William Miller was a farmer from upstate New York who was a
veteran of the War of 1812. He started telling people in
1831 that the Biblical prophecies described in Revelation
had yet to transpire. And if that wasn't enough, he revealed
that they were about to.
Basically, Miller single-handedly revived the "End
Is Near" mania. Lots of other religious figures began
making similar apocalyptic claims. Miller drew a large
following, and in 1840, he finally announced a specific
range of dates for the second coming of Jesus Christ. He
said it would occur sometime between March 21, 1843 and
March 21, 1844.
When March 22, 1844 arrived without any perceptible
return of Christ, it was kind of a problem for Miller.
Thousands of followers had given away their possessions in
anticipation of the big day. Not good. But then one of
Miller's followers realized that his calculations had been
off by one year, because he neglected to count the BC to AD
rollover. So he revised the date to October 22 and tried
In October, of course, the same dern thing happened.
Except this time, there weren't any arithmetic errors to
blame. Upwards of 100,000 Millerites had expected to finally
meet God. Many of them dressed in white robes and climbed up
on roofs and hilltops. But the chosen night came and went.
The milestone would come to be known as the Great
Disappointment of 1844.
According to one believer: "The world made merry
over the old Prophet's predicament. The taunts and jeers of
the 'scoffers' were well-nigh unbearable."
Nevertheless, Miller hung tough. The following month, he
expressed his never-say-die attitude in a letter:
Although I have been twice disappointed, I am not yet
cast down or discouraged ... My hope in the coming of
Christ is as strong as ever. I have done only what after
years of sober consideration I felt a solemn duty to do
... I have fixed my mind upon another time, and here I
mean to stand until God gives me more light. And that is
Today, TODAY, and TODAY, until He comes, and I see HIM for
whom my soul yearns.
William Miller died on December 20, 1849. Almost
overnight, the remnants of his church splintered over
doctrinal differences. This fragmentation ultimately gave
rise to a variety of denominations, including the Jehovah
Witnesses and the Seventh-Day Adventists.
In the 20th century, an offshoot of the Seventh-Day
Adventists updated Miller's prophecy by claiming a Biblical
ETA of April 22, 1959. This group, calling itself the
Davidian Seventh-day Adventists, broke into two pieces in
the resulting schism. One product of this fission decided to
call themselves the Branch
|1 Jan 1843
commits to a range of dates for the Second Coming:
"I am fully conviced that somewhere between
March 21st, 1843 and March 21st, 1844, according to
the Jewish mode of time computation, Christ will
|21 Mar 1844
||Contrary to William
Miller's prediction, Jesus misses His deadline for
returning to Earth. Shortly thereafter, Miller
recalculates and comes up with October 22, 1844.
|22 Oct 1844
||The followers of
William Miller experience the Great Disappointment
when Jesus apparently fails to make His second
|20 Dec 1849
||William Miller dies.