Sunday Laws and Bible Prophecy (16): Summary and Conclusion

We began this series with the observation that many Seventh-day Adventists have a unique sign of the End that they feel uniquely prepares them to be ready for the return of Jesus. That sign is the passage of a national Sunday law in the Congress of the United States of America. Unlike many prophecies in the Bible and the Spirit of Prophecy, this one is specific and measurable. If it happens or does not happen, we will all know. Members in far-flung parts of the world are probing both the news and underground “sources” to weigh the likelihood of such a law in the USA from year to year. This has been going on now for many decades, probably as much as a century. But is such an outcome in its Great Controversy context the absolute certainty that many deem it to be?

We examined the principles of prophetic interpretation that can be observed through the study of fulfilled prophecies in the Bible (for detail see The Deep Things of God, chapter two). These underline that prophecies regarding specific historical events are conditional. God meets people where they are. Prophecies are, therefore, couched in the language of the prophet’s time and place. The details are a natural extension of the prophet’s time and place. God does not always carry out every detail of prophetic predictions. Those awaiting a Sunday law in the US Congress are assuming that Ellen White’s historical predictions are different from those of the Bible, they are not conditional. They must be fulfilled in detail exactly as projected. But this assumption contradicts Ellen White’s own counsel: “. . . the promises and threatenings of God are alike conditional” (LDE 38). Conditionality warns us not to take the historical details of prophecy as absolute certainties ahead of time. Prophecy is best understood as or after it happens (John 13:19; 14:29).

We then examined Revelation 13, the passage in the Bible that is cited as evidence of such a Sunday law. We noted that Sunday laws at the end of time are a plausible reading of Revelation 13, but they are not the only possible reading of the mark of the beast passage. Seeing Sunday laws in Revelation 13 is exegetically defensible, but it is not exegetically compelling. The mark of the beast concept is open-ended enough to allow God the freedom to fulfill the prophecy in more than one way. So caution is advised in advance of the fulfillment. We should not close our understanding of a prediction before the fulfillment comes.

We then looked at Ellen White’s Sunday law statements in light of the history of her time. The idea of a national Sunday law in Congress was very relevant in the 1880s and her statements to that effect all occur around the year 1888, when there was a bill in the Senate to impose a national Sunday law. She makes no such statements in earlier years, but sees local laws as evidence of something bigger to come (the something to come is not specified). We noted that the conditions in the United States that made the the Senate bill plausible faded away in the decades that followed and have not returned. The United States no longer has a Protestant government, and the return of such would not be a natural extension of the current scene. So the expectation that the exact scenario of Great Controversy would be re-enacted in today’s world is unlikely. The constant expectation of a national Sunday law in the US Congress leads to speculation and conspiracy theories rather than sound biblical and historical study.

Sunday laws in our future remain, however, a viable reading of Revelation 13 and certainly of Great Controversy. But they may well come from a surprising direction. As an example of the possibilities I referenced Clifford Goldstein, who offers a path to international Sunday laws that would make sense in today’s world. All the world religions anticipate some future figure that will dramatically impact the course of history. For the Christians, his name is Jesus. For the Jews, he is the Messiah. For the Muslims, he is the Mahdi (although many Muslims also anticipate a major role for Jesus). For the Hindus, he is Kalki. For the Buddhists, he is Matreiya. Second Thessalonians (2:8-10) and Revelation (13:13-14; 16:13-14) anticipate a great end-time deception in which Satan impersonates Christ before the world (GC affirms this idea). His dazzling, end-time appearance could evoke the hopes and dreams of people of all faiths. Seizing upon these expectations, Satan could call the world to worship God on Sunday as a sign of loyalty to Jesus/Messiah/Mahdi/Kalki/Matreiya and the highest hopes of their faiths. Such an outcome would fulfill Great Controversy and Revelation 13, but in an unexpected way, something fulfilled prophecy in the Bible would lead us to expect.

My concern is that by focusing on a prediction that seems to specific and measurable as a national Sunday law in Congress, we could distract ourselves from the real thing when it happens. We need hearts that are open to revelation and open to the Holy Spirit as we navigate the challenging waters ahead. The desire for certainty causes us to focus on specific details rather than on understanding the larger picture of prophecy. That understanding is difficult work, but it will keep us safe in the perplexing times ahead of us. Prophecy was not given to satisfy our curiosity about the future, it was given to prepare our hearts to meet the one that we worship and adore. I suggest we prioritize that task.

3 thoughts on “Sunday Laws and Bible Prophecy (16): Summary and Conclusion

  1. TC

    Thanks and agree with the two possible ways of Sunday law enactment. Perhaps it might happen as a result of both scenarios interacting.

    Reply
  2. admiral

    I still have questions on the role of the US in prophecy, i see this identification is based on an analysis on events rather a deductions not a biblical exegesis the same way we do for the first beast in Rev 17–the papacy. Could it be that we have over simplified this? Could it be that we are dealing with something more complex, bigger than the US. Why if America is no longer Protestant today, dont we need to also revisit the beast itself, our concept of the mark of the beast?

    Reply
    1. Jon Paulien Post author

      These are legitimate questions. I note in the series that prophecy is more open-ended than we like to think. That gives God the freedom to adjust His input into history as the situation changes and sometimes not fulfill at all. I think that the America in Rev 13 is as exegetical an explanation as any I am aware of, but if time goes on, will America continue to play a dominant role in world affairs? Remains to be seen.

      Reply

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