“Christendom Astray” was first published as “Twelve Lectures on the Teaching of the Bible” in 1862. In the intervening 103 years a number of editions have been made available to assist earnest men and women in their search for The Truth.
The author, Robert Roberts, of Huddersfield, England, had single objective—to promote the personal study of the Holy Scriptures, with a view to salvation. This present edition will assist in promoting the author’s original intention.
In Lecture 2 the erroneous doctrine of the immortality of the soul is shown to be contrary to Nature and Revelation. Some of the arguments are those which were necessary in 1862 against the then-current philosophical arguments. In noting with interest how the author stood against the philosophical arguments of his day, the reader will learn a valuable lesson. The same Bible which stood against philosophical arguments a century ago, is still mighty to stand against the modern philosophical arguments advanced against the Bible today. The ground of the contention has altered, but the principle is the same—human reasoning exalting itself against Divine revelation.
In a different category is Lecture 16 entitled “Times and Signs: or the evidence that the end is near”. In this lecture, Robert Roberts wrote in 1862, after reviewing certain chronological arguments:
“ … if this is so, there wants about forty-four years to complete the 6,000 years of the great world-week, and therefore we are that number of years from the time when the blessing of Abraham shall prevail o’er the whole world through Christ. But we are not, therefore, that number of years from the advent. This may happen within the next twelve months. The coming of Christ is one event; the setting up of the kingdom another.”
His anticipation of the return of Christ at that time, and the establishment of the Kingdom by 1906, was incorrect. The question becomes: “Should an error of this nature be preserved in the present edition, or left out?” Who can answer a question of this nature better than the author himself? In the Preface to the Fifth Edition, Robert Roberts stated:
“The prophetic-chronological conclusions of lecture 11(A) are allowed to appear unaltered, although the state of facts in this year, 1869, would seem to stultify them. The fact is that events have verified them, and brought us to the era of the advent. A.D. 1866 has been signalised by epochal events characteristic of the termination of the Little Horn period, though it has not brought the consummation. The mistake was m expecting the occurrence of the advent and resurrection immediately 1866 was attained …”
Robert Roberts did not hesitate to retain a point on which he was open to challenge, because he was well aware that a discerning mind would appreciate the general argument advanced, and be able to press on in personal study.
The lecture in question is a valuable section of this book. It will give the reader an insight into principles to be applied in order to understand the prophecies of the Bible. It deals with the great time periods of the Bible. It details much of the history of Europe essential to an understanding of the development of prophecy through a period of nearly 2,000 years. It pinpoints the position of the Catholic Church in Bible prophecy, in a clear and forthright manner. Events are outlined concerning the last-days activities of Turkey, Russia and the Jews, leading up to the personal return of the Lord Jesus Christ.
The author of Christendom Astray was greatly assisted in his understanding of the Bible by the writings of his predecessor, John Thomas. The study of the Bible on the part of John Thomas revealed to him also that Christendom was astray from the Scriptures. He set down the results of his research in a book entitled Elpis Israel (or The Hope of Israel) being “an exposition of the Kingdom of God.” The book, which is a standard work of the Christadelphians, expounds both Bible doctrine and prophecy in a manner that reveals that the latter does predict the future with certainty, and that when it is correctly expounded, can be completely relied upon. Consider the following statements made in the year 1848:
Concerning the Jews
“There is, then, a partial and primary restoration of the Jews before the advent of Christ, which is to serve as the nucleus, or basis, of future operations in the restoration of the rest of the tribes after he has appeared in the kingdom. The pre-adventual colonisation of Palestine will be on purely political principles; and the Jewish colonists will return in unbelief of the Messiahship of Jesus, and of the truth as it is in him. They will emigrate thither as agriculturists and traders, in the hope of ultimately establishing their commonwealth, but more immediately of getting rich in silver and gold by commerce with India, and in cattle and goods by their industry at home under the efficient protection of the British power” (Elpis Israel, pp. 395/6—3rd. Edition, printed 1859).
This statement, based upon Bible prophecy, has been remarkably fulfilled. A partial restoration of Jewry has taken place, the nation of Israel has come into existence, and Britain was a prime mover in accomplishing this.
“As I have said elsewhere, the Lion-power will not interest itself in behalf of the subjects of God’s kingdom, from pure generosity, piety towards God, or love of Israel; but upon the principles which actuate all the governments of the world—upon those, namely, of the lust of dominion, self-preservation, and self-aggrandisement. God, who rules the world, and marks out the bounds of habitation for the nations, will make Britain a gainer by the transaction. He will bring her rulers to see the desirableness of Egypt, Ethiopia, and Seba, which they will be induced, by the force of circumstances, probably, to take possession of. They will, however, before the battle of Armageddon, be compelled to retreat from Egypt and Ethiopia …” (p. 398).
Following World War 1 (seventy years after the above statement was written) Britain was granted a mandate over Palestine, and sponsored the establishment there of a national home for the Jews. Since that time, and developing out of that movement, the nation of Israel came into existence. It is all in fulfilment of Bible prophecy, as the above writer clearly showed.
In the Preface to the 3rd. Edition of Elpis Israel (p. 21), the author wrote:
“Russia’s mission is to reduce all the nations of the Old World, save Britain and her dependencies, into one imperial dominion represented in the book of Daniel by the Image of Nebuchadnezzar. Licentiousness will again break loose, and in the mêlée the Austro-Papal empire will succumb; the contest will end in the discomfiture of the Continent and Russia, like a mighty inundation, will overflow the nations, and dash her waves upon their shores, from the Danish Belts to the Dardanelles. Britain will rage, and shake the world with her thunder; but, as in the days of Napoleon, her alliance will be fatal to them that trust her, and only precipitate their fall.”
Again (p. 13):
“When Russia makes its grand move for the building up of its image-empire, then let the reader know that the end of all things as at present constituted, is at hand. The long expected, but stealthy advent of the King of Israel, will be on the eve of becoming a fact; and salvation will be to those, who not only looked for it, but have trimmed their lamps by believing the gospel of the kingdom unto the obedience of faith, and the perfection thereof in ‘fruits meet for repentance.’ ”
There is much more in this book in similar vein, not only in regard to the nations mentioned above, but the world in general; and the fulfilment of these anticipations clearly reveals that the Bible is true, and its prophecies certain of fulfilment.
Robert Roberts made a mistake in setting a date for the establishment of the Kingdom of God on earth, because the Bible clearly states: “of that day and that hour knoweth no man, no, not the angels which are in heaven, neither the Son, but the Father” (Mark 13:32). There are time periods set down in the Bible, but they do not reveal that date, and the fact that Robert Roberts made a mistake in regard to them only serves to underline the importance for every reader of Christendom Astray to turn to the Bible himself for confirmation of the matters set before him. Let him do this, and he will be led into all truth, and rejoice in the knowledge of God’s plan of salvation, and His future purpose to send back Jesus Christ to this earth, that he might establish therein the universal Kingdom over which he will reign (Acts 1:11; Daniel 2:44; Zechariah 14:9). There is a “day appointed” for this glorious and wonderful event (Acts 17:31), and the signs of the times show that it is near at hand, for “at the set time,” “when the Lord shall build up Zion, He shall appear in His glory” (Psalm 102:13, 16).