Some believe the world is coming to an end today.
We’ve thought this before. In 1844, William Miller saw the apocalypse predicted in scriptures. A farmer in upstate New York (a center of the revivalist spirit), Miller used Biblical prophecies to calculate the second coming. He offered a new interpretation of the Book of Revelation, arguing in contrast to others that the events it described had yet to happen (earlier readings had seen these events happening in the past). Further reading led him to believe that Christ’s Second Coming was “near, even at the door, even within twenty-one years, – on or before 1843” (Sylvester Bliss, Memoirs of William Miller, Boston: Joshua V. Himes, 1853, 79).
Miller gained a following through his book, Evidence from Scripture and History of the Second Coming of Christ, About the Year 1843, and lectures. At its peak, his followers, known as Millerites, numbered more than 50,000. Some of his most zealous followers fixed a precise date for Christ’s return: March 21, 1844. When that date passed uneventfully, they recalculated and put forth a new date: October 22, 1844. That day, too, passed anticlimactically and came to be known as “The Great Disappointment.”
The Millerite movement mostly broke up after these events. Many returned to their former churches while still others formed the new Advent Christian and Seventh Day Adventist churches. And another group under the leadership of Benjamin Hall migrated west from Massachusetts and founded a successful religious colony
in Germania (Marquette County), Wisconsin. It thrived for more than fifty years.