Home Previous TOC Next Bookshelf



"So mightily grew the word of God
and prevailed." Acts 19:20.
"So mightily grew the word of God and prevailed." Acts 19:20.

"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." Dan. 12:4.

Thus the words of the angel, spoken nearly twenty-five hundred years ago, announced the opening of a new era of enlightenment when the latter days should come.

The Time

At the end of the long period of predicted tribulation of the church—the twelve hundred and sixty years of Daniel's prophecy—the world entered upon this era of "the time of the end."

"They shall fall by the sword, and by flame, by captivity, and by spoil, many days.... And some of them of understanding shall fall, to try them, and to purge, and to make them white, even to the time of the end: because it is yet for a time appointed." Dan. 11:33-35.

In practically every outline of prophecy touching this time, the events of the last days are represented as following the end of the prophetic period of tribulation. Christ's prophecy of Matthew 24 so declares. Our Saviour showed that this period of tribulation, would be shortened, "for the elect's sake," and that "immediately after the tribulation of those days" the signs of the end would begin to appear.

Thus, while the full period of the twelve hundred and sixty years ended amid the scenes of the French Revolution, which gave the papal power a deadly wound in the last decade of the eighteenth century, the shortening of the days of tribulation had begun even earlier to spread increasing knowledge and enlightenment over the earth.

The Prophecy Unsealed

The angel's words to Daniel were,

"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." Dan. 12:4.

"The words are closed up and sealed till the time of the end." Verse 9.

This means that as the time of the end came, men would be impelled to search diligently for light in the prophetic word. Events taking place in fulfilment of the prophecy would be recognized, and with the coming of the time there would come the opening up, or unsealing, of the prophetic scriptures, with their message for men in the last days.

As the time drew near, Bible students were led more and more to search the word of prophecy. Sir Isaac Newton, called "the greatest of philosophers," wrote of prophetic study:

"The giving ear to the prophets is a fundamental character of the true church. For God has so ordered the prophecies, that in the latter days 'the wise may understand, but the wicked shall do wickedly, and none of the wicked shall understand.' Dan. 12:9, 10."—"Observations on the Prophecies of Daniel" (London, 1733), part 1, chap. 1.

Again, this man who had delved so deeply into the laws of nature, but who bowed his heart in childlike faith to listen to the voice of Inspiration, declared his hope that the time of the end was near at hand in his day (he died in 1727). Of this prophecy of the unsealing of the book he wrote:

"'Tis therefore a part of this prophecy, that it should not be understood before the last age of the world; and therefore it makes for the credit of the prophecy that it is not yet understood. But if the last age, the age of opening these things, be now approaching, as by the great successes of late interpreters it seems to be, we have more encouragement than ever to look into these things. If the general preaching of the gospel be approaching, it is to us and to our posterity that those words mainly belong: In the time of the end the wise shall understand, but none of the wicked shall understand.... 'Blessed is he that readeth, and they that hear the words of this prophecy, and keep those things which are written therein.'"—"Observations on the Apocalypse" (London, 1733), chap. 1.

True to the word of the angel, the events of the ending of the twelve hundred and sixty years of papal supremacy, amid the scenes of the French Revolution, drew the attention of Bible students everywhere. It was seen that prophecy was being fulfilled before men's eyes. It gave great impetus to the study of the prophetic scriptures. The great historic prophecies began to be opened up—unsealed—to the understanding. An English historian of that period, John Adolphus, though writing a secular history, remarks upon this awakening interest in prophetic study:

"The downfall of the papal government [in 1798], by whatever means effected, excited perhaps less sympathy than that of any other in Europe: the errors, the oppressions, the tyranny of Rome over the whole Christian world, were remembered with bitterness; many rejoiced, through religious antipathy, in the overthrow of a church which they considered as idolatrous, though attended with the immediate triumph of infidelity; and many saw in these events the accomplishment of prophecies, and the exhibition of signs promised in the most mystical parts of the Holy Scriptures."—"History of France from 1790 to 1802" (London, 1803), Vol. II, p. 379.

From those tunes of fulfilling prophecy, there arose a distinct movement, reviving the teaching of the doctrine of Christ's second coming, and directly preparing the way for the advent movement that was to come with the days of 1844, when yet fuller light was to break forth from the unsealed prophecies of the book of Daniel. Of the angel that symbolizes the special gospel work for these last days, it is written, "He had in his hand a little book open." Rev. 10:2. The "time of the end" came, and with it has come the opening of the sealed book. The "sure word of prophecy" speaks its message full and clear to the ears of all mankind today.

Increase of Knowledge

"Many shall run to and fro," the prophecy said, "and knowledge shall be increased." It is knowledge of the prophecy and of the things of God that is primarily the topic; but the era that we are discussing has been one of general enlightenment and extension of knowledge.[J] "The entrance of Thy words giveth light," says the psalmist: and when the Reformation of the sixteenth century broke the bands of age-long superstition and error, and set free the Word of God, the way was preparing for the coming of this wonderful era of the diffusion of general knowledge.

The era of reform movement was an era of world exploration and discovery. Diaz had founded the south African cape, and Columbus had given to future generations the New World. The result was voyage after voyage of discovery, and then awakening, colonization, and expansion.

The famous and learned Francis Bacon, who died in 1626, felt in his day that the time spoken of by Daniel's prophecy was drawing near. He wrote:

"Nor should the prophecy of Daniel be forgotten, touching the last ages of the world: 'Many shall go to and fro, and knowledge shall be increased;' clearly intimating that the thorough passage of the world (which now by so many distant voyages seems to be accomplished, or in course of accomplishment), and the advancement of the sciences, are destined by fate, that is, by divine Providence, to meet in the same age."—"Novum Organum," book 1, xciii. (Bacon's Works, Spedding and Ellis, Vol. IV, p. 92.)

When the time indicated in the prophecy fully came, with the last decade of the eighteenth century, there was witnessed the upspringing of movements that have wrought mightily for the enlightenment and evangelization of the world. As the events of the French Revolution announced the closing of the long era of papal supremacy, so also another series of events at the same time announced the opening of the era of increasing knowledge. Speaking of these developments, Lorimer, a Scottish writer, said:

"At the very time when Satan is hoping for, and the timid are fearing, an utter overturn of true religion, there is a revival, and the gospel expands its wings and prepares for a new flight. It is worthy of remembrance that the year 1792, the very year of the French Revolution, was also the year when the Baptist Missionary Society was formed, a society which was followed during the succeeding, and they the worst, years of the Revolution, with new societies of unwonted energy and union, all aiming, and aiming successfully, at the propagation of the gospel of Christ, both at home and abroad. What withering contempt did the great Head of the church thus pour upon the schemes of infidels! And how did He arouse the careless and instruct His own people, by alarming providences, at a season when they greatly needed such a stimulus."—"Historical Sketches of the Protestant Church in France," p. 522.

Another writer, Dr. D.L. Leonard, historian of the century of missions, says:

"The closing years of the eighteenth century constitute in the history of Protestant missions an epoch indeed, since they witnessed nothing less than a revolution, a renaissance, an effectual and manifold ending of the old, a substantial inauguration of the new. It was then that for the first time since the apostolic period, occurred an outburst of general missionary zeal and activity. Beginning in Great Britain, it soon spread to the Continent and across the Atlantic. It was no mere push of fervor, but a mighty tide set in, which from that day to this has been steadily rising and spreading."—"A Hundred Years of Missions," p. 69.

The time of the prophecy had come, and the hand of providence was bringing into being agencies that have spread light and knowledge over all lands.

"Look where the missionary's feet have trod—
Flowers in the desert bloom; and fields, for God,
Are white to harvest. Skeptics may ignore;
Yet on the conquering Word, from shore to shore,
Like flaming chariot, rolls. Ask ocean isles,
And plains of Ind, where ceaseless summer smiles;
Speak to far frozen wastes, where winter's blight
Remains;—they tell the love, attest the might
Of Him whose messengers across the wave
To them salvation bore, hope, freedom gave."
Horace D. Woolley.

The organization of foreign missionary enterprise was quickly accompanied by the establishment of Bible societies for a systematic work of translating and world-wide distribution of the Scriptures. In 1804 the British and Foreign Bible Society was organized. Students of the prophetic word felt at the time that these agencies were coming in fulfilment of the prophecy. One writer of those times said:

"The stupendous endeavors of one gigantic community to convey the Scriptures in every language to every part of the globe may well deserve to be considered as an eminent sign even of these eventful times. Unless I be much mistaken, such endeavors are preparatory to the final grand diffusion of Christianity, which is the theme of so many inspired prophets, and which cannot be very far distant in the present day."—G.S. Faber, D.D., "Dissertation on the Prophecies," Vol. II, p. 406 (1844).

Now the Word of God, in whole or in part, is speaking in more than five hundred languages, and it is estimated that these tongues, at least in their spoken form, can make the divine message comprehensible to ninety-five per cent of the inhabitants of the earth.

The work of modern missions, that had its birth as the time of the end came, is one of the great world factors today. Nearly thirty million dollars a year are given for Protestant missions, and a force of more than twenty thousand foreign missionaries is in the field, not counting the many thousands of native missionaries and helpers. Truly the time of the end is proving to be an era of increasing light and knowledge.

The Opening of All Lands

As the time came for knowledge to be increased, it was necessary that all lands should be open to receive the enlightening agencies. Thus, as the time of the end came, we see distinctly the hand of Providence swinging open the doors into all countries. It has been an era of world survey and development. Particularly is this true of the last sixty or seventy years. It was in 1844 that the time referred to in the prophecy came for the special advent movement, bearing the judgment-hour message to the world. The range of the movement is thus described in the prophecy:

"I saw another angel fly in the midst of heaven, having the everlasting gospel to preach unto them that dwell on the earth, and to every nation, and kindred, and tongue, and people." Rev. 14:6.

This was a declaration that as the time came for the closing gospel work to be done, the doors of access to every nation and tongue and people would be thrown open. In 1844, or but a few years before, much of the world was closed to missionary endeavor; but as the prophecy indicates, the years following have witnessed the swift and systematic opening of all lands to the gospel message.

It was in 1842 that five treaty ports in China were opened to commerce and to missions,—advance steps in the opening of all China to the gospel. In 1844 Turkey was prevailed upon to recognize the right of Moslems to become Christians, reversing all Moslem tradition. In 1844 Allen Gardiner established the South American Mission. In 1845 Livingstone's determination was formed to open up the African interior.

Dr. A.T. Pierson, speaking of the wonderful way in which Providence opened the doors of access in those times, wrote as follows:

"Most countries shut out Christian missions by organized opposition, so that to attempt to bear the good tidings was simply to dare death for Christ's sake; the only welcome awaiting God's messengers was that of cannibal ovens, merciless prisons, or martyr graves. But, as the little band advanced, on every hand the walls of Jericho fell, and the iron gates opened of their own accord. India, Siam, Burma, China, Japan, Turkey, Africa, Mexico, South America, the Papal States, and Korea were successively and successfully entered. Within five years, from 1853 to 1858, new facilities were given to the entrance and occupation of seven different countries, together embracing half the world's population."—"Modern Mission Century," p. 25.


The Victoria Falls railroad bridge
over the Zambezi.
The Victoria Falls railroad bridge over the Zambezi.

God's providence has laid under tribute every force and every resource for the opening of all lands—missionary endeavor, love of adventure, commercial enterprise, and scientific interest. Railways have been built through regions that were undiscovered seventy years ago, and among the passengers traveling now over the iron trail are men and women of tribes unknown fifty years ago. But the gospel message was to go to every tribe and tongue before the end; and wonderfully Providence has been opening the doors throughout all this "time of the end," and particularly in our generation.

Material Agencies for the Work

The prophecy represents not only a world-wide work, but a quick work in proclaiming the gospel message in the last days. The movement is symbolized in the Revelation by an angel flying in the midst of heaven, from land to land. And as to the closing work, when the end is near at hand, the Scripture says:

"He will finish the work, and cut it short in righteousness: because a short work will the Lord make upon the earth." Rom. 9:28.

"Not by might, nor by power, but by My Spirit, saith the Lord of hosts." This is the hope for a quickly finished work in all the earth in our time. Yet the Lord lays hold of material things for service; and wonderfully the hand of Providence has wrought in bringing into existence material agencies for a quick work in carrying the gospel to the world—such agencies as no generation before ours ever had.

Consider the marvelous facilities for world-travel. They are the product of this time of the end. "Many shall run to and fro," said the prophecy. Some interpreters have restricted the Hebrew phrase to a "searching" to and fro for knowledge. Even this would include a literal running to and fro; for the light of increasing knowledge was to be diffused over all the earth. But the best authority on the Hebrew declares for the plain meaning of our English translation: "Many shall run to and fro." In two recent works, Dr. C.H.H. Wright, the English scholar, says of this text:

"The natural meaning must be upheld, i.e., wandering to and fro."—"Critical Commentary on Daniel," p. 209.

"Why should not that expression be used in the sense in which it is employed in Jeremiah 5:1, namely, of rapid movement hither and thither?"—"Daniel and His Prophecies," p. 321.

At the time when the first foreign missionary movement was being launched in America, Robert Fulton's steamship, the "Clermont," was making its first trip on the Hudson.


The "Ox Song" of the Egyptian threshing-floor.
The "Ox Song" of the Egyptian threshing-floor.

In 1838 the first ships to cross the Atlantic under steam power alone—the "Sirius" and the "Great Western"—came into New York from Liverpool, a few hours apart, forerunners of the fleets that furrow all the seas today, making quick pathways for the gospel messengers to all lands. Verily, they are a gift of God's providence to this generation, when all the world is to hear the gospel message.


An account of the capture of Babylon,
b.c. 538. From the cylinder of Cyrus.
An account of the capture of Babylon, b.c. 538. From the cylinder of Cyrus.
"He hath made the deep as dry,
He hath smote for us a pathway to the ends of all the earth."

In 1825 Stephenson built his first railway passenger locomotive, which may still be seen in the Darlington railway station, in England. It was the beginning of the great revolution in land travel. The late Prof. Alfred Russel Wallace, scientist, wrote:

"From the earliest historic and even prehistoric times till the construction of our great railways in the second quarter of the present century [the nineteenth], there had been absolutely no change in the methods of human locomotion."—"The Wonderful Century," p. 7.


The process by which the books of the great
library of Alexandria, Egypt, were made.
The process by which the books of the great library of Alexandria, Egypt, were made.

For nearly six thousand years men had traveled in the old way. Why should these revolutionary changes in travel by sea and land come abruptly just at this time?—Because the time foretold in the prophecy was at hand, when the last gospel message was to be carried quickly to all the world—"to every nation, and kindred, and tongue, and people." We see the hand of the living God opening the doors into all lands, and His wonderful providence laying at the feet of this generation agencies for quickly covering the whole earth.


Reproduced from the first edition of the famous
forty-two-line Latin Bible, printed by Gutenberg.
Reproduced from the first edition of the famous forty-two-line Latin Bible, printed by Gutenberg.

Later came the electric telegraph, for the quick transmission of news. It was in 1837 that Cooke and Wheatstone in England, and Morse in the United States, made their application for patents on the electric telegraph. It was in 1844 that the first long-distance system was successfully demonstrated—when the historic message was sent from Baltimore to Washington, "What hath God wrought!" Now news of events fulfilling prophecy, and news of progress and conditions in all lands, are daily spread before the world by this agency of our wonderful time.


On which was produced the first
printed Bible, in 1456 a.d.
On which was produced the first printed Bible, in 1456 A.D.

Operated by two men, it has a maximum
speed of 250 impressions per hour.
Operated by two men, it has a maximum speed of 250 impressions per hour.

As the closing events take place, the Lord has in His providence so ordered it that no one need be ignorant of the signs of the times fulfilling before the eyes of men.

"Speak the word and think the thought,
Quick 'tis as with lightning caught—
Over, under, lands or seas
To the far antipodes."

Here is an incident illustrating the way in which the electric telegraph may multiply and spread abroad the witness borne to the truth of God in some obscure corner of the earth:


The largest printing press in the world. Length, 48 feet; height, 19-1/2 feet; weight, 175 tons; number of parts, 65,000; revolutions, 300 per minute; paper used per hour, 18 tons, or 216 miles of paper three feet wide; production per hour, 300,000 eight-page folded newspapers.

The Mighty Press
"When old Gutenberg, inventor
Of the printing press, and mentor
Of the clumsy-fingered typos
In a sleepy German town,
Used to spread the sheets of vellum
On the form, and plainly tell them
That the art was then perfected,
As he pressed the platen down,
He had not the faintest notion
Of the rhythmical commotion,
Of the brabble and the clamor
And the unremitting roar
Of the mighty triple decker,
While the steel rods flicker,
And the papers, ready folded,
Fall in thousands to the floor."

Some years ago a young man in Europe—a Seventh-day Adventist—was giving answer for his faith. His conscience would not allow him to do ordinary labor on God's holy Sabbath. He had declared to the court that the oath of loyalty which had been required of him forbade his breaking the Sabbath. "How is that?" asked the judge. The young man replied:

"I was sworn in with a Christian oath, and therefore cannot be under an obligation to violate the commandments of God and work on the Sabbath. One must regard God as the highest authority, and obey Him in the first place."

This witness was borne in a little courtroom, before a small group of men; but the press dispatches took it up, and the description of the scene and report of the words spoken were carried by electric telegraph to the press of at least four continents, and millions read the testimony of the young man to the faith that was in him.

In the days to come, with great events taking place and solemn issues calling upon men to make decision for God and His truth, how quickly, in some great crisis, all the world may be warned, and the last individual decisions be made for eternity!

Modern Printing

The invention of the printer's art had come just in time to give wings to Reformation truth. Luther said of it:

"Printing is the latest and greatest gift by which God enables us to advance the things of the gospel. It is the last bright flame, manifesting itself just previous to the extinction of the world. Thanks be to God, it came before the last day came."—Michelet's "Life of Luther," p. 291.

While improvements in the art were made through the centuries, it was a slow process, even up to the opening of our generation. During our day, however, inventions have revolutionized the printing process.

In this, as in other things, the methods have been speeded up to meet the necessities of this time of rapid accomplishment. The printing press is one of the chief of the marvelous enlightening agencies of this time of the end. By it the printed pages of truth are set falling over the earth "like the leaves of autumn."

Time fails us to speak of all the wonderful material developments of our day, when knowledge has been increased, and when men are not only searching to and fro, but literally running to and fro. The whole earth is brought within the range of human knowledge, and the light of saving truth is streaming out toward every dark place where the children of men dwell.

Nearly twenty-five hundred years ago it was written upon the prophetic page,

"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."

There the word stood on the scroll of prophecy through more than two millenniums. Then, as the time of the end came, lo, the book of prophecy was unsealed, and the new era of increasing knowledge began to spread in wondrous blessing over the earth.

So surely, also, the prophecies of the last events will be accomplished. In the occurrences taking place before our eyes, we see that God is indeed finishing His work in the earth, and cutting it short in righteousness.


The strategic waterway involved in the Eastern Question.
The strategic waterway involved in the Eastern Question.


[J] It is not designed to give the reader the idea that this running "to and fro" refers wholly to turning to and fro through the pages of a book. The times in which we live have been characterized by a great increase in Bible study, and consequently in knowledge of the Scriptures; but it is equally true that this has been due in large measure to the fact that there are no longer any "hermit" kingdoms. Travel, a real physical running "to and fro" through the earth, has contributed mightily to the modern increase of knowledge, and in no other field of investigation has this been more true than in the study of the Bible. By increased facilities for travel, all nations have been brought close together physically. Different races and nationalities have become acquainted, missionary zeal has been quickened, and peoples formerly beyond the reach of missionary operations have become easily accessible. In this sense, as well as by private searching of the Scriptures, knowledge has increased.