Sunday Laws and Bible Prophecy: Introduction

COVID-19 has changed many things in this world. Before COVID people who wanted your expertise invited you to get on an airplane and visit their interesting part of the world. After COVID they could invite you to address their people from the comfort of your own office or home. As a result of such invitations I have been able to interact with Seventh-day Adventist people and others in the Bahamas, Newfoundland, Malaysia, the Philippines, Europe and locations I’d rather not mention here. These events have usually involved some question and answer periods and have allowed me to take the pulse of the Seventh-day Adventist movement in ways that might not have been possible otherwise.

The one issue that seems to be on the minds of more SDAs outside the Western world than any other is the concept of future Sunday laws, particularly in the United States. This may come as a surprise to people in the West, who are well aware that Sunday laws are not on the radar in Western public conversation right now. But for many Seventh-day Adventists in the Caribbean, Africa and Asia the concept of Sunday laws is a real and imminent threat of critical importance. The narrative goes something like this: “Ellen White [special messenger to the SDA Church—1827-1915] clearly predicted, based on visions from the Lord, that before the end of time, the US Congress will pass a national Sunday law, enforcing worship on Sunday by all Americans. Laws like this will then be adopted in Europe, and ultimately by the entire world.”

The special appeal of this idea is that it would be the single, clearest, and most measurable sign of the End believers in the Second Coming of Jesus have. The idea that the gospel will be preached in the whole world as a witness to all nations is clear, but would be extremely difficult, if not impossible, to verify. The idea that famines, earthquakes and pestilences will increase before the End still leaves open the issue of how bad these events have to be in order to qualify as apocalyptic. How massive and frequent are the earthquakes to come? How severe the pestilences? Determining that the End is at hand on the grounds of any particular earthquake, famine or pestilence has proven to be a fool’s errand through the centuries. But in contrast to these other “signs” a specific law in the halls of Congress of the United States of America, that is a specific, measurable sign of the End! When such a law is being debated in Congress and seems likely to pass, we can all know that the End is at hand. This concept is clear, simple and very attractive for people who like to know how and when things will end up. It gives them something unique to look for in the news cycle. It feels good to have “inside knowledge” in a matter of such importance.

But does this idea conform to biblical principles of prophetic interpretation? Is the purpose of such a prediction to satisfy our curiosity about the timing of the End? Or are we using the gift of prophecy in ways it was never intended to be used? One problem with fixing on a detail like this is that it can blind us to the larger picture of prophecy. We can have an unbalanced focus that causes us to forget prophetic features that are more vital to spiritual survival, like a living relationship with Jesus Christ.

In the blogs that follow, I will seek to explore three lines of evidence in relation to the topic. 1) What can we learn about unfulfilled prophecy from fulfilled prophecy? In anticipating specific Sunday laws, are we paying attention to how the Bible itself moves from prediction to fulfillment? We will review my previous study of fulfilled prophecy in the Bible, seeking guidelines that pertain to the specific prediction of a national Sunday law in the USA. 2) We will take a careful look at Revelation 13:13-17, the source passage in the Bible for the idea of a national/international Sunday law. Is that prediction as clear in the Bible as some have thought? Are there other ways that a counterfeit of the true Sabbath could occur? 3) We will take a close look at the key statements in the writings of Ellen White that are used to support the idea of a national Sunday law. How clear are those statements? What in her time and place was she referring to? Are similar conditions in play today?

I look forward to sharing this research with you and will welcome your feedback.

7 thoughts on “Sunday Laws and Bible Prophecy: Introduction

  1. Michael Mangowal

    What does it mean when the first four edition of the Great Controversy does not have Sunday Law, only the last 3 edition. Thank you

    Reply
    1. Jon Paulien Post author

      It means that it is a conditional prophecy. It wasn’t so relevant from 1850-1880, but became very relevant in the 1880s. If things had come to a conclusion in the 1800s, a national Sunday law would have been part of it. But times keep changing so we can’t just assume what was relevant in the 1880s is fixed for all time.

      Reply

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