The Day the World Didn’t End

On Oct. 22, 1844, thousands of people gathered in small groups across the country in anticipation of the second coming of Christ. These followers of a humble, self-taught preacher named William Miller were convinced that the Bible’s
Book of Daniel laid out a chronology that ended with this day. Many had sold their farms, closed their shops and quit their jobs in anticipation, although Miller had never urged anyone to do this.

“I have never taught a neglect of any of the duties of life, which make us good parents, children, neighbors, or citizens,” he wrote. “Those who have taught the neglect of these … acted in opposition to my uniform teachings.” Still, the faithful were so sure that the end was nigh that many surrendered their earthly possessions.

They gathered in churches, in homes, on hilltops, waiting through the day and into the night.

But Christ did not come, and Miller’s followers were bewildered. They suffered considerable scorn from their neighbors. The press of the day ridiculed them. Even other religious leaders had a field day in deriding the Millerites.

Many of the disappointed left the movement, but others listened to the calls of leaders such as Joshua Himes, Miller’s right-hand man, and remained true to the idea of the soon coming of Christ — without the deadline of a specific date. Over several years, structures evolved that resulted in the formation of several adventist churches with their roots in the Millerite movement, including the Seventh Day Adventists, which today rivals the Mormons as one of the largest American-born religious sects.

Oct. 22, 1844, came to be known as the Great Disappointment, but it spelled the end neither for the Adventist movement in particular nor the notion of end-of-the-worldism generally. Somewhere today, somebody is manning a street corner with a sandwich board, claiming the end is nigh. One of these days, somebody will be right.

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1 Response to The Day the World Didn’t End

  1. Jerry says:

    Just looking up on you John. As a life long Cubs fan (you are my witness) and avid reader of the scriptures – and regarding your last two posts, I really must comment.

    I’ll start with the scripture: Matt 24:15-17 “So when you see standing in the holy place ‘the abomination that causes desolation’, spoken of through the prophet Daniel—let the reader understand— then let those who are in Judea flee to the mountains. Let no-one on the roof of his house go down to take anything out of the house. Let no-one in the field go back to get his cloak. How dreadful it will be in those days for pregnant women and nursing mothers! Pray that your flight will not take place in winter or on the Sabbath. For then there will be great distress, unequalled from the beginning of the world until now……

    As many prophetic people are – William had the right idea whose time had not yet come. Timing is very difficult for prophetic people – I mean to them, the future is happening right now. 26 years later in an insignificant part of the world (Chicago) – the Cubs would play their first game. While seemingly unrelated, let me put it together for you.

    So when you see standing in the holy place (what could be more “holy” than the “World Series”?) — the abomination that causes desolation (who could possibly be more desolate than the “Cubs”?) — Let the reader understand (the scripture is opening itself up to personal interpretation). So, let me paraphrase it for you:

    When you see the Cubs in the World Series …. it’s probably time to hit the hills. I mean the last time the Cubs had good pitching AND made it to a National League Championship – there was an earthquake. What more proof do you need? William Miller had obviously not sat thru 50 years of Cubs seasons. But yes, you are right – some day – probably next year even – this is going to happen. Maybe not in my life time….. but ……

    Sorry about your Cards – they would have benefited greatly from the Robo home plate umpire.

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