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Prophetical Speculations

The expected series of events have been tied historically into a particular way of interpreting the last book of the Bible, Revelation. This is a very enigmatic book with strange visions and symbols that have to be interpreted. This has been understood by the majority of Christadelphians as a coded timeline of events. This is called the “continuous historic method of interpretation” and into this has been read events about the fall of Rome, the rise of the Papacy, the French Revolution, the Turkish Empire and so forth. It has seven seals followed by seven trumpets and then seven vials. Each seal, trumpet and vial is seen to follow the previous seal, trumpet or vial as an historical event. To explain all this, the Christadelphian founder, Dr John Thomas, wrote an exposition called Eureka in five volumes.

Since John Thomas believed and set dates for the return of Christ near to his own time in the late 1800s, this has led to the anomaly that in this methodology the world has been stuck in the sixth vial (the decline of the Turkish Empire) for over 150 years. With the seventh vial Armageddon occurs. Or as many a Christadelphian would say “there is nothing that has to still be fulfilled prior to the coming of Christ.”

That has not stopped speculation about the time of the return of Christ which has always been a strong feature of the Christadelphian community, although most now are more wary about date setting and would quote the words of Christ in the gospels that “no one knows the day nor hour.”

At times this has required strong reworking of expectations. Any significant political event has tended to be interpreted as a major step forward leading towards the fulfilment of expectations, but some have not fitted in so well.

For instance, I can remember my father listening keenly to news reports of the invasion of Afghanistan by the Soviets in 1979 and suggesting it could be part of the movement south by the Russians ready for the expected invasion of Israel. The implication was time was short and my need to get baptised ready for the judgement was necessary. Like other such times the billboards went up and the advertisements in the Press went out with invitations to attend talks about Afghanistan “in the light of Bible Prophecy.” The retreat from Afghanistan and the dissolution of the USSR was not so simply explained. The subsequent rise of the European Union has since been used to explain it all as part of the need to form the final northern confederacy. An awkward element has been the involvement of Britain which has been seen as being part of the maritime power which opposes the Northern confederacy.

Explanations of “signs of the times” and interpretations of modern day events “in the light of Bible prophecy” therefore end up being continually adjusted whilst the expectations of a final battle in Israel leading to Armageddon remain largely intact. In the case of the founders of the Christadelphian body it has meant that in some editions of their written works passages have been edited out.

An example is Christendom Astray a polemical work intended to show that mainstream Christianity could not be supported from scripture. Robert Roberts who wrote it stated in its preface,

“The enlightened reader will bear with the seeming arrogance of the title. It is a proposition - not an invective. The question proposed for consideration is a question for critical investigation. Attention is invited to the evidence and the argument. They are strictly within the logical sphere. They can be examined and dismissed if found wanting. What the title affirms is that Christendom, the ostensible repository of revealed truth, is away from that truth.”

However on the interpretative element testable in the real world, his prophetical speculations did not come to pass and in the 1951 edition published by the Christadelphian Office (run by the main Christadelphian magazine), it removed a whole chapter called “Evidence that the End is Near” saying in the preface,

“the suggested time of the Lord’s appearing [1910] proved to be premature. Two world wars and worldwide changes could not go unnoticed in an adequate treatment of the subject, but this would have entailed an entire rewriting of the chapter.”

The missing chapter can be found in unedited versions.

Prophetical speculation has always been a strong recruiting tool used by the Christadelphian community from its origins to generate interest, but there has rarely been much acknowledgement when speculations have not occurred in line with suggested expectations.

For an analysis of the reasoning behind the failed 1910 prediction a separate article has been written called:






Christadelphian Quotes

You lay a great stress upon facts throughout your letters, and are incessant in your demand that I should attend to them. This is good; but facts have to be rightly put together, and then you must have all the facts. I do not think you put the facts rightly together, and you leave out some, I am sure.

(Robert Roberts, a Christadelphian Pioneer, quoted

by Ruth McHaffie in Brethren Indeed)

The Spirit of liberty, based upon the law of faith, is the Spirit of Christ; and this spirit all the Sons of God are privileged to possess, and having it, to breathe. I claim the right of exercising this privilege, as well as my contemporaries; and I require of them that they should do to me as once they loudly required others to do to them…

(written by John Thomas, the founder of the Christadelphians, when he was against creeds in 

The Apostolic Advocate magazine, August 1836)

(John Thomas, from Apostacy Unveiled, p. 137,

quoted in The Christadelphian Magazine, January 1906)

Must a man never progress? If he discovers an error in his premises, must he for ever hold to it for the sake of consistency? May such a calamity never befall me! Rather let me change every day, till I get right at last.

(from a letter written by John Thomas in 1848, quoted by Robert Roberts, in Dr. Thomas: His Life and Work)

Do what is right; be valiant for the Truth; teach it without compromise, and all lovers of the Truth will approve you. For all others you need not care a rush!

(from a letter written by John Thomas to Robert Roberts and published in The Christadelphian magazine, February 1866)