William Miller's Prophetic Discovery.
Was Miller Wrong?
So Where Was the Mistake?


A challenge to prove 1844 as Biblical was posted recently. Apparently several have taken up the challenge in previous discussions. I would like to share my perspective, for my own edification as well as a small hope that maybe it will help someone understand. Rather than taking out the charts, I would like to take you on a journey back to the early 1800's, back to William Miller's study. We must first try to understand the sequence of Miller's discovery on this subject.

First we see a man who is very skeptical about God, he has very little faith. But this was soon to change. He writes of himself. "At length when brought almost to despair, God by His Spirit opened my eyes. I saw Jesus as a friend, and my only help and the WORD OF GOD as the perfect rule of duty." "I then devoted myself to prayer and to the reading OF THE WORD. I determined to lay aside all my prepossessions, to thoroughly compare Scripture with Scripture in a regular and methodical manner. . ." For two years he immersed himself in study. There were no theology books, no computer websites, and no Ellen White books— only a bible and a concordance.

Text after text came up describing Christ's second coming. The churches of Millar's day were not preaching the second coming--at least not in the way Millar was discovering it in the Bible. The popular concept pictured the return of Christ to earth as setting up a kingdom which would multiply and increase for one thousand years, during which the nations would be converted and the saints would govern. Yet, Miller was reading texts like 2 Peter 3:10-13, convincing him that Christ was coming soon and that His coming meant the end of everything on earth as we know it. There would be no second chance for those who had spurned God's call.

"They will say, 'where is this promise of the coming? Ever since our fathers died, everything continues as it has from creation.' But they deliberately forget that that by water also the world of that time was deluged and destroyed. By the same word the present heavens and earth are reserved for fire...the day of the Lord will come like a thief, The heavens will disappear with a roar, the elements will be destroyed by fire, and the earth and everything in it will be laid bare." (2 Peter 3)

"As the days of Noah," Miller read, in Matthew 24:37 and onwards, "so it will be at the coming of the Son of man. For in the days before the flood, the people ate and drank, and married and gave in marriage, right up until Noah entered the ark, and they didn't comprehend what would happen until the flood came and took them all away. That is how it will be at the coming of the Son of Man....you must be ready, because the Son of Man will come at an hour when you do not expect him."

Now Miller began to study the prophecies in earnest. As he sought to understand the book of Daniel one text burned into his mind.

"For two thousand three hundred days, then shall the sanctuary be cleanse." Dan. 8:14
Miller mistakenly translated the word "sanctuary" to mean "the earth", and feeling he had discovered the key verse for Christ's coming started studying Daniel 8 and 9 with great earnestness.

He discovered that the text was embedded in a vision which covered a large segment of history. The prophet Daniel, himself overwhelmed, fainting before the angel was finished explaining, admits he could not understand it. In chapter 9 Daniel is earnestly pleading with God and once again the angel appears to explain the vision:

Daniel chapter nine--
23 "At the beginning of your supplications the command went out, and I have come to tell you, for you are greatly beloved; therefore consider the matter, and understand the vision: 24 "Seventy weeks are determined For your people and for your holy city, To finish the transgression, To make an end of sins, To make reconciliation for iniquity, To bring in everlasting righteousness, To seal up vision and prophecy, And to anoint the Most Holy.

25 "Know therefore and understand, That from the going forth of the command To restore and build Jerusalem Until Messiah the Prince, There shall be seven weeks and sixty-two weeks; The street shall be built again, and the wall, Even in troublesome times.

26 "And after the sixty-two weeks Messiah shall be cut off, but not for Himself; And the people of the prince who is to come Shall destroy the city and the sanctuary. The end of it shall be with a flood, And till the end of the war desolations are determined.

27 Then he shall confirm a covenant with many for one week; But in the middle of the week He shall bring an end to sacrifice and offering. And on the wing of abominations shall be one who makes desolate, Even until the consummation, which is determined, Is poured out on the desolate."

In verse 24 we see that 490 days are chopped, or "cut off" (original meaning of Hebrew word "chatak" is to cut off or amputated). Chopped off from what? They are "cut off" from the 2300 days revealed in the vision in Daniel 8, which the angel is about to explain. These 490 days/years were given to the Jews to rebuild their city and prepare for the coming Messiah. The Holy One would come to make reconciliation for iniquity.

When would the Holy One appear? The angel answers this by dividing up the 490 days or 70 weeks into smaller sections. Seven weeks the Jews will be establishing the nationhood of Jerusalem again, then there would be another 62 weeks before the Messiah would appear.

In other words, the Messiah would appear 69 weeks after the decree for the restoration of Jerusalem was given, which leaves one week in the time given to the people and the Holy City. In the middle of that week--after only three and a half days, (years) the Messiah would be cut off--not for himself, but to be a sacrifice for all people. At his death the sacrificial system came to an end, as demonstrated in Matt. 27:51.

For those who accept Christ's sacrifice this means reconciliation, for those who rejected and crucified Him it means desolation. They were following another prince. John 19:15 "But they cried out, "Away with Him, away with Him! Crucify Him!" Pilate said to them, "Shall I crucify your King?" The chief priests answered, "We have no king but Caesar!" There prince caesar marched in and laid the city waste!

That one week was the turning point for old Jerusalem. For three and a half days the Son of God was present with them. They crucified Him. For another three and a half years the apostles went "daily" to the temple to witness to them (see Acts 2:46,47) but they stoned Stephen and drove the Christians from their city. Then the flood of desolation came with all it's horror and destruction, by 70 AD Jerusalem was rubble.

William Millar studied this. He quickly realized that days could not be literal days and applied the already known Biblical principle of a day for a year. Now things made more sense. 483 years went by from the restoration of Jerusalem as a nation, until Jesus was anointed by baptism. Christ's ministry lasted three and a half years, and another three and a half years went by as the disciples preached in Jerusalem, before persecuation scattered them to other cities.

These calculations took him to 34 A.D. If 490 years are cut off from the 2300 years, that would leave 1810 years.
With this principle in mind Millar made a calculation for the remaining 1810 years and came up with this conclusion. "I was thus brought, in 1818, at the close of my two year study of the scriptures, to the solemn conclusion, that in about 25 years all the affairs of our present state would be wound up.

More years of close Bible study followed. The truths in regard to Christ's second coming stood out more and more clearly and the longing to share the message with others became a strong conviction.

He wrote:
I prayed that some minister might see the truth, and devote himself to its promulgation; but still it was impressed upon me, 'God and tell it to the world; their blood willI require at they hand'" (Life of William Miller p. 72)

He started to preach about 1831. In a few years a number of prominent ministers began to preach the same message William Miller advocated.

The message however, was not confined to America. All over the world God was awaking people that "the time was at hand", the "hour of his judgment is come".
Edward Irving, in Britian, was a successful minister when he became aware of the fact that there was a more important message to preach to the world than the one he was giving. He learned that Jesus was soon coming, and now he felt called to warn England.
In Holland, Hentzepeter, another able minister, was led through a dream to study the second advent. He published his first pamphlet in 1830 indicating that Christ was soon coming.
In Scandinavian countries, where only priests could preach, children were explaining the prophecies regarding the soon-coming Saviour.
In Australia a man named Thomas Playford was preaching the message.

Millar himself never set a specific date. His calculations were approximate. He figured it would be in late 1843 or early 1844. It was a man named Samuel Snow who fixed the date Oct. 22. He studied the feasts of Israel and discovered that the major events in Christ's life occurred as fulfilment to Jewish feasts. Christ died on the Passover, he rose on the day of waving of First Fruits, The Holy Spirit descended on the day of Pentecost. So he assumed Christ would come on the Day of Atonement. Being a man with a mathematical mind he calculated this to be Oct. 22,1844.

The most important thing is that this prophecy is based on Jesus. Christ's ministry and death are the keys and no matter how you calculate it you still come up with the fact that the sanctuary's cleansing begins in the 1840's. The whole prophecy is about Christ's ministry and the life of Jesus is our assurance that this prophecy is Biblical.


Does the fact that a messenger does not fully understand the message — mean the message is wrong? Does the fact that Miller misinterpreted the word "sanctuary" in Daniel 8:14 "unto 2300 days then shall the sanctuary be cleansed" — mean the sanctuary would not be cleansed at the given time? I think not.


Christ Himself sent out his disciples with the message: "The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand: repent ye, and believe the gospel." Mark 1:15. That message was based on the prophecy of Daniel 9. The sixty-nine weeks were declared by the angel to extend to "the Messiah the Prince," and with high hopes and great anticipation the disciples were looking forward to the establishment of Messiah's kingdom at Jerusalem to rule over the whole earth.

They thought Christ would establish an earthly kingdom. They preached this. They believed it. They even tried to force Christ to become king — (John 6:15)

They preached the message which Christ had told them to preach, though they themselves did not understand what it meant.

While their message was founded on Daniel 9:25, they did not see, that in the next verse of the same chapter, that Messiah was to be cut off. Their hearts were set upon the anticipated glory of an earthly kingdom, and this blinded their understanding.

They preached their message, and then, just three days after the triumphal entry, at the very time when they expected to see Christ take the throne of David, He was seized as if He were a criminal, scourged, derided, and condemned, and put on the cross of Calvary. What a disappointment!

Was Israel expected to believe the message? Yes, they were! Notice in John 19, it was their king that they rejected! Verse 14,15 — "Behold your King!" — the chief priests answered, "We have no king but Caesar." Vs 19, — "Jesus of Nazareth the King of the Jews."

By not believing the Jews, as a special nation were cut off. Matt. 21: 43-45 "The kingdom of God shall be taken from you, and given to a nation bringing forth the fruits thereof. And whosoever shall fall on this stone shall be broken: but on whomsoever it shall fall, it will grind him to powder. And when the chief priests and Pharisees had heard his parables, they perceived that he spake of them."


In the same way Miller and his associates preached that the longest prophetic period in Daniel was about to end, and that the judgment was at hand, and the everlasting kingdom was to be ushered in.

The preaching of the disciples in regard to time was based on the seventy weeks of Daniel 9. The message given by Miller and his associates announced the termination of the 2300 days of Daniel 8:14, of which the seventy weeks form a part. The preaching of each was based upon the fulfillment of a different portion of the same great prophetic period.

Like the first disciples, William Miller and his associates did not, themselves, fully comprehend the meaning of the message which they preached. Errors that had been long established in the church prevented them from arriving at a correct interpretation of an important point in the prophecy. Therefore, though they proclaimed the message which God had committed to them to be given to the world, yet because there misunderstandings they suffered disappointment.

They gave the right message at the right time. For indeed the hour of judgment had come! And the time of the cleansing of the sanctuary had come.

But as the early disciples declared, "The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand," based on the prophecy of Daniel 9, while they failed to perceive that the death of the Messiah was foretold in the same scripture, so Miller and his associates preached the message based on Daniel 8:14 and Revelation 14:7, and failed to see that there were still other messages brought to view in Revelation 14, which were also to be given before the second coming. And they failed to understand the meaning of the word "sanctuary".

As the disciples were mistaken in regard to the kingdom to be set up at the end of the seventy weeks, so Millerites were mistaken in regard to the event to take place at the end of the 2300 days. In both cases there was an acceptance of, or rather an adherence to, popular errors that blinded the mind to the truth.

The message was a judgment message. Were people willing to put spiritual things first? The message was a call to diligently search the scriptures and find the truth even if it totally went against common beliefs that Christians had held for hundreds of years. The message was the message of the first angel's message — it lead to the understanding of the judgement and the whole law of God.

The churches rejected this — they rejected the judgement message, then they rejected the Sabbath as it came to light. It was after 1844 that the Protestant churches began there campaign to declare the ten commandments done away with, nailed to the cross, — all simply to get rid of the Sabbath. The ten commandments had been held in high honor before this. Even now they still believe in them but must continue to reject them to get around the Sabbath.

1844 marked the turning point in the Protestant Churches as they began their march back into Rome.

So Where Was the Mistake?

His mistake was not in the message that changed the way People thought about Christ's coming. Miller had carefully studied what would take place at Christ's coming, and that He would NOT set up His kingdom over the temporal nations. Miller was correct in his views that the second coming constituted the end of the this world as we know it.

Nor was his mistake in calculating the time prophecies. What he failed to realize was that God's judgment hour begins before the great day when Christ comes to execute judgment.

James White wrote:

We reasoned (before the disappointment) as follows:
1. The sanctuary is the earth, or the land of Palestine.
2. The cleansing of the sanctuary is the burning of the earth, or the purification of palestine, at the coming of Christ.
3. And hence our great High Priest will leave the tabernacle of God in Heaven, and descend in flaming fire on the tenth day of the seventh month, in the autumn of 1844.

It is needless to say that we were painfully disappointed. But a man does not live who can overthrow the chronological argument which terminates the 2300 days at that time, or meet the evidence by which it is fortified and sustained; yet multitudes, without stopping to inquire whether our conceptions of the sanctuary and of its cleansing were correct, have openly denied the agency of Jehovah in the Advent movement....

He then goes on to explain how their understanding grew after the disappointment.

"We have seen that the earth is not recognized in the sacred Scriptures as God's sanctuary, that the church is not his sanctuary, and that the land of Canaan is not the sanctuary. The definition of the word is "A Holy Place" (Walker) .."A holy or sanctified place, a dwelling place for the Most High." (Cruden) A dwelling place for God. (Ex. 25:8)

Neither the earth, nor any portion of it, has been such a place...the word sanctuary is used in the Bible one hundred and forty-six times, and not in a single instance does it apply to the earth, the land of Canaan, or the church." (Bible Adventism pp. 145-147)

So Where was the mistake?

We will repeat the conclusion:

As the disciples were mistaken in regard to the kingdom to be set up at the end of the seventy weeks, so Millerites were mistaken in regard to the event to take place at the end of the 2300 days. In both cases there was an acceptance of, or rather an adherence to, popular errors that blinded the mind to the truth.

Dialogue on the Pioneers and the Three Angel's Messages
Return to Homepage