Examination of Prophetic Claims of Ellen G. White

The story of a Seventh-day Adventist (Tim Sly) who grew up in that church, only to learn the difficult truth, that his parents had raised him in a cult!


This paper is being written to two groups. One is my family and friends who are members of the Seventh-Day Adventist (SDA) church, which is most of them, and the other includes those who are not members or don't know much about the SDA church. For this reason there may be some explanations about the church or its beliefs that are boringly obvious to SDA's reading this but not to others.

I was reared in the SDA church from day one up to 21 years of age. I attended church every Sabbath (Saturday) and faithfully studied my Sabbath school lessons during the week. My mother sacrificed to send us to SDA schools, both elementary and high school academy, and later two years at Walla Walla College to study theology. I did it all right, I followed all the rules, I thought I was living right for God and doing what I was supposed to. I even got "the most spiritual student on campus" award engraved on a wood plaque at high school graduation. The problem was, it was me doing it. I was trying to live right. The bible says our righteousness is like filthy rags. All this stuff won't get a person one step closer to God. Only by accepting Christ's perfect life to cover our tainted lives can we enter God's presence. "In him and through faith in him we may approach God with freedom and confidence." (Ephesians 3:12) I had read things like this many times but I was still caught up in doing the works. It didn't hit my heart until I heard preaching by Dr. Desmond Ford, a gifted scholar who used to be in the SDA church. Everyone's experience of finding God comes in a different way at different times. This time it hit me when I heard him preach the cross of Christ and that it had all been done for me and I knew right then that I had eternal life (1 John 5:11-13). A weight was lifted and it changed me forever. No longer did I have to hope to get to heaven by doing it right.

After this event that made me a child of God, some of my "stable" beliefs that I had held to started to unravel. Desmond Ford was also teaching on Daniel 8:14, the heavenly sanctuary and Christ our high priest in Hebrews. But what really floored me was that Ellen G. White's writings and Adventist doctrine contradicted the Bible in the book of Hebrews. How could she be wrong? I did not know how to react because I had always been taught that she was a true prophet of God and we believed all her writings. Ultimately I had to make a choice and it was not Ellen White. I did not leave the church immediately. I kept studying and searching within Seventh-Day Adventism. I spent 2 years at Walla Walla College studying theology and did not find the answers there either. There is no explanation. It either lines up with the Bible or it doesn't.

The SDA church made it clear which way they would go in 1980. The Sanctuary Review Committee, made up of SDA administrators and scholars, met in Glacier View, Colorado to discuss Dr. Ford's views presented in his 991 page manuscript Daniel 8:14, The Day of Atonement and the Investigative Judgment.1 Instead of a discussion it turned into a trial where scholars' voices went unheard and administrators took over and proclaimed to the church that they would follow Ellen White and traditional doctrine. Reports I've read say that most of the members didn't even read Ford's manuscript. The scholars made a list of key points on which they agreed with Dr. Ford. Later a small group of administrators wrote a list of 10 points to use against him and proceeded to can him to the shock of the scholars who were promised it wouldn't be a trial. The end result, one of the brightest scholars in the church was stripped of his pastoral ordination and fired. The fall-out in the early 1980's resulted in over 100 ministers leaving the Adventist church because they had to stay true to their consciences, many members and some whole congregations went with them. I was one of these casualties. I guess you can't blame the church administrators. If they admitted their prophet and some of their doctrines were wrong, they probably feared the whole thing would fall apart. Or they just plain feared the unknown because they believed in Ellen so strongly, as I did.

See Appendix A at the back of this paper to read about a huge church denomination in 1986 that was confronted with just such a crisis.

I have not written formally to most of you on the subject of Ellen White since 1984 when I wrote the booklet The Search for Truth to explain to family and friends why I was leaving the church I had grown up in. Why write about Ellen White now? Several reasons. After the tragedy of September 11 we had a relative over who was "singing the praises" so to speak of Ellen White and how she had predicted this tragedy in New York. This got me interested in looking into it further. I found this quote on the Ellen G. White Estate Home Page on the web:

Contrary to unsubstantiated reports, Ellen White made no prediction concerning the destruction of a twin-towered building in New York or any other place in the world. She did foresee great disasters of various kinds resulting in the loss of magnificent buildings and many lives in the large cities before Jesus' return. She spoke of demonic forces exercising their power in earthquakes, fires, and other calamities. She also warned that the time will come when defiant rejection of God's Spirit will result in the complete removal of His restraining power over such destructive elements in the earth.

Due to the many inquiries received by the Ellen G. White Estate since the devastating events of September 11, we have gathered some of Ellen White's statements on the general topic of conflicts in the last days, mostly as found in the compilation Last Day Events and the devotional book Maranatha. This collection has been prepared with no attempt to make any specific application to recent events, places, or individuals. 4 (bold letters are in the original)

Turns out she didn't make this prediction. This got me motivated to revisit the whole issue of the prophetic claims of Ellen White. I finally took the time to read the book The White Lie, by Walter Rea (available at Amazon.com). I had only skimmed through parts of it in the past but now it will form a large part of the source content for this paper. The tone of the book can be offensive but the facts outlined in it are shocking and undeniable. In the 1980's when I was struggling with all this stuff it was enough for me just to find out where she contradicted Scripture, which we will discuss later. That was all I needed to turn me away. But now all the other details do matter as it makes up the whole picture of her credibility. Especially when you rub elbows with those who believe she was a true prophet who had special inspiration from God.

Believe me, it is a big deal to "leave" the SDA church because the members feel that they are the remnant of God, the one true church. It was very similar to the feelings involved when my wife Debbie left the Catholic church. Strict Catholics believe it is the one true church and that their system is the way to God.

There is no system that leads us to God, it is only through Christ. "Jesus answered, 'I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.'" (John 14:6)

There is a remnant, a true church of God that remains but it is not the Jews, the Catholics, the SDA's, or any other church or system. It is those who trust in Christ alone as their only way of being saved and they rest under that grace.

"So too, at the present time there is a remnant chosen by grace. And if by grace, then it is no longer by works; if it were, grace would no longer be grace." (Romans 11:6)

The Bible translation quoted in this paper is the New International Version. Any underlining or bold type in the Bible texts has been added.

The Prophet

Ellen Gould White- in the mid 1800's was one of the early founders and prophet of the newly forming Seventh-Day Adventist church. She died in 1915 but her legacy continues strong.

She wrote scores of books and volumes of other articles and sermons. She claimed to have had over 2000 visions from God. Her books are cherished by Adventist members and she is regarded as a true modern day prophet. Many of the unique foundational doctrines of the church were formed by her interpretation and visions. Her writings add a lot of details to the Biblical account that are not found in Scripture. And in practice, some Adventists hold her visions and writings with equal authority to Scripture. I know this because I lived in the system for many years. And as I write this I know some of you will deny this statement and if you do, then why is it so difficult or impossible for you to consider that she could be wrong in an interpretation or a doctrine? I have other Adventist friends who consider her as more of just a good Christian writer/helper, while I believe the bulk of the church holds her as inspired and prophetic. And that is the church's official stance. It was not just those around her who elevated her to this status. She herself made it clear when she made statements like this:

"...I am presenting to you what the Lord has presented to me. I do not write one article in the paper expressing merely my own ideas, they are what God has opened before me in vision- precious rays of light shining from the throne." 5

An Adventist that I spoke with claims that he gets his beliefs and doctrines directly from the Bible and not from Ellen White. The only way you could do that is if you were isolated completely from anyone with just your Bible and the Holy Spirit and that is the only input you ever had since childhood. All of us are products of our environments and the people and institutions that taught us. If you were reared in a Seventh-Day Adventist environment, or attended one of their churches or schools, read their material, read their Sabbath school lessons, heard their sermons, etc, etc then you have been taught through the eyes of Ellen White. The bulk of it stems from her interpretation of the Bible. If you believe Adventist doctrine as they teach it, you didn't come up with it independently with just you and your Bible.

Sometimes as you go through the system, ideas start blending together and what you might think is Biblical is actually only found in Ellen White's writings. One example that I have shared before: I was discussing the end times with an Adventist that lives near me and he claimed that this quote was in the Bible, that "the Sabbath is the Seal of the living God" and it would be the deciding factor in the end times. He was absolutely sure it was in the Bible and that it was in Revelation. I told him to search for it and let me know where it is written. He never found it in the Bible because it was a statement Ellen White made in The Great Controversy p.561 (paperback). In his mind it was a certain Biblical principle.


This word is defined as the act of taking another's works and passing them off as your own without giving credit.6 Until recent times Ellen White's use of other authors was little known in the church at large. The problem had shown its head a number of times over the last hundred years but it had always been stifled. Evidence kept mounting and it could no longer be ignored until finally the flood gates were opened when Walter Rea released his book in 1982.

It had all started when Rea, an Adventist minister for 36 years before he was fired, was studying for his Ph.D. and came across some Old Testament history books by Edershiem that had language strikingly similar Ellen White's book Patriarchs and Prophets. In fact he found that "Edersheim's chapter titles, subtitles, and page headings paralleled and were many times almost identical with the chapter titles of Ellen White's Patriarchs and Prophets (1890)." 7 He started finding other books that were very similar to her writings also and his shock turned into a determination to get to the bottom of it. When Rea's research started getting out, the White Estate's first reaction was to try to cover it up and eventually it led to Rea's dismissal from the church. I will include this passage from his book. The Robert Olson mentioned here is from the Ellen White Estate:

"Olson took to the stump in an all-out effort to blunt the impact that my findings were beginning to have, for by now people in various regions of North America were asking for the evidence found in my research. At an afternoon presentation by Olson in January 1979 at Loma Linda university in California, someone in the audience asked about Mrs. White's borrowing from published sources. Olson's reply was to the effect that there was nothing to it, that all of her writings were her own. He then volunteered that there was some minister in South­ern California making waves with allegations about borrowed material for her key book, The Desire of Ages, but that there was nothing to these rumors.

To say that I was in a state of shock after the meeting is to put it mildly. My file at that very time already held several letters from that same Olson encouraging me to keep sending him my comparisons of Ellen with her contemporaries. Furthermore, he had personally talked with me when he was in California only a short time before and had sought my promise that I would not publish any report on my work until he and the White Estate staff had been given additional time to survey the material. I had agreed to his request, and the fact of the agreement had been recorded in the in-house memo that he wrote afterward and that I held in my files.

So now I knew that Robert Olson either had a very short memory or was telling a white lie. In any case, it was obvious that the White Estate people knew much more that they were telling.

The files of the White Estate had referred to a book by William Hanna called The Life of Christ. Within twenty-four hours after the Loma Linda meeting, therefore, I had obtained Hanna's book. From that time on, I have learned more than I ever wanted to know.

Spectrum, a journal published independently by the Association of Adventist Forums, gave a background account of a January 1980 committee meeting at Glendale, California. This meeting was called by General Conference President Neal C. Wilson at my urging that con­sideration be given to the scope of the findings of Ellen White's literary indebtedness. Eighteen of the church's appointed representatives went on record that what my research showed was alarming in its propor­tions but that the study should continue - with additional help.7

Likewise, Spectrum later reported my dismissal by the church8 (after thirty-six years of service) primarily because of the disclosure article initiated and written by religious editor John Dart and published in the Los Angeles Times.9 Not one of the officials doing the firing had ever talked with Dart. Not one had seen the research on which the article was based. The heart of the issue itself was not important to church officials. It was necessary only that someone be punished so that others would stay in line and so that both Ellen White and the Seventh-day Adventist Church would appear to be innocent of any wrongdoing.

In view of what I have observed, experienced, and learned, I have thought it proper and necessary to record for future generations the findings of my ongoing study. These coming generations will want to know the truth about what has been unearthed from the past. It will be a part of what they will take into consideration in their religious experience and judgments." 7

It is not just the fact that Ellen copied from other writers and didn't give credit, it is the amount and the method. We are not talking about a few words or sentences here and there. We are talking about whole paragraphs, chapters and even books and it was passed off as if they were from her or from God. She took complete chapter headings and copied them into her works and then used the author's thoughts, ideas and exact phrases to produce the content of the book and then called it her own. This was never more evident than in books like Patriarchs and Prophets, E.G.W. 1890. Rea lists 65 chapter headings from this book that are almost word for word identical to Bible History/Old Testament, Alfred Edersheim 1876-80.8

Rea has included in his book hundreds of pages of side by side comparisons of Ellen White's writings to passages from other books published before hers. She had nearly 400 books in her personal library and she made use of many.

The Desire of Ages, 1898, one of Ellen's most beautifully written books, did not originate with her. Rea shows side by side comparisons from all these books that were copied to produce The Desire of Ages:

o The Great Teacher, John Harris 1836

o The Life & Times of Jesus the Messiah, Alfred Edersheim 1883

o The Life of Christ, William Hanna 1863

o The Life of Christ, Ferederic W. Farrar 1877

o Walks and Homes of Jesus, Daniel March 1856

o Night Scenes in the Bible, Daniel March 1868-1870

o The Life of Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, John Fleetwood 1844

o The Life and Works of Christ, Cunningham Geikie 1883

Here are some comparisons:

The Desire of Ages

Ellen G. White 1898

[466] No external force is employed. Under the influence of the Spirit of God, man is left free to choose whom he will serve. In the change that takes place when the soul surrenders to Christ, there is the highest sense of freedom. The expulsion of sin is the act of the soul itself....

The only condition upon which the freedom of man is possible is that of becoming one with Christ. "The truth shall make you free;" and Christ is the truth. Sin can triumph only by enfeebling the mind, and destroying the liberty of the soul.

Subjection to God is restoration to one's self, to the true glory and dignity of man. The divine law, to which we are brought into subjection, is the "law of liberty."

The Great Teacher

John Harris 1836 (1870 ed.)

[126] No external force is employed....It is true, the change is necessitated; but that moral necessity is the highest form of freedom. It is true that the mind is brought under the authority of a new law; but that law is the royal law of liberty....He comes to the emancipation of the will from a state of slavery; (for sin can only triumph by enfeebling the mind and extinguishing the liberty of the soul;) and hence [he]....calls into exercise its noblest powers. Even the expulsion of sin is the act of the soul itself...."The only condition on which the freedom of a finite will is possible, is, by its becoming one with the will of God" ...so that subjection to him is restoration to one's self.9

(Underlining was added)

The Desire of Ages

Ellen G. White 1898

[419] Jesus calls to His side three of His disciples... and leads them across the fields, and far up a rugged path, to a lonely mountainside .The Saviour and His disciples have spent the day in traveling and teaching, and the mountain climb adds to their weariness. Christ has lifted burdens from mind and body of many suffer­ers; He has sent the thrill of life through their enfeebled frame;... He is wearied with the ascent....

The light of the setting sun still lingers on the mountaintop....

The disciples do not venture to ask Christ whither He is going, or for what purpose. He has often spent entire nights in the mountains in prayer.

Walks and Homes of Jesus

Daniel March 1856

[150] The Master calls the three fa­vorite disciples to himself, and makes his way... across the open fields... and up the steep ascent of the mountain. ... The light of the setting sun lingers long upon the top ....

He has spent the day in travel and in teaching, and this mountain climb at night adds a heavy weight to the weariness His hand has lifted the burden of infirmity from many shoulders, and sent the thrill of life into many a worn and wasted frame. But he himself is as much fatigued with the steep ascent as the impetu­ous Peter or the gentle John. They do not ask him whither he is going, or for what purpose.... They have known him many times to spend the whole night in desert places, or upon lonely mountains in prayer. 10

The thoughts expressed in The Desire of Ages aren't Ellen's original ideas, they aren't her beautiful words and they aren't visions from God. They are the expressions from all these writers from whom she copied.

Rea describes it this way, "Ellen's use of Hanna, and other sources as well, was not 'selected revelation,' with God's permission, to fill in a scene here or there to help a fading prophet's memory, but was a running commentary and paraphrase of each passage or chapter selected—often with pauses for a personal homily, but likewise often expanding that homily to be strikingly similar to the devotional material of the author copied." 11

Since her copying had become a well known fact, the White Estate took it upon themselves to catalog the percentages of her material they believe to be copied. They emphasize that this is the amount "presently known" and that it is an ongoing process. I believe it is just the tip of the iceberg and as they keep searching they keep finding more and more. It is painstakingly time consuming to find all these comparisons as you must read hundreds of books and then try to find the parallels in the other books. The White Estate lists 43 of her books that contain copied material. Even if you take the conservative numbers they say that 20% of the book The Great Controversy was copied, 12% of Sketches From the Life of Paul, 6% of Steps to Christ and so on.12 If I copied every 5th sentence of this essay without giving credit could I call it my own?

On their web page, the White Estate also quotes an attorney who proclaims that her use of other author's writings and making them her own was within the legal boundaries and it was not plagiarism.13 Excuse me, that is the definition of plagiarism! Where did they get this guy? Taking someone's material and passing it off as one's own was not right or acceptable in the 1800's and is it not right or acceptable now.

They go on to say, "Ellen White urged her readers to get copies of some of the very books she made use of—"14 I would be very interested if anyone could find one place where she said that. She never said it in any of her books. In fact, the only book where the publishers added some general comments about other sources being used was when The Great Controversy was republished in 1911, and that was only done because of the growing controversy over it.14

Some use the argument that she was shown in vision all these truths and ideas and that she wrote them down before she opened the books on her shelves containing the exact words and ideas written before that time. Hmmm.

The book The Great Controversy, 1886, had the most misuse of all. Besides the huge amount of content that was copied from James S. Wylie's book The History of Protestantism, 1876, they even took the pictures and illustrations from his book and deleted some of the artists' signatures or copied over them with "Pacific Press, Oakland, Cal." and put them into The Great Controversy. 15 Rea quotes a scholar named Don McAdams who did some research on this book:

"The historical portions of The Great Controversy that I have examined are selective abridgements and adaptation of historians. Ellen White was not just borrowing paragraphs here and there that she ran across in her reading, but in fact following the historians page after page, leaving out much material, but using their sequence, some of their ideas, and often their words. In the examples I have examined I have found no historical fact in her text that is not in their text. The hand-written manuscript on John Huss follows the historian so closely that it does not even seem to have gone through an intermediary stage, but rather from the historian's printed page to Mrs. Whites manuscript, including historical errors and moral exhortations." 16

Here are some comparisons:

The Great Controversy

E.G. White 1888 (1911 ed.)

[631] Celestial beings have taken an active part in the affairs of men. They have appeared clothed in garments that shone as the lightning; they have come as men in the garb of wayfarers. Angels have appeared in human form to men of God. They have rest­ed, as if weary, under the oaks at noon. They have accepted the hos­pitalities of human homes. They have acted as guides to benighted travel­ers. They have, with their own hands, kindled the fires at the altar. They have opened prison doors and set free the servants of the Lord. Clothed with the panoply of heaven, they came to roll away the stone from the Saviour's tomb.

In the form of men, angels are often in the assemblies of the righteous....

Night Scenes in the Bible

Daniel March 1868-1870

[453] These high and mighty ones ... have borne an active part both in the common and in the great events of this world.... They have taken the form of men, and shown themselves to human eyes, and spoken aloud in the languages of earth....

And these celestial visitants have come from their far distant homes to take part in the affairs of men....

[454] They have rested under the shadow of oaks at noon as if weary... they have received hospitality in human homes at evening... they have guided and protected travelers on their way... they have rolled away the stone from the tomb... they have kin­dled the fire of the altar... they have clothed themselves in garments that shone like the lightning, and they have appeared in so common a garb as to be taken for wayfaring men.17

The Great Controversy

E.G. White 1888 (1911 ed.)

[399] The slaying of the Passover lamb was a shadow of the death of Christ. Says Paul: "Christ our Pass­over is sacrificed for us."

1 Corin­thians 5:7. The sheaf of first fruits, which at the time of the Passover was waved before the Lord, was typical of the resurrection of Christ. Paul says, in speaking of the resurrection of the Lord and of all His people: "Christ the first fruits; afterward they that are Christ's at His coming." 1 Corin­thians 15:23. Like the wave sheaf, which was the first ripe grain gathered before the harvest, Christ is the first fruits of that immortal har­vest of redeemed ones that at the fu­ture resurrection shall be gathered into the garner of God.

Life Incidents

James White 1868

[162] The slaying of the Passover lamb was a type of the crucifixion of Christ. Paul says, Christ our Passover is sacrificed for us. 1 Cor. v, 7.

The sheaf of the first fruits of the harvest, which was waved before the Lord, was typical of the resurrection of Christ. Paul again says, in speak of the resurrection of the Lord and all his people, Christ, the first fruits, af­terward they that are Christ's at his coming. 1 Cor. xv, 23. As this sheaf was like the grain in all the wide harvest-field, only that it was the first ripe grain, so Christ arose from the dead a sample of all the just to be raised at his second coming. Then all the saints will have glorious bodies, like that of their divine Lord. Phil. iii, 21. 18

Steps to Christ

E.G. White 1892

[96] Another element of prevailing prayer is faith. "He that cometh to God must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of them that dili­gently seek Him." Hebrews 11:6....

But to claim that prayer will always he answered in the very way and for the particular thing that we desire is presumption.

God's Will Known and Done

Almon Underwood 1860

[291] Another requisite of prevail­ing prayer, is faith. 'He that cometh unto God, must believe that he is, and that he is a rewarder of those who diligently seek him." Heb. 11:6.... You are not to expect it to come in a par­ticular way, nor necessarily at Just such a time.19

Testimonies to Ministers

E.G. White 1923

[16] Consider ... His church, to be His own, His own fortress, which He holds in a sin-stricken, revolted world; and He intended that no au­thority should be known in it, no laws be acknowledged by it, but His own.

Satan has a large confederacy, his church. Christ calls them the synagogue of Satan because the members are the children of sin. The members of Satan's church have been constantly working to cast off the di­vine law, and confuse the distinction between good and evil....

The Great Teacher

John Harris 1836 (1870 ed.)

[158] It is the only fortress which he holds in a revolted world; and he intended, therefore, that no authority should be known in it, no laws ac­knowledged, but his own.... His high design is, that, as Satan has a church, (he himself speaks of the synagogue of Satan,) consisting of the children of sin, -- a church in which men have been always laboring to cast off the divine law, and to confound the dis­tinctions between good and evil....20

Here are some questions raised by Walter Rea:

"The fact of Ellen White's borrowing or plagiarizing has been docu­mented and acknowledged by recognized representatives of the Seventh-day Adventist Church over the years. But the information revealing the extent of her literary dependence has been deliberately kept from lay members until independent researchers began to make the facts public. Thus new problems arise because of these discoveries that have not yet been faced by the Adventist people or their present leaders. For example:

1. "Why did Ellen change most, if not all, of the copied author's speculations and suppositions into absolutes, so that the copywork made it appear that she was always on the scene of action in some "visionary" form, when obviously she wasn't?

2. "How do the footnotes and Bible texts she copied as fillers from others meet the criteria established for inspiration?

3. "How do the abuse and misuse of others' material on an extensive scale fit into the ethics of either her time or ours?

4. "Inasmuch as the extent of the copywork makes it certain that for Ellen to have done it all herself was humanly impossible, who among her helpers gets the credit for her "inspiration"?

5. "Whose authority are we now dealing with?"21

The Bible

This is probably the most serious area where I have convictions regarding Ellen White and her writings. This discussion will focus on several areas where she contradicts the Bible. When I first discovered some of these it was a hard pill to swallow. I could not believe that she could ever contradict the Bible. My upbringing had led me to believe that she was an instrument of God and that she regularly had visions from Him or had an angel standing by her dictating the messages that she was to write. God would not contradict Himself and inspire her with things that contradicted His Word.


The first topic is perfectionism. Ellen White teaches, in no uncertain terms, that we must achieve perfect characters BEFORE Christ returns and He will not remove any defects or sin from us at that time because we will have already reached perfection, but will instead just give us the "finishing touch of immortality" before we step into heaven.22 And with Christ's help through a lot of our own toil and effort can work out ALL of our character defects and become perfect in this life just like Christ was perfect!

These are her own words on the subject:

"When He comes He is not to cleanse us of our sins, to remove from us the defects in our characters, or to cure us of the infirmities of our tempers and dispositions. If wrought for us at all, this work will all be accomplished before that time. When the Lord comes, those who are holy will be holy still. Those who have preserved their bodies and spirits in holiness, in sanctification and honor, will then receive the finishing touch of immortality. But those who are unjust, unsanctified, and filthy will remain so forever. No work will then be done for them to remove their defects and give them holy characters. The Refiner does not then sit to pursue His refining process and remove their sins and their corruption. This is all to be done in these hours of probation. It is now that this work is to be accomplished for us....

"But as we lay hold upon the truth of God, its influence affects us. It elevates us and removes from us every imperfection and sin, of whatever nature. Thus we are prepared to see the King in His beauty and finally to unite with the pure and heavenly angels in the kingdom of glory."23

"Paul describes the work of God's ambassadors as that by which every man shall be presented perfect in Christ Jesus. Those who embrace the truth of heavenly origin should be refined, ennobled, sanctified through it. It will require much painstaking effort to reach God's standard of true manhood....

"Perfection of character is a lifelong work, unattainable by those who are not willing to strive for it in God's appointed way, by slow and toilsome steps."24

"None need fail of attaining, in his sphere, to perfection of Christian character. By the sacrifice of Christ, provision has been made for the believer to receive all things that pertain to life and godliness. God calls upon us to reach the standard of perfection and places before us the example of Christ's character. In His humanity, perfected by a life of constant resistance of evil, the Saviour showed that through co-operation with Divinity, human beings may in this life attain to perfection of character. This is God's assurance to us that we, too, may obtain complete victory."25

"We are not yet perfect; but it is our privilege to cut away from the entanglements of self and sin, and advance to perfection. Great possibilities, high and holy attainments, are placed within the reach of all."26

"A well-balanced character is formed by single acts well performed. One defect, cultivated instead of being overcome, makes the man imperfect, and closes against him the gate of the Holy City. He who enters heaven must have a character that is without spot or wrinkle or any such thing. Naught that defileth can ever enter there. In all the redeemed host not one defect will be seen."27

"The precious hours of probation are granted that you may remove every defect from your character, and this you should seek to do, not only that you may obtain the future life, but that you may useful in this life." 28 (underlining added)

I don't believe the Bible ever teaches that we can achieve a perfect character like Christ or be without sin in this life. The difference is that Christ was born without sin and never committed any. He "had no sin" in Him. (2 Cor. 5:21) We, on the other hand, were born into sin and continue to "fall short of the glory of God" (Romans 3:23). We have a sinful nature, Christ did not.

"If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness." (1 John 1:8,9)

We cannot get to the point in this life where we are without sin and are ready to step into heaven and all we need is for God to just give us the immortality part. The point at which this will occur, that is, to be changed into Christ's likeness, made perfect and void of a sinful nature is at Christ's return.

"Dear friends, now we are children of God, and what we will be has not yet been made known. But we know that when he appears, we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is." (1 John 3:2)

"and so, somehow, to attain to the resurrection from the dead. Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already been made perfect, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me." (Philippians 3:11,12)

"So will it be with the resurrection of the dead. The body that is sown is perishable, it is raised imperishable, it is sown in dishonor, it is raised in glory; it is sown in weakness, it is raised in power, it is sown a natural body, it is raised a spiritual body. If there is a natural body, there is also a spiritual body." (1 Corinthians 15:42-44)

These verses show us that we are changed when Christ appears, and the resurrection from the dead and being made perfect happen at the same event. And we go to the grave in dishonor and weakness and are raised in glory and power. Here is good news:

"And by that will, we have been made holy through the sacrifice of the body of Jesus Christ once for all." (Hebrews 10:10)

Christ has become "our righteousness, holiness and redemption."(1 Corinthians 1:30)

Although our goal is to be Christ-like, the only way we can be fit for heaven is by accepting Christ's perfect life to cover our lives and having His righteousness and holiness to stand in place of ours. It is not by us "removing every defect from our characters" through "slow and toilsome steps."

Saying or Feeling Saved

The next topic I want to discuss is the place where Ellen White says that we should not say that we are saved. Here is a passage from her book Christ's Object Lessons:

"Those who accept the Saviour, however sincere their conversion, should never be taught to say or feel that they are saved. This is misleading. Every one should be taught to cherish hope and faith; but even when we give ourselves to Christ and know that He accepts us, we are not beyond the reach of temptation.29 (Underlining added)

One of the reasons she gives for not saying we are saved is that we might fall into temptation. But even if we fall into temptation and sin, it doesn't mean that we are not saved. None of us are sinless. The Bible teaches and emphasizes repeatedly that we are saved.

"And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved." (Acts 2:47)

"We believe it is through the grace of our Lord Jesus that we are saved..." (Acts 15:11)

"For in this hope we were saved." (Romans 8:24)

"By this gospel you are saved..." (1 Corinthians 15:2)

"For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith..." (Ephesians 2:8)

"who wants all men to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth." (1Timothy 2:4)

"who has saved us and called us to a holy life--not because of anything we have done..." (2 Timothy 1:9)

"he saved us, not because of righteous things we had done, but because of his mercy. He saved us through the washing of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit," (Titus 3:5)

"I write these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God so that you may know that you have eternal life." (1 John 5:13)

The Heavenly Sanctuary

The topic we have just discussed could lead to interesting theological discussions in many different religious circles. But the next one I want to show is very clear. To me it is black and white. There is no mistaking what Ellen White says and what the book of Hebrews says. She differs completely from the Bible in this next doctrine. It is concerning Christ our High Priest in the heavenly sanctuary. The Israelites had a sanctuary or tabernacle that consisted of a "holy place", the first apartment and a "most holy place", the second apartment behind the curtain. The priests carried on ceremonies daily in the holy place year round but only the High Priest could enter the most holy place where God's presence lived and that was only once a year on the day of atonement. (Exodus chapters 25-40, Hebrews 9:1-12) In the New Testament Christ is our High Priest pleading on our behalf. After his death and resurrection he went into the most holy place in heaven in God's presence and acts as our High Priest. The book of Hebrews explains this in detail. Ellen White taught that Christ only entered the holy place at his ascension and didn't go into the most holy place until the year 1844.

Ellen White writes:

"For eighteen centuries this work of ministration continued in the first apartment of the sanctuary (Holy Place)"

"...when the 2300 days ended. At that time, as fortold by Daniel the prophet, our High Priest entered the most holy place, to perform the last division of His solemn work- to cleanse the sanctuary."

"...instead of coming to the earth at the termination of the 2300 days in 1844, Christ then entered the most holy place of the heavenly sanctuary to perform the closing work of atonement preparatory to His coming." 30

(Underlining added)

The Bible says:

"We have this hope as an anchor for the soul, firm and secure. It enters the inner sanctuary behind the curtain, where Jesus, who went before us, has entered on our behalf. He has become a high priest forever, in the order of Melchizedek."

(Heb 6:19-20)

"He did not enter by means of the blood of goats and calves; but he entered the Most Holy Place once for all by his own blood, having obtained eternal redemption." (Heb 9:12)

(See also: Hebrews 8:1-2, Hebrews 9:1-12, Hebrews 9:24, Hebrew 10:19-20)

Christ entered the Most Holy Place in God's presence at his ascension. This is recorded in Hebrews which was written back in the 1st century! He did not wait until the year 1844. Christ entered the Most Holy Place almost 2000 years before Ellen White says he did. What makes this more significant is that she claimed that God told her this interpretation in a vision. God does not contradict Himself!

This doctrine has more meaning to Ellen White and the Seventh-Day Adventist church than a casual observer would notice. This understanding or interpretation is what saved the movement when this church was just beginning. A little history will clarify how this came about.

Big revivals were happening in the United States during the 1830's and many new churches/sects started up like the Mormons, Christian Science, Jehovah's Witness, etc. There was a Baptist minister/scholar named William Miller who had about 200,000 followers and they were called the Millerites. Miller preached that Christ would return to earth on Oct. 22, 1843 based on his interpretation of Daniel 8:13,14. When Christ didn't return on that date there was a falling out of some of the followers while others recalculated and realized they missed a year in the calculation so the date should have been Oct. 22, 1844. The revival resumed only to collapse when Christ didn't come back again in 1844. What followed was called The Great Disappointment. Many believers left the movement disheartened. Ellen Harmon (Ellen White's maiden name) was one of the ones who stayed to figure out what happened. The movement was saved when Hirum Edson and Ellen Harmon reported seeing visions of Christ entering the most holy place of the heavenly sanctuary and concluded that this is what took place in 1844. So they believed this was the correct interpretation of Daniel 8:13,14. This offshoot from the Millerite movement became the Seventh-Day Adventist church. Sadly, this 3rd interpretation was also incorrect, but it has stuck with the church ever since. Over the years, some of the brightest scholars have left the church because of this doctrine and the use of Ellen White's writings.

Instead of believing that Daniel 8:13,14 foretold Christ's return in 1844, now they believed that the heavenly sanctuary was defiled by the sins of the saints and needed cleansing. They also believed the erroneous view that Christ did not go to the Most Holy Place in the presence of God at his ascension but only went to the Holy Place and stayed there until 1844 when He finally moved into the Most Holy Place to start an "Investigative Judgement" of the saints. Ellen White explains in The Great Controversy that in 1844 the "books of record" were opened and Christ started judging those who are "professed people of God" starting with the dead and moving on to the living.31 She writes: "Names are accepted, names rejected. When any have sins remaining on the books of record, unrepented of and unforgiven, their names will be blotted out of the books of life" 32 This is not judgment of the wicked, this is judgment of God's people from 1844 until now and your name could come up at any moment. According to this teaching, Christ is going over the books to see if you have any sins that might have been left on the books unrepented or unforgiven, and if He finds one, you are out of luck. This is not the God of the Bible I see! This "Investigative Judgement" is NOT Biblical! Yes God will judge the wicked but He rewards those who are His. When those who are covered by Christ's blood face the judgment, He hands out rewards not condemnation. Where in the Bible does it say God records the sins of His saints and then later uses it to blot their names out of the book of life?

The only place where the New Testament mentions blotting out someone's name is actually affirming that He will never blot out his name.

"He who overcomes will, like them, be dressed in white. I will never blot out his name from the book of life, but will acknowledge his name before my Father and his angels." (Revelation 3:5)

The Bible never gives the idea that God will blot our names out of the book of life if he happens to find one sin left on the books. This is what I see the Scripture saying:

"Repent, then, and turn to God, so that your sins may be wiped out, that times of refreshing may come from the Lord," (Acts 3:19)

"However, to the man who does not work but trusts God who justifies the wicked, his faith is credited as righteousness. David says the same thing when he speaks of the blessedness of the man to whom God credits righteousness apart from works:

"Blessed are they whose transgressions are forgiven, whose sins are covered."

"Blessed is the man whose sin the Lord will never count against him.""

(Romans 4:4-8)

"as far as the east is from the west, so far has he removed our transgressions from us." (Psalms 103:12)

"I, even I, am he who blots out your transgressions, for my own sake, and remembers your sins no more." (Isaiah 43:25)

"Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus,"

(Romans 8:1)

"I tell you the truth, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life and will not be condemned; he has crossed over from death to life." (John 5:24)

This "Investigative Judgement" that is woven into this doctrine does more to damage the Gospel than anything. It makes a person feel unsettled and unsure of his salvation.

When Ellen White and the early founders made this 3rd incorrect interpretation of

Daniel 8 they totally disregarded the context. Daniel 8:9-14 relates to an evil force (the little horn) desolating the earthly sanctuary NOT the sins of God's people desolating the heavenly sanctuary!

The prophecy in Daniel 8 refers to the earthly Jewish sanctuary. The 2300 days mentioned in Daniel 8:14 does not equal 2300 years, as they are assuming, which wrongly stretches it out to the year 1844. This prophecy was literally fulfilled in history (171-165 B.C.). Antiochus Epiphanes and his armies murdered the high priest, stopped the daily sacrifices and desecrated Israel's earthly sanctuary by slaughtering pigs on the alter. Judas Maccabees won back control of Jerusalem and reconsecrated the temple in 165 B.C. and the Jews still celebrate the Feast of Hanukkah to commemorate it. This terrible reign of Antiochus over Israel and their temple fits in the 2300 literal days of the Daniel 8:14 prophecy.33

Christ does have a ministry in the heavenly sanctuary as explained in Hebrews 8, 9, 10

but it has nothing to do with Daniel 8.

Stories of the Bible

Ellen White wrote (or copied) volumes of material filling in great details to the accounts and stories that are recorded in the Bible. She writes these details as if they are facts and that God gave her this extra knowledge and understanding. As I have written on this subject previously, her accounts of stories like Noah, the tower of Babel and Jacob's night wrestling with the angel are different and inaccurate from the Bible account. Who are we to believe when we see inaccuracies and we know much of this material didn't come through a vision from God but rather from other religious writers of her day?


To dispel any doubts about what she claimed for her own writings I will include these quotes as pointed out in Rea's book, page 52 & 189. Keep in mind that she refers to her writings collectively as the "testimonies" and there is a multi-volume set of her books called the Testimonies for the Church.

"In ancient times God spoke to men by the mouth of prophets and apostles. In these days he speaks to them by the Testimonies of His Spirit." 34

"If you lessen the confidence of God's people in the testimonies He has sent them, you are rebelling against God as certainly as were Korah, Dathan, and Abiram." 35

"Although I am as dependent upon the Spirit of the Lord in writing my views as I am in receiving them, yet the words I employ in describing what I have seen are my own." 36

"Abundant light has been given to our people in these last days. Whether or not my life is spared, my writings will constantly speak, and their work will go forward as long as time shall last. My writings are kept on file in the office, and even though I should not live, these words that have been given to me by the Lord will still have life and will speak to the people." 37

"When I went to Colorado I was so burdened for you that, in my weakness, I wrote many pages to be read at your camp meeting. Weak and trembling, I arose at three o'clock in the morning to write you. God was speaking through clay. You might say that this communication was only a letter. Yes, it was a letter, but prompted by the Spirit of God, to bring before your minds things that had been shown me. In these letters which I write, in the testimonies I bear, I am presenting to you what the Lord has presented to me. I do not write one article in the paper expressing merely my own ideas, they are what God has opened before me in vision- precious rays of light shining from the throne." 38

All of these issues concerning Ellen White wouldn't matter so much if only she had claimed to be just another Christian writer and her followers believed the same. But she claimed that she had a direct connection with God, received thousands of visions and at times had an angel standing next to her showing her what to write. This puts her a cut above all the rest. And it makes her an inspired prophet of God as officially held by the Seventh-Day Adventist church.

I can't go down this road any longer because of all the reasons I've shared in this paper. Each one has to make their own decision. I know that for many Adventists who read this it will have no effect at all. But I still have the hope that for someone it may spark an interest as to what the truth is concerning all of this.

I know I am very dogmatic. I see things as black & white. I don't have time for truth mixed with error. There is barely enough time to study the truth. I can get emotionally charged when discussing this. I only hope that I haven't put this forward in an offensive manner causing it to take away from the meaning.

Even though these issues have a huge bearing on one's beliefs and practice, I know that the most important issue is what you do with Christ when confronted with the truth about Him.

"For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him. Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because he has not believed in the name of God's one and only Son." (John 3:16-18)


  1. Desmond Ford, Daniel 8:14, The Day of Atonement and the Investigative Judgment

(Euangelion Press, 1980)

  1. Ellen White, Testimonies, Volume 5, p.67
  2. Walter Rea, The White Lie, (M & R Publications, 1982), p. 48-49
  3. Ibid, 3rd & 4th page of the Prologue
  4. Ibid, p. 77
  5. Ibid, p. 313
  6. Ibid, p. 313
  7. Ibid, p. 91-92
  8. Walter Rea, The White Lie, (M & R Publications, 1982), p. 49-50
  9. Ibid, p. 147
  10. Ibid, p. 164
  11. Ibid, p. 361
  12. Ibid, p. 238-239
  13. Ibid, p. 379
  14. Ibid, p. 381
  15. Ibid, 6th page of the Prologue
  16. Ellen G. White, Christian Temperance, Vol.2, p. 355
  17. Ibid, p. 355
  18. Ellen G. White, Testimony for the Church, Vol.5, p. 500
  19. Ellen G. White, The Acts of the Apostles, p. 530
  20. Ibid, p. 565
  21. Ellen G. White, Messages to Young People, p. 144
  22. Ibid, p. 415-416
  23. Ellen G. White, Christ's Object Lessons, p. 155
  24. Ellen G. White, The Great Controversy, p. 372-3 (paperback)
  25. Ibid, p. 422-425
  26. Ibid, p. 425
  27. The 2300 Day Prophecy of Daniel Eight, Bible Advocate Press, 1981, p. 36-38
  28. EGW, Testimonies for the Church, vol.4, pp.147-148 Testimony 27 (1876)

35. Ibid, vol.5, p. 66 Testimony 31 (1882)

36. EGW, Selected Messages, Book 1, p. 37

37. General Conference of SDA, Exec Committee to W.C.White, Oct.3, 1921 p. 3

38. EGW, Selected Messages, Book 1, p. 27

By Tim Sly June 2002


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