Ellen White and Revelation 6 (EWB 13)

There is a paucity of statements by Ellen White associated with the seals of Revelation 6. Most of her scriptural allusions to the seals have to do with the souls under the altar in the fifth seal and the heavenly signs mentioned in the sixth seal. There is, however, one most interesting reference to the horsemen of Rev 6:1-8. “The same spirit is seen today that is represented in Rev 6:6-8. History is to be reenacted. That which has been will be again. This spirit works to confuse and to perplex. Dissension will be seen in every nation, kindred, tongue and people, and those who have not had a spirit to follow the light that God has given through His living oracles, through His appointed agencies, will become confused. Their judgment will reveal weakness. Disorder and strife and confusion will be seen in the church. Ellen G. White, Letter 65, 1898; Manuscript Release #667.

This statement in its context is unquestionably a citation of the biblical text of the seven seals. The first two sentences imply that the third and fourth seals (Rev 6:6-8) refer to historical realities that are past, but the spirit of which continues in Ellen White’s present and future. Her statement as a whole implies that the third and fourth seal represent spiritual confusion and perplexity in the church. In the standard Adventist view of the seals, they have their primary historical fulfillment in the corrupted church of the Middle Ages, but the principle of confusion and apostasy is not limited to that period of history. As I have demonstrated elsewhere, the text of Revelation 6-7 points to an end-time consummation of the four horsemen in the four destroying winds of Rev 7:1-3.

In Testimonies for the Church, vol.6, p. 614 she appears to allude to the third seal of Revelation 6:5-6: “In view of the infinite price paid for man’s redemption, how dare any professing the name of Christ treat with indifference one of His little ones? How carefully should brethren and sisters in the church guard every word and action lest they hurt the oil and the wine! How patiently, kindly, and affectionately should they deal with the purchase of the blood of Christ!” This echo of biblical language suggests that the oil and wine represent those who believe in Jesus. If so, the command of Rev 6:6 not to hurt the oil and the wine symbolizes God’s protecting care for His faithful ones.

Of the roughly half-dozen statements alluding to the souls under the altar in the fifth seal, one applies the cry of the martyrs to the persecutions of the Old Testament era! RH July 17, 1900. Two apply the cry of the martyrs in a general sense. “The voices of those under the altar . . . are still saying, . . .” RH May 2, 1893, see also COL 179-180. The cry represents God’s continuing awareness of the injustice in the world. Other statements clearly imply an end-time setting, although even here (with the possible exception of MS 39, 1906) the usage is primarily in a general sense rather than as a specific exegetical interpretation. See 6BC 1081 (= RH Dec 21, 1897); 7BC 968 (= MS 39, 1906); 5T 451; RH June 15, 1897.

Ellen White’s multiple focus and application is supported by exegesis of the passage itself. The souls under the altar are the product of persecution throughout history leading up to the time of their cry. That cry is prior to the pre-advent judgment (cf. Rev 6:10). The fact that the cry receives a partial response implies that the judgment has begun within the seal subsequent to the time of the cry. The last part of the seal has entered into the time of judgment and anticipates the final persecution of earth’s history. So an end-time focus is not inappropriate within a broad historical perspective, but the seal as a whole covers a broader scope than just the end-time.

It is evident, then, that Ellen White understands the fifth seal to be figurative. When she discusses the sixth seal, however, she sees it in literal terms. The earthquake of Rev 6:12 is identified with the Lisbon quake of 1755. The signs in the sun, moon, and stars are tied to those predicted by Christ (Rev 6:12,13; cf. Matt 24:29; Luke 21:25). These are identified with the Dark Day, May 19, 1780, and the meteoric shower of November 13, 1833, both occurring in North America. GC 37, 304-308, 333-334. The dramatic events of Rev 6:14, on the other hand, are associated with the return of Christ. See ST April 22, 1913; SR 411; PP 340; RH Sept 22, 1891; RH Jan 12, 1886. The despairing cry of the wicked to be hidden from the wrath of God and the Lamb is likewise understood to take place at Christ’s Second Advent. TM 444; PP 340-341; SR 411; RH Mar 18, 1880; RH Jan 12, 1886; RH April 28, 1891; RH June 18, 1901 (6BC 1070); 2T 41-42, etc.

While many statements by Ellen White that utilize language reminiscent of Revelation 6 are fairly ambiguous, her clearest, most exegetical statements are supportive of the exegesis of the text itself and also of Adventist interpretation of the text. Adventist interpreters must be careful not to twist off-hand comments about the seven seals in such a way that they undermine the clear implications of the biblical text itself.

3 thoughts on “Ellen White and Revelation 6 (EWB 13)

  1. Darryl White

    When are you going to provide the same type of analysis of Revelation 8-9 and the applicable statements included in the Spirit of Prophecy? Appreciated this analysis.


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