Ellen G. White and Her Critics


Chapter 18—The Image Beast and 666

Charge: When Mrs. White had a vision in 1847 she believed, and thus wrote, that the image beast of Revelation 13 had a number, and that the number was made up at that time. She thus reflected the current view of the Seventh-day Adventists, who held that the image beast was apostate Protestantism, and that the “666” represented the total number of sects that constituted Protestantism. When she reprinted this vision in 1851, in Experience and Views, she struck out the passage from her vision that discussed the image beast and his number. This was because she had then abandoned her earlier view—presumably because others had abandoned it. EGWC 286.1

The vision was first printed April 7, 1847, * and the later deleted passage reads as follows: EGWC 286.2

“I saw all that ‘would not receive the mark of the Beast, and of his Image, in their foreheads or in their hands,’ could not buy or sell. I saw that the number (666) of the Image Beast was made up; and that it was the beast that changed the Sabbath, and the Image Beast had followed on after, and kept the Pope’s, and not God’s Sabbath. And all we were required to do, was to give up God’s Sabbath, and keep the Pope’s and then we should have the mark of the Beast, and of his Image.” EGWC 286.3

In the charge before us we have the same line of reasoning that is found in the charges on the shut door and suppression: Mrs. White is alleged to have taught certain views because they were currently held, and then to have abandoned them when those about her changed their theology. We have discovered how untenable is this charge and its supporting arguments when applied to the doctrines of the shut-door and the seven-year theory. Let us examine the charge in its present application. EGWC 286.4

The first fact to keep in mind is that there was no such thing as a clearly defined Seventh-day Adventist theology in the years immediately following 1844. Because one of the Sabbathkeeping pioneers believed thus and so on a particular scripture or prophecy, does not warrant the conclusion that that was the view held by all. Even though these pioneers had increasing fellowship on the broad outlines of such doctrines as the Sabbath, the Second Advent, and the sanctuary, and often spoke highly of the published views of each other, they did not therefore endorse each others’ views on every detail. Each man wrote as he saw fit. EGWC 286.5

As regards the two beasts of Revelation 13, very vague ideas were held at the outset by most of the pioneers. The second beast is described by James White and certain others as the “Image Beast,” because it enforces the worship of the image to the first beast. He and others also thought for a short time that the number 666 applied to the “Image Beast.” * EGWC 287.1