Chapter 13: Adventist Family
Consult the "Contents" pages to locate the entries in Part III, the Directory Listings Sections, that comprise this family.
During its first generation, Christians believed that the Risen Christ would soon return to finish the changes begun during his public ministry. When his return was delayed, many stopped looking, but some in each generation believed they were living in the last days and expected Christ to return in their lifetime. Increasingly over the last two centuries, since the rise of Napoleon and the secularization of church-state relations he heralded, each generation has produced a variety of groups who preach a type of faith that has been called apocalyptic, chiliastic, or millennial. The movements have been characterized by the expectation of the immediate return of Christ to bring a final end to "this evil order" and replace it with a new world of supreme happiness and goodness. At every turning point in the history of Christianity, people supporting such movements appeared, sometimes within the mainstream of church activities as disturbers of accepted patterns of life and sometimes at the outer edge of church activities as critics and reformers. Always their presence is felt because they promote an idea that orthodox Christians have said to be integral to the faith.
Adventists and millenialists have however usually gone beyond the mere affirmation that Christ will return in the future to actually predict the time of his imminent appearance, either by setting a definite date or suggesting that it will occur in this present generation. Such a definite projection of the climax of history thus becomes a great motivation for members to both reform their lives and act in appropriate ways in light of that event. If history is to end in a few years, life decisions must be made in light of that event from the large decisions about career or marriage to lesser decisions about the use of resources, choice of friends, and activity during leisure time.
APOCALYPTICISM IN HISTORY. Christianity inherited its bent toward apocalypticism from its Jewish forefathers. Both the book of Daniel in the Old Testament and the apocryphal works of Jewish apocalypticism, such as the Assumption of Moses and the Books of Enoch, were part of the thought-world in which early Christians lived. For later generations, however, the book of Daniel was to be the important text. Penned in the second century b.c.e., Daniel purports to be a product of the sixth century b.c.e. The first half of the book tells the story of Daniel and some friends of his who were faithful to God while living under foreign political control. The last half details some visions of future history, stretching from sixth century Babylon to the reign of Antiochus Epiphanes in the second century. These visions, in and of themselves apocalyptic, provided the material from which future apocalyptics would draw.
Apocalypticism was integrated into the lifestyle of the early church. Many expected the imminent return of Jesus to finish what was begun on Calvary. Such a belief sustained them in times of persecution and gave hope for the improvement of their lot in life in the near future. The signposts of this belief are found in such biblical passages as Mark 13, Matthew 24, I Thessalonians 4:13–18, and, preeminently, in the vision of John the Revelator. Just as Daniel emerged as the central piece of Jewish apocalypticism, so Revelation soon pushed aside other Christian apocalypses and became the one book of the vast literature to be canonized (included in the Bible).
Revelation purports to be the ecstatic vision of John, an official in the Church of Asia Minor (now Turkey). His vision has a special message for each of seven churches and contains a lengthy scenario of the future course of history, which centers on the church. The vision culminates with a picture of the end of time and the establishment of the kingdom of God in its totality.
A vast amount of work has been done by scholars describing the nature of apocalyptic literature, with a surprising amount of unanimity in their understanding. The apocalyptist has a particular view of time and history, evil, God's relation to the world, the groups of which he is a part, and the worth of man's activity in the world. The apocalyptist sees history and time as lineal. History, begun at some point in the distant past, has continued on a more or less steady course to the present. The present is just short of the climax of the whole scheme of time. The climax will be a great supernatural happening that will destroy the present system and replace it with a new and better divine system.
The cosmic struggle of good and evil, of God and the devil, determines the course of history, and good is losing. The believer feels this loss on a quite personal level as persecution, deprivation, or moral indignation. But while evil seems to be progressing to an ultimate victory, it will be stopped short by the intervention of God, who will completely eliminate its power in the world.
God has a close and personal relationship to the world. He began the course of history and has never ceased to intervene at various points. He caused the formation of a remnant of his people to witness to him. And he will step in to crush the evil forces before they completely conquer the good.
The course of history is personalized and internalized by the apocalyptist. He sees history as made for and centering upon himself and his ingroup. His group has been chosen; although they are on the bottom of the social ladder now, they will be on top as soon as God acts. This reversal of position will take place in the near future.
The nearness of the end of this age puts a new perspective on man's activity in the world. As the date for the end closes in upon man, the value of normal activity decreases. Attention might be given to such Biblical admonitions as, "For the future, men who have wives should live as though they had none, and those that mourn as though they did not, and those who are glad as though they were not glad, and those who buy as though they did not own a thing, … For the outward order of things is passing away." (I Cor. 7:29–31). Normal activity is now replaced with a stepped-up campaign to spread the message of the coming cataclysm, for "the gospel must first be published among all nations." Not always, but quite often, an intense moral imperative is associated with the end-time. This phenomenon is seen as apocalyptists combine with the reformers who look to moral and social reform as a means to hold back an impending doom.
This type of moral apocalypticism is seen most pointedly in men such as Jeremiah, Thomas Müntzer, and George Storrs.
The apostle Paul, himself, had to deal with Christians who fell away from the apocalyptic stance of the early church. In his letter to the Thessalonians he had to answer those who were questioning why so many had died before Christ returned. But as the church grew, what for Paul was a minor incident became for the church a major problem leading it to redefine its faith. As the distance between the believers and Calvary grew, the sensibleness of an apocalyptic lifestyle diminished. So during the second, third, and fourth centuries, a battle raged–a theological battle, but much more, a battle over the whole approach and stance of the church toward the world.
Symbolic of this fight is the issue of the canonization of the book of Revelation. During the second century, this visionary masterpiece circulated from Asia Minor to Antioch and Rome. It found its earliest exponent in Justin Martyr, and about the year 200, the Muratonian Canon lists Revelation as Scripture. Irenaeus in Gaul and Tertullian in North Africa accepted and reflected Revelation in their writings.
One of the first millennial sects, the Montanists, picked up the apocalyptic stance and made it a central part of its message. Montanus tried to gather in his movement some of the spiritual, prophetic, and visionary attributes of the early church, in what was considered by many an heretical stance. The movement spread from Phrygia and eventually claimed Tertullian as an adherent in North Africa.
The first works rejecting Revelation as scriptural and of Apostolic authorship were produced by the anti-Montanists. So effective were these writings that, about 215 c.e., Hippolytus wrote a carefully worded defense of the controversial book. Then in the middle of the third century, the great scholar Origen put the Alexandrians behind the canonicity. Origen's allegorizing and spiritualizing of the text gave the church a means of accepting the work while strongly rejecting its literal millennialism (belief that Christ would literally reign on earth with his saints for 1,000 years). Even though the place of Revelation was somewhat open until the fifth century, Origen's acceptance of it, followed a century later by that of Athanasius, assured Revelation a place in the Bible.
By the early fifth century, with few exceptions, the canon was set. There needed only to be stated an authoritative position that the church would accept that would reconcile its four hundred years of waiting for Christ to return, the existence of Revelation in the canon, and the refutation of millennialism. Such a position was stated by Augustine in his magnum opus, The City of God. He pointed out that some had misunderstood John's Revelation and had construed it so as to produce "ridiculous fancies." Augustine reworked the literal eschatology of John in such a way that the church, while still remaining in God's history, did not live in the imminent expectation of the climax of history. God still operates in history with his chosen ones, and He is holding back evil even now. In effect, Augustine was saying that John was not painting a picture so much of the end of time as the manner in which the church progresses as it moves through both time and space. Thus, Augustine was able to keep the hope of Christ's coming to the faithful, but was able to push it effectively into the distant future. That Augustine's view could become acceptable to the church as a whole reflects not only Augustine's scholarship but also the change of position the church had undergone from a persecuted sect to the state religion of the Roman Empire. In any case, from Augustine's time to the present, any group that projected an immediate second coming was to find itself on the fringe of the church and, while the church was closely tied to the state, a persecuted minority.
But millennialists continued to arise, and while their leaders were usually of the educated, hence upper classes, the members were usually of the disinherited classes who combined their millennialism with a social protest movement. For example, in seventh century Syria, the early Christian form of the Sibylline Oracles appeared to bring consolation to Syrian Christians living under Moslem oppression. According to these oracles, an emperor, Methodius, is to arise and begin the final battle with the Antichrist. This battle results in an Antichrist victory, but the victory is short-lived because of the return of Christ for the final judgment. In the Middle Ages, millennial movements arose and then disappeared on numerous occasions, reflecting the high degree of social turmoil that was to result in the social revolutions of the sixteenth century. The eleventh century saw several mass millennial movements, particularly the First Crusade in 1095. Led by popular leaders such as Peter the Hermit, large armies were formed to christianize Jerusalem. One army stopped in the Rhine Valley and performed the first massacre of European Jews. The movement, itself, died, partly in exhaustion after a few miles of travel, partly on the battlefields near Constantinople.
In the twelfth century, a Cistercian monk, Joachim of Fiore, produced, between 1190 and 1195, an eschatological scheme that was to be the most influential apocalyptic understanding for the Middle Ages. He identified his new vision of history as the everlasting gospel that according to Revelation was to be preached in the last days. Joachim's scheme pictured history as an ascent in three stages, the Father's law, Christ's gospel, and the Spirit's culmination of history. Taking Matthew 1 as his starting point, Joachim counted 42 generations from Abraham to Christ and saw this as a type of the gospel age. Assuming a generation is 30 years, Joachim reasoned that the movement from the gospel to the Spirit must take place between 1200 and 1260. A new order of monks must arise to preach this message and thus prepare the way. He believed 12 patriarchs would arise to convert the Jews. The Antichrist would reign for three and one-half years, after which he would be overthrown, and the age of the Spirit would begin.
Popular leaders grasped Joachim's ideas and tied them to the popular fallen hero, Frederick I, who was killed on the third crusade in 1190. A new Frederick was to arise, and he was seen as the "emperor of the last days." This movement grew when Frederick I's grandson became Frederick II. This brilliant figure did much to foster the growing messianism about himself. In 1229, he went on a crusade and crowned himself king of Jerusalem, which he had temporarily recaptured. When Pope Innocent IV put Frederick and Germany under the interdict, Frederick retorted by expanding his role to include chastisement of the church. Because Innocent was so immoral himself, his interdict had no effect. In 1240, the writings of Joachim's disciples inflamed the masses, which were heading for a major break with papal power in Europe. The movement was ended suddenly by Frederick's death in 1250. The ideas that started with Joachim were reinterpreted, and for several hundred years the dream of a resurrected Frederick was the vision that supported protest in central Europe.
One of the more famous of the chiliastic sects were the Taborites, the radical wing of the Hussite movement in fifteenth-century Czechoslovakia. These followers of the martyred John Hus united a political and economic revolt with their millennial aspirations soon after Hus's death in 1514. They went beyond Hus in their adherence to literal Biblical authority. The bitter struggle for control of Czechoslovakia helped precipitate doomsday worries. In 1519, a group of ex-Catholic priests began to preach openly the coming of the last days and the destruction in February 1520 of every town by fire (like Sodom). Everyone was called upon to flee to five towns, Taborite strongholds, destined to be saved. When the destruction did not occur, the Taborite leaders called upon their followers to take up the sword in a holy war. It was not until 1534 that the Taborites were finally defeated and, with them, their millennial hopes.
It seems more than coincidence that in Frederick's Germany the Reformation was to occur, and that out of the social upheaval caused by the Reformation, the next great movement of popular millennialism was to arise. Its leader was Thomas Müntzer. He was only one of many who saw the social and religious turmoil of the Reformation era as the sign of the end of an age, but he was the most famous. Others holding up the vision of the millennium were John Hut, Melchior Hofmann, and Augustine Bader.
Müntzer came by his view in study with Nicholas Storch, a weaver in Zwickau, and a former resident of the old Taborite lands. Müntzer believed that the Turks (Antichrist) would soon rule the world, but that the elect would then rise up and annihilate all the godless, and the millennium would begin. In his famous 1524 sermon, he called upon the princes of Germany to join him in this righteous war. Rejected by the princes, he turned to the poor. His League of the Elect became a power base from which was built a proletarian army at Mühlhausen and Frankenhausen. In two battles, the princes defeated Müntzer's army and captured and executed Müntzer, thus ending another phase of millennialism.
England had its share in millennial hopes. Anti-Cromwellian forces found an ally in the Fifth Monarchy Men, a movement that crystallized in the 1650s. This group looked to Jesus to establish a fifth world monarchy. The previous four, following the image in Daniel 2, were Assyria, Persia, Greece, and Rome (which still existed as the Roman Catholic Church). After spending time in evangelical work, the Monarchy Men concluded it was time for them to take up the sword of the Lord. In 1657 and 1661, they attempted two uprisings, both unsuccessful. Their military defeats eventually led to their annihilation.
Various millennial, chiliastic, and messianic movements continued to arise, and date-setting for Christ's second coming continued to be a popular activity. With the arrival of religious pluralism, toleration, and freedom, few millennialists fell victim to the sword, gradually replaced with public ridicule. The early nineteenth century saw a renewal of the imminent expectation of the second coming of Jesus. Edward Irving, founder of the Catholic Apostolic Church in the 1830s, proclaimed the second coming in England, setting the date as 1864. Dr. Joseph Wolff, a converted Jew, toured England and the U.S. lecturing on the second coming. Both men had been spurred into action by the French Revolution and Napoleon. Until his martyrdom, Joseph Smith, Jr., founder of the Mormons, established locale after locale as the headquarters of the kingdom of God. It was, however, a poor farmer in upper New York State who founded the movement that still exists as America's main Adventist movement, and thereby originated the uniquely American brand of the millennial hope.
MILLENNIALISM IN AMERICA. The American millennial movement that today is known as Adventism had its beginnings in New York, started there by William Miller, a Baptist layman. Miller had settled in New York after the War of 1812. For a period Miller was a Deist, denying that God interferes with the laws of the universe and stressing morality and reason rather than religious belief. Then Miller began to study the Bible. This study, which lasted about two years, seemed to satisfy his major doubts, but also convinced him that he was living near the end of his age. Further study over several more years convinced him not only that the end was near, but also that he had to go and tell the world about it. His first labors were at Dresden, New York, where a revival followed his speaking in 1831.
He continued to speak in the area as pulpits opened to him. Within a year, he was able to accept no more than half of his speaking invitations. In 1832, the Vermont Telegraph published a series of 16 articles written by Miller, the first of many works he was to write. The next year, a 64-page pamphlet was widely circulated.
In September 1833, Miller was given a license to preach by the Baptists. For the next 10 years, Miller lived the life of an itinerant evangelist, preaching and teaching his message of the imminent return of Jesus. The Methodists, Baptists, and Congregationalists were eager to hear Miller's words. In 1836, Miller published his lecture in his first book, Evidences from Scripture and History of the Second Coming of Christ about the Year 1843: Exhibited in a Course of Lectures. This book, plus a new edition of the earlier pamphlet, gave great impetus to the movement. Others began to join Miller and preach his doctrine. Most notably, in 1839, Joshua Himes invited Miller to preach in his Boston church. Himes was the man with promotional and organizational talent to lift the movement out of local interest into national prominence. In March of 1840, Himes began publication of the movement's first periodical, Signs of the Times. By autumn, the movement had grown to the extent that a decision was made to hold a conference on the second coming of the Lord Jesus Christ. This conference opened October 13, 1840, at Chardon Street Church in Boston. Early leaders were among those in attendance—Josiah Litch, Joseph Bates, and Henry Dana Ward. The conference spent its time discussing the views that Miller had expounded in his pamphlets and book.
Miller believed that "God has set bounds, determined times, and revealed unto his prophets the events long before they were accomplished." These times were revealed by both plain declaration and by figurative language. From his study of Daniel and Revelation, Miller believed that he had deciphered the chronology concerning the end of the age. He began with the principle that a prophetic day is equal to a year (see Ezekiel 4:6). The key passages were Daniel 8:14, "unto 2,300 days, then shall the sanctuary be cleansed, or justified," and Daniel 9:24, "Seventy weeks are determined upon thy people… to make an end of sins." Miller saw the end of the 70 weeks (490 days or 490 years) as c.e. 33, at the cross of Jesus. From this date, he pushed backward to 457 b.c.e. ("the going forth of the commandment to Ezra to restore the law and the people of Jerusalem") as the beginning. Since, as Miller argued, the 70 weeks were part of the 2,300 days, the 2,300 days could be seen to begin also in 457 b.c.e. Thus, the cleansing of the sanctuary would be in 1843. Though Miller bolstered this chronology with several other figures that also ended in 1843, this set of figures was the basic one.
From these figures, Miller and his associates could build a history based on the events described in Revelation and Daniel, and this chronology of prophetic history worked out mathematically. Miller published such a work covering the Old Testament period and showing that 1843 was the end of the sixth millennium since creation. In his books, he also pointed the way for his followers to fill in the history from c.e. 33 to the present.
The Boston conference was so successful that in ensuing weeks other conferences in other cities were held to explain and discuss Miller's message, which Himes had now renamed "the midnight cry." As the movement grew, opposition increased, and the established denominations began to take action to counteract Miller's influence. Formerly cooperative churches closed their doors to Miller and his associates. Numerous accounts appeared of ministers and laymen being expelled from their churches. In one famous case, L. S. Stockman was tried for heresy before his presiding elders in the Maine Conference of the Methodist Episcopal Church and was later expelled. In 1843, the New York Christian Advocate, the principle organ of the Methodists, carried a series of articles against Millerism, which vied for space with the anti-Romanist articles attacking the Roman Catholic Church.
Miller's movement was taking on a more definite shape in this period. Before the end in 1843, the first camp meeting was held at East Kingston, New Hampshire. In November, the second periodical, The Midnight Cry, was begun. Miller was also sharpening his views. Until 1843, Miller had been vague about the second coming as being "about the year 1843." But on January 1, he committed himself to a more definite stance: "I am fully convinced that somewhere between March 21st, 1843 and March 21st, 1844, according to the Jewish mode of computation of time, Christ will come."
With tension running high as March approached, there appeared in the late February sky a large comet. Its appearance was a complete surprise, without a warning from the astronomers. And this was just one of a number of spectacular events of the night sky that found its way into print. March 14, 1843, came and went. Now, new issues began to emerge. The increased opposition of the churches made meeting houses hard to secure. Also, large numbers of Adventists had no prior religious connection from which they could gain nourishment. These two factors, plus the growing size of the movement, led Charles Fitch to start the inevitable "come out" movement, urging those who believed in Christ's imminent return to come out of their denominational churches and form their own churches. Fitch was opposed by Miller, but the pressure to "come out" only increased.
In 1844, as the March 14 deadline passed without the second coming, Miller had approximately 50,000 followers across the East and Midwest. Miller had earlier written of his views, "If this chronology is not correct, I shall despair of ever getting from the Bible and history a true account of the age of the world." In May 1844, Miller wrote to his followers, "I confess my error and acknowledge my disappointment."
But 50,000 enthusiastic followers could not just be turned away. While a few dropped out, most would not. In a short time, adjustments in Miller's chronology were made. In August, SamuelS. Snow put forth the "seventh month" scheme that looked to October 22, 1844, as the real date of return. Tension reached a new high. On October 22, the Adventists gathered to await the Lord. However, as one author put it, "But the day came. And Christ did not."
The Great Disappointment, as the Adventists have termed the reaction to the non-happening of October 22, 1844, left the movement in chaos. Miller again acknowledged the error but remained confident in the imminent return of Jesus. Other leaders also found themselves in the same boat. Miller refuted any further attempts to set dates and gradually retired from active leadership in the movement. But forces already in operation were now prepared to weld these organized believers into a number of denominational bodies. These are treated below.
Adventist theology at any time is usually built upon and accepts the theological perspectives of its parent bodies, making the necessary apocalyptic adjustments. Since almost all American Adventist bodies can be traced directly to Miller, the Baptist lay preacher, it is not surprising to find that popular Baptist theology has had a great influence on Adventism. There is general agreement on the doctrines concerning the Bible, God, Christ, and the sacraments. The idea of ordinances (instead of sacraments), baptism by immersion, and the practice of foot washing, particularly, further manifest Baptist origins. Sabbatarianism was transmitted directly by the Seventh-Day Baptists.
Eschatology took up two articles in the Baptists' 1833 New Hampshire Confession of Faith and provided a base from which Miller could speculate that "the end of this world is approaching." The Adventists, however, went far beyond the Baptists in speculations. The Adventists also raised the issue of man's innate immortality by denying it and have, in the twentieth century, been in the forefront of groups proposing a view that has been accepted by many biblical scholars.
Ethical positions among Adventists have shown two seemingly divergent trends. An emphasis on the Old Testament and on the law as mandatory for Christians has developed out of the acceptance of the Sabbath. Some groups have gone so far as to celebrate Jewish holidays and dietary laws. The celebration of the Sabbath has been promoted by the ecumenical Bible Sabbath Association, which was formed as a counterpart of the Lord's Day Alliance of the United States. Formed in 1945, the Bible Sabbath Association promotes the observance of the Sabbath and publishes a directory of Sabbath-keeping organizations. A second ethical trend emerged as the Adventists became involved in the great social crusades of the two decades preceding the Civil War. Many Adventists were vocal abolitionists and ardent supporters of the peace movements. Pacifism remains a common Adventist position; the well-publicized refusal of the Jehovah's Witnesses to be drafted is derived from their Millerite heritage.
THE SACRED NAME MOVEMENT. No one knows exactly who first raised the issue of God's name as being an important doctrinal consideration. Certainly, in the 1920s the International Bible Students on their way to becoming the Jehovah's Witnesses raised the issue forcefully. Twentieth-century scholarship had, however, begun to emphasize belief that "Yahweh" was the correct pronunciation of the "YHWH," the spelling of God's name in Hebrew. There were slight variations in spelling and pronunciation, as will be noted. By the mid-1930s there were members and ministers, primarily of the Church of God (Seventh-Day), who were beginning to use the "sacred name" and to promote the cause actively. One person associated with these efforts was Elder J. D. Bagwell of Warrior, Alabama. By the end of 1938, the Faith Bible and Tract Society had been organized. In July 1939, the Assembly of YHWH was chartered in the state of Michigan. About the same time, the Assembly of Yahweh Beth Israel was also formed.
No single force in spreading the Sacred Name movement has been as important as The Faith magazine. This magazine was formed to support the Old Testament festivals as being contemporarily valid. Gradually the editor, Elder C. O. Dodd, began to use "Jehovah," then "Jahoveh," "Yahovah," "Yahavah," and "Yahweh." Dodd edited The Faith from its founding in 1937 until his death in 1955.
During the 1940s, several assemblies were formed and new periodicals begun. Some of these became substantial movements and continue today as primary religious bodies. Having come primarily out of the Church of God (Seventh-Day), the assemblies follow the Adventist and Old Testament emphases, including the observance of the Jewish festivals. The main divergence is over the name issue and exactly what spelling and pronunciation the name has. The common designation for local gatherings is "assembly," a literal translation of the Greek "ecclesia."
The Sacred Name movement is often thought of as the "Elijah Message," a reference to Elijah's words in I Kings 18:36 that extol Yahweh as the Elohim of Israel.
CHARLES TAZE RUSSELL'S BIBLE STUDENTS. Following any apocalyptic failure, such as the Millerite disappointment of 1844, there are several options open to the followers. The disbanding of the group and a return to pre-excitement existence is a minority option. Spiritualization–the process of claiming that the prophecy was in error to the extent of its being seen as a visible historical event, and the attempt to reinterpret it as a cosmic, inner, invisible, or heavenly event–is most popular. A final trend for disappointed apocalyptics is to return to the source of revelation (the Bible, psychic-prophet, or analysis of contemporary events) and seek a new date. (An obvious, less committed form is to set a vague date, usually verbalized as "the near future.")
After the 1844 disappointment, leaders and periodicals rose and fell as they projected new dates and had to live with their failures. Few spawned groups that lasted beyond the projected dates. Speculations on the winter of 1853–54 lay behind the formation of the Advent Christian Church. A small group led by Jonas Wendell projected an 1874 date. Disappointed followers spiritualized the 1874 date and projected a new date, 1914. In 1876, Charles Taze Russell came across an issue of The Herald of the Morning, Nelson H. Barbour's magazine, which extolled the views of Jonas Wendell, and a whole new era in Adventist thought began.
Russell (1852–1916) was born in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, of Scotch-Irish Presbyterians, and was reared in his father's clothing store chain. Shaken by "infidel claims," he began a religious quest that led, in 1870, to Jonas Wendell. He joined Wendell's group, but soon disagreed on the manner of Christ's return. Then, in 1876, he met Barbour and united with him in beginning anew the suspended Herald of the Morning and co-authoring Three Worlds or Plan of Redemption.
By the time of his association with Barbour, Russell had come to accept three ideas that are thoroughly ingrained in the movement he began and characteristic of it. First, he rejected a belief in hell as a place of eternal torment. Second, he left the Wendell Adventists because he had discovered the true meaning of parousia (the Greek word usually translated "return"). Russell believed that it meant presence and he arrived at the conclusion that, in 1874, the Lord's presence had begun. Finally, Russell began to arrive at a new doctrine of the atonement, or ransom. Adam, he believed, received death as a just sentence, but his offspring received death by inheritance. Jesus' act of sacrifice counteracted the death penalty. Because of Adam, all were born without the right to live. Because of Jesus, all had inherited sin canceled. Thus, all people were guaranteed a second chance, a trial in which enlightenment and experience would be followed by a choice either to belong to God or be a rebel deserving of death. This "second chance" would be offered during the millennium, Christ's reign on earth with his saints for one thousand years.
Russell's doctrine of the ransom also included a role for the church as an atoning force. Derived in part from Paul's Epistle to the Colossians 1:24 and from an allegorical interpretation of the Hebrew sacrifice of the bull (i.e., Christ) and the goat (i.e., the church) on the day of atonement described in Leviticus 16, Russell taught that the church as the body of Christ is by its present suffering offering a spiritual sacrifice to God.
Inherent in Russell's beliefs was a denial of certain orthodox ideas such as the Trinity. He outlined a personal lineage that began with Arius (fourth century c.e.) whose atonement idea was close to Russell's and included the ecclesiastical rebels–Luther, Peter Waldo, and John Wycliff.
After meeting Barbour, Russell drew support from other Adventists such as J. H. Paton, A. P. Adams, and A. D. Jones. This coalition lasted until 1878, when Barbour, who had set April as the month when the church would go to heaven, suffered a loss of support by the disconfirmation of his prophecy. (He further deviated with some speculations on the atonement.) Russell, Paton, and Jones withdrew their support of Barbour, and Russell began, with their assistance, Zion's Watch Tower and Herald of Christ's Presence, which was sent free to all of Barbour's subscribers. Paton soon was to join the ranks of dissenters, and he left Russell to expound his own speculations in his periodical, Zion's Day Star.
The first issue of the Watch Tower in 1879 is a convenient date to begin the history of Russell's movement. To the Watch Tower was soon added abundant literature to help a growing number of Bible students who were popularly called "Millennial Dawn Bible Students." They came together to study the Scriptures with the help of Russell's writings. Russell began to publish tracts, a number of which were combined into Food for Thinking Christians. He also called for a thousand preachers to spread the gospel by distributing the Watch Tower and his tracts.
In 1881, Zion's Watch Tower Tract Society was set up. In 1886, the first of six volumes of Studies in the Scripture appeared. The publishing of Volume I, The Plan of the Ages, marked an upward turning point in the development of the movement, as it provided the substantial ideological base to Watch Tower readers. By 1889, more than 100,000 copies of The Plan of the Ages were in print.
The pattern of the Bible Student movement's growth was typical of the growth of a number of loosely affiliated religious groups. Local congregations were formed by people impressed by Russell's views and writings. They were related directly to Russell primarily through the Watch Tower. The work was spread mostly by volunteers. Gradually, there arose colporteurs, who spent from half to all of their time in the work and who earned their living by selling Russell's books (with a 64 percent discount).
In 1894, pilgrims were added to the structure as traveling preachers and teachers to local congregations. Pilgrims were paid by the central office. A plan for local elders or leaders to sell their ideas to new areas was begun in 1911.
Extension of the work also occurred through a number of events that generated a great deal of publicity. In particular, Russell enjoyed debates, at which he was a master. His 1903 debate with E. L. Eaton, a Methodist minister, and with Elder L. S. White of the Disciples of Christ did much to spread the movement.
As the movement emerged, certain ideas came to the fore; none were so prominent as chronology and the 1914 date. The Plan of the Ages was God's calendar for dealing with men. Reminiscent of John Nelson Darby's teachings was Russell's division of history into a number of eras. According to Russell's chart in The Plan of the Ages, the first dispensation from Adam to the flood demonstrated the inability of angels to improve the world. The patriarchal age (from the flood to Jacob's death) was followed by the Jewish age, which lasted until Christ's death. The gospel age of 1845 years ended in 1874. That year marked the dawning of the millennial age, which would begin with a "harvest period" or millennial dawn period of 40 years.
The millennial dawn period (1874–1914) would be marked by a return of the Jews to Palestine and the gradual overthrow of the Gentile nations. All would be climaxed in 1914 with the glorification of the saints, the establishment of God's direct rule on earth, and the restoration of man to perfection on earth. The coincidence of the apocalyptic date with World War I was viewed by Russell's followers as a cause for great hope, sharply contrasting the disappointments that had followed other predictions. The war was interpreted as God's direct intervention in the affairs of humanity and a signal of the beginning of the world's end. (Russell revised the date to 1918 later and died in 1916, before the second disconfirmation.)
A final significant idea was the doctrine of the future church. Russell believed from his reading of Revelation 7:4–9 that the church consisted of 144,000 saints from the time of Christ to 1914, who would receive the ultimate reward of becoming "priests and kings in heaven." Others would make up a class of heavenly servants termed "the great company." The idea of two classes of believers was illustrated by numerous biblical characters (most notably Elijah, taken to heaven, and Elisha, his servant), who were seen as types of the classes.
Russell and his ideas would become the subject of much controversy after his death. Some leaders would ascribe to him a cosmic role and identify him with the good and faithful servant of Matthew 25:21. Others would argue over the significance of the harvest, which supposedly ended in 1914. Some would feel that the harvest closed in 1914 and that the 144,000 were all chosen by then. Others would consider the harvest open and continue to gather the 144,000. Similar to the differences on the harvest would be differences on the identification of the Elijah and Elisha classes.
When Russell died, he left behind him a charismatically run organization in the hands of a board of directors and editorial committee. The next decade was marked by controversy, schism, the rise to power of Judge J. F. Rutherford (1869–1942), and the emergence of Jehovah's Witnesses.
THE SOUTHCOTTITES. Before William Miller created an Adventist movement in the United States in the 1830s and 1840s, an Adventist movement flowered in England. The focus of the English movement was Joanna Southcott (1750–1814). In the 1790s, she began to profess visions, to write them down in both prose and verse, and to gather a following. She was convinced that she was a prophetess. Several predictions, including France's conquest of Italy under the unknown general Bonaparte, created some attention.
The thrust of her message was placed within an orthodox Christian framework and centered upon the imminent return of Christ. What made the prophecy distinctive was the peculiar "doctrine of the bride." A feminist, Joanna began to speculate on the crucial role of women in the Bible and the role of the "woman clothed with the sun" (Rev. 12:1), who would bring forth the male child who would rule the nations with a rod of iron. She identified the woman with the bride of the Lamb (Rev. 19:7), and then identified both of them with herself.
She began a movement to mobilize England. Joanna's real impact dates from 1801, when she first published her prophecies abroad in several booklets. These booklets brought her first disciples, among whom she began a practice of sealing. Accepting the apocalyptic vision of a world delivered into the hands of Satan, she believed that the key to the devil's overthrow was to have a sufficient number of people renounce him and be sealed as of the Lord. She distributed the seals to all who would sign up for them. They were written on square sheets of paper upon which a circle was drawn. Inside the circle Joanna wrote "The sealed of the Lord, the Elect and Precious, Man's Redemption to Inherit the Tree of Life, to be made Heirs of God and Joint Heirs with Jesus Christ." The paper would be folded and sealed with wax and with the monogram I. C. and two stars. Critics accused Joanna of selling the seals, but she denied it.
In 1814, at 64 years of age, she had a climactic revelation. Having identified herself with the woman in Revelation 12, she was always concerned with the child the woman was to bear. Joanna's voice told her to prepare for the birth of a son. This child was identified in Joanna's thinking with Shiloh (Gen. 49:10). She began to show signs of pregnancy and was declared pregnant by several doctors. The followers prepared for a new virgin birth. As the time of the delivery approached, she took an earthly husband. When the baby failed to arrive and the symptoms of the hysteric pregnancy left, Joanna's strength ebbed and she died in December 1814.
Followers and leaders alike were thrown into chaos. Among those who did not leave, there were attempts to regroup the forces, and a number of separate churches resulted. Most were confined to England, but a few found their way to America.
BRITISH ISRAELISM. Growing up largely with Adventist circles, and picking ideas from them at random–nontrinitarian theology, Sabbatarianism, sacred name emphases, and dispensationalism–the British Israelite Bible students emerged as a separate distinct group in American religion during the decade after World War I. They experienced a steady growth into the 1940s but seemed to wane in the 1950s and 1960s. During the 1970s, however, the movement experienced a new wave of revival in its most militant wing, popularly called the Identity Movement.
Though only visible in the United States since World War I, British Israelism, the Identity Movement, traces its history to ancient Israel. In actual fact, its history begins in the late eighteenth century in England, where one of the more popular avocations of Bible students was the attempt to discover the present-day identity of the so-called 10 lost tribes of Israel–the 10 tribes carried away into captivity by Shalmaneser, the king of Assyria in 721 b.c.e. (II Kings 17). Since 1800, numerous speculations have appeared, but only two opinions, apart from the generally accepted one that the tribes were assimilated into the peoples of the Middle East, ever gained a wide following. The first of these speculations identified the American Indians as the tribes. That speculation was promulgated by Joseph Smith, the founder of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. The second speculation was the identification of the tribes with Anglo-Saxon peoples by the British Israelites.
Scotsman John Wilson, who in 1840 published his theories in Our Israelitish Origins, is generally looked upon as the founder of the British Israelites. His appearance of scholarship and his oratorical abilities were enough to sell his notion to the public.
Wilson was by no means the first to make the British-Israelite identification. As early as 1649, John Sadler (b. 1615) speculated on the idea in his Rights to the Kingdom and seemed to have advised Oliver Cromwell on readmitting the Jews to England. In the eighteenth century, Dr. Abade of Amsterdam, a Protestant theologian, is reported to have said: "Unless the ten tribes have flown into the air, or have been plunged into the center of the earth, they must be sought for in the north and west, and in the British Isles" (Anton Darms, The Delusion of British Israel [New York: Loizeaux Brothers, Bible Truth Depot, n.d.], 15).
The real originator of the idea, however, was Canadian Richard Brothers (b. 1757), a psychic visionary who settled in London in the 1780s. He began to publish the content of revelations that identified himself as a descendant of King David and demanded the crown of England. He was found guilty of treason, but insane, and sent to an asylum. Brothers' ideas caught on with some influential men such as Orientalist Nathaniel Brassey Halhed, Quaker psychic William Bryan, and Scottish lawyer John Finleyson. The defeat of Napoleon was the marked confirmation of their ideas.
The basics of British Israelite theology are quite simple, although a working knowledge of the Old Testament is required to trace the intricacies of the logic. The basic premise is that Israel and Judah were two entities, the former comprising the northern 10 tribes, and the latter the two southern ones after 922 b.c.e. Members of the northern kingdom, after being freed from captivity, wandered into Europe and settled in northwest Europe, Scandinavia, and the British Isles. Jeremiah, the prophet, is believed to have transported Tea-Tephi, the daughter of King Zedekiah, to Ireland to marry Prince Herremon, thus continuing Israel's royal lineage. James I was the first descendant of this union to reign in London.
Different countries of Europe are to be identified with the different tribes; Britain and the United States are descendants of Joseph's two sons Ephraim and Manasseh, and, as such, are particularly blessed (Genesis 48). The tribe of Dan has, in fulfillment of prophecy (Genesis 49:17), left numerous signposts of its tribal meanderings–Dan River, Denmark, Danube River, and others.
From this basic theology, other observations are made in correlating biblical quotes with isolated facts of archaeology, legendary materials, history, and philology. Wilson was the first to note the correlation between the Hebrew word for covenant, "brith," and "Britain." The Stone of Scone is believed to have been from the throne in Jerusalem, brought to Ireland by Jeremiah. (Actually, it was quarried in Scotland.)
British Israelism has attracted much attention because of its racist tendencies, especially in the United States. Implicit in the theory is the superiority of the Anglo-Saxon, which is seen as a religious superiority, much as with any chosen people doctrine. The Jews were seen as "kin" to the Anglo-Saxons. In a famous quote, J. H. Allen said: "Understand us: we do not say that the Jews are not Israelites; they belong to the posterity of Jacob, who was called Israel; hence they are all Israelites. But the great bulk of Israelites are not the Jews, just as the great bulk of Americans are not Californians, and yet all Californians are Americans; also, as in writing the history of America we must of necessity write the history of California, because California is a part of America; but we could write a history of California without writing a history of America"(J. H. Allen, Judah's Sceptre and Joseph's Birthright [Boston: A. A. Beauchamp, 1930], 71).
Numerous refutations of British Israelism have been written from a perspective of orthodox history and theology. These have, in spite of their often vitriolic nature, conclusively refuted the bulk of British Israelite speculations. They, however, have missed the point: whatever success British Israelism has had has been as a religious and emotional expression of British imperialism and American manifest destiny. There is a definite correlation between the rise and fall of those ideas and the popularity of British Israelism. The dismantling of the British Empire has had a devastating effect upon the movement.
John Wilson's book was published in America in 1850 and found isolated disciples but no real following until after World War I. In 1886, M. M. Eshelman was introduced to British Israelism by an 80-year-old immigrant to Illinois, William Montgomery. In the pages of The Gospel Messenger, published at Mt. Morris, Illinois, Eshelman began to write of his ideas, and in 1887, he published a book, Two Sticks. Then in 1902, the Reverend J. H. Allen published Judah's Sceptre and Joseph's Birthright. These two books became the major items selling British Israelism to an American audience.
The British Israel movement was at its height in the 1930s and 1940s. It never reached the development or popularity in America that it had in England, but in the late 1940s, it could boast a national audience among both congregational members and radio respondents. Two seminaries were functioning in 1950. The British Israel hypothesis–that Anglo-Saxons are descendants of the ten lost tribes of Israel–was finding support among people who would by no means identify themselves with the movement itself. What remain today are the remnants of that once healthy national movement.
One of the early important structures created by the movement was Dayton Theological Seminary, which functioned from 1947 into the early 1950s. It was founded by Millard J. Flenner, an exCongregational minister and pastor of the Church of the Covenants in Dayton. Among the teachers was Conrad Gaard, who was pastor for many years of the Christian Chapel Church in Tacoma. As head of the Destiny of America Foundation, he was a significant writer and radio minister until his death in 1969. Gaard helped Dayton graduates keep in touch through his travels and tours.
Quite apart from the mainline of the British Israel movement, one Church of God adventist radio minister, Herbert W. Armstrong (1892–1986), integrated British Israelism into his thought and wrote a paraphrase of Allen's Judah's Sceptre and Joseph's Birthright. His miniscule ministry, began in Eugene, Oregon, in the 1930s, and blossomed after his move to Pasadena, California, in 1947. By the time of Armstrong's death in the mid-1980s, the church—Worldwide Church of God—had introduced literally millions of people to British Israelism and claimed more that 100,000 members, the single most successful such group ever to exist. In the 1990s, however, under Armstrong's successors, Joseph W. Tkach, Sr. (1927–1995) and Joseph W. Tkach, Jr., the church not only dropped its British-Israel ideology, but most of Herbet Armstrong's ideas that had made it distinctive; it has adopted an orthodox Evangelical Christian theological perspective. The changes led to more than half the membership withdrawing and forming a number of splinter groups, most of which retain the British-Israel orientation.
THE MODERN IDENTITY MOVEMENT. British Israel is implicitly anti-Semitic and antiblack. However, in the middle of the twentieth century British Israelism became associated with several groups that were actively and explicitly anti-Semitic and antiblack such as the Ku Klux Klan, and, after World War II, the neo-Nazi movement. Among those generally credited with bringing these two forces together is the Reverend Gerald L. K. Smith (1898–1976), founder of the Christian Nationalist Crusade. Besides publishing pro-Anglo Saxon material, Smith published and freely circulated a large amount of defamatory material on blacks and Jews. The work of Smith and of his former lieutenant, Wesley Swift, gave rise in the 1970s to a quite recognizable group within the larger British Israel community.
The Identity Movement, a name taken from the idea of "identifying" modern white people as the literal ancestors of the ancient Israelites, has become increasingly controversial because of its identification with violent and illegal actions and the growing opposition it has provoked among the more established religious community, both Christians and Jews, of America. While various watchdog organizations had developed a concern for the emerging movement in previous decades, in the early 1980s public attention began to focus on one center, called the Church, the Sword, and the Arm of the Lord (C.S.A.), located on the Arkansas-Missouri border. In 1983, Gordon Kahl, a leader with the Posse Comitatus, an anti-tax group associated with the large Identity Movement, killed two U. S. marshals in South Dakota. Fleeing the scene of the crime, he was arrested in Arkansas not far from C.S.A. A year later, an Arkansas state trooper was killed by a man identified as a former resident of C.S.A. Then in 1985, the leader of C.S.A. was arrested for racketeering and sentenced to 20 years in jail, an event that led to the dissolution of the group.
As events at C.S.A. were unfolding, authorities were also moving against one Identity group known as the Order. The group was composed primarily of former members of the Church of Jesus Christ Christian, Aryan Nations headquartered in Hayden Lake, Idaho, which had grown out of the church founded by Wesley Swift in Southern California. Members of the group were believed responsible for a series of robberies in 1983 and 1984 as well as the death of Alan Berg, an outspoken Jewish radio talk show host in Denver, who was shot in 1984. One leader of the order, Robert Jay Matthews, was killed in a shootout as law officers attempted to arrest him. Ten others were convicted in 1985 of racketeering.
In 1987, 15 leaders of the Identity Movement were indicted on a series of charges from conspiracy to kill government officials to violating Alan Berg's civil rights. However, the 15 were found not guilty in a trial the following year. A more successful attack upon the movement occurred in 2000 when a jury awarded Victoria and Jason Keenan $6.3 million in a lawsuit stemming from a shooting/beating attack outside the Aryan Nations Church. The 20-acre national headquarters was sold to satisfy the judgment.
In 2001, the Keenan's then sold the property to the Gregory C. Carr Foundation, Inc.–an organization created by Greg Carr, founder and chairman of the Internet company Prodigy Inc. The foundation plans to turn the property into a human-rights center.
Sources–The Adventist Family
The Seventh-day Adventists have archives at several of their schools, but the most prominent collections are at the church's headquarters, 12501 Old Columbia Pike Silver Spring, MD 20904-6600, and at Andrews University, Berrien Springs, MI. The Advent Christian Church supports the Adventists Archives at Aurora College, Aurora, Illinois.
Adventism, Millennialism, and Apocalyticism
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Rist, Martin. "Introduction to the Revelation of St. John the Divine." In The Interpreters Bible. Vol. XII. New York: Abingdon, (1974): 617–27.
St. Clair, Michael. Millennial Movements in Historical Context. New York: Garland Publishing, 1992. 373 pp.
Schmithals, Walter. The Apocalyptic Movement. Nashville: Abingdon, 1975. 255 pp.
Wessinger, Catherine. How the Millennium Comes Violently: From Jonestown to Heaven's Gate. New York: Seven Bridges Press, 2000. 305 pp.
Adventism in America
Directory of Sabbath-Observing Groups. Fairview, OK: The Bible Sabbath Association, 1980. 147 pp.
Gaustad, Edwin Scott. The Rise of Adventism. New York: Harper & Row, 1974.
Nichol, Francis D. The Midnight Cry. Washington, DC: Review and Herald Publishing Association, 1944. 576 pp.
Sears, Clara Endicott. Days of Delusion. Boston: Houghton Mifflin Co., 1924. 264 pp.
Seventh-Day Adventist Encyclopedia. Washington, DC: Review and Herald Publishing Association, 1966. 1454 pp.
Bliss, Sylvester. Memoirs of William Miller. Boston: Joshua V. Himes, 1853. 426 pp.
A Brief History of William Miller, the Great Pioneer in Adventist Faith. Washington, DC: Review and Herald Publishing Association, 1915.
Gale, Robert. The Urgent Call. Washington, DC: Review and Herald Publishing Association, 1975. 158 pp.
White, James. Sketches of the Christian Life and Public Labors of William Miller. Battle Creek, MI: Steam Press, 1875. 413 pp.
Ellen G. White and the Seventh-Day Adventists
Bull, Malcolm. Seeking a Sanctuary: Seventh-day Adventism and the American Dream. San Francisco: Harper & Row, 1989. 319 pp.
A Critique of Prophetess of Health. Washington, DC: The Ellen G.
White Estate, General Conference of S.D.A., 1976. 127 pp.
Damsteegt, P. Gerard. Foundation of the Seventh-Day Adventist Message and Mission. Grand Rapids, MI: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1977. 348 pp.
Delafield, D. A. Ellen G. White and the Seventh-Day Adventist Church. Mountain View, CA: Pacific Press Publishing Association, 1963. 90 pp.
Noobergen, Rene. Ellen G. White, Prophet of Destiny. New Canaan, CT: Keats Publishing, 1972. 241 pp.
Numbers, Ronald L. Prophetess of Health, A Study of Ellen G. White. New York: Harper & Row, 1976. 271 pp.
Churches of God (Seventh Day)
Bjorling, Joel. The Churches of God, Seventh Day, A Bibliography. New York: Garland Publishing, 1987. 296 pp.
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Sacred Name Movement
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Charles Taze Russell and the Bible Students
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White, Timothy. A People for His Name. New York: Vantage Press, 1967. 418 pp.
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Matthews, Ronald. English Messiahs. London: Methuen & Co., 1936. 230 pp.
Allen, J. H. Judah's Sceptre and Joseph's Birthright. Boston: A. A. Beauchamp, 1930. 377 pp.
Armstrong, Herbert W. The United States and Britain in Prophecy. Pasadena, CA: Worldwide Church of God, 1980. 163 pp.
Barkun, Michael. Religion and the Racist Right: the Origins of the Christian Identity Movement. Chapel Hill, NC: University of North Carolina Press, 1994. 290 pp.
Coates, James. Armed and Dangerous. New York: Hill and Wang, 1987. 294 pp.
Darms, Anton. The Delusion of British-Israel. New York: Loizeaux Brothers, Bible Truth Depot, n.d. 224 pp.
Haberman, Frederick. The Climax of the Ages Is Near. St. Petersburg, FL: The Kingdom Press, 1940. 94 pp.
Hate Groups in America: A Record of Bigotry and Violence. New York: Anti-Defamation League of B'nai B'rith, 1982. 107 pp.
Kaplan, Jeffrey. Radical Religion in America. Syracuse, NY: Syracuse University Press, 1997. 245 pp.
Mackendrick, W. G. The Roadbuilder. The Destiny of the British Empire and the U.S.A. London: Covenant Publishing Co., 1931. 213 pp.
Roy, Ralph Lord. Apostles of Discord. Boston: Beacon Press, 1953. 437 pp.
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Swift, Wesley A. Testimony of Tradition and the Origin of Races. Hollywood, CA: New Christian Crusade Church, n.d. 34 pp.
Wilson, J. Our Israelitish Origins. Philadelphia: Daniels & Smith, 1850. 237 pp.
"Chapter 13: Adventist Family." Encyclopedia of American Religions. . Encyclopedia.com. (November 18, 2018). https://www.encyclopedia.com/religion/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/chapter-13-adventist-family
"Chapter 13: Adventist Family." Encyclopedia of American Religions. . Retrieved November 18, 2018 from Encyclopedia.com: https://www.encyclopedia.com/religion/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/chapter-13-adventist-family