The First Angel's Message
THE prophecy of the first angel's message,
brought to view in Revelation 14, found its fulfillment in the advent movement of 1840-44.
In both Europe and America, men of faith and prayer were deeply moved as their attention
was called to the prophecies, and, tracing down the Inspired Record, they saw convincing
evidence that the end of all things was at hand. The Spirit of God urged His servants to
give the warning. Far and wide spread the message of the everlasting gospel, "Fear
God, and give glory to Him; for the hour of His judgment is come." Rev. 14:7.
Wherever missionaries had
penetrated, were sent the glad tidings of Christ's speedy return. In different lands were
found isolated bodies of Christians, who, solely by the study of the Scriptures, had
arrived at the belief that the Saviour's advent was near. In some portions of Europe,
where the laws were so oppressive as to forbid the preaching of the advent doctrine,
little children were impelled to declare it, and many listened to the solemn warning.
To William Miller and his
co-laborers it was given to preach the message in America, and the light kindled by their
labors shone out to distant lands. God sent His angel to move upon the heart of a farmer
who had not believed the Bible, to lead
him to search the prophecies. Angels of God
repeatedly visited that chosen one, to guide his mind and open to his understanding
prophecies which had ever been dark to God's people. The commencement of the chain of
truth was given to him, and he was led on to search for link after link, until he looked
with wonder and admiration upon the Word of God. He saw there a perfect chain of truth.
That Word, which he had regarded as uninspired, now opened before his vision in its beauty
and glory. He saw that one portion of Scripture explains another, and when one passage was
closed to his understanding, he found in another part of the Word that which explained it.
He regarded the sacred Word of God with joy, and with the deepest respect and awe.
As he followed down the
prophecies he saw that the inhabitants of the earth were living in the closing scenes of
this world's history; yet they knew it not. He looked at the churches, and saw that they
were corrupt; they had taken their affections from Jesus and placed them on the world;
they were seeking for worldly honor, instead of that honor which cometh from above;
grasping for worldly riches, instead of laying up their treasure in heaven. He could see
hypocrisy, darkness, and death everywhere. His spirit was stirred within him. God called
him to leave his farm, as He called Elisha to leave his oxen and the field of his labor to
With trembling, William
Miller began to unfold to the people the mysteries of the kingdom of God, carrying his
hearers down through the prophecies to the second advent of Christ. The testimony of the
Scriptures pointing to the coming of Christ in 1843 awakened widespread interest. Many
were convinced that the arguments from the prophetic periods were correct,
sacrificing their pride of opinion, they joyfully received the truth. Some ministers laid
aside their sectarian views and feelings, left their salaries and their churches, and
united in proclaiming the coming of Jesus.
There were but few ministers,
however, who would accept this message; therefore it was largely committed to humble
laymen. Farmers left their fields, mechanics their tools, traders their merchandise,
professional men their positions; and yet the number of workers was small in comparison
with the work to be accomplished. The condition of an ungodly church and a world lying in
wickedness burdened the souls of the true watchmen, and they willingly endured toil,
privation, and suffering, that they might call men to repentance unto salvation. Though
opposed by Satan, the work went steadily forward, and the advent truth was accepted by
Great Religious Revival
Everywhere was heard the
searching testimony warning sinners, both worldlings and church members, to flee from the
wrath to come. Like John the Baptist, the forerunner of Christ, the preachers laid the ax
at the root of the tree and urged all to bring forth fruit meet for repentance. Their
stirring appeals were in marked contrast to the assurances of peace and safety that were
heard from popular pulpits, and wherever the message was given, it moved the people.
The simple, direct testimony
of the Scriptures, set home by the power of the Holy Spirit, brought a weight of
conviction which few were able wholly to resist. Professors of religion were roused from
their false security. They saw their backslidings, their worldliness and unbelief, their
pride and selfishness. Many sought the Lord with repentance and humiliation. The
that had so long clung to earthly things they now fixed upon heaven. The Spirit
of God rested upon them, and with hearts softened and subdued they joined to sound the
cry, "Fear God, and give glory to Him; for the hour of His judgment is come."
Sinners inquired with
weeping, "What must I do to be saved?" Those whose lives had been marked with
dishonesty were anxious to make restitution. All who found peace in Christ longed to see
others share the blessing. The hearts of parents were turned to their children, and the
hearts of children to their parents. The barriers of pride and reserve were swept away.
Heartfelt confessions were made, and the members of the household labored for the
salvation of those who were nearest and dearest.
Often was heard the sound of
earnest intercession. Everywhere were souls in deep anguish, pleading with God. Many
wrestled all night in prayer for the assurance that their own sins were pardoned, or for
the conversion of their relatives or neighbors. That earnest, determined faith gained its
object. Had the people of God continued to be thus importunate in prayer, pressing their
petitions at the mercy seat, they would be in possession of a far richer experience than
they now have. There is too little prayer, too little real conviction of sin; and the lack
of living faith leaves many destitute of the grace so richly provided by our gracious
All classes flocked to the
Adventist meetings. Rich and poor, high and low, were, from various causes, anxious to
hear for themselves the doctrine of the second advent. The Lord held the spirit of
opposition in check while His servants explained the reasons of their faith. Sometimes the
instrument was feeble; but
the Spirit of God gave power to His truth. The presence of holy
angels was felt in these assemblies, and many were daily added to the believers. As the
evidences of Christ's soon coming were repeated, vast crowds listened in breathless
silence to the solemn words. Heaven and earth seemed to approach each other. The power of
God would be felt upon old and young and middle-aged. Men sought their homes with praises
upon their lips, and the glad sound rang out upon the still night air. None who attended
those meetings can ever forget those scenes of deepest interest.
The proclamation of a
definite time for Christ's coming called forth great opposition from many of all classes,
from the minister in the pulpit down to the most reckless, heaven-daring sinner. "No
man knoweth the day nor the hour!" was heard alike from the hypocritical minister and
the bold scoffer. They closed their ears to the clear and harmonious explanation of the
text by those who were pointing to the close of the prophetic periods and to the signs
which Christ Himself had foretold as tokens of His advent.
Many who professed to love
the Saviour declared that they had no opposition to the preaching of His coming; they
merely objected to the definite time. God's all-seeing eye read their hearts. They did not
wish to hear of Christ's coming to judge the world in righteousness. They had been
unfaithful servants, their works would not bear the inspection of the heart-searching God,
and they feared to meet their Lord. Like the Jews at the time of Christ's first advent,
they were not prepared to welcome Jesus. Satan and his angels exulted and flung the taunt
in the face of
Christ and holy angels, that His professed people had so little love for
Him that they did not desire His appearing.
Unfaithful watchmen hindered
the progress of the work of God. As the people were roused, and began to inquire the way
of salvation, these leaders stepped in between them and the truth, seeking to quiet their
fears by falsely interpreting the Word of God. In this work Satan and unconsecrated
ministers united, crying, Peace, peace, when God had not spoken peace. Like the Pharisees
in Christ's day, many refused to enter the kingdom of heaven themselves, and those who
were entering in they hindered. The blood of these souls will be required at their hand.
Wherever the message of truth
was proclaimed, the most humble and devoted in the churches were the first to receive it.
Those who studied the Bible for themselves could but see the unscriptural character of the
popular views of prophecy, and wherever the people were not deceived by the efforts of the
clergy to misstate and pervert the faith, wherever they would search the Word of God for
themselves, the advent doctrine needed only to be compared with the Scriptures to
establish its divine authority.
Many were persecuted by their
unbelieving brethren. In order to retain their position in the church, some consented to
be silent in regard to their hope, but others felt that loyalty to God forbade them thus
to hide the truths which He had committed to their trust. Not a few were cut off from the
fellowship of the church for no other reason than expressing their belief in the coming of
Christ. Very precious to those who bore the trial of their faith were the words of the
prophet, "Your brethren that hated you, that cast you out for My name's sake, said,
Let the Lord be
glorified: but He shall appear to your joy, and they shall be
ashamed." Isa. 66:5.
Angels of God were watching
with the deepest interest the result of the warning. When the churches as a body rejected
the message, angels turned away from them in sadness. Yet there were in the churches many
who had not yet been tested in regard to the advent truth. Many were deceived by husbands,
wives, parents, or children, and were made to believe it a sin even to listen to such
heresies as were taught by the Adventists. Angels were bidden to keep faithful watch over
these souls; for another light was yet to shine upon them from the throne of God.
to Meet the Lord
With unspeakable desire those
who had received the message watched for the coming of their Saviour. The time when they
expected to meet Him was at hand. They approached this hour with a calm solemnity. They
rested in sweet communion with God, an earnest of the peace that was to be theirs in the
bright hereafter. None who experienced this hope and trust can forget those precious hours
of waiting. Worldly business was for the most part laid aside for a few weeks. Believers
carefully examined every thought and emotion of their hearts as if upon their deathbeds
and in a few hours to close their eyes upon earthly scenes. There was no making of
"ascension robes," but all felt the need of internal evidence that they were
prepared to meet the Saviour; their white robes were purity of soul, characters cleansed
from sin by the atoning blood of Christ.
God designed to prove His
people. His hand covered a mistake in the reckoning of the prophetic periods. Adventists
did not discover the error, nor was
it discovered by the most learned of their opponents.
The latter said, "Your reckoning of the prophetic periods is correct. Some great
event is about to take place, but it is not what Mr. Miller predicts; it is the conversion
of the world, and not the second advent of Christ."
The time of expectation
passed, and Christ did not appear for the deliverance of His people. Those who with
sincere faith and love had looked for their Saviour experienced a bitter disappointment.
Yet the Lord had accomplished His purpose: He had tested the hearts of those who had
professed to be waiting for His appearing. There were among them many who had been
actuated by no higher motive than fear. Their profession of faith had not affected their
hearts or their lives. When the expected event failed to take place, these persons
declared that they were not disappointed; they had never believed that Christ would come.
They were among the first to ridicule the sorrow of the true believers.
But Jesus and all the
heavenly host looked with love and sympathy upon the tried and faithful yet disappointed
ones. Could the veil separating the visible from the invisible world have been swept back,
angels would have been seen drawing near to these steadfast souls and shielding them from
the shafts of Satan.
Copyright © 1974
The Ellen G. White Estate, Inc.
All Rights Reserved