The term “Great Disappointment” is a household name among Adventist and Religious historians. It points to the events of October 22nd, 1844, when the heralds of the gospel met a disappointment from which many could not bounce back.
William Miller, an American farmer, and a Bible student, was the champion of the early Advent Movement, beginning from around 1835. He concluded from a diligent and painstaking study that Christ’s second coming was on October 22nd, 1844. This is the book he studied while applying the principles of here a little, there a little, and scriptures being its own interpreter:
KJV Daniel 8:13-14
Then I heard one saint speaking, and another saint said unto that certain saint which spake, How long shall be the vision concerning the daily sacrifice, and the transgression of desolation, to give both the sanctuary and the host to be trodden under foot? And he said unto me, Unto two thousand and three hundred days; then shall the sanctuary be cleansed.
Based on the typical sacrificial system, it was clear that the Cleansing of the earthly sanctuary, also known as the Day of Atonement, signified judgment. This can be well understood if we consider what was expected of God’s people during the Yom Kippur:
KJV Leviticus 23:26-30
And the LORD spake unto Moses, saying, Also on the tenth day of this seventh month there shall be a day of atonement: it shall be an holy convocation unto you; and ye shall afflict your souls, and offer an offering made by fire unto the LORD. And ye shall do no work in that same day: for it is a day of atonement, to make an atonement for you before the LORD your God. For whatsoever soul it be that shall not be afflicted in that same day, he shall be cut off from among his people. And whatsoever soul it be that doeth any work in that same day, the same soul will I destroy from among his people.
The day of Atonement was heralded by the feast of trumpets, which had trumpets being blown for ten days calling forth the people of God to get ready for the day of Atonement. On this day, the sins of the people, symbolically transferred to the Holy place of the sanctuary, were to be cleansed in the Holy of Holies, the second chamber of the Sanctuary. Anyone who didn’t participate in preparation for the Day of Atonement, by soul searching and repentance, was cut off. This signifies judgment; hence the Day of Atonement was also called the Day of Judgement.
With an understanding of the Sanctuary to be on the earth, William Miller concluded that Christ was coming again to cleanse the earthly sanctuary and deal finally with the problem of sin. People convicted of the Great prophetic waymarks enlisted themselves into the Advent movement, the majority due to fear of the consequences of sin rather than a love for God. The day came and ended, and Christ didn’t come. A few people who experienced the disappointment had the following to say:
“With bated breath, the Adventists, no fewer than 50,000 and probably nearer 100,000 scattered largely across the northeastern portion of North America, arose to greet the eventful day, Tuesday, October 22, 1844. Some sought vantage points where they could peer into the clear heavens, hoping to catch a first glimpse of the coming of their returning Lord. When would Jesus come? The morning hours passed slowly. Noon came, then midafternoon. Finally, darkness settled upon the earth. But it was still October 22, and it would be till midnight. At last, that hour came, but Jesus did not come.
Their disappointment was almost beyond description.”
“Edson gave a vivid account of how they looked for the coming of the Lord “until the clock tolled midnight. Then our disappointment became a certainty.”
Our fondest hopes and expectations were blasted, and such a spirit of weeping came over us as I had never experienced before. It seemed that the loss of all earthly friends could have been no comparison. We wept and wept till the day dawn.”
The great disappointment was indeed great and heartbreaking. We can see how much pain it was for the Advent movement. The scoffers had nothing more to lose than what they had lost when they made decisions out of fear. Most of them confessed that they had not believed the testimony of the millerite movement. The true students of the Bible went ahead to study and realized that Christ was moving to the second apartment of the heavenly sanctuary of which the earthly one was a type. This means, from 1844 to date, we are on the antitypical day of atonement. This will culminate with a general close of Probation when Christ finishes the ministry in the Most Holy place.
Before this, the greatest disappointment recorded in the pages of history was that of the Jews. They had a different expectation of the Messiah other than the man of Calvary. They expected temporal salvation from the Romans and renewal of Jewish supremacy. The disciples, having been part of the team, especially had their hopes blasted of being administrators in the temporal kingdom. Their hopes began dying when they saw Him giving Himself to the soldiers and finally died when they saw Him on the cross. The Jews were disappointed in a Saviour from sin instead of a Saviour from the Roman Yoke.
But there is a disappointment more painful than these two. Which one is that?
The greatest disappointment of all times.
It is unfathomable to realize that there is something worse than the 1844 experience.
KJV Revelation 22:14-15
Blessed are they that do his commandments, that they may have right to the tree of life, and may enter in through the gates into the city. For without are dogs, and sorcerers, and whoremongers, and murderers, and idolaters, and whosoever loveth and maketh a lie.
Outside of the new Jerusalem, there will be the greatest heartbreaks of all times. Great men who have spent all their lives opposing God will realize their folly just too late to correct allegiance. False prophets, who have closed the Scriptures and forced their congregants to imbibe erroneous theories, will be torn by their angry victims who will be saying, “If it was not for you, we would have believed the truth of the Bible.” Parents who have come between their children and God, committing their untrained feet further and further away from the truth, will not withstand the vehement choler of their children. Usurpers of power, who have claimed an illegitimate position of mediator between man and God, will be disappointed. Before being incinerated by the hellfire, their victims will reduce them to bits and pieces. Those who have been Christians only in name will wish they had been true to their high calling. While Jesus will receive sinners, He won’t do this forever. There comes a time when justice demands that people take the side they have chosen.
So, while we commemorate 177 years since the great disappointment, we should be preparing for what will come upon the world as an overwhelming surprise. The disappointments of the Jews, of the early Adventists, is not anywhere to be compared with the one coming on the final day. The greatest disappointment of all times is coming; you better get *you ready?