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The Last Days Duncan Heaster  
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DIGRESSION 8: Knowledge Shall Be Increased

Natural Israel

The repentance of Israel must be associated with an opening of their eyes to God's word. There is no other way men can come to repentance. Jer. 30:24 prophecies Jacob's final homecoming, and then comments: "In the latter days (not now) ye shall consider (understand) it". Then Israel will consider and understand the words of their prophets. "The Lord hath poured out upon (Israel) the spirit of deep sleep, and hath closed your eyes (quoted in Rom. 11:8 concerning Israel's blindness to Christ)...the vision of all (God's word) is become unto you as the words of a book that is sealed...(but) in that day  shall the (spiritually) deaf hear the words of the book" (Is. 29:10,11,17,18). This will be when the book is unsealed at "The time of the end" (Dan. 12:4). We have shown elsewhere that Israel's repentance must occur prior to the Lord's return. Therefore there must be an upsurge in Biblical activity amongst those who will become the faithful remnant in latter day Israel. This will be brought about by the Elijah prophet- remembering that the Elijah prophet is framed in Malachi as a teacher of God's word, not just an imparter of it. Likewise John, in the spirit of Elijah, taught the people about the Lord's advent.

The first three chapters of Malachi are set in the context of the restoration from Babylon.   We have shown that this period typifies the experience of the Jewish "remnant" of the last days.  This section concludes with a description of the Bible-based revival of enthusiasm for the Law which occurred amongst some of this group: "They that feared the Lord spake often one to another: and the Lord hearkened" (Mal. 3:16).   The prophecy then goes on to speak directly of the last days:  "They shall be that day when I make up my jewels" (Mal. 3:17).   The rest of the prophecy then speaks of the final day of the Lord, at which time there would be a similar spiritual revival due to the work of 'Elijah', as there had been due to that of Malachi (the 'messenger' of Mal. 3:1) and his contemporary prophets.

The writing of "a book of remembrance" of those who allowed this revival to affect them (Mal. 3:16) has a latter-day application through its connection with Dan. 12:2, which speaks of the salvation of the Jewish remnant of the last days due to their names being written in a book.   "They...spake often one to another" is the language of Deut. 6:6 concerning how Israel were to avidly discuss the Law among themselves.   It will be Elijah's mission to redirect Israel's attention to "the law of Moses...the statutes and judgments" (Mal. 4:4,5).  Mal. 3:18 comments upon the remnant's repentance:  "Then shall ye return...".   This is in the context of Mal. 3:7, which pleads with them to return to the ordinances of Moses, again showing that the end result of Elijah's work in the last days is to bring them back to a meaningful understanding of the Mosaic Law.   This will be necessary in view of the fact that there are good reasons to believe that Israel will keep large parts of the Law during the Millennium.

Spiritual Israel

As both natural and spiritual Israel will suffer persecution in the last days, so it seems an upsurge in Biblical understanding and appreciation will be another feature shared by both communities. Malachi's prophecy of the faithful remnant earnestly speaking to each other about the word in preparation for the Lord's coming can be equally applicable to spiritual Israel.

"The wise shall understand"

The flagship verse concerning the opening of our eyes to latter day prophecy must be Dan. 12:4,10: "Shut up the words, and seal the book, even to the time of the end: many shall run to and fro (an idiom often used concerning response to God's word: Ps. 119:32,60; 147:15; Amos 8:11,12; Hab. 2:2; 2 Thess. 3:1 Gk.), and knowledge (of Daniel's prophecies) shall be increased...many shall be purified, and made white, and tried (in the tribulation); but the wicked shall do wickedly: and none of the wicked shall understand; but the wise shall understand". This is all in the context of the Angel rejecting Daniel's plea for insight into his own prophecies. All he was told was that they would be fulfilled in the far distant future, but he was comforted with the thought that the faithful at that time would understand. That the fulfilment of all the latter day prophecies will be understood fully in the very last days is implied in Jer. 23:20: "In the latter days ye shall understand it perfectly". The "it" refers to "the intents of [God's] heart" revealed in His prophetic word.

It is no accident that the Apocalypse ends with  words which clearly allude to the closing words of Daniel. John falls at the Angel's feet, as Daniel did. The Angel then says: "Seal not the sayings of the prophecy of this book (unlike Daniel's, which was sealed): for the time is at hand. He that is unjust, let him be unjust still: and he which is filthy, let him be filthy still (cp. "the wicked shall do wickedly") ". The implication is that the book is sealed for those who are a long way from the time of fulfillment; hence John must not seal the prophecy because its fulfillment is near. Thus Dan. 12:4 LXX reads: "Seal the book until the time of its accomplishment"- then it will be unsealed and the meaning become apparent. The primary application of Revelation is to the events of AD70; the implication is that the righteous understood the pattern of events then because of this book. There is a repeated stress throughout the NT epistles on the need to understand and get true knowledge (1 Pet. 3:7; 2 Pet. 1:2-6,8,16; 2:20; 3:18), perhaps with special reference to Scripture like the Olivet prophecy and Revelation; likewise 1 Tim. 3:1,16; 4:1,2 encourage Bible study in the 'last days' leading up to AD70. The need for understanding and study at that time is reflected in our last days. Paul told the Thessalonians (in the context of AD70) that he didn't need to tell them about the times and seasons because they already understood the prophecies so well- but they needed rather to make sure that their lifestyle was appropriate to their understanding (1 Thess. 5:1-5). The situation in AD70 is a type of the true "last days". Therefore the understanding of Revelation will not be sealed just before its second and major fulfillment in the second coming of Christ. In the same way as Daniel's prophecies will be opened to us in the  last days, so must the book of Revelation, because the understanding of Revelation is so bound up with the meaning of Daniel. "None of the wicked shall understand; but the wise shall understand" suggests that this true understanding of prophecy motivates the faithful remnant in holding on to a righteous lifestyle. Time and again Israel are condemned because their lack of understanding of the prophecies led them into sinful behaviour (Dt. 32:29; Ps. 94:8; Is. 44:18).

Daniel is described as both "wise" and "understanding" (Dan. 1:4,17); he was given understanding of earlier visions by an Angel (9:22). There is a connection between this fact and the idea of a "wise" and "understanding" minority who the Angel would reveal the correct understanding to, as he had earlier done to Daniel. The Angel was refusing to reveal the understanding of the final visions to Daniel, but implies he will reveal it to the faithful of the last generation. It seems that in spirit, Daniel is somehow representative of the faithful of the last days: holding on in an apostate ecclesia amidst both subtle and obvious persecution from Babylon, loving the word, wise and being given understanding by the Angel. We have earlier suggested the possibility of the Holy Spirit gifts being given during the tribulation period. If this is so, the new understanding of the prophecies may be revealed through a gift of knowledge. The idea of knowledge being increased is alluding (in the Hebrew text) to Ecc. 1:16 and 12:9 concerning Solomon's knowledge being increased by the gift of wisdom.

However, it may well be that it is the experience of the traumas of the last days which opens our eyes to the word. It is a Biblical theme that physical suffering opens eyes to God's word (Job 36:15 and many references in Ps. 119). In passing, consider the truth of this in the spiritual height reached by the Lord in the agony of the cross. Men like Job were driven to understand the ideas of resurrection and judgment by their own agonies and struggles leading them to see the implication of these things in Scripture like the promises to Abraham. And so the last days traumas will doubtless open our eyes to so much. Already we are being forced to be more Biblical, as our community enters situations which are totally new to us. It seems from Dan. 12:4LXX that the final opening of our eyes will follow a period of progressive gaining of knowledge: "Seal the book (its understanding) until the time of accomplishment; (i.e.) until many be taught and knowledge abound"- then the full understanding of the book will be unsealed.

This progressive knowledge will increase throughout the tribulation, until towards the end there is a final revelation: "it shall be for a time, times and a half (the tell-tale three and a half year tribulation period); and when an end is put to the dispersion, they will know all things" (Dan. 12:7 LXX). Daniel would have seen the similarity with his own times; at the end of Judah's "dispersion" in Babylon, he came to understand the time period in Jeremiah's prophecies, and therefore he knew for sure that the time of restoration of the Kingdom was near (Dan. 9:2). "When an end is put to the dispersion (in the last days), they will know all things" suggests that Daniel's experience was a foreshadowing of the leap in understanding among the faithful in the latter day ecclesia, who perhaps will also be suffering the results of Babylon's aggression. When we consider Jer 25:11,12; 29:10, these prophecies seem clear and obvious; after 70 years, the restoration would occur. But somehow the meaning of those simple words were sealed to Daniel and the remnant. Likewise what may then seem the obvious and relevant understanding of the prophecies may now be sealed to us. The whole of the restoration, typifying as it does the final restoration of the Kingdom,  was characterized by Bible-based enthusiasm amongst a faithful minority . Consider the prominence of the priests (Law-teachers) in getting things going, and the way the work prospered as a direct result of the encouragement of the prophets teaching God's word in Ezra 5:1-3  6:14; 7:11,12,14,21; and also  Neh. 8:8 NIV,13; 9:2.

Other Hints

There are a number of other hints outside Daniel that there will be a progressive growth in Biblical understanding amongst the latter day faithful. In the spirit of Daniel, Habakkuk was told that the full understanding of his vision concerning the latter day judgment of Babylon was "yet for an appointed time, but at the end it shall speak, and not lie", and at that time the one who reads and understands it will "run"- using the same idiom as in Dan. 12;4 concerning the latter day believers 'running' in response to their understanding of God's word (Hab. 2:2,3). The Olivet prophecy repeatedly talks about 'seeing' or (Gk.) understanding things and then acting upon this knowledge. The English translation somewhat masks this. Thus Mt. 24:15 "Whoso readeth" uses a Greek word which really means to recognize, distinguish- and he who recognizes, understands, let him "understand" or, better, meditate. Or again, "When ye shall see (Greek, to know, perceive) the abomination that maketh desolate..." (Mt. 24:15). This might suggest that the "abomination" isn't necessarily something physical. The idea seems to be 'When you understand that the abomination that makes desolate is in place, then...', rather than 'When you see (physically) on the telly or in the newspaper an abomination in Jerusalem, something about it'. "Let him that readeth understand" is yet another Olivet allusion back to Daniel (12:10); yet generations of believers have read those very words and not understood. Presumably the latter day remnant will clearly understand Daniel's enigmatic words about the abomination. Whilst we should live as if we expect the Lord's imminent return, it has to be said that we don't seem to have yet reached this level of understanding. "When ye shall see (Gk. perceive, understand) all these things, (then you will) know that it is near" (Mt. 24:33). "Behold (same Greek: perceive, comprehend) the fig tree..." (Lk. 21:29). The emphasis is undoubtedly on the need for understanding of the signs, not just observing them.

The expansion of understanding may be not only of prophecies like Habakkuk, Daniel and Revelation. Because Revelation especially is so full of reference to other passages throughout the Scriptures, our comprehension of the whole Bible will go into another paradigm. It may be that in the last days, all the words of God will in some sense be fulfilled (Rev. 17:17)- we will realize that the whole Bible is especially speaking to us, the last generation. Many of the parables are specifically aimed at the last generation of believers- they have a very secondary application to believers of other ages. They are specifically about the attitudes of those who will be alive when the Lord comes in glory; e.g. the wise and foolish virgins, or the men given talents, or the servants left watching the household etc. The Lord's letters in Revelation speak of him being about to come, as do many other NT passages. They were written specifically for the last generation of believers! Their full meaning and relevance will therefore only be perceived by us. Take Rev. 3:20 as an example: "I stand at the door and knock: if any man hear my voice, and open the door, I will come in to him, and will sup with him, and he with me". Whatever else this may be taken to mean, according to its connections with other passages, this is clearly relevant to the Lord's second coming; the believer who responds to the Lord's voice in the last days will be rewarded with the Lord's coming. Verses like this and the parables mentioned above are pre-eminently relevant to the last generation. No wonder there will be a growth in understanding in the last days!

Are We Increasing?

Inevitably, one starts to consider whether such  a growth in knowledge is beginning amongst us as a community; and there seems no doubt that it is. The latter day phenomena of computers, easy and cheap printing and desktop publishing, greater mobility and freedom to organize Bible Schools etc, study aids, access to Hebrew and Greek lexicons without the need for knowing the languages...all this has doubtless been arranged by the Father to enable the Biblical revolution to occur. Whether one analyzes number of Christian books published, number of published interpretations of Revelation (or any book), subjective comments on the quality of our Bible studies, availability of relevant study aids... the graph is the  same over time: since the 1980s, there has been a J-curve increase. Despite all this, there has also been the increase in worldliness, doctrinal apostacy, division, bitterness and apathy which other prophecies of the latter day ecclesia also mention. Yet for the faithful minority, there is the very real opportunity to grow in knowledge. Likewise, there has been the beginnings of the evangelism explosion which Mt. 24:14 implies must be forthcoming from our community in the last days- again, largely performed by a minority. This kind of analysis of the latter day household really encourages me that the approach to prophecy we have adopted in these studies is indeed the correct one.

The Lord speaks in a latter day context about “let him that readeth understand” Daniel’s prophecies (Mk. 13:14)- referring to the special gift of understanding them which Daniel himself was told would come in the very end time. But note the parallels in the Lord’s teaching here: “Let him…understand…let him…not go down…let him…not return…let them…flee”. The understanding He refers to is not merely academic. It is the understanding that will lead to concrete action.