2. The Advent of millennial zeal

The turn of the century

The Bible refers to the Return of Christ many times, in both the Old and New Testaments, such as in the Books of Daniel, Numbers, Matthew, Luke, and Revelation. At the turn of the 18th century, as the result of the study of the prophecies in these books, many biblical scholars were of the opinion that the Return of Christ was imminent. The work of these scholars inspired a renewed religious zeal greater even than that of the Reformation of the 16th century or at other times in the past.

Early Adventists

Many people made their mark during this period, most of whom are now forgotten. Amongst them were Bengel (Germany), Gaussen (Switzerland), Lacunza (South America), Mason (Scotland), Leonard Kelber and Joseph Wolff (Germany) and, in North America, Andrew Jackson Davis, Joseph Smith, William Miller. In addition, there were many priests and ministers throughout the world teaching the second coming.

Bengel, a Lutheran minister, saw in the text of Revelation 21 clear references to the Return and his teachings were well received throughout Germany, some of his followers even moving to Russia to set up colonies which awaited the second coming well into the early 19th century. Gaussen based his work on Daniel, chapter two and, again, had a great following, of young and old and especially of men of learning. Lacunza, using the name of Rabbi Ben-Israel, published a book announcing the imminent return of Christ. And, increasingly, the date being referred to in the publications and sermons of these Adventists was 1844.