Counsels for the Church


The Vision of the Great Controversy Between Christ and Satan

The little schoolhouse in a village in the eastern part of America was filled with men and women that Sunday afternoon in mid-March, 1858, as they gathered for a service. Elder James White conducted the funeral of a young man, preaching the sermon. As he finished speaking, Mrs. White felt impressed to say a few words to those who mourned. She rose to her feet, spoke for a minute or two, and then paused. The people looked up to catch the next words from her lips. They were a bit startled by the exclamation of “Glory to God!” repeated three times with increasing emphases. Mrs. White was in vision. CCh 10.4

Elder White told the people about the visions given to Mrs. White. He explained that visions had been given to her since she was a young woman of seventeen. He told them that although her eyes were open, and it seemed as if she were watching something in the distance, she was absolutely unconscious of her surroundings and knew nothing of what was going on about her. He referred to Numbers 24:4 and Numbers 24:16, where we read of one “which heard the words of God, and know the knowledge of the Most High, which saw the vision of the Almighty, falling into a trance, but having his eyes open.” CCh 10.5

He explained to the people that she did not breathe while in vision. Then he turned to Daniel 10:17 and read Daniel's experience while in vision: “There remained no strength in me, neither is there breath left in me.” Elder White next invited those who cared to do so to come forward and examine Mrs. White. He always gave freedom for such an examination and was pleased if a physician was present who could examine her while in vision. CCh 11.1

As the people pressed close, they saw that Mrs. White did not breathe, yet her heart continued to beat normally, and the color of her cheeks was natural. A mirror was brought and held before her face, but no moisture gathered on the mirror. Then they brought a candle and lit it and held it close to her nose and mouth. But the flame stood erect, without a flicker. The people could see that she did not breathe. She walked about the room, moving her arms gracefully as she spoke in short exclamations of what was being revealed to her. Like Daniel, there had at first been a loss of natural strength; then supernatural strength was imparted to her. See Daniel 10:7, 8, 18, 19. CCh 11.2

For two hours Mrs. White was in vision. For two hours she did not breathe. Then as the vision came to a close, she took a deep inhalation, paused for about a minute, breathed again, and soon was breathing naturally. At the same time she began to recognize her surroundings, becoming conscious of what was going on about her. CCh 11.3

One who often saw Mrs. White in vision, Mrs. Martha Amadon, gives the following description: CCh 11.4

“In vision her eyes were open. There was no breath, but there were graceful movements of the shoulder, arms, the hands, expressive of what she saw. It was impossible for anyone else to move her hands or arms. She often uttered words singly and sometimes sentences which expressed to those about her the nature of the view she was having, either of heaven or of earth. CCh 11.5

“Her first word in vision was ‘glory,’ sounding at first close by, and then dying away in the distance, seemingly far away. This was sometimes repeated.... CCh 11.6

“There was no excitement among those present during a vision; nothing caused fear. It was a solemn, quiet scene.... CCh 11.7

“When the vision was ended, and she lost sight of the heavenly light, as it were coming back to the earth once more, she would exclaim with a long-draw sigh, as she took her first natural breath, ‘D-a-r-k.’ She was then limp and strengthless.” CCh 11.8

But we must return to our story of the two-hour vision in the schoolhouse. Of this vision Mrs. White later wrote: CCh 12.1

“Most of the matter which I had seen ten years before concerning the great controversy of the ages between Christ and Satan, was repeated, and I was instructed to write it out.” CCh 12.2

In the vision it seemed to her that she was present, witnessing the scenes as they appeared before her. First it seemed that she was in heaven, where she witnessed the fall of Lucifer. Then she witnessed the creation of the world and saw our first parents in their Eden home. She saw them yield to the temptations of the serpent and lose their garden home. In quick succession Bible history passed before her. She saw the experience of the patriarchs and prophets of Israel. She witnessed the life and death of our Saviour Jesus Christ and his ascension to heaven, where he has been ministering as our high priest ever since. CCh 12.3

Following these she saw the disciples go forth to spread the gospel message to the ends of the earth. Quickly this was followed by the apostasy and the dark ages! Then she saw in vision the reformation, as noble men and women at the risk of their lives stood for truth. She was brought down to the scenes of the judgment which began in heaven in 1844, and on to our day; then she was taken into the future and saw the coming of Christ in the clouds of heaven. She witnessed the scenes of the millennium and the earth made new. CCh 12.4

With these vivid representations before her, Mrs. White, after returning to her home, undertook to write out what she had seen and heard in the vision. About six months later a little 219-page volume came from the press bearing the title The Great Controversy between Christ and his Angels and Satan and his Angels. CCh 12.5

The little book was received enthusiastically, for it portrayed vividly the experience that was before the church, and unmasked the plans of Satan and the manner in which he will attempt to mislead the church and the world in the last conflict of earth. How thankful the Adventists were that God was speaking to them in these last days through the spirit of prophecy, just as he had promised to do. CCh 12.6

The account of the Great Controversy, so briefly told in the little volume of Spiritual Gifts, was later reprinted in the last half of Early Writings, and may be found there today. CCh 12.7

But as the church grew and time went on, the Lord in many succeeding visions opened up the Great Controversy story in greater detail, and Mrs. White rewrote it, between 1870 and 1884, in four volumes called The Spirit of Prophecy. The book The Story of Redemption presents the more important parts of the Great Controversy story drawn from these books. This volume, published in many languages, brings to many people what was shown in these vision of the Great Controversy. Later, in the five volumes of the “Conflict of the Ages Series”—Patriarchs and Prophets, Prophets and Kings, The Desire of Ages, The Acts of the Apostles, and The Great Controversy—Mrs. White presented, in minute detail, the entire history of the conflict between good and evil. CCh 12.8

These volumes, which parallel the Bible account from creation to the Christian era and take the story through to the close of time, give great light and encouragement. These are books that help to make Seventh-day Adventists “the children of light” and “children of the day.” We see in this experience the fulfillment of the assurance: “Surely the Lord God will do nothing, but he revealeth his secret unto his servants the prophets.” Amos 3:7. CCh 13.1

Writing of how the light came to her, Mrs. White says: “Through the illumination of the Holy Spirit, the scenes of the long-continued conflict between good and evil have been opened to the writer of these pages. From time to time I have been permitted to behold the working, in different ages, of the Great Controversy between Christ, the Prince of Life, the Author of our salvation, and Satan, the prince of evil, the author of sin, the first transgressor of God's holy law.... “As the Spirit of God has opened to my mind the great truths of His word, and the scenes of the past and the future, I have been bidden to make known to others that which has thus been revealed—to trace the history of the controversy in past ages, and especially so to present it as to shed a light on the fast-approaching struggle of the future.” CCh 13.2