Harry Whittaker
Five Minutes To Twelve

1. Personal

One of the main intentions behind this survey of certain aspects of Bible prophecy is to make an appeal to readers to start afresh in their studies in this field. It therefore becomes desirable to save the reader from false assumptions by indicating briefly what the author's stance is.

Born in 190S, I was reared almost from birth in the Christadelphian Faith. My maternal grandmother was a personal friend of R. R. She did not hesitate to take that great man on in discussion (in private, of course). So, interpretation of Bible prophecy was a much-savoured item of diet in my early days. My first reading of Eureka 1, 2, ~ (under a very capable mentor) was achieved before the age of 17. Thereafter other Christadelphian classics featured largely in my reading, with constant copious annotations.

As the years went by, and Biblical experience was consolidated, the realisation dawned that there were plenty of questions, which that early reading left unanswered. And quite a few familiar ideas, which I had been taught to believe, were rock-solid actually had a fair element of assumption or speculation about them. A good deal of critical but not unsympathetic re-searching took place. Many discussions, held with brethren of widely differing understanding, also helped forward the process of unremitting re-assessment. Thus, imperceptibly, over long period ideas changed. Blanks were filled out, and some conclusions simply had to be modified. One of the biggest shocks was the realisation that not a few Last Day prophecies seemed to have been bypassed altogether in our inherited understanding.

Yet, over against this, was the outcome of a similar process of reinvestigation of what we rightly call First Principles. There was a short period of uncertainty round about the age of 2-22, but this was effectively laid to rest by (a) much college encounter with unbelief, and (b) a rigorous re-read of "Christendom Astray". As the years have gone by, the solid truth of the Christadelphian Faith has become the sheet anchor of my Bible understanding. Lots of encounters with other points of view have left me in no doubt about this. Our Christadelphian Faith is the best in the world. If only we all stand firmly together on such a basis, and leave less important matters as "options", because having a less solid Biblical base, how much more effective the Truth of Christ would be in these present evil times.

It is necessary, then, to assert here very firmly that most of the field of Bible study which we think of as being specially concerned with the End Time (eschatology, for those who enjoy big words), should be regarded as in this "optional" category. The man who looks down on those disagreeing with his dogmatic interpretation of these, as yet unfulfilled, prophecies actually deserves the pity of those whom he despises. Only a fool would insist that there must be complete unanimity in this field of prophetic interpretation. Such an attitude springs from the conviction, which has been fostered in some quarters that our early mentors in Bible understanding were incapable of error (a terrible, if unwitting, blasphemy!).

A wholesome story has come down from the 1860's about Dr. Thomas. A young friend of his, R. C. Bingley (author of "index Rerum"), went to the great man on one occasion with the remonstration:

"I have caught you out contradicting yourself in Eureka! Here in volume one you say one thing; but here in volume three, commenting on the same Scripture, you say something quite different."

In response to this, the doughty veteran merely picked up that volume one and pointed to the date of publication: 1861. Then he did the same for volume three: 1868. Then, with a finger on the earlier detail cited, he said quietly: "Scratch it out"-the plain implication being: 'In the years between the writing of those two volumes, I had time to mature in my insight regarding that question.'

This willingness to adjust in the light of fuller understanding shows also in the modifications which the author of 'Elpis Israel' made to his second edition, a pr~ cess which C.C.W, editing, took quite a bit further in the early years of this century; and now, sixty years on, C. C. W.'s interpretation needs a further overhaul.

So, I say again, in the realm of unfulfilled prophecy, let there be a humbly undogmatic spirit. To be sure, certain main ideas, even though still future, are in a firm category to themselves- such items as the truth of the Second Coming, the Day of Judgment, the invasion of Israel from the north; these seem to stand out clearly. But when the Second Coming will transpire, or where the Judgment will take place, or precisely how that Gogian invasion will work out are matters certainly for assiduous research and maybe for cherished opinion, but not for exclusive dogmatism.

It is hoped that the reader, concluding this chapter, will now appreciate the spirit, which I would fain bespeak in my readers. Later chapters will renew this appeal for honest handling of Scripture and for a willingness, when the evidence warrants it, for a change of mind.

If there are any blatant errors in these pages, it would be a kindness if my attention were steered to them.

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