LandMarks Magazine  

July 1998 Table of Contents


SDA Roots, Part 2
By Ken McGaughey

SDA Roots, Part 2

In the previous article, two major events were noted that are important to the student of Bible prophecy. First was the taking of the pope prisoner by the French army and the second was the discovery of the Rosetta stone which confirmed the authenticity of the ancient Bible records.

"So the very people who thought to exterminate the Bible were, all unconsciously to themselves, used to bring about a fulfillment of prophecy in taking away the dominion of the papacy at the end of the 1260 years, and also discovered the key to the very writings which confirm the truthfulness of the Scriptures they tried so hard to destroy." The Great Second Advent Movement, 8, by J. N. Loughborough.

Before 1798, expositors of Bible prophecy knew the beginning date for the seventy weeks of Daniel 9 but did not see the connection between the seventy weeks and the 2300 days of chapter 8. As a result they did not have a beginning date for the 2300 days.

"As this knowledge was ‘sealed up’ until the Lord’s appointed time came for its opening up to the understanding of His people, so just as truly when the ‘time of the end’ came, many were to ‘run to and fro’ through the Scriptures, searching out these things." Ibid., 85.

"Nothing in this old earth is more powerful than a prophetic truth whose time has come. When Rome was ruling the Western world, a large group of contemporary students of prophecy recognized and proclaimed the identity and fate of the fourth prophetic world empire. When Rome was in process of tenfold division, another cluster of expositors left the written record of their perception, and their fears, of the coming Antichrist. When the papal Little Horn had unveiled its real character and identity, a great host of Reformers in many lands gave their witness to this advancing and then present fulfillment of prophecy—so powerfully that it brought on the Counter Reformation with its clever counter system of interpretation. When the 1260 years were ending, this solemn fact was also proclaimed on both sides of the Atlantic as then in process of fulfillment, while men awaited the next great event.

"And now when the judgment hour was approaching, with the ending of prophetic time, and the time of the cleansing of the sanctuary and the imminence of the advent had come, suddenly the witness was heard in different continents and many lands, giving startlingly similar testimony and exposition of prophecy thereon." The Prophetic Faith of Our Fathers, vol. 3, 741, 742.

The following is a list of some of those who arrived at basically the same conclusions regarding the 2300 days, about the same time: William Miller, New York; A. J. Krupp, Pennsylvania; David Mcgregor, Maine; Edward Irving, England; A. Mason, Scotland; L. H. Kelber, Stuttgart, Germany; Laucunza, Spain; Hentzepeter, Holland; Rau, Bavaria; and there were many more.

"Is it not a wonderful coincidence that so many writers, without any knowledge of one another, came to the same conclusion about the same time?" Midnight Cry, June 15, 1842.

Decline in Europe

The momentum of the proclamation of the 2300-day prophecy in England and Europe declined rapidly due to the serious divergences as well as the similarities among the expositors of that prophecy. This resulted in the breakdown of the great Advent Awakening. But with the loss of momentum in the Old World there developed a rapid advance of it in America. The heralds of the advent in Europe failed to go on to perfection but they supplied the literature for those in America that did proclaim with "a loud voice" the message of the imminent appearing of Christ.

"Around the turn of the century [1800], during and following the world-shaking events and repercussions of the French Revolution, there was an unprecedented general turning to Bible prophecy on the part of an impressive number of thoughtful students of the Word among all leading Protestant faiths. And where one sermon on the theme was published, many more were evidently given orally, without ever getting into print. It seemed as if men had entered a new epoch in searching the pages of the two leading books of prophecy—Daniel in the Old Testament and Revelation in the New—the one obviously the complement of the other.

"It was as though a baffling seal of mystery and restricted understanding of its latter portions had at last been broken. As men of all persuasions on both sides of the Atlantic began poring over these pages as never before, comparing part with part and checking them with history, light began to dawn on certain heretofore mysterious symbols, and greater understanding came on some of its cryptic phrases concerning the last events of the age. And this investigation continued with increasing momentum for several decades." The Prophetic Faith of Our Fathers, vol. 4, 56.

There were five major factors leading to the decline in the Old World.

1. There was a diversity of opinion regarding the number 2300. Is it 2300 or 2400?

2. Did the 2300 years end in 1844 or 1867? (Assuming that the 1260 and 1335 years had the same starting date).

3. There was a wide diversity of view as to the cleansing of the sanctuary. Some believed it meant the restoration of the Jews to Palestine, among other views.

4. The "judgments" of God to be poured out upon the Papacy and Mohammedanism was the message to be proclaimed.

5. The Catholic Futurist and Preterist counterinterpretations broke the unity of the Protestant’s interpretation when some of them accepted the Catholic view.

When the early expectations of the advent in 1843 did not materialize, certain rationalistic theologians denied that the prophecies connected with this event were inspired. They further stated that the little horn was Antiochus Epiphanes. Rationalistic higher criticism was introduced to lead people away from the truth regarding the authenticity of the Scriptures and this led to the breakdown of the historical school of interpretation in the Old World. By turning men’s minds away from the Scriptures, Satan attempted to negate the great Second Advent message, so that people would be lulled to sleep and ultimately lost.

Following the events that brought in "the time of the end," the prophecies of Daniel that had been previously sealed were now opened to the minds of those proclaiming the nearness of Christ’s Second Coming. The extent of the quest and activity of these pious men was without a parallel in history. Books and sermons began to pour from them with which nothing could be compared in sheer numbers. This was recognized as a sign of the times and was considered to be a fulfillment of prophecy.

Signs of the Times Discerned

"The signs of the times, the obvious nearness to the end, and the second coming of Christ to wind up human affairs and vindicate the right and punish wrong, as well as the imminent introduction of the millennium—these were the themes that men studied and upon which they wrote and discoursed most earnestly. Again and again they were led to record their conviction that they were manifestly entering the final epoch in the affairs of mankind." Ibid., 58.

In Matthew 24, Jesus referred to the great tribulation that should be shortened. (This was accomplished in part by the decree of Maria Theresa and the Acts of Toleration, in France [1773-1776] to save the church in the wilderness from extinction.) He also said that signs (the dark day, the falling of the stars) would follow, indicating the nearness of His coming.

Then Jesus said, "Now learn a parable of the figtree: When his branch is yet tender, and putteth forth leaves, ye know that summer is nigh; so likewise ye, when ye shall see all these things, know that it is near, even at the doors. Verily I say unto you, This generation shall not pass, till all these things be fulfilled. Heaven and earth shall pass away, but my words shall not pass away." Matthew 24:32–35.

Here we are brought to the time for this parable and the judgment hour message of Revelation 14:6, 7, to be proclaimed to the world. The time had arrived to arouse the world to the fact that Jesus’ coming was at the door.

At the beginning of the nineteenth century many expositors were proclaiming that the time of the end had arrived. There was definite interest in both the Old and New World in the prophesied signs of the nearness of the Second Advent and millenium.

There was general acceptance that under the sixth seal (Revelation 6:12–17) three events would occur in sequence—a great earthquake, a dark day and a unique falling of the stars. These were to be tokens of the approaching advent.

World Events Influence Proclamation

"There are transition hours in the course of world events when history seems to change its fundamental course, when it takes on an acceleration, a significance, and a direction previously unknown, as a new concept or revolutionary idea moves mankind forward to new attainments. However, the greatest advances connected with these transition times have not always been merely mechanical or material. Oftentimes they have been intellectual and spiritual, though at times all these factors have converged, as at the opening decade of the eighteenth and the early decades of the nineteenth century.

"It was a time characterized by new and heretofore undiscovered forces, by a new understanding of the times, by the rechanneling of pent-up energies; by new concepts of the world, of power, of society, of freedom, of progress; also often by a new sense of spiritual responsibility, and by new convictions of divine destiny. And strange as it may at first seem, these concepts were to a surprising degree derived from a profound conviction that the destined hour of fulfillment of a great prophetic time and truth, long foretold in Holy Writ, had now come." Ibid., 82.

Professor K. S. Latourette, of Yale University, lists a number of factors that deeply influenced the religious developments of the nineteenth century. 1. Man’s increased knowledge of the physical universe, which both helped and hindered Christianity. For some, it caused them to believe the Bible to be obsolete and to remove God out of the individual’s experience. 2. The invention of machinery, steamship, railroad and telegraph made possible the more rapid spread of Christianity. This brought about the Industrial Revolution that drastically changed society. 3. Rationalism, Romanticism and the beginnings of evolution all occurred during this period. 4. Nationalism was on the increase. 5. The unprecedented worldwide spread of Christianity by increased immigration of large segments of people from the Old World to the New as well as within the Old.

"Prophecy was the motivating force in much of the religious thought and activity of America in the opening decades of the nineteenth century, according to history professor Oliver W. Elsbee, of Bucknell University. The common conviction held by religious leaders of various denominations regarding the prophetic significance of the time in which they were living, was expressed in pamphlets, periodical articles, and books, as well as in sermons preached before church groups or missionary societies." Ibid., 85.

By 1833, "The Lord was raising up His messengers or ministers in various parts of the world, who from 1833 to 1834 sounded the cry of Christ’s coming near, ‘even at the doors;’ and these taught the parable of the fig-tree, pointing to these signs of His coming, even as He had instructed them to do. This message, either by the living teacher or through the agency of the printed page, went to every missionary station in the world, and to every seaport on the earth." The Great Second Advent Movement, 98.

Similarities to the Reformation

The spread of the interest in and proclamation of the 2300 days and the Second Advent may be compared with the rise of the Reformation in the sixteenth century.

"Germany did not communicate the truth to Switzerland, nor Switzerland to France, nor France to England. All these countries received it from God, just as one part of the world does not transmit the light to another part; but the same shining globe communicates it directly to all the earth. Christ, the day spring from on high, infinitely exalted above all mankind, was, at the period of the Reformation, as at the establishment of Christianity, the divine fire which gave life to the world. In the sixteenth century, one and the same doctrine was at once established in the homes and churches of the most distant and diversified nations. The reason is, that the same Spirit was everywhere at work producing the same faith . . .

"The advent proclamation arose in a similar manner to that above traced in the Reformation. Men were moved out simultaneously in more than four times as many parts of the world, with no knowledge of, or any communication of sentiment with, one another, and began the proclamation of the same Scripture truths, not simply in four nations of the earth, but to the whole civilized world." Ibid., 99, 100.

In His time and in His manner the God of heaven will carry out His plan for the proclamation of the Gospel of Salvation to a sin-sick world. Men may cause delay because they do not desire to do as the Lord asks them, but nevertheless someone will obey the Divine commands. "And this gospel of the kingdom shall be preached in all the world for a witness unto all nations; and then shall the end come." Matthew 24:14.

In the next article we will take a look at some of the leading men, around the world as well as in America, who were responsible for the development of the Second Advent Movement, leading up to 1844, that swelled to a great crescendo in America.

July 1998 Table of Contents



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