These things saith the Son of God, . . . I know thy works, and charity, and service, and faith, and thy patience, and thy works; and the last to be more than the first. Notwithstanding I have a few things against thee, because thou sufferest that woman Jezebel, which calleth herself a prophetess, to teach and to seduce my servants to commit fornication, and to eat things sacrificed unto idols. Revelation 2:18-20
There was a church of wonderfully consecrated and dedicated believers in Thyatira. All was well, except that they were paying too much attention to that woman Jezebel and as a result some were falling into serious sin.
There have been many more Jezebels since the end of the first century AD, of both genders. But I would like to nominate Ellen G White as a prime candidate for this role in our era.
I believe William Miller gets a bum rap. He really believed he had calculated the exact date of our Lord’s return. Twice. After the Lord did not return on schedule for the second time, William Miller admitted he had been deceived and abandoned the Advent movement altogether. Ellen G White stepped in to take the leadership, and her prophecies always came to pass.
Or so she said. Christ didn’t return on the appointed date? Of course He did! Although He didn’t return to earth as first thought, He entered into the sanctuary in heaven to cleanse it in preparation for His return to earth. And so on. She had an explanation for everything. Her expositions of the Scriptures and the coming return of the Lord, written in numerous books, became known as the Spirit of Prophecy.
I once got into a discussion with an Adventist about the meaning of Matthew 25:46 — And these shall go away into everlasting punishment: but the righteous into life eternal. We were both aware that everlasting and eternal were translations of the same Greek word. I understand then that everlasting punishment will have the same duration as eternal life. My friend did not agree, for the Spirit of Prophecy said that everlasting means temporary, not eternal. And there our discussion stalled; I would not accept the testimony of Ellen G White and he would not accept the words of Scripture except as explained by Ellen G White.
I bought a set of My Bible Friends some forty years ago. In every story there were elements reported as fact that I could not find in the Bible. That gave me an uneasy feeling and those books didn’t last long in our home. Years later, I told my Adventist friend that I hadn’t been sure whether those insertions were imagined by the writer of the book, or if they came from Ellen G White. “They come from Ellen G White,” was his reply.
Some of those things may have been removed from later editions, but many lasting impressions have been left on those who were raised with Seventh Day Adventist Bible Story books. Like the idea that the smoke of Abel’s sacrifice rose straight up to heaven and the smoke from Cain’s sacrifice clung to the ground. I suspect that comes from Ellen G White, but I’ve never wanted to wade through her writings to find out for sure. (In other instances, God showed his acceptance of a sacrifice by sending the fire to consume it. I doubt that the sacrifice of Abel was any exception.) I do know that the idea that the star of Bethlehem was the light emanating from the angel host comes directly from Ellen G White.
Did Ellen G White truly mistake her imagination for prophetic messages from the Holy Spirit, or was she knowingly trying to deceive? My best guess is that she really believed herself to be the channel which God used to reveal His truth to the world. In any case, there is a seductive appeal to her explanations that appear to explain many things in the Bible without requiring the seeker to actually search the Scriptures. Her influence has reached far beyond the Seventh Day Adventist Church, and its many splinters.
The Seventh Day Adventist Church publishes a wide array of attractive books for all age groups. Perhaps even more serious than the propagation of Ellen G White’s false prophecies, is the subtle inducement these books give for an imaginative approach the Scriptures that leads readers to be moved by the contents of their imagination rather than the contents of the Bible.