Tag Archives: Ellen White and the Bible

Ellen White and the Time of the Seventh Trumpet (EWB 20)

Ellen White’s perspective on the seventh trumpet is problematic for exegesis at first glance. In EW 36 she alludes to Rev 11:18 as follows: “I saw that the anger of the nations, the wrath of God, and the time to judge the dead were separate and distinct, one following the other, also that Michael had not stood up, and that the time of trouble, such as never was, had not yet commenced. The nations are now getting angry, but when our High Priest has finished His work in the sanctuary, He will stand up, put on the garments of vengeance, and then the seven last plagues will be poured out.”

In this passage she “saw” that the anger of the nations is a developing process climaxing at the close of probation, which is followed by the seven last plagues (wrath of God) and the judgment of the dead. This statement appears to reject equating the “judgment of the dead” with the investigative judgment that begins in 1844. It is in harmony with her usual practice of placing the seventh trumpet in the future from her perspective (EW 85-86, 279-280). While the nations “are getting angry,” they are restrained by the four angels who hold the four winds in Rev 7:1-3 (EW 85-86, RH Jan 28, 1909, RH Nov 17, 1910, 1SM 221-222, 6T 14).

Some fifty years later, however, she seems to suggest that the “nations are angry, and the time of the dead has come, that they should be judged.” (6T 14) Since the onset of the Investigative Judgment precedes both statements, they appear to be in tension with each other. The problem can be resolved, however, by a number of considerations. 1) The language of the first statement is more directly exegetical (she is unfolding the meaning of the text), while the latter is more an echo of the language of Rev 11:18. 2) The former statement clearly harmonizes with the close of probation language of Rev 10:7. 3) The context of 6T 14 expresses her expectation of an imminent conclusion of history. She uses such statements as, “We are standing upon the threshold of great and solemn events. . . . Only a moment of time, as it were, yet remains.” Thus, an exegetical statement such as EW 36, describing events which are future in fulfillment, will naturally appear to be in tension with a statement of imminent expectation, where those events are described as “at hand.”

Conclusion to the series of blogs on Ellen White and the Seven Trumpets of Revelation:

The examination of these few occasions when Ellen White seems to engage the seven trumpets of Revelation well demonstrates the problem of ambiguity in dealing with the writings of a dead prophet. From our perspective it would have been extremely helpful had she clarified the issues regarding the timing and meaning of the trumpets which are of such interest today. But assuming that she had the kind of direct line to God that I don’t have, the Lord did not see fit to provide such information through her writings. If she had a view on the exegetical meaning of the seven trumpets, she has left no clear, unambiguous evidence of it. As has always been the case, revelation comes to a prophet within his/her time, place, circumstances, interests, and concerns. When the questions of a later period are addressed to an inspired text, the text is often silent or ambiguous regarding those matters. At such times the soundest approach is to avoid the use of ambiguous texts as “missiles” to confuse or confound the “enemy” (those holding a different view). With regard to the meaning of the seven trumpets of Revelation, most of her relevant statements are less than crystal-clear with regard to the issues that emerge from the biblical text. The meaning of the trumpets must be established on the basis of careful exegesis of the biblical text. Somehow, I get the feeling that Ellen White would have wanted it that way.

Ellen White and the Sealing of Revelation 9:4 (EWB 17)

A major issue in the Adventist interpretation of the seven trumpets is the significance of the sealing in Revelation 9:4. Is it the end-time sealing of Revelation 7? Or is the more general sealing process typical of the rest of the New Testament? Does Ellen White have only one view of sealing in Revelation, or does she utilize the concept in the variety of ways in which New Testament writers used it? One thing is perfectly clear, she never discusses Rev 9:4, not even in GC 334-335, the only place where she mentions the fifth trumpet at all. Therefore, her view of the matter is not explicit, it can only be inferred, if at all, from her view of the sealing in Revelation 7.

It may be helpful as we begin to briefly review the variety of meanings that pertain to the New Testament concept of sealing. When a seal is placed on a document, message, or tomb, its purpose is to conceal or to confine (Matt 27:66; Rev 5:1-2, 5, 9; 6:1, 3, 5, 7, 9, 12; 8:1; 10:4; 20:3; 22:10.). An alternative meaning is to certify that something or someone is reliable (John 3:33; 6:27; Rom 15:28; 1 Cor 9:2). But the predominant meaning of sealing in connection with God’s people is as an indication that one has been accepted by God (“God knows them that are His”: 2 Tim 2:19 cf. 2 Cor 1:22; Eph 1:13; 4:30). In this sense, sealing was a present reality already in the time of Abraham (Rom 4:11).

Ellen White has little to say about the New Testament passages which connect sealing to acceptance with God. Her primary interest in the idea seems limited to the significance of Revelation 7, which clearly focuses on the end-time sealing. In spite of this, however, she does not limit sealing to a purely end-time setting. She repeatedly refers to her time as the time when the four angels are holding the four winds (5T 717-718, 6T 26, 61, 426, and some 18 statements in the Review and Herald from 1885-1912), and to the sealing time as a present reality (EW 43-44, Letter 270, 1907 [= 7BC 969], RH July 13, 1897, 1SM 66, and 5T 50). Therefore, while she normally refers to the sealing as a future, end-time event (See RH Sept 23, 1873 and May 28, 1889 as examples, this is in harmony with the exegesis of Revelation 7), she does not limit the process to the very end of time.

In terms of the meaning of sealing she once again is primarily interested in the meaning most appropriate to the situation of Revelation 7. The concept of the seal of God for her has special significance in the antitypical Day of Atonement. “Only those who, in their attitude before God, are filling the position of those who are repenting and confessing their sins in the great antitypical day of atonement, will be recognized and marked as worthy of God’s protection. The names of those who are steadfastly looking and waiting and watching for the appearing of their Saviour–more earnestly and wishfully than they who wait for the morning–will be numbered with those who are sealed.” TM 445.

This end-time seal provides protection in the time of trouble. EW 67, 71. It is placed upon those who prove loyal to the commandments of God (GC 613, Letter 76, 1900 [= 7BC 970], 2T 468) to the point of “perfection of character”(RH June 10, 1902 [= 6BC 1118], 5T 214, 216), “the likeness of Christ’s character”(EW 71, RH May 21, 1895 [= 7BC 970]) and genuine, conscientious Sabbath-keeping (including rejection of Sunday-worship– GC 605, Letter 76, 1900 [= 7BC 970], MS 27, 1899 [= 7BC 970], RH July 13, 1897, RH Apr 23, 1901, 5T 213, cf. 7BC 980 [= HS 213], GC 640, PP 307). Such definitions, of course, are not appropriate to the more general New Testament understanding of sealing exhibited in passages such Ephesians 1:13; 4:30 and 2 Timothy 2:19. Was she unaware of the more general meanings common to the NT? Would she have considered it inappropriate to apply them to Revelation 9:4, for instance, a passage that she never quoted or discussed? There are a few other statements of hers that I think will be of interest. Next time.

Ellen White and the Introduction to the Trumpets (EWB 16)

In the vision of Revelation 8:3-4 an angel stands before the golden altar, ministering incense before God. In many statements Ellen White appears to equate that angel with Christ. EW 32 (= LS 100), 252; MS 142, 1899 (= COL 156 = 7 BC 931); MS 21, 1900 (= SD 22); MS 14, 1901 (= 6 BC 1078). When she does so, she always speaks of the scene as a description of Christ’s intercession. MS 14, 1901 (= 6 BC 1078); MS 142, 1899 (= 7 BC 931 = COL 156); SD 22. Interestingly, however, in other statements she describes the scene in terms of angels offering incense, but in those cases she never uses the term “intercession,” reserving it for Christ alone. MS 15, 1897 (= 7BC 971); RH July 4, 1893; ML 29.

In her clearest allusions to Revelation 8:3-4, Ellen White relates this scene to the daily ministration in the first apartment of the heavenly sanctuary. GC 414-415; RH Nov 9, 1905; PP 353. Early in her ministry, however, she alludes to portions of the imagery with reference to the second apartment. EW 32 [= LS 100], 252, 256. In all clear allusions to Revelation 8:3-4, however, the ministration of incense is associated with Christ’s work of intercession and not with the Investigative Judgment. MS 142, 1899 (= COL 156 = 7BC 931); MS 14, 1901 (= 6BC 1078). The incense represents the “merit of Jesus” (RH July 4, 1893) or the “blood of the atonement.” MS 15, 1897 (= 7 BC 971).

In an earlier blog we made an extensive analysis of her single echo of Revelation 8:5. She appears to understand the throwing down of the censer in terms of an end to intercession, but it is not clear if she understood it as something that might happen repeatedly in the course of human history or as “the” final close of probation.

On the whole, Ellen White’s use of the language of Revelation 8:3-5 is remarkably compatible with exegesis of the passage. The basic concept of the passage is the intercession of Christ. In some sense this is brought to an end by the act of throwing down the censer. Her writings make it unclear, however, whether that act occurs before the blowing of the trumpets chronologically, whether it occurs repeatedly during the trumpets, or only at a specific point toward the end. In other words, she respects the ambiguity of the text and does not go beyond what is reasonably evident there.

Ellen White and the Trumpets II (EWB 15)

For those who may feel that my position on the statement in GC 334-335 undermines the authority of Ellen White, I strongly encourage you to read the Appendices to Selected Messages, volume 3, pages 433-450. See also the Introduction to The Great Controversy, which touches more generally on these themes in Ellen White’s own words. These pages include statements to the General Conference session in 1911 by W. C. White and letters that he wrote concerning the process by which The Great Controversy 1911 Edition was put together. These remarks and letters occurred well within Ellen White’s lifetime by her own son, and could have been easily corrected by her were they in error. It is clear from these that she did not consider her work to provide an inspired guide to historical events and details such as those provided in relation to Revelation 9. I offer a quick sampling of key statements here.

“Mother has never claimed to be authority on history.” 3SM 437. The rest of the paragraph, and some of the pages that follow, describes how and why the history in Great Controversy came to be included in the book, particularly the standard edition of 1911. “When Controversy was written, Mother never thought that the readers would take it as authority on historical dates, or to settle controversy regarding details of history, and she does not now feel that it should be used in that way.” In 3SM 433-450, there is significant description of just how the process of including history in the book took place. History is not the main point of the book, it is used to illustrate the main points the writer was seeking to make for her readers (after considerable research at least two directors of the White Estate have concluded that the same applies to biblical exegesis, something that mainly appears in her books with a lot of quotes and borrowing from other authors).

The above is underlined in a 1912 letter from W. C. White to S. N. Haskell, which included a written note from Ellen White: “I approve of the remarks in this letter.” The crucial statement for our purpose in that letter follows: “I believe, Brother Haskell, that there is danger in injuring Mother’s work by claiming for it more that she claims for it, more than Father ever claimed for it, more than Elder Andrews, Waggoner, or Smith ever claimed for it. I cannot see consistency in our putting forth a claim of verbal inspiration when Mother does not make any such claim, and I certainly think we will make a great mistake if we lay aside historical research and endeavor to settle historical questions by the use of Mother’s books as an authority when she herself does not wish them to be used in any such way.” See the entire letter at https://whiteestate.org/legacy/vault-haskell-html/#:~:text=C.%20White%20Statement%20of%20October%2031,%201912%20.

Assuming Litch was in error, as he himself later concluded, what do we make of God allowing such a mistake in the midst of an important movement that had His approval? When one reads the Bible with care, it becomes clear that God works with mistake-prone people to gradually bring about clearer and clearer understandings of His character and government. He does not give out truth that people are not yet ready to handle (see John 16:12). In Great Controversy it is clear that Miller himself made a major error of biblical interpretation, but that did not invalidate his work as a whole. In the case of Litch’s prediction, I think it is not unlike God to preserve a threatened movement by providing the “fulfillment” it so desperately needed and was looking for.

Ellen White and the Sealed Scroll of Revelation 5 (EWB 12)

One of the most challenging concepts in Revelation is the sealed scroll of chapter five. In researching his dissertation on the sealed scroll of Revelation, Ranko Stefanovic identified more than a hundred different views on the meaning of the scroll in the history or Revelation’s interpretation. As I remember it, he concluded that the scroll of Revelation was the covenant scroll (Deuteronomy) delivered to the king at the time of his inauguration as king of Israel. He saw the time of that event as the ascension of Jesus to heaven after His resurrection. Needless to say, not every scholar of Revelation is fully convinced that Stefanovic has settled the matter.

Ellen White makes a handful of brief statements with regard to the sealed scroll of Revelation 5. In Testimony to Ministers, 115 she appears to suggest that the sealed scroll is the book of Daniel. After quoting Dan 12:8-13 she says: “It was the Lion of the tribe of Judah who unsealed the book and gave to John the revelation of what should be in these last days.” After restating the Daniel passage in her own words for some lines she states: “The book of Daniel is unsealed in the revelation to John, and carries us forward to the last scenes of this earth’s history.” The possibility that John may have intended an allusion to Daniel in Revelation 5 has been discussed by scholars, so such a view of the text is certainly possible. Her main point in these comments is, however, to encourage people to “Read Revelation in connection with Daniel. Teach these things” (last lines of TM 115). Rather than settling exegetical issues in the text, her intention is to encourage direct study and teaching of these texts.

Ellen White’s statement in Christ’s Object Lessons 294, on the other hand, suggests that she understood the scroll of Revelation 5 to contain much more than the book of Daniel. There she describes the scene at the trial of Jesus where Pilate washes his hands and the priests cry out, along with the mob, “His blood be on us and on our children.” Then she writes: “Thus the Jewish leaders made their choice. Their decision was registered in the book which John saw in the hand of Him that sat upon the throne, the book which no man could open. In all its vindictiveness this decision will appear before them in the day when this book is unsealed by the Lion of the tribe of Judah.” Here the scroll contains historical records that will be revealed when it is fully unsealed.

The statement in COL seems to align with volume six of the Testimonies, page 17: “The light we have received upon the third angel’s message is the true light. 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; but a most solemn work is to be accomplished in our world.” Both statements suggest that Ellen White understood the full unrolling of the scroll as a matter for the future, not the past (such as AD 31 or 1844).

More recently, a letter has come to light which contains a fairly clear statement on the identity of the scroll (letter 65, 1898, manuscript release #667.). After quoting Revelation 5:1-3 she states: “There in His open hand lay the book, the roll of the history of God’s providences, the prophetic history of nations and the church. Herein was contained the divine utterances, His authority, His commandments, His laws, the whole symbolic counsel of the Eternal, and the history of all ruling powers in the nations. In symbolic language was contained in that roll the influence of every nation, tongue, and people from the beginning of earth’s history to its close. This roll was written within and without. John says: (Rev 5:4-5; 6:8-11; 8:1-4).”

This explicit statement about the scroll of Revelation 5 indicates that it contains the entire sum and substance of the Great Controversy as it pertains to the earth, including the acts of both God and His created beings throughout history. It is the record book of heaven. There are only two events in human history which contain in themselves such a summary of all things. One is in Christ at the cross. At the cross Christ embodied in Himself both the character of God and the sins of a fallen creation. The other event is at the close of the millennium, when all of history is laid open to view (GC 666-671). Since the judgment associated with the year 1844 is limited, in Ellen White’s thinking, to those who have professed Christ (GC 483), this statement does not pinpoint the year 1844 as the time when the Lamb took the book.

The most likely reference point for this statement is Christ’s enthronement in heaven in AD 31. Note that the scroll contains “the roll of the history of God’s providences,” an appropriate designation for the Old Testament, and “the prophetic history of nations and the church,” a statement most appropriate at the beginning of the Christian era, not near its close.

Combining all of the above, it appears that Ellen White understood the scroll of Revelation 5 to be the sum and substance of history, prophecy, and the entire plan and purpose of God. As such, it contains that to which both Daniel and Revelation point and more. It is anticipated in John’s vision, but is not fully opened to view until the end of history. It is truly the “book of destiny.” The statements of Ellen White illuminate our reading of Revelation 5, but they are not specific enough in themselves to settle the exegetical issues related to the sealed scroll of Revelation 5.

Ellen White and the Timing of Revelation 5—Part 3 (EWB 11)

While Desire of Ages, pp. 833-835 ties the entire scene of Revelation 4-5 to the event of Christ’s ascension and his subsequent enthronement in the heavenly sanctuary, some Adventist thinkers believe that a statement found in 7BC 967 suggests that Ellen White understood Christ’s taking of the book to have occurred in 1844, not AD 31. Let us examine this statement with some care.

“John writes, ‘I beheld, and I heard the voice of many angels round about the throne.’ Angels were united in the work of Him who had broken the seals and taken the book. Four mighty angels hold back the powers of this earth till the servants of God are sealed in their foreheads. The nations of the world are eager for conflict; but they are held in check by the angels. When this restraining power is removed, there will come a time of trouble and anguish.”

The quotation in the initial sentence is clearly from Revelation 5:11. Does Ellen White’s statement set Rev 5:11 after the breaking of the seals? Since Revelation 5:11 contains an allusion to Daniel 7:9-10, it has been argued that the location of the vision is in the Most Holy Place at the time of judgment from 1844 on. In that case, when the Lamb “came and took the book” in Revelation 5:7, he was moving from the Holy Place into the Most Holy. To read Ellen White in this way is biblically problematic, since the Lamb was already standing “in the midst of the throne” (Rev 5:6) before he “comes and takes the book” (Rev 5:7). To assume a change of apartments in Rev 5:6-7 is to suggest that the “throne” is a way of speaking for the entire sanctuary, something found in neither the Bible nor the writings of Ellen White.

So what do we do with Ellen White’s statement in 7BC 967? It certainly associates Revelation 5:11 with the events of Revelation 7:1-3, which are end-time. However, her statement is a general description of the work of angels, and Ellen White repeatedly uses the language of Rev 5:11 in general descriptions of the work of angels (compare 7BC933; 7BC 967-968; GC 511-512; PP36; CH 32, among others). Therefore, if the primary function of the statement has to do with the work of angels in general, we should not overstate its significance for the exegesis of Rev 5.

More exegetically problematic still is her second sentence: “. . . the work of Him who had broken the seals and taken the book.” This reverses the order of the biblical text and seems to place the breaking of the seals in the past, even though the sixth and seventh seals deal with the Second Coming and beyond.

The statement included in the SDA Bible Commentary was taken from Letter 79, 1900, written on May 10 of that year. The letter is a rambling appeal to a William Kerr, calling for a fuller commitment to the gospel and to obedience to God’s commandments. Ellen White’s personal journal indicates that she was extremely weak and weary, not having had significant sleep for three days! Overwork and sleeplessness would account for the rambling nature of the letter. Although the letter is lengthy, there is little coherent flow of thought from one paragraph to another. It nears its conclusion with a general description of the work of angels in helping God’s people obey. There is no reference to the investigative judgment.

The statement we are examining is found nowhere else in Ellen White’s writings. Nor is it central to the point of the letter, which is quite homiletical in its thrust. Such an isolated statement in an unpublished letter should not be used to overturn the impact of careful exegesis and such major published statements as GC 414-415 and DA 833-835. The fact that she was tired in the extreme on that day may account for her confusion regarding the order in which the breaking of the seals and the taking of the book took place.

I hope this concrete example of how Ellen White sometimes interacts with Revelation without having the intention of offering an exegetical explanation of the text. To use an off-hand statement in her writings to over-ride the plain meaning of the biblical text would neither be appropriate to serious study of the Bible, nor be respectful to her own view of the relation between her writings and the Bible. Having said that, creative exegesis can have devotional value, as long as such readings do not claim biblical authority.

Ellen White and the Timing of Revelation 5—Part 2 (EWB 10)

The soundest way to determine the reason for Ellen White’s emphasis on the importance of Revelation 5 for those who live in the last days is to read all her statements regarding that chapter. When this procedure is followed, the reader is impressed by her repeated use of the chapter as an inspiring vision of heaven that can have a motivating effect on those who live on the earth, encouraging them to look above what their eyes can see and contemplate the glories of an eternal world, thus becoming inspired to want to be there themselves.

“Who can be trifling, who can engage in frivolous, common talk, while by faith he sees the Lamb that was slain pleading before the Father . . .” “By faith let us look upon the rainbow round about the throne.” TM 157.

“Think of Jesus . . .” Letter 134, 1899 (quoted in 7 BC 933)

“In view of the revelation made to John on the Isle of Patmos . . . . how can those who claim to see wondrous things out of the law of God, be found in the list of the impure, of the fornicators and adulterers . . .” TN 433.

After quoting portions of Revelation 5 she says: “Will you catch the inspiration of the vision? Will you let your mind dwell upon the picture? Will you not be truly converted, and then go forth to labor in a spirit entirely different from the spirit in which you have labored in the past . . .” (see 8T 44-45 for full context)

She also writes: “If we would permit our minds to dwell more upon Christ and the heavenly world, we should find a powerful stimulus and support in fighting the battles of the Lord. Pride and love of the world will lose their power as we contemplate the glories of that better land so soon to be our home. Beside the loveliness of Christ, all earthy attractions will seem of little worth.” (see context in RH, Nov 15, 1887)

In these kinds of statements we find, perhaps, the best clue to the significance of Revelation 5 in the last days. It is the clearest and most exciting depiction of heavenly worship in all of Scripture. Those who meditate upon this scene will find encouragement and motivation to remain faithful to end, even as their spiritual forefathers in earlier times found encouragement and motivation in the same passage.

Did Ellen White associate the scene of Revelation 5 with any particular event in history? In Desire of Ages, pp. 833-835 (a briefer version is in RH July 29, 1890) she ties the entire scene of Revelation 4-5 to the event of Christ’s ascension and his subsequent enthronement in the heavenly sanctuary. There is no question that Ellen White has Revelation 4-5 in mind in this passage, and that this scripture plays a central role in the passage. Desire of Ages is certainly one of her major books, and the use she makes of it is in harmony with the most natural understanding of the biblical text.

Although the events of Revelation 5 originally took place at a particular point in time, however, we should not insist that the three hymns of acclamation found in Revelation 5:9-14 were only sung once. No doubt they enter the repertoire of the ongoing worship services in the heavenly sanctuary. Thus, Ellen White can quote from this section in the context of what is happening in heaven now (7BC 933; COL 176; MH 417– note that in PP 36 she even quotes Rev 5:11 in a pre-creation context). She can also quote verses 9-13 in the context of the experience of the redeemed as they enter the heavenly courts after the Second Coming (TM 433; GC 545, 647-648, 651-652, 671; 6BC 1083; 8T 44– GC 545 in particular appears exegetical with respect to Rev 5:13). This application is supported by the observation that the song of verse 13 presupposes the involvement of the entire creation, an event only fully realized after the destruction of sin and sinners at the close of the millennium.

Ellen White and the Timing of Revelation 5 (EWB 9)

There is only one statement that I am aware of in all of Ellen White’s writings that imputes unusual importance to any part of Rev 4-6 and 8-9. That statement is found in 9T 266-267. “Those who humble their hearts and confess their sins will be pardoned. Their transgressions will be forgiven. But the man who thinks that should he confess his sins he would show weakness, will not find pardon, will not see Christ as his Redeemer, but will go on and on in transgression, making blunder after blunder and adding sin to sin. What will such a one do in the day that the books are opened and every man is judged according to the things written in the books?
“The fifth chapter of Revelation needs to be closely studied. It is of great importance to those who shall act a part in the work of God for these last days. There are some who are deceived. They do not realize what is coming on the earth. Those who have permitted their minds to become beclouded in regard to what constitutes sin are fearfully deceived. Unless they make a decided change they will be found wanting when God pronounces judgment upon the children of men. They have transgressed the law and broken the everlasting covenant and they will receive according to their works.”

The above statement is part of an address read to the General Conference session of 1909 entitled “A Distribution of Responsibility” (the entire context is 9T 262-269). The first half concerns the need to make wise choices where the leadership of the church is concerned. The latter half (pp. 265-269) is a series of warnings made up largely of quotations from Matt 11:20-30, Rev 6:12-17, Rev 7:9-17, Luke 21:33-36, and Matt 24:42-51. The above statement precedes the quotation of Rev 6:12-17.

The statement is more ambiguous than we would like. It is clear that Revelation 5 is intended to play a significant role for those who are to act a part in the closing up of earth’s history. But it is not clear what that role is. Does Ellen White understand the chapter itself to be end-time? Is there an event portrayed there that is of particular importance to those who live at the end? Are there timeless theological truths there that will play their usual role also at the end? Is the passage inspirational because of its clear depiction of heavenly praise and worship? She does not say. A blank space is left, to be filled in by the reader.

One possibility lies in the mention of judgment both before and after the reference to chapter five. But this section of the address (9T 265-269) is neither an exegesis of Revelation 5 nor a theology of judgment. The previous statement associates judgment with the opening of the books (plural), while in Revelation 5 the single book remains sealed until after the scene so there is no explicit connection there. The later statement leads into the quotation of Revelation 6:12-17 where the Second Coming with its executive judgment is in view. Therefore, there is no explicit connection in her appeal to study Revelation 5 with these two references to judgment.

The soundest way to determine the reason for Ellen White’s emphasis on the importance of Revelation 5 for those who live in the last days is to read all her statements regarding that chapter. In fact, it is probably unwise to ever say “Ellen White says,” until one has looked at everything she has to say on the subject. We will attempt to do that in the next blog.

Ellen White and the First Half of the Book of Revelation (EWB 8)

The closest thing to a major interpretive statement for the entire first half of the book of Revelation is found in the book The Great Controversy, pages 414-415. This statement is also found in Patriarchs and Prophets, 356. Both statements are also an expansion and clarification of the earlier and more ambiguous statement in The Story of Redemption, 377. A comparison of all three statements would be interesting, but will not be attempted here. I will limit myself to the statement in The Great Controversy, 414-415. There Ellen White offers a clear statement regarding the significance of the sanctuary material in Revelation, chapters 4, 8, and 11:

“The holy places of the sanctuary in heaven are represented by the two apartments in the sanctuary on earth. As in vision the apostle John was granted a view of the temple of God in heaven, he beheld there “seven lamps of fire burning before the throne.” Revelation 4:5. He saw an angel “having a golden censer; and there was given unto him much incense, that he should offer it with the prayers of all saints upon the golden altar which was before the throne.” Revelation 8:3. Here the prophet was permitted to behold the first apartment of the sanctuary in heaven; and he saw there the “seven lamps of fire” and “the golden altar,” represented by the golden candlestick and the golden altar of incense in the sanctuary on earth. Again, “the temple of God was opened” (Revelation 11:19), and he looked within the inner veil, upon the holy of holies. Here he beheld “the ark of His testament,” represented by the sacred chest constructed by Moses to contain the law of God.”

There is no question that Ellen White had these specific Bible passages in mind as she wrote. There are quotation marks and the exact references are provided. The statement also appears to be an attempt to explain the significance of the author’s original vision regarding these matters. The statement is found in chapter twenty-three of The Great Controversy (pages 409-422), which is entitled, “What is the Sanctuary?” So the passage is drawn from one of her major works and is central to the discussion of the sanctuary in its context. The purpose of the chapter is not, however, an exegesis of Revelation, so the passage may qualify more as a theological statement than an exegetical one. In any case, it is her most comprehensive statement on the meaning of Rev 4-11. Thus, it is of first importance for understanding her view of that portion of the book. It seems evident from this statement that Ellen White understood the seals and the trumpets to be taking place under the general rubric of the first apartment of the heavenly sanctuary, while the second apartment ministry comes into view only in Rev 11:19.

While this may seem a major conclusion to draw from just a few words, Ellen White clarified this statement in a Review and Herald article published on Nov 9, 1905. There she repeats the above statement with the following addition: “The announcement, ‘The temple of God was opened in heaven, and there was seen in his temple the ark of his testament,’ points to the opening of the most holy place of the heavenly sanctuary, at the end of the twenty-three hundred days,–in 1844,–as Christ entered there to perform the closing work of the atonement. Those who by faith followed their great High Priest, as he entered upon his ministry in the most holy place, beheld the ark of the testament.”

The title of her article was, “The Ark of the Covenant.” If Ellen White had considered it appropriate to indicate that the ark could be equated with the throne in Revelation 4-5, or with the activity in Revelation 8:3-4, this would have been the ideal place to do so. Instead, she makes it clear that Revelation 11:19 (the sanctuary introduction to chapters twelve through fourteen– the section that features the three angel’s messages) is the point at which the book of Revelation begins to concentrate on the end-time judgment.

These Ellen White citations call into question the assertions some make that the Ellen White writings can be used to support a Day of Atonement or end-time setting for the seals and trumpets as a whole. Such a position cannot be convincingly maintained on the basis of her writings, since there is no clear and explicit statement from her pen to that effect, and the citations we have noted imply otherwise.

The Principles Illustrated by Ellen White’s Use of Rev 8:5– II (EWB 7)

Of great interest to the issue of Ellen White’s use of the Bible is the fact that the statement in this statement in Early Writings, 279-280 (see previous blog) is repeated (nearly in its entirety) in The Great Controversy, 613. That statement is quoted below with the underlining representing all words that are identical to EW 279-280.

“An angel returning from the earth announces that his work is done; the final test has been brought upon the world, and all who have proved themselves loyal to the divine precepts have received ‘the seal of the living God.’ Then Jesus ceases His intercession in the sanctuary above. He lifts His hands and with a loud voice says, ‘It is done;’ and all the angelic host lay off their crowns as He makes the solemn announcement: ‘He that is unjust, let him be unjust still: and he which is filthy, let him be filthy still: and he that is righteous, let him be righteous still: and he that is holy, let him be holy still.’ Rev 22:11.

The basic point of this passage and two-thirds of the wording are identical to EW 279-280. Even where the wording is changed, the basic meaning is the same. But two significant changes in Ellen White’s use of Scripture have taken place. The language of Ezekiel 9 and Revelation 8:5 has been dropped. In place of Revelation 8:5 is the statement that Jesus “ceases His intercession in the sanctuary above.”

The Great Controversy passage clarifies the meaning of the earlier passage. In Early Writings she used the language of Revelation 8:5 as a graphic description of the end of intercession. But she apparently did not want to leave the impression that Revelation 8:5 (or Ezekiel 9 for that matter) was a description of “the” close of probation. Therefore, in GC 613, explicit terminology for the close of probation is used instead of a reference to Revelation 8:5.

This illustration indicates that to carry out the guidelines described in earlier blogs takes patience and time. Where she makes an abundance of statements on a text or a topic, that may be impossible for most interpreters. In most such cases, the flavor of her viewpoint can be obtained by a careful surface survey of her statements. It becomes essential to follow these guidelines carefully, however, whenever a particular statement or series of statements becomes controversial, usually due to ambiguity. In such a case, the burden of proof is on the interpreter to demonstrate that, were Ellen White alive, she would support his/her use of her statement as proof of a point.

After thorough study of the text of Revelation it is helpful for an Adventist interpreter to examine Ellen White’s use of Revelation for profitable insights. Her unparalleled grasp of the universal issues to which the book of Revelation points makes her statements about the book of enormous interest to Adventists. Nevertheless, her contribution to the discussion must not be expanded beyond her own intention. To do so would be to distort both her intention and John’s, thus undermining the authority of inspiration. The guidelines I have shared in this series of blogs can help provide safeguards against such unintentional misuse.

Because the Seals and the Trumpets are difficult to understand in their own biblical context, it is natural that Ellen White’s comments on these passages would attract interest. In the blogs to follow, I will examine a number of statements related to Revelation, chapters 4-9. I will share these studies, not as “the final word,” but to stimulate discussion and encourage careful application of the method to controverted points. Stay tuned.