Sunday Laws and Bible Prophecy (4): How God Works in the World III

In the previous two blogs I noted six important principles of prophetic interpretation gleaned from fulfilled prophecies. Taken together, these three principles caution us not to be overly certain of every detail of a divine prediction and encourage us to be very attentive to the prophet’s original time and place. I will share the final two principles here:

Principle Seven (7): Prophetic Fulfillments Are Most Clearly Understood As or After They Occur. The record of future predictions on the basis of prophecy has not been a good one. The earlier six principles help explain that sorry track record. Part of the problem is the very purpose of prophecy. Prophecy was not given to satisfy our curiosity about the future (although that is the way many approach prophecy), it is given to teach us how to live today and to strengthen our faith at the time of fulfillment. Jesus says essentially this in John 14:29: “I have told you now before it happens, so that when it does happen you will believe.” As or after a prophetic fulfillment, it will become evident what God was doing and faith will be strengthened. The same principle should caution us not to expect crystal clarity regarding the future in advance of the fulfillment.

Principle Eight (8): There Are Two Types of Prophecy, Classical and Apocalyptic. The way prophecy is fulfilled is impacted by this distinction. Apocalyptic prophecy is seen in the visions of Daniel 2 and 7 and in passages like Revelation 12. It tends to involve a series of historical events running one after another from the prophet’s day until the End. Dual or multiple fulfillments should not be expected, because the prophecy covers the whole period from the prophet’s day until the End. Apocalyptic prophecies tend to be unconditional, God sharing the large strokes of history that He foresees will take place. In contrast, classical prophecy is seen in books like Isaiah, Hosea and Jeremiah. There is a strong focus on the immediate situation, and if the end of all things is in view, it is a natural extension of the prophet’s situation, time and place. There are strong conditional elements, the fulfillment is dependent on human response.

The writings of Ellen White fit the classical style of prophecy. She speaks to her immediate situation, encouraging fidelity to God and to Scripture. Where she speaks of the future, she speaks in terms of a natural extension of the immediate situation, rather than clear predictions of things that don’t exist in her day. For example, she does not foresee nuclear war or power, she doesn’t speak of cell phones, computers, the internet, Islamic terrorism, space travel, World Wars I and II, or the rise of secularism and post-modernism. When she describes police action at the end of time, the police are wearing swords, something more common in her day than today! It does not mean God was incapable of sharing our future with her, only that such a revelation was not central to her prophetic purpose, encouraging faithfulness to God and careful attention to the Scriptures. And regarding prophecy she says, “The promises and threatenings of God are alike conditional.” Last-Day Events, 38. A good example of conditional prophecy was her declaration in 1856 that some with her that day would live to see Jesus come. Obviously, the conditions for that prophecy were never met and we are still here in 2020.

In the next blog we will begin to take a closer look at Revelation 13:13-17, the passage in the Bible that is most often cited in relation to the possibility of Sunday laws in earth’s future. After a fresh exploration of Revelation 13, we will turn to Ellen White’s key statements on the subject.

5 thoughts on “Sunday Laws and Bible Prophecy (4): How God Works in the World III

  1. Mariel Ravinovich Malherbe

    Dear Ps Paulien, I’m Mariel Ravinovich Malherbe from Argentina, Jean Marcel’s cousin, how do you do? I want to thank you for taking the time to write this blog. I am gaining many insights about this matter and I pray it will bring me closer to our Saviour as well as nourishing my faith in Him (the main purpose of prophesy)

    1. Jon Paulien Post author


      I will always remember how you were with us when Jean-Marcel proposed to our daughter! It was also good to meet your parents and sister Marta in la Villa some time after.

  2. Rodrigo Serveli

    EGW’s declaration in 1856 is very hard to understand. To take it as a conditional prophecy seems to be the best approach. The problem is to prove it from her text. That I think is very hard. At least, I don’t see anything indicating it.

    Do you think that the Sunday law could be a conditional/classic prophecy?

    1. Jon Paulien Post author

      There is no hint in Jonah that the prophecy of Assyria’s fall is conditional, yet it was. While the counterfeit Sabbath idea is found in Revelation and at all stages of EW’s writings the specific prediction of congressional legislation in the US seems local and situational, related to the period of 1888-1890. I would certainly see that as conditional along with the exact form of the anti-Sabbath actions of the land beast.


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