Does Daniel Describe Today’s Increase in Knowledge?
Many Christians have taken Daniel 12:4 out of context and misapply it as they do so many other verses.
“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 12:4)
They claim this verse refers to leaps in secular and scientific knowledge related to communication, medicine, travel modes, etc., and that we’ve seen as evidence that we must be living in the last years of this age, Honestly, I myself once held this idea many years ago. That is, before I became a student of the Bible, by studying it “rightly divided.”
Yes, secular knowledge certainly has greatly been increased over the past 150 years. But, does Daniel 12:4 describe the secular increase in knowledge that we see today, as many Christians suppose that it does.
Again, context is everything as we try to interpret the Bible. So, we must look at this verse in context in both its near and overview context.
“1 And at that time shall Michael stand up, the great prince (Archangel) which standeth for the children of thy people: and there shall be a time of trouble, such as never was since there was a nation even to that same time: and at that time thy people shall be delivered, every one that shall be found written in the book. 2 And many of them that sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake (resurrect), some to everlasting life, and some to shame and everlasting contempt. 3And they (of Israel) that be wise shall shine as the brightness of the firmament; and they that turn many to righteousness (to faith in the Lord) as the stars for ever and ever. 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 12:1-4)
With regard to the overview context, Paul, “the Apostle to the Gentiles,” makes clear that we today are living in the time of the dispensational age of “the mystery (the secreted plan of God)” (Eph. 3:1-9), not in the time of the fulfillment of prophecy concerning Israel. Therefore, nothing in the prophetic book of Daniel describes anything that is going on today.
Then, looking closer at the near context of Daniel 12:4, Daniel is here prophesying to and concerning Israel. Here we see that the previous verses say that in the time of the Tribulation (v. 1), and that the saved in Israel will rise from the dead (v. 2), and “they (the believers) that be wise” shall shine in the kingdom of heaven on earth and “turn many to righteousness” (v. 3). Therefore, the “knowledge” of verse 4 must refer to knowledge of the Scriptures, which the only knowledge that can turn people to righteousness. Isaiah wrote of that day, “the earth shall be full of the knowledge of the LORD” (Isa. 11:9) since knowledge of Him will be increased.
The subsequent context bears this out as well. When Daniel is told that “the words are closed up and sealed till the time of the end” (v. 9), it is in the end times that “the wise shall understand” (v. 10), and it is then that knowledge of the Scriptures shall be increased. Israel, God’s people will use that knowledge of the truth of the Scriptures to turn many to righteousness (Dan. 11:33).
By Arthur J Licursi, Concept and portions adapted from Pastor Ricky Kurth