The Apocalypse and the Obedience of Faith
A correct interpretation of the Apocalypse is of more importance than may at first sight appear.
1. It was given "that his servants might know" (Chap. 1:1.) the things it treats of; and if a wrong view of it prevails, the object of its communication is to that extent frustrated.
2. The Spirit pronounces a blessing on those who understand it, (chap. 1:3.) from which it follows that a wrong apprehension of its import deprives the wrong apprehender of the blessing.
3. Jesus pronounces a curse on those who take away from its words (Chap. 22:19.); and no one takes away from its words more effectually than the man who misrepresents its meaning.
That misrepresentation of its meaning which asserts its inapplicability to the present constitution of things in the world, and teaches that it has no fulfilment till the saints are removed at the coming of Christ, is especially mischievous in its effects; for it interferes with a scriptural attitude in relation to things and systems which are therein condemned, and participation in which is declared to implicate the participators in the doom awaiting them.
The ecclesiastical systems and practices of Europe are exhibited under symbols perfectly intelligible to the student of God's word. A beast and its image, a ten-horned monster and a woman are introduced as representatives of the constitution of things in Papal Europe, and a peculiarity of the saints therein described is that they
"worship not the beast neither his image, nor receive his mark upon their foreheads nor in their hands (20:4.), that they "obtain the victory over the beast and over his image and over the number of his name" (15:2);
that unlike those dwelling on earth "whose names are not written in the book of life," and who worship the beast who makes war upon the saints, they "keep the sayings of the prophecy of this book," which declare,
"If any man worship the beast and his image and receive his mark in his forehead or in his hand, the same shall drink of the wine of the wrath of God."
Now, if you regard the whole matter as future to the Lord's coming, do you not loosen and undermine the terrible obligations arising from these sayings? Certainly; you place these obligations beyond the circle of a saint's duties, and leave him at liberty to imagine that he may safely take part with any system extant in his own day.
Of course, you are at liberty, in this day of liberty, to think and act as you will: but such views are a serious impediment to the co-operation which you are disposed to ask on the part of the Christadelphians.
They could not admit such an element of corruption among them. They could not identify themselves with so complete a neutralization of the last message of Jesus sent to his servants. They could not make themselves responsible for such a departure from his testimony which he himself has fenced with special imprecations.
Your belief in the things concerning the kingdom of God and the name of Jesus Christ, "the same as the Christadelphians," may justify you in being immersed; but with such a state of mind with regard to the important directions he has given for the guidance of his servants in the Apocalypse, it is impossible they could enter upon that co-operation which has for its basis an intelligent apprehension of the mind and will of Christ.
The idea that "Revelations" is future in its fulfilment, would be dispelled by the effectual realization of one or two points which we mention by way of conclusion. The angel interpreting to John the meaning of the seven heads of the scarlet-coloured beast, says 17:10:
"There are seven kings: five are fallen, one is, and the other is not yet come."
Here is a proof that in the day when these words were addressed to John-nearly 1800 years ago-part of the symbolism had been realised in history.
In connection with its developments (chap. 11:18) "the time of the dead comes that they should be judged," which is inconsistent with the theory that those developments do not take place till after the resurrection of the saints. A similar argument arises in the fact that the beast makes war upon the saints and overcomes them.-(13:7.) Surely this is not after the saints are raised from the dead!
So also with the fact that saints, under the sixth seal, are seen in a state of death, and allowed to rest (6:9); that the scarlet woman is drunk with the blood of saints. (Surely she is not to kill them after they are made immortal.)
"In her was found the blood of prophets and saints."-(18:24.)
The apostles were slain by her (Rome under the pagan constitution.)-(18:20.) Surely the apostles are not to be killed a second time. In addition to these and many other points that might be mentioned, the general character of the book as to things said about to "shortly come to pass," and as to keeping the things written in the book, conclusively shows the fallacy of a theory which futurizes everything except the messages to the ecclesias, and reduces it to a thing of practical consequence whatever.
The Christadelphian, Aug 1872
Ch 10 the march of the rainbowed angel appears misplaced - ought to be 2020 or beyond
The Apocalypse contains its own evidences of its divine inspiration. The gradual fulfilment of its many wonderful predictions, is, of course, the most powerful of these evidences. But the plan upon which the revelation has been given is a no less striking evidence. Had man been the author of the Apocalypse, he would have given everything in exact chronological order, finishing up once for all with the Kingdom of God.
Any other arrangement would have been considered unnecessarily confusing. Not so with the Divine Author. The reader is brought to the end-to the glories of the Kingdom-many times over. There is an explanation for the course adopted, and the explanation reveals alike the divinity of the book, and the wisdom and beauty of its plan.
Believers, whilst being cheered in the various ages, by the unfolding of the revealed events relating to their own times, have, by the Kingdom being undoubtedly linked with those events, been beneficially kept in ignorance regarding the actual far-offness of their reward.
The glory of the future was thus not dimmed, but rather intensified, by the thought that the Kingdom was soon to appear. The plan has in no way sacrificed the integrity of the revelation. God's way is very pleasing and very edifying.
Bro AT Jannaway
The Christadelphian, June 1899
"If any man will do the Father's will, he shall know of the doctrine whether it be of the Deity" (John vii. 17).
No man can do his will who is not intelligent in "the truth as it is in Jesus;" because his will demands an enlightened obedience. A man, therefore, who is not an enlightened believer, is essentially deficient in the prime prerequisite qualification of an interpreter and critic of interpretations.
This is the reason why there is not a single scriptural interpretation of the apocalypse extant from the days of Sir Isaac Newton to the current year. Many attempts have been made, but they have all proved failures; because their "wise and prudent" authors, being the mere embodiments of the dogmatic pietism sanctified in the world's opinion by the "names of blasphemy" of which "the scarlet coloured beast," in contemporary existence with Christ's advent, is "full" (xvii. 3), are necessarily ignorant of "the first principles of the oracles of God."
The author of this work does not address himself to such.... but he writes for "the servants of the Deity," that they may read and understand.
The nature of symbolic writing requires that the signs and the things signified be analogous, but different. But the Apocalypse is not a revelation of natural appearances, or extraordinary phenomena, in earth, sea, and sky; but a sign-representation of things extant in John's day; and of things which should be after his time, in relation to the Holy Nation of the Deity planted in the territory of Daniel's Fourth Beast, until the coming of the Ancient of Days.
The apocalyptic symbolization is illustrative to them who can "see" of the conflict of the saints with pagan Rome until they "conquered" it; with Catholic, and afterwards, with Papal, Rome, until it conquered them; and hereafter, with all "the powers that be," until they in turn conquer and abolish them for a thousand years. This being the nature of the Apocalypse, we must not look to the natural, but to the POLITICAL UNIVERSE for the interpretation of its signs.
And here we find it necessary to remark in this so-called enlightened century, that "the signs of the times" vouchsafed by the Deity for the use of his genuine servants in their several generations, are not in the sky. He has not placed them there. No intelligent believer of the gospel looks overhead for a darkening of the solar system, and the falling of stars, as a sign of the great day of the Lamb's wrath being near.
The alleged darkening in New England, A.D. 1780, and falling of stars, A.D. 1833, were phenomena that none but Laodicean Heathen would regard as signs of the times. The Deity's revealed signs are not manifested in America. We may feel the working of them; but they are not in these heavens, natural nor political. A wicked and adulterous generation seeks signs in the sky like the signs of the weather with which they are familiar; but no sign shall be given it.
Let the reader, then, not "learn the way of the Heathen; and be not dismayed at the signs of the heaven; for the Heathen are dismayed at them: for the customs of the people are vain" (Jer. x. 2). Neither John nor Peter represented or taught the dissolving of the physical universe, and the "burning up of the earth." "The earth is Yahweh's," for he made it; it is temporarily "given into the hand of the wicked," till the King shall come to possess it with his Saints to the uttermost parts thereof. "He hath established it for ever." No interpretation of scripture that would falsify these statements can be true. All theories of the kind must therefore be rejected as mere idle tales in which only the children of the Apostasy can take delight.
No, the Deity's signs are in the political universe. This, in a sense analogous to the material, hath its earth, sea, and firmament or aerial expanse; in which are set its greater and lesser lights, and constellations -- its Sun, Moon, and Stars. It hath its hurricanes, shakings, eclipses, hailstorms, and so forth, which affect injuriously those who belong to the Body Politic, whether they be rulers or the common people.
The Book of Revelation is Christ's last message to his people-a book of exaltation, comfort and enlightenment. It is an outline of history from God's point of view from John's day until the end of the millennium-the development of God's purpose. And it is important that we endeavor to keep these things before our minds.
Chapter 1 is an introduction, stating it to be a message from God through Christ to Christ's Brethren, revealing in sign, "things which must shortly come to pass."
Verse 3 - "Blessed is he that readeth," that is, who values the message and applies himself to it, heareth, pays attention, and accepts what it says, and keepeth-bears it in mind and puts it into practice in his life. To say that such are blessed is to say in effect that such as do not do so are not blessed. Herein is the vital importance of constant study of the word. Only such are blessed and will be blessed.
The Revelation portrays the age-old struggle between the Truth and the apostasy, which began in the Garden of Eden-the enmity, the true bride, and the false woman-Jerusalem and Rome. And the more we know about it and understand its true meaning, the more firmly we can keep separate and keep on the right side of the enmity-the very narrow way. This is a Roman world and all nations are drunk with the wine of her fornication. Let us not be among them. We particularly notice this at the time of the year, and the line of demarcation is clear.
The latter part of chapter 1, from verse 10 forward introduces the symbolic Son of Man-the multitudinous Christ and the messages to the seven representative ecclesias of Asia Minor.
A Review of Revelation
By Bro Growcott
[the prospects for its publication appeared grim. Bro Thomas was not confident, "efforts there as here to put me theologically to death" .The cost of printing, naturally speaking, appeared to be an insurmountable obstacle until an unexpected proposal from Samuel w. Coffman gave impetus to fundraising from which the printer was paid in full.]
"when the Divine Inventor and the Proprietor of the Apocalypse requires its exposition, He has the means at hand. The heaven-sent document is His. He sent it for a purpose, no mean element in which is the warning of His servants of the generation concurrent with His appearing and His kingdom. But these servants do not understand it. How they can they use it according to His purpose? The work therefore of making it intelligible must be His ....
The truth develops its own instrumentality. It has opened the hearts of a few to print what it has enlightened the head of another to write. The circumstances which the advocacy of the truth has created, are the providence of the truth.
This providence has pitched upon the most obnoxious man of his age, and on a few obscure ones in a remote part of the earth, to do what the 'wise and prudent', the rich and noble, and all of that genus, with all the appliances at their command, could in no wise accomplish. When I consider my own weakness, and the weakness of the brethren, I cannot but accept our success in this whole matter as of God."
My days and my ways Ch 27
Dr. Thomas's Exposition of the Apocalypse
We, individually, esteem it a cause of deepest thankfulness, and experience it to be a source of satisfaction amounting to happiness, to have had our lot cast in a day when the Apocalypse has been the subject of such an exposition as is contained in the three now published volumes of Eureka; and we will be presumptuous enough to imagine that this must necessarily be the sentiment of every genuine lover of the truth.
We are aware that it is not in harmony with the spirit that reigns in the cultivated society of the present time, to indulge in such sanguine expressions, or to entertain such confident and cordial feelings on such a subject. Mutual deference and compliment is the order of the day in matters of religious thought. Delicacy of feeling is carried to such a pitch, that to express a confident judgment is considered rude. This is, doubtless, to be attributed, as much as anything, to general incapacity to form a valuable opinion one way or other.
Universal mediocrity and incompetence find consolation in universal and mutual respect. By this, it is enabled to keep its countenance and feel respectable in its attainments. It disturbs this refined atmosphere of self-complacency to assert a confident conviction. It is reputed to savour of quackery for a man to declare a cordial belief in antagonism to the views of current mediocrity.
Doubtless, it will be considered vulgar to say of Eureka that it is the only satisfactory exposition of "Revelations" that has been given, or can be given. Yet we will be bold to say that this must necessarily be the verdict of every rational mind sitting down to a canvass of the whole subject on its merits, in the light of the truth affirmed in the things God has declared by his servants, the prophets and apostles, in all the Scriptures.
It is a matter of evidence. Eureka is no charlatan exposition. It is no begging argument. It is no mere feat of speculative ingenuity. It does not mystify and perplex, or resemble the guess-work which fills the pages of the majority of attempts to explain the Apocalypse, by which, as a rule, the book is left more unsatisfactory than ever, and the whole subject of prophetic exposition brought into disrepute and ridicule.
It is a careful, scientific analysis of a divine enigma in the light and by the means of the clues supplied by the author of the enigma, as cool, logical, and obvious as a surgical demonstration. It is a rational process of identifying facts, discovering and elaborating evidence, establishing premisses, and evolving conclusions with the cold and literal precision of mathematical rules.
There is no fanaticism; indeed there is scarcely the warmth which such topics might naturally excite. There is, on the contrary, a transcendant sobriety, indicative of the clear head and steady hand accustomed to difficult operations of logical surgery.
And the results are truly commensurate with the faculty employed. The Apocalypse is exhibited in an aspect of dignity and importance, which contrasts strangely with the position it is made to occupy in ordinary books of Apocalyptic exposition. It is made the interpreter of the past and the revealer of the great future that is at the door. The present is clothed with a sense of divine reality, which is little excited in the mind by ordinary history and experience.
The reader is made to feel himself within the compass of a vast scheme of Divine Providence, which has been slowly unfolding itself in all the course of human affairs of men for the past eighteen centuries, and which reaches forward to a definite era of life and light. He is enabled to feel in the dark stand-point of the present life, the ennobling conflux of a mighty past and a measureless future, as reflected in the enigmatical forms exhibited to John in the isle of Patmos seventeen centuries ago.
He is enabled to take his bearings in the apparently trackless ocean of time over which he is sailing Eureka does for its generation what Sir Isaac Newton did for the mariner. It places a man in such a mental relation to before-perceived, but not understood, objects of the Apocalyptic firmament, that he is able to extract from them information of his whereabouts in the apparently benighted journey he is running.
The scripturally-enlightened reader is made to feel himself in the company of generations past, who have trodden the same unpopular path of obedience to the word, in defiance of the authorities represented by the Beast, False Prophet, harlot, and other symbols of the Apocalypse.
His faith is strengthened; his ardour, strongly excited; his enlightenment increased, and his mind in every way exercised unto godliness, with a vigour that is bracing in the extreme. Eureka is a breeze of truth that comes from the high hills of prophetic vision upon the nearly-stagnant atmosphere of the plains of ignorance below, blowing away the sultry vapours and dispersing incipient disease. It is a temple of light, resplendent with the hues of precious stones: in the courts of which, those who love the light and the truth will often be found.
This may sound fulsome, and, no doubt, will be simply disgusting to those who do not appreciate the matter in hand; but it is the honest expression of a sentiment that we repeat cannot fail to be inspired in every mind qualified by discernment (which means a conjunction of capacity with knowledge) to appreciate the merits of this great work.
And with no regard for the cowardly fear or dishonest scruples which hamper some in the acknowledgment of their indebtedness, we can thank God from the very bottom of our hearts that he has, in this our time-just before the doors of the kingdom are closed-raised up such a man as Dr. Thomas, through whom His word has been redeemed from slight, and mystery, and blasphemy, and placed high above the clouds of apostasy as a clear beacon light, to guide wandering steps from the paths of darkness to the source of light and life and love.
Ambassador of the Coming Age, Jan 1869
The first volume [of Eureka] had appeared four years previously, and had imparted one of those zestful gratifications which one can only experience once or twice in a lifetime.
The Apocalypse was at once so important and so difficult to understand, and the Doctor's first volume of explanation at once so lucid as an exposition and so brilliant as a literary performance that no words can exaggerate the sweet invigoration of intellect and cordial comfort of heart imparted by the reading of it at the time of its appearance, and continued more or less all the time since its first perusal.
My days and my ways Ch 27
The Preface to the Third Volume
When the great French revolution caused the astonished world to shake to its foundations, a shock was given to the minds of men whose vibrations have not subsided. The murdered witnesses, slain by the sanguinary Bourbons, had started into life, and ascended into political eminence, as Mede had taught his readers to expect. This and the coincidence also, that this ascension was exactly 1,260 years from the epoch of the delivery of the saints into the hands of the episcopal element of the Little Horn, by Justinian, in A D. 533; all concurred in arousing some to a renewed and earnest study of the prophetic word.
Prominent among these was Mr. Bicheno, who published his "Signs of the Times," in 1793 His writings were interesting, though abounding with many speculations proved fallacious by the lapse of time. One thing, however, he did which should not be forgotten. He shewed that the three days and a half during which the two witnessing prophets were to lie unburied in the platea of the great city, should be interpreted as three lunar days and a half of years; and that Jurieu, therefore, was right in his conjecture that their death ensued A.D. 1685.
Since Mr. Bicheno's time, several writers on prophecy have risen up, Of these may be mentioned Irving, Faber, Keith, Cuninghame, Frere, Bickersteth, Elliott, and others. But I am not aware that they have added anything that would at all increase the intelligibility of the Apocalypse. Of this I am well assured, that from the days of Justin Martyr, in the beginning of the second century, to the publication of Mr. Elliott's elaborate commentary, there has been produced by no writer, a systematic and thorough exposition of the Apocalypse that will stand the test of Scripture, history, and reason enlightened by the truth.
If there were ever such a work, it is certainly not extant. A perusal of a digest of their apocalyptic speculations has convinced me that none of them, from Justin Martyr to Elliott, understood the prophecy. With no other guides to the blind than these, it is not to be wondered at that men should give the Apocalypse the go-by, and, with a reviewer in a London weekly, conclude "that nothing is more ridiculous than for any one to arrogate to himself the power of interpreting the prophecies contained in Daniel and the Revelation; being convinced that it would require as divine and miraculous an inspiration to interpret and apply those prophecies as was necessary to utter them."
This is the conviction of the general public, which, like the public of the third century, that had no ear for what the Spirit said to the ecclesias, pronounced it "without sense and without reason," and denied that it was even a revelation.
If so, then the man that composed it was the most extraordinary genius of the ancient or modern worlds. But it is not necessary to defend the Apocalypse at this crisis. The Constitution of Europe for the past thousand years which it so accurately exhibits, is evidential of its inspiration. It was revealed to be understood by the uninspired; and that it can be understood by them is proved to a demonstration by the three volumes of Eureka, which are now, through the munificence of a few Christadelphians, who desire to understand this neglected portion of "the Word," and have confidence in the author's ability to expound it, in the author's ability to expound it, in the hands of their fellow-servants and brethren.
I claim no "divine and miraculous inspiration;" yet, I maintain, that whatever failures others may learnedly have accomplished, the exposition I have given in these three volumes, however "ridiculous" and "arrogant" it may be considered to affirm it, cannot be set aside by a fair and candid appeal to the testimony of Jesus, political geography, and the truth of history. - EurekaAmbassador of the Coming Age, Jan 1869