Embarrassing Failed Prophecies
In her early career Mrs. White made a number of predictions about Christ's imminent return. The most notable of those was a specific prediction made at a conference of believers in 1856. This statement was later published in the book Testimonies and received widespread attention within the SDA Church. Mrs. White claimed she was shown in vision that some of those present at the 1856 conference would be translated:
I was shown the company present at the Conference. Said the angel: "Some food for worms, some subjects of the seven last plagues, some will be alive and remain upon the earth to be translated at the coming of Jesus." Testimonies, Vol. 1, p. 131
A Failed Prophecy?
Mrs. White was given a vision showing the fate of those people attending the conference. She specifically states that some of them will suffer the seven last plagues, and some will be alive when Jesus returns. The Whites had such confidence in this "vision" that it was published in Mrs. White's Testimonies to the Church and received widespread distribution. However, by the early 1900s all those who attended the conference had passed away, leaving the Church with the dilemma of trying to figure out how to explain away such a prominent prophetic failure.
The Bible leaves no doubt that when a prophet makes a prediction that does not come to pass, that prophet is not speaking for the Lord:
When a prophet speaketh in the name of the LORD, if the thing follow not, nor come to pass, that is the thing which the LORD hath not spoken, but the prophet hath spoken it presumptuously: thou shalt not be afraid of him. Deut. 18:22
Do God's Angels lie?
In order to believe Ellen White's statement, one must conclude that the angels are liars. Why? Notice what Jesus said about His return:
But of that day and hour knoweth no man, no, not the angels of heaven, but my Father only. Matt. 24:36
Jesus said only the Father knows the day. The angels do not know the day of Christ's return! The return date is a secret known only to God. The very purpose of Christ making this statement is to warn us not to believe any human or angelic being who comes to us saying they know the day of Christ's return.
If the angels do not know the day of Christ's return, then how could they tell Ellen White that some of those present at the 1856 conference would be translated? Did God go against Christ's Word and let the angels in on the secret?
Think about this:
· God is omniscient. He is all-knowing. He knows the future. God knows the exact day and the exact hour He is returning to earth (Matt. 24:36). He has known that exact day and exact hour since before the world was created.
· God "cannot lie" (Titus 1:2). Therefore, it is an absolute impossibility that God could have told His angels He was returning within the life span of the people at the 1856 conference. If He had told his angels that he was returning in the 1800s, while knowing all along that the day and hour were yet far into the future, then He would be a liar.
Why would God--knowing all along the exact time of His return--allow His angel to tell His prophet something which He knew was NOT going to happen?
One thing is certain: If an angel did tell Ellen White Christ was going to return, it was not God's angel.
Also See The Truth About Angels
Did God Change His Mind?
Mrs. White's failure presented a dilemma for the Church. How could the failure be explained away?
A theory was soon formulated. The failure was not Ellen White's fault. It was the Adventist people's fault. They failed in their mission, so God had to postpone Christ's return.
Let's pretend for a moment that is true. God intended to come shortly after 1856. He told it to His angel. The angel told His prophet. She told it to the church. But then the Adventist people got lazy, didn't give enough tithes and offerings to spread the word, and failed in their mission. Question: Didn't God already know in 1856 that the Adventist people would fail? Didn't He already know they wouldn't give enough tithes and offerings? Of course He knew! That means that God knew for a fact He was not coming in the lifetime of those attending the 1856 conference, but He went ahead and told the SDA people a lie in order to try to motivate them to work harder! That theory is preposterous!
In order to support this preposterous theory, Adventists pointed to the story of Jonah. Jonah was sent to Nineveh with the message:
Adventists point to this verse as evidence that God changes His mind and prophetic predictions can be nullified. Is this true?
There are two types of prophecy in the Bible, conditional and unconditional.
A conditional prophecy is one in which the prediction is predicated upon a condition, such as...
If my people, which are called by my name, shall humble themselves, and pray, and seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways; then will I hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin, and will heal their land. (2 Chronicles 7:14)
An unconditional prophecy is one in which there is no condition predicated. For example, the promise of Jesus' return is an unconditional prediction. There is no question it will happen:
I will come again, and receive you unto myself; that where I am, there ye may be also. John 14:3
A review of Mrs. White's 1856 statement indicates there are no conditions stated explicitly or even implied in the prophecy. Mrs. White simply says that some of those at the conference will be alive when Christ returns. There is no condition such as...
"If you work hard, and give lots of offerings, then Christ will return..."
The prophecy was never understood as conditional during Mrs. White's lifetime. It was only after the last person attending the conference died that church apologists started to say the prophecy was conditional.
Jonah was pointed to as an example, because Jonah told the people Nineveh would be destroyed in 40 days, but the destruction did not take place. However, it is obvious that Jonah's prophecy is conditional. It was so obvious, that even Sister White herself said so:
Yet Nineveh, wicked though it had become, was not wholly given over to evil. He who "beholdeth all the sons of men" (Psalm 33:13) and "seeth every precious thing" (Job 28:10) perceived in that city many who were reaching out after something better and higher, and who, if granted opportunity to learn of the living God, would put away their evil deeds and worship Him. And so in His wisdom God revealed Himself to them in an unmistakable manner, to lead them, if possible, to repentance. (Prophets and Kings, pp. 255,256)
If God had wanted to destroy Nineveh, He could easily have destroyed it without warning, as He destroyed Sodom. However, His purpose was to lead the city to repentance, which is why Jonah was sent to preach there. The people of Nineveh understood that unless they repented and turned from their evil ways, God would destroy them in 40 days. Therefore, it is abundantly evident that Jonah's prophecy was conditional. The same cannot be said for Mrs. White's prophecy. There is no evidence that anyone believed it to be conditional until after it failed.
What good is a prophecy if, after it fails, the prophet can then say "it was conditional on such and such a condition..." when those conditions were never spelled out or understood before it failed? If this kind of manipulation were permitted, any self-proclaimed prophet could make a prophecy, and then when it failed, invent some conditions which were never before communicated as being a part of the prophecy, and then claim its failure was based upon those heretofore-unknown conditions! What a farce!
An Unbroken String of Failures Predicting Christ's Return
The 1856 prediction was the last in an amazingly unsuccessful series of predictions of Christ's return made by Ellen White. Lucinda Burdick, a friend of Mrs. White in the 1840's, explains how Mrs. White often predicted Christ's return:
I became acquainted with James White and Ellen Harmon (now Mrs. White) early in 1845. ... She pretended God showed her things which did not come to pass. At one time she saw that the Lord would come the second time in June 1845. The prophecy was discussed in all the churches, and in a little "shut-door paper" published in Portland, Me. During the summer, after June passed, I heard a friend ask her how she accounted for the vision? She replied that "they told her in the language of Canaan, and she did not understand the language; that it was the next September that the Lord was coming, and the second growth of grass instead of the first in June." September passed, and many more have passed since, and we have not seen the Lord yet. It soon became evident to all candid persons, that many things must have been "told her in the language of Canaan," or some other which she did not understand, as there were repeated failures. I could mention many which I knew of myself.
Once, when on their way to the eastern part of Maine, she saw that they would have great trouble with the wicked, be put in prison, etc. This they told in the churches as they passed through. When they came back, they said they had a glorious time. Friends asked if they had seen any trouble with the wicked, or prisons? They replied, "None at all." People in all the churches soon began to get their eyes open, and came out decidedly against her visions; and, just as soon as they did so, she used to see them "with spots on their garments," as she expressed it. I was personally acquainted with several ministers, whom she saw landed in the kingdom with "Oh! such brilliant crowns, FULL of stars." As soon as they took a stand against the visions, she saw them "doomed, damned, and lost for ever, without hope." (An Examination of Mrs. Ellen White's Visions, Miles Grant, Boston: Published by the Advent Christian Publication Society, 1877)
Despite her failures in 1844 and 1845, Mrs. White continued predicting Christ's imminent return. In 1849 her associate Joseph Bates announced that the "time of trouble has began." In the summer of 1849 a local pestilence struck the region. Mrs. White, seeing this as a fulfillment of prophecy indicating the end of the world, predicts this pestilence will soon become widespread:
"What we have seen and heard of the pestilence, is but the beginning of what we shall see and hear. Soon the dead and dying will be all around us." (Present Truth, Sept. 1849).
(Note: Not long after this prophecy was penned the pestilence ended and the United States entered a period of relative peace and prosperity that lasted for many years. The above quote was removed from the article when it was republished in Early Writings in 1882 and few Adventists are aware of its existence.)
By April of 1850 Mrs. White was claiming that the final shaking had begun:
"The mighty shaking has commenced." (Present Truth, April, 1850)
Meanwhile, her husband James was claiming that the departure of God's people from Babylon (Rev. 18:4) was already completed:
"Babylon, the nominal church is fallen. God's people have come out of her. She is now the 'synagogue of Satan' (Rev. 3:9). 'The habitation of devils, and the hold of every foul spirit, and the cage of every unclean and hateful bird' (Rev. 18:2)." (Present Truth, April, 1850)
On June 27, 1850, Mrs. White wrote that only a few months remained for the people to get ready:
"My accompanying angel said, 'Time is almost finished. Get ready, get ready, get ready.' . . . now time is almost finished. . . and what we have been years learning, they will have to learn in a few months." (Early Writings, pp. 64-67).
This is a very significant statement. Mrs. White was saying that the truths that she and her associates had spent five years learning would have to be learned by new converts in only a few months. By September of 1850 Mrs. White was warning that Jesus was nearly finished in the Most Holy Place:
"I saw that the time for Jesus to be in the most Holy place was nearly finished, and that time cannot last but a very little longer. ... The sealing time is very short and soon will be over."—Experience & Views pp. 46-47.
When Christ did not return as expected in the early 1850s, Mrs. White gradually stopped making specific predictions about His return. Her statement at the 1856 conference was the last time she ever made a specific prediction about the time of Christ's return, and, like all of her previous statements on the subject, time has proven her prophecies wrong.
(The Ellen White Research Project)