Belle's aunt and uncle followed the preachings of William Miller, a New York farmer and the founder of Millerism. They believed Miller's prophecy that Jesus would return to earth in 1844.
Miller's idea was not profound — or original. The notion of the Second Coming is a core tenet of Christianity. Though the idea is central, the interpretation and definition of the Second Coming has not always been agreed upon by Church leaders and theologians. The early Christians read much of the Bible, including the Book of Revelations' prophecy about Jesus's return, as allegorical, an interpretation that dominated Christian thinking until the Protestant Reformation. The Protestants, however, believed that the prophecies were literal. For example, they theorized that the 1,260 days described in chapter 12 of Revelations stood for 1,260 years of Christian history. Provided a beginning date could be identified, it might be possible to calculate the end date, determining an exact Second Coming. It is unclear how Miller determined the date of October 23, 1844 as the date, but his pronouncement that Jesus would arrive on a specific day was tantalizing and he garnered a great following of believers, close to one million, in the United States.
In preparation for the return, many of Miller's followers sold their earthly possessions. On the day itself, they wore white robes and climbed the nearest tall hill to be closer to heaven. The day passed without Jesus' appearance. Miller immediately issued a redaction, sighting an error in calculation, and stated that the real date was six months hence. That date also passed without Jesus' return, and Miller lost most of his following.
Miller's work was not in vain, however. In 1845, many of his remaining followers joined the Adventist Church, an organization that Miller helped found. This church, now known as the Seventh-Day Adventist Church, believes in the return of Jesus, but does not specify a date for this event.
Miller was not the only one to predict the end the world. Many others jumped in on the act.
Picture of William Miller from Ellenwhite.info
This article was originally published in January 2014, and has been updated for the
October 2014 paperback release.
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