Crucial Question 11: Were the Christians who thoughtfully rejected William Miller's 1844 message really lost?
In the 1830’s, William Miller, a self-taught Baptist minister, using the time prophecies of Daniel, began preaching that the world would end in 1843. His ministry sparked a revival that has been called the Millerite Movement. Ellen Harmon became a devoted Millerite who ever after maintained a special fondness for “Father” Miller. Of course, Christ did not return in 1843, so Miller fixed his hope on the spring of 1844. When this prediction failed, he eventually endorsed October 22, 1844, as the exact date of Christ’s second coming. Of course, their hopes were dashed once again. Ellen White maintained throughout her ministry that Millerism was a “saving message” and a “testing truth,” meaning that the rejecters of this teaching were lost as a result.
From the Pen of Ellen White:
“I saw that God was in the proclamation of the time in 1843. It was His design to arouse the people and bring them to a testing point, where they should decide for or against the truth” (1SG 133; EW 232).
“‘No man knoweth the day and the hour,’ was heard from the hypocritical minister and the bold scoffer. Neither would be instructed and corrected on the use made of the text by those who were pointing to the year when they believed the prophetic periods would run out, and to the signs which showed Christ near, even at the doors. Many shepherds of the flock, who professed to love Jesus, said they had no opposition to the preaching of Christ's coming; but they objected to the definite time. God's all-seeing eye read their hearts. They did not love Jesus near. They knew that their unchristian lives would not stand the test; for they were not walking in the humble path laid out by him. These false shepherds stood in the way of the work of God” (1SG 135; see also EW 233-234 for an edited version of this statement).
“Many ministers would not accept this saving message themselves, and those who would receive it, they hindered. The blood of souls is upon them” (1SG 136; see also EW 234 for an edited version of this statement).
“Those who rejected and opposed the light of the first angel’s message, lost the light of the second, and could not be benefitted by the power and glory which attended the message, Behold the Bridegroom cometh. Jesus turned from them with a frown. They had slighted and rejected him” (1SG 156; see also EW 249 for an edited version of this statement).
“I saw that the nominal churches, as the Jews crucified Jesus, had crucified these messages, and therefore they have no knowledge of the move made in heaven, or of the way into the Most Holy, and they cannot be benefitted by the intercession of Jesus there” (1SG 171; see also EW 261 for an edited version of this statement).
“I was shown in vision, and I still believe, that there was a shut door in 1844. All who saw the light of the first and second angels' messages and rejected that light, were left in darkness. And those who accepted it and received the Holy Spirit which attended the proclamation of the message from heaven, and who afterward renounced their faith and pronounced their experience a delusion, thereby rejected the Spirit of God, and it no longer pleaded with them” (1SM 63).
Ellen White consistently taught that those who rejected the Millerite message were lost. According to Spiritual Gifts, the first angel’s message was the time-setting prophecy of 1843, and the second angel’s message was the 1844 date for the second advent of Christ (1SG 133-143). How could vast numbers of Christians be damned because of their sincere disagreement with William Miller’s teachings? They were biblically correct! Christ did not come in 1844. The Seventh-day Adventist Church would like to back away from this teaching now—it seems so petty. Unfortunately, Mrs. White stated that she “was shown” this teaching “in vision,” which severely limits our ability to dismiss this episode as inconsequential.
- Was William Miller’s theology correct regarding the second coming?
- Does the Bible give any indication of a massive close of probation before the end of time? In other words, is there any scriptural Noah-type message that should have warned people to board the Millerite “ark”?
- Would a theological disagreement about the meaning of Daniel’s time prophecies relate in any logical way to the commission of the unpardonable sin?
- Is it like God to arbitrarily make an obscure Bible passage a salvational litmus test?
"But of that day and hour knoweth no man, no, not the angels of heaven, but my Father only" (Matt. 24:36).
"Watch therefore, for ye know neither the day nor the hour wherein the Son of man cometh" (Matt. 25:13).
"And he said unto me, Unto two thousand and three hundred days; then shall the sanctuary be cleansed" (Dan. 8:14).
"The Lord is not slack concerning his promise, as some men count slackness; but is longsuffering to us-ward, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance. But the day of the Lord will come as a thief in the night; in the which the heavens shall pass away with a great noise, and the elements shall melt with fervent heat, the earth also and the works that are therein shall be burned up" (2 Peter 3:9-10).
For Further Study:
- Spiritual Gifts, vol. 1, pp. 128-140
- Early Writings, pp. 229-240 (edited version of Spiritual Gifts)
- Knight, George R. Millennial Fever
Continue on to Crucial Question #12: EGW's Shut Door Visions
Go back to Crucial Question #10: Testimonies on Doctors