7 But the end of all things is at hand: be ye therefore sober, and watch unto prayer. 8 And above all things have fervent charity among yourselves: for charity shall cover the multitude of sins. 9 Use hospitality one to another without grudging. 10 As every man hath received the gift, even so minister the same one to another, as good stewards of the manifold grace of God. 11 If any man speak, let him speak as the oracles of God; if any man minister, let him do it as of the ability which God giveth: that God in all things may be glorified through Jesus Christ, to whom be praise and dominion for ever and ever. Amen. (1 Peter 4:7–11)
We, as Christians, do and should believe that the end is near, but how should we act in response to this belief? Christian history is full of believers who responded in fervent but foolish ways. The Millerites were just such a group of Christians.
In the early 1800’s, a deist named William Miller set about studying the Bible to answer questions about the existence of God. He ended up, after two years, becoming convinced that he knew the year of the return of Christ—about 1843. For years he kept quiet about it, but in the 1830’s, he started to preach it strongly and started to gather a following. In 1838, he published a book, Evidence from Scripture and History of the Second Coming of Christ, About the Year 1843.
At the beginning of 1843, he announced that Christ would return between March 21, 1843 and March 21, 1844. Thousands of people joined him. The Millerite Movement was in full swing. And boy, was it ever. Men quit their jobs. People sold their homes (Why? Did they need the money in Heaven?), others gave away their belongings. Many donned white robes. There are unverified reports that some went up on hilltops or climbed trees to be closer when Jesus came.
Of course, they were disappointed. Christ did not return on March 21. Nor did he come on the recalculated date of October 22.
And, because people don’t learn from history. The very same thing happened in recent years with a man named Harold Camping who predicted that Christ would return on May 21, 2011 and then recalculated for October 21, 2011.
How would you respond if you were convinced that the end would come on a specific date? Would you dress in white robes?