Sitting on a Park Bench with Harold Camping Waiting for the End of the World

“‘Behold, the Bridegroom cometh, go ye out to meet Him!’…Christ is coming on the tenth day of the seventh month! Time is short! Get ready! Get Ready!” [Joseph Bates, Second Advent Way Marks and High Heaps, pp. 30, see F. D. Nichol, Midnight Cry (Takoma Park, MD: Review and Herald -1944) page 215.] Jesus was coming on October 22, 1844, the last yom Kipper this world will see this side of glory. Yom Kipper, the great day of atonement, takes place on the tenth day of the seventh Jewish month. This last great push by the seekers of Christ’s coming was refered to as the seventh month movement. But Jesus did not come. And as one of their followers put it, “we wept until the day dawn.”

William Miller, a nineteenth century deist turned Baptist preacher, discovered in 1818 after two years of intense Bible study that Jesus was coming in about twenty-five years, or as he tells us in his book, “in about the year 1843.” He spent another seven years making sure he was correct. His findings were based on his understanding of the book of Daniel; chapters 7, 8 and 9. He saw these three visions as one unit, and he calculated the 2,300 evenings and mornings of Daniel 8:14 to be completed somewhere around 1843. He made the assumption that the sanctuary in Daniel 8:14 was the earth itself, sense there was no standing sanctuary at the time. If this earth was to be cleansed at the end of the 2,300 days of Daniel as the text tells us, than surely this had to be the consummation, because as Peter tells us, that the earth will be cleansed by fire [2 Peter 3:12]. That farmer from upper New York seemed to be onto something for sure! Or was he? What went wrong?

The Seventh-day Adventist church today owes its existence to the movement Miller started. Originally the smallest of the Adventist groups that came out of Millerism, the Seventh-day Adventist today numbers over 16 million. In fact, I hear the number may be nearing 18 plus million. It is the largest of all the Adventist groups since the days of Miller. What was it that made Miller’s disappointment a new beginning for the Adventists? And, can the Campingites who look to October 22, 2011 as the end of the world also find a new beginning after that prophecy is sure to fail?

William didn’t set the October 22nd date, but accepted it with joy around October 12th. Samuel S. Snow, a Millerite preacher, presented his findings at the Exeter camp meeting in Hew Hampshire in August of ’44. He showed how Jesus’ first coming met the spring types right on time. The events of the Passover, which were a symbol of the coming Messiah, and not just a celebration of the past delivery of Israel from the Egyptians found fulfillment with the First Advent. Therefore, the fall types surrounding the day of Judgment (Yom Kipper) would seem to find their exact fulfillment in Jesus’ Second Advent.

While it made sense in some strange way, in reality, it didn’t much matter. We are still here, and Jesus still has not come. It’s going to be a 167 years this October 22nd that the Adventists were disappointed. And soon they will be joined by a new group who will also share this day. Will they look back with shame, or will they find reason enough for a new beginning?

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