Did you hear that the world is going to end? Holy shit! The sun will burn out and a meteor hits us and Jesus comes back and exotic diseases are gonna wipe us out… AT THE SAME TIME. That’s right, science has spoken, the world is going to turn into yet another hunk of dead rock… eventually. In fact, it already happened once, sort of. Ever heard of the Toba Event? That’s where this supervolcano (Kinda like Old Faithful) blew up and blackened the sky and killed all but about 5,000-10,000 humans. I think more people made it out alive at the end of The Stand. So this is totally a post-apocalyptic world, right?
And only a deranged Mel Gibson can save us. Except Jews, Hispanics, and Blacks. They’re on their own.
So why didn’t anyone warn us of these obviously impending disasters that could strike us dead at any moment? Well, if you wanna get technical, lots of people have warned us about the impending end of the world. Except, well, they were dead fucking wrong each time, weren’t they? And so, that’s why the Weird Shit Blog has decided to begin a new feature. On the last Friday of every month, we’re going to showcase an apocalyptic prediction that went horribly wrong when the apocalypse didn’t happen. I’m calling it “End of the Month, End of the World.” Enjoy!
William Miller was born a Baptist, but converted to Deism after he met some friends who convinced him to change his mind. He joined the Freemasons, got very high in the ranks and, when the War of 1812 broke out, he got a band of volunteer soldiers together and marched his ass to the nearest post to join up. After several years as a recruiter, Miller finally saw action at the Battle of Plattsburgh in 1814, where an artillery shell exploded no more than 2 feet from him, killing 2 of his fellow soldiers and leaving him without a scratch.
“HOW DOES THIS HAPPEN?”
Miller had a crisis of faith after the explosion. Since Deism espouses a detached God who doesn’t meddle in human affairs and Miller felt that he had been miraculously saved, he converted back to his old Baptist ways. When his Deist friends asked him to explain his re-conversion, Miller hit the Bible, reading it cover to cover. But instead of finding justification for his new/old faith, he found what he believed was a timeline for the end of the world.
Daniel 8:14 reads, “Unto two thousand and three hundred days; then shall the sanctuary be cleansed.” Miller read “the sanctuary” as the entire world and “two thousand and three hundred days” as 2,300 years. Wait, what? This is what’s known as the Day-Year Principle. Essentially, when reading the Bible as a more abstract piece, one can read “days” as years, or whatever makes more sense to you. This is generally okay by most Biblical scholars when talking about, say, the Creation, but not so much when talking about something like, oh, Methuselah.
“I’m gettin’ too old for this shit.” – Methuselah
Miller calculated the 2,300 years starting with the decree to rebuild Jerusalem in 457 B.C., meaning the whole sanctuary cleansing thing would go down in 1843, 25 years in the future from when he made the calculation. (SPOILER ALERT: Didn’t fucking happen.) He took another 5 years, just to be absolutely certain. When he decided that there was no other possible interpretation, Miller published an article about his findings.
A few years afterward, he began a kind of preaching tour, holding revivals around New England. He then published another, longer article, and after overwhelming response, a 64 page tract. Within weeks, William Miller had his own full-blown religious movement. They called themselves Millerites.
“Can our slogan be, ‘It’s Millerite time?’ No?”
After mounting pressure from his followers, Miller was asked to provide an exact date for the Second Coming, something he had previously refused to give. Finally, he declared that, based on the Jewish calendar, the year 1843 began March 21st and ended on the same day the following year. When the entirety of 1843 , and then March 21st, 1844 came and went without event, the date was adjusted to the beginning of the Karaite Jewish calendar, which had the year ending on April 18th, 1844.
When that date also passed, some Millerites became upset, and demanded an explanation from Miller and the rest of the leaders of the group. Finally, Samuel Snow delivered what was called the “True Midnight Cry” in August of 1844. The leaders of the Millerite movement had studied the Bible thoroughly and had finally discovered a mistake in their calculations. They could now firmly announce that God would return on the 10th day of the 7th month of the year 1844. This, according to the Karaite Jewish calendar, was October 22, 1844. (MAJOR SPOILERS: Shit still didn’t fucking happen.)
Millerites waited anxiously. Some sold their worldly possessions and moved cross-country to be near Miller when the day finally arrived. Some men and women left their non-believer spouses and children behind, wanting to be first in line for the Rapture. Finally, October 22 arrived. Now, this might sound crazy to you folks reading at home, but can you believe it? The world didn’t end. Not even a little.
“Boy, is my face red.”
Millerites declared it the “Great Disappointment.” (Personally, I saved that for Star Wars prequels, ZING!) Miller became a laughingstock in the press and he quietly lived out the rest of his days waiting for the world to end. He died in 1849. The public mocked and abused the devastated sect. Basically, they had a really shitty time. Not only did they not get to heaven, but now everyone on Earth was laughing at them and being dicks.
A few remaining leaders tried to predict new dates in April, July, and October, 1845, but each came and went with no sign of Jesus. Other, smaller sub-sects went to more… extreme means. Some theorized that, based on Mark 10:15, “Truly, I say to you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God like a child shall not enter it,” they should begin acting like children.
“This plan cannot fail.”
Another group believed that God came invisibly on the day of the Great Disappointment and only took virgins to heaven, but since no one could actually name anyone who disappeared on that day, it kinda fell apart. Finally, a theory arose that October 22, 1844 had been a heavenly event, preparing the world for the coming Rapture, but that humans on Earth would still not know the date, only that it came “soon”.
This final group began their own church that eventually moved away from the whole “predicting the end of the world” thing. They became a popular protestant denomination in New England and spread their way through the United States. In fact, they’re still around today. You might have heard of them: The Seventh Day Adventists.
Not even kidding.
Wikipedia (An obvious sign of the apocalypse.)