Sunday Laws and Bible Prophecy (9): The Principles and Ellen White

As we get into the key statements of Ellen White on national Sunday law legislation in the USA at the End, we must keep in mind that it is an unfulfilled prophecy. Human beings have an extremely poor record when it comes to predicting future events on the basis of unfulfilled prophecy. To improve on that dismal record, it is critical to keep in mind the biblical evidence regarding fulfilled prophecies. In the fulfilled prophecies of the Bible we have a record of how God moves from prediction to fulfillment. These fulfilled prophecies pointed us to a number of principles that can help us avoid the mistakes of the past when it comes to prophecies that are not yet fulfilled.

The most important of those principles for our purpose are principles 2, 4 and 6. I will review them briefly here. Principle 2 states that God is not always predictable. The fulfillment is often somewhat of a surprise when it comes. God does not fulfill every detail of His predictions for a number of reasons. The most important one is that most prophecies are conditional (Jer 18:7-10, LDE 38—Ellen White says there that “all God’s promises and threatenings” are conditional). Whenever a prophet speaks of political events on earth those prophecies are conditional, because fulfillment depends on the behavior of the nations or entities involved. If an ungodly entity repents, God will not perform the doom He had promised. If a godly entity falls into apostasy, God will not fulfill the positive promises He has made.

Principle 4 is that God meets people where they are. That means that prophecies contain elements that are particularly focused on the time and place of the prophet. Prophecies need to be read in the light of the original context in which they were given. Principle 6 is related to principle 4. It states that God uses the language of the prophet’s present and past to describe the prophet’s future. That means that prophecy is always a natural extension of that prophet’s time and place. So another reason God is not always predictable is because the language, time, place and circumstances of the original prediction can change enough over time that the outcome will not be exactly as expected. This is evidenced over and over in the Old Testament prophets, with Isaiah 11:15-16 being the most dramatic case, as noted in earlier blogs in this series.

Many Seventh-day Adventists treat the predictions of Ellen White as if they were exempt from these biblical patterns. Anything she says about the future is fixed and unchangeable simply because she said it. But that kind of position on inspiration not only fails to account for the biblical evidence listed above, it places Ellen White’s inspiration in jeopardy. The classical case is her statement in 1856 that some people then present would be translated alive when Jesus returns (Life Sketches, 321). If one sees Ellen White’s predictions as fixed and unconditional, this calls her inspiration and truthfulness into question. But anyone familiar with the patterns of fulfilled prophecy in the Bible would immediately think of Jonah. Prophecies (such as the timing of the Second Coming) that are subject to human response are conditional, even if the conditions are not stated. Her inspiration is not in question should every detail of a prediction not be fulfilled to the letter. With that in mind we are ready to review her key statements regarding a national Sunday law in the US Congress at the end of time.

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