William Miller was a prosperous farmer, a Baptist lay preacher, and student of the Bible, living in northeastern New York. He spent many years studying the prophecies of Daniel, in particular Daniel 8:14, which said ‘Unto two thousand and three hundred days; then shall the sanctuary be cleansed’.
Miller became convinced that the 2,300-day period started in 457 BC and in 1831 he would publicly announce that the Second Advent of Jesus Christ would occur in the year 1843, and when Christ’s Second Coming occurred, the Earth would be destroyed by fire. However, few would listen.
It wouldn’t be until 1840 that Miller would garner a mass following, known as Millerites, because of the interest of a pastor of Chardon Street Chapel in Boston, Joshua Vaughan Himes. Himes, an experienced publisher, would establish a fortnightly paper called ‘Signs of the Times’ to publicize Millers prediction.
He would eventually attracted as many as 100,000 followers who believed that they would be carried off to heaven when the date arrived. When his 1843 prediction failed to materialize, Miller recalculated and determined that the world would actually end on October 22, 1844.
When that date also failed to be the end of the world, the group became disillusioned and confused. Several Millerites came up with a plethora of reasons for why this date had passed without incident, with some still continuing to look daily for Christ’s return, while others suggested different dates for the Second Coming, none of which happened. This confusion would come to be known as ‘The Great Disappointment’.