Posts Tagged ‘Plymouth Brethren’

Thoughts on the Apocalypse: B.W. Newton Commentary on Revelation

October 3, 2013 2 comments

From the list of free online books by classic premillennialists, I’m now reading an interesting Revelation commentary: Thoughts on the Apocalypse (Google Play 3rd edition here), by Benjamin Wills Newton.

A contemporary and friend of Charles Spurgeon, Newton (1807-1899) was closely associated with Darby and the Plymouth Brethren movement for a while, then broke away over differences in church practice and doctrine, from which came the 1848 split of the brethren movement into the Open Brethren (including B.W. Newton and George Muller) and the Exclusive Brethren (Darby).  The Spurgeon archive includes references from Spurgeon’s Sword & Trowel to the Plymouth Brethren, as here  and here.

Newton was a voluminous writer (see H.A. Ironside’s description of Newton), the author of many works related to prophecy, including this in-depth commentary on the book of Revelation.  What I’ve read so far (through Revelation 6) includes good observations regarding the Church –and its original intended greatness as symbolized in Revelation 1 followed by the sad reality especially in reference to Constantine – as well as great appreciation for Israel and the apostle John as one from a Jewish background who recognized the judicial darkness that unbelieving Israel was by this time experiencing:

John had the feelings and sympathies of one who had learned to contemplate what was passing among men in the light of God and of His Truth. … There is also a philanthropy which is according to God and guided by His word ; and this John possessed. He had not ceased to feel as a man, and as an Israelite, because he had become a Christian. He was not insensible either to the travail of creation “groaning in the bondage of corruption,” or to the fallen condition of Israel over which Daniel, and a greater than Daniel, had wept. He knew that darkness had been judicially sent upon their hearts, and that until that was removed, the long-promised morning of joy — ” the morning without clouds ” — could not arise either on them or on the nations. He understood how the destinies of the earth were bound up with those of Israel, and that evil would continue to mark the course of human things, until Israel should “convert and be healed.”

Newton’s approach to the book of Revelation is clearly futurist (and premillennial) — noting times past, when Christians sought to find “fulfillment” in the prophecies occurring throughout church history, as incorrect.  Newton further explains the visions in Revelation 6 through 18 as not chronological from one chapter to the next but as separate visions all describing the same time period, each revealing a part of what will happen during that time period but never reaching the end until Revelation 19.  Following the precedent of Old Testament prophecies (and Newton shows good knowledge of the Old Testament prophets), Newton often sees a vision as first telling the good news of the end before going into the events previous to that.  Thus, his interpretation of the first seal in Revelation 6 is quite different from what I’ve read from more recent authors:  that the person going forth to conquer and conquering must be the Lord Jesus Christ, since no other can truly conquer; thus, he reasons, the first seal is showing the great and glorious end when Christ triumphs, AFTER the events of judgment given in the following seals.  I’m not ready yet to agree with him on the specific definition of the 1st seal, though in the overall prophetic picture that particular item is not an essential to futurist premillennialism — it does not change our understanding of what antichrist will do during the time following the 1st seal.  I also wonder here if Newton’s interpretation reflects the “standard” understanding of that time; perhaps our 21st century prevailing idea (that the 1st seal is AntiChrist) was suggested in the 150 years since Newton’s time.

In agreement with the text and other commentary I’ve read as from today’s pre-wrath authors, the sixth seal is immediately before Christ returns, as Newton observes here:

We behold the signs which immediately precede the manifestation of the Lord in glory. The Lord Jesus had before said, “There shall be signs in the sun, and in the moon, and in the stars, and upon the earth,   distress of nations with perplexity, the sea and waves roaring; men’s hearts failing them for fear and for looking after those things which are coming on the earth, for the powers of heaven shall be shaken.” Such are the signs which are seen in the vision here. Men recognize them and tremble. They say to the mountains and rocks, ” Fall on us and hide us from the face of him that sitteth on the throne and from the wrath of the Lamb ; for the great day of his wrath is come, and who shall be able to stand?” Thus far this vision leads us: but no more is revealed. It is not the intention of this part of the Revelation to describe the manifestation of the Lord in glory, or to speak of the events which follow that manifestation.

Newton’s Revelation commentary is beneficial, well written and in-depth in consideration of Revelation and all of God’s word.  I look forward to further reading in this book as well as many more of Benjamin Wills Newton’s books.