Jump Start # 3489
Matthew 25:13 “Be on the alert then, for you do not know the day nor the hour.”
It happened 180 years ago. It was proclaimed as the Second Advent. The nation was caught up in a religious fever about the teachings of a rural New York farmer, a lay Baptist preacher, by the name of William Miller. Building a doctrine upon Daniel 8:14, where the prophet stated, “…two thousand and three hundred days; then shall the sanctuary be cleansed,” Miller claimed that the prophecy pointed to the return of Jesus. Miller was so specific in his timetable that he said October 22, 1844 would be the very day in which Jesus would appear.
Followers of Miller’s teachings were called, Millerites. Many believed Miller’s prophecy. Some sold or gave away their property believing that they wouldn’t need it because the Lord was coming.
One such follower, Henry Emmons, wrote: “I waited all Tuesday (October 22, 1844) and dear Jesus did not come– I waited all the forenoon of Wednesday and was well in body as I ever was, but after 12 o’clock I began to feel faint, and before dark I needed someone to help me up to my chamber, as my natural strength was leaving me very fast, and I lay prostrate for two days without any pain—sick with disappointment.”
The Second Advent become known as the “Great Disappointment.” Discredited and disillusioned most of the followers of Millers scattered to other religious movements, such as the Shakers and the early forms of the Seventh-day Adventists. Miller and other leaders in his movement readjusted their time table to 1845, which became yet another year of disappointment.
Restoration leader Alexander Campbell wrote a series of articles in his Millennial Harbinger about Millerism.
Now, a hundred and eighty year later, this major event will pass with very few knowing anything about it, and worse, most not caring at all about it. There are some important lessons for us in this:
First, it is easy to be swayed when one doesn’t stand solid upon the word of God. The naïve can believe about anything. Miller’s theory can seem logical, but it’s beginning point is an assumption and his idea is based upon a literalness of prophecies that are figurative. This is yet another reason why we must continue to teach, study and preach the word of God. All of us need to know what God has said.
Second, underlining Miller’s plans is the idea that God has placed secret codes, dates and timetables that only a few can discover. Any discussion of the book of Revelation brings all kinds of speculations, current wars and political figures that some see straight from those pages. Wild man Charles Manson believed Revelation 9 was a description of the British rock group, the Beatles. Long hair, iron breasts plates that represent guitars, tails that were the guitar plugs—it’s all there if one wants to see it. And, as one develops such ideas, staring us right in the face is the fact that Revelation was written to seven churches in the first century. Electric guitars, amps, rock’n roll, meant absolutely nothing to them. Ignoring the immediate context allows a person to find whatever they are looking for. It’s like looking at clouds. One person sees a dog and another person, looking at the same cloud sees a tree. Without a foundation in Scriptures and a baseline to begin with, anything and everything is possible.
The Bible is not written that way. It’s not a mystery that we need some outside decoder ring to figure out.
Third, the Lord’s concluding words at end of the parable of the wise and foolish virgins are “Be on the alert then, for you do not know the day nor the hour.” In that parable, the groom, Jesus is gone. He returns with a shout. The wedding takes place. The plea is to be ready because “no one knows,” when that day will be. If God said we don’t know the day, how is it that William Miller told the world that Jesus was coming on October 22, 1844? Was the Lord wrong? Did someone, like Miller, actually know the day?
Whenever moderns say things that fly in the face of what God has said, we must stand with God. When some say, “You don’t have to be baptized.” That’s not what God said. Who are you going to believe? When someone says, “The Holy Spirit speaks to me directly,” that’s not what God says. Who are you going to believe? When someone says “All you have to do is love God and all this other stuff really doesn’t matter,” that’s not what God says. Who are you going to believe? When someone says, “Global warming is going to destroy the planet, and kill every person,” that’s not what God says. Who are you going to believe? When someone says, “It’s obvious that evolution is true,” that’s not what God says. Who are you going to believe?
One hundred and eighty years ago a whole bunch of people believed someone who said the Lord was coming that year. The year came and went. Their hopes were shattered. It was shattered because it wasn’t founded upon the Scriptures.
What’s your faith resting on? Your family? Your congregation? Your thinking? Or, the word of God?
A lot has changed in one hundred and eighty years and yet, somethings have never changed.