Vol. 20 New Series August, 1958 No. 4

In an effort to get at the truth about what happened in 1907 to cause Dr. Bullinger and a large proportion of his followers to embrace the theory of the "Acts 28:28 Frontier," I drew attention some time ago to the important part played by J. J. B. Coles at the very start, early in that year, as its originator. At last he is receiving due recognition, indeed exaggerated recognition, after a half century of neglect, from Mr. O. Q. Sellers, who has described him as a "careful student" (The Word of Truth, January, 1958, p. 36). As I was careful to give him such credit as was his due, I consider that it is therefore incumbent on me to see to it that he does not get credit beyond his due; and to show that "careful" is, a most inappropriate word to describe his published studies.

In his opening "broadside" in "Things To Come" for February, 1907, he wrote of the fulfilment of Isa. 6:9-10 thus (p. 16):

That is a plain misstatement. Matt. 13:10-17 was not a mere reference but a very definite pronouncement. It is Paul who in Acts 28:25 refers to Isaiah's words.
Then Mr. Coles writes:
But "parousia" means "presence," not "return and Kingdom." It was never anywhere "offered." And what does "especially" mean here, except to confuse the issue? A more careless and slipshod statement would be hard to find anywhere. Then we are assured that this "offer" was being made "within those thirty years covered by the Acts." I wish we could be offered some proof instead.

Finally, just before his close, the conjuror produces his trick,

No "careful" or really honest, student could write such a specimen of argument by insinuation. It is a deliberate attempt to mislead.

Unfortunately, all this, apparently, appealed immensely to Dr. Bullinger who, two months after, made it clear that he had wholeheartedly accepted Mr. Coles, including his methods; as the following quotation will show (p. 39 ):

Put this against Rom. 11:13; 1. Cor. 10:18; 12:2; Gal. 2:2 and 7; 1. Thess. 1:9; 2:14 and the folly of it becomes manifest at once. How such a fine scholar as Dr. Bullinger could have permitted himself to make such assertions is incomprehensible. What is perhaps even more astounding is that he appears to have got away with it! He even produces
a fresh flight of fancy of his own:
How we can be expected to "see" anything so obviously untrue is not explained. It is a good general rule to avoid like the plague any teacher who expects us to see the invisible.

Little more of much significance was published on this theme till July, 1908, by which time the new heresy had firmly established itself in "Things To Come."

Soon after (October, 1908) Mr. Coles revealed his final objective, the destruction of 1. Thess. 4:13-17 as an effective
hope for ourselves, thus:

This shocking passage should be pondered as an awful warning attempt to force Scripture at all costs to conform to them. Note the "it would seem" and the "may."

That this seedling of gross error soon bore fruit in Dr. Bullinger's mind is shown by the following quotations from an editorial paper in "Things To Come" for December, 1908. No wonder it is so hard now to present the truth of all this.

Since I particularly applied myself to the study of the Thessalonian Epistles it has become plain to me that they are almost always the ultimate objective of the inventors of heresies. This is highly significant.

Two years after his campaign opened, Mr. Coles appears to have dropped out and his place taken by Mr. C. H. Welch in "Things To Come." We are not told why.

Thanks to my efforts, the facts available are now better known and Mr. Coles has at last received recognition as the one who convinced Dr. Bullinger and many others of a nonexistent fundamental "dispensational" boundary at Acts 28:28. How he accomplished this is still a profound mystery.

R. B. WITHERS. Last updated 15.10.2005