by Pastor William Little
While the story of William Miller and the history of the Great Disappointment of October 22, 1844 may be well known to Seventh-day Adventist Christians, discovering the motive behind his preaching is essential, and it is filled with significance for us as we also anticipate the return of Jesus.
Miller was once a Deist, someone who does not believe in a personal God or the truthfulness of Scripture, especially miracles. However, sensing a great need of a Savior and finding his deistic beliefs empty, he turned to the Bible for answers. He sincerely wrote, “I was constrained to admit that the Scriptures must be a revelation from God. They become my delight and in Jesus, I found a friend” (emphasis added).
In this simple, powerful statement lays the foundation of Miller’s preaching 3200 sermons in only 13 years (an average of 266 sermons a year!) He was not only convinced of the truth of Scripture and its teachings, in the Bible he found Christ. Jesus became the Friend of Miller, and Miller became the friend of Jesus.
Therefore, when he came to parts of the book of Daniel -- particularly the 2300 day prophecy in Daniel 8:14 -- and realized its connection to the 70 weeks in Daniel 9, his excitement grew. Although he misunderstood (along with most of the Christianity at that time) what the cleansing of the sanctuary was, the soon coming of Christ was exciting to him because he was soon to see his Friend, Jesus.
Miller shared his discoveries from prophecy, not because they were new, startling, or controversial; he shared them because Jesus was His Friend, He was coming soon, and Miller could not wait to see Him!
Following the Great Disappointment (the day Jesus didn’t come), the burden and motive of Miller’s preaching was unchanged and undiminished. Although Miller did not understand at that moment why Christ had not returned, he wrote these powerful words:
“Although I have been twice disappointed, I am not yet cast down or discouraged…. I have
fixed my mind upon another time, and here I mean to stand until God gives me more light,—
and that is Today, TODAY, and TODAY, until He comes, and I see Him for whom my soul
yearns” (emphasis added)—The Midnight Cry, Dec. 5, 1844, pp. 179, 180.
Today we stand on the shoulders of godly men and women, like William Miller, who came before us, and we have been gifted a legacy of truth from the Scriptures. The Advent message is dearer, shines brighter, and is needed today more than ever before. And these truths are logical. By comparing Scripture with Scripture, a clear and consistent line of truth has been revealed that appeals to the keenest intellect and yet is simple enough for anyone to understand.
Herein lies the danger for us today. It’s possible to be convinced without being converted. In other words, it’s easy to be intellectually persuaded by the teachings of the Bible without having a real relationship with Jesus.
So, as we eagerly wait for the coming of Christ, may Jesus be your dearest Friend, and you be the dear friend of Jesus.