We have this hope as an anchor for the soul, firm and secure. It enters the inner sanctuary behind the curtain where our forerunner, Jesus, has entered on our behalf. He has become a high priest forever… Hebrews 6:19-20
October 22, 1844, was not the day of the Great Disappointment. October 23, 1844, was.
October 22, 1844, was perhaps the most euphoric day in Christian history. On that day thousands across the northeastern United States and other parts of the world expected to see the face of Jesus in the clouds with innumerable angels, a sight this earth had never seen before. Imagine it: Christ coming in a matter of hours—and you are ready. You will actually see Jesus with your own eyes. You will fly away from this exhausted planet to spend forever in paradise. As you look down from increasingly higher and higher heights, the turbulence and turmoil marking your earthly existence gets smaller and smaller as does the round ball that was your former home. October 22 was a day of unprecedented Christocentric hope.
It was really not until 11:59.59 pm that the dam began to break on the flood of certain disappointment. When the clock struck midnight and that first second ticked by, it was a moment that drowned the impalpable but very real breath of hope that filled the spiritual lungs of Millerites. Although technically morning, it seemed as if they were left to grope in perpetual darkness. Things were hopeless—or so they thought.
October 23, 1844, was not a day of great disappointment. It was a day of the great hope.
Because we are human and thus necessarily limited, we often don’t realize the really important things that are happening. This holds true not only in the realm of human affairs, but especially in the supernatural sphere. We can only know what goes on in the latter by divine revelation. This can’t be stressed enough. Any claim otherwise is mistaken hubris.
The disappointment felt on October 23 stemmed from the limitations of human understanding. If the Millerite believers realized the most important event that occurred that day they would have been joyful. Jesus was endeavoring upon a process necessary to their salvation, one that had to be consummated prior to His coming.
Ellen White was not the only advent believer with visions from God.
The hope-filled development that occurred on October 23 was occasioned by an initial divine revelation, then a second. In the Millerite era those whom Adventists now hold to have received visions from God have been limited to a trio representing the three major demographic groups in the northeastern United States at the time: William Foy (black), Hazen Foss (white), and Ellen Harmon (woman).
But the vision phenomenon was not confined to these three; indeed, God is never confined. In an interview with her assistant Dores E. Robinson in 1906, Ellen White recalls several more individuals who exercised prophetic function in the Millerite period. We would also do well to allow for the manifestation of God’s revelations in other parts of the world, for His Spirit is not limited to the so-called “West.”
But one individual did have a vision that is, arguably, on par with any that Ellen White or all previous prophet throughout history received. The vision was brief, but earth-shattering—better put, hope-resuscitating. Briefly, here is his story.
A thirty-something Millerite farmer had invited fellow believers to his home on that fateful Tuesday of October 22 to witness the greatest human event in history. After midnight he had a bewildered, depressed group on his hands. As the sun rose over the horizon just as it always did, he invited his companions outside for some fresh air. He led them to his empty granary (believing Jesus would come he did not harvest his crops) and they knelt in supplication, requesting clarity. After a while the group went back into the farmer’s house for another breakfast on earth, one they never thought they’d partake of just hours earlier.
After the meal the farmer invited his 24-year old friend, Owen, to accompany him in encouraging fellow Millerites in the vicinity. The two set out through the farmer’s cornfield, the stalks grown to eye-level emphasizing their tragic mistakenness. Side-by-side, heads down, barely speaking, the duo bee-lined toward the field’s edge. When the farmer felt a hand on his shoulder he assumed it was Owen, but for some inexplicable reason he looked up instead of over. What he saw made him stop in his tracks, completely riveted.
He had always read about the sanctuary in Exodus and Leviticus: its measurements, furniture, animals, slayings, incense, garb, priests. He had read in Hebrews about Jesus being the Great High Priest. In the sky, right now, in the dawning day, was a scene bringing all of those elements together in an empyrean canvas that electrified his entire being. A figure that he immediately recognized as Jesus Christ (despite having never laid eyes on Him) was in priestly vestments…moving. The furniture was what clued the farmer as to what was occurring: Christ was departing the Holy Place and entering the Most Holy Place of the Heavenly Sanctuary.
Meanwhile Owen, mundanely putting one foot in front of the other, had reached the end of the cornfield and slowly came to the awareness that he was alone. He looked to his side, then rear. Squinting to see where his fellow was, he finally spotted him among the stalks. Oddly, his friend’s face was tilted toward the sky.
The only word Owen could think of to describe the expression on Hiram Edson’s visage was: Hope.
At this time Seventh-day Adventists’ most blessed hope is Christ our High Priest.
What lifted the spirits of former Millerites before the sinking awareness that the last several years had been an irredeemable waste of time, energy, and money? What shielded them from the I-told-you-so smirks on the faces of neighbors and acquaintances? What gave them the wherewithal to put their lives back together piece by piece?
It was a new hope that didn’t so much replace the former hope as create a different, more sophisticated hope. We might say a hope more in alignment with truth, reality. Edson’s vision in the cornfield came from one type of revelation; the advent believers explored and confirmed that particular revelation with another type of revelation: Bible study. Their conclusion: “We have this hope as an anchor for the soul, firm and secure. It enters the inner sanctuary behind the curtain where our forerunner, Jesus, has entered on our behalf. He has become a high priest forever…”
Christ our High Priest means this:
- Jesus died for us
- Jesus rose from the dead
- Jesus was successful in his activities in the Holy Place
- Jesus entered the Most Holy Place
- Jesus is applying the blood of His sacrificial death in atonement for our sins
- Jesus lives to intercede for us
- Jesus is our lawyer
- Jesus is typifying the meticulousness of the earthly sanctuary to save us thoroughly and flawlessly
- Jesus loves humanity as seen in the tedious, exhaustive, and transparent attempts to save all
- Jesus is preparating of heaven for us
- Jesus will return to earth when His work in the Most Holy Place is completed
- Jesus is 169 years into the final stage of our salvation; His coming is near
October 23 guaranteed that all of humanity would hear the gospel—not just dwellers in parts of the United States, Britain and Australia. October 23 guaranteed that the final salvation for some at Christ’s second coming would not be based upon a shabby, insufficient process, but upon a thorough and durable application of Jesus’ death. October 23 guaranteed that the damnation that Christ’s second coming would confirm for others would not be based upon a shabby, insufficient process, but upon thorough, exhaustive, and perfectly systematic attempts to persuade them to accept Christ’s sacrifice. October 23 signaled the final phase of a plan that will make everything harmonious, holy, vital, pure and perfect again.
If all goes right—and all will go right—the process that began on October 23 almost 170 years ago will triumphantly culminate in the event that our spiritual forebears thought would occur on October 22 almost 170 years ago: the return of Jesus.
This is a companion discussion topic for the original entry at http://spectrummagazine.org/node/5656