[This post was contributed by Alex Rover]
Daniel’s final chapter contains a message that would be sealed up until the time of the end when many would rove about and knowledge would increase. (Daniel 12:4) Was Daniel talking about the internet here? Certainly hopping from website to website, surfing and researching information could be described as a “roving about”, and without a doubt the knowledge of mankind is experiencing an explosive growth.
To illustrate, one may refer to a period in the past as the “Iron Age”, or the “Industrial Age”, or even more recently, the “Atomic Age”. If our great-grandchildren will look back at our age, then they would surely point to the birth of the Internet. The start of a “Networked Age” is nothing short of a revolutionary leap forward for mankind. [i]
A commonly shared experience for our readers, myself included, is that all their life they held on to certain beliefs as truth; but “roving about” increased their knowledge. And with increased knowledge often comes pain. While shared beliefs can contribute to unity, the opposite is also true, and we can feel physically, mentally and/or emotionally separated from our beloved communities. Also dealing with the feelings of betrayal that surface when we discover the truth about deception can be heart breaking. When you learn that things are not so black and white anymore, it can be overwhelming and an uncomfortable position at best.
Growing up as one of Jehovah’s Witness, I was taught to possess Truth with a capital T; so much so that I would refer to it as “The Truth”, since nothing else came close. Billions of humans were wrong, but I had THE TRUTH. This was not a debatable position, but a cherished belief that permeated my existence.
For with much wisdom comes much sorrow;
the more knowledge, the more grief. – Ecclesiastes 1:18
We look around us and try to find another fellowship, but with our new eyes we can see through the charade and realize that man-made religions don’t have the answers we seek. Our eyes have been opened and to go back would make us feel like a hypocrite. This dilemma has led many to a state of spiritual paralysis, where we don’t know what to believe anymore.
Brother Russell also was faced with this dilemma among his readers. Here is an excerpt from the Foreword from the Divine Plan of Ages:
That book was entitled “Food for Thinking Christians.” Its style was different in that it first of all attacked the error — demolished it; and then, in its place, erected the fabric of Truth.
The book “Food for Thinking Christians” and Beroean Pickets have a lot in common. Many wonderful articles on this blog attack errors of doctrine – and in its place we slowly erect the fabric of Truth. One benefit of the “Networked Age” is that there is a true “roving about” from all our readers. The mind of one man is simply not capable of considering all possible avenues of thought. This way we stimulate and encourage each other to be like the Beroeans and find out “whether these things are so”, and our confidence is steadily restored and our faith renewed.
Notice what Russell said next:
We finally learned that this was not the best way — that some became alarmed as they saw their errors falling, and failed to read far enough to get a glimpse of the beautiful structure of Truth in place of the demolished errors.
I have shared this thought with Meleti and Apollos for some time now, and personally I have been thinking very long and hard about this. In the longer term, we need to find an answer to this problem. It’s not enough to alarm our readers. As a community we have to try and give something else in place. We take away good association, but if we fail to provide an alternative then we may end up just weakening others.
If we can help each other and also lead others in our public ministry to follow Christ more closely, we can take part in “bringing many to righteousness’. As we are about to discover, Scripture holds a marvelous promise for those who take part in this ministry.
The stage is now set for an in-depth analysis of Daniel 12 verse 3:
But the wise will shine
like the brightness of the heavenly expanse.
And those bringing many to righteousness will be
like the stars forever and ever.
Observing the structure of this verse, we notice that we may be dealing with either a repetition for emphasis, or two very closely related groups with a heavenly reward: (A) the wise and (B) those bringing many to righteousness. For the purpose of the article, we’ll emphasize the common destination and treat the structure as a repetition for emphasis.
So who are the wise ones Daniel talks about?
Identifying the wise ones
If you search Google for “the wisest people on earth”, you will find your average result pointing to the most intelligent or smartest people. Terrence Tao has an astonishing IQ of 230. This mathematician is involved in fields most of us can’t even explain the basic concepts of. Prove me wrong in the comments: without “roving about”, try to explain in your own words what ‘Ergodic Ramsey theory’ is all about. I’m looking forward to it!
But is intelligence or smartness the same as wisdom?
Note Paul’s words in 1 Co 1:20, 21
Where is the wise?
Where is the scribe?
Where is the debater of this age?
Has God not made foolish the wisdom of this world? For since, in the wisdom of God, the world through wisdom did not know God, it pleased God through the foolishness of the message preached to save those who believe.
Those who believe are the wise ones the prophet Daniel talks about! A wise one will choose the part that appears foolish on the outside, but brings everlasting blessings.
We are also humbly reminded that “the beginning of wisdom is the awe [or: fear of displeasing] of the Lord Jehovah” (Proverbs 9:10). Should we want to be counted among those wise ones, we should thus start by examining our hearts.
These wise ones suffer tribulation in this present evil world just like our Lord, bearing the reproach of Christ, at times even from their own family and those whom they once considered their closest friends. Take comfort in the words of our Redeemer:
When these things begin to come to pass, then look up and lift up your heads; for your redemption is drawing near (Luke 21: 28).
In conclusion, the wise ones are all those who fear the Lord Jehovah and follow his Christ. These believers, like the wise virgins, filled their lamps with oil. They bear fruits of the Spirit and are worthy ambassadors of Christ. They are despised by many but loved by the Father.
Daniel’s messenger informs us that these will shine like the brightness of the heavenly expanse, yes, “like the stars forever and ever!”
Shining like the brightness of the heavenly expanse
And God said, “let there be lights in the firmament of the heaven to divide
the day from the night; and let them be for signs and seasons, and for
days and years; and let them be for lights in the firmament of the heaven to give light upon the earth”; and it was so. – Genesis 1:14,15
God’s purpose for stars and the brightness of the heavenly expanse is to illuminate the earth. Stars have been used as guides for those navigating the vast oceans that cover the earth. They have been used to understand signs, time and seasons.
Soon the time will come where Gods’ wise ones will shine like the brightness of the heavenly expanse, ushering in a period of illumination for mankind. We can appreciate the divine wisdom that our Father will use the same ones who “bring many to righteousness” today, as “stars” to guide many to righteousness in the future.
How many of such stars will there be? Notice the promise of our Lord Jehovah to Abraham in Genesis 15:5:
The Lord took [Abraham] outside and said,
“Gaze into the sky and count the stars – if you are able to count them!”
Then he said to him, “So will your descendants be.”
This promised offspring is composed of the children of the Jerusalem above, children of the free woman Sarah, as is written in Galatians 4:28, 31:
Now you, brothers, are children of the promise the same as Isaac was.
So, brothers, we are children, not of a servant girl, but of the free woman.
We are descendants of Abraham, and heirs to the promise.
God sent his Son, who was born of a woman and who was under law,
that he might release by purchase those under law, so that we might receive adoption as sons.
Now because you are sons, God has sent the spirit of his Son into our hearts, and it cries out: “Abba, Father!” So you are no longer a slave, but a son; and if a son, then you are also an heir through God. – Galatians 4:3-7.
It is clear that those who will be heirs to the kingdom will be innumerable, like the stars of heaven! It is therefore contradictory to Scripture to state that only a limited number of 144,000 people will go to heaven.
Countless, like the sand on the seashore
In Galatians, we learn that there are two types making up Abraham’s offspring. One group would be heirs through God and would shine like the brightness of the stars of heaven. We previously established that these are the wise ones who fear our Heavenly Father and believe the Gospel of his Christ.
What about the other group, the children of Hagar, the slave woman? These would not be heirs to the kingdom of heaven. (Galatians 4:30) This is because they reject the Gospel, even some going as far as persecuting the heirs of the kingdom (Galatians 4: 29). Thus, they could not be countless “as the stars”.
Nevertheless, her children would be as numerous as the sand on the seashore.
And the angel of the LORD said unto her, “I will greatly multiply your
offspring, so that they will be too many to count”. – Genesis 16:10
Here we can distinguish the descendants of Abraham into two groups: both would be countless in number, but one group would be heirs and shine like the stars in the sky, and the other group would not have this privilege because they have not accepted the Gospel and feared the Lord.
I will indeed bless you, and I will greatly multiply your descendants so that
they will be as countless as the stars in the sky or the grains of sand on the
seashore. – Genesis 22:17
We are well reminded that God created humans to live on earth. Unless they are by some mechanism or divine promise transformed into sprit creatures, they would remain on earth. This mechanism is through spirit adoption as sons, heirs of the kingdom.
We are also to keep in mind that the good news of the Gospel is available to all mankind to accept or reject. The message is not partial in any way or form. Instead the Scriptures teach us:
Peter said: “I most certainly understand now that God is not one to show
partiality, but in every nation the man who fears Him and does what is
right is welcome to Him.” – Acts 10: 34, 35
Thus it is a reasonable conclusion that the “grains of sand on the seashore” possibly refers to a countless number of people, who are not heirs to the heavenly kingdom as spiritual sons, but nevertheless children of the greater Abraham – our heavenly Father.
What does the Scripture say about their fate? We eagerly await the fulfillment of what our heavenly Father has in store for our planet Earth. Of course, the wicked will be judged and cut off, and there will not be a place for them upon Jehovah’s holy mountain. Nevertheless, we also know for certain that there will be people living on earth in the new system. We also know that Jesus died for all mankind, not just for a select group. And we know that those who will shine as brightly as stars in the heavenly expanse will be “light bringers”, illuminating people of Earth in the beautiful new world and guiding them into exciting new times and seasons. We know the nations will be guided to rivers of living water and ultimately, all of creation will be united in worship of Jehovah.
In case you want to delve deeper into this subject, see the footnote[ii].
About the 144,000 and the Great Crowd
We need to consider that when Paul described the heavenly resurrection, he reminded us that not all would be raised up to equal glory:
There is one glory of the sun, and another glory of the moon and another glory of the stars, for star differs from star in glory.
It is the same with the resurrection of the dead. What is sown is perishable, what is raised is imperishable. – 1 Corinthians 15:41, 42
We are not entirely surprised by this, since our Father is an orderly God. We can remind ourselves of the different types of angels in heaven and their varying glory.
Another great scriptural precedent can be found in the Levites: While all Levites could serve the nation, only a relatively small number of Levites were allowed priestly duties.
Even among the non-priestly Levites, there were assignments of differing glory. Would you consider a dishwasher, mover or janitor has the same glory as a musician or receptionist?
Thus I propose it is less effective to argue whether 144,000 is a literal or symbolic number. Instead, reason that regardless, those who would be in heaven would be countless as the stars itself![iii]
Bringing many to righteousness
Coming full circle since the introduction, the final part of Daniel 12:3 teaches us an important qualifier for those who will be like the stars in God’s Kingdom: They bring many to righteousness.
We are reminded of a parable of Jesus, when a certain servant was given a talent during the Master’s absence. When the Master returned, he found that slave had hidden the talent in fear of losing it. He then took the talent away and gave it to another slave.
Since the Watchtower Society has excluded 99.9% of its members from the kingdom of heavens, they are keeping their given talent in limbo by not helping the ones under their care to progress spiritually toward becoming fellow heirs, free children of God.[iv]
This righteousness is given through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe.
There is no difference between Jew and Gentile, for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and all are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ. – Romans 3:21-24
Surely many of us feel as did Job – beaten up and put down by our own family and friends. In this weak condition, we are easy prey for Satan, who is all too eager to snatch our hope away.
The words of 1 Thessalonians 5:11 could have been written for our readers, who have the desire to worship God under the difficult circumstances most of us are so familiar with, yet also often compassionately encourage other visitors:
Therefore encourage one another and build up each other, just as you are in fact doing.
I had the opportunity to see some of the web traffic statistics of this website first hand. Those of you who have been around for a year or more will undoubtedly be witness to the amazing growth and participation. In the first month of our forum we had over a thousand posts. Since April, the amount of registered users has quadrupled and we have now over 6000 posts.
When thinking of all of you, I am reminded of the words of Jesus in Matthew 5:3: “Happy are those conscious of their spiritual need”.
Together we can bring many to righteousness!
[i] There are a few more reasons that indicate that the time of the end in Daniel chapter 12 includes events still in the future. Verse 1 talks about a great tribulation. Verse 2 talks about a resurrection of the dead: surely that is a future event. These words would occur in the final part of the days (Daniel 10:14) and find strong parallels with the words of Jesus found in Matthew 24:29-31.
[ii] I suspect that Hosea 2: 23 relates to how our Father plans to show mercy to this earthly seed:
I will sow her like seed for myself in the earth,
And I will show mercy to her who was not shown mercy;
I will say to those not my people: You are my people,
And they will say: ‘You are my God’.
“Her who was not shown mercy” might refer to Hagar and “her seed” to those people who were not previously in a relationship with the Father.
[iii] I suspect the Levitical model teaches us about how things will be in heaven. The white linen robes and temple references are clear indicators to me. Consequently, I have reason to believe there will be so many unique assignments for each individual anointed among the numberless “stars” in heaven.