Ellen G. White: The Early Years: 1827-1862 (vol. 1)


The Laodicean Message

The Sabbathkeeping Adventists had taken the position that the messages to the seven churches in Revelation 2 and 3 pictured the experience of the Christian church down through the centuries. It was their conclusion that the message to the Laodicean church applied to those they now termed nominal Adventists, those who had not accepted the seventh-day Sabbath. In a short editorial in the Review of October 9, James White raised some thought provoking questions that he introduced by stating: 1BIO 342.5

The inquiry is beginning to come up afresh, “Watchman, What of the night?” At present there is space for only a few questions, asked to call attention to the subject to which they relate. A full answer, we trust, will soon be given.—The Review and Herald, October 9, 1856. 1BIO 342.6

Of the eleven questions he asked, it is the sixth that zeroed in on the Laodiceans. 1BIO 342.7

6. Does not the state of the Laodiceans (lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot) fitly illustrate the condition of the body of those who profess the third angel's message?—Ibid. 1BIO 343.1

The last question lays the matter open: 1BIO 343.2

11. If this be our condition as a people, have we any real grounds to hope for the favor of God unless we heed the “counsel” of the True Witness? [Revelation 3:18-21 is quoted.]—Ibid.

It is clear that the truth of the matter was just dawning on the mind of James White. The next issue of the Review carried a seven-column presentation of the seven churches, under that title. In his opening remarks he declared: 1BIO 343.3

We must agree with some modern expositors that these seven churches should be understood as representing seven conditions of the Christian church, in seven periods of time, covering the ground of the entire Christian age.—The Review and Herald, October 16, 1856. 1BIO 343.4

He then took up the prophecy, dealing with each church separately. Coming to the seventh, the Laodicean, he declared: 1BIO 343.5

How humbling to us as a people is the sad description of this church. And is not this dreadful description a most perfect picture of our present condition? It is; and it will be of no use to try to evade the force of this searching testimony to the Laodicean church. The Lord help us to receive it, and to profit by it.—Ibid. 1BIO 343.6

After he devoted two columns to the Laodicean church, his closing remarks made a strong appeal: 1BIO 343.7

Dear brethren, we must overcome the world, the flesh, and the devil, or we shall have no part in the kingdom of God.... Lay hold of this work at once, and in faith claim the gracious promises to the repenting Laodiceans. Arise in the name of the Lord, and let your light shine to the glory of His blessed name.—Ibid. 1BIO 343.8

The response from the field was electrifying. Wrote G. W. Holt from Ohio on October 20: 1BIO 344.1

Yes, I do believe that we who are in the third message with the commandments of God and the faith of Jesus are the church this language is addressed to; and we cannot be too soon in applying for tried gold and white raiment, and eyesalve, that we may see.—Ibid., November 6, 1856 1BIO 344.2

From the Northeast a new voice was heard on the subject, that of Stephen N. Haskell, of Princeton, Massachusetts. As a first-day Adventist he had begun to preach at the age of 20; now three years later he was in the third angel's message. A thorough Bible student, after having seen White's brief initial editorial introducing the question of the seven churches, he chose to write an extended piece for the Review: 1BIO 344.3

The subject referred to has been one of deep interest to me for some months past.... I have for some time been led to believe that the message to the Laodiceans belongs to us; i.e., to those who believe in the third angel's message, from many reasons which I consider to be good. I will mention two.—Ibid. 1BIO 344.4

This he does, devoting two columns to his conclusions. As he closed he declared: 1BIO 344.5

A theory of the third angel's message never, no never, will save us, without the wedding garment, which is the righteousness of the saints. We must perfect holiness in the fear of the Lord.—Ibid. 1BIO 344.6

As James White continued his editorials on the message to the Laodicean church the concepts the Sabbathkeeping Adventists were now reading in the Review were startling, but on thoughtful, prayerful consideration they were seen to be applicable. The letters to the editor showed quite general agreement and indicated that a revival was under way. That the stirring message was not the outgrowth of excitement was attested to by the first article in Testimony No. 3, published in April, 1857, titled “Be Zealous and Repent.” It opens, “The Lord has shown me in vision some things concerning the church in its present lukewarm state, which I will relate to you.”—Testimonies for the Church, 1:141. In this Ellen White presented what was shown to her of Satan's attacks on the church through earthly prosperity and possessions. 1BIO 344.7