The term Adventist generally refers to one who believes in the Second Advent of Jesus (popularly known as the Second coming) in the tradition of the Millerites.
The Adventist family of churches are regarded as conservative Protestants.
While they hold much in common, their theologies differ on whether the intermediate state is unconscious sleep or consciousness, whether the ultimate punishment of the wicked is annihilation or eternal torment, the nature of immortality, whether or not the wicked are resurrected, and whether the sanctuary of Daniel 8 refers to the one in heaven or on earth. The movement has encouraged the examination of the Old Testament, leading some members to observe the Sabbath and others to use the name "Jehovah" for God.
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Adventism was an inter-denominational movement initially. Its creator and most vocal leader was William Miller, who. Between 50,000 and 100,000 people in the United States supported and followed Miller's predictions of Christ's return. After the "Great Disappointment" of October 22, 1844, the date by which Adventism taught Christ would return to the earth, many people in the movement gave up on Adventism and presumably on Christianity as a whole. Of those remaining Adventists, the majority gave up believing in any prophetic (biblical) significance for the October 22 date, yet they remained expectant of the near Advent (second coming of Jesus). Many of those who retained the October 22 date claimed that Jesus had come not literally but "spiritually", and consequently were known as "spiritualizers". A small minority admitted that something concrete had indeed happened on October 22, but this event had been misinterpreted. Later, this viewpoint emerged and crystallized with the Seventh-day Adventist Church, the largest remaining body today.
The Albany Conference in 1845, attended by 61 delegates, was called as an attempt to determine the future course and meaning of the Millerite movement. Following the meeting, the "Millerites" then became known as "Adventists" or "Second Adventists". However, the delegates disagreed on multiple theological points. Four groups emerged from the conference: The Evangelical Adventists, the Advent Christian Church, the Life and Advent Union, and the Seventh-day Adventist Church.
The largest group formed the American Millennial Association, a portion of which was later known as the Evangelical Adventist Church. Unlike the original Adventists, they believed in an eternal hell and consciousness in death. They declined in numbers, and by 1916 their name no longer appeared in the United States Census of Religious Bodies. It has diminished to nearly extinction today. Their primary publication was the Advent Herald. An addtitional publication was the Signs of the Times, a Millerite magazine that was first published in 1840. In January 1844 it was continued and renamed the Advent Herald and Signs of the Times or Advent Herald, with Sylvester Bliss as the editor until he died in 1863. Later it was called the Messiah’s Herald.
The Life and Advent Union was founded in 1863 by George Storrs, who established The Bible Examiner in 1842. In 1964 it merged with the Adventist Christian Church.
The Advent Christian Church officially formed in 1861, and grew quickly at first, but declined somewhat over the 20th century. The Advent Christians publish four magazines: The Advent Christian Witness, Advent Christian News, Advent Christian Missions and Maranatha. They also operate a liberal arts college in Aurora, Illinois and a Bible College in Lennox, Massachusetts.
The Seventh-day Adventist Church was organized in 1863. Its doctrine teaches the sanctity of the seventh-day Sabbath as a holy day for worship. Its publications include the Adventist Review and Sabbath Herald. The denomination has grown worldwide and has a significant network of medical and educational institutions.
Miller himself did not join any of the movements, and spent the last few years of his life working for unity, before dying in 1849.