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Return of Christ by 1866​

The following was written by the founder of the Christadelphians, John Thomas, in the Apostolic Advocate, Vol 1, 1834, predicting the return of Christ by 1866:

There is a part of prophetic time, upon the heels of which, our race is now treading, called “the time of the end”—“a time of trouble,” says the Messenger of God, “such as never was since there was a nation even to that same time.” Dan. 12:1. This short space of time is called by Isaiah “the day of vengeance.” It begins at the end of 1260 years from the rise of Mohammed, or from a few years before, at the institution of the politico ecclesiastical tyranny of the papacy. If the 1260 years begins with the rise of Mohammed it will end A.D. 1866, but if, from the latter date, A.D. 1847. From the year 47 or 66 of this century, or between these data, or at least, very soon after the latter, this, “time of the end” begins. Its duration will not exceed 75 years; which is the interval between the end of the 1260 years and the 1335th, the latest date mentioned in the last chapter of Daniel. The excessive trouble which is to afflict mankind, will take place, it would seem, during the last 45 years, being the interval between the 1290th and the 1335th years. This “time of the end,” then, may be expected to reveal great and awful events. During this interval the kingdoms of the world are to become the kingdoms of our Lord, and of his Anointed; who will reign forever and ever; having taken up his great power, and entered upon his reign. In this day of vengeance and of Almighty power, the nations will be wroth. Their governments have been the destroyers of the earth, that is, the oppressors of the people. But the last hour of their existence will have then arrived—and thanks to the Lord God Almighty will be given, because the time had come when he would destroy those that destroy the earth. For the words of this joyful acclamation of the voices in heaven, read from the 15th to the 18th verse inclusive of Rev. 11. The last verse reads thus: “And the temple of God was opened in heaven, and the ark of his covenant appeared in his temple,” &c. “The temple of God in heaven” is the Most Holy Place, made without hands—a state, age, or future world, which in relation to the christian or present heaven and earth, or world, or holy place, is the second heaven. The type of this second heavenly place in Christ Jesus is to be found in the most holy place of the temple made with hands, or that of Solomon. In this typical apartment was the Ark of the Covenant overlaid with gold, and adorned with a diadem of the same. The Ark of the Covenant was a chest, which contained the Tables of the Law, the Pot of Manna, and Aaron’s Rod which budded and bore fruit. The ark and its contents were deemed most holy by Jehovah. As a whole, the container and the contained, were a simple but expressive type of the King Messiah, who is the true ark of the covenant, or institution set up by God. He, Jesus, is the tablet of the law of faith and love—He is the true manna or bread from heaven—He is the true almond rod, who, though dead, became alive again, by the same power that caused Aaron’s rod to bud, and who has, and will yet bring forth much fruit. Jesus, the anointed king, then, is the ark of the covenant alluded to in this passage of the Apocalypse. It was as impossible for him to continue on earth, with the church under the present dispensation, as it was for the typical ark of the covenant to stand in the holy, instead of the most holy place of the temple, without bringing the vengeance of God upon the whole institution. He, therefore, passed through the holy place, and entered within the veil, where he now is, as our Great High Priest, in the presence of the Father, who dwelleth between the cherubim. With these premises before us, the interpretation of this passage reads thus: “And the millenial state or future world was commenced or introduced, and the Lord Jesus Christ made his appearance therein,” &c.

This grand consummation, however, happens at the end of “the time of the end,” and is accompanied with lightning, thunder, an earthquake, and a great meteoric hail storm. The Israelites will have been restored, Rome will have been engulphed, the political constitution of the world overthrown, the true believers raised from the dead, and those disciples, who are alive at this awful period, transfigured in the twinkling of an eye.

It is not my design, at this time, to do more than to direct the attention of my readers to the fact that there is such a period as “the time of the end.” There is a time for every thing, and a time when all things shall have an end. This admonition is always before our eyes, for every human invention tends to this point. The conclusion of all things, therefore, appears to me, a fit conclusion for the end of this volume. Editors cannot see the end from the beginning, neither did I when I began this periodical. I issued the prospectus in Philadelphia, and intended to have continued its publication in that city; but circumstances disappointed my appointment; and from the city of Brotherly Love I took my departure.

In the metropolis of Virginia, then, I resolved to raise the standard of defection from the ranks of the aliens, and to excite, if possible, a spirit of devotion to the Great King, in whose service I would rather die fighting than desert, or even fall asleep. Hitherto I have had no cause to repent. I have opened two batteries upon the enemy’s works—those of the tongue and of the pen; and I have reason to believe, from testimony, that, although no breach has yet been made in their walls, some of their turrets have been shaken. I have planted my artillery against every sectarian fortress in Richmond, but strange to tell!—though there are four editorial champions of orthodoxy in the city, not one has ventured to answer the salute. Corporal Sands of Fort Herald, has once or twice thrust his head from behind a battlement, and made faces at the “Campbellites;” but he invariably flinches back as quick as thought, grumbling as he goes down from the parapet. He is afraid to take a good view of us, for reasons best known to himself. The reason of our boldness, or audacity, as our opponents would term it, is the goodness of the cause we advocate. Having a conscience void of offence towards God, no sinister ends to gain, and nothing but truth and the eternal good of our fellow-citizens in view, we fear not the face of man. Whatever we find to do “we work it from the soul as to the Lord, and not to men, knowing that from the Lord we shall receive the recompense of the inheritance.” Col. 3:23. Our charity is unfettered, and must be apparent to all, who know the power and meaning of words. Charity signifies love, according to apostolic usage. Our Lord loved men so ardently, that, although he knew they would kill him, he healed them, instructed them, and told them the truth, and for this cause they hated, persecuted, maligned, and at last ignominiously put him to death. I expect, then, if I take upon me to tell men the truth, I shall likewise be hated, slandered, and despised by the very persons I design to benefit; and also be the subject of a hue and cry for want of charity, or, at least of what the world calls charity, and that, too, raised against me by “friends,” “brethren,” and “reformers,” who neither practice nor know the truth. This is the grand secret of that outcry about want of charity, it is ignorance of that truth, which is more precious than costliest pearls. But none of these things move me; I mean to be as “uncharitable,” and more uncompromising than ever.

We have at length arrived at “the time of the end,” in its bearing upon the congregation of the Lord Christ. Seven letters were written to as many churches in Asia Minor by the beloved apostle. Those churches, it seems to me, were seven types of the congregation of the Lord, in seven successive periods of its history, from the days of John to the appearance of Jesus a second time, inclusive. These may be stated as the Ephesian, Smyrn�an, Pergamian, Thyatiran, Sardian, Philadelphian, and Laodicean periods. I cannot now give my reasons for this supposition; suffice it to say, that the character of the congregation at Laodicea is exactly descriptive of the state of the church of Christ at this time. By the church of Christ, I mean, all immersed believers in the aggregate. Christians, in these days, even the best of them, are “neither cold nor hot.” “I wish you were,” says the Holy Spirit, “either cold or hot. Therefore, because you are lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will vomit you out of my mouth. Because you say, I am wealthy, and have enriched myself and have need of nothing; and do not know that you are wretched, and miserable, and poor, and blind, and naked.” What an accurate delineation is this, and how true, of the christians now, even of those “who say they are Jews, and are not, but do lie!” Christians, who call yourselves “reformers!”—renounce that name, until you shall have proved your title to it by deeds of righteousness, worthy of that truth you say you believe. The time has arrived, when the cry was to go forth “behold! the bridegroom cometh, go ye out to meet him.” Have you any of the oil of joy, of gladness, and of truthful knowledge in your lamps, or are they extinguished and you asleep? Awake up as you ought, and make yourselves ready for the marriage supper of the Lamb. The cry has gone forth, and is now echoing through the earth. The political signs of the disastrous times—“the time of the end”—coming upon the nations, are crowding the page of history; and the rumbling of that voice, which is to “roar out of Zion,” already trembles upon the ear. Will you not up and be doing? Will you not put on the complete armor of God, and gird the loins of your minds with truth, having on the breastplate of righteousness? Prepare your feet with the glad tidings of peace, take up the shield of faith, and the helmet of salvation, and arm yourselves with the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God. If you would win you must fight; and you must either take a decided stand on the one side or the other. you may delude yourselves with peace here, and happiness hereafter; but be assured that these states are incompatible; for, if you would reign hereafter, you must suffer here. So says Paul.

The Christian Church, or “the Lamb’s wife,” has arrived at the period of preparation, and the proclamation of the Great Captain is—Make ready! And how are the christians to do this?—By a reformation of morals and combining together heart and soul, and purse, for the restoration of the christian institution to what it was in apostolic times. This is what must and will be done before the Messiah comes; and, if the faint hearted professors of this generation won’t do themselves the honor of effecting it, the next generation will, and our contemporaries will have the mortification of losing that great recompense of the inheritance, to secure which is now within their grasp. O ye blind and foolish! to let this golden opportunity slip. How dull of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken of the glories which are to follow the sufferings of Christ! For the sake of the baubles of time, you prefer the part of the foolish virgins, against whom the door was shut! Hark! hear ye not, in anticipation, that sound “as the voice of a great multitude, and as the voice of many waters, and like the peal of mighty thunderings, saying, Hallelujah! for the Lord God, the Omnipotent reigns! We rejoice and exult, and give glory to him, because the marriage of the Lamb is come, and his wife has made herself ready. And it was given to her that she should be clothed in fine linen, pure and resplendent; and the fine linen is the righteous acts of the saints. And he said to me, Write:—happy are they who are invited to the marriage supper of the Lamb! And he said to me—these are the true words of God.” Rev. 19:6–9. Who therefore, would not suffer every thing now, even death itself, that he might be comprehended among the guests who will be robed in fine, pure and resplendent vestments, emblems of righteous deeds!—But the congregation of the Lord—the Lamb’s wife—will only have attained to this glorious character, when every individual member shall have been immersed into Christ; instead of being composed of persons, as it is now, some of whom have put on Christ and others their own experience. Every saint must have his robe washed white in the blood of Christ; no speckled garments will be admitted there.

From the foregoing disjointed observations, my readers will perceive the conclusion I have come to; which is, that the political, sectarian and christian worlds, like the First Volume of the Advocate, have at length arrived at “the time of their end.” The last number of this volume is now in the hands of its patrons. The Advocate has exceeded his stipulations, and, in return, he will be amply remunerated, if his subscribers will only come up to theirs; at the same time, he would be remiss, were he not to acknowledge the high consideration he entertains for those subscribers who have been patrons indeed. The Advocate owes no man any thing but love—no, not even the printer—and for this proud standing in the face of his opponents, he is indebted to that honor and integrity, which are the fruit of the reformation of morals for which he pleads. The Advocate has sent forth an Extra, for the publication of which he made no promise. It contains only the dark side of the picture. But there are two sides—a dark side and a bright. The bright ought to be forthcoming. I am willing to give my labor—the brethren know the rest.

As to the future prospects of the Advocate, they are excellent. His patrons have not been obtained by flatteries. They have attached themselves to him under the asperity of a straight forward and undaunted bearing; he does not fear, therefore, that they will forsake him, while he continues fearlessly and honorably to “contend for the faith once delivered to the saints,” by the holy apostles. The work to be done is immense, and the laborers on the side of the truth very few. If ever there was a time, or place, for which we ought to pray the Lord of the harvest that he would raise up laborers, it is now, and for eastern Virginia. The gods of the people, by editing, sermonizing, and scheming, are straining every nerve to retain them in the bondage of their traditions. Now although we are poor, we are more than a match for them, if we can only get access to the ears and eyes of their disciples. In saying this we do not boast of ourselves, for as to talent, native and acquired, the aliens are a host against us. But like the stripling David with his sling and stone, we feel exceeding powerful for overturning the reasonings and high things raised up against the knowledge of God by the machinations of the Goliahs of the day; for God has chosen the foolish of the world to put the wise to shame, and those that are nothing to reduce to nothing those that are; that no flesh might glory in his presence.” When we cannot obtain all we would, we should make the best of what we have. In passing through life this is the true wisdom. While, therefore, the brethren are praying for more laborers, let them prove the sincerity of their prayers, by aiding the efforts of those already in the field. Let them cease to be like the wagoner, who prayed to Hercules to extricate his wagon from the mud, instead of putting his own shoulder to the wheel, and making the best of what strength he had. The churches are not burthened with the support of an idle priesthood, let them, therefore, who do know their God, be strong and do.

The Editor has many calls from the cardinal points in Eastern Virginia, to come over and help. Inclination pulls him one way and duty another. You know, brethren, that he who provides not for his own house, has denied the faith and is worse than an infidel. The Editor, therefore, must provide things honorable in the sight of all men. If he do not do this, but get into debt, how can he exhort his hearers to owe no man any thing? The practice must correspond to the preach, if any good is to be done. He will, therefore, only be able to comply occasionally during this year with invitations abroad. He has his hands full at home, and an increasing attention on the part of the citizens of Richmond to the cause we plead, demands his unceasing efforts. It is a matter of great importance to have a congregation of Christ, intelligent and well organized, in the metropolis of Virginia. Much would be gained if we could have one in the metropolis of every state. The gospel could then be sounded out in every direction, like radii diverging from the centre. But, brethren, if the Editor cannot serve you as much as he could wish, and you desire, by word of mouth, you can show your devotion to the cause by putting your own shoulders to the wheel, which will be evinced by a self denying and correct deportment, keeping yourselves unspotted from the world, and by aiding the Advocate and his contemporaries in their arduous and important labors. The press is a powerful engine. It is a mighty messenger, whom all the combined power of the Kings of Europe cannot control. Without his aid, Luther’s revolt could not have been effected, and the world might still have been groaning under the despotism of kings, priests, ignorance and superstition. His voice is loud, as when a lion roars; and when he cries seven thunders utter their voices. “A little book” is a mighty weapon, and like the tongue, has “set the wheel of nature in a blaze.” We rely, therefore, a great deal on the potency of a little book, in our efforts at reformation and restoration. It has done wonders, and will yet do more. It has embittered the stomach, but sweetened the taste; and, while the ponderous tomes of systems of divinity encumber the dusty shelves of the libraries of the downy doctors of the day, from which they pilfer the chopped logic of their sermons,—the wayfaring man though unlearned, can recline under the shade of a tree, and, drawing from his pocket the little book which contains the will of his heavenly Father, he can imbibe the divine words of the Holy Spirit which are able to make him wise to salvation, and far more learned, too, than the gods of the people, though charged to the full with the crudities of Whitby, Gill, Scott and Henry. Despise not, therefore, the day of little books and small things, but promote, as far as you can, the circulation of the fearless and independent “Advocate” of the ancient gospel and apostolic order of things. Editor.

Thomas, J. (1834-1836). The apostolic advocate. Title from caption. (1:277-284). 

Richmond, Va.: s.n.

Return by 1906

John Thomas later promoted a new date, 1906 with a sixth millennium starting by 1910 which is found elsewhere in an article, God’s 7000 Year Plan. This also goes into some of thinking behind the date setting. This later date was embraced by Robert Roberts who played a large role in establishing Statements of Faith and was the editor of the main means of communication at the time, The Christadelphian Magazine. It was also found in a book, Christendom Astray used to prove all other churches interpreted the Bible wrong and was widely dispersed by Christadelphians.






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)