Christ Orthodox Presbyterian Church
Salt Lake City, UT
In 1843, people sold their homes and businesses and went about the country
preaching the imminent return of Christ. They were the followers of William
Miller, a farmer and self-taught bible scholar from New York. Miller
understood the 2300 days of Daniel 8:14 to refer to the number of years until
the return of Christ. Though scholars for two millennia had been in nearly
universal agreement that the prophecy referred to the time of Antiochus
Epiphanes, Miller insisted it was for fulfillment in his day.
In 168 BC, as Daniel had prophesied, the Seleucid king, Antiochus Epiphanes,
entered Jerusalem to punish the Jews. As promised, he put an end to
sacrifices at the temple, and he rededicated the temple to Zeus. He then
offered Zeus the sacrifice of a pig upon the altar of God. Daniel 8:14 does
not literally read "2300 days", but "2300 evenings and mornings." From the
time of Antiochus entering Jerusalem until the temple was cleansed and proper
sacrifices reinstituted was roughly 2300 days. The actual morning and
evening sacrifices prevented totaled roughly 2300. Either reading finds
fulfillment in real past history.
William Miller believed the cleansing of the temple in Daniel 8 was not of a
real temple, but rather referred to the purification of the earth by fire at
the Second Coming of Christ. Because the "sevens" in Daniel 9 were
translated "weeks" in the King James Bible, Miller assumed all prophecies
referring to days must mean years. Adding 2300 years to the time of Daniel's
prophecy gave Miller a date between March 21, 1843 and March 21, 1844. He
began to teach this throughout the Northeast and gained a wide following.
Despite the great excitement, March 21, 1844, came and went without the
return of Christ. Miller was devastated, but one of his followers went back
through the calculations and found what he believed to be the error.
Miller's dating was based on the decree of Artaxerxes going out in early 457
BC, but the decree did not immediately go into effect, so the calculations
were off. A new date was set of October 22, 1844.
When even 1844 did not pan out, some of the followers abandoned the movement.
Many however tried to find a new explanation. They were too embarrassed to
admit their error. They had invested too much to be wrong. Ellen G. White
eventually led the Seventh-Day Adventists to the conclusion that Jesus had
returned invisibly in 1844, and that He would soon make His presence known.
Another group that tried to hold to the 1844 date was led by Jonas Swendahl
and was known as the Second Adventists. They believed that 1844 marked not
the date of Jesus' return, but of the beginning of the last generation.
Swendahl taught that Jesus would therefore return in 1874.
One of Swendahl's followers was a former Presbyterian named Charles Taze
Russell. When 1874 came and went, he concluded 30 years was not long enough
for a generation. So he added 70 years to 1844 and concluded that Jesus
would return in 1914. This and other differences led him to split from the
Second Adventists and launch Zion's Watchtower and Herald of Christ's
Presence. His followers became known as the International Bible Students,
and they went about the country with the message, "Millions now living will
never die!" Followers were to leave their churches and fellowship together.
All churches were considered apostate, but God had provided a new channel for
their instruction, Zion's Watchtower Tract Society.
What began as the International Bible Students has become the Jehovah's
Witnesses. The date of 1914 was changed to 1925, 1941, and 1975. What began
as calling Christians out of their churches to prepare for Christ's return
has become an anti-Christian cult. I believe we are seeing something similar