How Clear Is Ellen White on Unfulfilled Prophecy?

It is often assumed that when Ellen White makes a “clear” statement about either the meaning of the Bible or about the unfulfilled future, all issues are settled and discussion on the topic should be closed. And statements are often produced that seem to imply that as well. But I would humbly suggest that such statements should be balanced by her own expressions of uncertainty. These are not often given their full weight in the discussion. One example is found in Testimonies for the Church, volume 6, page 17: “The mark of the beast is exactly what it has been proclaimed to be. Not all in regard to this matter is yet understood nor will it be understood until the unrolling of the scroll.” This statement was published in 1900, twelve years after the two key Sunday law statements of 1888. I understand her to be saying that one can have confidence in the broad outline of the mark of the beast, yet allow God freedom of action at the time of fulfillment. Prophecies are most clearly understood at or after the time of fulfillment (John 14:29). What is a little unclear to me in this statement is whether or not she includes herself in the admission “Not all in regard to this matter is yet understood. . . .”

Perhaps clearer is a statement she wrote a year later: “We are not now able to describe with accuracy the scenes to be enacted in our world in the future, but this we do know, that this is a time when we must watch unto prayer, for the great day of the Lord is at hand.” Selected Messages, volume 2, page 35. In describing the great day of the Lord as being at hand, I would understand her to be speaking of the future in the classical sense rather than the apocalyptic sense. In classical prophecy “the Day of the Lord” was always portrayed as near, to motivate earnest faithfulness among those awaiting the End. It seems to me that in using the pronoun “we”, Ellen White is explicitly including herself among those who are not able to describe the future “with accuracy”, as she puts it, or as I have been saying, in every detail. While God is consistent, He is not always predictable, and she seems to allow for that here. The broad outlines are clear enough to live by, especially where they have explicit exegetical support in Scripture, but there are things about the future it would not be good for us to know (Acts 1:6-7) and we should not presume to know them ahead of the fulfillment.

There is one further statement from 1901 that seems pertinent to the principles being outlined here. “It is not (God’s) will that (believers) shall get into controversy over questions which will not help them spiritually, such as, Who is to compose the hundred and forty-four thousand? This those who are the elect of God will in a short time know without question.” Selected Messages, volume one, page 174. In developing a series on the mark of the beast I was seeking to be helpful to those who are confused about the issue. But in responding to requests to present this issue, the topic seems to have produced more heat than light. The details of just how the mark of the beast will work out is not the crucial issue in our walk with God. I believe it is wise for us to become familiar with the way God works in the world, to understand Revelation 13 as far as we can, and to become familiar with what Ellen White has to say about the mark of the beast. But if debating about the exact outcome of these predictions becomes the central focus and divides people into opposing camps, this topic may do more harm than good.

3 thoughts on “How Clear Is Ellen White on Unfulfilled Prophecy?

  1. Andrew Ellis

    The mark of the beast, and the Sunday law are one and the same. When the Temporal Millennium becomes law in the USA, we will have both the mark of the beast and the Sunday law. Soon the sealing of the 144,000 will be complete. Soon a great earthquake will signal the 7 Trumpet Plagues, Christ will come to rescue His bride, and the 7 Last Plagues will be God allowing men to destroy themselves. Blessings and shalom.

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  2. Javier Morande

    The mark of the beast is not an outward sign , but an inward one. Just like the name of the father is in the forehead Rev 7:4 , 14 :1
    It’s the direct opposite of what the mark and seal of God is. Not the Sabbath, although people will be keeping it knowingly or unknowingly. It’s more a contrast to God’s loving , merciful and graceful character to more of a satan like inward way of thinking and acting.

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