It has been over one hundred and sixty years since the heavenly Father began raising up a group of people to bring focus to His impending judgment hour and soon return. At that time new light began to shine forth out of the darkness and rubble of ancient false traditions. By His grace new light was shed on their path, leading them ever onward to more and more discoveries of truth. These glorious rays of truth shown forth from the pages of Scripture, and were discerned by many. But only those who were faithful to walk in the light they had already received- were then given more. This is an eternal principle that must be recognized today. But, was every doctrine that was formed by this courageous and devoted group of souls without error?
The most humble among this sincere band of believers was a young woman by the name of Ellen Harmon (White). Soon she was chosen by the heavenly Father as His instrument upon earth to give council, guidance and correction to this young body of believers. At times direct confirmation or verification from heaven was given on specific subjects they were studying and praying earnestly for answers on. Sometimes they received admonishment, correction and redirection. It was from this humble beginning, of earnestly seeking new light on old paths that the Seventh-day Adventist Church was born. In those days it was not unusual to hear one brother great another with the question, "Brother, what is the present truth for today?" Are these words commonly heard today? Is there among the established churches a deep an earnest seeking for advancing light of truth?
This period of 1847-1848, among the early advent people, was known as the period of the Sabbath Conferences. This was a time of much study and discussion focused on the seventh-day Sabbath being the seventh-day rather than Sunday the first day of the week. Of particular importance, was the question as to the time to commence the Sabbath. In the earliest days it was generally thought that the Sabbath was to commence at sunrise and end the following sunrise, a period of 24 hours (see Exhibit A). It was seen by most that the message of the angel, "from even unto even," as quoted from Leviticus 23:32, was a rebuke that a sunrise to sunrise was incorrect.
The only known record from the pen of Ellen White regarding her first vision of 1847 on the subject of "from even unto even," is this solitary sentence below:
I saw that it was in the minds of some that the Lord had shown that the Sabbath commenced at six o'clock, when I had only seen that it commenced at "even," and it was inferred that even was at six. Testimonies, Vol. 1, p. 116.
Eight years after the Sabbath Conferences of 1847-1848, Ellen White along with the other church leaders and members converged on Battle Creek for the Conference of 1855. Below is a one page biography leading up to and followed by Ellen White's second vision on the subject of "The Time to Commence the Sabbath." It is imperative to fully understand the process that took place. Arthur White was not even born yet, but here in his biography, he is promoting as truth the opinions and assumptions of others.
As written by Arthur White many years after the fact-
On Friday evening, the day the conference in Battle Creek opened, those assembled commenced the Sabbath at six o'clock, although the sun had been set for an hour. The next day they closed the Sabbath at sunset. During that Sabbath a change in practice based on Bible study had been made. It was an interesting and instructive experience in doctrinal development.
As noted in earlier chapters, Joseph Bates was considered the father of the Sabbath truth. As captain of his own vessels, he had sailed far and wide and was acquainted with the matter of time-keeping in different parts of the world. It was his conclusion that time as kept at the equator, with sunset uniformly at 6:00 P.M., was the proper guide to Sabbath keeping, regardless of season of the year or location. The Scriptures called for evening marking the beginning of the new day, and the words "from even unto even, shall ye celebrate your sabbath" (Lev. 23:32) were cited in support of this point. The April 21, 1851, issue of the Review carried a three-column article by Joseph Bates in support of the six o'clock time.
In the State of Maine in 1847-1848, some took the position that the Sabbath commenced at sunrise, quoting as support, Matthew 28:1: "In the end of the Sabbath, as it began to toward the first day of the week" (see RH, Feb. 25, 1868). A vision given to Ellen White checked this error in principle, for the angel repeated the words of the scripture "From even unto even, shall ye celebrate your sabbath."
There were a few who observed the Sabbath from sundown to sundown (JW to "My Dear Brother," July 2, 1848; see also RH, Feb. 25, 1868), but the majority stood with Bates, as did James and Ellen White. The charismatic experience in Connecticut in late June, 1848, recounted in chapter 13, seemed to confirm the six o'clock time. Still the matter was not settled conclusively, and in June, 1854, James White requested D. P. Hall in Wisconsin to give study to the matter and come up with an answer (RH, Dec. 4, 1855).
When this request failed to yield fruit, he turned to John Andrews with the earnest request that he take his Bible and bring evidence to settle the question. Andrews prepared a paper on the matter. As he passed through Battle Creek with his parents in November on his way to Iowa, he left this in the hands of James White. The reading of this paper became the Sabbath morning Bible study at the conference in Battle Creek. From nine texts in the Old Testament and two from the New, Andrews demonstrated that "even" and "evening" of the Sabbath were identical with sunset (ibid.). [The study prepared on this subject by J. N. Andrews is at the bottom of this document. To fully understand this subject his article should likewise be read.]
As the paper was read that Sabbath morning, it could be seen that while the six o'clock time advocated by Bates was in principle not incorrect--for it called for beginning the Sabbath in the evening--in detail there was an error. Now with the position of sunset time so amply supported by Scripture evidence [by J. N. Andrews], all the congregation, which included the church's leaders, readily accepted the light and were prepared to shift their practice. All, that is, but two--Joseph Bates and Ellen White.
Bates' position had been generally accepted and defended. He was the venerable apostle of the Sabbath truth. He was unready to accept what had been presented by the youthful John Andrews, and he would stand in defense of his position. The vision given to Ellen White in 1848, correcting the sunrise time and confirming "evening time," had nothing to say about the six o'clock time being in error.
Ellen White reasoned that the six o'clock time had been a matter of practice for nearly a decade. The Sabbath so kept had been a great blessing to her, and the angel had said nothing about its being in error. Must a change be made now? Thus matters stood through the rest of the Sabbath and through Sunday as the members met in conference, but this was a rather touchy point of division that was bound to widen as time went on. Then the God of heaven stepped in. Biography, Vol. 1, p. 322- 324 Arthur White.
Please notice that absolutely nowhere in the second vision is there confirmation by the heavenly Father, Yahuwah, through the angel, that "sunset" is the correct time to commence the Sabbath, unless of course some huge assumptions are made. Below all the words from the angel are underlined. These are the most important portion of this paragraph. Ask yourself; do the words of the angel show any kind of confirmation? Do the words of the angel give weighty evidence for a sunset to sunset Sabbath?
Second Vision According to Ellen White:
November 20, 1855, while in prayer, the Spirit of the Lord came suddenly and powerfully upon me, and I was taken off in vision.-
I saw that it is even so: "From even unto even, shall ye celebrate your Sabbath." Said the angel: "Take the word of God, read it, understand, and ye cannot err. Read carefully, and ye shall there find what even is, and when it is." I asked the angel if the frown of God had been upon His people for commencing the Sabbath as they had. I was directed back to the first rise of the Sabbath, and followed the people of God up to this time, but did not see that the Lord was displeased, or frowned upon them. I inquired why it had been thus, that at this late day we must change the time of commencing the Sabbath. Said the angel: "Ye shall understand, but not yet, not yet." Said the angel: "If light come, and that light is set aside or rejected, then comes condemnation and the frown of God; but before the light comes, there is no sin, for there is no light for them to reject." I saw that it was in the minds of some that the Lord had shown that the Sabbath commenced at six o'clock, when I had only seen that it commenced at "even," and it was inferred that even was at six. I saw that the servants of God must draw together, press together. Testimonies, Vol. 1, p. 116. (also found in Biography, Vol. 1, p. 324.) (Emphasis Mine)
A full twenty years following the first vision on the subject of when to commence the Sabbath, James White wrote the following paragraph for the Review and Herald, Feb. 25, 1868.
"Mrs. White has in two visions been shown something in regard to the time of the commencement of the Sabbath. The first was as early as 1847, at Topsham, Me. In the vision she was shown that to commence the Sabbath at sunrise was wrong. She then heard an angel repeat these words, "From even unto even shall ye celebrate your Sabbaths."...At the close of the conference at Battle Creek (1855) referred to above, the ministers and others, especially interested in the cause had a special season of prayer for the prosperity of the cause, and in that meeting Mrs. W. had a vision, one item of which was that sunset time was correct." James White, Review and Herald, February 25, 1868.
- James White interjects his personal thoughts based purely on assumption that in the first vision it was shown that to commence the Sabbath at sunrise was wrong. When the angel merely stated “from even unto even shall ye celebrate you Sabbaths.”
- It was the assumption of the men present in 1847 that attributed these few words as proof that Sabbath was not to commence at sunrise, but in the evening.
- James White again interjects his personal thoughts that in the second vision of 1855, Ellen White was shown that commencing Sabbath at the time of sunset was correct. Yet, the angel only stated “from even unto even shall ye celebrate your Sabbaths.” Again, James White makes another mere assumption that the second vision clarified that sunset was the time to commence the Sabbath, as well as a huge assumption that the angel had given confirmation for a sunset commencement.
Using the angel's words, "from even unto even" from the context of the first vision, James White here states that "she was shown that to commence Sabbath at sunrise was wrong." Yet there was nothing stated as such, but just another mere assumption, based only on the words "from even unto even."
Remember, James White was not a prophet for the S.D.A. Church. It is essential to go to the source, rather than to assume that his or other's views of what was meant by "from even unto even" were correct. What is witnessed here is that the majority of people in that day assumed the word "even" meant end of the day, evening and sunset. As a result of following this rule, the beginning of each day would commence with the darkness of night. This was also supported by the long standing practice of the Jews. Certainly, this was strong evidence for a sunset to sunset calendar date.
"From even unto even, shall ye celebrate your Sabbath." Said the angel, "Take the word of God, read it, understand, and ye cannot err. Read carefully, and ye shall there find What Even is, and When even is." Testimonies, Vol. 1, p. 116. (also found in Biography, Vol. 1, p. 324.)
Is it possible in hindsight to recognize that the early Advent Pioneers were not correct with regard to the Sabbath commencing at sunset and terminating at sunset? Is it possible that all these years later, we can pick-up where the early advent people left off, and proactively proceed to follow the detailed instructions given by the angel, recorded for this very purpose and for His faithful seekers of truth?
Forty or more years later we have the following comments of Arthur White (son of Ellen White) who is referring to her first vision:
According to Arthur White: In the State of Maine in 1847-1848, some took the position that the Sabbath commenced at sunrise, quoting as support, Matthew 28:1: "In the end of the Sabbath, as it began to dawn toward the first day of the week" (see RH, Feb. 25, 1868). A vision given to Ellen White checked this error in principle, for the angel repeated the words of the scripture "From even unto even, shall ye celebrate your sabbath." Biography, Vol. 1, p. 322. Arthur White (Son of Ellen White).
Jesus answered, "Are there not twelve hours in the day? John 11:9 NKJV
The Jews, as well as most other nations, divided the day from sun rising to sun setting, into twelve equal parts; but these parts or hours, were longer or shorter, according to the different seasons of the year.-Part of Clarke's note on John 11:9.
The Jews divided their day, or the time from sunrise to sunset, into twelve bouts, of course varying a little according to the season of the year.-Bloomfield's notes on John 11:9.
Hour.-In the books of the New Testament we see clearly the day divided into twelve equal hours, after the manner of the Greeks and Romans. These hours were equal to each other, but unequal with respect to the different seasons, the twelve hours of the longest days in Summer were much longer than those of the shortest days in Winter.-Cruden's Concordance
Day.-The sacred writers generally divide the day and night into twelve unequal hours. The sixth hour is always noon throughout the year; and the twelfth hour is the last hour of the day. But in Summer, the twelfth: hour, as all the others were, was longer than in Winter.- Encyclopedia Religious Knowledge.
The day was divided into twelve hours, which, of course, varied in length, being shorter in Winter and longer in Summer.-Watson's Biblical and Theological Dictionary.
The Jews divided the space from sunrise to sunset were the days longer or shorter, into twelve parts; so that the hours of their day were all the year the same in number, though much shorter in Winter than in Summer.-Note of the Cottage Bible on John 11: 9.
The time between the rising and the setting of the sun was divided into twelve equal parts, which were called hours. John 11:9. As this period of time, however, is longer at one season of the year than at another it is plain that the hours would also be of different length at different times. In Winter they were, of course, shorter than in Summer. They were numbered from the rising of the sun, and not from the middle of the day, as is common with us..-Nevin's Biblical Antiquities, pp. 171,172.
The word hour, in Scripture, signifies one of the twelve equal parts into which each day was divided, and which, of course, were of different lengths at different seasons of the year. This mode of dividing the day prevailed among the Jews, at least after the exile in Babylon, and perhaps earlier.-Covel's Bible Dictionary.
An hour, one of the twelve equal parts into which the day was divided, and which of course were different at different seasons of the year.-Greenfield's New Testament Lexicon. According to Arthur White: "The vision set Ellen White and Joseph Bates straight, and they accepted the vision wholeheartedly. The matter of the time to commence the Sabbath was forever settled--settled on the basis of Bible study, confirmed by vision. It was indeed a significant experience in God's leadings, one that Uriah Smith was later to comment on:" Biography, Vol. 1, p. 324.
According to Uriah Smith: "Lest any should say that Sister White, having changed her sentiments, had a vision accordingly, we will state that which was shown her in vision concerning the commencement of the Sabbath was contrary to her own sentiment at the time the vision was given." Review and Herald, August 30, 1864.
The entire premise of these men as well as many others, was that they believed that the term "even" meant the beginning of the darkness of night and was equivalent to the term sunset. The angel had quoted from Leviticus 23:32, "from even unto even shall ye celebrate you Sabbath." Since the Sabbath was clearly to be "from even unto even," they overwhelmingly assumed this was from sunset to sunset. After all, wasn't this theory in harmony with the Jews of their day. The final vote in 1855 came after the young J.N. Andrews' presentation was read before the entire congregation. It was a study based on only nine Scripture verses. Click here for J.N. Andrews presentation.
Let's say you are taking a class in ancient Hebrew calendation, and the final exam day has arrived. You have not done your homework regularly or even prepared for the final test. Lo and behold the professor asks the students to write an essay on the meaning of a Regular Lunar Year. While you are not certain what it is, you make a good guess based upon what you think it might be. The following day after the test, you receive your test back with a note attached from the professor that says:
In addition, if such a note as this had been given you, the student, prior to writing your essay, it could not be a confirmation of the essay you had not yet written. The angel gave the message as a prophecy in advance that they would not get it right. They in turn claimed that those very words were indeed confirmation.
It appears that our heavenly Father is bringing this subject around again for a re-look. Could there have been something missed regarding this subject long ago, in the early analysis? Might there have been an assumption or two made with regard to the "Day of Atonement" and Sabbath incorporating the time period "from even unto even?" The decision of the group was hastily defined as being from "sunset to sunset?"
Can we now know for certain, that their decision for the time period incorporating the Sabbath hours was wrong in every point but one? Yes! The one point they had correct was that the Sabbath was to be located upon the seventh-day. However, even the seventh-day they chose was based upon the assumption that the modern Roman calendar with its unbroken cycle of weeks, is in harmony with Scripture. Their first decision was wrong, as it was kept from 6:00 P.M. Friday to 6:00 P.M. Saturday. Eight years later their decision was wrong again, as it was changed to be kept from sunset to sunset. So, on this basis alone, is there any possibility that they may have had the period for reckoning the "Day of Atonement" wrong as well? We shall soon see. "There is a way that seems right to a man . . ." Proverbs 14:12
The angel repeated word-for-word what he had said to Ellen White in her first vision. Here again the same process occurred where the men of the day voted that "from even unto even" must mean sunset Friday to sunset Saturday. Yet, nothing was said by the angel in support of either sunset, Friday or Saturday. In hind sight it is so easy to spot the great error of assumption, as well as see how one assumption can give birth to so many offspring. Listed below are the assumptions in order.
- Another underlying assumption was that a “day” in Scripture was equal to a full calendar date of twenty-four hours. Rather, Scripture defines a “day” as the warm daylight hours, while night is the dark portion encompassed by the four watches of the night. No where in Scripture does it state that the “day” or daylight commences at night or sunset. Many presumptuously believe that Genesis 1:1-5 teaches that day begins at night, because it appears to say “evening and morning were the first day. However, with a little help from one or two Hebrew Lexicons and Bible dictionaries, there are two options that place Genesis 1:5 in harmony with the remainder of Scripture-"the evening following the morning are the first day," or "It came to pass this (twilight) exchange occurred at break of day (sunrise), becoming the first day as opposed to night (the warm hours from sunrise to sunset)." Another important point to make here is that no where in Genesis 1:5 does the Creator state that "evening" is synonymous with "night." Rather, Scripture teaches that the day commences at sunrise and ends at sunset, a period of 12 hours. In contrast a full "calendar date" includes both the daylight and the night, with the daylight preceding the night. In effect the night is a time break between "daylights." Refer to Word Study - When the Day Begins - Genesis 1:1-5." And article, “ Sunrise or Sunset, When Does a Day Begin?”
- The assumption that “even unto even” was representative of a 24 hour period of time for keeping holy the seventh-day Sabbath as well as the Day of Atonement. More will be clarified on this particular point in Part 2. Refer to article, “Sunrise or Sunset, When Does a Day Begin?”
- A belief among some of the early advent people in the 1840’s was that the Sabbath commenced at sunrise and ended the following sunrise. Since the angel stated, “from even unto even shall ye celebrate your Sabbath,” the men decided that no further evidence was necessary, as “even,” clearly to them, referred to the end of daylight period, and not to “morning.” Here again they were not taking all the words of the angel into consideration. To their way of thinking, the angel could not be supporting the full picture of the belief that the Sabbath commenced at sunrise and ended the following sunrise. Could the reason for this admonition be simply because of their assumption that this period was twenty-four hours rather than only twelve? Yes.
- Then building on this assumption at the time of the first vision is the belief that “from even unto even” referred to 6:00 P.M. Friday to 6:00 P.M. Saturday. This belief appears to have been wrong for two reasons. First, because it was based upon the premise that the Sabbath was 24 hours in length, and second, because the 6:00 hour on a clock was neither in sync nor beaconed by the sun, moon and stars.
- A later assumption reasoned, that if “from even unto even” did not commence at 6:00 P.M., at the time of the second vision, ignoring all the other council of the angel, these men decided that the Sabbath must commence at sunset Friday and end at sunset Saturday. Here it was assumed that “even” meant evening or night. Scripture overtly teaches that the “day” commences at sunrise rather than sunset and that the “day” is a twelve hour period and not twenty-four hours. “Jesus answered, "Are there not twelve hours in the day?” John 11:9 NKJV Also, the modern translations have led many to believe the "day" begins at "night" by sabotaging the creation account of Genesis 1 with the three words "evening and morning." Yet, in Hebrew this phrase is rendered "evening followed morning." Refer to article/word study, "When a Day Begins."
- A paramount assumption was that because “Saturday” was the seventh-day on the modern Roman calendar, it naturally must be the seventh-day Sabbath of Scripture. After all, Ellen White was shown in vision that the "seventh-day was the Sabbath." She even had a "thus saith the Lord," that the seventh-day was Sabbath. This is a point that is not controverted within the S.D.A. Church. However with this said, she never had a vision, or a "thus saith the Lord," stating that "Saturday" of the Roman calendar, was the seventh-day Sabbath. These two precepts are light years apart. The revelation that the Sabbath was to be on the seventh-day instead of the first, was the first step in the full disclosure of the Sabbath truth. The second step was to follow that would clarify upon which calendar the seventh day was to be reckoned. This was ordained to be the final step in the full Sabbath disclosure and the last message to the world to come out of Babylon, Egypt and Rome. This was to be revealed to the faithful remnant at the very end of time. Refer to article, “Scripture’s Weight of Evidence.”
- The most profound of all the assumptions made by these men, was that after all was said and done, they claimed to have received confirmation from the angel that they were now correct, that the Sabbath as well as the Day of Atonement commenced at sunset and ended the following sunset. Yet, their new position was made following the words of the angel rather than preceding them. In addition, the words of the angel contained not a word of confirmation; rather it gave admonitions and guidelines on how to discover the meaning of the word “even.”
In addition to confusing the instruction of the angel sent to guide them, they also did not recognize that the Roman Gregorian calendar they followed for their weekly cycle simply was not in harmony with the algorithms of the lunisolar calendar of creation and the Sanctuary. But this was not a point the angel was emphasizing nor even bringing to the attention of this fledgling group of believers at that time. The merciful heavenly Father faithfully led them as far as they would be led. He gave them the first step of the Sabbath truth, defining it as the "seventh" and not the "first" day of the week. The subject of Scripture's true calendation was divinely ordained to be given as the second step in a full disclosure to the remnant at the very close of time and will be received by those who are obedient to all the light previously given.
This leaves us, here at the end of time, with an opportunity to diligently obey the words of the angel. We must research every piece of evidence with regard to the word "even." This must be carefully done to discover the truth from the instructions that were given by the angel to Ellen White and the early advent people one hundred and fifty-five years ago.
- The angel’s message of truth was from the throne of heaven.
- The message was specific as to when to keep the seventh-day Sabbath.
- Not one of the decisions in the 1840’s or 1850’s was a correct response to the message of the angel.
- This angel’s definition of when to keep the “seventh-day Sabbath,” was defined by the exact reference given in Scripture regarding when to keep the “Day of Atonement.” It is through the angel that the heavenly Father spoke in the vision to Ellen White. It was none other than the Creator of the sun, moon and stars who established that the time for keeping the “seventh-day Sabbath” is the exact same portion of the day as the time to keep the “Day of Atonement.”
- Also, by connecting the time of the Sabbath to the “Day of Atonement,” is it possible that the angel was defining that this feast day and all feast days are still viable today? Certainly, this is a point to consider.