William Miller Redux

The decades of the 1830s and 1840s were exciting times for the followers of a Baptist pastor from New York, William Miller. Through diligent self-study of the Scriptures, he came to the conclusion that Jesus would return to the earth sometime between March 21, 1843, and March 21, 1844. He declined to set a firmer date although many of his followers pushed him to do so. When March 1844 came and went with no Second Advent of the Lord, a new date was set: October 22, 1844. Since I am writing this in 2011, it makes sense that this day was called by the estimated 50,000 followers of William Miller, the “Great Disappointment.” (Many of these disappointed followers eventually became the Seventh-Day Adventist Church after a reinterpretation of what actually happened on that fateful day.)

It is not unusual for people to attempt to set dates for the return of Christ. The Jehovah Witnesses have set several of these dates down through the years and as one candidly said to me as I was trying to share the good news of the Gospel with him, “Those were not our finest days.” Edgar Whisenant published, 88 Reasons Why the Rapture Will Be in 1988, and then recalculated the return for 1989…then 1993…and then 1994 (Well, I think you get the picture), and probably all of us know people who still have dried beans and ammunition stored up from the Y2K scare of eleven years ago.

I have mentioned all of that since we have now entered the week of the latest “setting of the date” by Harold Camping: May, 21, 2011. Of course, Christ will return in glory on the day of His choice, and if that happens to be May 21, I, personally, will have no complaint. However, I guarantee that Harold Camping’s purported numerological equations have no bearing on the date of the beginning of the New heavens and the New earth (any more than the Mayan calendar prediction of 2012). He has already set one date that did not come to fruition (September 1994) and his HERESY of calling upon people to leave the church that Christ said “that the gates of hell would not prevail” against, should warn us to steer clear of such drivel.

However, we must ask ourselves the question, “How do we deal with the people that we know who have been caught up in this scam?” on May 22, 2011. First, pray for them. Pray that the Lord will open the eyes of their heart to see that they have been deceived, and pray that He will give them the desire to return to Christ’s church. Second, do all that you can to remind them of God’s grace, and that there is forgiveness for all who “call upon the name of the Lord.” Third, never forget that “the household of God, which is the church of the living God, [is] a pillar and buttress of truth.” (1 Timothy 3:15) Granted, there are those churches which according to the Confession of Faith have become no better than “synagogues of Satan,” but the churches who preach the true Gospel of salvation by grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone are a refuge from and protection against those who indulge in “irreverent babble” which leads “people into more and more ungodliness,” and whose “talk spreads like gangrene.” (2 Timothy 2:16-17) Last of all, when tempted to chase after date setters and newspaper interpreters remember, “But concerning that day and hour no one knows, not even the angels of heaven, nor the Son, but the Father only.” (Matthew 24:36)

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