October 22 probably doesn’t mean much to most of my readers, but for someone who grew up as a Seventh-day Adventist (SDA), it has great significance. It was on October 22, 1844 that early Adventists (before they were Seventh-day Adventists) expected Jesus to return. It was actually the second time they had expected that. first came what is known as the “lesser disappointment” of 1843, when they had not set a specific date, but had set a deadline of a season. Of course, the day ended, and nothing happened.
But as often happens with failed prophecies, after thought, consideration, and some manipulation of Bible texts, the Adventists decided that something had happened, it just wasn’t something visible here on earth. Adventists made a firm decision to set no more dates for the actual Second Coming, but they continued to preach that Jesus was coming “soon.”
In an overall doctrinal sense, this is no longer the sort of thing I consider central. But it did play a pivotal role in my decision to leave the SDA church. First was my reading of Daniel. I studied Daniel at Andrews (the SDA Theological Seminary) under a professor who strongly supported the traditional SDA understanding of the passage. People often think those who change their beliefs in college or seminary do so because liberal or unbelieving professors brainwash them. My professor made every effort to convince me that the SDA interpretation of Daniel 8:14 (the famed 2300 day prophecy) made sense. But in the context of Daniel it did not make sense to me.
Having decided that the time prophecy element was completely unfounded I turned to Hebrews and eventually decided that the very concept of an investigative judgment was also not good theology. Having spent a considerable time outside the Christian community, it was this second element that made it relatively certain that I would not return to an SDA community. People expect the seventh day sabbath to be the problem, but while I don’t agree with much of the supporting doctrine (the idea that it is the distinctive characteristic of the remnant, for example), I wouldn’t have a problem making the seventh day a sabbath. (That isn’t at all what SDAs mean by this, of course.)
What’s interesting right now is that I have just completed proofs for a new book, Eschatology: A Participatory Study Guide, by Edward W. H. Vick, who would see similar problems with these various elements to the ones I do, but is a former professor at Andrews University. In addition, my company distributes his book The Adventist’s Dilemma, regarding the use of the word “soon” by Adventists. I had once thought these controversies were in my past. Now I’m editing and marketing books about them.
October 22 can cast a long shadow!