Ellen White wrote in 1851 that “old Jerusalem never would be built up.” At the time of her writing, Jerusalem had less than 20,000 inhabitants.[fn]Jerusalem: Illustrated History Atlas Martin Gilbert, Macmillan Publishing, New York, 1978, p. 37.[/fn] Today, however, its population is about one million, causing some to consider her statement unsustainable.
Many people then – as today – were focusing their energies on a rebuilding of Jerusalem as a means of creating the spiritual kingdom of the world, thus neglecting the necessary preparation for the day of the Lord. Their motivation stemmed from Old Testament prophecies regarding the establishment of a Jewish kingdom in Palestine.
In response to these people, Ellen White made it clear that these prophecies were conditional on obedience and were forfeited by disobedience. Unfulfilled prophecies would be fulfilled to “true Israel.” There would never be a prophetically significant rebuilding, leading to the millennium and the welcoming of the Messiah. This was the context – Ellen White was not at all concerned with a potential political rebuilding.
Her entire statement says “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.”[fn]EW 75, 76[/fn]
Most difficulties can be resolved readily by talking a closer look at the immediate literary context as well as the historical context.