Ellen White's Confusion on Bible Prophecy

Abridged from Daniel 8:14, Chapter 6, By Desmond Ford

Ellen White thought Daniel 8:13 applied to the siege of Jerusalem in AD 70. Elsewhere, she applied it to the Middle Ages. Yet elsewhere to the final crisis. An even more extreme example is given by Kenneth Strand:

Although Mrs. White nowhere gives a verse by verse exposition of the book of Revelation, allusions she makes [to it] in her extensive writings reveal [her] approach... For example, Revelation 5 is applied to five different occasions.

Throughout her writings, Mrs. White would use a text in a way that contradicted:

  • how she used it elsewhere; or,
  • how the Bible used it elsewhere.

Thus whereas Peter said that a prophecy by Joel was fulfilled in his day, Mrs. White says it will be fulfilled in ours. (Joel 2:28-32; Acts 2:16ff versus EW 142, AA 54-55.) Prophecies of the outpouring of the former rain, said by the Bible to refer to the opening of the gospel, are said by Mrs. White to refer to its close. A sign said by Jesus to predict the siege of Jerusalem is declared to be sign of the second advent.

Similarly Mrs. White would use a verse one way, elsewhere use it a contrary way. An example will demonstrate. Turning to page 49 of Great Controversy we read:

The apostle Paul, in his second letter to the Thessalonians, foretold the great apostasy which would result in the establishment of the papal power. He declared that the day of Christ should not come, "except there come a falling away first, and that man of sin be revealed, the son of perdition; who opposeth and exalteth himself above all that is called God, or that is worshipped; so that he as God sitteth in the temple of God, showing himself that he is God." And furthermore, the apostle warns his brethren that "the mystery of iniquity doth already work." 2 Thess. 2:3,4,7. Even at that early date he saw, creeping into the church, errors that would prepare the way for the development of the papacy. (Chapter 3, "The Apostasy")

We let pass the passage's factual errors, and merely point out that 2 Thessalonians 2 is here said to have foreseen the rise of the papacy. But Chapter 34 sees the passage as having foreseen something different.

Paul testifies that before the second advent of Christ there will be manifestations of satanic power. The coming of the Lord is to be preceded by "the working of Satan with all power and signs and lying wonders..." 2 Thess. 2:9,10. (Chapter 34, "Spiritualism")

Thus the "false Christ" of 2 Thessalonians 2 is not the papacy (538 AD to 1798), but Satan working miracles through spiritualist mediums (1848 and after). Nor is this the end of it.

Fearful sights of a supernatural character will soon be revealed in the heavens, in token of the power of miracle-working demons...

As the crowning act of the great drama of deception, Satan himself will personate Christ...

In different parts of the earth, Satan will manifest himself as a majestic being of dazzling brightness . . . The glory that surrounds him is unsurpassed by anything that mortal eyes have yet beheld. The shout of triumph rings out upon the air: "Christ has come! Christ has come!" The people prostrate themselves in adoration before him . . . His voice is soft and subdued, yet full of melody. In gentle, compassionate tones he presents some of the same gracious heavenly truths which the Saviour uttered; he heals the diseases of the people, and then, in his assumed character of Christ, he claims to have changed the Sabbath... (Chapter 39, "The Time of Trouble")

Thus what 2 Thessalonians 2 purportedly predicted was something else yet again. This is not inspiration: it is simply a sloppy and inaccurate use of a text.

Further Contradictory Use of Prophecies

Bible Prophecy EGW Interpretation #1 EGW Interpretation #2
Matt. 25:1-12 - The Shut Door
It foretold the closing of probation to non-Millerites, Oct.22, 1844. (Letter to Bates, July 13, 1847.)

It foretold the close of probation just before the Second Coming. COL 412.

It merely foretold that in entering the heavenly sanctuary's inner apartment, Christ shut the door, which closed probation on no one. GC 428.
Matt. 25:6-10 - The Coming of the bridegroom This occurred in 1844. GC, p.426. This will occur at the end of the world. COL 405f.
Matt. 25:6 - The Midnight Cry This is the message given 1843-1844. See GC, page 427.
This is the loud cry given at the end of the world. See COL, p.412,414,415.
Rev. 7:1-4 - The SealingIt began in 1845. See Early Writings p.44. It hasn't yet begun. See GC, p. 613.
The ShakingIt began shortly after 1844. See EW, p.50. It hasn't yet begun. See 5T, p.80-82.
Rev. 14:6,7 - The First Angel's Message It's the Millerite movement to 1844. EW 232-237. It's the SDAs to the end of time. GC 450, 453.
Rev. 14:8 - The Second Angel's Message
It was the fall of the Protestant churches in 1844. EW 237-239. It is the fall of all non-SDA churches right before the end. GC 389-390.
Rev. 11:19 - The Opening of the Temple in Heaven It happened in 1844. GC 433.It has yet to occur. EW 36.
Rev. 11:7-11 - Persecution of the Two Witnesses
It happened around 1793. GC 265ff.It has yet to occur. 4T 594; Fd 228.
Rev. 6:12,13 - Signs in the Heavens Fulfilled in the past: 1780, 1833, etc. GC 333. Will occur at the Second Coming. 9T 267.
Dan. 8:14 - The cleansing of the sanctuary
It's the blotting out records of sins in the heavenly sanctuary. GC 480.
It's the purification of the universe from sin and sinners by fire from heaven. PP 358; GC 666-678.

The Marriage of Matthew 25:10

After the 1844 disappointment one group explained the nonAdvent by saying that Jesus had entered, not earth, but the Most Holy Place to receive from the Father His kingdom. This was the marriage referred to in Matthew 25:10.

Joseph Turner, S. S. Snow, David Arnold, and James White, among others, wrote on this, and their view was later incorporated into Great Controversy.

The marriage represents the reception by Christ of His kingdom. The Holy City, the New Jerusalem, which is the capital and representative of the kingdom, is called the "bride, the Lamb's wife." Said the angel to John: "Come hither, I will show thee the bride, the Lamb's wife." "He carried me away in the spirit," says the prophet, "and showed me that great city the holy Jerusalem." Rev. 21:9,10. Clearly, then, the bride represents the Holy City, and the virgins that go out to meet the bridegroom are a symbol of the church. In the Revelation the people of God are said to be the guests at the marriage supper. Rev. 19:9. If guests, they cannot be represented also as the bride. Christ, as stated by the prophet Daniel, will receive from the Ancient of Days in heaven, "dominion, and glory, and a kingdom"; He will receive the New Jerusalem, "prepped as a bride adorned for her husband." Dan. 7:14; Rev. 21:2. Having received the kingdom, He will come in His glory, as King of kings and Lord of lords, for the redemption of His people, who are to "sit down with Abraham, and Isaac, and Jacob," at His table in His kingdom (Matt. 8:11), to partake of the marriage supper of the Lamb. (GC 426)

This passage is worthy of our attention. For one thing, it has Christ receive His kingdom in 1844 (whereas Hebrews tells us that in Paul's day Christ was already king, Rev. 3:21 assures us that He has sat upon a throne since His victorious earthly ministry, and Paul tells us that all things have already been put under his subjection, 1 Cor. 15:27). For another, it emphatically asserts that the Church cannot be the bride. But Revelation 19:7,8 assures us that the Bride is composed of those who have made themselves ready; nor can the marriage have begun in 1844, for Revelation tells us that the marriage will follow Armageddon. (This latter point is apparent even from Matthew 25 itself, for there can be no avoiding that it concerns the Second Coming and not 1844.)

The claim that the bride cannot be the Church is untenable. Compare Christ's Object Lessons.

As Christ sat looking upon the party that waited for the bridegroom He told His disciples the story of the ten virgins, by their experience illustrating the experience of the church that shall live just before His second coming. (p. 406)
So with the church that lives just before Christ's second coming. (p. 408)
The coming of the bridegroom was at midnight--the darkest hour. So the coming of Christ will take place in the darkest period of this earth's history. (p. 414)

Here the bride is said to be the church: a fact admitted by Ellen White in her letters:

The church is the bride... (Letter 123 1/2 1898)
The church is the bride, the Lamb's wife. She is the bride... (Letter 177, 1901)
The church is the bride, the Lamb's wife. (Letter 29, 1902)

Mrs. White's interpretation of Matthew 25:1-13 as a parable of the Millerite experience in 1844, as much as her use of Daniel 8:14 as an investigative judgment that began in 1844, were coined to meet the disappointment, and are unscriptural. Both contradict not just Scripture, but even her own statements elsewhere.

Signs in Sun, Moon, Stars, Earth

The pioneer view, endorsed by Mrs. White, was that the signs in the sun, moon, stars, and earth were all fulfilled by 1833. The following are the chief Scripture passages: Isa. 13:13, Isa. 34:4, Joel 2:10-11, Joel 3:16, Matt. 24:29, Mark 13:24-25, Luke 21:25-26, Heb. 12:26, Rev. 6:12-14, 11:19.

We observe several features of these texts.

  1. They are all in the setting of the Day of the Lord.
  2. The signs are not always in the same order. In Isa. 13 first comes the stars, followed by the sign in the sun, while Joel puts the earthquake first, then the shaking of the heavens, then signs in the sun, moon, and stars--in that order. Thus it is implied that the signs transpire together.
  3. In giving the signs in His Olivet discourse, Jesus was quoting Isaiah and Joel.
  4. He declared that "in those days, alter her tribulation, the sun shall be darkened, and the moon shall not give her light and the stars of heaven shall fall, and the powers that are in heaven shall be shaken. And then shall they see the Son of man coming...

Observe that "in those days" takes in the signs and the Second Advent. Ever since the days of Mrs. White, SDAs have argued that "in those days" proves that the dark day would come alter the tribulation of the Middle Ages, but before the end of the 1260 days. The fact is that the falling of the stars also is said to take place "in those days"--and the Second Coming as well.

These signs reappear in the Bible's closing book. There the earthquake is said to be one that shakes every mountain and island, and greater than any previous, none of which is true of the Lisbon earthquake. It is linked with the seventh plague--the "great hail"--and so is manifestly still future.

It is clear from Rev. 16:17-21; Isa. 34:1-10 and Joel 2-3, that the signs belong to the Day of the Lord. Any placing of them prior to that time is illegitimate--but understandable in terms of uneducated 19th century believers.

Let us observe one of Ellen White's earliest comments on another of these predictions.

Shaking of the Powers of Heaven
December 15, 1848, the Lord gave me a view of the shaking of the powers of the heavens. I saw that when the Lord said "heaven," in giving the signs recorded by Matthew, Mark, and Luke, He meant heaven, and when He said "earth" He meant earth. The powers of heaven are the sun, moon, and stars. They rule in the heavens. The powers of earth are those that rule on the earth. The powers of heaven will be shaken at the voice of God. Then the sun, moon, and stars will be moved out of their places. They will not pass away, but be shaken by the voice of God.
Dark, heavy clouds came up and clashed against each other. The atmosphere parted and rolled back; then we could look up through the open space in Orion, whence came the voice of God. I saw that the powers of earth are now being shaken and that events come in order. War; and rumors of war, sword, famine, and pestilence are first to shake the powers of earth, then the voice of God will shake the sun, moon, and stars, and this earth also. (Early Writings, page 41)

The heading "Shaking of the Powers of Heaven" is taken from Luke 21:26, where we read after the prediction of "signs in sun and moon and stars" that "the powers of the heavens will be shaken." The second paragraph expands on the first, for it explicitly tells us that the powers of the heavens are the sun, moon, and stars.

Thus Early Writings, in commenting upon these passages, gives quite a different application than does Great Controversy. Whereas Great Controversy applies the signs to events already in the past, Early Writings applies them to the future. Not only does Early Writings apply the prophecy to the future, but it locates the fulfillment in the Day of the Lord when according to Joel 2:1,10,11,30-32; 3:14-16, these signs will occur as "the Lord roars from Zion, and utters his voice from Jerusalem. " Rev. 6:12-17 also mentions this earthquake, and links it with the sun not shining and the stars falling. It furthermore expressly tells us the time of these heavenly signs: "the great day of their wrath," i.e., the wrath of God and the Lamb at the end of the world.

Early Writings, page 41, assures us that prior to the shaking of the powers of heaven there is a shaking on earth as the nations grow angry. This places the fulfillment in connection with the seventh trumpet. Verse 18 of Rev. 11 speaks of the nations being angry, and then adds "thy wrath came."

There is no escaping that in Early Writings, 41, Mrs. White says she was shown that the signs in the sun, moon, and stars, were yet future, would be part of the last great day, and would be heaven's reply to the angry nations.

But just when we think that Mrs. White in Early Writings (unlike in Great Controversy) may have gotten the matter right, we notice that she claims to have been shown (!) that a war then raging in Europe (1848) was the beginning of the fulfillment of these last things. Worse, she claims that she was shown that the earth's being shaken (from Joel: "and the heavens and the earth shake"; Hebrews: "I will shake not only the earth but also the heaven") means angry nations. But the parallel passages in Revelation show that it's an actual earthquake.

Even when she gets something right, she shows that she was no "inspired commentator." And her statement in Early Writings is a real stumbling block for those who believe in the inspiration of Great Controversy.

The Day of Atonement

Most Adventists know of Mrs. White's use of the Day of Atonement in Great Controversy: it predicted the "cleansing of the sanctuary" (1844) and the burning of Lucifer (alter the millennium). Not so well known is that she sometimes agreed (by accident?) with Protestant commentators that the Day of Atonement predicted the cross.

As the high priest laid aside his gorgeous, pontifical robes, and officiated in the white linen dress of the common priest, so Christ took the form of a servant, and offered sacrifice, Himself the priest, Himself the victim. DA 24
As in the typical service, the high priest laid aside his pontifical robes, and officiated in the white linen dress of an ordinary priest, so Christ laid aside His royal robes, and garbed Himself with humanity, and offered sacrifice, Himself the priest, Himself the victim. As the high priest, after performing his service in the Holy of holies, came forth to the waiting congregation in his pontifical robes, so Christ will come the second time, clothed in garments of whitest white. AA 33
He ascended to heaven triumphant and victorious. He has taken the blood of the atonement into the Holiest of all, sprinkled it upon the mercy seat in His own garments, and blessed the people. Soon He will appear the second time to declare that there is no more sacrifice for sin. (Signs of the Times, April 19, 1905)

These statements, which correctly state the position of the Book of Hebrews, were almost certainly "borrowed," Ellen White not perceiving that they contradicted her usual use of the Day of Atonement.

These statements are also interesting if we note that the first of them dates from 1898, the last from 1905, and that it was in 1905 that Ballenger was cashiered. Unaware that she was attacking something that she herself also had (at least on occasion) taught, Ellen White flailed Ballenger's view.

Revelation 11

In Great Controversy we read that the two witnesses of Revelation 11 are the Old and New Testament. But when we turn to Testimonies, Volume 4, page 594, we find a different application altogether.

Let us consider two more examples. Great Controversy applies Rev. 11:19 to the 1844 movement.

"The temple of God was opened in heaven, and there was seen in His temple the ark of His testament." Rev. 11:19. The ark of God's testament is in the holy of holies, the second apartment of the sanctuary. In the ministration of the earthly tabernacle, which served "unto the example and shadow of heavenly things," this apartment was opened only upon the great Day of Atonement for the cleansing of the sanctuary. Therefore the announcement that the temple of God was opened in heaven and the ark of His testament was seen points to the opening of the most holy place of the heavenly sanctuary in 1844...
(GC 433)

Thus Revelation 11:19 was a prophecy of 1844.

Let us now turn to the Scripture itself. We find that the seventh angel blows his trumpet, and there are loud voices in heaven, saying, "The kingdom of the world has become the kingdom of our Lord and of his Christ, and he shall reign forever and ever and ever." And twenty-four elders who sit on thrones before God fall on their faces and worship, saying:

"... thou hast taken thy great power and begun to reign. The nations raged, but thy wrath came, and the time for the dead to be judged, for rewarding thy servants ... and for destroying the destroyers of the earth."

Then God's temple in heaven was opened, the ark of his covenant was seen, and there were flashes of lightning, loud noises, peals of thunder, an earthquake.

The passage is describing the end of the world. According to verse 18, it is the time of God's wrath, that wrath elsewhere described as without mixture of mercy. It is the time for destroying the wicked. At that time the ark of the law is seen amid the flashes of lightning and peals of thunder. Revelation 11:19 simply does not describe 1844.

The Third Angel's Message in Verity?

Another line of thought in Mrs. White is that "justification by faith is the third angel's message in verity." In Testimonies 6:19 we are told that proclaiming righteousness by faith is our special task. It is said to be the sweetest melody: the one topic that will swallow up every other.

But the basis of SDA faith she elsewhere said to be something very different: the light regarding the sanctuary. For the first forty years of her ministry, her writings presented a legalism that was a near opposite to righteousness by faith. And if righteousness by faith is the third angel's message, how did the church give that angel's message for forty years when it knew nothing of it? If the SDA church was raised by God to give the Third Angel's Message, would that message in verity be righteousness by faith: a message it for forty years did not give?

She says the doctrine will swallow up every other. But SDA publications rarely mention it, and even the Ellen White writings state the topic neither often nor well. Is it the SDA message in verity? The irony is that the doctrine, so little known to SDAs, is a staple of other churches.

Category: Confused Teachings
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