Revelation Chapter 3
VERSE 10 continued, “Because thou hast kept the word of my patience, I also will keep thee from the hour of temptation, which shall come upon all the world, to try them that dwell upon the earth.”
“The test of patience seems to have had a more marked occurrence toward the latter part of the Philadelphia era. Indeed, also, the characteristic feature of “brotherly love,” which Divine Providence used to denote this sixth stage of the Church, was particularly applicable in the closing years.
The Miller movement, a religious movement, began in 1829 and culminated in 1844. The participants were, and are, generally known as “Second Adventists” and “Millerites” because they expected the Second Advent of the Lord to occur in 1844 and because William Miller, an earnest and esteemed New England Baptist, was the leader and prime mover.
Between 1829 and 1844 the movement attracted the attention of all classes of Christian people in the United States, especially in the East and the Midwest. Years earlier, Professor Bengel in Tubingen, Germany, had called attention to prophecies and the coming of Messiah’s Kingdom, while the celebrated missionary Wolff had done the same in Asia.
The center of this work, however, was in America, where social, political, and religious conditions favored—more than elsewhere—independence in Bible study as well as in other matters. Similarly, the First Advent movement, though confined to Judea, reached the ears of devout Israelite's everywhere (Acts 2:5).
Most know something of the failure of Brother Miller’s expectations. That the Lord did not come in 1844 and the world was not burned up with fire, as he had expected and taught others to expect, constituted a great disappointment to those “holy people” who had so confidently looked for Christ to then appear and exalt them to power and glory with him. This disappointment of 1844 is briefly recorded in the parable of the Ten Virgins by the statement “the bridegroom tarried”; i.e., to the expectant ones he seemed to tarry. The subsequent confusion and darkness, and the consequent sorrow, are shown in the statement “While the bridegroom tarried, they all slumbered and slept” (Matt. 25:5).
The same parable reveals a second movement, comparable to the Miller movement and yet different, among the same general class of virgins (but not necessarily the same individuals). Disappointment having been predicted for the first movement, it was necessary to wait for the 1,335 “days” of Daniel to be fulfilled:
“Blessed is he that waits (continues to hope and to believe), and comes to the thousand three hundred and five and thirty days” (Dan. 12:12).
This second movement was not a disappointment, for, based on the scriptural principle of a day for a year, fulfillment came exactly at the termination of the 1,335 prophetic days—that is, in October 1874.
Just following the 1,335-year period of “waiting,” the fact of Messiah’s presence, as taught by foregoing prophecies, began to be recognized. It was very early in the morning of the Millennial Age, the “midnight” hour as far as the deep-slumbering virgins were concerned, when the cry (still ringing) went forth:
“Behold, the bridegroom!” (Matt 25:6 RSV)
The cry was not that the Bridegroom WILL come, but that he HAS come; and all are now living in the presence (Greek parousia) of the Son of Man.
The 30-year period of waiting, from the disappointment of 1844 to the realization at the end of the 1,335 days (1874), caused a sifting among the professed people of God. Those who did not doubt became all the more interested in the Bible as the Word of God; others became haughty and skeptical, asserting that the Bible was a foolish old book, that anybody who studied these prophecies was soft in the head. This latter group did not keep the Word of God, but discarded its declarations. Though positive and numerous, the promises and prophecies of the Bible relating to the Master’s Second Coming were abandoned by most of the great teachers. Consequently, the general public knew little about the Bible, and of course, their faith could not be much greater than their knowledge.
Miller’s interpretations and deductions were in error on almost every point, as he understood neither the manner nor the object of the Lord’s return. In expecting a sudden appearance and the end of all things in one literal day, he thought all time prophecies must end there, and his aim was to force them all to this common terminus. Hence his failure occurred—beyond which God did not immediately enlighten any, as further enlightenment was not then due. Despite these errors the Miller movement was in God’s order, accomplishing an important work in separating, purifying, refining, and thus preparing a faithful people waiting for the Lord.
The movement had two definite “designed,” yet opposite, effects—in one class it awakened an interest in the subject of the Lord’s coming; in another class it cast reproach upon the subject through mistaken expectations.
These designed effects correspond to the First Advent movement, when at Jesus’ birth the wise men came from the East and “the people were in expectation” of him (Matt. 2:1, 2; Luke 3:15). Also, there is a time correspondence: Just as thirty years elapsed from Jesus’ birth to his anointing at age thirty, when he began his work as Messiah, so thirty years elapsed from 1844 to 1874.
The “Millerite movement,” as it is disparagingly called, brought an individual blessing to the people who participated in it. The movement led to a careful searching of the Scriptures and to confidence in God’s Word above the traditions of men; and it warmed, fed, and united the hearts of God’s children in nonsectarian fellowship, for those who were interested were of all denominations, though principally Baptists. Since the end of that movement, some have organized as new sects, thus partially blinding themselves to blessings due in the harvest period.
In effect, then, the Miller movement separated those who patiently kept the Word of God from those who lost faith in His Word. Keeping “the word of my patience” refers to this persistent, patient faith of the true saints of God. The “hour of temptation,” therefore, comes not upon the Philadelphian stage of the Church but upon those who followed—during the Laodicean stage of the Church. The Philadelphia Church, which had patiently passed through a severe trial of faith, would not be subjected to the later test.
Please see our blog post on the Parable of the Wise and Foolish Virgins for more on the Miller movement.
We move on to Verse 11 in our next post.
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