Encyclopedia of Religion
and Society

William H. Swatos, Jr. Editor

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From the Latin adventus (coming), the concept of adventism has been an aspect of Christianity since its inception, and prophecies predicting the imminent and literal second coming of Christ have been strongly emphasized by certain groups at various periods throughout Christian history. In Christianity, the biblical books of Daniel and Revelation plus passages from some of the Gospels are used most frequently as sources for apocalyptic prophecies. Europe and America during the nineteenth century saw a wide variety of religious groups teaching the imminent return of Christ and the establishment of the Millennium (a thousand-year reign of Christ on Earth). In the United States during the "Second Great Awakening," as the religious movement that emerged in the first half of the nineteenth century has come to be known, William Miller (1782-1849) prophesied the second coming of Christ in 1843. The organizational results of his preaching are generally known as the Millerite movement or Millerite Christians.

"God's everlasting kingdom" failed to materialize, and neither did it come in 1844, the year of "the Great Disappointment." Yet this nonevent was itself turned into a meaningful event by some of Miller's followers: The Seventh-day Adventists, by far the largest adventist sect nowadays, may be looked upon as an outcome of the teachings of William Miller and Ellen Gould White (née Harmon, 1827-1915), the latter of whom was a very prolific writer on every aspect of adventism. Every now and again, extreme outbursts of millennialistic expectations (among adventist groups) can be witnessed. In 1993, the Branch Davidian adventists under the leadership of David Koresh found their apocalypse after a monthlong siege of their "Mount Carmel" headquarters in Waco, Texas, when their headquarters was subjected to a paramilitary governmental raid and subsequent apparent murder-suicide group self-immolation by the Davidians.

See also David Koresh

Durk H. Hak


M. Bull and K. Lockhart, Seeking a Sanctuary (San Francisco: Harper, 1989)

N. Cohn, Pursuit of the Millennium (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1970 [1957])

M. Pearson, Millennial Dreams and Moral Dilemmas (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1990).

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