By Eileen Maddocks
But the day of the Lord will come like a thief. 2 Peter 3:10
Long after Millerism had been largely forgotten except by those few Christians who settled into Adventist churches, an American named William Sears became intrigued by the phenomenon of Millerism. Sears was a Roman Catholic when he started his investigation into the Millerite prediction for 1844, and at that time he had no intention of leaving his Christian faith. He was just curious. He wanted to know what, if anything, happened that would validate to any extent the message of William Miller.
So Sears painstakingly scoured prophecies from the Old Testament, the Gospels, and the Book of Revelation searching the mystery of the return of Christ having been foretold but evidently not happening when expected. He initially had no intention of looking for answers outside Christianity. However, as dug for clues, he found himself connecting innumerable dots between biblical verses and Bahá’í history and sacred texts.
Sears was a skilled verbal communicator and this is reflected in his writing. A broadcaster by profession, his career included covering the play-by-play of baseball over both radio and television. He brought to his writing the same breathlessness and excitement that sportscasters use to report sudden action in a tied game. He presented the results of his investigation and his conclusions in an amazing book, Thief in the Night. Sears’ deeply inquiring mind had found many references in the Old Testament and the New Testament to events he was not looking for—the coming of the Báb and Bahá’u’lláh.
Spoiler alert: After completing his biblical investigation of the Millerite expectation, he became a Bahá’í in 1940.
Sears’s treatment of four verses in the book of Micah, Chapter 7, verses 12‒15, is an excellent example of his succinct writing and keen insights. Micah wrote:
In that day also he shall come even to thee from Assyria, and from the fortified cities, and from the fortress even to the river, and from sea to sea, and from mountain to mountain.
Notwithstanding the land shall be desolate because of them that dwell therein, for the fruit of their doings.
Feed thy people with thy rod, the flock of thine heritage, which dwell solitarily in the wood, in the midst of Carmel: let them feed in Bashan and Gilead, as in the days of old.
According to the days of thy coming out of the land of Egypt will I shew unto him marvellous things.
(Micah 7:12‒15, KVJ, emphasis added)
Sears commented on these prophecies of Micah that recount the steps by which Bahá’u’lláh would come from the east, go from banishment to banishment, and then finish His earthly days in Ottoman Turkish Palestine, as follows:
When the faithless people and the enemies of Micah ridiculed him, and taunted him saying: “Where is the Lord your God? (Micah 7:10)”, . . . Micah gave the remarkable sequence of prophecies that would proclaim the appearance of the Messiah so that every ‘eye’ that could ‘see’ might know that He dwelt amongst them.
1. “. . . he shall come . . . from the fortified cities.”
Bahá’u’lláh, I discovered, was exiled from Baghdád (Babylon) in the valley of the Tigris and Euphrates rivers to the fortified city of Constantinople.
In a last desperate effort to destroy him and his teachings, authorities of Persia and Turkey combined to send him to the fortified city of ‘Akká (Acre).
2. “. . . he shall come . . . from the fortress even to the river.”
Bahá’u’lláh was imprisoned for two years in a cell of the fortress of ‘Akká. So impregnable were its defences that Napoleon could not capture it; he left his cannon balls buried in the stone walls as a memory of his attempt. When Bahá’u’lláh was released from the fortress and the prison-city of ‘Akká, he journeyed to an island in the river called Na’mayn.
3. “. . . he shall come . . . from mountain to mountain.”
Bahá’u’lláh, I learned, withdrew to the mountain called Sar-Galú in the Kurdistání mountains where he prepared for his life of suffering. From that mountain, he returned to Baghdád and thence to the exile that carried him to the side of the mountain called Carmel which had been blessed by the footsteps of Christ during His first coming.
4. “. . . he shall come . . . from sea to sea.”
I traced the exile of Bahá’u’lláh from Iraq to Israel. En route to the fortified city of Constantinople, he made the last part of this journey by way of the Black Sea. When banished to the fortress city of ‘Akká, he made the last part of this journey by way of the Mediterranean Sea.
5. ‘. . . the land shall be desolate . . .”
Bahá’u’lláh was exiled to the prison-city of ‘Akká in a land so desolate that it was believed that he would perish and be heard of no more. So foul, insanitary, and filled with disease was the land that a proverb written about that land said: “If a bird flies over ‘Akká, it dies!”
In that day, Micah promised, the Messiah would:
6. Feed thy people with thy rod, the flock of thine heritage, which dwell solitarily in the wood, in the midst of Carmel.”
My records showed that when Bahá’u’lláh was released from captivity in the final years of his life, he pitched his tent in a small wood in the midst of Carmel. Seated in that tiny clump of cypress trees on the side of that stony, barren mountain, Bahá’u’lláh pointed out the spot where the Shrine of the Báb, his herald, should be erected. From there, he poured out his teachings to his followers. He fed his people and his flock with his words of love and kindness:
“The world is but one country, and mankind its citizens . . . Let not a man glory in this that he loves his country; let him rather glory in this, that he loves his kind.”
The final prophecy of Micah was, perhaps, the most remarkable of all. He foretold the exact length of time during which God would shower His truth upon the Messiah ‘in those days’. He prophesied that it would be:
7. “According to the days of thy (Israel) coming out of the land of Egypt will I show unto him marvellous things” (Micah 7:15).
The time of the coming out of Egypt was forty years. For forty years, under the holy guidance of Moses, the Jews wandered in the desert until finally they reached the Promised Land. For an equal period of time, forty years, Almighty God would fill the mouth of His Messenger with ‘wonders’ in the last days.
Bahá’u’lláh, like unto Moses, wandered in exile with his family and followers for forty years. He was sent as a prisoner, still in exile, to the prison fortress of ‘Akká. This once lay in the ancient land of Canaan that God had promised would be inherited in the last days by one from the seed of Abraham. These forty years of wandering, banishment, and imprisonment mark the exact period of time of Bahá’u’lláh’s ministry on earth.
He was thrown into the dungeon called ‘The Black Pit’ in Teheran in August 1852. In that prison, but a few weeks later, Bahá’u’lláh, in His own words, experienced the following:
“. . . lo, the breezes of the All-Glorious [God] were wafted over Me, and taught Me the knowledge of all that hath been. This thing is not from Me, but from One Who is Almighty and All-Knowing. And He [God] bade Me lift up My voice between earth and heaven . . . This is but a leaf which the winds of the Will of thy Lord . . . have stirred. Can it be still when the tempestuous winds are blowing?
Bahá’u’lláh was released from that prison, and his years of enforced exile and imprisonment began. They ended only with his death in the Holy Land in May 1892.
Thus from the beginning of his mission to the last days of his life, there were forty years, exactly “according to the days of thy coming out of the land of Egypt.”
Thief in the Night is a fascinating journey of exploration that will thrill spiritual seekers. Sears leaves no prophetic stones unturned and he connects many, many dots. This is also the book that inspired Cyrus Parvini to produce the first Bahá’í feature film, The Miller Prediction.
1 Lady Blomfield, The Chosen Highway, p. 64.
2 Bahá’u’lláh, cited by Shoghi Effendi, The Promised Day is Come
3 Bahá’u’lláh, Summons of the Lord of Hosts, ¶192, p. 99.
4 William Sears, Thief in the Night, pp. 123‒126.