One hundred seventy-five years ago this month we remember what has been known as the Great Disappointment. October 22, 1844, was unlike most other days in history. Thousands upon thousands expected to see Jesus return in the clouds of heaven. They waited for Him in the United States; they waited for Him in Europe, in South America, and many other places around the world. Waiting for the second coming of Jesus was no local or even regional pastime. It was global—and it was biblical.
Bible students all around the world had started to put two and two together. Daniel’s prophecies in chapters 7-9 began to make sense. Like William Miller, many had figured out God’s prophetic timing. They thought that the cleansing of the sanctuary, noted in Daniel 8:14, was a reference to Jesus’ return as it appeared in the context of judgment on the little horn.
When He didn’t come, they cried and cried until they had no more tears. Many gave up on religion altogether. Others rejoined their former denominations. A small group, however, went back to Scripture. There they discovered that they had had the time right—but not the event. The end of prophetic time didn’t mark the return of Jesus to Planet Earth. Rather, it marked the beginning of God’s public investigative judgment on His people. It was an important part of God’s plan of salvation.
This small group of early Advent believers learned a valuable lesson. When they went back to Scripture, they began to find answers. Scripture is always our safe haven. But, as with the early Christians, they also realized that their disappointment had a purpose. God wanted to reach the world, not just New England or North America—every tribe, language, tongue, and nation. It took decades for them to fully catch the vision of global mission, but once they got it, they never looked back. Like the first Christians, they knew that Jesus was coming again.
We still wait and work in anticipation of that great day, which will mark the end of all sin, pain, and also disappointments.