knowledge in essentially every aspect of human endeavor. Man has even made landings on the moon. For many years students of the Scriptures have looked upon this increase of knowledge as being in fulfillment of prophecies relative to the end of the present sinful social order which is prophetically described in the Bible as the end of the world. Many advantages have accrued to the people in limited areas of the earth as a result of this phenomenal increase of knowledge, but not until recent years have the potential dangers to the human race posed by science and invention become so frighteningly apparent.

This point is emphasized when we compare the world as it was at the beginning of the twentieth century with what it is today. War between nations has always been a plague upon the earth, but the widespread horrors of war as we now see them were not known in human experience until the increase of knowledge permitted the construction of instruments of war possessing the vast potential of destruction that we know today.

This fact becomes more apparent as we consider the entirely new set of circumstances which has developed in the world, some of them beginning in a small way with World War I. With the increase of knowledge has come also the foretold “running to and fro. (Dan. 12:4) There were railway trains and steamships prior to 1914, but at that time the use of automobiles for general travel was on a very small scale; and the use of the airplane was on an even smaller scale, although crude bombing planes were brought into action against the enemy to a limited degree during the first World War.

The date 1914 is a very prominent one in the prophecies, and it was the understanding of many students that during that year the present social order, ruled over by the prince of this world, Satan, would come to a full end. It was thought that following the war, which would be brief, there would come a world revolution of short duration, followed by a brief period of general anarchy, and then the full establishment of the kingdom of Christ, which would be the Lord’s new social order “wherein dwelleth righteousness.”

But it did not work out that way, and it is interesting now to realize the many things that were yet to come of which the “watchers” of that day could not, and did not, have any knowledge, for they had not yet developed. These “new things” account for much of our headline news today, but were unheard of at the time of World War I.

Travel and Its Problems

The automobile was, of course, known in 1914, but the magnitude of its use had not been dreamed of. According to an article by David Breasted, in the New York Daily News, there are now on the roads in the United States, “one hundred million cars, trucks and buses.” To the commuter, trying to drive to his home in the suburbs from the business district of a large city it must seem that there are a great many more than this.

There were no passenger-carrying airplanes in 1914, nor for some years later. Since then, air travel has become one of the commonplaces of life in many countries. They keep making the airplanes larger and larger, and with ever-increasing speeds. The latest production, the “747,” can carry nearly four hundred passengers, and a crew of thirty, at a speed of more that six-hundred miles an hour. “Jet planes,” they call them, and whoever heard of a jet plane in 1914? Here was a coming aspect of human experience which could not have been anticipated in the early part of the century except as a fantasy in the minds of a few dreamers. It is, however, one of the products of the foretold “increase of knowledge.”

A Terrible Threat

But lest we become overenthusiastic over human accomplishments, let us notice some of the by-products of the much and rapid travel of our day. We have in mind, in part, what is described by that now familiar word “pollution.” This word is very prominent in the news today, and its implications are that automobiles and jet planes are spouting forth so much poison into the atmosphere that unless something is done about it, a saturation point will eventually, and soon, be reached which will make life impossible on this planet.

But much and rapid travel is not the only culprit in this gloomy picture. The increase of knowledge has ushered in what is often referred to as the “Industrial Age,” and our industries, like the jet planes and the automobiles, are likewise fouling the air with killing gases. Thus while we count the blessings of our industrial age, let us pause to think of the killing by-products which are so closely related to the blessings.

Here is another situation which is now making daily front-page news which was not heard of fifty years ago. Governments in some of the large nations are endeavoring to bring this evil situation under control, but human selfishness will make this an exceedingly difficult task. Fairly effective methods are known by which to curtail the emission of poisonous gases by factories, but the necessary equipment and installation is costly, and many manufacturers insist they cannot afford it. Those who can would need to increase the price of their products, which would put them out of competition with those who did not make this investment. This may well be one of those problems which only the Lord can solve, which he will do through the agencies of Christ’s kingdom.

Water Also Polluted

Another of the curses of the Industrial Age is the pollution of our rivers and lakes by the industrial waste from factories. This has already become so widespread that fish can no longer live in many of our fine rivers, including some of the important rivers in Europe. All the fish have been destroyed in one of the Great Lakes—Lake Erie. The more or less solid pollutants are carried to the sea by the rivers, making unsafe many of our best bathing beaches. The oil industry is one of the chief contributors to this evil. How terribly industry has fouled its nest in this respect! Who could have imagined fifty years ago that the beautiful Hudson River, in New York State, would have become a virtual cesspool, as one of the tragedies of the Industrial Age?

Hydrogen Destruction

Another development unforeseen fifty years ago has been the splitting of the atom, and the invention of the atomic and hydrogen bombs. Here is another product of the increase of knowledge which threatens the destruction of the human race. It is claimed that in the United States alone—and Russia is not very far behind—there is a stockpile of these bombs large enough to kill every man, woman, and child on earth a hundred times.

When reading Jesus’ prophecy concerning the “time of trouble” being so devastating that there would be a possibility that no flesh would be saved, no student could possibly have had in mind what has become a reality today through the misuse of nuclear power, and the poisoning of our air and water. Now these threats are very real, which help to confirm the accuracy of God’s Word, and give us the assurance of divine intervention before it is too late, for Jesus said that these days would be shortened before all flesh would be destroyed.—Matt. 24:21,22

The Population Problem

Students of the Bible who understand the divine plan for the redemption and recovery of mankind from sin and death know that humans were created to live on the earth, and that the earth was created to be man’s everlasting home. God’s command to man was to multiply and fill the earth, so we should expect that earth’s population will increase. But fifty years ago the world in general, and even students of prophecy, did not expect that the increasing population would create the problem it has become today, and which, it is feared, will be much more serious in a few short years.

As the population of earth increases, more automobiles are used, and the industrial capacity of the nations must become ever greater. Thus more and more pollutants find their way into the air and into the water which God has provided to sustain life on earth, compounding the problems already engendered by increasing knowledge. True, the scientists of the world do all they can to counteract the spreading of poisons which their own inventions have released, but will they be able to cope with the situation fast enough and on a scale which will really make our air and water safe again as in the past?

President Nixon has proposed the spending of ten billion dollars during the next five years to purify the air and water, but already there are those who insist that even fifty billion dollars would fail to do the job properly. So far as human efforts are concerned we will just have to wait and see what can and will be accomplished. Certainly at the moment life on this planet is being seriously threatened by the very technical advancement which has been hailed as such a blessing to the human race.

The rich countries of the earth for many years have been enjoying luxuries and comforts that the ancients did not even dream of, yet now the very instrumentalities which have produced this abundance and affluence are threatening to destroy the race by poisoning the air and water. How should the student of prophecy view this paradoxical situation? What is the meaning of it in the light of the divine plan of the ages?

The Time of the End

According to the Scriptures, the unprecedented “increase of knowledge” was due to appear in “the time of the end.” In this same “time of the end” there was also to be much running to and fro; and there was to be a “time of trouble such as never was since there was a nation.” (Dan. 12:14) What does the expression, “the time of the end,” imply? We believe that the “end” referred to is the end of Satan’s world, or social order. When we reach the end of this period it will mean that “this present evil world” has come to an end. Then the kingdom of Christ will be fully established, and the life-giving blessings of the kingdom will begin to flow out to the people.—Dan. 12:13

“The time of the end” is also spoken of in the prophecies as the day of the Lord’s “preparation.” (Nahum 2:3,4) The “preparation” is for Messiah’s kingdom; and much of this preparation involves the destruction of Satan’s world. The foretold increase of knowledge and running to and fro are associated with the day of preparation. It is within the time of the end, or day of preparation, that the Industrial Age has come into being.

In this development we see a marvelous display of the foreknowledge and wisdom of the Creator. He knew about this day of preparation for the full establishment of Messiah’s kingdom even while the earth was first being prepared for human habitation; and it was in that remotely ancient time that the Creator caused to be stored away in the earth all the various minerals which in this time of the end have made possible the wonders of our time. Minerals have, of course, been used from the beginning of man’s experiences on earth, but God knew how much more they would be needed in the time of the end.—Gen. 4:22

Not an automobile could be built without these metals. Neither could washing machines and the other blessings of our time. And how essential oil has been in connection with the mechanization of the Industrial Age. However, we suggest that all these things which we today esteem as being so wonderful are not the eternal blessings which the Lord has promised, and which will reach the people through the agencies of Messiah’s kingdom.

One of the reasons for this suggestion is that the mineral and oil supplies upon which the Industrial Age depends will not last forever. Even now the masters of industry are combing the earth to find new supplies of iron, copper, nickel, and other minerals, including oil. Among the causes of strife in the world today are the international power plays being made for control of oil fields in various parts of the earth. This sort of thing could, and may, go on for a considerable time longer, but these natural resources of the earth which man has converted into efficient use in this time of the end must eventually become exhausted.

We have no doubt but what new materials and methods will be discovered—or shall we better say, provided by the Lord—to supply the human race with all things needed throughout the interminable forever. We cannot even approximate what these needs will be for the reason that we do not know the needs of a perfect man. One thing we do know is that man will not need polluted air and water; but he will need pure air, food, and water in abundance. The Bible tells us that the “land shall yield her increase.”—Ps. 85:12

Kingdom Established

The Prophet Micah wrote, “In the last days it shall come to pass, that the mountain of the house of the Lord shall be established in the top of the mountains, and it shall be exalted above the hills; and people shall flow unto it.” (Micah 4:1) The “mountain” of the Lord is the kingdom of the Lord. The establishment of this kingdom of the Lord involves the resurrection of the true church to live and reign with Christ; and it involves also the resurrection of the human representatives of The Christ in what Paul describes as “a better resurrection.”—Rev. 20:6; Heb. 11:35,40

These two rulership phases of the messianic kingdom are symbolized in the prophecy as “Zion” and “Jerusalem.” (vs. 2) When fully established “the law shall go forth from Zion and the word of the Lord from Jerusalem.” and the people “will flow unto it.” That time has not yet come. The people are not yet flowing unto the mountain of the Lord. Nor, as foretold in verse 2 of the prophecy, are the nations saying, “Come, and let us go up to the mountain of the Lord, and to the house of the God of Jacob; and he will teach us of his ways, and we will walk in his paths.”

The judgment day of the people has not yet started, as foretold in verse 3. Nor has the rebuking of “strong nations afar off,” leading to their beating swords into plowshares and spears into pruninghooks, yet reached this stage of God’s dealings with them. The strongest nations of earth still insist that the only way to maintain peace is to be prepared for war; and while lip service is given to the advantages of limiting arms, this is not due to a change of philosophy or of heart, but to the staggering financial burdens caused by the armament race.

Verse 4 declares that when the Lord’s mountain is established “they shall sit every man under his vine and under his fig tree; and [that] none shall make them afraid: for the mouth of the Lord of hosts hath spoken it.” Here is a possible hint that when, in the kingdom, the people learn to observe the Lord’s ways, there will be a return to more natural ways of living than at present practiced. Basically, of course, the vine and fig tree illustration is one of security and peace, which is not enjoyed in the industrial world of today. While there has been a substantial reduction in some countries of the hours of labor, millions are spending hours each day traveling back and forth to work on traffic-choked roads, and in air contaminated with the fumes of automobiles and trucks. And this with no real assurance that they will have an opportunity to earn a living tomorrow even under these trying conditions.

Health and Life

The prophecy of Micah 4:1-4 does not mention the greatest of all the blessings which will reach the people during the millennial kingdom of Christ; namely, health and everlasting life. In Isaiah 25:6-8, in which Christ’s kingdom is also referred to as a mountain, these crowning blessings are foretold. We quote:

“And in this mountain shall the Lord of hosts make unto all people a feast of fat things, a feast of wines on the lees, of fat things full of marrow, of wines on the lees well refined. And he will destroy in this mountain the face of the covering cast over all people, and the veil that is spread over all nations. He will swallow up death in victory; and the Lord God will wipe away tears from off all faces; and the rebuke of his people shall he take away from off all the earth.”

Thank God for his solution of all the problems brought about by fallen man, and that even death, which man brought upon himself by disobedience, will be destroyed!—I Cor. 15:21,22

Dawn Bible Students Association
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