The Prophetic Increase of Knowledge

HOW MANY OF us realize that one hundred and fifty years ago there were many businessmen and law-makers who were unable to read and write? At that time the vast majority of men and women in all countries were illiterate; education was considered a privilege for the few. Just as there were outstanding artists and musicians in those days, there were also famous writers of fiction, philosophy, and history. These, of course, needed to know how to read and write, and they set themselves to the task of learning. But for the ordinary person, education was not considered important. The situation remained as it had been throughout the annals of history. Back in the days of ancient Israel it was necessary for scribes, or others specially qualified and appointed, to read the Law to the people if they were to be acquainted with it, for the rank and file of the people did not know how to read.

Throughout the centuries there was no change in this situation, either in Israel or among the Gentiles. General education as we know it did not develop gradually—it appeared suddenly. After thousands of years of ignorance on the part of the masses, within a remarkably short period of time from the standpoint of history, knowledge suddenly increased to the incomprehensible magnitude which it is today. This, we believe, was in fulfillment of the prophecies of the Bible, one of which states that in the “time of the end” knowledge would be “increased.”—Dan. 12:4

There are archeological evidences that the art of writing was known and used before the Flood. In that antediluvian world men learned how to record their thoughts in a way that could be understood by others, but the process was tedious and laborious. They used what is known as the cuneiform style of writing, the words being etched upon clay tablets, and then baked in ovens or in the sun to give them a degree of permanency.

The art of writing improved somewhat after the Flood, but clay and stone tablets continued to be used for centuries. It was not unusual to the Israelites that the Ten Commandments should be given to them on tablets, or “tables of stone.” (Exod. 24:12) Later came the parchment rolls, with varying degrees of quality, and improvement in durability. Finally paper appeared as we know it today.

During this entire period there was no better way of writing than by hand, with all of its limitations. Few were able to write. The philosophers of Greece had no adequate way of disseminating their theories. Probably the general public today know more about Platonic philosophy than did the Greeks themselves at the time of Plato.

The Bible itself had a very limited circulation. Copies of the Scriptures were extremely scarce in the Early Church. The making of each new copy required much time and labor. This situation continued for centuries. Not until the advent of the printing press did it begin slowly to change, and fittingly enough the first book to be printed was the Bible.

Gutenberg invented movable type for the printing press in the year 1450 A.D. Some of the astute, farseeing people of his day were quick to realize what the printing press ultimately would mean to world society. The religious leaders of that time were particularly concerned over the possibility of a general circulation of the Bible. They did not wish to see this happen, for they knew that the Word of God, to the extent that it was read and believed, would expose their traditions and weaken their control over the people.

This, we should remember, was in the days of the chained Bible, when the common people were not permitted to possess or to read the Holy Scriptures. Indeed, few of them could have read it had they been given the opportunity. Today in many printing plants an apprentice printer is called a ‘printer’s devil’. The legend is that this title originated in Gutenberg’s printing shop, being based on the feelings of the religious bigots of that time that the Devil would use the printing press to make the Bible available to all who could and wanted to read it.

Only those who maintain control over the minds of others through ignorance and tradition need fear the dissemination of the Bible. The knowledge of the plans and purposes of God contained in the Bible is the key to true liberty in Christ. It breaks the shackles of superstition and prejudice, and reveals the great Creator of the universe as the true God of love.

It is a far cry from Gutenberg’s crude contraption to the huge, modern multicolor presses of today. Naturally that first crude press did not produce sufficient reading matter to change the course of the world, but it was a start. And the art of printing grew so rapidly that by the beginning of the nineteenth century the minds of men were beginning to be molded into a new pattern.

By that time the Bible became available in sufficient quantities to warrant the establishment of Bible Societies whose sole business would be to produce and distribute the Bible. And how wonderfully they have accomplished this mission! More copies of the Bible are sold today than of any other book. It has been translated and published in essentially all the known languages, and in many hundreds of dialects. The Bible today is available in practically all the farflung corners of the earth; although in some countries it does not enjoy such a free circulation as it does in the Western World.

Printing has also made possible the wide use of Hebrew and Greek concordances of the Bible, these being the languages from which our English Bibles are translated. By being able to check the true meaning of the Hebrew and Greek texts, we learn that the Bible does not teach the gruesome doctrine of eternal torture for the wicked. With the removal of this God-dishonoring tradition, we are able to comprehend more fully what the Bible means when it tells us that “God is love.”—I John 4:8

Concurrent with the phenomenal circulation of the Bible made possible by the printing press, there came also a general diffusion of knowledge along all other lines—national, scientific, political, financial, and industrial. This knowledge has awakened the world to a sense of its needs, and has begotten in the hearts of people in general a desire for liberty which cannot be denied. It has been well said that knowledge has started the masses on the march to freedom; and the invention of the printing press was the first drumbeat to inspire this march.

Through the art of printing, the learning and experience of one generation is passed on to the next. With the printing of books it has been possible for the thoughts and discoveries of philosophers and inventors to be passed on to their successors. The printing of books also led to the public school. It would be impossible for the great educational institutions of today, public and private, to function without books—printed books which through the printing press are available in any quantity desired.

Can we imagine a world without books, newspapers, and magazines? If we can, then we can imagine a world without schools, libraries, book stores, and newsstands. This is the sort of world in which people lived prior to the prophetic ‘increase of knowledge’ which Daniel said would occur in the ‘time of the end’. It is not that the intelligence of the human race has increased. It is simply that an invention, divinely permitted and timed, has released the potentials of knowledge which previously had been largely restricted to individual minds, and available at the most to a very limited few.

This Electronic Age

Psalm 97:4 speaks of Jehovah’s “lightnings” which enlighten the world. In this prophecy lightning is used figuratively to symbolize the dissemination of knowledge, the reference being to this present time when knowledge was due to be increased. Lightning, as we know, is a demonstration of electrical energy, and it is significant, we think, that the harnessing of electrical energy has contributed so effectively to the prophetic “increase of knowledge.”

The availability of knowledge through printing greatly aided man in the harnessing of the strange force which became known as electricity. The first electric light of any kind was invented about 1710 by Fredrick Hawksbee, and which he demonstrated before the Royal Society of London. It consisted of a hollow glass globe from which the air had been exhausted, and arranged so it could be rotated rapidly. When rubbed by the hand while rotating, it produced a glow of light. But this invention proved to be of no practical value as a means of producing artificial light.

Early in the nineteenth century, Sir Humphrey Davy discovered the basic principles of arc and incandescent lamps. However, it remained for Thomas A. Edison to invent the first practical electric lamp. This was in 1879. It was an invention which in a few short years was destined to well nigh turn night into day so far as the work, pleasure, and pastime of the world was concerned.

This was only one hundred and thirteen years ago. It was just a year earlier that the General Electric Company was formed for the purpose of developing this newly discovered energy, particularly in connection with dynamos and motors. Many books have been written to set forth the details of progress in the harnessing and use of electricity for light, power, and heat. That progress has carried through into the field of electronics, which in turn has made possible the radio, television, computers, and even artificial ‘moons’.

Let us try to imagine a world without the many things now available by means of electricity and electronics. In the home there would be no electric lights; no automatic oil, gas, electric heat, or coal burners; no refrigerators; no automatic washing machines; no electric stoves, or toasters; no electric clocks; no electric razors; no radios or television sets, and no telephones. And outside of the home there would be no automobiles; no electric powered trains; no telephones or computers; no elevators; or no display advertising; and no airplanes—just to mention but a few of what have now come to be considered the necessities of life. Yet only one hundred and thirteen years ago the whole world lived without any of these ‘necessities’, and many of them have come into general use within very recent years.

The striking part of all this is that for thousands of years the human race lived without change. There was no progress in education. There was no ‘increase of knowledge’. Our grandparents lived in essentially the same primitive fashion as people did four thousand years ago. The Europeans and Asians had different ways of life. We would probably say that the European standard of living was higher than the Asiatic, but there was little or no progress in either section of the world.


Beginning with the printing press, the means for the increase of knowledge were cumulative. The harnessing of electricity led to the farflung systems of communication which are disseminating knowledge so effectively today. There is the telephone, wired and wireless; the wired and wireless telegraph; the radio and television, satellite communication centers. Through the use of these, the important events of the whole world become known to the remainder of the world in a matter of seconds—sometimes even as they happen.

Today these rapid means of communication are taken for granted, yet a hundred years ago they were unknown, with the exception of the wired telegraph, the first patent for which was taken out in 1837. Now the electric wings of thought are bearing the ideas of the human race thither and yon around the globe to a degree that staggers the imagination. Fantastically, President Eisenhower was first to broadcast Christmas greetings to the world via an artificial ‘moon’ or satellite orbiting around the earth at the rate of seventeen thousand miles an hour.

While the ancients, in their fiction and fables, may have imagined the possibility of transmitting thoughts almost instantly to distant points, it remained until the ‘time of the end’ for these imaginations to be translated into reality. This is because the Creator has now permitted man to unlock the secrets of nature which make it all possible.

The importance of some method of conveying intelligence to distant points was early recognized. Many centuries before Christ, Aeneas Tacitus proposed and perfected a method of signaling by which words could be spelled. It is believed that in that ancient time the reflected rays of the sun were in some way flashed as signals by the use of shields. In the Middle Ages, flags, banners, and lanterns were used to distinguish particular squadrons, and as marks of rank. The invention of cannon made an important addition to the means of signaling. In the instructions issued by Don Martin de Padilla in 1597 the use of guns, lights, and fires is mentioned. And we remember that American Indians used smoke signals to communicate across distances.

But not until the application of electricity for conveying thought was man able to communicate with his fellows over distances greater than could be spanned by the eye or ear. The deafening roar of the cannon could be heard much farther than the human voice. Fire signals, smoke signals, and reflected sun rays could be seen at a greater distance than a mere hand, arm, or flag waving. Nevertheless the limit of distance in communication was still the range of natural vision and hearing.

It remained so until the ‘time of the end’, when the mighty invisible force we call electricity was put to work. And now it is utilized for news, business, for pleasure, and for war; and men and women can converse with one another at will, even though separated by distances of thousands of miles, while drama and song by the world’s leading artists are brought right into the homes of the people.

The telephone soon followed the telegraph, although little progress was made in this field until 1875, when Bell succeeded in making his first telephone operate. Following the telephone came the wireless telegraph. The name Marconi is prominently associated with this particular advance in the application of electrical power. The first message sent by wireless across the English Channel was in 1898, and in 1901 the first message was sent by wireless across the Atlantic Ocean.

It was a long step from the wireless telegraph to the wireless telephone and radio. Voice and music broadcasting took place sporadically from about 1916 on, but pre-announced programs on regular schedules are credited to the Westinghouse Electric and Manufacturing Company, operating Radio Station KDKA in East Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. These began on November 2, 1920, with the broadcasting of the Harding-Cox presidential election returns. And now television has been added to radio.

It would be folly to say that this phenomenal increase of knowledge has come about because the people of our day are more intelligent than those of previous generations, for in reality they are not. The general public does not need to be more intelligent in order to use and enjoy our modern advantages. The number of people engaged as highly educated scientists to produce the marvels of our day is small when compared with the total population of average intelligence and education. Then too, many inventions have been merely stumbled upon, rather than thought out step-by-step in advance.

It is only as we view the fast moving events and developments of these ‘last days’ from the standpoint of Biblical prophecies that we are able to see their real meaning, which is that we are living in what the prophecies designate as the “time of the end.” (Dan. 12:4) This, however, does not mean the end of time, as traditional theology would have us believe.

One of the great benefits of the prophetic increase of knowledge is that through better means of studying the Bible it is now possible to separate tradition from the real teachings of God’s Word, and one of the teachings of the Dark Ages, which is now seen to be merely a tradition, is that the earth is one day to be totally destroyed, making an end of all human experience as well as of all life, plant and animal.

Now we have come to understand through the careful study of the Scriptures, that the ‘time of the end’ is the period in which Satan’s rulership over the earth comes to an end, and in its place the kingdom of Christ is established. The marvelous increase of knowledge now being witnessed is contributing to this transition. The Bible does not indicate how much more progress there will I in methods of communication or along other scientific ling. but the promises of God do assure us that knowledge will continue to increase, and on a much higher level than at present.

While the art of printing has immeasurably helped sincere students of the Bible to a better understanding of the plans and purposes of God, its main advances have been along lines pertaining to the material wellbeing of man. But it will not end here, for the Bible assures us that through the agencies of Christ’s kingdom, the knowledge of the Lord will be caused to fill the whole earth as the waters cover the sea.—Isa.11:9

In Isaiah 25:7 we are told that the Lord will “destroy … the face of the covering cast over all people, and the veil that is spread over all nations.” These expressions, ‘covering’ and ‘veil’, denote blinding influences of tradition and superstition which have hindered the people of all nations from knowing and serving the true God. But as the increase of knowledge concerning the great Creator continues, these darkening influences will be removed, and then the people will say, “Lo, this is our God; … we have waited for him, we will be glad and rejoice in his salvation.”—Isa.25:9

“An highway shall be there, and a way, and it shall be called The Way of Holiness; the unclean shall not pass over it; but it shall be for those: the wayfaring men, though fools, shall not err therein.”—Isaiah 35:8

Dawn Bible Students Association
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