J. Stuart Russell

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Portrait of Russell by John Cochran

James Stuart Russell M.A., D.Div., (1816 – 1895) was a pastor and author of The Parousia. The book was originally published in 1878 with the title, The Parousia: A Critical Inquiry into the New Testament Doctrine of Our Lord's Second Coming. A second edition followed in 1887. A reprint of this edition by Baker Books is available with the title, The Parousia: The New Testament Doctrine of Our Lord's Second Coming.

James Stuart Russell - Undated Photograph, colorized by Virgil Vaduva

Early life and ministry[edit]

James Stuart Russell, the son of a pious Scotsman, was born at Elgin, Morayshire, on 28 November 1816. He entered King's College, University of Aberdeen, at the age of twelve and when eighteen he completed his M.A. degree. His religious decision dates from about his sixteenth year under the influence of his older brother. For a time he served in a law office. Then to prepare for a Christian ministry he studied in the Theological Halls of Edinburgh and Glasgow, ultimately finding his way to Cheshunt College.

In June 1843 Russell became an assistant minister at the Congregationalist Church in Great Yarmouth before taking over as minister. In 1857 Russell transferred to the Congregational Church in Tottenham and Edmonton. While holding this position, Russell visited Belfast to observe the working of the great Irish Revival and came under its influence. On his return a similar awakening occurred in his own church.

After a stay of five years in his second church, Russell was attracted to a new church in the rapidly growing Bayswater, whose chapel in Lancaster Road was built in 1866. Here he continued to serve until his years and failing health led to retirement near the end of 1888.

Russell was not only an able preacher, but also a man of kindly deportment. He was gifted with winning personal characteristics, which secured for him a devoted following. His pleasant manners and genial spirit, his native humor and genuine wit, his extensive reading and wide knowledge and most retentive memory, made conversations with him agreeable and profitable.

Russell's fervor stretched beyond the limits of his own pastorate. He was present, in 1843, at the formation of the Evangelical Alliance, with whose aim and operations he remained in warm and active sympathy to the last. He had an ever-deepening sense of the importance of the temperance movement, and he was the first chairman of the Congregational Total Abstinence Association. Both the National Temperance League and the United Kingdom Alliance counted him among their members. His advocacy of the good cause was in frequent demand for meetings in London and the suburbs.

Publishing The Parousia[edit]

Russell had held the doctrine of the past second Advent (Preterism) for many years before writing or even speaking on the subject. He used to describe how the matter came to him as a sort of revelation. On discovering the key to the mystery, the whole theme gradually unfolded. It was to him a source of constant delight to see one point after another fall into harmony with what he believed to be the central truth. Accordingly, in 1878, he published anonymously his now celebrated, The Parousia, containing an elaborate exegesis on these lines of New Testament teaching concerning the second coming of Jesus Christ. Another edition followed with the author's name attached.

This work drew much attention to the subject on both sides of the Atlantic. The University of Aberdeen soon signalled its appreciation of the book by conferring on the author a diploma in divinity, which he valued all the more highly because it came from his alma mater.

Later life[edit]

Russell's later years clouded with bodily infirmity and painful disease. He bore his sufferings, to the admiration of attendants and medical advisers, with a manly and even cheerful patience, upheld by his Christian faith. Again and again he repeated the words, "On Christ the solid rock I stand!" Moreover, his physical trials were happily relieved, as those of his sainted wife had been, by the tender solicitude and untiring devotion of an only daughter. From her arms and those of her one brother, the father passed peacefully away on 5 October 1895, in the 79th year of his age and the fifty-second year of his ministry. Russell is buried in the Kensal Green Cemetery.

Charles Spurgeon[edit]

While Charles Spurgeon did not share the eschatological views of J. Stuart Russell or the final conclusions of his book, in the 1878 issue of his magazine The Sword and the Trowel, Spurgeon wrote a short review of The Parousia:

The second coming of Christ according to this volume had its fulfilment in the destruction of Jerusalem and the establishment of the gospel dispensation. That the parables and predictions of our Lord had a more direct and exclusive reference to that period than is generally supposed, we readily admit; but we were not prepared for the assignment of all references to a second coming in the New Testament, and even in the Apocalypse itself, to so early a fulfilment. All that could be said has been said in support of this theory, and much more than ought to have been said. In this the reasoning fails. In order to concentrate the whole prophecies of the Book of Revelation upon the period of the destruction of Jerusalem it was needful to assume this book to have been written prior to that event, although the earliest ecclesiastical historians agree that John was banished to the isle of Patmos, where the book was written, by Domitian, who reigned after Titus, by whom Jerusalem was destroyed. Apart from this consideration, the compression of all the Apocalyptic visions and prophecies into so narrow a space requires more ingenuity and strength than that of men and angels combined. Too much stress is laid upon such phrases as 'The time is at hand,' 'Behold I come quickly,' whereas many prophecies of Scripture are delivered as present or past, as 'unto us a child is born,' etc., and 'Surely he hath borne our griefs, and carried our sorrows.' Amidst the many comings of Christ spoken of in the New Testament that which is spoken of as a second, must, we think, be personal, and thus similar to the first; and such too must be the meaning of 'his appearing.' Though the author's theory is carried too far, it has so much of truth in it, and throws so much new light upon obscure portions of the Scriptures, and is accompanied with so much critical research and close reasoning, that it can be injurious to none and may be profitable to all.[1][2]

Gary DeMar[edit]

Gary DeMar, the former president of American Vision wrote:

How many times have you struggled with the interpretation of certain Biblical texts related to the time of Jesus' return because they did not fit with a preconceived system of eschatology? Russell's Parousia takes the Bible seriously when it tells us of the nearness of Christ's return. Those who claim to interpret the Bible literally, trip over the obvious meaning of these time texts by making Scripture mean the opposite of what it unequivocally declares. Reading Russell is a breath of fresh air in a room filled with smoke and mirror hermeneutics.[citation needed]

R. C. Sproul[edit]

The founder and chairman of Ligonier Ministries, R. C. Sproul also wrote regarding The Parousia:

I believe that Russell's work is one of the most important treatments on Biblical eschatology that is available to the church today. The issues raised in this volume with respect to the time-frame references of the New Testament to the Parousia are vitally important not only for eschatology but for the future debate over the credibility of Sacred Scripture.[citation needed]

Kenneth Gentry[edit]

While remaining reserved about the final conclusions of The Parousia, Kenneth Gentry, a theologian and a professor at Bahnsen Theological Seminary, concluded:

Although I do not agree with all the conclusions of J. Stuart Russell's The Parousia, I highly recommend this well-organized, carefully argued, and compellingly written defense of Preterism to serious and mature students of the Bible. It is one of the most persuasive and challenging books I have read on the subject of eschatology and has had a great impact on my own thinking. Russell's biblico-theological study of New Testament eschatology sets a standard of excellence.[citation needed]


  1. ^ Being in possession of the volume referenced above, the quote should be considered suspect until it can be properly found in the volume itself. Pilgrim Publications reprints in volume 5 the years 1877, 1878, and 1879. In no month in 1878 can the above quote be found by my research. -added by G. D. Flahardy
  2. ^ It should be noted that Bob L. Ross, the publisher of Pilgrim Publications, was an ardent opponent to full preterism, yet he acknowledged the existence of this review. Apparently, it was censored. - Todd Dennis

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