The Predictions of the 1856 Vision

The Predictions of the 1856 Vision


Concerning a conference in 1856 Ellen White declared: “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.’” All who were alive then are now dead. Does this unfulfilled prediction mean that Mrs. White is a false prophet? We offer a more extended answer to this question because it illustrates a fundamental misconception regarding the gift of prophecy. 1856V 2.1

Deuteronomy 18:22 reads: “If a prophet speaks in the name of the Lord but the thing does not take place or prove true, it is a word that the Lord has not spoken” (NRSV). This text, taken alone, would indict a number of Bible prophets. Deuteronomy 18:22 is to be understood, even as any other lone text, in the context of all Scripture. Other scriptures reveal that there are qualifying factors that operate in relation to a prophet’s predictions, particularly where the free will of humanity may be involved. It may come as a surprise to some to think that God’s promises of blessings and His threats of judgments are conditional. But the Scriptures are explicit on this. Notice the words recorded by Jeremiah: 1856V 2.2

“At one moment I may declare concerning a nation or a kingdom, that I will pluck up and break down and destroy it, but if that nation, concerning which I have spoken, turns from its evil, I will change my mind about the disaster that I intended to bring on it. And at another moment I may declare concerning a nation or a kingdom that I will build and plant it, but if it does evil in my sight, not listening to my voice, then I will change my mind about the good that I had intended to do to it.” Jeremiah 18:7-10 (NRSV).

The Bible presents a number of illustrations of the application of this principle set forth by Jeremiah. Indeed, we may be thankful for Jeremiah’s words; they help us rightly to understand some texts of Scripture that might otherwise seem to indict the divine claims of certain prophets. Consider these two instances that illustrate both parts of Jeremiah’s statement. The first is a divine threat to bring judgment upon a nation. We see in parallel columns the threat of judgment and its reversal: 1856V 2.3