At the close of Thomas Coke’s 6-volume Commentary, some editions
have a long Appendix at the end of his Commentary on Revelation.
Here, Coke, who was writing in 1803, included much of his speculation concerning
prophecy and world events. Following the calculations of George Faber, Coke
expected the final overthrow of Islamic, Papal, and Infidel powers by about
1866. Coke’s reference to Infidel powers was a reference to the French
Revolution (1789-1799). He saw the French Revolution as a clear indication that
the “great and terrible day of the Lord” was at hand. While the
French Revolution as a politic movement was short lived, the humanistic Enlightment
philosophy prevailed as modernism from the time of the French Revolution to
the collapse of communism — 1789-1989.
Just as Revelation 13, 16:13 and 19:20 describes an unholy trinity of dragon, beast, and false prophet, so Coke believed there were three Antichrists. Faber established the beginning of Roman Catholic tyranny with the papacy of Boniface III in A. D. 606. Coke also connected the rise of Islam with A. D. 606. With this starting date of 606 Coke adds 1260 years, using the prevalent day/year formula, and Coke concluded that all three Antichrists would be overthrown by 1866. The rise of the most recent Antichrist, in the form of the French Revolution, was evidence that things could not go on much longer. By 1866 Armageddon would be fought, the conversion of the Jews would begin, and the millennium would be established by a reign of righteousness which Christ would establish on the earth.
It should be noted that Coke was not predicting the second advent of Christ by 1866. Nor do I have any problem with his analysis that the spirit of antichrist is present within Roman Catholicism, Islam, and modernism. The real problem is with his time frame. Obviously, he was wrong in his projections. Yet he was not alone. Using different dates, Clarke predicted the end of Islam in 1902 [see his comments on Daniel 12:11]. The problem is that these commentators, like all commentators of their day, took Revelation to be the chronological history of the Church written in advance. They also took the 1260 days, mentioned by both Daniel and John, as years. It was this day/year formula which led them to false conclusions. This formula was largely discredited after the Great Disappointment, when William Miller used it as a premillennialist to predict the return of Christ in 1843, then 1844.
Today the real debate is between preterists, who interpret the seventy weeks of Daniel, as well as the events of Revelation, as fulfilled in the first century and futurists, who see Daniel’s seventieth week and the book of Revelation as future.
While Coke’s Appendix has historical interest, it is probably the least helpful section of his Commentary. It was reprinted especially because of Coke’s comments on the significance of Islam. While the early Methodists were correct in their evaluation of the spirit of Islam and in their hope that the Gospel of Jesus Christ would overthrow it, history has proven them wrong on their dates for its fall.
Respectfully submitted Dr. Vic Reasoner