prophet-17-Ellen White and the end times

Chapter Seventeen

Ellen White and the End Times

Almost 20 years ago Donald Casebolt in Spectrum challenged Ellen  White’s interpretations of biblical prophecy. He wrote, “Early Adventist  leaders were convinced that a great many of the end-time prophecies were being
fulfilled very rapidly. The Lisbon earthquake of 1755, the Dark Day of 1780, the  captivity of Pope Pius VI in 1798, and the falling of the stars in 1833 had all  taken place within recent memory. Even more striking, however, was the fact that Turkey had lapsed into impotency in 1840, apparently on the exact day that Josiah Litch had predicted, according to his interpretation of Revelation 9. . . . prophecy seemed to be unerringly homing in on the world-like successive cannon blasts, with the next shot due to explode at the climax of earth’s

Casebolt then attacks the understanding early Adventist leaders
and Ellen White had regarding these prophecies. He shows how the date Litch set had both exegetical and historical problems. He claims that “the hour, day, month, and a year of Revelation 9:15 refer to a point of time rather than a period of time. . . . Furthermore, Turkey still exists as a modern state, never having lost its independence.”246

Casebolt also shows how the supposed “Dark Day of May 19, 1780 was caused by smoke from huge forest fires burning in the New England states combining with a dark storm front passing through the area.”247 He then shows how the supposed “Falling of the stars” in 1833 is a regular occurring event which is the shower caused by the tail of the Leonid meteor as it passes by the earth every 33 1/3 years with records going back to 902 AD. He also gives evidence that the 1966 shower was 2 1/2 times greater than the shower of 1833.248

Casebolt claims regarding the early Adventists, “Their lack 138 of knowledge concerning the nature of meteor showers and weather inversions led then to ascribe these ‘strange events’ to a supernatural cause, much like primitive peoples think of solar eclipses.”249

Since Casebolt wrote his article other voices have also challenged the traditional interpretation of the Dark Day and Falling of the Stars. One such person was Hans LaRondelle who stresses that these events occur not prior to but at the actual coming of Jesus to this earth again. He quotes other Adventist scholars as supporting him, “A number of contemporary Adventist expositors admit the exegetical problems with the old interpretation of the cosmic signs. . . . (See Marvin Moore, The Crisis of the End Time . .  S. Bacchiocchi, The Advent Hope for Human Hopelessness) . . . these books no longer articulate the traditional application of the cosmic signs.”250

He then quotes George Knight’s exposition of Matthew 24 from his Matthew commentary: “The pattern of Matthew 24 appears to be that the real
signs are not signs of nearness but signs of coming.”251 Knight is correct in what he says, for anyone reading a modern translation will find the Greek text clearly translated in such a way as to forbid the interpretation that the cosmic events could be anything other than what occurs at the actual coming of Jesus. For example, after listing the sun being darkened and the falling of the stars, the NIV renders Matthew 24:30: “At that time the sign of the Son of Man will appear in the sky. . . .” (emphasis added).

It would appear from Matthew 24:30 that these cosmic signs accompany the personal, visible coming of Christ with His angels causing the nations on earth to mourn. In addition, a natural reading of Revelation 6:12-17 suggests that the cosmic signs accompany the coming of Christ. We appear to be forcing the issue to fit in a gap of hundreds of years between verses 13 and 14.

LaRondelle challenges the significance of the Lisbon earthquake: “Throughout the centuries earthquakes have killed ‘on average some 15,000 people every year.’ Before 1755, three earthquakes were of even greater intensity; the 1456 earthquake of Naples, Italy (30,000 dead) the 156, the 1556 Shensu earthquake in China (820,000 dead); the 1737 earthquake of Calcutta (300,000 dead). After 1755, the Tokyo quake took 200,000 lives in 1803; in 1920 the quake of Kansu, left 180,000 dead in China; and the 1923 quake of Kwanto, Japan, killed 140,000. In 1976 earthquakes caused 650,000 deaths in China alone.”252


Today you would be hard pressed to convince people that Jesus is coming soon on the basis of the 1755 Lisbon earthquake, the 1790 dark day and the 1833 falling of the stars. To our pioneers it appeared these were the signs that Jesus had spoken to indicate His soon return. This had an effect upon them for good to build and nourish the Advent hope. And there is no doubt that Ellen White endorsed the traditional view of the early Adventists in her book The Great Controversy (see pp. 305-308, 334). Today, few, if any, Adventist scholars would support her on these points. Casebolt declares, “She did err in borrowing mistaken prophetic expositions.”253

At the same time, she encouraged further study, particularly in the books of Daniel and Revelation. One wonders if her gift is not being misused when her understanding of end-time events is used to hold back further growth in understanding of the books of Daniel and Revelation. It could be ironic to think that she called for more study and growth in our understanding of these books declaring that when we do we will have a revival; yet all the while her writings are being used to stifle further growth in understanding.254

In The Great Controversy, the interpretation of Revelation chapter 11 focuses upon the French Revolution and the war upon the Bible—by having it banned. Today there are several problems upholding this the traditional view of this chapter. The French Revolution has no longer the same impact upon we who live 200 years after the event as it did our forefathers. We also know that the Bible was not banned for 3 1/2 years as applied to the prophecy in The Great Controversy. However, the more closely we study chapter 11 the more we see similarities between this chapter and chapter 13.

There may be some important points for us to learn from this chapter when it is better understood, that will benefit God’s people in the end time. How tragic if she, who was so forward looking in the search for truth, should be used as one who holds back our growth in the understanding of God’s Word.

If we keep in mind the reason she wrote the book which was to win people to Christ using the prevailing ideas among Adventists of her era, we
have no problem with this. The real problem emerges only if we try to use the book as a type of textbook to lock us into the interpretations she upholds. The Great Controversy was meant to be an evangelistic tool to win people to Christ and Adventism.255

And 140 it uses the ideas in Adventism accepted at the time of its writing. As already noted, Ellen White borrows much of her prophetic material from Uriah Smith and J. N. Andrews.256

Her borrowing was primarily in the areas of theology and prophecy. When she applies lessons spiritually she is basically working by herself. She takes prophecy and doctrine to apply them to the lives of the believer. This is the work of prophets as outlined in 1 Corinthians 14:3. In doing this she helps us to see the real purpose of prophecy. Jon Paulien supports this idea of prophecy, “Although our human curiosity is God-given, the central purpose of prophecy is not to satisfy our curiosity about the future but to teach us how to live today257 (emphasis added).

She revised The Great Controversy when she was given advice from scholars in 1911. If she were alive today there is every reason to suggest we would still be open to revise it again. She was ever open to receive more light, and encouraged more study on the books of Daniel and Revelation.258

The Adventist Church and the Fulfillment of Bible Prophecy

There can be no question that every generation must be, in a certain sense, a first generation. That is, each generation must feel free to study the Bible for themselves to discover “present truth” in order to keep the Advent hope alive and fresh. By insisting on events that impressed our forefathers many generations ago as being the fulfillment of prophecy may indeed have a counter effect and serve to deaden the Advent hope rather than nourish it.

A study of the history of the Christian Church over two millenniums indicates that each generation was able to look at current events and see in them fulfillment of prophecy. The Seventh-day Adventist Bible Commentary makes this observation regarding the fulfillment of biblical prophecy: “That a single prophetic passage may embrace more than one
fulfillment is evident (see on Deut 18:15). Some such prophecies have both an immediate and a more remote fulfillment, and in addition contain principles that are generally applicable at all times. Furthermore, ‘it should be remembered that the promises and threatenings of God are alike conditional’ (EGW, MS 4, 1883).”259


In his book, End Time, Jon Paulien shows how end
time events can undergo adjustments as time goes on and new situations arise. He
illustrates this by comparing the end time expectations of: Noah, Abraham,
Israel, before after the
captivity, Jewish Apocalyptic writings between the
Testaments; Jesus, Paul, and John the Revelator.260

Thus, it would seem, we have a biblical model set before us on
the need to adjust our expectations of the fulfillment of prophecy appropriate
to the age in which we live. God’s purposes will be fulfilled; but how and when
can undergo development and change.

Other voices may also be heard in Adventism calling for the need
to reinterpret biblical prophecies in harmony with the present age. One such
voice is Alden Thompson: “A direct corollary exists between the concept of
delay and that of re-application. With increasing delay, the need for
re-application of the imagery becomes more pressing as a means of maintaining a
sense of imminence. As culture changes, the symbols must be reapplied.

“In North American Adventism, however, an Essene-style
approach to Adventist mission tends to postpone the felt need for
re-interpretation. Adventists who know only Adventists and who live in their own
American sub-culture do not concern themselves with relevance and adaptation.
They are convinced that their interpretation of Adventist eschatology has been
God’s plan from the foundation of the earth. . . . the delay of the Advent means
re-interpretation with a vengeance. . . . Israel’s history should inform us that
if we delay long enough, a radical re-ordering could be in order.”261

Tim Crosby writes regarding the need to see truth as having a
moment in time when it becomes relevant and may be termed “present
truth.” He builds upon a statement made by Ellen White and applies the
principle of reinterpretation to theology, prophecy and Christian standards of
living. He takes seriously the principle stated by Ellen White in one of her
sermons at Minneapolis where some people were upset that she appeared to be
taking a different understanding on the use of the term “law” in
Galatians. The statement she made is, “That which God gives His servants to
speak today would not perhaps have been present truth twenty years ago, but it
is God’s message for this time.”262


This does not mean that we shall act as some, during World War I and
II, by running with every wind of political event and seeing in them
the fulfillment of prophecy. It does mean that we should keep in mind that there
is a moral purpose in prophecy. It was given to help us maintain our hold on
Correctly understood and interpreted it leads us to trust in Christ and
understand His purpose for our lives.

Seventh-day Adventism was born in the early 19th century with a
message relevant to the needs of the world. Many streams of theological thought
fed into Adventism. Considering there was not one trained scholar among them it
is amazing how they arrived at some of the key theological concepts such as: The
Sabbath; the nature of humankind in death; the great controversy theme; and the
coming of Christ before the millennium.

They saw themselves raised up by God to preach these and other
great truths in relationship to the times in which they lived. To them the
French Revolution had been an earth-shaking event. They saw prophecy fulfilled
in this event and events surrounding it. They lived in the United States of
America at a time when there was an immigration wave of Catholics threatening to
overthrow the Protestant heritage of the country. The hard-drinking Catholic
laborers were coming in droves and threatening to unsettle city life and the
observance of Sunday. In response the Protestant world of their day was trying
to bring in laws to maintain the Puritan ideas within Protestantism.

Jonathan Butler describes how Ellen White related to the
situation of her age: “Within her own lifetime, Mrs White allowed for the
conditional nature of prophecy. Christ might have come ‘long ere this,’ she
remarked. He might have come in the Civil War era when slavery was the sign of a
failing democracy and an imminent Second Coming. He might have come about 1888
when a beleaguered Adventist minority in Tennessee chain gangs and jails
indicated America’s doom and the world’s demise. In both cases, the prophetess
spoke eschatologically with one eye on the morning newspaper. She inspired a
sense of relevance or ‘present truth.’ Like other prophets before her, Mrs White
implied the conditional nature of earlier prophecies by making more current
applications. This continual reapplication of Adventism of new times and places
was vital to her prophetic ministry, and remains absolutely essential to the
life of the movement since her time. This is the way the ‘Spirit of prophecy’
operates in every era.


One hopes that David Stannard’s provocative analysis of the
decline of Puritanism will not apply to Seventh-day Adventism: ‘. . . if in a given
situation social structure continues to change without complementary changes in
a particular group’s cultural life, that group in time becomes anachronistic,
its cultural institutions lose their potency, and a sense of profound loss may
well set in.’ There must be an on-going interaction between the Adventist
community and the changing social order for Adventism to remain viable. The
prophetess stimulated this interactive process in her own time. It would be only
sadly ironic if her writings were now used to stultify the creative process they
once stimulated. This would be to retain the ‘letter’ while losing the ‘Spirit
of prophecy.’ . . . An apocalyptic people—to remain Adventist—must prophesy
the end of the present world, not a past era or a remotely future one. . . . By
insisting on only the ‘sign of the times’ of an earlier Adventism, one may
actually weaken belief in an imminent end of our time
.”264 (emphasis

To see how prophetic interpretations can undergo development
with time one only needs to compare Ellen White’s description of the coming of
Christ in Early Writings with that found in The Great Controversy.
In Early Writings she pictures slaves and their masters. This description
is not matched in The Great Controversy. Slaves are no longer mentioned
because the Civil War has been fought and slavery in North American has ended by
the time The Great Controversy was written.

Robert Johnston gives an excellent summary of the true spirit of
Adventism with a description of openness to grow in understanding and expression
of the faith with changing times: “So the young faith continually advanced,
not only in numbers but also in understanding. It changed its ideas about
organization and the ministry, deepened its understanding of the third angel’s
message of Revelation 14, and revised its interpretations of prophecy. It
corrected its understanding of Christ and the Trinity, reclaimed the great truth
of salvation through faith, and found much else to learn or to unlearn. But
while it corrected, amplified, and reclaimed, it never lost touch with its
roots, the ‘waymarks.’ . . .

“This, then, is how the Lord led Seventh-day Adventists
in the past. They are still pilgrims on a doctrinal journey who do not


the waymarks, but neither do they remain stopped at any one of them. . . . They
realize that tradition can be a useful servant but a dreadful master, so they
shun traditionalism, ever eager to learn present truth and perform present

It is important that we bear in mind what Johnston had said
regarding the true spirit and genius of Adventism, particularly when we think of
how different our world today is to that of Ellen White’s. In her day some of
the great issues were:

Slavery and the Civil War, which divided the nation.

Catholic immigration came like a deluge into North America.
Sunday laws were aimed at the Catholics because of their relaxed attitude
towards the observance of Sunday. This was seen as a threat against the
Protestant way of life in North America. Adventists were caught up in a
cross-fire primarily aimed at the Catholics.

The Catholics also brought with them “grog shops.”
Protestants saw their stand upon temperance as vital to the welfare of the

The growing influence of trade unions as the rise of
America developed. The influence of the hard-drinking Catholic laborers was an
unsettling influence in city life.

The impact of the French Revolution in its revolt against
religion and the bloodshed that followed was still very fresh in the minds of
those who lived in the 19th century.266

In Ellen White’s day Adventism was confined almost entirely to
North America. It would be natural for Adventists to think in terms of Bible
prophecy being fulfilled largely in their country. Adventists were caught up in
the spirit of their country, for they saw North America in terms of a type of
Israel. They saw their country as one giving new hope to the world. Not
surprising, then, that they would see Bible prophecy being primarily fulfilled
in their nation just as it was to be for Israel, when it was God’s chosen
nation. A discerning reader will notice how often in The Great Controversy
Ellen White writes of the end times in the present tense. The end times, to her,
were primarily focused on the immediate future in North America.

Adventists were worried, as were other Protestants, that the
purity of the nation and its destiny was being lost. They, along with others,
saw their nation gone astray as the second beast power coming up out of the
earth. Gordon Balharrie shows that this concept was first


developed by the
Baptist historian Isaac Backus (1724-1806). It was later taken up by Adventist
leaders including James White and John Andrews.267 From
Andrews the idea became a part of The Great Controversy.

Bringing “End Times” to Our Times

Our 21st century world is vastly different to that of Ellen
White: The North American continent has changed from being dominated by
Protestantism, into a society, which can be termed multicultural. It is a
society fast becoming secular and post-modern. Only some 10 per cent of
Adventism is found on the North American continent. The new centres for
Christianity and Adventism are to be found in Central and South America, Africa
and Asia. Just as early Christianity had to move away from Jerusalem and adapt
to the Gentile world (see Acts 15 where this important decision was made) so
Adventism needs to adapt to the world outside North America.

It is important that Adventist eschatology be meaningful to the
vast numbers of Adventists living in all countries of the world. What is
believable to Adventists living in North America is not so believable if you
live in Russia, India or even Europe. Today the challenge is not Catholic
immigration, but Eastern mysticism, which is invading the West. The rise of
Islam in its fundamentalist form is also a threat to the stability of the world.
Today’s issues are dominated by threats to the environment such as pollution and
overpopulation. Humankind is concerned at the threat of global terrorism using
nuclear weapons, chemical and biological weapons. World-wide, end-time events
must also today be able to embrace meaning when one considers one billion
followers of Islam and one billion Chinese.

John Stott’s recent New Issues Facing Christians Today
outlines some of the dominant issues we face in the 21st century. They seem so
foreign to the world of Ellen White in 19th century North America. Stott
summarises them: “There is a massive dearth of leaders in the contemporary
world. Massive problems confront us, some of which we have looked at in this
book. Globally there are still the terrifying size of nuclear arsenals, the
widespread violations of human rights, the environmental and energy crisis, and
the North-South economic


inequality. Socially, there are the tragedy of
long-term unemployment, the continuance of conflict in industrial relations, and
the outbreaks of racial violence. Morally, Christians are disturbed by the
forces which are undermining the stability of marriage and the family, the
challenges of sexual mores and sexual roles, and the scandal of what is
virtually abortion on demand. Spiritually, I might add, there are the spread of
materialism and the corresponding loss of any sense of transcendent reality.
Many people are warning us that the world is heading for disaster; few are
offering us advice on how to avert it. Technical know-how abounds, but wisdom is
in short supply. People feel confused, bewildered, alienated. To borrow the
metaphors of Jesus, we seem to be like ‘sheep without a shepherd’, while our
leaders seem to be ‘blind leaders of the blind”268

Some issues dominating the church have come to be: The role of
women in ministry; acceptance or rejection of homosexuality; the morality of
cloning and genetic engineering; ecology; is there a case for a “just
war”; The wealth of developed nations compared to undeveloped nations and The
challenge of Fundamentalist Islam.

Philip Jenkins, professor of history and religious studies at
Pennsylvania State University states in his new book The Next Christendom,
about the present and future state of the Christian world with the following

“Over the past five centuries or so, the story of
Christianity has been inextricably bound up with that of Europe and the
European-derived civilizations overseas, above all in North America….Over the
past century, however, the center of gravity in the Christian world has shifted
inexorably southward to Africa, Asia and Latin America…If we want to visualize
a ‘typical’ contemporary Christian, we should think of a woman living in a
village in Nigeria or in a Brazilian favela.269

He goes on to show the numbers of Christians now found in developing countries.
Africa has 360 million (42% of its population). Latin America 480 million. Asia
313 million. He states that in some of these countries Christianity is mutating
as it embraces tribal religions and extreme forms of Pentecostalism. In some
nations the form of Christianity developed has been made a state religion. In
many nations of Africa, Asia and the Middle East Christianity and Islam are at
each other’s throats in on going conflicts.” He concludes that by 2025, 50%


of the Christian population will be in Africa and Latin America and another 17%
will be in Asia. He sees a split dividing Christians in developed countries from
those in the developing world. This split he says will be as significant as the
split caused by the Protestant Reformation.

There can be no doubt to the fact that we can see emerging today
a Christian world very different from that of 19th century North America.
Ingemar Linden offers his observation on the book The Great Controversy as
follows : “The reader notices how the scene for the cosmic struggle
gradually moves west in Great Controversy, from the Orient to the Continent and
England, to end up in North America. The focus on the United States is so
characteristic that the description is difficult to comprehend for readers
lacking adequate knowledge of American history. It is evident that EGW wrote
primarily for Americans in her own time, with a provincial perspective, or
emphasis on domestic problems, which meant the ‘world’ to many readers in

It is important that Adventism take its message to the present
world in relevant terms; or else it will finish up becoming a 19th century North
American relic. The central ideas of Adventism271 must
be presented in a meaningful way to the present generation of Adventists to give
them a sense of mission to their world and culture. While not losing contact
with our roots, we must stand on the shoulders of early Adventists and see
things they were not able to see. In this sense we must be a first generation
and be free to go to the Word of God to find present truth relevant in our
world. If we fail to do this then we may find the Adventism of our day going
through its own “Great Disappointment.”

Fritz Guy speaks of people who have chosen to leave the
Adventist Church with the following observations: “In previous generations
those who left the Adventist Church tended to be careless, rebellious, or
embittered. Now they are often serious and thoughtful women and men whose
personal pilgrimage leads them away from Adventism.

“Previously, when people gave up Adventism they usually
gave up Christianity along with it. Now, however, more and more young people
give up only their Adventism, and remain seriously Christian—as Baptists,
Presbyterians, Lutherans, Episcopalians, and


Catholics. Some express
appreciation for their Adventist heritage, even as they leave it. . . . we
certainly ought to be interested in the reason. From observations and
conversations, I have identified several that I consider significant.

“1. They think that Adventism is not entirely
For one thing, Adventism has been talking about the soon coming
for more than 140 years. After all this time, it is not clear what soon
means. The prophetic time periods and “signs” plausible in the
mid-1800s don’t seem to matter much to them in the late 1900s.

“For another thing, some people who leave the church are
convinced that literalistic interpretations of the Bible are no longer viable.
Such interpretations, they believe, are contradicted by an overwhelming weight
of scientific evidence. Adventism has always understood itself as being
committed to the truth, but some of our sons and daughters think that is no
longer the case. For them Adventism is not credible.

“2. They think that Adventism is not relevant to today’s
On the one hand, it seems stuck in the past, trying to preserve the
culture of another century and perpetuate the thinking of an earlier generation.
On the other hand, Adventism doesn’t seem to have anything to say or do about
the current problems of the world. . . .”272

More recently Guy made even stronger observations: “One
hundred fifty-five years after the ‘great disappointment’ of 1844, an essential
task of Adventist theologians—and of all Adventists who think
theologically—is to face as honestly and creatively as we can the question of
whether an Adventist vision of the future can be sustained in and for the
twenty-first century. . . . We are not, and cannot be, Adventist in exactly the
same way as were our spiritual and theological great-great-grandparents a
century and a half ago. . . . Our world is different—technologically,
culturally, religiously—and so are its inhabitants (including us). Not only
has it become a global village in a way that was unimaginable in he
mid-nineteenth century, but it has also become increasingly obsessed with
nonstop, seven-days-a-week consumerism. Furthermore, since the Second Vatican
Council (1963-1965) everything previously written about the character of Roman
Catholicism has to be re-examined. . . .


Our Advent hope is historically realistic. It
recognizes, for example, not only that the expectations and predictions of
Millerite Adventists before the ‘disappointment’ were not fulfilled; but
also that neither were the expectations and predictions of Sabbatarian
Adventists after the ‘disappointment. . . . There is something
paradoxical about celebrating for more than 150 years the successive
anniversaries of the beginning of a movement that proclaims, ‘Jesus is coming soon.
. . .’

“Our hope recognizes, for example, that the Greek words
ton loipon (Rev 12:17), translated ‘the remnant’ in the King James
Version, mean simply, ‘the others’ or, collectively, ‘the rest’—of the
offspring of the woman symbolizing the Christian community of faith. The words
carry no necessary implication of chronological posterity or even numerical

More broadly, our hope sees with increasing clarity that the
Book of Revelation is largely a right-brain, holistic composition to which many
people have insisted on giving a left-brain, reductionistic interpretation. . .
. The Book of Revelation is not a piece of encryption to be decoded, but a song
of hope by which to be captivated, an epic poem by which to be inspired and
energized. . . .

“With this insight into the nature of biblical
apocalyptic, our hope can sit more lightly on interpretations and applications
of specific periods of time, whether half an hour (Rev 8:1) or forty-two months
(11:2; 13:5) or a thousand years (20:2-3). . . . but the Advent hope is not
gnostic, claiming secret, inside knowledge about the future. Prophecy is not
‘history written in advance’ (a misconception which goes back more than three
centuries). People of hope know that the future belongs to God; but about
exactly what is going to happen tomorrow, next week, or next century, they know
no more than anyone else. . . . Our Advent hope does not predict the future, but
looks forward to it eagerly (which is spiritually more important); for it knows
that the future is, in the most profound sense, God’s future, that what is
coming is the activity and presence of God, and that in everything God will be
working for good. (Romans 8:28)”273

Jon Paulien perceives that changes have already begun to happen
in the Adventist approach to the Book of Revelation. He summarises what has been
happening since the death of Ellen White with the following observations:
“In spite of the lack of exegetical rigor, unity


of understanding was
largely maintained as long as Ellen White was alive. By the time of the 1919
Bible Conference, however, concerns were being expressed as to how the Bible
should be handled in the absence of a living prophet. The problem with a dead
prophet is that the prophet’s work becomes subject to interpretation just as
much as the biblical materials do. . . .

The material in the Our Firm Foundation volumes (1953)
indicates that the Adventist Church arrived at this half of the century with
essentially the same approach to Revelation as the 19th century pioneers. The
assumption was made (but never argued) that the sevenfold sequences of the
churches, seals, and trumpets represented stages of history from NT times to the
second coming. The method of study was systematic and text-selective rather than
exegetical. The goal seemed to be conclusions compatible with the church’s
traditional positions rather than fidelity to the text of Revelation itself.

As the 1950’s wore on. . . . the traditional Adventist consensus
for Revelation was also beginning to break down. There remained a consensus
regarding the historicist approach to interpretation, but various individuals
were becoming more and more creative in their use of the Bible and Ellen White
to offer interpretations that differed from those of Uriah Smith.

Meanwhile more and more individuals seeking academic degrees
were seeing value in subjecting Adventist evangelistic and theological use of
the Bible to the standards of exegetical procedures. The approaches to
Revelation taught and utilized in societies like SBL and SNTS were greeted with
various levels of interest.

The fragmentation that was feared in 1919 and began to be
discernable in the 1950s has reached full-blown maturity as we approach the new
millennium. Today, there are perhaps a dozen or more different versions of
Adventism. It is now clear to most Adventist scholars, at least, that in the
absence of a living prophet, the traditional Adventist hermeneutic cannot do the

To understand what Paulien is saying we must now go back and
retrace Adventist history for most of the past century to understand more
clearly the present situation.


245 Donald
Casebolt, “Is Ellen White’s Interpretation of Biblical Prophecy Final?”,
Spectrum, Vol. 12, No. 4, p. 2. [back]

246 Ibid.,
pp. 5-6. In addition, Litch himself is pictured as having acknowledged his errors
in applying this prophecy. He later wrote “Perhaps that which has gained
for itself the largest number of adherents among the advocates of an historical
interpretation of this book is, that these locusts symbolize the Mohammedan
invasion of Europe and other lands…there are points of coincidence which have
given a certain coloring of plausibility to the theory; but it can bear no
searching analysis. “Josiah Litch: Herald Of “The Advent
Near”. A paper presented in partial fulfillment of the course CH570,
History of the SDA Church, Andrews University, Theological Seminary, May 1973,
p. 31. Held in EGW Research Centre, Cooranbong NSW, Aust. DF332.

Numbers comments “Litch offered a specific commentary on the sixth trumpet
in an 1873 work entitled A Complete Harmony of Daniel and the Apocalypse.
No longer did he read deep secret meanings in Revelation 9:15. . . . Neither the
oblivion to which Litch eventually condemned August 11, 1840, nor the triumph
Loughborough bestowed upon the day accurately reflects the actual events
relating to Litch’s prophecy. Contemporary accounts preserve certain awkward
details about this paradoxical day, helping to explain the mentality of the
Millerite movement. The Disappointed, Ronald Numbers, Jonathan Butler,
IN: University Press, 1987). p. 81.

Kai Arasola writes “In spite of the fact that later judgment
has failed to single out the Millerite dates as outstanding for the
history of Turkey or Islam, the Millerites experienced this
“fulfillment” as a boost for their morale and it certainly proved an
effective means of creating interest in prophetic timekeeping…..It would be a
mistake to regard this interpretation as one which converted thousands to
Millerism. This idea would not explain Litch’s dismay over people’s reluctance
to accept the events of August 11 as a “convincing sign from heaven”.
Kai Arasola , The
End of Historicism
, Revised edition of an earlier mimeographed
dissertation submitted to the Theological Faculty of the University of Uppsala
for the degree of Doctor of Theology, 1989, p. 143. [back]

247 Ibid.,
p. 7. He finds support from articles
by Merton E. Sprengel in the Adventist Review, May 22, 29, and June 5,
1980 which makes this point very clear and explains how many Adventists got the
idea it was something that was unexplained by natural phenomena. [back]

248 The
next year in the Adventist Review there was an article supporting
Casebolt’s assertions regarding the 1833 display by Harold Wright. 24, November,
1983, pp. 4-6. [back]

249 Casebolt,
p. 7. [back]

250 Hans
LaRondelle, Ministry, September, 1998, p. 27. [back]

251 Ibid.,

252 Ibid.,

253 Casebolt,
p. 9. [back]

254 She
wrote this a few years after Uriah Smith had finished his work on the book
Daniel and Revelation. “When the books of Daniel and Revelation are better
understood, believers will have an entirely different religious
experience.” TM, p. 114. [back]

255 I
first heard this expressed at pastor’s meetings in Canberra National Church by
the then Secretary of the White Estate, Dr. Robert Olson. The meetings were open
for all local members to attend along with the Pastors of South NSW Conference.

256 Jon
Paulien observes that “62% of the text [in Uriah Smith’s “Daniel and
Revelation”] is in quotation marks, being culled from earlier historicist
writers. This leads to the suspicion that Brother Smith himself never did any
serious work in the text. Jon Paulien, “The Book Of Revelation At The
Crossroads: Where we’ve Been And Where We’re Going”, ASRS, Annual Meeting
Papers. 1999. p. 30.

In her introduction to The Great Controversy she claims
that she is making use of material “well known and universally acknowledged
by the Protestant world” [p. xi] She also goes on to state how she has
made use of contemporary Adventist writers with the following words “In
narrating the experience and views of those carrying forward the work of reform
in our time, similar use has been made of their published works.” [p. xii] [back]

257 Jon
Paulien, What The Bible Says About The End Time, (Hagerstown, MD: Review and Herald
Publishing Assn, 1994). p. 92. [back]

258 She
wrote “When we as a people understand what this book [Revelation] means to
us, there will be seen among us a great revival. . . . There is need of a much
closer study of the word of God; especially should Daniel and Revelation have
attention as never before in the history of our work. We may have less to say in
some lines, in regard to the Roman power and the papacy . . . study Revelation in
connection with Daniel, for history will be repeated. . . .We, with all our
religious advantages, ought to know far more today than we do know.” TM,
pp. 113, 112, 116. [back]

259 7SDABC,
p. 726. [back]

260 Jon Paulien,
pp. 41-105. Here Paulien goes to great
length to explain the unfolding and changing expectations of the end time over
the millenniums. Paulien shows how God’s ultimate plan was never changed. That
is, His plan to have this planet inhabited by a holy people. However the details
of how that plan was to eventuate did significantly change with the passing of
time. It went from the descendants of Abraham to the Christian Church, from the
land of Israel to the whole world. [back]

261 Alden
Thompson, “Old Testament Apocalyptic And Adventist Eschatology.” An address
given at the West Coast Bible Teacher’s Conference, May 1, 1982, p. 7. [back]

262 Ms.
8a, 1888 and 1888 Material, p. 133. Quoted in A Study in the Dynamics of Present Truth, by Tim
Crosby, p. 46. [back]

263 Revelation
16:15. [back]

264 Jonathan
Butler, “The World of E.G. White And the End of the World”,
, Vol.
10, No. 2, p. 11. [back]

265 Adventist
p. 7, “A Search for Truth” by Robert Johnston. [back]

266 See Gary Land,
The World of Ellen G. White, (Hagerstown, MD: Review and Herald,
1987). [back]

267 Gordon
Balharrie, A Study Of The Contribution Made To The Seventh-day Adventist
Movement By John Nevins Andrews
. MA Thesis. SDA Theological Seminary
Washington, DC: 1949, pp. 33-40. [back]

268 John Stott.
Issues Facing Christians Today,
(London: Marshall Pickering,
1999), p. 421. [back]

269 Philip Jenkins,
Next Christendom: The Coming of Global Christianity,
(Oxford, England:
Oxford University Press, 2002), pp. 1-2. Jenkins also shows that if the present trends
continue” By the 2050, only about one-fifth of the world’s 3 billion
Christians will be non-Hispanic Whites. (p. 3). He sees by current trends that
by 2050 there will be one billion Pentecostal believers. That is as many as the
number of Hindus and twice as many as Buddhists. (p. 8). He also berates
Christian writers for neglecting these facts as they project the future “In
North America at least, most visions of the coming century are based firmly on
extrapolating familiar domestic conditions. The imagined future looks more like
the American present. . . .” p. 5. [back]

270 The
Last Trump,
p. 233 [back]

271 Ideas
such as:


The gospel

The law of God

The Sabbath as a memorial of creation

The Great Controversy theme

The soon return of Jesus Christ

The nature of mankind in death

The emphasis on health [back]


272 Fritz
Guy, “We’re
Majoring in Minors” Adventist Review, June 19, 1986, p. 9. [back]

273 Fritz Guy,
We Are Adventist As We Enter the Twenty-First Century (Or What Would I say To
Uriah Smith On The Way To The Airport?)” Adventist Society For
Religious Studies
, Annual meeting papers, November 18-20, 1999. p. 101-105. [back]

274 Jon Paulien,
Book Of Revelation At The Crossroads: Where We’ve Been And Where We’re Going.”
ASRS 1999, pp. 30-31. [back]