William Miller (1782-1849), preached that the Second Coming of Jesus Christ would occur some time between March 21, 1843 and March 21, 1844.
Miller was invited to preach his "proofs" to churches in many locations. Many heard and became convinced.
Miller’s followers may have numbered as many as 100,000.
Churches split everywhere over who believed and who refused to be taken in.
Those who pinned their hopes on Miller's arguments did whatever necessary to prepare for the event--an event which never took place. What followed has been termed THE GREAT DISAPPOINTMENT.
When Christ failed to materialize within the appointed time, Miller set a new date, October 22, 1844. When this new date failed he apologized and admitted he was wrong.
Many honest and disappointed souls hung their heads in shame and returned to their old churches. But, about a third did not. They dug in. They tried to "fix" the problem.
Joseph Bates, James White and in particular Ellen Harmon White, chose to believe there was nothing wrong with Miller’s date calculations and started to teach that Christ had indeed returned in 1844
This return was not to Earth but to His heavenly Sanctuary. (fulfilling Daniel chapter 8 verse 14), and thus started a day of preparation. The actual Second Coming, the Parousia, was imminent. (Smylie 1988)
The merit of such an argument was that it provided a flimsy scriptural dodge, an excuse, which gave them temporary plausible deniability until they could repair the damage to their chronology.
Another Millerite, Nelson H. Barbour, came to believe that the correct date for Christ’s Second Coming was 1873, not 1844.
He started to spread this message, in particular through his 1870 pamphlet called Evidences for the Coming of the Lord in 1873: or the Midnight Cry, and his monthly The Midnight Cry from 1873. In the meantime, 1873 had become 1874, but that did not prevent another disappointment.
The loosey-goosey nature of these dates should have embarrassed further speculation. It didn't.
One of Barbour’s readers, B. W. Keith, came up with a solution.
Having obtained a new translation of the New Testament, Benjamin Wilson’s The Emphatic Diaglott, Keith noticed a marginal alternative translation of Parousia, the Greek word normally translated ‘coming,’ namely ‘presence.’
None of these men were skilled in Biblical Greek, but the idea took hold that what had started in 1874 was indeed Christ’s invisible presence. (Jonsson 1983)
This year, Barbour said, started a millennial morning, and the periodical The Midnight Cry became The Herald of the Morning.
Barbour failed to convince many of his original readers, but he did manage to convert one young man. This man was Charles Taze Russell (1852-1916).
Barbour and Russell teamed up. Barbour had the "ideas" and Russell had the money.
According to his account, Russell was astonished when he learned that Barbour had come to the same conclusions as himself.
At this time, Russell said, he and his fellow Bible students had already come to the conclusion that Christ would not return to destroy, but to bless mankind.
Russell taught that the Second Coming would be accompanied by the resurrection of the whole of mankind: “ all must come forth from their graves and be brought to a clear knowledge of the truth and to a full opportunity to gain everlasting life in Christ.”
Russell also seems to claim that he had come to believe in the two-stage coming of Christ before he read about it in Barbour’s periodical, but the actions Russell took make this highly unlikely.
Russell, being a wealthy young man, paid for Barbour to come down from New York to meet him in Allegheny, Pennsylvania, and during the conversation Russell was convinced that Christ had indeed returned invisibly in 1874. When Russell learned that Barbour’s periodical was almost suspended due to financial problems (the original readers were far from convinced by Barbour’s explanation of the 1874 disappointment), he agreed to help finance its publication. Also, he made Nelson Barbour write a booklet that set forth these chronological ideas, which was published and distributed at Russell’s expense. This booklet, Three Worlds and the Harvest of This World, was published in 1877 with both names on the cover, although Barbour wrote it alone.Russell was a clever and talented writer who could clearly express his own views persuasively. What sense does it make IF Russell had arrived at the exact same conclusions as Barbour--for Russell to publish Barbour's version? Why pour his personal funds (from the sale of his father's men's clothing shops) into somebody else's intellectual property?
Would it not make more sense to go it alone and allow Barbour to take a backseat?