In the late 19th Century in America, there was a wave of enthusiasm for prophecies predicting the actual date for Christ’s Second Coming.
One such prophet was an Adventist leader William Miller (1782-1849). And it is in his movement that both the JW’s and the Seventh Day Adventists find their roots.
Miller first predicted that Christ would return on 21st March 1842, but then revised the date to April 3, 1843. Over 3,500 of his followers jammed the Boston Advent Temple, only to be disappointed.
You might have thought that the movement would have died. But it didn’t. Rather it continued to grow.
Miller decided to recalculate his date for the
Second Coming and soon publicised a new
date - April 18, 1844. When the messiah did not show up on that date, there was again frustration and some followers left the Adventist ranks.
Undeterred by these failures, Miller came up with a third date - 22nd October 1844. The date was publicized as the Millerite publication True Midnight Cry. And, surprisingly, this third date surprisingly rallied his followers.
They began to spread the news of the new date of the second coming with an enthusiasm that had not seen before. Churches which did not accept this message were denounced as agents of “Babylon.” and the devil
And - despite opposition from established, mainline religious groups -, thousands of people – including many clergy – began to defect to the Millerite cult.
As doomsday approached, the Millerites began to prepare.
One account notes that “Fields were left unharvested, shops were closed, people quit their jobs, paid their debts, and freely gave away their possessions with no thought of repayment.”
Huge press runs of Advent publications like The Midnight Cry warned the public that “The Time Is Short”. “Prepare to Meet Thy God!” and “The Lord is Coming!”
William Miller himself began peddling white “ascension robes” to the faithful, many of whom waited for the miraculous event in freshly dug graves.
But as we all know, the Second Coming did not occur on 22nd October 1844.
In fact if they had heeded this morning’s Gospel,they would not have been taken in by Miller’s false prophecy.
For Jesus speaking about the Second Coming said:
32"No one knows about that day or hour, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father. 33Be on guard! Be alert! You do not know when that time will come. (Mk 13)
For many of us, Advent is a time when we look forward to the Birth of Jesus two thousand years ago in a stable in Bethlehem.
However it is also the time we look forward to the Hope we have in Christ’s Return.
As I reflected on the meaning of Advent, I found three emphases evident in this Gospel passage.
I. Christ is Coming Again (v.24-27)
The disciples had been a little confused and thought that the destruction of Jerusalem would be the end of the world. Christ sets them straight and shows that the day of Christ’s coming and day of judgment are after that tribulation. He gives prophecy here of the dissolution of the very components of the world. Finally he tells of His appearance in the clouds and the gathering together of His believers.
On November 2, 1992, the "Mission for the Coming Days" church disbanded after a very tough weekend. Lee Jang-rim, the Korean church’s founder, was in jail and the embarrassed congregation returned to their respective homes and places of employment. The central message of this church had been Christ’s imminent return on October 28, 1992. It was the largest of the South Korean churches that were predicting the impending end of the world. Hundreds, and possibly thousands of these believers sold property, left their families, quit schools and jobs, and deserted military duties. Of course, they should have checked the pastor’s financial portfolio before banking on the October rapture date. Pastor Jang-rim had swindled four million dollars in donations and had $380,000 invested in bonds that wouldn’t mature until the following May.
This distinguishes prophecy and guesswork. You see Jesus gives us prophecy of hope here. He tells us of His second coming, and gives us a basic timeline to work with, while NOT giving us a date and time of any clarity. Why do you think Jesus doesn’t just come out and throw out a date? His emphasis is clearly that the date and time is not so important as how we consistently live our lives in the knowledge that it is coming at any time. But Christ is His infinite knowledge doesn’t want anyone to misunderstand, and so he illustrates with a parable…
II. The Parable of the Fig Tree (v. 28-29)
Just like a tree shows signs in the spring that summer is near, we are to look around and see signs that the end is coming. We don’t know at which exact day or hour, but we can tell when the season is coming. Our hope is foundational in the belief that Christ’s second coming will not be a mystery but rather we will have been ready for an extended period of time.
John Wesley was working in his garden one day when a neighbor came by to visit. The neighbor attempted to jolt Wesley by asking, "What would you be doing now, John, if you knew for certain Jesus would return today?" Wesley jolted his neighbor instead by replying, "I would go right on doing what I’m doing." May we live in such a way that Christ could return at any time and we would be comfortable continuing the task at hand.
Do you live your life in a state of readiness if at any moment Christ were to return? From the evidence we have around us, just like that of a tree telling of summer, we are living in the last days. That could mean a few years or hundreds, but in the timeline of humanity, we are nearer the end than the beginning.
III. The Hope of His Return (v. 30-37)
The end is coming and soon, but we are not to know the day nor hour. Our job is to 1) watch and 2) pray. We do not know the time or place, but after our birth, our bodies begin to die. As such we are to anticipate Christ’s return to us at our death. We are to be ready for Him when He returns, that’s why his command is an emphatic: WATCH!
"A time is coming for all men when they will be either born again, or wish they had never been born at all.” - anonymous
My prayer is that the end times for you – whether during your life or when you meet Christ in death, that you might be ready. That you have been watching. That when Christ returns you will know you are born-again
Do you have the hope in Christ that I am preaching today?