A Straight Line of Truth? Mrs. White's Shifting Views of the Resurrection

By Elaine Bowerman

Ellen White's Straight Line of Truth ELLEN WHITE - "That which I have written is what the Lord has bidden me write. I have not been instructed to change that which I have sent out. ... The straight line of truth presented to me when I was but a girl is just as clearly presented now."1

This article will examine Mrs. White's writings about the resurrection to determine whether or not she sent out a "straight line of truth" .

We start when Ellen was "but a girl" in 1845:

"He gazed on the graves of the sleeping saints then raised his eyes and hands to heaven & cried out, Awake! Awake! Awake! ye that sleep in the dust, and arise. Then there was a mighty earthquake. The graves opened, and the dead came up clothed with immortality. The 144,000 shouted, Hallelujah! as they recognized their friends who had been torn from them by death, and in the same moment we were changed and caught up together with them to meet the Lord in the air. We all entered the cloud together, and were 7 days ascending to the sea of glass, when Jesus brought along the crowns and with his own right hand placed them on our heads."2

Please note from the above quote that the 144,000 (those alive when Jesus returns) recognize their friends among the general resurrection of the righteous. This is important. Remember this.

Ellen White was still a young lady--20 years of age--when she wrote:

"I fully agree with you, that there will be two literal resurrections, one thousand years apart. I also agree with you that the new earth will not appear till after the wicked dead are raised, and destroyed, at the end of the thousand years. . . . I saw that Satan was 'loosed out of his prison' at the end of the thousand years, just at the time the wicked dead were raised; and that Satan deceived them by making them believe that they could take the Holy City from the saints. . . . I saw that all the righteous dead were raised by the voice of the Son of God, at the first resurrection; and all that were raised at the second resurrection were burnt up, and ceased to exist."3

Please note from the above quote that there are only "two" resurrections.

In April of 1850, she seems to indicate the wicked will be resurrected after Jesus and the saints descend...

"I saw that the saints will rest in the Holy City, and reign as kings and priests one thousand years; then Jesus will descend with the saints upon the mount of Olives, and the mount will part asunder, and become a mighty plain for the Paradise of God to rest upon. The rest of the earth will not be cleansed until the wicked dead are raised (at the end of the one thousand years) and gather up around the city; for the feet of the wicked will never desecrate the earth made new. Then fire will come down from God out of heaven and devour them; burn them up root and branch. Satan is the root, and his children are the branches. The same fire that will devour the wicked, will purify the earth."4

...but a mere five months later, the wicked dead are raised while Jesus descends...

"At the general conference of believers in the present truth, held at Sutton, Vermont, September, 1850, I was shown that the seven last plagues will be poured out after Jesus leaves the sanctuary. . . At the voice of God the saints will be mighty and terrible as an army with banners, but they will not then execute the judgment written. The execution of the judgment will be at the close of the one thousand years." . . . This, I saw, was the work of the saints with Jesus through the one thousand years in the Holy City before it descends to the earth. Then at the close of the one thousand years, Jesus, with the angels and all the saints, leaves the Holy City, and while He is descending to the earth with them, the wicked dead are raised, and then the very men that "pierced Him," being raised, will see Him afar off in all His glory, the angels and saints with Him, and will wail because of Him. They will see the prints of the nails in His hands and in His feet, and where they thrust the spear into His side. The prints of the nails and the spear will then be His glory."5

Change #1: Wicked raised while Jesus descends, not after.

Please note in the quote above that those who pierced him will see Jesus and wail at the resurrection of the wicked at the end of the 1,000 years. This is important. Remember this!

Oops! Eight years later, in 1858, we find the wicked being raised after Jesus and the New Jerusalem have settled upon the earth:

"There was a mighty earthquake. [1] The graves were shaken open, and those who had died in faith under the third angel's message, keeping the Sabbath, came forth from their dusty beds, glorified, to hear the covenant of peace that God was to make with those who had kept his law. . . . . [2] The earth mightily shook as the voice of the Son of God called forth the sleeping saints. . . . After the judgment of the wicked dead was finished, at the end of the one thousand years, Jesus left the City, and a train of the angelic host followed him. The saints also went with him. Jesus descended upon a great and mighty mountain, which, as soon as his feet touched it, parted asunder, and became a mighty plain. Then we looked up and saw the great and beautiful City, with twelve foundations, twelve gates, three on each side, and an angel at each gate. We cried out, The City! The great City! It is coming down from God out of heaven! And it came down in all its splendor, and dazzling glory, and settled in the mighty plain which Jesus had prepared for it. . . . Then Jesus and all the holy retinue of angels, and all the redeemed saints, left the City. The holy angels surrounded Jesus, and escorted him on his way, and the train of redeemed saints followed. [3] Then Jesus in terrible, fearful majesty called forth the wicked dead; and as they came up with the same feeble, sickly bodies that went into the grave, what a spectacle! what a scene! At the first resurrection all came forth in immortal bloom; but at the second, the marks of the curse are visible on all. Kings and the noble men of earth come forth with the mean and the low, learned and unlearned together. All behold the Son of man; and those very men who despised and mocked Jesus, and smote him with the reed, and that put the crown of thorns upon his sacred brow behold him in all his kingly majesty. Those who spit upon him in the hour of his trial, now turn from his piercing gaze, and from the glory of his countenance. Those who drove the nails through his hands and his feet, now look upon the marks of his crucifixion. Those who thrust the spear into his side, behold the marks of their cruelty on his body. And they know that he is the very One whom they crucified, and derided in his expiring agony. And then there arises one long protracted wail of agony, as they flee to hide from the presence of the King of kings and Lord of lords."6

Change #2: We are back to the wicked being raised after Jesus descends.

Change #3: We now have three resurrections:

  1. The righteous who died in the third angel's message
  2. The rest of the righteous
  3. The wicked at the end of the 1,000 years

Why was a new resurrection added in 1858? Because Mrs. White made a terrible blunder. In the Aug. 1, 1849, edition of Present Truth, Mrs. White indicated they were in the "sealing time." In 1850, Mrs. White wrote:

"I saw that she [Mrs. Hastings] was sealed and would come up at the voice of God and stand upon the earth, and would be with the 144,000. I saw we need not mourn for her; she would rest in the time of trouble."7

By the early 1850s, the Whites faced a major dilemma. They had claimed the sealing was already in progress, but the "sealed" people were starting to die off! But in 1847, in A Word to the Little Flock, Mrs. White said the 144,000 would witness God calling forth the righteous from their graves! Do you see the dilemma? How could dead people witness the raising of the dead? Well, the only way out of the dilemma was to create a third, special resurrection--even though she had said in 1847 that there were only two resurrections!

Oops! There is another problem! Remember the "friends" from the very first quote? In 1845, Mrs. White said the 144,000 recognized their friends in the resurrection of the righteous. Now, here is another dilemma! If all those who died in the faith of the third angel's message are raised up prior to the resurrection of the righteous, then who are these "friends" of the 144,000? Well, you say, they must be friends who did not believe in the third angel's message. Well, that presents an even bigger problem, because the third angel's message is supposedly the testing truth, and those who reject it are lost. So who are these friends of the 144,000, and why are they resurrected if they did not accept the third angel's message? We may never know...

Are you following the straight line of truth so far?

Well, it gets even more confusing in 1884:

"Graves are opened, and "many of them that sleep in the dust of the earth" "awake, some to everlasting life, and some to shame and everlasting contempt." [DAN. 12:2.] All who have died in faith under the third angel's message come forth from the tomb glorified, to hear God's covenant of peace with those who have kept his law. 'They also which pierced Him,' those that mocked and derided Christ's dying agonies, and the most violent opposers of his truth and his people, are raised to behold him in his glory, and to see the honor placed upon the loyal and obedient . . . . Amid the reeling of the earth, the flashing of lightning, and the roaring of thunder, the voice of the Son of God calls forth the sleeping saints. He looks upon the graves of the righteous, then raising his hands to heaven he cries, 'Awake, awake, awake, ye that sleep in the dust, and arise!' Throughout the length and breadth of the earth, the dead shall hear that voice, and they that hear shall live. And the whole earth shall ring with the tread of the exceeding great army of every nation, kindred, tongue, and people. From the prison-house of death they come, clothed with immortal glory, crying, 'O death, where is thy sting? O grave, where is thy victory?' [1 COR. 15:55.] And the living righteous and the risen saints unite their voices in a long, glad shout of victory. . . .

"At the close of the thousand years, Christ again returns to the earth. He is accompanied by the host of the redeemed, and attended by a retinue of angels. As he descends in terrific majesty, he bids the wicked dead arise to receive their doom. They come forth, a mighty host, numberless as the sands of the sea."8

Change #4: Now we are back again to the wicked being raised while Jesus descends.

Change #5: Now we have four resurrections:

  1. The righteous who died in the third angel's message
  2. The wicked who pierced Jesus are raised at the Second Coming
  3. The rest of the righteous
  4. The wicked at the end of the 1,000 years9

Up until 1884, Mrs. White repeatedly describes the agony of those who pierced Christ as happening when they are raised from the dead at the end of the 1,000 years. However, in 1884, we find that those who pierced Christ are raised in a special resurrection before the rest of the righteous!

Notice how the story changes over the years:

Date Ellen White's Changing Story
1847Only 2 Resurrections
1850Wicked are raised after Christ descends
1850Wicked are raised while Christ descends
1858One more resurrection--Those who died in the 3rd angel's message
1858Wicked are raised after Christ descends
1884Yet another resurrection--Those who pierced Christ
1884Wicked are raised while Christ descends

Is that a "straight line of truth?"

More confusion about the resurrection

In 1858, Mrs. White confuses the issue even further by claiming that some unsaved humans will not be resurrected in the resurrection of the wicked, nor will they suffer the final wrath upon the wicked:

"God cannot take the slave to heaven, who has been kept in ignorance and degradation, knowing nothing of God, or the Bible, fearing nothing but his master's lash, and not holding so elevated a position as his master's brute beasts. But He does the best thing for him that a compassionate God can do. He lets him be as though he had not been."10

That statement is difficult to explain in light of what the Bible says:

For we shall all stand before the judgment seat of Christ. (Rom. 14:10)

For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ; that every one may receive the things done in his body, according to that he hath done, whether it be good or bad. (2 Cor. 5:10)

The Greek word for "all" in the passages above is pas, which means "each, every, any, all, the whole, everyone, all things, everything."11 The book of Revelation explains that none of the wicked escape the resurrection and final wrath:

And I saw a great white throne...and I saw the dead, small and great, stand before God...and the dead were judged...and they were judged every man according to their works...and whosoever was not found written in the book of life was cast into the lake of fire. (Rev. 20:11-15)

By 1889, Mrs. White seems to have changed her mind on this:

"There will be a reappearance of every human being that has gone into the grave. The aged who sank under the hand of death with the burden of years upon them, manhood in its prime, youth in the early bloom of life, and the little child,--all shall awake, and shake off the fetters of the tomb. But not all shall awake to everlasting life. 'Whosoever was not found written in the book of life was cast into the lake of fire.'"12

A "straight line of truth?" You decide.


1. Ellen G. White, Review and Herald, Jan. 26, 1905.

2. Ellen G. Harmon, The Day-Star, "Letter from Sister Harmon.Portland, Me., Dec. 20, 1845", January 24, 1846.

3. Ellen G. White, Word To the Little Flock, pp. 11-12, 1847.

4. Ellen G. White, Review and Herald, April 1, 1850.

5. Ellen G. White, Early Writings, pp. 52-53. Note: This is a slightly edited reprint of the article orginally printed in, The Present Truth, November 1, 1850. Aware of the contradiction, Mrs. White attempted to explain it, according to Thomas Hamilton, as follows: "Mrs. White explained it to Elder Ingraham, and Elder Ingraham to the writer, in June 1865 as follows, 'That after the City comes down and is located on the earth, Jesus and the saints and angels, go right out into the air from the walls of the City, and then the wicked dead are raised, as they descend to the earth.'" (Hope of Israel, Sep. 4, 1866 vol. 1, no. 8, p. 57)

6. Ellen G. White, Spiritual Gifts, vol. 1, pp. 205,208,212-215.

7. Ellen G. White, Selected Messages, Vol. 2, p. 263.

8. Ellen G. White, The Great Controversy, pp. 454, 458, 463, 476.

9. The resurrection of the wicked at the end of the 1,000 years must also include those who were resurrected at Christ's Second Coming to witness His return. Therefore, that group of wicked gets resurrected twice and dies three times--their original death, a death after the first resurrection at the Second Coming, and a final death after the second resurrection. This would seem to contradict the book of Hebrews: "And as it is appointed unto men once to die, but after this the judgment." (Heb. 9:27)

10. Ellen G. White, Spiritual Gifts, vol. 1, p. 193.

11. Strong's.

12. Ellen G. White, Bible Echo, Jan. 15, 1889.

Category: Confused Teachings
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