Where in the Bible do we find Artificial Intelligence (AI)? As we saw in the last part of our series, none of the “machines” from the beginning of time to the end of the writing of the New Testament (97 AD) would fit the definition of AI (machines that learn and imitate humans). Doesn’t that prove that AI is not in the Bible? It does not. Let’s take another look inside God’s Word.
Prophecy and AI
We know about AI because we live in the 21st century AD. Anyone who lived before the advent of computers (learning machines) wouldn’t have understood the meaning of the word. Alan Turing used the phrase “Computing Machinery and Intelligence” in 1950 and John McCarthy coined the term “Artificial Intelligence” in 1956. So, how could the writers of the Bible (1450BC – 97 AD) know anything about AI? They didn’t, but God did.
God is Eternal. He existed before time began, before He created the world. God brought time, space, energy and matter into existence. That’s the meaning of “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.” Time had a beginning. Space had a beginning. Energy had a beginning. Matter had a beginning. God “began” it.
Because God existed before time and knows all things, including what would happen in the future, He knew Artificial Intelligence would exist in the 20th and 21st centuries AD. God also knew people would use AI in the future and the part AI would play in God’s eternal plan.
God, who at various times and in various ways spoke in time past to the fathers by the prophets, has in these last days spoken to us by His Son, whom He has appointed heir of all things, through whom also He made the worlds. Hebrews 1:1-2
God spoke through Old Testament prophets in a variety of ways so people would know the truth and what the future would look like. God spoke through Jesus Christ and His apostles in the New Testament so people would know the truth and what the future would look like. It is in the prophetic words of the prophets, Jesus Christ and His apostles that we find AI.
Visions of the Future
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
And he said to me, ‘Do not seal the words of the prophecy of this book, for the time is at hand. Revelation 22:10
Daniel saw a vision of the future during the 6th century BC and was told to seal up the book “until the time of the end.” John the Apostle saw a vision of the future at the end of the 1st century AD and was told NOT to seal the words of the prophecy of the the book “for the time is at hand.” That’s interesting as we consider when the prophetic visions would unfold in real time.
The visions Daniel and John experienced were from supernaturally intelligent beings. Daniel’s final vision came from “a certain man clothed in linen, whose waist was girded with gold of Uphaz!” (Daniel 10:5) Daniel wrote that the message of the vision was true, “but the appointed time was long.” (Daniel 10:1) The word “long” in Hebrew is ḡāḏōwl and means “great, deep, exceeding.” What was long was “the appointed time.” The Hebrew word is wəṣāḇā and means “struggle, battle, war, conflict.” Daniel received a message from a supernatural intelligence about a great war to come in the future. This supernatural being was most likely an angel and may have even been the angel Gabriel who had explained an earlier vision to Daniel (Daniel 8:16; 9:21). Gabriel told Daniel that “the vision refers to the time of the end” (Daniel 9:8:17).
Daniel spent a long time in mourning, fasting and prayer after seeing the many visions. He was deeply concerned about the future of his people. Daniel was an old man and still living in Babylon and serving as one of three governors in the new government following Persia’s victory over the Babylonians (Daniel 6:1-2). He did not return with other Jews to Israel to rebuild Jerusalem and the Temple (the majority of Jews remained in Babylon). As far as we know, Daniel died in Babylon.
The angel who spoke with Daniel told him that God had sent him with answers to his prayers, but that he (the angel) had been delayed because “the prince of the kingdom of Persia withstood me twenty-one days; and behold, Michael, one of the chief princes, came to help me, for I had been left alone there with the kings of Persia” (Daniel 10:12-13). Based on the language used in this passage, it would appear the angel’s delay was caused by other supernatural beings. Michael is described in the Bible as being an “archangel” (Jude 1:9) who is a “prince” who watches over the Jewish people (Daniel 12:1). The angel who spoke to Daniel told him that he “must return to fight with the prince of Persia” and that Michael would “uphold” him (Daniel 10:20-21). What we learn here is that angels are warring with each other even as earthly rulers and armies are at war.
The angel explained the meaning of Daniel’s vision and showed him things that would happen in the future (many years from the explanation of the vision) and in what we might think of as the “deep” future (millennia from the explanation of the vision). Some prophecies can have a double purpose in that it impacts both “near” future events and “deep” future events. That may be the case in Daniel 11 where we see the warring kings of the North and South.
We know from Daniel 10 that Persia and Greece are mentioned. Daniel 10:1 refers to “the third year of Cyrus king of Persia.” Daniel 10:20 refers to “the prince of Greece” who will come. Daniel 11:2-3 refers to three more kings would “will arise in Persia” and a “fourth shall be far richer than them all” (Daniel 11:2). That fourth king is thought to be Xerses I, called Ahasuerus in the Book of Esther. The next part of the vision explanation deals with the rise of Alexander the Great and how his massive kingdom was divided among four of his generals after Alexander’s death (Daniel 11:3-4). The angel told Daniel that the kingdom would not go to “his posterity nor according to his dominion with which he ruled.” The fulfillment of that prophecy was that Alexander’s children were murdered, so he had no heirs to take over his kingdom.
We next meet kings of the “South” and kings of the “North,” who would come from the division of Alexander’s kingdom. The kings of the South represent the Ptolomies (Egypt). The kings of the North represent the Seleucids (Syria). They became enemies and fought against each other. That put the tiny country of Israel in the middle of the two warring kingdoms and explains why the angel went into great detail about them. The other two parts of Alexander’s divided kingdom, Pergamon in Asia Minor and Macedon in Northern Greece, didn’t have a direct impact on Israel, so the angel does not mention them while explaining Daniel’s vision.
The vision and the angel’s explanation are amazing in its accuracy. Daniel lived in the 6th century BC, but the kingdoms of Alexander and his generals date from the 4th century BC to the 1st century BC when the Romans brought those kingdoms to their knees. What we read in Daniel can be seen in detailed fulfillment in ancient history.
Gabriel revealed the heart of his message to Daniel beginning in 10:28.
While returning to his land with great riches, his heart shall be moved against the holy covenant; so he shall do damage and return to his own land.
The heart of the message is about the future of Israel.
Historians believe that refers to Antiochus of Syria who killed thousands of Jews and took thousands more as prisoners and slaves as he headed home from fighting in Egypt. The Syrian king would attack Jerusalem again and defile the Temple (Daniel 11:29-35). One of the interesting notes for our study is in verse 35:
And some of those of understanding shall fall, to refine them, purify them, and make them white, until the time of the end; because it is still for the appointed time.
The words “until the time of the end; because it is still for the appointed time” may be a signal of moving from the “near” future to “deep” future. The angel’s explanation that followed from Daniel 11:36 – 12:3 may very well catapult the vision to the end of time when the Antichrist arises as a great power. It is at the end of that section that the angel told 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.”
Time of the End
The disciples of Jesus Christ asked Him “what will be the sign of Your coming, and of the end of the age?” Jesus gave them several things that would happen in the world in the years to come, but called that “the beginning of sorrows.” Jesus then told them how followers of Christ would be delivered up to “tribulation” and be hated by the world. He said that many false prophets would rise up and deceive many people. He said that lawlessness would “abound” and the love of many would grow cold. So, when would the end come? When the Gospel is preached in all the world as a witness to all the nations “then the end will come.”
And this gospel of the kingdom will be preached in all the world as a witness to all the nations, and then the end will come. Matthew 24:14
Immediately after saying those words, Jesus said this:
Therefore when you see the ‘abomination of desolation,’ spoken of by Daniel the prophet, standing in the holy place”(whoever reads, let him understand). Matthew 24:15
Jesus was referring to Daniel’s vision and the angel’s explanation:
Then he shall confirm a covenant with many for one week; But in the middle of the week He shall bring an end to sacrifice and offering. And on the wing of abominations shall be one who makes desolate, Even until the consummation, which is determined, Is poured out on the desolate. Daniel 9:27
And forces shall be mustered by him, and they shall defile the sanctuary fortress; then they shall take away the daily sacrifices, and place there the abomination of desolation. Daniel 11:31
This is important because it moves us from the historical Antiochus of Syria to the future Antichrist. Antiochus defiled the Temple in the 2nd century BC. Jesus is answering a question from His disciples in the 1st century AD. The Lord was looking forward to an event in the “deep” future while referring to Daniel’s vision and the angel’s explanation.
Okay, but what does that have to do with Artificial Intelligence?
We live in a time of a literal “explosion” of knowledge and travel (running to and fro). We live in a time when the Gospel is being preached to more and more of the world’s population through the work of Christian missions and Bible translation ministries.
Artificial Intelligence has played a vital role in this increase in knowledge, travel and the preaching of the Gospel through a variety of “learning machines” like computers, specialized software, smart phones, apps, and other communication devices.
I attended a meeting with a representative of Wycliffe Translators a few years ago and learned how software has reduced the effort of translation teams while increasing the output of their work. A recent Wycliffe article titled How AI is accelerating Bible translation explains how AI is helping Bible translators reach more people faster.
Researchers at Dartmouth College are also using the Bible with AI and ML (Machine Learning) to improve translation work. Algorithms are helping with idiomatic expressions and context as computers translate from one language to another. The term “Artificial Intelligence” was first used at a conference at Dartmouth in 1956.
So many things in Christian ministry that were done by hand and on foot for centuries are now being done by computers and through rapid transportation. That doesn’t necessarily mean the quality of ministry has improved, but the speed at which it is done has increased because of machines that learn.
If you’ve watched church services online during the past couple of years, you may have noticed that AI systems are being used for real-time translation of the services. It’s known as NLP (Natural Language Processing). NLP is also used for chatbots, social media monitoring, targeted advertising, analyzing surveys, voice assistants (e.g. Siri, Alexa, Google Assistant), email filtering, grammar checking, autocorrecting (spell checking), etc.
AI has changed our world in the last few decades and it will have a huge impact on the future as we approach what Jesus called “the end.”
In the next part of our series we will meet the “man” who will use AI to plunge the world into great apostasy and darkness at “the end” – the future time prophesied by Jesus Christ, the prophets and apostles.
Scripture taken from the New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson. Used by permission. All rights reserved.
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