February 15, 2024

Unfulfilled Prophecy

The consummation of the hope of the church

James White

Featured this month is an excerpt from a November 29, 1877, article in the Advent Review and Sabbath Herald in which James White warns against speculating about unfulfilled prophecies, referring specifically to those promoting a particular view on Turkey and the final events (in terms of “the Eastern question”). —Editors.

The Bible was given as a lamp to our feet and a light to our path.* It was designed for the benefit of the people in this world and not the next. It is the sure Word of prophecy that shines in this dark world. It was not designed for angels or for immortal saints. Therefore we shall not have to wait until we reach heaven before we understand what the Lord has said to us in His Word. The Bible is what God has revealed to man, and if he does not understand it the fault is because he does not search its pages as he should, or because he does not live as near Him as he should, so that he can understand what the Lord has revealed. To say that the Bible was given to be understood—and who will deny this plain proposition ?—is one thing, and to say that we do understand every chapter and every verse is quite another thing.

Fulfilled prophecy may be understood by the Bible student. Prophecy is history in advance. He can compare history with prophecy and find a complete fit as the glove to the hand, it having been made for it. But in exposition of unfulfilled prophecy, where the history is not written, the student should put forth his propositions with not too much positiveness, lest he find himself straying in the field of fancy.

There are those who think more of future truth than of present truth. They see but little light in the path in which they walk, but think they see great light ahead of them.

Positions taken upon the Eastern question are based upon prophecies which have not yet their fulfillment. Here we should tread lightly, and take positions carefully, lest we be found removing the landmarks fully established in the advent movement. It may be said that there is a general agreement upon this subject, and that all eyes are turned toward the war now in progress between Turkey and Russia as the fulfillment of that portion of prophecy which will give great confirmation of faith in the soon loud cry and close of our message. But what will be the result of this positiveness in unfulfilled prophecies should things not come out as very confidently expected is an anxious question.

Wars, pestilences, famines, and earthquakes are not the surest signs of the end. These have ever existed. We may have war, then peace, pestilence, then health, famine, then plenty, earthquakes, then the bowels of the earth may be quiet; but the message of the third angel is given but once. The progress of this work in fulfillment of prophecy is the highest and brightest light now shining in the religious heavens. Those looking at the Eastern question will probably be disappointed; but we may bear our whole weight upon the last message without fear of disappointment. As we now see our world-wide message extending to the nations, we see the fulfillment of prophecy, and the clearest sign of the close of the work, and the consummation of the hope of the church.

J. W.

* J[ames] W[hite], “Unfulfilled Prophecy,” Advent Review and Sabbath Herald, Nov. 29, 1877, p. 4.