Elpis Israel and its impact

Elpis Israel by John Thomas

After my baptism I was presented with a copy of Elpis Israel written by Brother John Thomas in 1849. Seven years later I attended an Elpis Israel Class in the centre of Birmingham. The Bible was presented in a way that I had not heard before. It came alive. It was a thrilling rediscovery of the Truth.

Oh yes, I asked a lot of questions at first, but after 12 months I surrendered. Brother John Thomas had won. He became my teacher, and I never looked back.

Sixty years later, having led a series of Elpis Israel classes and a variety of others including Eureka classes, I am still learning from the doctor.

Doctor? Yes, Dr Thomas. Since the very beginning of the Christadelphian movement, this title has been used as a term of affection in addition to the more normal Brother John Thomas. As one 92-year-old brother in England said to me many years ago, “Dr Thomas was the last of the sealing angels” (Revelation 17:2,3). And I agree with him.

Need for a teacher

I’ve heard some say that the Bible is the only book we need. Not true. We all need a teacher. If not, why do we have speakers at our meetings? Why do we need magazines and books to help us? Or the Web?

Elpis Israel classes
Elpis Israel classes

Forty years ago, I was with Brother Dennis Gillett at a Bible School in South Africa. After I had given a talk on how Brother Thomas had raised up the Truth again, Brother Gillett said to me, “I don’t see how that if God used Brother Thomas to raise up the Truth — and as a Christadelphian, you have to believe that — God could have left him widely astray on prophecy, can you?” A very good point indeed.

Brother H P Mansfield once told me that after he had spoken to a large gathering of Christadelphians in Glasgow, an old brother stood up and asked, “Do you believe that Brother Thomas was inspired?” H P Mansfield said, No, not inspired, but that God used him to raise up the Truth again in the last days. At which point the old brother exclaimed, “Well I do!”

Of course, we do not believe brother Thomas was inspired as the prophets of Israel were. If he had been inspired then what he wrote would be God’s Word, a 67th book of the Bible. But there is no doubt that God did specially use him for the task of bringing out the truth of the Bible from the errors of the churches. We are the beneficiaries.

The benefit of reading this book

Amazingly Brother Thomas wrote Elpis Israel only two years after his baptism. He did so at the request of Scottish friends who, having heard his lectures in Glasgow, wanted a permanent record of what he had said. That he did leave this record is a great blessing for which we all should be most grateful to God.

The book is titled Elpis Israel, meaning, ‘The Hope of Israel’. The title is taken from Romans 8:24, “we are saved by the hope”, and Acts 28:20. It was these two passages that were the last link in the chain that confirmed to Brother Thomas that he had now discovered the Truth of the Scriptures. It resulted in his baptism into the name of Jesus Christ and his final separation from the Campbellite church.

To my mind, Elpis Israel is the best overall exposition of the Bible ever written. No one else since has written, or could have written, such a magnificent exposition of the Bible. In Elpis Israel, Brother Thomas covers a remarkably broad range of topics with exceptional clarity. As the careful reader follows the doctor’s analytical reasoning from the Scriptures, he learns how to study God’s Word for himself. The reader’s mind is lifted to new spiritual heights. In fact, Elpis Israel by Brother Thomas, together with Christendom Astray by Brother Robert Roberts, became the foundation by which the Christadelphian brotherhood, based so soundly upon the truth of the Bible, came into being.

Brother John Carter made it a practice to read Elpis Israel every year. As a result, he became the most respected brother in the Christadelphian community as editor of The Christadelphian magazine and author of several outstanding books on the Scriptures.

Following Brother Carter’s example, Brother Harry Tennant set out to do the same, but admitted that, although he had not managed to read Elpis Israel every year, he did read it very regularly.


As I mentioned at the beginning of this brief review, I was presented with a copy of Elpis Israel at my baptism. Written on the flyleaf are the following words which were originally written by the apostle Paul to the young man Timothy:

Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth” 2 Timothy 2:15.

I know of no better book to help a young man — or older man for that matter — to fulfill this task of rightly dividing and becoming powerful in the Word of God

Elpis Israel is now published on Christadelphian Classics

Brother Paul Cresswell is the presenter for our recently published version of Elpis Israel on Christadelphian Classics.

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