The Sealing Confusion

By Dirk Anderson

"Behold, I am against them that prophesy false dreams, saith the LORD" (Jer. 23:32).

Mrs. White's visions of the "sealing time" provide unequivocal evidence that she failed the tests of a prophet. This is evident in Ellen White's teaching regarding the sealing time, as written in her landmark book, The Great Controversy:

"When the final test shall be brought to bear upon men, then the line of distinction will be drawn between those who serve God and those who serve Him not. While the observance of the false Sabbath in compliance with the law of the state, contrary to the fourth commandment, will be an avowal of allegiance to a power that is in opposition to God, the keeping of the true Sabbath, in obedience to God's law, is an evidence of loyalty to the Creator. While one class, by accepting the sign of submission to earthly powers, receive the mark of the beast, the other choosing the token of allegiance to divine authority, receive the seal of God."1

"An angel returning from the earth announces that his work is done; the final test has been brought upon the world, and all who have proved themselves loyal to the divine precepts have received "the seal of the living God." Then Jesus ceases His intercession in the sanctuary above."2

Notice five points Mrs. White makes in that paragraph:
  1. The "final test" involves choosing Sabbath observance over a false Sabbath enforced by the government.

  2. The "final test" was yet future when Great Controversy was published in 1911. Mrs. White writes in the future tense saying "When the final test shall be brought..."

  3. Those "sealed" must "prove" their allegiance to God by choosing to follow God's laws rather than the laws of the state.

  4. The "seal of God" is given to those who pass the "final test" by choosing God's Sabbath over the state-enforced Sabbath.

  5. In order to receive the "seal of God" one must pass the "final test". Therefore, the sealing could not have begun prior to 1911, because the "final test" had not yet come by 1911.

As further evidence Mrs. White considered the sealing yet future, in 1889, she wrote that the children of God would be sealed "in a little while":

"In a little while every one who is a child of God will have His seal placed upon him. Oh, that it may be placed upon our foreheads! Who can endure the thought of being passed by when the angel goes forth to seal the servants of God in their foreheads?"3

The Sealed 144,000

W.C. White's Letter on the 144,00023

Now to the question: Did Sister White teach that those who died in the message since 1844 and of whom it is said, 'Blessed are the dead which die in the Lord from henceforth,' that they shall be members of the 144,000?

I can assure you, my brother, that this was the belief and the teaching of Ellen G. White. Many times I have heard her make statements to this effect, and I am in possession of a letter to Brother Hastings who is mentioned on page 237 of Life Sketches in which she says plainly that his wife who had recently died would be a member of the 144,000.

In a letter recently received from a brother in Reno, Nevada, reference is made to a statement in Elder Loughborough's book found on page 29 in which it is reported that Sister White said: 'Those who died in the faith will be among the 144,000. I am clear on that matter.'

And I testify, my brother, that that is in perfect harmony with her writings, her sayings and her teachings throughout the years of her ministry.

In Great Controversy Mrs. White outlines the specific characteristics of the 144,000 as thus:

"Upon the crystal sea before the throne, that sea of glass as it were mingled with fire,--so resplendent is it with the glory of God,--are gathered the company [1] that have 'gotten the victory over the beast, and over his image, and over his mark, and over the number of his name.' With the Lamb upon Mount Zion, 'having the harps of God,' they stand, the hundred and forty and four thousand that were redeemed from among men; and there is heard, as the sound of many waters, and as the sound of a great thunder, 'the voice of harpers harping with their harps.' And they sing 'a new song' before the throne, a song which no man can learn save the hundred and forty and four thousand. It is the song of Moses and the Lamb--a song of deliverance. None but the hundred and forty-four thousand can learn that song; for it is the song of their experience--an experience such as no other company have ever had. 'These are they which follow the Lamb whithersoever He goeth.' These, having been [2] translated from the earth, from among the living, are counted as 'the first fruits unto God and to the Lamb.' Revelation 15:2, 3; 14:1-5. [3] 'These are they which came out of great tribulation;' they have passed through the time of trouble such as never was since there was a nation; [4] they have endured the anguish of the time of Jacob's trouble; [5] they have stood without an intercessor through the final outpouring of God's judgments. ... [6] They have seen the earth wasted with famine and pestilence, the sun having power to scorch men with great heat, and they themselves have endured suffering, hunger, and thirst."4

From the above, the 144,000 (those who have received the Seal of God) can be identified by the following six characteristics:

  1. Got the victory over the "Mark of the Beast"
  2. Were alive and translated at Jesus' return
  3. Went through the great time of trouble
  4. Went through "Jacob's time of trouble"
  5. Stood without an intercessor
  6. Lived through the final judgments of God upon the earth

Obviously, no one living in the 1800s had gone through any of those experiences. No one has been translated at the Second Coming, gone through the time of trouble, stood without an intercessor, or lived through the final judgments. Even the Mark of the Beast has not yet been manifested according to Ellen White, who wrote in 1899:

"No one has yet received the mark of the beast. The testing time has not yet come. There are true Christians in every church, not excepting the Roman Catholic communion. None are condemned until they have had the light and have seen the obligation of the fourth commandment. But when the decree shall go forth enforcing the counterfeit sabbath, and the loud cry of the third angel shall warn men against the worship of the beast and his image, the line will be clearly drawn between the false and the true. Then those who still continue in transgression will receive the mark of the beast."5

Thus it is clear that no one in the 1800s was either sealed or a part of the 144,000.

Confusion and Contradiction

In 1911, the prophetess believed that the sealing time was yet future. Yet, her "visions" from 62 years earlier paint a far different picture. In the 1840s, she believed the sealing time was then in full progress:

"Satan is now using every device in this sealing time, to keep the minds of God's people from the present, sealing truth; and to cause them to waver. I saw a covering that God was drawing over his people, to protect them in the time of trouble; and every soul that was decided on the truth, and was pure in heart, was to be covered with the covering of Almighty God."6

"I saw that Satan was at work in these ways to distract, deceive, and draw away God's people, just now in this sealing time."7

In January of 1849, the Whites published a pamphlet entitled "To Those who are Receiving the Seal of the Living God." That is present tense, indicating an action currently taking place. It is not future tense. Future tense would be: "To those who will receive the seal." In that pamphlet Mrs. White wrote that not only were they in the sealing time, but they were nearing the end of the sealing period:

"The sealing time is very short, and soon will be over. Now is the time to make our calling and election sure, while the four angels are holding the four winds."8

In March of 1849, Mrs. White plainly wrote they were in the process of being sealed:

"I saw that Satan was at work in these ways to distract, draw away, and deceive God’s people just now in this sealing time."9

Mrs. White even went so far as to identify some of those who had received the seal of God during the sealing time...

"I saw that she [Mrs. Hastings, who had just died] was sealed and would come up at the voice of God and stand upon the earth, and would be with the 144,000. I saw we need not mourn for her; she would rest in the time of trouble."10

Later, she wrote that some of the elderly men in the church had the "seal of God" upon them:

"There are living upon our earth men who have passed the age of fourscore and ten. The natural results of old age are seen in their feebleness. But they believe God, and God loves them. The seal of God is upon them, and they will be among the number of whom the Lord has said, 'Blessed are the dead which die in the Lord.'"11

In his book A Seal of the Living God, published in 1849, Joseph Bates quotes a vision that Ellen White had of the sealing time. In this vision Mrs. White claims that "not all" of the saints have been sealed yet, implying that some have already been sealed:

"The angels are holding the winds. It is God that restrains the powers. The angels have not let go, for the saints are not all sealed. The time of trouble has commenced. It has begun. The reason why the four winds are not let go, is because the saints are not all sealed. It [the trouble] is on the increase more and more; that trouble will never end until the earth is rid of the wicked. Why, they [the winds] are just ready to blow. There is a check put on because the saints are not all sealed."12

There is no doubt Mrs. White taught from her visions the sealing was in progress in 1849. And yet, in 1911, she describes the sealing as a future event, an activity that takes place at the time of the "final test." Could anything be more confusing?

Stop asking me to explain it!

While most Adventists were probably unaware of Mrs. White's earlier statements, there were apparently some who noted the discrepancy, because Mrs. White later complained of the queries she was receiving on the subject:

"Letters will come asking questions in regard to the sealing of the people of God, who will be sealed, how many, and other prying questions. I think we must tell them to read and speak of the things that are plainly revealed. We have encouragement in the Word that if we walk humbly with God, we shall receive instruction. But prying curiosity is not to be encouraged."13

Perhaps one of those "prying questions" Mrs. White was at a loss to explain was how the sealing started in 1849, apparently stopped, and was now yet future. Mrs. White's response, in effect, was to say, "Stop asking me questions about the sealing!"

Whites a victim of Joseph Bates' false teaching?

After the Disappointment of 1844, Joseph Bates concocted the idea that the Adventists were in a seven-year period of testing upon the point of the Sabbath truth. That seven-year period was to end in the fall of 1851 with the return of Christ. For a while, the Whites were caught up in this error, but by the end of August, 1851, it was apparent Christ was not returning, and James acknowledged it was a false teaching:

"It is well known that some of the brethren have been teaching that the great work of salvation for the remnant, through the intercession of our great High Priest, would close in seven years from the termination of the 2300 days, in the autumn of 1844. Some who have thus taught we esteem very highly, and love 'fervently' as brethren, and we feel that it becomes us to be slow to say anything to hurt their feelings; yet we cannot refrain from giving some reasons why we do not receive the time."14

James then added, "We are now emphatically in the waiting time."15

Notice how Ellen White's "inspired" writings changed after James made his statement:

BEFORE 1851 - Sealing Time AFTER 1851 - Waiting Time
Jan. 1849 The sealing time is very short, and soon will be over.16

Aug. 1849 Satan is now using every device in this sealing time....I saw that Satan was at work in these ways to distract, deceive, and draw away God's people, just now in this sealing time.17

1864 We have been, and still are, in the patient waiting time.18

1876 We are in the waiting time...19

1883 We are in the waiting time...20

1885 Here we are in the waiting time...21

1910 We are in the waiting time...22

Whose fault is it, anyway?

Eventually, a reason was concocted as to how the sealing could start in the 1840s, and then stop, and now be yet future. Was it the prophetess's fault? Did she make a mistake? Was her vision wrong? No, of course not! It wasn't her fault. It was the Adventist people's fault! They were to blame! As preposterous as it may sound, Mrs. White shifted the blame for her failing upon the poor Adventist people:

"If the people of God had walked in His counsel, the work of God would have advanced, the messages of truth would have been borne to all people that dwell on the face of the whole earth. Had the people of God believed Him and been doers of His word, had they kept His commandments, the angel would not have come flying through heaven with the message to the four angels that were to let loose the winds that they should blow upon the earth crying, Hold, hold the four winds that they blow not upon the earth until I have sealed the servants of God in their foreheads. But because the people are disobedient, unthankful, unholy, as were ancient Israel, time is prolonged that all may hear the last message of mercy proclaimed with a loud voice. The Lord's work has been hindered, the sealing time delayed."23

There you have it. The chaos over the sealing time is all due to the Adventist people. Perhaps they did not give enough tithes and offerings. Perhaps they failed to purchase enough of Ellen White's books to give to their neighbors. Whatever the reason, God had to stop the sealing in mid-stream, call His angels back from their sealing task, and reschedule the event at a later date. Sound confusing? You are right. It is. An Apostle with the true gift of prophecy said it best:

"For God is not the author of confusion" (1 Corinthians 14:33).


1. Ellen White, Great Controversy, p. 605.

2. Ibid., p. 614.

3. Ellen White, SDA Bible Commentary, vol. 7, pp. 969, 970 (1889).

4. Ellen White, Great Controversy, p. 649.

5. Ellen White, Evangelism, pp. 234-235.

6. Ellen White, The Present Truth, August 1, 1849.

7. Ibid.

8. Ellen White, "To Those who are Receiving the Seal of the Living God", January 31, 1849.

9. Ellen White, Manuscript 1, 1849, para. 8.

10. Ellen White, Letter 10, 1850, Selected Messages, book 2, p. 263.

11. Ellen White, SDA Bible Commentary, vol. 7, p. 982.

12. Ellen White as quoted by Joseph Bates in (A Seal of the Living God, pp. 25,26.

13. Ellen White, S.D.A. Bible Commentary Vol. 7, p. 918.

14. James White, Review and Herald, Aug. 19, 1851.

15. Ibid. See Ellen G. White: The Early Years Volume 1 - 1827-1862, By Arthur L. White (1985) , p. 209.

16. Ellen White, "To Those who are receiving the seal of the living God," Jan. 31, 1849.

17. Ellen White, The Present Truth, Aug. 1, 1849.

18. Ellen White, Spiritual Gifts Volume 4b (1864), p. 151.

19. Ellen White, Testimonies for the Church Vol. 4 (1876-1881), p. 123.

20. Ellen White, The Review and Herald, Jan. 9, 1883.

21. Ellen White, The Review and Herald, Aug. 18, 1885.

22. Ellen White, The Gospel Herald, Aug. 1, 1910.

23. Ellen White, Letter 106, 1897. Released by the Ellen G. White Estate Washington, D. C. March 12, 1986. Entire Letter. Manuscript Releases Vol. 15, pp. 292-293.

24.W. C. White letter, April 18, 1929.

Category: Confused Teachings
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