Not until recent times were men able to travel any faster than did Abraham four thousand years ago—unless they had a better donkey.

Yet, in the few short years of modern speed technology, we have arrived at an awesome and terrifying dilemma. The speeds we have achieved seem to open doors to the horizon of the very universe, yet threaten our destruction here at home on the earth before we can even step through!

Is this part of God’s plan?

What does his Word say?

Running Like the Lightnings

IN THE prophecy of Nahum 2:3,4, reference is made to the day of God’s “preparation,” and of that time it is said that “chariots shall be with flaming torches,” and shall “rage in the streets,” and shall “justle one against another in the broad ways.” Of these chariots the prophet declares, “They shall run like the lightnings.” The prophecy of Isaiah 66:20, after mentioning the limited ways of travel with which men were acquainted in the prophet’s time, speaks of “swift beasts” which will be used in the day when Israel and all the nations are gathered to behold the glory of the Lord.

While we may not be able definitely to identify these chariots with flaming torches, and the swift beasts, in the sense that they represent automobiles, planes, trains, rockets, or other specific means of rapid travel, it is evident that in these visions of the prophets they saw strange, fast-moving vehicles, emitting streams of light by night, and vastly different from anything with which they were acquainted. They had wheels, so they called them chariots, but what curious chariots—their speed was so great it reminded the prophets of lightning; and when in vision they saw a sample of our modern ways of going places, it seemed to them that all and sundry were doing nothing but jostling against one another in the broad ways!

In this we have another example of the manner in which the prophetic increase of knowledge which was to characterize the time of the end, has brought about revolutionary changes in the outlook and customs of the human race. And, dove-tailing with all the other evidences that we are now living in the time of the end of Satan’s world, is the fact that the circumstances which gave rise to the present phenomenal running to and fro manifested themselves at approximately the same time, and stemmed from the same source as did all the other scientific achievements of these last days—achievements which are proving to be both a blessing and a curse to mankind. That source, to the extent that we can think of it as some one thing, was the invention of the printing press.

Before the printing press was invented, the wisest men of Europe knew less about the geography of the earth than is now known by the schoolboy. The Mediterranean Sea was still the center of the world’s business and interest, even as it had been fifteen hundred years before. As a matter of fact, the name Mediterranean means ‘the middle of the earth’. The outline of Europe was fairly well understood, but little was known of Africa except the northern coast. Australia and America had never been heard of, and Asia was still a land of myth and fancy, with an outline on the maps that we could hardly recognize today. Europe, and what was known of Africa and Asia, were thought to be encircled by a vast, mysterious sea—the sea of darkness, as men called it as late as five hundred years ago.

Then came the art of printing, making possible a more general circulation of books containing information concerning a work that was gradually enlarging. In the Dark Ages the common man had tilled the soil in ignorance; the nobleman, or knight, amused himself in his castle or led his followers to battle. Book learning was confined largely to a few men, and they often spent their days in considering what seem to us strange questions, such as, “How many angels can stand on the point of a needle?” and “Is it a greater crime to kill a thousand men than to mend a beggar’s shoes on Sunday?”

But a change came! While nearly everybody at the time believed the earth to be flat, a few did not. One man, Copernicus, began studies which led him to discover that the earth on which he stood was a vast planet whirling in space about the sun, along with other planets. The art of printing made it possible for knowledge of this sort to be shared by others. Columbus was influenced by it, and discovered America. History records that when Columbus returned from discovering America, the tale of his discovery was heralded far and wide. One of his letters telling the story was printed in different countries and circulated throughout Europe within a year—for, as the historian notes, “With the aid of printing a great achievement could easily be made known.”

Needs of an Enlarging World

But this was only the beginning of wider travel. There had been no fundamental changes in modes of travel from the early days of the Egyptian dynasties. Aside from the ark, which was built according to specifications given to Noah by God, the Egyptians seem to have been the first to discover a way of travel by water. The same may be said concerning vehicles which move on wheels. The first mention we find in the Bible concerning wagons and chariots shows them in use in Egypt.

There is apparently no historical record of the inventor of the wheel which made possible the first wagons and chariots, but it was a discovery of fundamental importance. Without it practically none of our modern means of travel would be possible. However, the ancients did not apply the principle of the wheel to anything that was swifter than wagons and chariots; and the speed of these was limited to the beasts of burden which hauled them.

So, while a pharaoh could ride in a chariot with a little more pomp and glory than was enjoyed by Abraham on the back of a donkey, neither kings nor peasants, rulers or slaves, traveled any faster nor with appreciably greater comfort than did the ancients up to two centuries ago. Chariots were used in war and in racing. Probably the greatest speed attained by man prior to the ‘time of the end’ was in the ancient chariot races. No wonder the Prophet Isaiah described our modern conveyances as swift beasts, and the Prophet Nahum said of them that they run like the lightning.

But following the invention of the printing press, and aided by the increasing knowledge made possible thereby, men began to experiment with sources of power other than beasts of burden and galley slaves. James Watt discovered the pent-up power of steam, and from the discovery built the first steam engine. Later, the power of steam was applied to travel. In 1814 (note that the date is within the prophetic time of the end, which began in 1799), George Stephenson of England, built the first locomotive called Puffing Billy. It did not function too satisfactorily, and it was not until 1825 that he succeeded in perfecting an engine that would really travel and haul wagons.

In America, the development of railroads went on simultaneously with the achievements being accomplished in England. In 1827 the state of Massachusetts built a railroad from Boston to Albany. However, the wagons used on this road were not drawn by steam engines, but by horses and mules. Everyone who had a wagon with flanged wheels was privileged to use this ‘rail road’. In 1828 the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad was begun, but the cars or wagons were not hauled by steam. Charles Carroll, the last living signer of the Declaration of Independence, opened the work of building the B. & O. When he drove the first spade into the ground, he said, “I consider this among the most important acts of my life.” He was right!

In the United States, steam locomotives were first successfully used in 1831. This was in South Carolina. But even then there was much doubt about the practicability of these mechanical horses. To start with, they could travel only on the level, and many improvements were needed to make the roads safe. However, year after year, trains went a little faster, and travel became easier and safer. At first the top speed of travel by ‘rail road’ was fifteen miles an hour.

When a line was opened from Albany to Schenectady, there was a dinner with speeches. Among the sentiments especially applauded was the statement, “The Buffalo Railroad—may we soon breakfast in Utica, dine in Rochester, and sup with our friends on Lake Erie.” Marvelous, but not yet reaching the speed of fifty miles an hour predicted by Sir Isaac Newton—a prediction which he based upon Daniel’s prophecy that in the time of the end knowledge would be increased, and there would be much running to and fro.—Dan. 12:4

Travel by Other Means

Travel by means of power other than that of flesh and muscles had come to stay. We need not trace the rapid development of railroads from that first beginning a little over a century and a half ago, to the luxurious two hundred miles-an-hour monorails of our day, for the knowledge of this is common to all. Today we take railroads as a matter of course. We seem to think they must always have existed. We travel across-country in a train equipped with all kinds of modern conveniences, not realizing that we are enjoying such benefits because it is given to us to be living in the time of the end, when the human race is soon to witness the full inauguration of the kingdom of Christ.

In the early days of railroading, the general public did not take so kindly and enthusiastically to the new contraptions. A story, is told of a small group of enterprising citizens of Lancaster, Ohio, who being more alert to the advancing times than their fellows, and learning that a railroad was being built across the state, petitioned the school board for use of the schoolhouse in which to hold a promotion meeting to influence the builders of the new road to veer it in the direction of Lancaster. The school board refused the use of the schoolhouse for a purpose of this kind, stating as their excuse that railroads were an invention of the devil to “carry immortal souls down to hell.” This was a mere century ago, and only the Word of God shows the reason for the change that has come within that century, while practically no progress in travel was made in the nearly six thousand years of human experience which preceded this day of his preparation.—Nah. 2:3

On the whole, what has been true throughout the ages concerning travel on the land has been true also of travel on the seas. Following the Flood, the Egyptians had boats which were propelled by galley slaves. Boats thus propelled, and those later powered by sails, were first used largely for commerce in the small world known to the ancients. However, through the centuries, travel by ship became more customary, although hazardous. Even on the little Sea of Galilee, the lives of Jesus’ disciples became imperiled when a storm arose; and the Apostle Paul nearly lost his life when traveling by ship to Italy.

Even as late as the discovery of America by Columbus, ships were not really safe for sea travel, and they could move over the water no faster than the wind would drive them. The application of steam power to ships began to speed up this method of travel also. In 1790, John Fitch experimented with steam as a means of driving boats; but not until 1807 (again within the prophetic time of the end) was the first steamboat successfully built. This was by Robert Fulton, and the boat was named the Clermont. This wonder of the modern world made its way at the unheard of speed of four miles an hour, and this against the current of the Hudson River!

On the day the Clermont was to be tested, crowds came to the river’s edge, ready and almost anxious to jeer. When a defect stopped the boat for a moment, they cried, “Failure!” To their surprise, however, and probably chagrin, it soon started again, steaming away toward Albany. Within four years there were similar boats on the Ohio and Mississippi Rivers, and in 1818 the Walk-in-the-Water plied its way from Buffalo to Detroit on Lake Erie. Again this was but the beginning. Compare travel by ships of that time with what the world enjoys today, and you get a striking example of the foretold running to and fro and the increase of knowledge due to come to mankind within this time of the end. Now boats not only travel on the water, but hovering over the water, and under the water, at great speeds.

Automobiles are an even more recent invention than either the railroad or the steamship; and yet how widely the automobile is used today, and how seemingly necessary it is in the fast-moving world of today.

And then we have the even more recent means of travel, that is by air; which considered from the standpoint of speed, makes travel even by modern train, boat, and auto seem like a snail’s pace. Regular travel by air to all parts of the world has now reached the speed of over six hundred miles and hour; and some air service has more than doubled this! The men of vision who, in 1831 could believe that a time could come when one could eat breakfast in Utica, dinner in Rochester, and supper in Buffalo, a total distance of about two hundred miles, would certainly thrill at the thought of eating an early breakfast in New York, having lunch in Paris, France, only three hours later, during which time some astronauts had circled the globe three times, not having eaten at all!

Voltaire, a contemporary of Newton, said that the noted mathematician was very rash in his prediction that man would ever travel as fast as fifty miles an hour. But Newton had faith in the Bible and the outstanding manner in which its prophecies have been fulfilled has fully justified his faith. For today, people are traveling hither and yon, all over the earth, many, many times faster than Newton prophesied. Truly this is a day of destiny, and blessed are they who comprehend the divine purpose in the fast-moving events with which we are surrounded!

The Day of His Preparation

As we have seen, the Lord through the prophet describes the wonderful time in which we are living as the day of his preparation. Naturally we inquire, For what is the world being prepared, and what bearing does the increase of knowledge have on what is now being accomplished? Briefly stated, the ultimate purpose of God to which all details of preparation are leading, is the establishment of the worldwide kingdom of Christ, by means of which government will come the blessing of all the nations of the earth with peace and health and life—everlasting life.

Throughout the ages of the past, God’s work in the earth has been limited in scope. He made contact with Abraham and promised that through his seed he would bless all nations, but Abraham and his descendants were about the only ones to whom God extended any measure of favor during the many centuries which intervened from then until the coming of Christ, nineteen centuries ago. In the New Testament we learn that the seed of Abraham through whom the world is to be blessed is a faith seed, made up of both Jews and Gentiles who accept Christ as their Redeemer and Messiah, and who follow in his steps of sacrifice even unto death. The selection and development of this seed class has been an important feature of the divine plan, but mankind as a whole has not been particularly involved in it.

But now a change is due. The promised seed is nearly complete, and the long-promised blessing of the people of all nations is about to be accomplished. This calls for a worldwide work of God. It is not the blessing of one nation, but of all nations; not of one race, but of all races. The plan calls for global action by a world government. This means that the kingdom of Christ will displace and succeed all other governments of earth, not merely one of those governments. It means that the laws of that new kingdom will be binding upon all people, and in every nook and corner of the earth. Recognizing this, we begin to see the meaning of God’s day of preparation—he is preparing all nations for the global action which soon will become manifested by means of Christ’s kingdom.

Shortly after the Flood, when the inhabitants of the earth were few in number, they endeavored to work together and to maintain world unity. They built the tower of Babel, which was intended as a symbol of unity to help bind them together and prevent them from being scattered. But God frustrated that plan by confounding their language. The language barrier then introduced by divine intervention in human plans has served effectively to keep the nations more or less isolated from one another. A prophecy of the coming Messiah and the blessings of his kingdom uttered by Jacob tells of the coming of Shiloh—peacemaker—and that unto him there would be a gathering of the people.—Gen. 49:10

This prophecy was given not long after the people had been scattered and their language confused. Jacob may have known of that incident; but whether or not he did, the prophecy indicates that a gathering of the people could not be expected until Shiloh came. And now Shiloh has come! The increase of knowledge due in the prophetic time of the end has led up to and become more effective in what the prophecies describe as the ‘brightness’ or bright shining of Shiloh’s presence. Now that he is here, and in the close of God’s day of preparation, we can see how marvelously and how rapidly the nations are being prepared for the promised gathering.

Printing is serving to break down the language barriers which have kept nations isolated. Rapid and global travel, as well as world commerce, are making neighbors of every nation and race on earth. No longer can any nation live independently of other nations, as was possible in the past. Yes, even now the nations are being gathered; not yet, however, in fulfillment of Jacob’s prophecy. He said the people would be gathered to Shiloh, the one producing rest or tranquility; but the prophecies tell of another gathering which precedes this, a gathering unto war and strife, to a “time of trouble, such as never was since there was a nation.”—Dan. 12:1

This gathering of the nations for strife instead of peace is in a very special way a preparation for the later peaceful gathering unto Shiloh; for it is leading to the overthrow of all the kingdoms of this world, which is a very necessary preparation for the undisputed sovereignty of Christ in the affairs of men. Concerning the gathering of the nations which has been brought about in these last days by the increase of knowledge, we read, “Wait ye upon me, saith the Lord, until the day that I rise up to the prey: for my determination is to gather the nations, that I may assemble the kingdoms, to pour upon them mine indignation, even all my fierce anger: for all the earth shall be devoured with the fire of my jealousy.”—Zeph. 3:8

Ah yes, all the earth is involved in the day of God’s preparation, not one or two nations merely, but all nations! This is why it became necessary for overnight global travel to come into vogue. Whether it be the rulers of nations, their ambassadors, or their armies, they can now travel to the ends of the earth in a few hours. Consequently now the selfishness of man leads inevitably, not to national strife alone, but to global strife; and such strife does not weaken and destroy only one nation, but all nations—a world civilization, symbolized in the prophecy as ‘all the earth’.

And in this we see human selfishness continuing to misuse the advantages of the time of the end, and thereby to hasten the overthrow of man’s misrule. Battleships, bombers, tanks, carriers swarming with jet fighters, rockets with nuclear warheads, and satellite rocket launchers, are but a few examples of the perversion of God-given blessings, making them a dread and a curse. But the Author of the divine plan knew it would be this way. He knew that it would not be necessary for him to rain down fire from the skies to destroy the nations as he did on Sodom and Gomorrah. He knew that when in his own due time he allowed the human mind to pry into some of the secrets of nature and find mighty sources of power, they would soon be raining fire upon themselves and thus bring about the destruction of their world without his doing much more about it, except to overrule their plottings to prevent one nation or group of nations from gaining too much of an advantage over the others.

Finally, of course, when the world has been laid waste by man’s own selfishness, God will demonstrate his power by miraculously destroying and dispersing the hosts which come against his people in the Holy Land. Just what the nature of this demonstration will be we do not know. It is described by the prophet as “an overflowing rain, and great hailstones, fire, and brimstone.” God states the purpose of this, saying, “Thus will I magnify myself, and sanctify myself; and I will be known in the eyes of many nations, and they shall know that I am the Lord.”—Ezek. 38:22,23

Not until this final climax of the prophetic time of trouble such as never was since there was a nation will that for which the world is being prepared during the day of preparation come to pass. That will be the manifestation of Christ’s kingdom to give the people peace and health and life. Just as the day of preparation led up to and made possible global action in the trouble which destroys Satan’s world, so a worldwide manifestation of kingdom blessings will follow. The Lord tells us that following the gathering of the nations for their destruction he will turn to the people a pure language, that they may all—that is, all who were previously involved in the gathering for the overthrow of a world order—call upon his name, to serve him with one consent.—Zeph. 3:9

Again, the Lord declares, “I will gather all nations and tongues; and they shall come, and see my glory.” (Isa. 66:18) It is in connection with this gathering that the prophet speaks of the swift beasts which will then be employed in the accomplishment of God’s purposes, which indicates that not alone for the gathering of the nations unto destruction did God bring about the rapid means of travel in this our day, but also for the further accomplishment of his plans when the kingdom of peace is fully set up and operating in the earth.

The miraculous means of communication now possible will herald the news of the kingdom from one end of the earth to the other—traveling with the speed of light—the interchange of thoughts and viewpoints possible only through personal contacts will be essential in order that all the world may see and appreciate the glory of God and the blessings of Christ’s kingdom. Thus world travel will be necessary, and hence in this, the day of preparation, the people are learning the use of conveyances which run like the lightnings!

Dawn Bible Students Association
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