Ellen White and the New York World Trade Center Attack

By Dirk Anderson

After the September 11, 2001, attacks on New York City, some SDA pastors were claiming from their pulpits that Ellen White "fulfilled prophecy." Meanwhile, tabloid newspapers claimed Jeanne Dixon and Nostradamus predicted the World Trade Center attack. Did the Adventist prophetess predict the devastating September 11, 2001, assault upon the World Trade Center buildings in New York City? First, let us examine the quotes from Mrs. White pertaining to this subject:

I have no light in particular in regard to what is coming on New York, only that I know that one day the great buildings there will be thrown down, by the turning and overturning of God's power. . . . Death will come in all places. This is why I am so anxious for our cities to be warned. Review and Herald, July 5, 1906

On one occasion, when in New York City, I was in the night season called upon to behold buildings rising story after story toward heaven. These buildings were warranted to be fireproof, and they were erected to glorify their owners and builders. . . . The scene that next passed before me was an alarm of fire. Men looked at the lofty and supposedly fireproof buildings and said: "They are perfectly safe." But these buildings were consumed as if made of pitch. The fire engines could do nothing to stay the destruction. The firemen were unable to operate the engines. Testimonies, Vol. 9, pp. 12, 13.

I have seen the most costly structures in buildings erected and supposed to be fireproof, and just as Sodom perished in the flames of God's vengeance so will these proud structures become ashes. . . . The flattering monuments of men's greatness will be crumbled in the dust even before the last great destruction comes upon the world. Selected Messages, Vol. 3 p. 418.

Men will continue to erect expensive buildings, costing millions of money. Special attention will be called to their architectural beauty and the firmness and solidity with which they are constructed, but the Lord has instructed me that despite the unusual firmness and expensive display, these buildings will share the fate of the temple in Jerusalem. Bible Commentary, vol. 5, p. 1098.

Are these prophecies accurate?

The Event: The above quotes indicate that expensive, large buildings will be destroyed by fire. This was certainly the case in the World Trade Center attack, where the two largest buildings in New York City were destroyed by fire.

The Place: Mrs. White's quote from Testimonies Vol. 9 indicates that she was in New York City when she had the dream regarding the lofty buildings destroyed by fire. In her testimony she never says that the city she viewed in her dream was New York City. However, we can surmise it was New York City, even though her earlier 1906 statement indicated she had no particular light on New York City.

Burn like "pitch"? Testimonies Vol. 9 says the buildings were "consumed as if made of pitch." Is that true? Having watched the event unfold live on TV, I did not see any buildings consumed by fire. There was an impact, an explosion, and a fire isolated near the upper floors. Government authorities tell us the fire weakened the internal steel frame, and the resulting structural damage caused the floors to begin collapsing, cascading down until the entire building landed in a heap of rubble. It took New York City nearly nine months of working around the clock to haul off the rubble and debris. If the buildings had indeed burned up like pitch, then we would expect little debris to be left. The truth is that the buildings did not burn up like pitch. Rather, they collapsed into heaps of rubble.

Buildings "thrown down"? The Review article talks about buildings being thrown down. Unlike the "burn like pitch" statement, this one more closely resembles what happened in New York. However, Mrs. White says the buildings were thrown down by the "turning and overturning of God's power." This seems to indicate some type of supernatural force, not the impact of Boeing aircraft flown by terrorists.

Firemen unable to operate engines? One questionable point of Testimonies Vol. 9 is the last sentence: "The firemen were unable to operate the engines." After the attack on the World Trade Center, video footage was shown on TV of fire fighters operating their engines successfully.

Are these testimonies vague?

Believers in Ellen White tend to see the events of 9/11 as fulfillments of her prophecies. Those who do not believe in Ellen White tend to see these quotes as vague, general, and not an exact match (like trying to put a size 5 shoe on a person with a size 10 foot).

What is missing?

  1. No mention of when the event will happen
  2. No mention of airplanes striking the building
  3. No mention of an explosion
  4. No mention of terrorists

What is missing are specific details. The testimonies are vague enough to apply to virtually any terrible fire in any large building in New York City over the last 120 years!

Is this a unique SDA teaching?

Many non-SDA Christians have recognized this terrible event as a possible initial, literal fulfillment of Revelation 18. Whether or not that is true, is debatable. Nevertheless, there are non-SDA prophecy students who believe the Bible teaches the cities of Babylon will be destroyed by fire. Revelation 18 describes the kings and merchants weeping "when they see the smoke of her burning." (see Rev. 18:9-11) Thus, any student of Bible prophecy could surmise from the Bible that New York, San Francisco, and other sin-filled cities of the earth will suffer destruction by fire in the last days.

Does this prove Ellen White to be a prophet?

The only way to distinguish a false prophet from a true prophet is that the true prophet is 100% accurate on their predictions, and the false prophet is not (Deut. 18:22). Many false prophets have made accurate predictions of future events. For example, in 1832 Mormon prophet Joseph Smith predicted a civil war in the United States between the Northern and Southern states. He said the war would begin in South Carolina, and there would be many casualties. 29 years later, on April 12, 1861, the South commenced the Civil War by attacking Fort Sumter, in Charleston, South Carolina. That was a pretty remarkable prediction! How many people could predict a war 29 years in the future? Not only that, how many could predict in which state the war would commence? Does that make Smith a true prophet? No, one must consider all of the facts and evidence, not just a single prediction.

In 1917, three children in Fatima, Portugal, saw a vision of the Virgin Mary. A three-part prophecy was given, parts of which included the rise and fall of the Soviet empire, and the attempted assassination of the pope. Do these predictions prove these children to be prophets? No, not unless they pass all the Biblical tests of a prophet. Making a successful prediction about a future event has NEVER been a test of a prophet. HOWEVER, if a prophet does make a prediction about the future, and that prediction FAILS, then that prophet is a FALSE prophet.


Having been in and around Seventh-day Adventism for over 35 years, I can recount many times when current events were heralded as "fulfillments of prophecy." In every case, as time passed, it became apparent that those events were simply random occurrences with no connection to any prophecy. Only time will tell whether this event is actually a fulfillment of prophecy or a random act of senseless violence. Some Adventists have grasped upon this terrorist attack as evidence of her divine inspiration. However, the prophecies are vague and open-ended. These prophecies do not prove Ellen White's prophetic gift, nor do they disprove them. One must examine all the evidence of her life and teachings. Only then will one be able to make an educated and informed decision regarding her inspiration.

Category: Myths
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