William Miller and the early Adventist pioneers were not correct in their interpretation of the 2300 Day prophecy of Daniel 8:13-14. They were mistaken as to both the event and the timing.
Seeing the error in Miller’s calculations does not diminish the beautiful message of the Gospel. It does not tear down any pillars of the Seventh-day Adventist church or their faith. And it does not take away from the fact that the Lord chose to raise up a church in His name at that time. But it is important for us to let go of some of Miller’s errors so that we can take hold of the truth for our time regarding this important end-time prophecy.
Mr. Miller saw two time prophecies in Scripture: the 2300 Days of Daniel 8:14 and the 70 Weeks of Daniel 9:24. He thought these were connected to each other somehow. He linked them together and began one prophetic time at the starting point of the other prophetic time. This led him to 1844. But the problem is that these two prophetic times are not linked together and are, in fact, related to two entirely separate and distinct events. So, there never was a time prophecy that pointed to 1844.
At the same time, Miller also did not understand the meaning of the cleansing of the sanctuary at the end of the 2300 Days foretold in Daniel 8:14. Because he didn’t know what “then shall the sanctuary be cleansed” meant, he was incorrect in his speculation about what would happen when this time period was fulfilled. In fact, he didn’t understand the entire chapter of Daniel 8, so his assumptions led him to look at his own time instead of the end-time events which are foretold in this chapter.
In order to better understand these errors made by William Miller and his followers,
- We should take a quick look at the truth about the 2300 Day prophecy of Daniel 8:14. (The complete study of this prophecy will be included in a future article.)
- We should look at just how Miller drew his conclusions so we can see that his reasoning was not completely sound.
- We should also see what the 70 Weeks prophecy is about.
- Finally, one of Miller’s followers had a vision that was interpreted to mean that the Atonement began in 1844. This is how they weathered their disappointment. We should look at the meat of this vision to see if it really had the meaning ascribed to it.
For the next two years after the disappointment, several men studied out where Miller went wrong and came to some very profound conclusions. Alas, the details of their study will have to remain a topic for future articles, but we can summarize the main points of their discoveries:
- God’s Feasts continue to remain valid until the Second Coming of Christ and even beyond.
- The Temple of God is in Heaven where Christ is the High Priest.
- The “cleansing of the sanctuary” is a heavenly work that Jesus does when He cleanses His people of sin and wipes our record clean of our trespasses.
These discoveries showed that Miller was completely in error when he though the Second Coming of Christ would happen in 1844, as was proven when He didn’t appear. And it also helped explain what God was trying to teach people at that time. He wanted mankind to learn about the sanctuary system and how it pointed to Jesus Christ as our High Priest, our Offering, our Temple and our Saviour.
Daniel’s vision in chapter 8 is a continuation of the one he saw in Chapter 7. We can see this from what Daniel says in verse 1 as well as from the context of the two chapters once they are understood.
“In the third year of the reign of King Belshazzar a vision appeared to me—to me, Daniel—after the one that appeared to me the first time.” Daniel 8:1
In his first vision in Chapter 7, Daniel saw four notable kingdoms followed by a Little Horn power. In Chapter 8, Daniel saw the succession of six kingdoms, beginning two kingdoms earlier than the ones he saw in Chapter 7. These six were in the form of a Ram, a He-Goat, then those same four notable kingdoms from Chapter 7, also followed by the Little Horn power. Another point that links these two visions together is that both visions end by showing the last kingdom on earth is under the power of the same “Little Horn” just before God gives the “kingdom” to the saints (Dan. 7:8, 17-18, 21-22; 8:9). These two visions don’t line up at their beginning, but they do align at their ends.
This Little Horn is a power equal to Satan as the final Antichrist that will persecute the saints. He will set up a temple in Jerusalem and pretend that he is Christ come to earth. Many people will bow to him and proclaim him to be both the Christian Christ and the Jewish Messiah. (The Great Controversy, p. 624.)1
God’s people will see that this Little Horn is that “Son of Perdition” that Paul spoke of in 2 Thessalonians 2:1-12, the “Abomination of Desolation” that Jesus spoke of in Matthew 24:15-22 (referring to Daniel 12:11) and the “Mouth speaking great things and blasphemies” from Revelation 13:5 while he “sits in the seat of God, saying that he is God” as foretold in Ezekiel 28:2. During his allotted time on earth he will “speak great words against the most High, and shall wear out the saints of the most High, and think to change times and laws.” (Daniel 7:25) He exalts himself to the Prince of the host while he also casts the truth to the ground and stomps on it. (Daniel 8:11-12)
And so, in the face of this persecution, the question is asked, “How long is the Little Horn allowed to continue his abominations?” God thought the answer was important enough to pose the question Himself. One of the Holy Ones asks,
“How long will the vision be, concerning the daily … and the transgression of desolation, the giving of both the sanctuary and the host to be trampled underfoot?” Daniel 8:13 KJV
The saints want to know, “How long will he be allowed to continue?” The 2300 Day time prophecy is the answer that follows and must address this question. This “2300 Day Prophecy” is the time period that Miller thought pointed to 1844. But contrary to what Miller believed, this prophecy has everything to do with the Little Horn at the end of time and nothing to do with 1844 or the 70 Week prophecy of Daniel 9:20-27 that Miller connected it to, as we will see.
The answer to the question in Daniel 8:13 comes in the form of the 2300-Day Prophecy and it gives both the amount of time that the Little Horn will continue to transgress and also the event that brings him to an end.
“For two thousand three hundred days; then the sanctuary shall be cleansed.” Daniel 8:14
He will continue for 2300 “evening-mornings” and his reign of terror will be ended when the “sanctuary is cleansed.” And we are also told at what point in history this event will occur:
“And the vision of the evenings and mornings which was told is true; Therefore seal up the vision, for it refers to many days in the future.” Daniel 8:26 NKJV
How many days in the future? All the way down to the end of time. —— This Little Horn is persecuting the saints and inhabiting the sanctuary on earth, claiming that he is God, right up until the Ancient of Days gives the kingdom to the Saints:
“I was watching; and the same horn was making war against the saints, and prevailing against them, until the Ancient of Days came, and a judgment was made in favor of the saints of the Most High, and the time came for the saints to possess the kingdom.” Daniel 7:21-22
- The Little Horn is the final Antichrist that will reign until the Second Coming of Christ.
- The event that destroys his power is the final Atonement (the “cleansing of the sanctuary”) made by Christ at the close of probation.
- The time period of the 2300 Days refers to the amount of time the end-time Antichrist is allowed to persecute God’s people.
If Miller had been correct, it would have meant that the events in the couple of years leading right up to 1844 would have included:
- The great outpouring of the Holy Spirit to enlighten the world (Joel 2:23, 28-29; Zechariah 10:1; James 5:7; Revelation 18:1)
- The last call of mercy to all of earth’s inhabitants (Joel 3:9-12; Matthew 24:14; Revelation 7:9; Revelation 14:6-9)
- The “Shaking of the Powers of Heaven” in the 7 Trumpets (Joel 2:30-31; Revelation 6:12-14; Revelation 8:6-13; Isaiah 2:19-22; Zephaniah 1:14-18)
- The final persecution of God’s people by the end-time Antichrist, accompanied by another wave of martyrs (Revelation 6:9-11; Revelation 12:17; Matthew 24:15-22; Daniel 12:1)
Then 1844 would have ended with the Second Coming of Christ because the Little Horn persecutes the saints and prevails against them right up until the Ancient of Days comes and the kingdom is turned over to the saints.
But these were not the events that took place in the world in the years approaching 1844. Daniel’s vision is very clear that the question and the answer of the 2300-Days Vision are surrounding the Little Horn and the events that take place during his reign. The question relates to the Little Horn. The answer solves the problem of the Little Horn. And it all takes place at the time of the end. These verses in Chapter 8 clearly lay out the problem facing the world and its solution. If Miller could have had this reasoning and this clarity that we have today, he would have understood why his theory was wrong.
“And out of one of them came a Little Horn… and it cast down some of the host … to the ground and trampled them… and by him the daily … was taken away, and the place of His sanctuary was cast down.…” Daniel 8:9-11
“How long will the vision be, concerning the daily … and the transgression of desolation, the giving of both the sanctuary and the host to be trampled underfoot?…” Daniel 8:13
“For two thousand three hundred days; then the sanctuary shall be cleansed.” Daniel 8:14
“…Understand, son of man, the vision refers to the time of the end.” Daniel 8:17
The Answer—the Cleansing of the Sanctuary
“For two thousand three hundred days; then the sanctuary shall be cleansed.” Daniel 8:14
This “cleansing of the sanctuary” refers to the final Atonement made by Christ as He completes His Priestly duty in the heavenly sanctuary. (Lev. 16; Lev. 23:26-32) Like the churches of his day, Miller mistakenly thought this meant that Christ was coming to “cleanse the earth.” He did not know enough about the Atonement, the heavenly priesthood and sanctuary, the earthly sanctuary and its services, the end-time events leading up to the second coming nor about the Little Horn, to correctly interpret this prophecy.
The reason why the final Atonement takes care of the problem of the Little Horn is a fascinating and important study. But the short version is that Christ cleanses all of His people of their record of sins, reuniting them with the Father and is given the kingdom, bringing an end to all earthly kingdoms. These actions take away Satan’s power over God’s people. Just as the earthly priest entered the temple from the east, Christ (the true High Priest) prepares His people so that He can make the Atonement and this is the “tiding out of the east…” that troubles the Little Horn. (Dan. 11:44)
It is often believed that when you look at time prophecies, you must use the year-for-a-day principle to interpret the amount of time. Though there are times when a prophetic period might be drawn out, for the most part using a day to represent a year is untrue.
The “Year-for-a-Day Principle” is often misused to interpret time prophecies by taking a Bible statement that says “days” and reinterpreting the time to mean “years.” William Miller used this method when he translated the time prophecy of Daniel 8:14. He took the “two thousand three hundred days” and converted the time into 2300 years. Then he looked for beginning and ending points with 2300 years in between them. Just imagine how excited Miller must have been when he discovered a date only a couple of years in his future! And yet, when God wanted to use a day to represent a year, He said so, as in Ezekiel:
“Lie also on your left side, and lay the iniquity of the house of Israel upon it. According to the number of the days that you lie on it, you shall bear their iniquity. For I have laid on you the years of their iniquity, according to the number of the days, three hundred and ninety days; so you shall bear the iniquity of the house of Israel. And when you have completed them, lie again on your right side; then you shall bear the iniquity of the house of Judah forty days. I have laid on you a day for each year.” Ezekiel 4:4-6
And in reverse, sometimes He wanted to use a year to represent a day. He used this in Numbers:
“According to the number of the days in which you spied out the land, forty days, for each day you shall bear your guilt one year, namely forty years, and you shall know My rejection.” Numbers 14:34
God may also use a year to represent a seven-year period called a Sabbatical. We can see this timing represented in the captivity in Babylon. Every 7th year the land was allowed to rest from being plowed, tilled, planted and harvested. (Leviticus 25:1-7) God told the Israelites that while they were in Babylon for 70 years, the land in Jerusalem would rest. Each one of these 70 years represented a seven-year period in which the land was supposed to lay fallow. Since the people did not let the land rest every seven years as God had commanded, He would allow the land to make up its Sabbaths during the 70 years the people were in captivity and could not work their own land. Seventy years of rest would make up for 490 years that the people did not let the land keep its Sabbaths.
“Then the land shall enjoy its Sabbaths as long as it lies desolate and you are in your enemies’ land; then the land shall rest and enjoy its Sabbaths. As long as it lies desolate it shall rest, for the time it did not rest on your Sabbaths when you dwelt in it.” Leviticus 26:34-35
“And those who escaped from the sword, [Nebuchadnezzar] carried away to Babylon, where they became servants to him and his sons until the rule of the kingdom of Persia, to fulfill the word of the LORD by the mouth of Jeremiah, until the land had enjoyed her Sabbaths. As long as she lay desolate she kept Sabbath, to fulfill seventy years.” 2 Chronicles 36:20-21
In each of these cases, God is representing a period of time symbolically by a different period. In all cases the Bible clearly indicates which two time periods are being compared. We see nothing of this pattern in the 2300 Day prophecy. And each time, God told us when He was substituting symbolic days or years.
In Daniel 9:24, the “70 Weeks” prophecy also does not use the year-for-a-day principle. The original Hebrew says, “Seventy sevens” and is referring to the Sabbaticals which consisted of a period of 7 years. Seventy Sabbaticals is 490 years. You do not need to arrive at this number by applying the year-for-a-day principle.
The 2300 days are literal days and were never meant to be interpreted as “years.” In this passage, the Hebrew term for days is “ereb boqer” which means, “evening morning.” These evening-mornings are even repeated in the angel’s description given in verse 26.
“And the vision of the evening and the morning which was told is true: wherefore shut thou up the vision; for it shall be for many days.” Daniel 8:26
This is the exact same wording used in Genesis when God Created the Earth.
“And the evening and the morning [ereb boqer] were the first day.” Genesis 1:15
Those days of Creation were also literal days. If we apply a year-for-a-day to the 2300 days, then the same term in Genesis must mean that God created the earth over long ages—either seven years or longer. Yet in neither case does this term mean anything more than, “The sun goes down, the sun comes up, it’s a new day.” There is no clearer way to state this than to say, “evening-morning.”
The mistakes made by Miller are numerous. He made an error in interpreting the “cleansing of the sanctuary” to mean the Second Coming of Christ to the earth. He was wrong in attaching the two time prophecies of the 2300 Days of Daniel 8 and the 70 Weeks of Daniel 9. His followers were ultimately wrong in choosing the 22nd of October in 1844 as the Day of Atonement that year. And they were wrong in interpreting Hiram Edson’s vision to mean that Christ began the Atonement in 1844. Even Ellen White admits to the errors of Miller. She also reminds us not to question the wisdom of God in allowing these errors as He works out His plans.
“As the disciples were mistaken in regard to the kingdom to be set up at the end of the seventy weeks, so Adventists were mistaken in regard to the event to take place at the expiration of the 2300 days. In both cases there was an acceptance of… popular errors that blinded the mind to the truth. Both classes fulfilled the will of God in delivering the message which He desired to be given, and both, through their own misapprehension of their message, suffered disappointment.
“Yet God accomplished His own beneficent purpose in permitting the warning of the judgment to be given just as it was.” E.G. White, The Great Controversy, p. 352.
“God designed to prove His people. His hand covered a mistake in the reckoning of the prophetic periods. Adventists did not discover the error, nor was it discovered by the most learned of their opponents. …
“The time of expectation passed, and Christ did not appear for the deliverance of His people. Those who with sincere faith and love had looked for their Saviour, experienced a bitter disappointment. Yet the purposes of God were being accomplished: He was testing the hearts of those who professed to be waiting for His appearing.” E.G. White, The Great Controversy 1888, pp. 373-374.
William Miller was mistaken as to both the event and the time of his predictions in 1844. Yet, despite his lack of understanding, God used Miller for His own purpose in stirring up a Spiritual revival. God allowed these errors and we are not to dwell on them. Who are we to criticize Miller or the Early Advent Movement when this is the method that God used to move the world? Our test of faith comes when we decide to continue to go forward as God brings us into greater light. For just as the Disciples were tested, and God chose to prove the faith of the people in 1844, God will again look at us to see if we are brave enough to hold fast our faith in God to lead us. There is no security in holding on to ancient error. Our security must be in the power of God’s ability to lead us into all truth.
“There is no excuse for anyone in taking the position that there is no more truth to be revealed, and that all our expositions of Scripture are without error. The fact that certain doctrines have been held as truth for many years by our people, is not a proof that our ideas are infallible. Age will not make error into truth, and truth can afford to be fair. No true doctrine will lose anything by close investigation.…” E.G. White, Counsels to Writers and Editors, pp. 35.2-36.1 (original found in Advent Review and Sabbath Herald, December 20, 1892.)
We must grow into truth as we are able and as the time becomes right. Today, the time is right for us to let go of Miller’s errors and take hold of present truth, for great events are right upon us and we must understand the truth for our time. Christ offered the same wisdom to His disciples when He said,
“I still have many things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now. However, when He, the Spirit of truth, has come, He will guide you into all truth … and He will tell you things to come.” John 16:12-13
Allow me to explain some of Miller’s reasoning so you can better see his error. Miller combined two time prophecies—the 2300 Evening-mornings of Daniel 8, and the 70 Weeks of Daniel 9. He thought they were linked together for a couple of reasons. One of these reasons was because both of them used the same Hebrew word, “chazon.”2
In Daniel 8:1-2, 13, 15 and 26, the word “vision” is the Hebrew chazon. This same word is also found two times in Daniel 9:21-24, though in each of these two times it refers to two completely different visions. Chazon is also translated as “vision” 23 other times in 12 other books of the Bible, besides all of its other translations, making the use of this word to combine these two visions a weak link in Miller’s logic.
In fact, the visions in Daniel 8 and 9 are translated from two Hebrew words, both meaning “vision:” chazon and also mareh.3 This further weakens Miller’s attempt to connect these visions by saying they are both chazons. Here is one example from Daniel 8 that shows how interchangeably these two Hebrew words are used:
“And the vision [mareh] of the evenings and mornings which was told is true; therefore seal up the vision [chazon], for it refers to many days in the future.…
“And I, Daniel,… was astonished by the vision [mareh].…” Daniel 8:26-27
We can see in this verse that the 2300 Day prophecy, also called the “vision of the evening mornings,” is actually a “mareh.” Mr. Miller thought he had something, but he really did not. Linking together these two visions based on the Hebrew word chazon was an error in Miller’s reasoning that was overlooked by man, winked at by God but should now come to light.
“Gabriel, make this man understand the vision”
Another reason that Miller linked these two prophecies together was because both visions were explained by the angel Gabriel.
“And I heard a man’s voice between the banks of the Ulai, who called, and said, ‘Gabriel, make this man understand the vision.’” Daniel 8:16
“Now while I was speaking, praying, and confessing my sin and the sin of my people Israel, and presenting my supplication before the Lord my God for the holy mountain of my God, yes, while I was speaking in prayer, the man Gabriel, whom I had seen in the vision at the beginning, being caused to fly swiftly, reached me about the time of the evening offering.” Daniel 9:20-21
It is true that the angel Gabriel was sent to explain to Daniel both the mareh of Chapter 8 and the chazon of Chapter 9, but that does not mean they are the same vision, only that Gabriel was sent both times to bring understanding.
“Determined”—the 70 Weeks Prophecy
“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.” Daniel 9:24
The next faulty connection made by Miller was in this word “determined”4 found in Daniel 9. Miller found that this word in Hebrew also means “cut off.” Without considering the context of this prophecy, Miller focused only on the two time periods. From this, he decided that the 70 Week prophecy needed to be “cut off” from some other prophecy. Having already linked Daniel 8 and 9 together through the “chazon,” he decided that the 70 Weeks must be “cut off” from what he believed to be the longer vision of the 2300 Days—which he thought to be 2300 years.
What Miller failed to consider was that the entire prophecy of the 70 Weeks was a probationary period for the Jews to end their rebellion against God before the coming of their Messiah. It was a time prophecy that pointed to the coming of Jesus and, unfortunately, the end of the Jewish nation.
This verse in 9:24 reads more literally, “Seventy sevens have been set apart [cut off] as your final chance to show your devotion to Me and bring forth the Messiah who will come to put an end to sin… and bring in everlasting righteousness.” When Peter asked Jesus how many times they were to forgive their brethren, Jesus quoted Daniel 9:24 when He answered, “Seventy times seven.” (Matt. 18:21-22)
The 70 Week prophecy was a probationary period allotted to the Jews as their last chance to decide if they wanted to obey God or not. They chose not. And in AD 70, at the end of the 70 Weeks, their temple was destroyed and their nation was given over to the command of others. Daniel’s visions did not remain sealed [Dan. 9:24 “seal up vision and prophecy”], but the Book of Daniel was handed over to the Lion of the Tribe of Judah who began opening the seals one by one. (Rev. 5:4-10) The Messiah came through the lineage of Judah, but Judah no longer had a part in helping Him bring everlasting righteousness to the world.
The Starting Date
Miller was in error in connecting these two unrelated time periods. But he compounded his error when he used the starting date for the 70 Week prophecy of Daniel 9 to also begin the start of the 2300 Days of Daniel 8. The 70 Weeks have a definite starting date:
“Know therefore and understand, that from the going forth of the command to restore and build Jerusalem, until Messiah the Prince,…” Daniel 9:25
Even though there are at least six separate commands to restore and rebuild Jerusalem, including the one given by God right there in Daniel 9:23, the starting date for the 70 Weeks that appears to fit the best with the coming of Christ is the date of 457 BC. From this year, beginning with the command by the Persian king Artaxerxes, 70 Weeks reached to the time of Christ. From that same starting point in 457 BC, 2300 “years” (as interpreted by Miller) would have reached to 1844.
But the 2300 Day prophecy does not start in 457 BC and it did not end in 1844. The Bible does not give a starting date for this prophecy. It specifically says it is for the time of the end, it is literal days, leads to the time when the saints will take the kingdom and points to the final Atonement made by Christ shortly before His second coming.
The 2300 Days are given as an answer to the question of how long the Little Horn is allowed to persecute God’s people and blaspheme God. And the problem of the Little Horn is solved when Christ completes the Atonement. At the end of the 2300 Days the sanctuary is cleansed, restored and vindicated. At this time the Atonement is finished, and not just begun as concluded by Miller and his followers in the two years following 1844. This conclusion was another error made, not by Miller, but by the remnant people who suffered disappointment in 1844 when Christ failed to appear.
The 2300 Day prophecy is an entirely different topic than the 70 Weeks which pointed to the probation of the nation of Judah.
- The 70 Weeks prophecy lasted from the restoration of the Jewish nation after its Babylonian captivity and led up to the First Coming of Christ.
- The 2300 Days leads up to the Second Coming of Christ from a yet undisclosed starting point in the end of time.
October 22, 1844
There was some truth in the calculations of the Millerites.
- In 1844 they came to realize that God had observed the timing of His Feast Days at Christ’s First Coming, and recognized that He would probably follow His calendar again at His Second Coming.5
- When they were looking for the date of the cleansing of the sanctuary, they were directed to look at the Jewish holiday of Yom Kippur. This is a Biblical holy day, also called “the Day of Atonement,” which is held on one day each year. The date for this holiday is determined by the Biblical Calendar.
- The Millerites were pointed towards the Karaite Jews as having a more accurate understanding of the Biblical Calendar than did the Rabbanite Jews.6
These were three important truths in the Millerite reckoning.
The Karaites were a small sect of the Jews who were urging their people to go back to the Bible as opposed to following Talmudic laws, years of tradition and the decrees of the Rabbis. They correctly stated that the Biblical Calendar pointed to the start of the year in a later month than did the Rabbinical calendar. They based this on the ripening of the barley. They also said that the new moon must be visually observed to determine the start of the new month.
The Millerites were convinced of the truth of this information, but did not know what to do with it. So even though they started the year in the later month (April as opposed to March) in 1844, they still did not observe the new moon in the seventh month in order to know when the first day of that month was. Instead, they just took the date of April 19 when the moon was to be observed, added 6 months of 29.5 days and arrived at October 13 as the start of the seventh month, bringing them to October 22 as the Day of Atonement that year.7 There were three mistakes here in their calculation.
- They did not actually observe the new moon or the barley in April.
- At that time they did not know that the day begins at sunset. This means that when the crescent moon is observed at evening, that is the beginning of the following day. For example, if the moon is observed on a Tuesday night, then Wednesday is technically the beginning of the new month. In their situation, when the moon was seen on the night of April 19, they should have declared that the new year began on April 20.
- They failed to actually observe the new moon in the seventh month to determine its first day. If the new year did begin in April that year as they calculated, then the new moon in the seventh month would have been observed in their location after sunset on October 13, making the first day of that month October 14 and the Day of Atonement on October 23 instead of October 22.8
But whether the Day of Atonement rightly fell on October 22 or 23 that year is immaterial. Miller had led them to look for the Second Coming of Christ on that date. But Christ did not come. And there never was a time prophecy of 2300 years. There was no time prophecy pointing to 1844 but this date in history did see a revival that God created in order to continue forward in His work of the Reformation.
There was no time prophecy leading to Martin Luther’s revelation about Justification by Faith, nor any prophecy pointing to Huss, Jerome, Wycliff or other reformers. This does not mean that these were not significant events in world history. At each if these times, the Lord Himself chose to move His cause forward and bring new light to people who were willing to be led by Him. The time of 1842 to 1844 was a great time of religious revival throughout the world. And God used Mr. Miller and his prophetic message to further that revival. But there is no time prophecy in Scripture that pointed to that event. Though God held His hand over the error in Miller’s calculations at that time, He did use him as a spokesman to bring revival to the world.
Hiram Edson’s Vision
The 23rd of October was the likely date for the Day of Atonement in 1844. And it was on this day that God chose to communicate to the disappointed Millerites through a vision given to one of Miller’s followers, Hiram Edson. On the morning after the disappointment, Edson and a friend decided to head over to another home to encourage the brethren. As they passed through a corn field, Edson was stopped with a vision of Christ standing at the golden altar, wearing His priestly garments and performing the final Atonement, similar to the scene in Revelation 8:3-5. From Edson’s vision, combined with their misinterpretation of the time prophecy, they mistakenly concluded that Christ had entered into the Most Holy Place and had begun the work of Atonement right then in 1844.
They were correct in interpreting this scene as depicting the Day of Atonement. But without an understanding of what the Day of Atonement meant, they could not rightly conclude that it began in 1844. A deeper understanding of the Day of Atonement reveals that once the Atonement has begun, there is no longer any forgiveness for sins. No other priest or man was allowed in the sanctuary during the act of Atonement. (Lev. 16:17) This means that once Christ begins the Atonement process, no other sins can be brought before Him for forgiveness. Mrs. White herself supports this understanding in an early vision that depicts Christ telling His people to wait a little while without sinning while He goes to the Father to make the Atonement and receive the kingdom.
“I saw the Father rise from the throne, and in a flaming chariot go into the holy of holies within the veil, and sit down. … Then [Jesus] raised His right arm, and we heard His lovely voice saying, ‘Wait here; I am going to My Father to receive the kingdom; keep your garments spotless, and in a little while I will return from the wedding and receive you to Myself.’ Then a cloudy chariot, with wheels like flaming fire, surrounded by angels, came to where Jesus was. He stepped into the chariot and was borne to the holiest, where the Father sat. There I beheld Jesus, a great High Priest, standing before the Father.” E.G. White, Early Writings, p. 55
While Christ is in the Holiest making the Atonement, and afterwards, there are no more sins being forgiven. If Christ had begun the Atonement in 1844, then all of us who live afterwards have no hope of forgiveness for our sins. The more understanding we gain about the Day of Atonement, and what it means, the more we see that Scripture continues to support that it was impossible for the work of the Atonement to have begun in 1844.
Had the early Advent people continued on in their studies of the Atonement, they too would have eventually come to this same conclusion. That is, unless they found it more important to justify the errors of the 1844 prophetic timeline.
Today we need Bible truth more than at any other time. We must progress in our understanding of this important truth for more reasons than to understand the Biblical time prophecies. The correct understanding of the Day of Atonement reveals what Christ is doing today in His work and helps prepare us against the deceptions that are coming upon the world. The church can move forward on this point without collapsing. We need to stand bravely as did our Pioneers who advanced in the light they were given. And we can trust that if we are advancing in truth, Christ will be at our head.
Throughout Scripture, the Atonement is a quick event that occurs at the end of time when Christ has a people who are “one” with the Father and His kingdom. It is shown in Revelation 8:1 to take only 1/2 hour–or a very short time–while the heavenly beings hold their breath in anticipation. It is depicted as a quick event in Zechariah when God says, “And I will remove the iniquity of that land in one day.” (Zech. 3:9.) It is shown as the final event in the 7th Seal of Revelation (Revelation 8-11) which shows that it comes at the sounding of the 7th Trumpet within the time of the 7th Seal.
The Atonement is the very last event that occurs before Christ receives the Kingdom (Rev. 11:15-19) Previous to this event, all the living people of the world have been brought into the Valley of Decision and have been hardened into their choices for or against God as shown in the ending of the 6th Trumpet. (Joel 3:9-16; Rev. 9:20-21) And at the close of Revelation 11:19 it can be seen that the work of Christ’s Priesthood and the Heavenly Temple is finished when the temple in heaven is laid open to view.
Hiram Edson saw a vision of Christ standing before the golden altar to make the final Atonement. But this did not mean that He began the Atonement at that time. It just pointed them to the topics that they needed to study further. God was showing them that the Day is coming and they need to understand these topics so that they could be prepared. They would need to understand the truth of this topic to both understand the errors that they made in reckoning the 2300 Days in 1844 and also to understand when the time prophecy of Daniel 8 will actually come in the future. If it was important for these Pioneers to understand the importance of this message 175 years ago, how much more important is it for us today when the time is even nearer?!
In his vision, Edson was also specifically directed to consider Revelation 10 in which the Lion of Judah is holding the open book of Daniel.9 The reference to Revelation 10 and the open book that was shown to Mr. Edson was God’s message to them that they would not fully understand this vision until the Book of Daniel is finally unsealed at the time of the 7th Seal. And Revelation 10 ends with this verse which was a message to them, and also to us:
“And he said to me, ‘Thou must prophesy again before many peoples, nations, tongues, and kings.’” Revelation 10:11
Conclusions and Hope
William Miller connected Daniel 8 and 9 through the word chazon which was a very loose thread. The only thing these two visions had in common was that Gabriel was sent to explain both of them. Then Miller linked the start of the 2300 Day prophecy to the start of the 70 Weeks because of the word “determined.” He assumed that the 2300 Days were symbolic of years and that the 70 Weeks were “cut off” from this bigger time period. These are the errors that brought him to 1844.
He made the mistake of thinking the “earth” was the sanctuary, and in order to cleanse it, Christ was coming. He followed the Karaite calendar to begin the year, but didn’t follow through in the seventh month to find the correct date for the Day of Atonement. These errors led him and his followers to look for the Second Coming on October 22 and concluded with their disappointment.
However, despite the fact that they compounded one error upon another, God used the message of William Miller and his friends and followers to proclaim a wake-up message to the world. Before we fault them, as we do the Jews for not recognizing Christ when He came, we should ask if we ourselves are diligently preparing for His coming? And do we ourselves rightly understand Daniel 8 or the message of the final Atonement?
Christ did not come to the earth in 1844 as they expected, and He did not begin the Atonement then either. He stepped into the Most Holy Place in the heavenly temple and began His priestly ministry when He ascended to heaven on the morning of His resurrection. This ministry will come to a complete end at the close of the 2300 Days when He has made the final Atonement, cast down the censor and we are forever free of our sins. Just as the veil was torn and the earthly temple opened when its time was over, so will the heavenly priesthood end and the heavenly temple be laid open when the Atonement is complete. We read this in Revelation:
“The temple of God was opened in heaven and the ark of His covenant was seen in His temple.” Rev. 11:19
And when the Final Atonement is made in heaven, then all the kingdoms of this world will be given to Christ. And this worship scene will break out in heaven:
“And the seventh angel sounded [his trumpet]; and there were great voices in heaven, saying, The kingdoms of this world are become the kingdoms of our Lord, and of his Christ; and He shall reign for ever and ever.
“And the four and twenty elders, which sat before God on their seats, fell upon their faces, and worshipped God, saying, We give thee thanks, O Lord God Almighty, which art, and wast, and art to come; because Thou hast taken to Thee Thy great power, and hast reigned.
“And the nations were angry, and Thy wrath is come, and the time of the dead, that they should be judged, and that Thou shouldest give reward unto Thy servants the prophets, and to the saints, and them that fear Thy name, small and great; and shouldest destroy them which destroy the earth.” Revelation 11:15-18
1. An excerpt from The Great Controversy regarding the Little Horn in the temple on earth:
“As the crowning act in the great drama of deception, Satan himself will personate Christ. The church has long professed to look to the Saviour’s advent as the consummation of her hopes. Now the great deceiver will make it appear that Christ has come. In different parts of the earth, Satan will manifest himself among men as a majestic being of dazzling brightness, resembling the description of the Son of God given by John in the Revelation. Revelation 1:13-15. The glory that surrounds him is unsurpassed by anything that mortal eyes have yet beheld. The shout of triumph rings out upon the air: ‘Christ has come! Christ has come!’ The people prostrate themselves in adoration before him, while he lifts up his hands and pronounces a blessing upon them, as Christ blessed His disciples when He was upon the earth. His voice is soft and subdued, yet full of melody. In gentle, compassionate tones he presents some of the same gracious, heavenly truths which the Saviour uttered; he heals the diseases of the people, and then, in his assumed character of Christ, he claims to have changed the Sabbath to Sunday, and commands all to hallow the day which he has blessed. He declares that those who persist in keeping holy the seventh day are blaspheming his name by refusing to listen to his angels sent to them with light and truth. This is the strong, almost overmastering delusion. Like the Samaritans who were deceived by Simon Magus, the multitudes, from the least to the greatest, give heed to these sorceries, saying: This is ‘the great power of God.’ Acts 8:10” White, E. G., The Great Controversy. Mountain View, CA: Pacific Press Publishing Association. p. 624. [To read more.]
2. “Chazon” H2377: a sight (mentally), that is, a dream, revelation, or oracle: translated as: vision. [Strong’s Concordance]
3. “Mareh” H4758; a view (the act of seeing); also an appearance (the thing seen), … or (mental) a vision: translated as: apparently, appearance, as soon as beautiful, countenance, fair, favored, form, goodly, to look on (to look upon, to look onto), look, pattern, to see, seem, sight, visage, vision. [Strong’s Concordance]
4. “Chathak” H2852 A primitive root; properly to cut off, that is, (figuratively) to decree: – determine. Used only once in Scripture. [Strong’s Concordance]
The following quotations, regarding the experience of Mr. Miller and his associates, are from Lessons in Denominational History published by the General Conference of Seventh-Day Adventists in 1942. They are included here, not to prove any point, but only because some may find it interesting to see some of their original thoughts in 1843-1844. It is also interesting to note that these topics came up again in 1942 when this book was published, and again at that time the General Conference failed to recognize their significance. Source: Lessons in Denominational History, General Conference of Seventh-day Adventists, 1942.
5. In 1844 the Pioneers realized the fact that God had observed the timing of His Feast Days at Christ’s First Coming, and recognized that He would probably follow His calendar again at His Second Coming.
“‘The argument was that at Christ’s First Advent, several of the Jewish observances, typical of that event, were fulfilled chronologically, and that, consequently, those which were typical of His second advent must also be fulfilled chronologically.’ The Advent Shield, Jan., 1845, p. 269. In 1844 this view was presented by others, and was quite widely accepted, although for a time the lecturers and the editors of the advent papers stood aloof from it.” Lessons, p. 89.
6. They were pointed to the Karaites as having a more accurate picture of the Biblical Calendar:
“There was a difference of reckoning between two classes of Jews, the rabbinical and the Karaite. The rabbinical Jews followed tradition. In the early centuries they conformed their reckoning of time to harmonize with that of the Roman church, when it ruled that Easter should always be celebrated on the first Sunday after the first full moon after March 21.
“Mr. Miller had followed them in beginning and ending the year with March 21. Some of his associates, however, after carefully studying the two systems, found the Karaite reckoning to be in harmony with the Scriptures and the seasons in Palestine, and concluded that the Jewish year would end with the new moon, April 17. The crescent of the new moon could not actually be seen by an observer until two days later, April 19. According to the ancient Jewish reckoning this later date became the first day of the new year. These facts had great significance later when the Millerites suffered their first disappointment and were seeking an explanation for it.” [Lessons, p. 88]
7. How they arrived at the date of October 22.
“They had added six Jewish months, or 177 days, and obtained the date October 13 as the first day of the seventh month. The tenth day of that month was October 22. The cry was now raised, ‘Behold, the Bridegroom cometh; go ye out to meet Him.’” [Lessons, p. 90.]
What is notable here is how involved they were in searching out the Biblical Calendar. They learned about the Karaites, the observance of the crescent moon, counting the days to the Feasts, that the months average 29.5 days in length, that God was acting according to some kind of Biblical Calendar, that His Feast Days still retained their significance even after the Cross, and that the Roman power had changed the days of God’s Feasts. It would be several years yet before they would accept the seventh-day Sabbath and learn that the new day begins at sunset. Clearly, at the time of this revival, God had brought these points to light and He had shown that He would continue to follow His calendar. And here we are today, back again looking at these same points. Why did the church lose its focus on these facts in the years following? Perhaps we must pick up where the Pioneers left off and, this time, move forward?
8. Distant Suns moon and sun charts for October 12-14, 1844 as viewed from Portland, Maine USA.)
9. In later years, Hiram Edson recounted his vision of October 23, 1844. This was originally quoted from “Review and Herald,” June 23, 1921.
“After breakfast I said to one of my brethren, ‘Let us go and see and encourage some of our brethren.’ We started, and while passing through a large field, I was stopped about midway of the field. Heaven seemed open to my view, and I saw distinctly and clearly that instead of our High Priest coming out of the most holy place of the heavenly sanctuary to this earth on the tenth day of the seventh month at the end of the 2300 days, He, for the first time, entered on that day into the second apartment of that place before coming to the earth. … And my mind was directed to the tenth chapter of Revelation, where I could see that the vision had spoken and did not lie.” Christ in His Sanctuary, p. 4.5.