On October 15th of this past year, Paul Allen1 finally succumbed to non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma. As co-founder of Microsoft, Allen was a visionary. Much of the technological world around us bears his imprint.
“Mr. Allen was a force at Microsoft, along with its co-founder, Bill Gates, as the personal computer was moving from a hobbyist curiosity to a mainstream technology, used by both businesses and consumers.”2
Men like Paul Allen, Steve Jobs and Bill Gates are the latest in a series of innovators who impacted the world. Isaac Newton once said, “If I have seen further, it is by standing on the shoulders of giants.”3 The same could be said of Allen. His success would not have been possible without the work of people like John Atanasoff, who invented the world’s first electronic digital computer in 19394, or Charles Babbage, who first conceptualized mechanical computer programming in 1812.5
There’s no doubt computers have dramatically altered our lives. You name any field of human endeavor, and you’ll find computers are helping drive advancement. It’s amazing how recently this impact has occurred.
Gordon Moore, a legendary innovator in his own right, anticipated a rapid development and explosion of knowledge. As co-founder of Intel, it was his company that invented the world’s first microprocessor.6 He saw as far back as 1965, a world dominated by mobile phones, personal computers in every home, and cars that would eventually drive themselves.7 He is also famous for coming up with the maxim that now bears his name: “The number of transistors on a chip will double approximately every two years.”8
So, what’s the big deal? Unless you’re a computer geek, the ramification may not be readily apparent. In short, Moore was saying mankind’s ability to produce data would double every 24 months for the foreseeable future. To futurists, those who try to anticipate where technology is heading, this development would fuel progress. Buckminster Fuller, a famed inventor in the last century, put forth the idea the world’s knowledge would eventually grow exponentially.9 The computer age is bringing this about. Today, the world’s collective knowledge doubles in a matter of mere months, not centuries.10
The last several decades have demonstrated this! Here is a brief timeline11 of some major advances in computer processing history:
1943 – British Intelligence commissions builds “Colossus.” This computer’s purpose is to break the Enigma ciphers used by the German Navy during WWII. It performs 5,000 calculations/second.
1964 – Seymour Cray engineers arguably the world’s first supercomputer. It performs 3 million calculations/second.
1976 – The Cray I Supercomputer goes online at Los Alamos National Laboratory. At 160 million calculations/second, it breaks all records.
1990 – Supercomputers cross the billion calculation/second threshold.
1997 – IBM develops “Deep Blue.” It famously plays the world’s reigning chess champion, Gary Kasparov, in a series of matches. Eventually, the computer beats him.12 Deep Blue could perform 1 teraflop (i.e., 1 trillion calculations/second).
2004 – Named in honor of the Space Shuttle Crew that had been lost the previous year, NASA rolls out “Columbia.” This supercomputer performs 50 teraflops (i.e., 50 trillion calculations/second).13
2009 – A Japanese firm named Riken rolls out a machine called the MD Grape-3. This is the first machine known to have crossed the quadrillion calculations/second threshold. If you’ll bear with me for one more computer term, they call that a petaflop. This computer was particularly engineered to help with medical and biological research.14
We could go on and on with this list. Do a Google search on the world’s fastest supercomputers today. You’ll find a whole slew of quicker machines have been deployed that dwarf the speed of any computers on the above list.15
What does all of this have to do with Bible prophecy? Let’s take in the last chapter of Daniel. This was written more than 2,500 years ago:
“But you, Daniel, shut up the words, and seal the book until the time of the end; many shall run to and fro, and knowledge shall increase.” (Daniel 12:4)
The period of time described has to do with the end of the age – namely, what Scripture calls the Great Tribulation.
Associated with the “time of the end” are two very interesting expressions:
(1) “many shall run to and fro”
(2) “knowledge shall increase.”
The Hebrew words at play here are fascinating:
The “time of the end” comes from the Hebrew word “qets” or קֵץ and means the “end of time” or even “end of space.” This is a reference to the end of the age.
The expression “shall run to and fro” comes from the Hebrew “shuwt” or שׁוּט. This means “to go and rove about, and to do so quickly or eagerly.”
The Hebrew word used for “knowledge” is “da’ath” or דַּעַת. It means “knowledge, skill, discernment, or understanding.”
Finally, and perhaps most interesting of all, the Hebrew word for “increase” is “rabah” or רָבָה. It means to “become many, to multiply, to greatly increase.”
“Rabah” shows up in Genesis 7:17 describing the rise in floodwaters covering earth. Earlier in Genesis 1:22 is another enticing use of “rabah”. On the 5th Day of Creation Week, after making the birds and sea creatures, God blessed them saying, “Be fruitful and multiply (i.e., rabah or increase).” In both passages, “rabah” is describing exponential growth!
In light of this, there is tremendous conjecture as to what this verse really predicts. Two schools of thought have arisen:
View 1 – Searching the Scriptures and grasping their meaning:
Some believe at the end time there will be a search as never before to understand Bible prophecy. People will go “to and fro” examining the Scriptures in an effort to “increase knowledge” about future things. As a result, a grasp of eschatology (i.e., understanding end times), will be had like never before.
Others take this approach further. What’s in view is not just a better understanding of prophecy, but of Scripture on the whole. As we draw closer to the Lord’s return, the Church would better understand the entirety of God’s Word.
View 2 – Exponential increase in knowledge and a tremendous upswing in modes and speed of transportation:
Some believe these verses may also hint at the technological explosion we now see taking place in the world. It’s not just an understanding of the Bible or prophecy – but all the sciences and world’s knowledge would grow. And it would do so exponentially.
Coupled with this would be an incredible advancement in world transportation. The “going to and fro” could be referring to rapid expansion in transportation capabilities.
This brings us full circle back to Allen, Atanasoff, Babbage, and Moore. The last hundred years has seen exponential increase in knowledge. None of this was possible prior to the computer age. And we all know what has happened in the transportation industry over the past century. The Wright Brothers flight was little over 115 years ago – yet, look where we are today!
A final thought to leave you with…
Do you realize just how many prophecies in the Bible have a technological component to them? There are many that could not have seen their fulfillment prior to this generation and the existence of technology we only now see resident in the world.
11. For a more thorough timeline, see www.computerhistory.org/timeline/?category=cmptr
20. Walvoord, John F. Daniel – The Key to Prophetic Revelation; Moody Press, Chicago, 1971 – pages 291 – 292