On the 5 March 1871 Brother John Thomas died in New York at the age of 65. The 150th anniversary of this event gives us an opportunity to reflect on his life, his legacy and what we are as a community today. We live in tumultuous times and need more than ever a clear vision of the future and a strong hope to endure until the end.

We are privileged to have had the guidance of Brother Thomas towards an understanding of the “Hope of Israel,” that glorious hope which bound the Apostle Paul to endure all things for Christ (Acts 28:20).

Brother Thomas began his search for ‘the true way to immortality’ in 1832, at the age of 27, following his near shipwreck in the Atlantic Ocean off Nova Scotia. This search took 14 years. His understanding developed in four stages:

  1. Through serious and prayerful Bible study.
  2. By understanding the need for baptism through adult immersion with a knowledge of the gospel.
  3. By believing that immortality could only be received at Christ’s return.
  4. By reasoning that Christ will return to establish the Kingdom of God on earth.

This last phase from 1843 until his baptism in 1847 was reflected in his many writings. In 1844 he commenced a magazine entitled Herald of the Future Age. This was followed in 1851 by Herald of the Kingdom and Age to Come.

Brother Robert Roberts followed this example when he commenced a magazine in 1864 called The Ambassador of the Coming Age. At the suggestion of Brother Thomas, the name of this magazine was later changed to The Christadelphian, which is still published under that banner to this day.

It was this emphasis on the kingdom and the return of Christ that in 1848 led him to visit Britain, his birthplace, to preach the Gospel of the Kingdom. This was a time of political turmoil in Europe and many people were anxious about the future. His message was written up in his book Elpis Israel in 1849, at the request of his hearers.

The name “Christadelphian” was coined by Brother Thomas in 1864 during the American Civil War. In assisting brethren in Illinois to gain exemption from military service he identified them as “Christadelphians” or “Brethren in Christ.” This a significant name. Our relationship to our Lord Jesus, the Christ, as his brethren, is a privilege of indescribable honour—for “he is not ashamed to call them brethren” (Heb 2:11). In these “last days” may we hold fast to our “Hope” and rely more on our God and on our Lord Jesus to maintain the faith; proclaim the good news of the coming kingdom, and manifest the character of Christ to all, especially our fellow brothers and sisters.

The tombstone erected over the grave of Brother Thomas bears the following inscription:

Here lies, in brief repose, waiting the return of the Lord from Heaven

JOHN THOMAS, M.D.

Author of “Elpis Israel”, “Eureka”, “Anastasis”, “Phanerosis”, and other works.

In his works and lectures he demonstrated the unscriptural character of popular christianity, and brought to light anew the long lost faith of the Apostles.

“Thy Word is Truth”

During a busy life time, by mouth and pen, he contended earnestly for the faith once delivered to the saints, and at his death left behind him as the result of his labours a body of people, in different parts of the world, known as

The Christadelphians

to continue the work begun.