SDA Church History-Tell It to the World


Dorothy Dunbar


For eight years, Miller preached mostly in small churches in little towns.  So, Miller went to Dresden, and the people there persuaded him to stay and preach every night for a week.  As soon as he returned home, an invitation waited him to preach at another place.  He Then he met Joshua V. Himes, and he had his first invitation to preach in the large city of Boston.  Miller’s message was not “a lot of fuss about a date.”  It was the first angel’s message: “the everlasting gospel” and “the hour of His judgment is come.” Rev.14:6, 7.  These intense evangelistic efforts were seeking to prepare a people to meet the Lord.


Other notable leaders joined miller, including Josiah Litch, a Methodist, Charles Fitch, a Congregationalist pastor, who had worked with Charles G. Finney.  There were James white and Joseph Bates, from the Christian Connection.  Altogether, there were 174 known ministers, and about half were Methodists, a fourth were Baptists, the rest included Presbyterians, Episcopalians, Lutherans, Quakers, and several others.  Miller was not the only leading “Millerite.”  And everywhere this message was preached, thousands attended…there was no time to lose, for Christ was coming in or about the year 1843.  Fitch even prepared a chart, showing the Bible prophecies.  This was what most of the lecturers used, along with the Daniel 2 image.


But, Jesus did not come in 1843, nor even in the early summer of 1844. As yet, there had been no positive time declared for His return. But, in August, at a camp meeting in Exeter, New Hampshire, a Millerite minister, S.S. Snow showed through his mathematical calculations that the fulfillment of the 2300-day prophecy of Dan. 8:14 would take place in the autumn of 1844.  Snow believed from his studies that Daniel’s prophecy about the cleansing of the sanctuary would be completed on the Jewish Day of Atonement. 


Snow claimed that he had calculated the exact day for the cleansing, which the Millerites still universally interpreted as the second coming of Christ.  That day in 1844, according to Karaite Jewish reckoning, fell on October 22.


The camp meeting audience was electrified, as they listened to this urgent message.  Why, that was only about two months away!  Although Miller, Himes and some other leading Adventist hesitated to fix their hopes on a definite day, the enthusiasm soon spread like fire in stubble.  Eventually, Miller, Himes and other Millerite leaders gave in to the belief.  Christ was coming!! Get ready!  Get ready!


In their excitement and conviction, the believers put everything into a final effort to warn the world of Christ’s soon coming! They didn’t even think in terms of a future here on earth—they didn’t need to! Some left their crops unharvested, closed their shops, and resigned from their jobs. Jesus was coming! Wonderful expectation! Blessed Hope fulfilled! What they did not realize that although the thought was like ‘honey in the mouth,’ it would soon be ‘bitter in the belly.’ (Rev.10:8-10)

October 22, tens of thousands of believers watched in eager expectation for the appearance of Jesus in the clouds. Others, who did not believe, still waited in doubt, afraid the Millerites just might be right. But, the day came and went, and Jesus did not appear. Sorrow and discouragement filled the hearts of the ones looking for Jesus. “We wept, and wept, till the day dawn.” This gave the scoffers even more to ridicule. What had happened? Why this awful disappointment? A small group of the faithful believers still thought the date was right, but, they could not understand what had happened.

Let us go back to Luke 24:21.NASB “We were hoping that it was He who was going to redeem Israel.” This disappointment in 1844 was not the first great disappointment experienced by God’s people. Not a week before Jesus was crucified, there was the triumphal procession into Jerusalem, and His people were just sure that Jesus would be crowned king. Instead, within the week, he died on a cross.

Whose was the voice that said, “We were hoping it was He who was going to redeem Israel?” Two little known disciples of Jesus, Cleopas, and one other, were trudging wearily on the road to Emmaus, when they were joined by a fellow traveler. This was on the Sunday after the cross, and these followers were unaware that Jesus had risen from the dead. As they walked, they were talking about the crucifixion. Not ever expecting to see Jesus again, they did not even recognize him, when He joined them, and they were talking gloomily of the terrible death of their Lord.

It was only when they stopped to eat together, and Jesus ‘began at Moses and the prophets, and expounded unto them in all the scriptures the things concerning Himself.” Luke 24:25-27 that they understood. “and their hearts burned within them as He opened unto them the Scriptures.”

A little later, after they recognized Jesus, he left them. They forgot all weariness, all disappointment! They raced back to Jerusalem, probably stumbling up the rocky road in the light of the passover moon, rushing to tell Peter, James, John and the others…they had seen Jesus!

Now the leaders carefully restudied the scriptures. Soon, through the enlightenment of the Holy Spirit, given by the grace of God, they founded a great new movement, the Christian church.

What did that disappointment have to do with what we call the “Great Disappointment” in 1844? Let us study farther to see.