What is it that leads us to regard as comforting, a situation like this, which fills the world with fear and trembling? You know the answer. God has made known, for the comfort of His servants, during the prevalence of darkness upon the earth, what should come to pass among men, in so far as it bears upon His purpose. He has done this "at sundry times and in divers manners." The most notable "time" was A.D. 96, or thereabouts, and when, in the most striking "manner," a symbolic vision was shown to John in Patmos, for communication to the brethren of Christ, "that they might know the things that were shortly to come to pass," and know the blessedness of "hearing the words of this prophecy" in the discernment it would impart to them of the hand of God in the affairs of the nations of the earth.
By means of this vision. Light has been shed on a.Jl the dark chaos that has filled up the interval since Christ's departure from the summit of the Mount of Olives. The light has not been discerned by many. Divine light never has been seen by the multitude. God's own appointment is that "none of the wicked shall understand," and the earth is filled with the wicked-as divinely estimated. But it has been discerned, more or less clearly, by a few, in all the intervening ages, since it was given.
In our own age, it has been caused to shine out with even piercing brightness. In Dr. Thomas, God gave us a man by whom the vision has become plain and luminous. By his aid, we have been able to see, with this result that, without his further aid, we can read the Apocalypse with unspeakable comfort and light. That is, the light we have
received, is not artificial light. It does not depend upon Dr. Thomas's dictum, or Dr. Thomas's ingenuity, as in the case of empirical theories and systems that men ha,ve broached. It is light that belongs to the subject itself, and which we can see and apply for ourselves long after he has gone to his grave; and without any further reading of his wonderful Eureka, though that is always a luxury.
By the light of this priceless vision which "God gave unto Jesus Christ .. that his servants might know," we are able to look back upon the panorama of European history, and identify the various prophetic scenes shown to John in Patmos. We are able to trace the progress down to our own day, and to discern where we ourselves stand in the divine programme in the midst of the turmoils of our own troubled day.
The result has been to enable us to anticipate the occurrence of a number of things that have really happened, and in the order in which they have transpired; and the further result'is to give us assurance of the nearness of the coming of the Lord. Nothing plants this assurance so firmly in the heart as a general grasp of the Apocalyptic visions. The assurance so derived is independent of chronological considerations and ca.Jculations of the character recently discussed under the enquiry, "Why the delay?"· These considerations strengthen it, but they are not vital to it with the Apocalypse in hand. Here the whole matter is pictorially exhibited in panoramic sequence by which we can see where we are without reference to chronological problems. Historically speaking, we have seen the whole picture pass before our eyes up to a certain point, and that point is the present time, and the thing that ought to be happening at the present time is happening.
The Apocalypse itself may be likened to a programme which God has put into our hands; and the European habitable to a stage or platform on which certain things are to be shown having reference to His purpose on earth. The programme has been faithfully carried out for 1,800 years, and we now see what ought to be on the stage at the present moment according to the programme. We see an exhausted Turkish empire at the collapsing point, and militant nations having been brought into their present armed state and temper through the operations of the Franco-frog diplomacy
A series of articles which appeared in The Christadelphian in which the time-periods of prophecy were discussed in the light of Christ's continued absence.
Oil the three leading centres of the Roman-European system as foreshown in chapter 16: 12-14. We see the way preparing for the coming new order of kings whose land has been desolated by the Euphratean Ottoman. This has been the situation for years past, and now we see in Egypt one of those sharp wrenches of Providence that have power to lead a prepared situation into new developments.
A new turning point has, in fact, been reached, at which there is scarcely anything we may not shortly see in the way of the completion of the political programme on which our eyes have been fixed with earnest solicitude for over thirty years past. ]f the Turkish empire disappear, which is now almost the daily expectation of politicians, the Holy Land will be liberated from the only obstacle that restrains the full development of impending Jewish restoration under English protection; * and there is nothing then between us and the precious parenthesis of verse 15, "Behold I come as a thief' -followed by the convulsions of the seventh vial, when "a great voice out of the temple of heaven from the throne," proclaims "it is done" and lets loose "voices and thunders and Lightning’s," and "a great earthquake such
as was not since there were men upon the earth, so mighty an earthquake and so great" -commotions which end in the subversion of the existing order of things upon the earth and the setting up of the kingdom of God.
lt is not possible to have greater comfort than this prospect affords: and it is not possible to have greater kindness shown to us from God than any outbreak of trouble that has the effect of waking up our dormant minds, and emancipating us from the bondage into which the present in its endless varieties of natural affinity, is so liable to bring us. Such an outbreak is far from agreeable, and in some senses far from profitable; but God, who knows our distemper, knows the remedy. and crowns His wisdom with His kindness in applying it in His own time and in His own way.
Ever praying you may be all supported in all the trials you may be called upon to endure, and may come forth from them all, more than conquerors, in the presence of the glorious Lord Jesus in the hastening day of his appearing. I write myself once more, with the true love that belongs only to the bonds of true fellowship in Christ.
Your companion in tribulation and patience and hope. 10th February, 1885. Robert Roberts.
* These anticipations have had wonderful vindication since the
death of Brother Roberts. 27