| Ellen G. White Estate

Unfulfilled Predictions?

England to Declare War During the U.S. Civil War?

Did Ellen G. White predict that England would declare war against the United States? Here is the context of her comment:

"England is studying whether it is best to take advantage of the present weak condition of our nation, and venture to make war upon her. She is weighing the matter, and trying to sound other nations. She fears, if she should commence war abroad, that she would be weak at home, and that other nations would take advantage of her weakness. Other nations are making quiet yet active preparations for war, and are hoping that England will make war with our nation, for then they would improve the opportunity to be revenged on her for the advantage she has taken of them in the past, and the injustice done them. A portion of the Queen's subjects are waiting a favorable opportunity to break their yoke; but if England thinks it will pay, she will not hesitate a moment to improve her opportunities to exercise her power, and humble our nation. When England does declare war, all nations will have an interest of their own to serve, and there will be general war, general confusion" (Testimonies for the Church, vol. 1, p. 259).

Note the conditional character of these statements: "She fears, if she should commence war abroad, that she would be weak at home." "But if England thinks it will pay." Then follows the sentence: "When England does declare war. . . ." It is evident that Mrs. White is here using the word "when" as a synonym for "if," which is good English. In fact, if we do not thus understand the word "when" in this connection, we have an unusual situation--a series of problematical "ifs" is followed by a simple statement that England is going to declare war. Thus Mrs. White's last sentence would make pointless her preceding sentences.

A similar use of the word "when" is found on the preceding page in her work: "When our nation observes the fast which God has chosen, then will He accept their prayers as far as the war is concerned." No one will argue that the word "when" in this connection introduces a simple statement concerning a future fact that will undebatably happen.

An inspired parallel to this "if" and "when" construction is found in Jeremiah 42:10-19. The prophet speaks to Israel about abiding in Palestine rather than going down into Egypt:

"If ye will still abide in this land. . . ." Verse 10.
"But if ye say, We will not dwell in this land. . . ." Verse 13.
"If ye wholly set your faces to enter into Egypt. . . ." Verse 15.
"When ye shall enter into Egypt . . . ." Verse 18.

It is evident that the phrase "when ye shall enter into Egypt" is synonymous with "if ye shall enter into Egypt."

With the clause "when England does declare war," understood as synonymous with "if England does declare war," the statement changes from a prediction to a statement of mere possibility, but a possibility, however, whose full potentialities many might not realize.

[Adapted from Francis D. Nichol, Ellen G. White and Her Critics, pp. 122, 123.]

Jerusalem Never to Be Rebuilt?

Ellen G. White wrote in 1851 that "old Jerusalem never would be built up." [1] By itself, the statement looks unsustainable. But when the setting is reconstructed, we find Mrs. White counseling the growing Adventist group that both time-setting [2] and the "age-to-come" notion [3] were incompatible with Biblical truth. She emphasized that the Old Testament prophecies regarding the establishment of a Jewish kingdom in Palestine were conditional on obedience and forfeited by disobedience. Unfulfilled prophecies would be fulfilled to "true Israel" as unfolded in the New Testament text.

Thus the popular movement of the 1840s and 1850s to promote a Zionist state in Palestine was not a fulfillment of Biblical prophecy and not a quest in which Adventists should become involved. Her warnings and instruction were designed to turn the interest away from Palestine and toward the work God had opened up before them.

In a September 1850 vision she saw that it was a "great error" to believe that "it is their duty to go to Old Jerusalem, and think they have a work to do there before the Lord comes. . . ; for those who think that they are yet to go to Jerusalem will have their minds there, and their means will be withheld from the cause of present truth to get themselves and others there." [4]

Less than a year later, August 1851, she wrote with greater emphasis "that Old Jerusalem never would be built up; and that Satan was doing his utmost to lead the minds of the children of the Lord into these things now, in the gathering time, to keep them from throwing their whole interest into the present work of the Lord, and to cause them to neglect the necessary preparation for the day of the Lord." [5]

How did Ellen White's readers understand this statement? That there was no light in the popular "age-to-come" teaching, that there is no Biblical significance in the Jews' returning to Palestine, that Jerusalem will never be rebuilt in a future millennial period. She was not talking about a possible political rebuilding of Jerusalem but of a prophetically significant rebuilding of Old Jerusalem. To continue to think that way, she emphasized, was to sink further into Satan's deceptions and away from present duty.

For further study of this topic, see Julia Neuffer, "The Gathering of Israel," in the Reference Library.

Notes

[1] Early Writings, p. 75. This sentence appears in the chapter, "The Gathering Time," which combined two visions and some additional lines. The first vision, Sept. 23, 1850, dealt with the "gathering time" of "Israel," the dates on the Millerite 1843 chart, the "daily," timesetting, and the error of going to Old Jerusalem. The second vision, June 21, 1851, focused on the third angel's message, time-setting, and Old Jerusalem's not being built up.

[2] Many former Millerites were setting various dates for the return of Jesus, with 1850 and 1851 being the latest dates for the end of the 2300-day/year prophecy. Although Sabbatarian Adventists generally were immune from time-setting, Hiram Edson and Joseph Bates advocated 1850 and 1851, respectively. James White kept their views out of Present Truth, the Advent Review, and the Review and Herald.

[3] With several variations, age-to-come exponents, led by Joseph Marsh, O. R. L. Crosier, and George Storrs, believed that the Second Advent would usher in the millennial kingdom on earth during which time the world would be converted under the reign of Christ, with the Jews playing a leading role. This group closely related to the Literalists (British Adventists) who had believed that in the 1840s the literal Jews would welcome their Messiah (Christ) in Palestine, thus fulfilling Old Testament prophecies with Jerusalem becoming Christ's capital during the millennium. The majority of the Millerites had rejected this aspect of their Adventist theology, calling it Judaism. (See Josiah Litch, "The Rise and Progress of Adventism," The Advent Shield and Review, May 1844, p. 92, cited in Seventh-day Adventist Bible Students' Source Book, p. 513. The first defectors from early Seventh-day Adventists were H. S. Case and C. P. Russell who had, among other concepts, embraced the "age-to-come" theory. See The Seventh-day Adventist Encyclopedia, s.v. "Messenger Party."

[4] Early Writings, p. 75.

[5] Early Writings, pp. 75, 76.

[Excerpt from Herbert E. Douglass, Messenger of the Lord: the Prophetic Ministry of Ellen G. White (Nampa, Idaho: Pacific Press Publishing Association, 1998), pp. 488, 489.]

Some in 1856 Alive When Jesus Returns?

Concerning a conference in 1856 Ellen White declared: "I was shown the company present at the conference. Said the angel, 'Some food for worms, some subjects of the seven last plagues, some will be alive and remain upon the earth to be translated at the coming of Jesus.' " All who were alive then are now dead. Does this prediction mean that Mrs. White is a false prophet?

Numerous statements made by Ellen White in the decades following the 1856 vision demonstrate her clear understanding that there is an implied conditional quality to God's promises and threatenings--as Jeremiah declared--and that the conditional feature in forecasts regarding Christ's Advent involves the state of heart of Christ's followers. The following statement, written in 1883, is especially relevant on this point:

"The angels of God in their messages to men represent time as very short. Thus it has always been presented to me. It is true that time has continued longer than we expected in the early days of this message. Our Saviour did not appear as soon as we hoped. But has the Word of the Lord failed? Never! It should be remembered that the promises and the threatenings of God are alike conditional. . . .

"It was not the will of God that the coming of Christ should be thus delayed. God did not design that His people, Israel, should wander forty years in the wilderness. He promised to lead them directly to the land of Canaan, and establish them there a holy, healthy, people. But those to whom it was first preached, went not in 'because of unbelief.' Their hearts were filled with murmuring, rebellion, and hatred, and He could not fulfill His covenant with them.

"For forty years did unbelief, murmuring, and rebellion shut out ancient Israel from the land of Canaan. The same sins have delayed the entrance of modern Israel into the heavenly Canaan. In neither case were the promises of God at fault. It is the unbelief, the worldliness, unconsecration, and strife among the Lord's professed people that have kept us in this world of sin and sorrow so many years" (Ms 4, 1883, quoted in Evangelism, pp. 695, 696).

We can better understand Mrs. White's prediction of 1856 by examining it in the light of the conditional character of prophetic promises found in the Scriptures. For further study on this topic see "The Predictions of the 1856 Vision," in the Reference Library.

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