“The Great Disappointment” refers to the grief experienced by the 100,000 Millerites who expected Jesus to return on October 22, 1844.
This date was the end of the longest time prophecy in the Bible, found in Daniel 7 and 8. The prophecy begins in 457 B.C. and continued 2,300 years later until 1844. The prophecy includes the exact dates of the beginning of Christ’s ministry at His first advent, of His death upon the cross, and the commencement of His High Priestly work in the Most Holy Place in the Heavenly Sanctuary, as Paul writes about in the book of Hebrews.
Obviously Jesus did not return in 1844. But the error was not in the Millerite message — that is, not an error in computation or the date, but an error in the nature of the event. For several years, the intensity had been building but without great emotional expressions. For most Millerites, it was a time of searching the heart and confession of sin.
Looking back, no other collapse of Christian hope is comparable except the crushing despairs of the disciples when Jesus was tried and crucified. And the same lesson applies — even as the disciples soon learned that Jesus had not failed in His mission, that He was victorious over sin, so the disappointed Millerites soon learned that Jesus had also not failed them.
The Adventist Church calls October 22 the “day of disappointment.” Far better, however, to remember October 22 as the day of Christ’s appointment. Even as on the road to Emmaus when Jesus had come to disappointed disciples, so He once again came very close to earnest but puzzled believers in the months following the “the great disappointment,” when He revealed to men and women what did happen on October 22, 1844.