Many people over the years have proposed that there would be an increase in technology as the end times approach. Among those espousing this view were renowned scientists Isaac Newton and Francis Bacon. On the frontispiece of Bacon’s Instauratio Magna, ships of learning were depicted passing by the limits of human knowledge, with a quote in Latin from Daniel 12:4. In more recent times, this belief has been supported in books like Future Shock by Alvin Toffler and The Bible Code by Michael Drosnin.
In Future Shock, first published in 1970, Toffler described the results of the rapid advancement of technology he had observed in the 1950s and 1960s. As technology brought ever faster changes in society, certain people were left on the sidelines, unable to cope with the speed of change. That stress and disorientation in people was dubbed “future shock.” Toffler did not attempt to use the Bible in his work, but the concept of future shock was alluded to in works like Hal Lindsey’s Late Great Planet Earth, which was also published in 1970. Mr. Lindsey has made frequent mention of Daniel 12:4 as a prophecy of this rapid technological advance.
The Bible Code was based on the work of Eliahu Rips and others, who proposed that the history of all mankind was encoded in the text of the Torah and could be found by the process of “equidistant letter sequencing” or ELS. This concept was first proposed by Rabbi Bachya ben Asher in the 13th century, a man who is recognized as introducing the use of Kabbalah (Jewish mysticism) into the study of the Torah. According to this theory, the Hebrew word for “computer” is encoded in Daniel 12:4, thus giving apparent confirmation that technology would indeed have exponential advances with the advent of computers.
With this background information, we are still left with the question, “Does the Bible say that an increase in technology is a sign of the end times?” The short answer is “No.” Working backwards through the previous information, the concept of ELS has been heavily debated in both academic and religious circles. Intriguing discoveries have been made, but the methods by which they appear are suspect at best. The concept proposed by Rabbi ben Asher is related more to divination than to Bible study, and God condemns any method of discerning hidden knowledge (Deuteronomy 18:10,14).
But, as Toffler observed, there certainly has been an exponential increase of technology, and it appears to be gaining ground even more quickly. So what does the Bible have to say on this matter? Let’s take a look at the text in question, Daniel 12:4, “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.” Daniel was told that the meaning of his prophecy would be sealed until the time of its fulfillment was near. The majority of Bible scholars through the ages have understood the last two phrases to reference the prophecy itself. Jamieson, Fausset, and Brown’s critical commentary (published 1871) identified the meaning as scrutinizing every page to discover God’s purposes in the events foretold. John Darby translated the passage “many shall diligently investigate,” and Samuel Tregelles rendered it “many shall scrutinize the book from end to end.” Matthew Henry’s Commentary (c. 1700) said, “Then this hidden treasure shall be opened, and many shall search into it, and dig for the knowledge of it, as for silver. They shall run to and fro, to enquire out copies of it, shall collate them, and see that they be true and authentic. They shall read it over and over, shall meditate upon it, and run it over in their minds.”
Many passages of Scripture refer to what will happen at the end of the age, but no other passage seems to deal with increasing knowledge or technology as a sign for us. A greater sign is the advancement of the gospel which Jesus spoke of in Matthew 24:14 and which He commanded us to proclaim in Matthew 28:19-20. God’s goal for mankind isn’t to advance as far as we can or to know all we can discover, but rather that all should come to repentance (2 Peter 3:9).