Ellen White, the Adventist Pioneers, and the Lunar Sabbath
Christianity today embraces nearly two billion believers in thousands of separate and distinct denominations and sects. Of these, over 500 denominations believe that the fourth commandment (requiring worship on the seventh-day of the week) is still binding on Christians today. Seventh-day Adventists, with a membership of nearly 17 million is the twelfth largest Christian denomination in the world and the largest of the Saturday-Sabbath keeping denominations. The seventh-day Sabbath is very precious to Seventh-day Adventists. The fourth commandment contains the "seal of God." Thus, worship on the seventh-day Sabbath is a sign of loyalty to the Creator.
In recent years, there has been growing agitation across Christendom for a return to the Biblical luni-solar calendar for determining times of worship. While many Sunday-keeping Christians find this a matter of interesting but irrelevant history, Saturday-keeping Christians find the subject threatening. Saturday-Sabbatarians acknowledge the importance of worshipping on a precise day: the seventh day of the week. The suggestion that Saturday is not the Biblical Sabbath can feel like an attack on the very foundation of their belief system. For Seventh-day Adventists, this is compounded by the fact that Ellen White, an inspired messenger to the final generation, kept a Saturday Sabbath.
Many objections to the lunar Sabbath have been raised by concerned Adventists. These arguments may seem conclusive. However, the principle all must remember is that truth never contradicts itself. A careful analysis reveals that the lunar Sabbath is both Scriptural and supported by principles found in the writings of Ellen G. White.
The first question most Seventh-day Adventists ask when learning of the lunar Sabbath is:
Question/Objection: Did Ellen White know about the lunar Sabbath?
ANSWER: There is no clear evidence in the writings of Ellen White that she ever knew about the lunar Sabbath. However, certain statements she made indicate she sometimes knew more than she felt free to share:
Last night a scene was presented before me. I may never feel free to reveal all of it, but I will reveal a little. (Ellen White, Reflecting Christ, p. 243.)
Until recently I have not felt at liberty to speak of them [these matters], and even now I do not feel free to reveal all things because our people are not yet prepared to understand all that in the providence of God will be developed at Avondale. (Testimonies, Vol. 6, p. 181, emphasis supplied.)
As my brethren read the selections from letters, I knew what to say to them; for this matter has been presented to me again and again . . . I have not felt at liberty to write out the matter until now. (Special Testimonies for Ministers and Workers,No. 6, p. 47.)
To reject the lunar Sabbath simply because Ellen White did not know about it, is to reject the principle she so frequently repeated:
We must not think, "Well, we have all the truth, we understand the main pillars of our faith, and we may rest on this knowledge." The truth is an advancing truth, and we must walk in the increasing light.
New light will ever be revealed on the [divine] word . . . to him who is in living connection with the Sun of Righteousness. Let no one come to the conclusion that there is no more truth to be revealed. The diligent, prayerful seeker for truth will find precious rays of light yet to shine forth from the [sacred] word . . . Many gems are yet scattered that are to be gathered together to become the property of the remnant people . . . . (Ellen White, Counsels to Writers and Editors, pp. 33, 34.)
We must have living faith in our hearts and reach out for larger knowledge and more advanced light. (Review & Herald, March 25, 1890.)
Sister White strongly warned against rejecting new light just because it is new:
A spirit of pharisaism has been coming in upon the people who claim to believe the truth for these last days. They are self-satisfied. They have said, "We have the truth. There is no more light for the people of God." But we are not safe when we take a position that we will not accept anything else than that upon which we have settled as truth. We should take the Bible , and investigate it closely for ourselves. We should dig in the mine of God's word for truth. . . . Some have asked me if I thought there was any more light for the people of God. Our minds have become so narrow that we do not seem to understand that . . . [He] has a mighty work to do for us. Increasing light is to shine upon us; for "the path of the just is as the shining light, that shineth more and more unto the perfect day." [Proverbs 4:18] (Review & Herald, June 18, 1889)
Some people have questioned:
Question/Objection: How could the lunar Sabbath be true light and yet not given to the pioneers? The Holy Spirit revealed so much light to the pioneers! How could they not see this if it were true?
ANSWER: Each generation has a special light given in their day. This advanced truth is available to all who will humble their hearts and seek it.
As early as 1854, Ellen White was warning the early believers:
Stupidity, like lethargy, seemed to hang upon the minds of most of those who profess to believe that we are having the last message . . . Ye suffer your minds to be diverted too readily from the work of preparation and the all-important truths for these last days. (Early Writings, p. 119)
By 1856 James White, Uriah Smith, and J. H. Waggoner were clearly telling the young Adventist groups that the Laodicean message applied to Sabbatarian Adventists as well as others who were "lukewarm" in their Christian experience. They, too, needed thorough repentance. Further, they combined in their conclusion that the third angel's message was the final message to the "rebellious world," and the Laodicean message was the final message to a "lukewarm church." ("The Laodicean Message," Clarification of Major Doctrines, Chapter 23, WhiteEstate.org/books.)
The Laodicean message is a warning from Heaven itself:
Because thou art lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will spew thee out of my mouth. Because thou sayest, I am rich, and increased with goods, and have need of nothing; and knowest not that thou art wretched, and miserable, and poor, and blind, and naked. (Revelation 3:16, 17, KJV)
New light is never given to those who feel that they know everything necessary for salvation. Because, by their own admission, the pioneers quickly sank into complacency and self-satisfaction, no further light was forthcoming. However, this does NOT make any new light error by default.
Those who cling to old customs and hoary errors have lost sight of the fact that light is ever increasing upon the path of all who follow . . . [Yahushua]; truth is constantly unfolding to the people of God. We must be continually advancing if we are following our Leader. It is when we walk in the light that shines upon us, obeying the truth that is open to our understanding that we receive greater light. We cannot be excusable in accepting only the light which our fathers had one hundred years ago. If our God-fearing fathers had seen what we see, and heard what we hear, they would have accepted the light, and walked in it. If we desire to imitate their faithfulness, we must receive the truths open to us, as they received those presented to them; we must do as they would have done, had they lived in our day. (Ellen White, Historical Sketches, p. 197.)
May all who desire truth heed this solemn warning from the pen of Heaven's servant.
Question/Objection: If Ellen White had made a mistake about which day was the true Sabbath, God would have corrected her! She could not have made such a big mistake and still be a true prophet. If I accept the lunar calendar, I have to throw out Ellen White and all my Adventist beliefs!
ANSWER: This is an emotional response based on fear. When a person is truly grounded on Scripture and the writings of Ellen White, a beautiful harmony is seen in all truth. The lunar Sabbath is but another link in the golden chain of truth, stretching back to Eden. Late in her life, Ellen White wrote:
"In regard to infallibility, I never claimed it; God alone is infallible. His word is true, and in Him is no variableness, or shadow of turning." (Letter 10, 1895, cited in Selected Messages, Vol. 1, p. 37.)
If the teachings of Spirit of Prophecy require that Ellen White had all truth (when she herself said more light was to come) it suggests one of two possibilities: either there is something seriously defective in her writings, or, more likely, there is something defective in the believer's faith.
None of the Bible writers were infallible, for "ALL have sinned, and come short of the glory of [Yahuwah]." (See Romans 3:23.) To hold Ellen White to a higher standard than the Bible writers is to do her ministry a disservice for it sets one up to reject the further light she repeatedly stated was yet to come. As late as 1892, Sister White emphatically warned:
We have many lessons to learn, and many, many to unlearn. God and heaven alone are infallible. Those who think that they will never have to give up a cherished view, never have occasion to change an opinion, will be disappointed. As long as we hold to our own ideas and opinions with determined persistency, we cannot have the unity for which Jesus prayed. (Review & Herald, July 26, 1892)
Question/Objection: The Great Controversy repeatedly refers to Sunday exaltation as the focal point of the final crisis. The lunar Sabbath completely diverts attention away from the true test: Sunday versus Saturday.
ANSWER: The Seventh-day Adventist Church was greatly blessed of Heaven with an accumulation of many heavenly blessings. The Great Controversy, written by Ellen White, is one such blessing. However, the danger of believing that one is spiritually "rich and increased in goods and in need of nothing" when, in reality, one is actually spiritually "wretched and miserable, and poor, and blind, and naked" is the many assumptions such a belief carries with it.
Adventists have built an entire end-time scenario around their personal interpretation of the last few chapters of The Great Controversy. The truths contained in that book are truths to this day, but the focus has been too narrow. Far more than a narrow "Sunday versus Saturday" struggle, the final events now lining up reveal a much broader conflict than previously imagined. The battle is much larger than Catholics versus Protestants or even Sunday-keepers versus Saturday Sabbatarians. The final controversy is a vast conflict between one entire religious system and its divinely appointed calendar for worship against an opposing system of worship with its counterfeit calendar. The principles of the final clash, as outlined in The Great Controversy are true.
[T]here are now true Christians in every church, not excepting the Roman Catholic communion, who honestly believe that Sunday is the Sabbath of divine appointment. God accepts their sincerity of purpose and their integrity before Him. But when Sunday observance shall be enforced by law, and the world shall be enlightened concerning the obligation of the true Sabbath, then whoever shall transgress the command of God, to obey a precept which has no higher authority than that of Rome, will thereby honor popery above God. He is paying homage to Rome, and to the power which enforces the institution ordained by Rome. He is worshiping the beast and his image. As men then reject the institution which God has declared to be the sign of His authority, and honor in its stead that which Rome has chosen as the token of her supremacy, they will thereby accept the sign of allegiance to Rome - "the mark of the beast." (Ellen White, The Great Controversy, p. 449.)
Now that the ancient seventh-day Sabbath, calculated by the original calendar of Creation is being restored to its rightful place, the "mark of the beast" is very clear:
"The special characteristic of the beast, and therefore of his image, is the breaking of God's commandments. Says Daniel, of the little horn, the papacy: "He shall think to change times and the law." Daniel 7:25, R.V. (The Great Controversy, p. 445.)
The mark of the beast is received when a person offers worship on any other day, calculated by any other calendar while knowing that it is not the day ordained by Heaven. All who desire to honor their Creator will choose to worship Him on the day which He has never changed: the seventh-day Sabbath, calculated by HIS calendar, established at Creation.
Question/Objection: The seventh-day Sabbath is the foundation of the Seventh-day Adventist Church! Ellen White warned of people who would attempt to unsettle the established faith of the church. Anyone who sets aside Saturday as the Sabbath is doing just that.
ANSWER: The seventh-day Sabbath is not the foundational belief of the Seventh-day Adventist Church, nor is it unique to Seventh-day Adventists. There are over 500 Saturday-Sabbath keeping Protestant denominations! Adventists themselves learned of the seventh-day Sabbath from the Seventh-day Baptists! The foundation of the Seventh-day Adventist faith, the firm platform on which rests the pillars of faith, is the cleansing of the sanctuary message with its investigative judgment. This alone of all the church's beliefs is unique to Adventism. In a vision received early in Ellen White's ministry, she wrote:
I saw a company who stood well guarded and firm, giving no countenance to those who would unsettle the established faith of the body. God looked upon them with approbation. I was shown three steps - the first, second, and third angels' messages. . . . I was again brought down through these messages, and saw how dearly the people of God had purchased their experience. It had been obtained through much suffering and severe conflict. God had led them along step by step, until He had placed them upon a solid, immovable platform. I saw individuals approach the platform and examine the foundation. Some with rejoicing immediately stepped upon it. Others commenced to find fault with the foundation. They wished improvements made, and then the platform would be more perfect, and the people much happier. Some stepped off the platform to examine it and declared it to be laid wrong. But I saw that nearly all stood firm upon the platform and exhorted those who had stepped off to cease their complaints; for God was the Master Builder, and they were fighting against Him. They recounted the wonderful work . . . which had led them to the firm platform, and in union raised their eyes to heaven and with a loud voice glorified God. (Early Writings, p. 259.)
The "solid, immovable platform" spoken of in the vision is the foundation upon which Adventism was built. Ellen White clearly defined this foundation as the doctrine of the sanctuary.
The scripture which above all others had been both the foundation and central pillar of the Advent faith was the declaration, "Unto two thousand and three hundred days, then shall the sanctuary be cleansed." [Daniel 8:14] These had been familiar words to all believers in Jesus' soon coming. By the lips of thousands was this prophecy joyfully repeated as the watchword of their faith. All felt that upon the events therein brought to view depended their brightest expectations and most cherished hopes. These prophetic days had been shown to terminate in the autumn of 1844. (Ellen White, The Spirit of Prophecy, Vol. 4, p. 258.)
Upon this solid foundation rest all of the pillars of the Adventist faith, including the seventh-day Sabbath. The services of the sanctuary climaxed the religious year with the cleansing of the sanctuary on the Day of Atonement. These holy convocations were all calculated by the Biblical luni-solar calendar. This was the very calendar used by the Millerites to establish October 22 as the Day of Atonement in 1844, and the ending date of the 2300 day prophecy of Daniel 9. Adventism is grounded in the luni-solar calendar of Creation. Without this calendar, there would have been no October 22, 1844; no cleansing of the sanctuary message; no sanctuary doctrine, period! Heaven used the Millerite movement to restore the knowledge of the Creation calendar to the world.
As far back as April, and then in June and December of 1843, and in February of 1844 . . . [William Miller's associates] came to a definite conclusion. This was that the solution of Daniel's prophecy is dependent upon the ancient or original Jewish form of luni-solar time, and not upon the altered modern rabbinical Jewish calendar. (L. E. Froom, Prophetic Faith of our Fathers, Vol. 4, p. 796, emphasis supplied.)
The Millerites were diligent students of both the Bible and history. They thoroughly researched the ancient calendar of Scripture and used it to establish the ending date of the the 2300 day prophecy on the true Day of Atonement in 1844. They did this with the full knowledge that the modern Jewish calendar had been changed and was no longer consistent with the Biblical method of time-keeping.
[The] remarkable stand of the Millerites, in 1843 and 1844, in rejecting the current Rabbinical calendation, and reviving the original Jewish year of the crucifixion period . . . that they might correctly determine the close of the 2300-year period, took clear, scholarly thinking, intensive research, extraordinary moral courage, and really heroic, decisive action. They risked all upon this crucial position. . . .
Painstakingly studying the Karaite protest in the Middle Ages against the Rabbinical perversion of the calendar, they at last deliberately and irrevocably accepted, restored, and applied to their time-prophecy problem, the earlier calendation championed by the Karaites. And this they did in defiance of the whole body of Rabbinical scholarship and the general current practice of Jewry. . . .
The overwhelming sentiments and prejudices of Jewry stood as a deterrent against reviving and applying the true calendar by the Millerites just as the commitments of Christendom made difficult our flouting of Sunday sanctity and our revival of the true Sabbath. (Grace E. Amadon, "Courageous Action of Millerites On 'Jewish Calendar' Problem," Collection 154, Center for Adventist Research, Andrews University, pp. 1, 3 & 5.)
Scripture presents only one calendar: the calendar of the sanctuary services. This calendar, carefully researched and restored by the Millerites, is the only way to determine the true seventh-day Sabbath of the Bible. The foundation of Adventist faith is the sanctuary. The seventh-day Sabbath is a pillar which rests on that immovable platform. The light shining in our fathers' day was a restoration of the Biblical calendar for determining the annual feasts, including Day of Atonement. The light shining in our day is a restoration of that very same calendar for determining all Heaven's appointed times for worship - including the weekly feast, the seventh-day Sabbath.
The doctrine of the lunar Sabbath does not unsettle the faith once delivered to the saints. It confirms it! Light is advancing. While it may feel very unsettling to take advanced steps ahead of friends, family or even pastors, the Saviour will safely lead all who trust in Him into a knowledge of the testing truths for this time.
The Captain of our salvation leads His people on step by step, purifying and fitting them for translation, and leaving in the rear those who are disposed to draw off from the body, who are not willing to be led, and are satisfied with their own righteousness. "If therefore the light that is in thee be darkness, how great is that darkness!" No greater delusion can deceive the human mind than that which leads men to indulge a self-confident spirit, to believe that they are right and in the light, when they are drawing away from God's people, and their cherished light is darkness. (Ellen White, Testimonies, Vol. 1, p. 333.)
The true Sabbath, calculated by the divinely-designed calendar of Creation, is the sign of loyalty to the Creator. Commit the keeping of your soul to your Saviour. It is safe to trust Him! All who genuinely desire knowledge of the truth will be given increased light.
Click here to watch the video!