One Hundred Twenty-Five Years of Fulfilment

It was our Lord Jesus who reminded the generation at the time of his first coming, For verily I say unto you, That many prophets and righteous men have desired to see those things which ye see, and have not seen them; and to hear those things which ye hear, and have not heard them (Matthew :17)That privileged generation was witness to divinely ordained developments that were unprecedented in history. It was the time of which Luke records, And as the people were in expectation, and all men mused in their hearts of John, whether he were the Christ, or not (Luke 3:15). It was the time when the Messiah of Israel, promised from the foundation of the world, was born and worked among men, as the apostle John testifies, That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked upon, and our hands have handled, of the Word of life (1 John 1).

What parallels exist between the generation that experienced the first coming of our Lord with our generation? If we are able to discern the signs of these times, our generation appears to be appointed to be eye witnesses of the second coming of the Lord from heaven. The records of a magazine like The Christadelphian Advocate record the observations and expectations of the brethren throughout its history. In comparison to what the brethren saw in the late 1880s relative to what we see today, they were among those who "desired to see those things which ye see and have not seen them." They saw only a bare outline of things taking shape in the earth that have reached their fullness over the span of time down to our generation in the twenty-first century.

A survey of the early years of The Christadelphian Advocate indicates that robust discussion of Bible prophecy was an important element of its content. Four themes received emphasis:

It was customary for a significant part of the content of many Editorials to contain the Editor's analysis of developments in the earth under the heading, "SIGNS OF THE TIMES." Brother Williams noted that the focus shifted after 1870 from the "Roman question" to the "Eastern question." By this he meant that students of prophecy were less occupied in expectation of the decline of the Pope's power, as that had occurred in 1870, and more concerned with the expectation of a partial return of the Jews to their ancient land, as an outcome of the striving of the nations over Turkey's demise:

The movements of all nations at the present time must be looked at as they effect the Eastern question, the solution of which requires just such movements as are to be seen at the present time. The brethren of the Lord have for years been looking in the light of prophecy, for the evaporation of the Euphrataen power; for the British power to control matters so as to admit of the colonization of Palestine by God's scattered people, the Jews; they have been looking for a partial return of the Jews to the land of their Fathers, to dwell there "without bars or gates;" they have been declaring England would, either by force of circumstances, or from free choice, take possession of the land of the Pharaohs; and that the Russian Bear would push forward one paw after another until he would make the Lion growl; and they still declare that very soon the fight will begin for which shall have the largest share of the Turkey. Now what do we see? Is not the situation formed in accordance with these prophetically inspired expectations? There is the "river Euphrates" dryed up until the bed is almost visible; England in Cyprus; and by treaty the protector of Asia Minor and Egypt; the Jews under English protection, and by English aid colonizing the Holy Land, Russia just at the present time stepping on forbidden ground belonging to one of England's allies - Afghanistan.

Thomas Williams Editorial, April, 1885, p. 36

Many of the expectations expressed by Brother Williams came to pass shortly after his death, as a result of Britain's driving the Turks from Palestine towards the end of the First World War in late 1917. The reference to Russia's threats towards Afghanistan shows that it was identified as a "fault line" in the rivalry among global powers one hundred twenty-five years ago.

The Christadelphian Advocate encouraged Bible students to express their understanding of the prophecies, for which there were earnest responses. The following is a short sample from the early years:

As we consider the zeal and watchfulness of the brethren in the early years of The Christadelphian Advocate, there is much that can be learned from them. While they held the work of Dr. Thomas in respect, they investigated the Scriptures in light of the things they saw developing in the earth, building with caution on the foundation which he laid. While they were in expectation then of the Lord's coming, the signs by which they were sustained remain relevant to this present time. They were premature as to the time but not in error as to the substance of Deity's plan developing in the earth precedent to the Lord's return.

Over its one hundred twenty-five year history, The Advocate has followed the same themes set out in its formative years and will continue to do so, God willing, until they are accomplished in the setting up of the Kingdom of God on earth. Even so, come, Lord Jesus.