Great Controversy Vision

Pages 13-20: "My First Vision." --that which is presented in this chapter was first published by the editor of the Day-Star on January 24, 1846, as "A Letter from Sister Harmon" dated "Portland, Maine, Dec. 20, 1845." It appeared again in print in 1846, 1847, and 1851 under the title "To the Remnant Scattered Abroad." The present title was assigned in 1882 in the reprinting of Experience and Views.

Detailed autobiographical accounts as published in 1860 and 1885 present that which appears here as two distinct visions. See "My First Vision" in Spiritual Gifts, vol. 2, pp. 30-35; Testimonies, vol. 1, pp. 58-61; and "Vision of the New Earth," in Spiritual Gifts, vol. 2, pp. 52-55; Testimonies, vol. 1, pp.

Pages 15-20: Portrayal of Future Events.--as Mrs. White described that which God revealed to her concerning future events, she did so, at times, as one participating in these events, whether they were in the past or the present or the future. In response to inquiries as to her state in vision, she wrote:

"When the Lord sees fit to give a vision, I am taken into the presence of Jesus and angels, and am entirely lost to earthly things. . . . My attention is often directed to scenes transpiring upon earth. At times I am carried far ahead into the future and shown what is to take place. Then again I am shown things as they have occurred in the past."--Spiritual Gifts, vol. 2, p. 292.

Ellen White, an Adventist herself, wrote as one present who saw and heard that which is yet to take place; e.g.,


"Soon we heard the voice of God like many waters, which gave us the day and hour of Jesus' coming."--page 15.


"We all entered the cloud together, and were seven days ascending to the sea of glass, when Jesus brought the crowns, and with His own right hand placed them on our heads."--page 16.


"We all marched in and felt that we had a perfect right in the city."


"We saw the tree of life and the throne of God."


"With Jesus at our head we all descended from the city down to this earth."--page 17.


"As we were about to enter the holy temple . . ."


"The wonderful things I there saw I cannot describe."-- page 19.

After the vision she was able to recall much of what had been shown to her, but that which was secret, and not to be revealed, she could not recall. As a part of the scene of what is to take place when God's people are delivered (page 285), she heard announced "the day and hour of Jesus' coming" (page 15; see also page 34). But of this she later wrote:

"I have not the slightest knowledge as to the time spoken by the voice of God. I heard the hour proclaimed, but had no remembrance of that hour after I came out of vision. Scenes of such thrilling, solemn interest passed before me, as no language is adequate to describe. It was all a living reality to me."--Ellen G. White Letter 38, 1888, published in Selected Messages, book 1, p. 76.

The fact that she seemed to be participating in certain events offered no guarantee that she would be a participant when the events occurred.

Page 17: Brethren Fitch and Stockman.--In the account of her first vision Mrs. White makes reference to "Brethren Fitch and Stockman" as men she met and conversed with in the New Jerusalem. Both were ministers with whom Ellen White had been acquainted and who had taken an active part in proclaiming the message of the expected Advent of Christ, but who had died shortly before the disappointment of October 22, 1844.

Charles Fitch, a Presbyterian minister, accepted the Advent message from reading William Miller's lectures and through his meeting with Josiah Litch. He threw himself wholeheartedly into the proclamation of the expected Advent of Christ at the close of the 2300-year period, and became a prominent leader in the Advent awakening. In 1842 he designed the prophetic chart used so effectively and referred to in Early Writings on page 74. He died a little more than a week before October 22, 1844. His death came about through illness contracted through over-exposure in conducting three baptismal services on a chilly autumn day. (See Prophetic Faith of Our Fathers, vol. 4, pp. 533-545.)

Levi F. Stockman was a youthful Methodist minister of the State of Maine who in 1842, with about thirty other Methodist ministers, embraced and began to preach the second Advent of Christ. He was laboring in Portland, Maine, when in 1843 his health failed. He died of tuberculosis on June 25, 1844. It was to him that Mrs. White, as a girl, went for advice when in her discouragement God spoke to her in two dreams. (See Early Writings, pp. 12, 78-81; Prophetic Faith of Our Fathers, vol. 4, pp. 780-782.)

Page 21: Mesmerism.--In order to justify their opposition, some early enemies of the visions suggested that Ellen white's experience was brought about through mesmerism, a phenomenon known today as hypnosis. Hypnosis is a state resembling sleep, induced through the power of suggestion, the hypnotized subject being in rapport with the one inducing the state and responsive to his suggestions. When, however, as Mrs. White here reports, a mesmerizing physician attempted to hypnotize her, he was helpless in her presence.

Ellen White early in her experience was cautioned regarding the perils of hypnosis, and in later years, on a number of occasions, she received instruction regarding it. She warned of the grave dangers accompanying any practice in which one mind would control another mind. (See the Ministry of Healing, pp. 242-244; Medical Ministry, pp. 110-112; Selected Messages, book 2, pp. 349, 350, 353.)

Page 33: Nominal Adventists.--Those who united in sounding the first and second angels' messages but who rejected the third angel's message with its Sabbath truth, but nonetheless continued to espouse the Advent hope, are referred to by Mrs. White as the "nominal Adventists," or those who "reject the present truth" (page 69), also "different parties of professed Advent believers" (page 124). In our early literature these people were also referred to as "first-day Adventists."

A large number of Christians were disappointed in the autumn of 1844 when Christ did not come as they expected. The Adventists divided into several groups, the survivors of which today comprise the Advent Christian Church, a small body, and the Seventh-Day Adventists.

Only a few among the Adventists maintained their confidence in the fulfillment of prophecy in 1844, but those who did stepped forward into the third angel's message with its seventh-day Sabbath. Of the experience at that critical period Ellen White later wrote:

"Had Adventists, after the great disappointment in 1844, held fast their faith, and followed on unitedly in the opening providence of God, receiving the message of the third angel and in the power of the Holy Spirit proclaiming it to the world, they would have seen the salvation of God, the Lord would have wrought mightily with their efforts, the work would have been completed, and Christ would have come ere this to receive His people to their reward.

"But in the period of doubt and uncertainty that followed the disappointment, many of the Advent believers yielded their faith. Dissensions and divisions came in. The majority opposed with voice and pen the few who, following in the providence of God, received the Sabbath reform and began to proclaim the third angel's message. Many who should have devoted their time and talents to the one purpose of sounding warning to the world, were absorbed in opposing the Sabbath truth, and in turn, the labor of its advocates was necessarily spent in answering these opponents and defending the truth. Thus the work was hindered, and the world was left in darkness. Had the whole Adventist body united upon the commandments of God and the faith of Jesus, how widely different would have been our history!" --Selected Messages, book 1, p. 68.

Pages 42-45: Open and Shut Door.--As Mrs. White discussed the great Advent movement and the disappointment of October 22, 1844, in The Great Controversy and referred to the positions taken immediately after the disappointment, she makes mention

of the inevitable conclusion that was held for a short time that "the door of mercy was shut." But as she states, "clearer light came with the investigation of the sanctuary question." See "historical prologue" in this volume and The Great Controversy, page 429, and the entire chapter "In the Holy of Holies," pages 423-432.

Concerning her own personal relationship to this matter, she wrote in 1874 that she "never had a vision that no more sinners would be converted." Nor did she ever teach this view. "It was the light given me of God," she wrote at another time, "that corrected our error, and enabled us to see the true position." (Selected Messages, book 1, pp. 74, 63.)

Pages 43, 44, and 86: Mysterious Knockings in New York, and Rochester Knockings.--Reference is here made to incidents relating to the beginnings of modern spiritualism. In 1848 mysterious rappings were heard in the home of the Fox family at Hydesville, a community about thirty-five miles east of the city of Rochester, New York. At a time when there were various conjectures as to the cause of the rappings, Ellen White announced, on the authority of the vision given to her, that they were a manifestation of spiritualism, that this phenomenon would develop rapidly, and in the name of religion would gain popularity and deceive multitudes, developing into Satan's last-day masterpiece of deception.

Page 50: Messengers Without a Message.--This expression appears in an account of a view given to Ellen White on January 26, 1850. At this time the Sabbathkeeping Adventists had no church organization. Nearly all were fearful that any type of organization would bring in formality among the believers. But as time went on, discordant elements began to make their way into the ranks. Messages of warning came from Ellen White, and the Sabbathkeeping Adventists were led step by step to adopt the forms of church organization. As a result the companies of believers were knit together more closely than before; a way was devised to give recognition to ministers who gave evidence that they could preach the message and support it with their lives; and provision was made to cast out those who, under the pretext of presenting truth, taught error. See "Historical Prologue."

Pages 61, 62: Unity of the Shepherds.--see note for page 50, Messengers Without a Message.

Page 75: Duty to go to Old Jerusalem.--Mrs. White refers to erroneous views then held by a very few. The next year, in the Review and Herald of October 7, 1851, James White writes of "The distracting, unprofitable views relative to Old Jerusalem and the Jews, etc., that are afloat at the present time," and of "the strange notions that some have run into, that the saints have yet to go to Old Jerusalem, etc., etc."

Page 77: Editor of the Day-Star.--Enoch Jacobs lived in Cincinnati, Ohio, and published the Day-Star, one of the early journals proclaiming the second Advent of Christ. It was to Enoch Jacobs that Ellen Harmon in December, 1845, sent an account of her first vision, hoping to stabilize him. She had observed that he was wavering in his confidence in God's leadership in the Advent experience. It was in the Day-Star that the editor published Mrs. White's first vision, in the issue of January 24, 1846. In a special number of his journal, the Day-Star Extra, February 7, 1846, the memorable article concerning the heavenly sanctuary and its cleansing, prepared by Hiram Edson, Dr. Hahn, and O. R. L. Crozier, was published. It set forth the Scripture teaching relative to the ministry of Christ in the most holy place of the heavenly sanctuary beginning October 22, 1844. In this journal also on March 14, 1846, a second communication from Ellen Harmon's pen was published. (See Early Writings, pages 32-35.) Reference in the paragraph under discussion is to later views held by Mr. Jacobs and the spiritualistic delusions he espoused.

Page 86: See appendix note for pages 43, 44.

Page 89: Thomas Paine. --The writings of Thomas Paine were well known and widely read in the United States in the 1840's. His book age of Reason was a deistic work and detrimental to Christian faith and practice. The book began with the words "I believe in one God and no more." Paine had no faith in Christ, and he was used successfully by Satan in his attacks upon the church. As Mrs. White indicated, if such a man as Paine could find entrance to heaven and be highly honored there, any sinner, without a reformation of life and without faith in Jesus Christ, could find admittance. She exposed this fallacy in vigorous language and pointed out the irrationality of spiritualism.

Page 101: Perfectionism. --Some of the early Adventists, shortly after the 1844 experience, lost their hold on God and drifted into fanaticism. Ellen White met these extremists with a "Thus saith the Lord." She rebuked those who taught a state of perfection in the flesh and therefore could not sin. Of such Mrs. White later wrote:

"They held that those who are sanctified cannot sin. And this naturally led to the belief that the affections and desires of the sanctified ones were always right, and never in danger of leading them into sin. In harmony with these sophistries, they were practicing the worst sins under the garb of sanctification, and through their deceptive, mesmeric influence were gaining a strange power over some of their associates, who did not see the evil of these apparently beautiful but seductive theories. . . .

"Clearly the deceptions of these false teachers were laid open before me, and I saw the fearful account that stood against them in the book of records, and the terrible guilt that rested upon them for professing complete holiness while their daily Acts were offensive in the sight of God."--Life Sketches, pp. 83, 8.

Pages 116 and 117: The Lord's Supper; Women Washing Men's Feet, and the Holy Kiss. --The pioneers of the Seventh-Day Adventist Church, having accepted the Sabbath truth, eagerly reached out to follow the Word of God in every particular, while at the same time they were careful to protect themselves against distorted interpretations of the Word and any extremes or fanaticism. They saw clearly the privileges and the obligations of the Lord's supper established for the church by our Lord. There was some question about foot washing and the holy kiss. In this vision the Lord made clear certain delicate points that would guide and guard the emerging church.

As to the matter of the frequency with which the ordinances should be observed, some insisted on once a year; but the instruction was given that the Lord's supper should be more frequently practiced. Today the church follows the plan of observing the ordinances four times annually.

Counsel was given concerning the washing of feet. Apparently there were some differences of opinion as to the procedure to be followed. Some had moved injudiciously and the result had been "confusion." Counsel was given that this ordinance should be performed with care and reserve, in such a way as not to arouse prejudice. There was some question about the propriety of men and women washing one another's feet. On this point Ellen White brought forth Scripture evidence which indicated that it would be proper for a woman--apparently under certain conditions--To wash the feet of a man, but she counseled against a man washing the feet of a woman.

Concerning the holy kiss, the SDA Bible Commentary states:

"In the east, especially, the kiss was a common mode of expressing love and friendship in greeting. (See Luke 7:45; Acts 20:37.) The 'holy kiss,' or 'kiss of charity' (1 Peter 5:14), was a symbol of Christian affection. It seems to have become a custom with early Christians to exchange this greeting at the time of the Lord's Supper (Justin Martyr First Apology 65). Later writings indicate that it was not the custom to give this `holy kiss' to one of the opposite sex (Apostolic Constitutions ii. 57; viii. 11)."-- The SDA Bible Commentary, vol. 7, pp. 257, 258.

It was the custom among the early Sabbathkeeping Adventists to exchange the holy kiss at the ordinance of humility. No reference is made to obvious impropriety of exchanging the holy kiss between men and women, but there is a call for all to abstain from all appearance of evil.

Page 118: Making a Noise. --The gospel net draws in all types of people. There were some who felt that their religious experience was not genuine unless marked by noisy, demonstrative shouts of praise to God, loud and excited prayers, and animated amens. Here again the church in its early experience was given a note of warning, calling for decorum and solemnity in the worship of God.

Pages 229-232: William Miller. --In the references to the great Advent awakening in America in the 1830's and 1840's, William Miller is often mentioned. In the book The Great Controversy an entire chapter is devoted to the life and ministry of William Miller under the title "an American reformer" (pages 317-342). William Miller was born in Pittsfield, Massachusetts, in 1782 and died in Low Hampton, New York, in 1849. At the age of four he moved with his parents to Low Hampton, New York, near lake Champlain and grew up on a frontier farm. He was always studious and a careful reader. He became a leader in his community. In 1816 he set about to give careful study to the Word of God, and his study led him to the great time prophecies and the prophecies relating to the second Advent. He concluded that the second coming of Christ was near. After reviewing his positions over a period of years and assuring himself as to their certainty, he responded in early August, 1831, to an invitation to publicly present his views on the prophecies. From then on his time was devoted largely to the heralding of the Advent message. In due time he was joined by hundreds of other Protestant ministers who participated in the great Advent awakening of the 1840's.

At the time of the disappointment on October 22, 1844, Miller was worn and ill. He depended largely on his younger associates who stood with him in proclaiming the Advent message. They led him to reject the Sabbath truth as it came to his attention soon after the disappointment. For this they, and not William Miller, will be held responsible. Ellen White writes of this experience on page 258, and assures us that Miller will be among those who will be called from their graves at the sound of the last trump.

Pages 232-240, 254-258: Three Angels' Messages of Revelation 14. --In a series of three chapters, beginning on page 232, Ellen White discusses the first, second, and third angels' messages. She was writing for those who with her had passed through the great Advent awakening and the disappointments of the spring and fall of 1844. She did not attempt to enter into an explanation of these three messages, but assumed that her readers had a full knowledge of this experience. She presented that which would bring courage and understanding to her fellow believers in the light of their experience. We must turn to her book The Great Controversy for a detailed account of the burden of these messages. The first angel's message sounded the warning of the approach of the hour of God's judgment. See The Great Controversy. chapters "Heralds of the Morning," pages 299-316, "An American Reformer," pages 317-342; and "A Great Religious Awakening," pages 355-374. For the presentation of the message of the second angel, see the chapter "A Warning Rejected," beginning on page 375. The account of the disappointment is presented in the chapters "Prophecies Fulfilled," pages 391-408; "What is the Sanctuary?" pages 409-422; and "the Holy of Holies," pages 423-432. The third angel's message is set forth in the chapter "God's Law Immutable," pages 433-450; and "A Work of Reform," pages 451-460.

Page 238: Close of the Second Angel's Message. --while we understand clearly that the messages of the first and second and third angels are messages that have their application today, we recognize also that in their initial proclamation the sounding of the first angel's message with its declaration that "the hour of God's judgment is come" is linked with the proclamation of the expected Advent of Christ in the 1830's and early 1840's. The second angel's message had its initial sounding early in the summer of 1844 in the call to the Advent believers to come out of the nominal churches that had rejected the proclamation of the first angel's message. And while it is true that the second angel's message continues to be present truth, there was a climactic closing up of the second angel's message immediately preceding October 22, 1844. When the messages of the three angels come prominently before the world again just before the second Advent of Christ, the angel of Revelation 18:1 joins in the proclamation of the second angel in the message that "Babylon is fallen." "Come out of her, my people." See the chapter "The Final Warning" in The Great Controversy, pages 603-612.

Page 254: See appendix note for pages 232-240.

Page 276: Slaves and Master. --According to Revelation 6:15, 16 there will be slavery at the second advent of Christ. Here we find the words "every bondman, and every free man." The statement by Ellen White under discussion indicates that she was shown in vision the slave and the slave master at the second advent of Christ. In this she is in perfect accord with the Bible. Both John and Mrs. White were shown conditions that would exist at the second coming of our Lord. While it is true that negro slaves in the United States were freed by the emancipation proclamation, which went into effect six years after statement under discussion was penned, the message is not made invalid, for even today there are millions of men and women in actual or virtual slavery in different parts of the world. It is not possible to pass judgment on a prophecy of the future until we have reached the time for the fulfillment of that prophecy.

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