Early Writings


The Disappointment and Its Aftermath

It was with keen anticipation that the Advent believers neared the day of the expected return of their Lord. They saw the fall of 1844 as the time to which the prophecy of Daniel pointed. But these dedicated believers were to suffer severe disappointment. As the disciples of old failing to understand the exact character of events to take place in fulfillment of prophecy relating to the first advent of Jesus suffered disappointment, so the Adventists in 1844 were disappointed concerning the development of prophecy relating to the expected second coming of Christ. Of this, Ellen White wrote in this volume: EW xv.1

“Jesus did not come to the earth as the waiting, joyful company expected, to cleanse the sanctuary by purifying the earth by fire. I saw that they were correct in their reckoning of the prophetic periods; prophetic time closed in 1844, and Jesus entered the most holy place to cleanse the sanctuary at the ending of the days. Their mistake consisted in not understanding what the sanctuary was and the nature of its cleansing.”—Page 243. EW xv.2

Almost immediately following the disappointment of October 22, many believers and ministers who had associated themselves with the Advent message dropped away. Some of these joined the movement largely from fear, and when the time of expectation passed, they abandoned their hope and disappeared. Others were swept into fanaticism. About half of the Adventist group clung to their confidence that Christ would soon appear in the clouds of heaven. In the experience of the derision and ridicule heaped upon them by the world, they thought they saw evidences that the day of grace for the world had passed. These people believed firmly that the return of the Lord was very near. But as the days moved into weeks and the Lord did not appear, a division of opinion developed, and this group divided. One part, numerically large, took the position that prophecy was not fulfilled in 1844, and that there must have been a mistake in reckoning the prophetic periods. They began to fix their attention on some specific future date for the event. There were others, a smaller group, the forefathers of the Seventh-day Adventist Church, who were so certain of the evidences of the work of the spirit of God in the great Advent awakening that to deny that the movement was the work of the Lord would, they believed, do despite to the spirit of grace. This they felt they could not do. EW xv.3