Daniel 058 – Progressive Illumination

Dr. Andy Woods | Apr 8, 2018 | Daniel 12:4 | Daniel

Andy Woods

Progressive Illumination

4-8-18                   Daniel 12:4               Lesson 58

Good morning everybody.  If we could take our Bibles and open them to the Book of Daniel, chapter 12, beginning at verse 4 today.  The title of our message is Progressive Illumination.  Maybe we should expand the title; how about this: The Reality or Progressive Illumination.  That’s illumination, not elimination, let’s make that clear.

As you’re turning there there’s a couple of things that are there for you  on the book table that we’d like to offer as a gift so feel free to take one on your way out.  And we are continuing to work our way through the Book of Daniel, in that fascination section where Daniel receives the final vision of his life and ministry, chapters 10-12.  Daniel, of course, seeing all of these things under the Holy Spirit’s enablement and through angelic revelation as angels are bringing Daniel insight prophetically back in the 6th century B.C.

Of course chapter 10 describes a great spiritual warfare that goes on before Daniel receives the vision and that’s typical how it works in our lives, isn’t it?  Whenever God is ready to do something significant in our lives, some kind of victory, some kind of opportunity, what I’ve noticed in my life is that time period is preceded by great warfare.  Daniel is receiving a vision but before the vision comes a great warfare is described, chapter 10. So you may find yourself this morning in great warfare, spiritually, and maybe that’s a sign to be encouraged, not discouraged, because God wants to do something big in  your life perhaps.

But Daniel has received in this vision, when he finally receives it, prophetic information about Persia and then Greece and then the warfare within the Grecian Empire and then he receives information about someone that would come on the scene 400 years later, named Antiochus IV.  And then his vision jumps from that time period into the distant future, a time period that’s still future from our point of view today, in the 21st century, as he gets information about the antichrist, the end of chapter 11 and into chapter 12 about the yet future tribulation and millennial kingdom.

So how can we sort of outline chapter 12?  We have a description of the end times, chapter 12:1-4 and that description, we have the suffering described a future time period of suffering for the nation of Israel and then that time of suffering is followed by a time of great separation, verse 2.  And it’s really there in verse 2 that we see the two great resurrections, a resurrection  unto life for the believer and a resurrection unto damnation for the unbeliever.  And then that time of suffering is followed by what’s called the Shining, the Shining is the time of reward. So Daniel gives us sort of a pattern to follow; he says, number 1, there’s going to be a tribulation, number 2, there is going to be a resurrection for the righteous, and then number 3, there’s going to be a resurrection which will be followed by a time period of reward.

And so last week, on Easter Sunday, we had the opportunity to talk about not only our future resurrection as believers, what we can look forward to, but the judgment of rewards that will immediately follow that resurrection and we built that model from the Book of Daniel.   And we move away from the suffering, the separation, which is described in verse 2, the shining which is this concept of rewards, it talks about some shining rightly.  But it’s very interesting that not everyone will shine in the millennial kingdom.  All believers enter the millennial kingdom but not all are rewarded equally once they enter.  And we talked about that last week, did we not?

So we move away from the suffering, from the separation, from the shining and now we come to verse 4 which is his last general description of the future tribulation period and millennium, called the sealing.  Notice what he says there in verse 4, it’s very interesting.  He says, “But as for you, Daniel, conceal these words and seal up the book until the end of time; many will go back and forth, and knowledge will increase.’”  An interesting verse.

Now it’s interesting that this same concept of sealing is mentioned not just in verse 4 but it’s also mentioned in verse 9. Drop down to verse 9 and notice how it’s repeated.  “He said,” now “he” is the angel, I think it’s Gabriel that came to deliver this information to Daniel.  “He said, ‘Go your way, Daniel, for these words are concealed and sealed up until the end time.”’  And you can sort of imagine the frustration that Daniel was experiencing here, he had received all of these great truths, all of these great insights, and he was faithful to record what God told him to write down,  and he just wanted a little bit of insight into what these things meant specifically and he’s given this specific instruction to take what he’s written and conceal it and don’t worry about it anymore.

But conceal it, bottle it up, don’t try to understand what it means specifically because there will arise a future generation that is going to go to and fro and that future generation will understand.  So Daniel was never given permission, if you will, to understand what he had received.  He had done his job of faithfully recording it and then concealing it.

Now this is not the first time in the Book of Daniel that this has happened to Daniel.  You might want to jump back to Daniel chapter 7 and verse 28.  You remember the vision of the four beasts that Daniel saw.  Daniel 7:28 says this, “At this point the revelation ended. As for me, Daniel, my thoughts were greatly alarming me and my face grew pale, but I kept the matter to myself.”  Daniel, at the end of chapter 7 wanted to understand exactly what that vision meant but he kept the matter to himself, not being able to receive the insight that he wanted.

And then take a look at Daniel 8, one chapter later, notice Daniel 8:27, the vision of the ram the goat, Daniel 8:27, it says, “Then I, Daniel, was exhausted and sick for days. Then I got up again and carried on the king’s business; but I was astounded at the vision, and there was none to explain it.”  That’s the vision, you might recall, of Persia and Greece, things that would happen after Daniel’s lifetime, in the form of a ram and a goat, and Daniel himself wanted to understand that vision but he was told instead to not worry about and there was really no one there to explain it to him.

So what is being spoken of here?  It’s very interesting, verse 4, it says, “conceal these words” but you’ll notice that the words that Daniel was given were not to be concealed forever, they were to be concealed “until” a certain time; they were to be sealed “until” a time of the end, because as humanity would reach the time of the end something would happen, “many will go back and forth, and knowledge will increase.”  Now going “back and forth” what exactly is this talking about here. What does it mean exactly in verse 4 when it says “many will go back and forth, and knowledge will increase.”  Well, probably 99% of the interpretations that you’re given on this will go as follows: this is talking about technology of the last days; this is talking about water travel, air travel, space travel, cyberspace travel, perhaps it’s talking about the internet, and people typically will interpret this as technological advances that will come upon the world in the end times.

As I’ll be sharing with you in just a minute I don’t think that interpretation is accurate.  But before I explain why I don’t think it’s accurate, let me be very clear on something; I do believe that your Bible predicts technology of the last days.  In fact, a recent conference that I was at this week I had the opportunity to speak on the signs of the times, seven signs of the near coming of the Lord Jesus Christ in His second Advent.  Signs related to Israel, signs related to international politics, signs related to economics, technology, spirituality, society, and even signs relating to the attitude towards Bible prophecy in the last days.

It’s interesting to me that Jesus rebuked the Pharisees and the Sadducees of the first century because according to Matthew 16:3 they knew how to interpret the weather, they knew the saying “red sky in the morning,” what? “sailor take warning,” they knew it was about to rain.  But they were not paying attention to the signs of the times.  In fact, that generation should have known more than any other generation that Jesus was in their midst because His coming was the fulfillment of multiple signs spelled out in the Old Testament.

And isn’t it interesting that we in the time period that we’re living in are given even more signs, not about the first coming of Christ but about the second coming of Christ.  The issue is do you know the signs of the times that your Bible spells out.  There are at least, by my count, seven categories of signs.  And one of the things I had the opportunity to talk about this last week was technological signs.  Your Bible predicts tremendous technological advancements accompanying the return of Christ that are now coming into focus clearly for the first time in our basic generation.

For example, there are signs, I believer, related to microchip technology.  You say well where are you getting this from.  I’m getting it from the Book of Revelation, chapter 13, verse 17, which talks about a one-world economy and it says, beginning in verse 16, “he” that’s the antichrist and false prophet, “causes all people, the small and the great, and the rich and the poor, the free men and the slaves, to be given a mark on their right hand or on their forehead.”  Verse 17, “and he provides that no one will be able to buy or sell except the one who has the mark, either the name of the beast or the number of his name.  [18] Here is wisdom.  Let him who has understanding calculate the number of the beast, for the number is that of man; and his number is six hundred and sixty-six.”

And it’s sort of interesting to watch commentators over the last 2,000 years try to make any sense  of that prophecy.  I mean, how in the world can you enslave the whole world economically where unless they receive some kind of mark on their right hand or forehead they’re shut out of the global economy.  I mean, how could such a thing ever arise?  And isn’t it interesting that technology today is such that we don’t have to imagine much, do we?  Through these electronic tattoos or small chips that go into people’s bodies, hands and so forth, already being used to some extent in prison inmates, pets, many other examples I could come up with, we now have the technology in place for this very system to arise.

You see, technology has finally caught up with what the Bible says would exist in the end of the age.  I mean, think of the advantage of you in a store, you don’t have to fumble any more for your wallet,  your purse, your credit card, you don’t have to stand in line, you just have this electronic reader that automatically calculates everything that you want and because of the convenience of it you can see how fast the population of the world would embrace such a model.  I like technology, I don’t mean to be paranoid about technology, technology makes our lives easier but what I’m always concerned about is what happens when all this technology falls into the wrong hands.  The Bible says that will happen one day.  One man will use this to control humanity to such an extent that people will literally be shut out of economic participation, putting gas in the car, feeding your family, holding down a job, unless they receive this mark in their right hand or forehead. To me it doesn’t take a lot of imagination anymore to figure out how this all will come upon the scene very rapidly.  A hundred years ago, two hundred years ago, five hundred years ago, a thousand years ago how could you make sense of that prophecy?   So technology has caught up to the time period that the Bible predicts.

I found this recent headline towards the end of last year, it says: Wisconsin company to implant microchips in employees.  It says, “A Wisconsin company is about to become the first in the U.S. to offer microchip implants to its employees. Yes, you read that right. Microchip implants. ‘It’s the next thing that’s inevitably going to happen, and we want to be a part of it,’ Three Square Market Chief Executive Officer Todd Westby said.”  I went and watched this on You tube and this particular company has a whole party, they call it a chipping party, and by chips I don’t mean potato chips, I’m talking about these microchips that go into the employee’s bodies and it enables them access to snacks, lunchrooms, and they’re having a big party as if some great thing has come because now their lives are more convenient.  You see how humanity is being conditioned for the very thing that the Bible speaks of?

I ran into this headline, June, 2017, “Swedish Commuters Can use Futuristic Microchip Hand Implant: The future is here – a Swedish rail company is trialing letting passengers use biometric chips as tickets.”  “Gone are the days when an e-ticket was seen as cutting edge – one Swedish rail company is offering passengers the option of using a biometric chip implanted into their hand in lieu of a paper train ticket…The tiny chip has the same technology as Oyster cards and contactless bank cards…to enable conductors to scan passengers’ hands…Around 2,000 Swedes have had the surgical implant to date, most of them employed in the tech industry.”  [http://www.independent.co.uk/travel/news-and-advice/sj-rail-train-tickets-hand-implant-microchip-biometric-sweden-a7793641.html]

It’s sort of interesting, in some sense eerie of the time period that we’re living in, how the things spoken of in the Bible you can see happening so quickly and being fulfilled so fast.  That’s a technological advance of the last days.  Or what about this one: Satellite television. Do you know your Bible talks about that, I believe, to some extent.  Have you read Revelation 11 lately?  It talks about two witnesses, two Jewish witnesses who are killed in the city streets of Jerusalem by the beast or the antichrist and it talks about that they are gazed on by the whole world when this happens.  Revelation 11:9 says, “Those from the peoples and tribes and tongues and nations” that would be the entire world, wouldn’t it, “will look at their dead bodies [for three and a half days,  and will not permit their dead bodies to be laid in a tomb.]

Now again, it’s interesting to read commentators fifty years ago, a hundred years ago, even 25  years ago trying to make some kind of sense of this.  I mean how in the world could the death of two people in the city of Jerusalem be understood by everybody and visibly seen by everybody on planet earth; it just didn’t make any sense.  And now we’re living in a time period where technology has caught up to what the Bible predicts.   We have skype streaming, cable television, all of these kinds of things and so it’s not really much of a guess any more how this can and will be fulfilled.

In fact, I ran into this headline recently, again towards the end of 2017, it says, “Israel Installs Security Cameras as Jerusalem Tensions Build.  Israel has installed security cameras near the entrance to one of the holiest sites in Jerusalem as tensions between Israelis and Palestinians edge higher after a violent week…Israel installed security cameras near the entrance to Old City of Jerusalem holy site early Sunday morning.” [http://www.cnn.com/2017/07/23/middleeast/israeli-palestinian-jerusalem-security/index.html]  I mean, what more clues do we need of the season or the timer period that we’re living in.

Jesus held the first century Jewish leaders responsible for knowing the signs of the times.  Do we understand these signs that the Scripture has provided to us.  You know, there are people that can talk about basketball, they can talk about baseball, they can give you stats about athletes, they can talk about the interest rates and the price of gold and make predictions about the stock market but you ask them the question, well what some signs of the times related to the second coming of Christ and they can’t tell you a single thing.  I mean, we’re falling into the same error that the Pharisees and the Sadducees were falling into, where they could interpret the weather but they didn’t know the season that they were living in.

And so yes, your Bible does give many, many different signs making us aware. One of those signs is related to technology.  Another potential sign, I believe, is weapons of mass destruction.  Have you read some of these predictions in the Bible recently?  Zechariah 14:12 says, “their flesh will for while they stand on their feet, and their eyes will rot in their sockets, and their tongue will rot in their mouth.”  Now how in the world is something like that going to happen?  People would scratch their heads, is God going to do this directly?  Perhaps He will, or maybe God is simply going to allow man to finally unleash the weapons of mass destruction that he’s accumulated, with their radioactivity, and things of that nature.

Do you know that your Bible predicts a day will come, Isaiah 13:12, when man will become scarcer than gold.   Isaiah 13:12, God says, “I will make mortal man scarcer than pure gold and mankind than the gold of Ophir.”  Jesus talked about this, didn’t He, in Matthew 24:21 and 22.  He said, “For then there will be a great tribulation, such as has not occurred since the beginning of the world until now, nor ever will. [22] Unless those days had been cut short, no life would have been saved; but for the sake of the elect those days will be cut short.”  Both Isaiah and Jesus are predicting a time period when mankind will be on the brink of extinction or elimination.

In fact, when you go through the Book of Revelation what you’re going to discover is half of the world’s population is destroyed.  In Revelation 6:8 a quarter of the world’s population is destroyed, leaving three quarters.  [Revelation 56:8, “I looked, and behold, an ashen horse; and he who sat on it had the name Death; and Hades was following with him. Authority was given to them over a fourth of the earth, to kill with sword and with famine and with pestilence and by the wild beasts of the earth.”]

According to Revelation 9:18 a third of the world’s population is destroyed, according to my old math that takes the number down to 50%.  [Revelation 9:18, “A third of mankind was killed by these three plagues, by the fire and the smoke and the brimstone which proceeded out of their mouths.”]

By the time you get to Revelation 9 half of the planet and its population has been totally wiped out.  Have you ever asked yourself how that’s going to happen?  Does God need nuclear weapons?  Well, He did a pretty good job on Sodom and Gomorrah without nukes, maybe God will do it directly.  But I often times think that maybe God is going to allow  us to destroy ourselves through the technology that we have accumulated.

See, we become technological giants and at the same time we become ethical midgets.  Technology is now in the hands of people that have no understanding of God, no understanding of morality, and maybe God is just going to say okay, go ahead and have your way.  How has most of the world’s wars been fought exactly, in human history?  Bows and arrows, canons and cannon balls, weapons that are lethal, no doubt, but they don’t have the ability to wipe out the population of the earth several times over.  And here we are in our generation, whether it’s atomic weapons, nuclear weapons, chemical weapons, sitting on top of these things where we can destroy the world’s population several times over.  And what does the Bible predict?  A time when man becomes scarcer than gold, a time that’s so severe that if it were not cut short by God no one would survive.

What am I getting at?  We’re living in the general season or time period when the prophetic scenario is very credible.  It doesn’t matter if  you’re talking about microchip technology from Revelation 13, satellite television from Revelation 11, weapons of mass destruction from Isaiah 13 and other places,  you name it, the scenario is now credible.

And so having said all that many people will interpret Daniel’s prophecy here in verse 4 in that    way.  They’ll say it’s just another prophecy about technology of the last days which is obviously a concept I believe in based on what I’ve said previously.  However, having said all of that I do not believe that this is what Daniel is talking about.  Notice again verse 4, it says, “But as for you, Daniel, conceal these words and seal up the book until the end of time; many will go back and forth, and knowledge will increase.”  If this is not talking about some kind of technological revolution in the last days then what in the world is it talking about?

Here’s what I think it’s talking about: I believe it’s revealing a concept that I like to call progressive illumination, and here’s how it works.   As the world moves closer and closer and closer to the time period that Daniel predicted the world itself will begin to study Daniel’s prophecies, move to and fro, which I think there is reading, I don’t think it’s air travel, I think it’s reading, moving to and fro, and they will look at these prophecies and the prophecies haven’t changed, they’ve all been the same, but as you move closer the prophecies get clearer and clearer and clearer and  you say to yourself, aha, that’s how that’s going to happen.  Daniel, of course, living in the wrong generation couldn’t understand that.  So he was specifically told to write and conceal and wait on God to progressively illumine.

So many of the prophecies about the end times revolve around the nation of Israel in her homeland.  I mean, whether it’s the seventieth week of Daniel, the Book of Revelation, whether it’s the God Magog invasion, in fact the book, The Middle East Meltdown that I wrote that’s available for you in the back, all of that revolves around the nation of Israel.  If you don’t have a nation of Israel the prophecy simply can’t happen as literally written.  And what we have to understand is that for 2,000 years there hasn’t been an Israel in her land; she was kicked out of her land by the Romans in A.D. 70 and went into worldwide dispersion; the land was de-Judaized, they pretended like the Jews were never there.  And so how in the world to you make sense of prophecies revolving around Israel in the last days in her temple, and then all of a sudden… boom, the nation of Israel goes right back into the same land, May 14, 1948.  And then all of a sudden, boom, the nation of Israel regains Judea and Samaria and Jerusalem in a war of defense called The Six Day War.  And all of a sudden you’re looking at your Bible and  you’re saying aha, that’s what Daniel was talking about.

Did Daniel understand all of that?  No, he was living in the wrong season of time but we have the privilege of understanding that.  Are we smarter than anybody that’s ever lived?  Are we smarter than Daniel?  No, we are just living in the correct period of time; Daniel was not living in the correct period of time so he is told to not worry about the interpretation; let a subsequent generation worry about that.

“To and fro,” what is that talking about?  I think it’s talking about the efforts expended by the godly to understand Daniel’s prophecies as the time period for the fulfillment of Daniel’s prophecies gets closer and closer and closer and closer. All of a sudden people pull out the Book of Daniel, which was written 2,600 years ago, something that Daniel himself did not fully understand.  You pull it out and you start to read it, you start to go “to and fro,” you start to look at the world around you and I’m not against looking at signs as long as we start with the Bible.  The mistake we make is we read signs into the Bible.  But there’s nothing wrong, in fact, that’s a biblical responsibility to look at signs of the times, starting with the Bible first.   You’re reading the Bible, you’re looking at the world and you’re saying oh my goodness, this is what Daniel was talking about that Daniel himself didn’t even understand.  So people are going “to and fro.”  Not air travel, but study, and as they’re studying what is becoming progressively unsealed?  Not the prophecy but it’s meaning.  Not the prophecy, it’s already been there, but the illumination of that prophecy.

Now when you go over to the Book of Amos, chapter 8 and verse 12, I believe that there’s a parallel passage helping us to understand what going “to and fro” means exactly.  Amos 8:12 says, “People will stagger from sea to sea and from the north even to the east; they will go to and fro” does that sound familiar? Same language Daniel uses, “they will go to and fro seeking” what? Airline travel? No, “to seek the word of the LORD,” but in this case “they will not find it.”

But here you see an example of going “to and fro” is not airline travel, it’s not taking a cruise, it’s not the internet, maybe other verses of the Bible you could point to point to those things but this is talking about the discipline of reading prophecy in the right season and there’s a generation that arises and they understand what it means.

There are three ways that God communicates and these three ways that the Holy Spirit communicates you probably need to understand.  Number one, there’s something called revelation.  Revelation is a disclosure of divine truth to a particular person; God reveals something to that person.  The second method of communication that the Holy Spirit uses is inspiration.  Once a person is given revelation about something God then tells that person to write it down. That’s called inspiration.  And then lastly the third method of communication that the Holy Spirit uses is called illumination.  That’s why I’ve entitled this message Progressive Illumination, the reality of progressive illumination.

What’s the difference between revelation, inspiration and illumination?  Illumination is the desire that the Holy Spirit gives to every single child of God, not to receive something brand new, a brand new revelation; not to record a new book of the Bible as in inspiration but simple to understand what has already been revealed.  Now you’ll find these three methods of communication clearly spelled out in your Bible.  Is there today…  let’s talk about this, which forms of these communications are alive and well?  I would say this: there is no revelation today, God is not giving people new revelations of such a quality that they are to become books of the New Testament canon.  Jude and verse 3 tells us that the faith has been “once and for all handed down to the saints.”  [Jude 3, “Beloved, while I was making every effort to write you about our common salvation, I felt the necessity to write to you appealing that you contend earnestly for the faith which was once for all handed down to the saints.”]  “Once and for all” means that the revelation that God has wanted to give is now closed.

Revelation 22:18-19 says this, “I testify to everyone who hears the words of the prophecy of this book: if anyone adds to them,” this is how the Book of Revelation concludes, “if anyone adds to them God will add to him the plagues which are written in this book; [19] and if anyone takes away from the words of the book of this prophecy, God will take away his part from the tree of life and from the holy city, which are written in this book.”  When God concluded the canon in the first century He said that’s all there is!  The revelation has ceased.

And where people get confused is sometimes the Holy Spirit shows you something new in the Bible you’ve never seen before, that you’re so excited about you think that’s a revelation.  But really it’s not a revelation; revelation has ceased.  What you have received is what I would call illumination.  The truth has always been there but the Holy Spirit is allowing you go see it in a fresh way.  That’s such an exhilarating process that people get confused and they say well I just got inspired or I just had a revelation.  But God’s Word is very clear that revelation has ceased; truth has once and for all been delivered to the saints.  Revelation 22:18-19 is very clear, don’t add to it or subtract from it under the harshest penalties possible.

And of course, this is what makes us different than the kingdom of the cults.  Not if, but when the Mormons come to your house they will have not just the Bible but three other revelations: one is called The Book of Mormon, one is called The Pearl of Great Price, one is called The Doctrine of the Covenants.  And they will try to convince you of truth, not just from the Bible but these three other sources as well, and you can close the conversation very fast by saying Jude 3 says, “Truth has once and for all been delivered to the saints.”  I don’t need to know about some sort of manifestation of Jesus Christ in North America around the 1800’s.  There is nothing in the Bible about that, so don’t try to convince me that such a thing is so and such a thing is true because revelation is over.

Now what about inspiration? Inspiration is the actual recording of revelation. 2 Timothy 3:16 says, “All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness.”  “All Scripture is inspired,” so when the original writers of Scripture received from God their revelation, or revelations, they were told by God to write it down and God said as  you write it down I am superintending that written record is without error.  2 Timothy 3:16, [“All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness;”]

2 Peter 1:20-21, Peter describing this process of inspiration, says, “But know this first of all, that no prophecy of Scripture is a matter of one’s own interpretation, [21] for no prophecy was ever made by an act of human will, but men moved by the Holy Spirit spoke from God.”  That is a verse, 2 Peter 1:20-21 that is speaking of the process of inspiration, receiving the truth and writing it down.  And as they did that they weren’t giving their own private interpretations, they were being carried along by the Holy Spirit.  In fact, that word there in 2 Peter 1:21 “moved by the Holy Spirit,” is the Greek verb phero, which is used to describe, in Acts 27:15 and verse 17 wind propelling a sailboat.  So the wind comes, it fills the sails, the boat is propelled and what Peter, and Paul in 2 Timothy, are saying it that’s how the New Testament and Old Testament were written; men were carried along by the Holy Spirit.  The Holy Spirit used their unique gifts and styles and temperaments to record God’s original message without error.

Now this promise of without error applies only to the original manuscripts; it doesn’t apply to copies of the original manuscripts.  Now the problem, of course, is we don’t have the original manuscripts.  And for one I praise God for that, because if you can find the original manuscript and damage it you destroy Christianity, don’t you?  But what if you just damage one copy of a manuscript?  You’ve got many, many other copies.  And beyond that look at how idolatrous people become when they think they’ve found a splinter of the cross or something like that; they worship it.

I mean, there’s a reason God, in His providence did not allow us to keep the original manuscripts because they probably would become objects of worship.  So what, then, exactly do we have?  We have copies of the original manuscripts.  In fact, we have more copies of our original manuscripts than any other respected work of antiquity.  In fact, we come ahead so far in this it’s astonishing.  Some of the great Greco-Roman works, they only have a few copies to their name and we have copies all over the earth.  We have more copies of the original than any other work of antiquity, AND the time distance between the original and the first copy is shorter than any other work of antiquity.  If people want to challenge your Christianity because we don’t have the original manuscripts any more then  you have to throw out Thucydides, Plato, Shakespeare, and on and on we could go and nobody wants to do that.  But they always want to apply a special standard to the Bible because the Bible makes claims that these other works don’t make claims about, like repentance and morality and things like that.

But when  you simply compare what we have to what these other works of antiquity have we are way ahead of the game.  And so with the closing of the Canon, of the Book of Revelation in the first century, not only did revelation stop but inspiration stopped.  The Canon of Scripture is closed.  If someone today is claiming revelation and inspiration the way I’m describing it then  you might as well take their insights and add Revelation 23 because the Bible is very clear that this is a process that God used and that process of communication is over and done with.  And people say, the great attack I might add, against the Bible today does not necessarily come from people who deny its inerrancy, that it’s without error, but what they’re denying today in our conservative circles is it’s sufficiency.  There are many, many people that will tell you the Bible is inerrant but they look at it like a piece of Swiss cheese with holes in it that needs to be filled up with other sources.  Psychology, they want to fill it up with Freud and Skinner, Origen, they want to fill it up with Darwinism.  Church manage­ment, we’re told the pastoral letters are not enough to govern a church, you’ve got to ill it up with management secular theory.

And what is happening today is not the inerrancy of the Bible is being attacked in many conservative circles, is its sufficiency.  And what I’m trying to communicate to you is what God has superintended in this book is enough.  In fact, over in 2 Timothy 3:17, I read verse 16 just a moment ago, but we might as well read verse 17, Amen.   2 Timothy 3:16, “All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness;  [17] so that the man of God might” not just be equipped, but what? “adequately equipped for” 80% of good works… it doesn’t say that, does it?  It says, “every good work.”  Everything that God wants you to know, for you to develop into your full stature in Jesus Christ and pursue  your calling and your ministry and your vocation and your livelihood, whatever that may be, is found in the pages of this Book.  The Bible claims authority on all of those matters.

Now if you have an accounting problem I don’t think the Bible is going to talk to you about that because the Bible never claimed authority in that area.  If you have a broken bone I don’t know if the Bible is going to fix that problem because the Bible never claimed authority in that area.  But in the area of spiritual reality, in terms of becoming all you need to become in God, you don’t have to go back to the [can’t understand word] fathers and the ancient monks and retrieve all of their writings.  You don’t need some kind of special individual revelation from God.  You don’t need the insights of secularists in the area of counselling unless it’s some kind of medical issue, most of which if you knew their background of some of these secularists you wouldn’t even have them over for dinner let alone let them have insight into your spiritual wellbeing.  Everything you need to know to develop into that spiritual person is given to you by God.  This is a doctrine that we don’t just call inerrancy of the Bible, we call it the sufficiency of the Bible.

Notice 2 Peter, chapter 1, verses 3 and 4, it makes the same kind of promise, “seeing that His divine power has granted to us” what? “everything pertaining to life and godliness, through the true knowledge of Him who called us by His own glory and excellence.  [4] For by these He has granted to us His precious and magnificent” what? “promises,” where do you find those promises?  You find them right here, Genesis 1:1 all the way through Revelation 22.  In other words God not only revealed this book, God not only superintended the recording of this book, but God says it’s a complete revelation, you have everything you need for all matters of faith and godliness.

So do we have revelation today?  Not the way I’m describing it here.  Do we have inspiration today?  Not at all in the way I am describing it here because the canon is closed once and for all truth has been given to the saints.  Now you might be saying well, pastor, you’re just a real stick in the mud.  I mean, are you saying that God has just cut off communication and He doesn’t talk to us at all today and He doesn’t give us insight and He doesn’t lead us?  That’s NOT what I’m saying because there is a ministry of the Holy Spirit that is alive and well today.  In fact, it is a ministry that’s so important that whenever I have the opportunity to stand up in front of God’s people to preach and teach I plead God to some extent that that ministry would be active; it is not the ministry of revelation, it is not even the ministry of inspiration, it is the ministry of illumination, where the Spirit of God guides us as individual children of God in our understanding of the Bible.

Now watch this very carefully, when the Holy Spirit does this He does not circumvent the laws of language.  God has ordained for His Book to be recorded in linguistic form; the moment God made that decision He was saying My revelation is bound by the ordinary rules of context, grammar, language and communication, because people will say well, if a ministry of illumination is alive in my heart and the ministry of illumination is alive in my children’s heart or my mother’s heart or my grandparent’s heart why do we disagree with each other?  Why don’t we agree with each other on everything?  The answer to that is the Holy Spirit does not work independent of the laws of language.  People rip and tear verses out of context all the time.  To receive the illuminating ministry of the Holy Spirit you have to respect the laws of language like context, syntax, grammar, and so forth.

But once that is respected, “Katie bar the door!”  The Holy Spirit wants to communicate with you  like  you wouldn’t believe.  1 Corinthians 2:14 says, “But a natural man does not accept the things   of God, for they are foolishness to him; and he cannot understand them, because they are spiritually appraised.”  Why is it that as an unsaved person I tried to read the Bible?  And I did, I tried to start at the beginning and go to the end and to me the thing was just a bizarre maize, I couldn’t make any sense of the Bible.  And then at the age of 16 I trusted the Lord and I’m looking at the Bible and I’m seeing things in the Bible that I didn’t see before in my former unsaved, unregenerate self. What just happened?  Did I get smarter?  No, something greater than myself entered me and I didn’t know the name of it, but the illuminating ministry of the Holy Spirit took off.

1 John 2:27, it says, “As for you, the anointing which you received from Him abides in you, and you have no need for anyone to teach you; but as His anointing teaches you about all things, and is true and is not a lie, and just as it has taught you, you abide in Him.”  And anointing, an empowerment to learn.  Now why does he say here “you have no need for anyone to teach you”?  I mean, if that’s true why are you all sitting here listening to me?  He’s dealing with the Gnostics here; the Gnostics taught a special knowledge, the knowledge only accessible to a handful.  That’s why it’s called Gnostics, coming from the word gnosis, knowledge, secret knowledge, and any time someone says I have a secret knowledge that you don’t have, that’s not Christianity!  Christianity is a full open complete disclosure, not just in its revelation, not just in its inspiration, not just in its inerrancy but in its sufficiency.  And if that is true why would we pursue some kind of secret knowledge when we have the open disclosure from God?

Revelation today?  No!  Inspiration today.  No! Progressive illumination today?  Absolutely.  It’s interesting that over in the Book of Revelation, chapter 22 and verse 10 we read these words, “And He said to me,” this is John now, on the isle of Patmos as he’s concluding the Bible, “And He said to me,” watch this, the angel to John, “‘Do not seal up the words of the prophecy of this book, for the time is near.”  Now isn’t that interesting, Daniel 12 verse 4, verse 9, close it up.  Six centuries pass, seven centuries almost, John receives the final revelation from God, the biblical canon is closed and now the opposite command is given, open it up.  Daniel, seal it—John unseal it!  Now why the contradiction?  Think of a jigsaw puzzle; have you ever tried to put a jigsaw puzzle together and one of the pieces gets lost or two of the pieces get lost, you know how frustrating that is?  I mean, that’ll test your sanctification to the breaking point, that kind of thing.  [Laughter]

Daniel is given a jigsaw puzzle and there’s pieces not there.  Now what does John do in the Book of Revelation?  He adds the pieces, the missing pieces.  Daniel, conceal it; John, unseal it!  Daniel, incomplete revelation; John, with the pieces added is now a complete revelation.  That’s why you have to study Daniel and Revelation together.  If you just study Daniel you’re getting part of it.  If you just study Revelation you’re getting part of it, so study both together, Daniel and Revelation, you’ll see the whole picture of God.  AND, you also have to wait to be in the right generation, not to receive the whole jigsaw puzzle but to understand the jigsaw puzzle because the prophecies get clearer and clearer and clearer as you get closer and closer and closer to the time period of their allotted fulfillment.

This is why the subject of eschatology, which is what?  The study of the end, was the last area of doctrine in Christianity to be developed. Did you know that?  The early church was nor preoccupied with issues related to eschatology.  Why is that?  They’re living in the wrong time period.  What did the church wrestle with first?  Canonization, what books of the Bible are included and which ones should be excluded?  Some are written by the apostles, some aren’t, we’ve got to come up with a canon or a measuring rod.

And then after the church got that battle won they moved into the doctrine of Christology, who was Jesus, because there was a man that came on the scene named Arius who said Jesus is a created being.  So they had to wrestle with the doctrine of Christology that Jesus is eternally existent.  And then later on in time heretics began to emerge and say well when Jesus died on that cross he really didn’t die in your place, he just sort of died as a gesture of love to the world but this idea of absorbing the wrath of God and the place of man, that’s not what the death of Christ was all about.  So the church had to deal with the issue of atonement.

And it really isn’t even until 1100, think how long a period of time that is, that they began to wrestle with the doctrine of the vicarious (in the place of) substitutionary (as a substitute) penal (punishment) atonement of Christ.  The church isn’t even clear on that doctrine until they flushed it out.  And then you go into the 1500’s and the 16th century and you see the battle of the Protestant Reformers against the Roman Catholic Church that were mixing faith and works for justification.  So now the church has got to deal with the issue of salvation.

All of these doctrines that we have we sort of take them for granted that they’ve always been there but there has been battle after battle after battle in the last 2,000 years of church history to get solidified on what the Bible actually teaches so we can ward of heretics.  And finally eschatology starts to get systematized around the 1800’s and notice that eschatology is the last one on the list. Why didn’t they work on eschatology first?  It relates exactly to what Daniel says in chapter 12, verse 4, conceal it, seal it up, you’re not in the right generation, but there will one day arise a generation that will be living very close to the return of Christ and they will start to see these things for what they are as signs of the last days.  And so finally the church got around to the business of eschatology.

The fact that eschatology is the last on the list is to a large extent a fulfillment of our prophecy here  in Daniel chapter 12 and verse 4.  “But as for you, Daniel, conceal these words and seal up the book until the end of time; many will go back and forth, and knowledge will increase.”   Progressive illumination is not going to kick into high gear until just before the time period of its fulfillment in the area of eschatology.

Have you studied the writings of Isaac Newton lately?  Most people know Isaac Newton as the    great scientist and discoverer of the law of gravity.  Did you also know that Isaac Newton was a tremendous Bible student and Christian?  Did you know for example that Isaac Newton wrote whole commentaries on the Book of Daniel and the Book of Revelation?  Humanists will criticize Newton and say I wish he had spent less time in the Bible and more time with science.  Folks, if it wasn’t for his knowledge of the Bible he would have no incentive to do science. Because he believed in God that revealed laws in nature that gave him an incentive to discover those laws.  You don’t have modern science without the Bible or Christianity. And Newton writes this concerning Daniel 12, “About the time of the end, a body of men will be raised up who will turn their attention to the Prophecies, and insist upon their literal interpretation, in the midst of much clamor and opposition.”  Wow!  It’s staggering.  [Isaac Newton cited in Nathaniel West, The Thousand Years in Both Testaments, 462]

And the reason I bring this up is because we’re living in a generation now where they won’t believe something unless they find in the writings of John Calvin or the Church Fathers, or church history, or church tradition.  And I would say this: if that’s your mindset you’re misunderstanding the principle of progressive illumination.  There are things you know that John Calvin did not know.  Why? Because we’re smarter?  NO, we’re living in the right era.  John Calvin was no doubt brilliant, he wrote a commentary on almost every book of the Bible except the Book of Revelation.  Why is that?  I mean, this is a guy that is very comprehensive in what he writes and comments on; why leave out Revelation?  A simple reason, living in the wrong era, outside the principle of progressive illumination.

Here’s a quote from Martin Luther, who didn’t even believe that the Book of Revelation was a canonical inspired book.  Now am I here to disrespect the contributions of Luther and Calvin?  Not at all.  You’ve heard my Protestant Reformation series, it’s in my book, Ever Reforming, I tried to pay the Protestant Reformers their due respect, but I don’t look at them as some kind of sage of the past that has the final totality of truth.  If I did that I’d have to ignore Daniel chapter 12 and verse 4.  [Daniel 12:4, “”But as for you, Daniel, conceal these words and seal up the book until the end of time; many will go back and forth, and knowledge will increase.”]  So Daniel is told to “conceal” the vision.  Why is that?  He’s living in the wrong time period.

And this explains the frustration of the Old Testament prophets.  Do you know that the Old Testament prophets were very frustrated, not even understanding their own prophecies?  1 Peter 1:10-11 says, “As to this salvation, the prophets who prophesied of the grace that would come to you made careful searches and inquiries, [11] seeking to know what person or time the Spirit of Christ within them was indicating as He predicted the sufferings of Christ and the glories to follow.”  Think about poor Isaiah, one vision of a suffering Messiah, Isaiah 53; another vision of a ruling and reigning Messiah, Isaiah 9:6-7.  Poor Isaiah is saying Lord, which is it?  It’s not meant for you to understand, Isaiah; close the book, you’ve done your job.  There’ll be a generation that will understand; the prophecies won’t change but they’ll be in the right time period, progressive illumination.

Now you say well, this is an interesting sermon, where is the application.  Here it comes?  You ready?  In the year 2018 you are sitting on a gold mine.  Why is that?  Number 1, you have a completed revelation.  Number 2, you’re in the season of the Lord’s return when you can understand the prophetic Scripture better than any generation that has ever preceded you because   of this principle of progressive illumination.  We are so maxed out in terms of privilege, we don’t even understand what we have.

We’re on a gold mine here; we’re more privileged than Daniel.  I can understand Daniel better than Daniel, how do you like that?  Because I’m smarter?  NO, because the pieces, I have the full jigsaw  puzzle and I’m living in the right period of time.  You can know more than the Old Testament prophets,  you can know more about the things that are going on around you than Martin Luther or John Calvin could ever know.

And so here’s the application.  Then why are we so apathetic about it?  Why do we have this attitude that well, the pastor went beyond 12:30 and I’m looking at my watch, I’m hungry, I’ve got to talk to some people, it’s hot in here, I’ve got to go to the bathroom… I mean, why is it that we are so indifferent to prophetic truth when we’re the most maxed out privileged generation.  And one of the heartbreaking things to watch in the body of Christ is as these things are happening as never before there probably isn’t a time period when more American Christians could care less.  Just give me my three points and a poem; just give me enough of a liver quiver to get me through Monday morning; don’t bother me about the seventy weeks.  Don’t bother me about the seal judgments and the trumpet judgments and the bowl judgments.  Don’t talk to me about how the antichrist is going to come from the sea and the false prophet is going to come from the land.  I don’t want to hear all that.  I don’t want to exercise the muscle between my ears called the brain because my life is too busy and crowded and I’ve got my own agenda after all.

You know folks, to be honest with you I’ve had people at this church tell me this, two people, if you start teaching the Book of Revelation I’m leaving the church.  Now that made me want to teach the Book of Revelation, [Laughter]  just to get rid of them.  [More laughter]  I mean, why do people say stuff like that?  Unfortunately those two people have already left so it’s no one in this room that I’m talking about.  Why are people like that?  They don’t want to do the sweat, they don’t want to do the mental work.  They don’t want to follow the biblical exhortation that we are to love the Lord our God with our heart, our soul and our mind.  And yet you have an ability to understand things in prophetic truth because of the privileged time period that we’re living in, not only a completed revelation but also living in the right season.

So if nothing else I hope this principle of progressive illumination reminds us of who we are, reminds us of our privileges and what we have in Jesus Christ.

And of course, you could be here today not even knowing who Jesus is, not even having the Holy Spirit in you, and if the Holy Spirit is not even in you, let me tell you, you’re going to have a really difficult time understanding anything spiritual, let alone the Bible.  And so God is so real and so personable that when we receive what Jesus has done in our place by faith alone God enters us. Do we understand that?  God lives inside of us.  In the Old Testament they didn’t even have that.  The Spirit would come upon people and go.  He would come upon, not in, upon.

What is the Holy Spirit doing now?  He’s inside of you, that’s what gives you the ability to experience His illuminating ministry.  But if you’re not a Christian and you’ve never trusted in what Jesus has done then that same barrier still exists between you and a holy God.  And there can be no indwelling ministry of the Holy Spirit.  So our exhortation at Sugar Land Bible Church is to receive Jesus Christ as your personal Savior.  It’s called the gospel, meaning good news, because Jesus moved heaven and earth to bridge the gap between lost man and a holy God.  And if we come under the convicting ministry of the Holy Spirit and respond to that convicting ministry of the Holy Spirit by believing, which means trusting what He’s done, then the barrier is removed.  It’s a free gift, and the Holy Spirit enters you.  And not only do you have a walk with the Lord but you now have that abiding anointing which teaches you all things.  And that can be yours in a nanosecond, simply by trusting what Jesus has done.  It’s not a matter of walking an aisle, joining a church, giving money, it’s a matter of privacy between you and the Lord where you rest or trust in His provision and the Spirit of God enters you.  If it’s something you need more explanation on I’m available after the service to talk.

Shall we pray;  Father, we are humbled by what you want to say to us and what you want to communicate to us and how privileged we are.  Help us to understand the privileges that have been given to us as Christians in this generation more than perhaps any other generation that’s ever lived because of the time period we’re living in.  Help us to have great respect for future and eternal things as a result, and dive into them deeply.  We’ll be careful to give you all the praise and the glory. We ask these things in Jesus’ name.  And God’s people said… Amen.