Ellen G. White and the Book of Revelation (EWB 2)

Adventist interpreters of Revelation share a deep appreciation of the writings of Ellen G. White. Her comments on the book of Revelation stimulate much productive insight, particularly with regard to the “big picture;” namely how the symbolic visions of Revelation contribute to the cosmic perspective often known as the “Great Controversy.” She was well aware that Revelation brings together language, ideas, and types from throughout Scripture; forming a consummate conclusion to the Bible as a whole (AA 585). Thus, Adventist scholarship would be remiss to ignore her perspective on the symbols and theology of the Book of Revelation.
Having said this, interpreters need to be reminded that the writings of Ellen White can be used in such a way as to obscure the meaning of the Biblical text and make it serve the agenda of the interpreter. “Those who are not walking in the light of the message, may gather up statements from my writings that happen to please them, and that agree with their human judgment, and, by separating these statements from their connection, and placing them beside human reasonings, make it appear that my writings uphold that which they condemn.” Letter 208, 1906. Off-hand comments in various contexts can be universalized or applied in ways that run counter to the implications of the biblical text itself. Such use is really abuse and results in diminishing her authority rather than enhancing it. That she was aware of this possibility is clear from the following instruction:

“Many from among our own people are writing to me, asking with earnest determination the privilege of using my writings to give force to certain subjects which they wish to present to the people in such a way as to leave a deep impression upon them. It is true that there is a reason why some of these matters should be presented; but I would not venture to give my approval in using the testimonies in this way, or to sanction the placing of matter which is good in itself in the way which they propose.
“The persons who make these propositions, for aught I know, may be able to conduct the enterprise of which they write in a wise manner; but nevertheless I dare not give the least license for using my writings in the manner which they propose. In taking account of such an enterprise, there are many things that must come into consideration; for in using the testimonies to bolster up some subject which may impress the mind of the author, the extracts may give a different impression than that which they would were they read in their original connection.”
“The Writing and Sending Out of the Testimonies for the Church,” p. 26. Quoted in Ellen G. White, Messenger to the Remnant, by Arthur White, p. 86.

Inspiration is truly handled with respect when the intention of an inspired writer is permitted to emerge from the text in its original context (exegesis). We must avoid reading into the text our own interests and presuppositions (eisegesis). Messages from living prophets can easily be clarified upon request. But once the prophet has passed from the scene, we are on safest ground when the intent of each inspired text is allowed to emerge by means of careful exegesis. The interpreter’s need to establish a particular position offers no license to do with the text whatever one wants.

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