Troubled Theology: Adventist Eschatology in Light of Zechariah 14 and Revelation 19-21


by Joseph Rector


The Time of Trouble is a riveting event of Seventh-day Adventist eschatology (study of last-day events) that has caused sleepless nights for countless Adventists.  The Time of Trouble supposedly begins when Protestants align themselves under the authority of the Roman Catholic Church (Babylon of Revelation) to pass a law requiring the whole world to worship God on Sunday.  The world will worship the Dragon (Satan pretending to be Jesus Christ) on Sunday, and the act of Sunday worship at that time will constitute the Mark of the Beast.

In the face of universal disapproval, God’s remnant churchcomposed of faithful Seventh-day Adventists and honest individuals who accept the seventh-day Sabbathwill receive the Seal of God as a result of their faith, which will be manifested most directly by their Sabbath-keeping.  The remnant will suffer severe temptations from Satan as well as imprisonment, torture, and possibly death inflicted by Bible-thumping followers of the Beast.

As the persecution of the remnant intensifies, God pours apocalyptic judgments upon the earth, resulting in great suffering and loss of life.  The wicked, following the lead of Satan masquerading as Christ, blame seventh-day Sabbath-keepers for incurring the wrath of God.  A universal death decree is pronounced against anyone who worships on Saturday and refuses to bow the knee on Sunday.  As the wicked march en masse to murder the remnant, a small cloud the size of a hand will appear, and the ten commandments will be visible to all humanity, with a special glow upon the seventh-day Sabbath commandment.  Satan’s deceived followers may try to repent at this point, but it will be too late.  The righteous dead will be raised up to the cloud, and they will be followed by the sealed remnant.  The wicked will then be destroyed by the brightness of Christ’s coming, and the Time of Trouble will end.

I was raised a member of the Seventh-day Adventist Church, and the Time of Trouble held a terrible fascination for me.  Adventists officially shunned fiction at that time (although liberalization has occurred since them), but Time-of-Trouble fiction was permitted because end-time doctrines were such an integral part of our religious lives.  Books such as The Appearing, Unleashed, and Project Sunlight didn’t seem like fiction to my generation of Adventists.  These books felt prophetic since they were based on Bible texts and the writings of Ellen G. White, the Adventist prophetess.

SDA Eschatology


For those who are unfamiliar with Adventist eschatology, the following will briefly outline the SDA version of end-time events.  Ellen White’s The Great Controversy thoroughly outlines the Adventist view of end-time events, so this book will be cited as the primary authority for key points of SDA eschatology (see Appendix B for Ellen White comments).

  • Social, economic, environmental, and political instability cause human beings to seek a divine solution to the world’s problems
  • Seeking spiritual revival, Protestants (daughters of Babylon, the great harlot) and Catholics (Babylon) join hands under the leadership of the Pope (the Beast) (GC 382-383; GC 439)

  • The United States of America (the lamb-like beast of Revelation) passes a national Sunday law forbidding worship on the seventh-day Sabbath; Time of Trouble begins (GC 448-449; GC 578-579)

  • Satan (Dragon) appears and pretends to be Christ, deceiving the worldlings (5T 698)

  • The United States, cooperating with the Beast and the Dragon, influences the entire world to institute mandatory Christian worship on Sunday (6T 18)

  • Sunday worship initially enforced by restrictions on buying and selling

  • Seventh-day Sabbatarians hunted, imprisoned, and killed as the Time of Trouble deepens (GC626; 3SM 397)

  • Judgments of God begin falling on the earth, increasing in intensity until the seven last plagues of Revelation afflict the wicked; remnant blamed for these judgments from God (GC 590)

  • The remnant severely persecuted; some fall away and worship on Sunday

  • At some point during the Time of Trouble, Sabbath-keepers will receive the Seal of God, and Sunday worshipers will receive the Mark of the Beast; at this point, the intercession of Christ will cease, and probation will be closed

  • The Time of Jacob’s Trouble will afflict the righteous, as Satan will tempt them to sin; one sin would disqualify them from heaven because the mediation of Christ has ceased (GC 614)

  • Sentence of death passed on all seventh-day Sabbath-keepers (GC 615-616)

  • Second Coming of Christ; first resurrection; righteous caught up in the cloud and taken to heaven; all others destroyed and earth desolated (GC 640-45; GC 657)

  • Satan bound on earth and millennium begins (GC 658-60)

  • The righteous reign with Christ in heaven and judge the wicked (GC 660-61)

  • New Jerusalem (heaven) descends to earth at end of millennium (GC 662)

  • Second resurrection (of the wicked) takes place (GC 662)

  • Satan loosed to deceive the resurrected wicked (GC 663)

  • Satan, his demons, and the wicked of all generations attack the New Jerusalem; the attackers are arrested by the power of God (GC 663-66)

  • Judgment for the whole world takes place at the Great White Throne (GC 666)

  • Wicked are thrown into the lake of fire, which destroys them completely; they cease to exist (GC 673)

At this point, it should be clear that Time of Trouble is the Adventist term for the Tribulation.  Second, the Adventist Second Coming is similar to the Rapture that is familiar to most Christians (whether they accept it or not) because Christ calls His people away to the clouds and Christ never actually sets foot upon the earth at this time.  Finally, texts that many Christians associate with the Second Coming (e.g. Zech. 14) would be described by Adventists as the postmillennial coming of the New Jerusalem to earth.

This article is written from a pretribulation/premillennial standpoint (meaning that the Rapture takes place prior to the Tribulation and that the Second Coming precedes the Millennium).  I believe this hermeneutical system is most consistent with the plain meaning of Scripture.  Adventists are posttribulational but premillennial, to which they add remnant/Sunday-law theology to create a system that is utterly confusing to most Christians.  The Adventist system combines Bible texts in an order that now strikes me as unsupportable and chaotic.  In this article, I am not primarily arguing for premillennialism as opposed to amillennialism (the denial of the millennium) or postmillennialism (the belief that Christ’s Second Coming will occur after the millennium).  Primarily, I am arguing that Adventist theology ignores Zechariah 14 and scrambles the events of Revelation 19-21 in an unwarranted manner.  Explanation of pretrib/premillennialism (sometimes called dispensationalism) is only a secondary objective.

Three Hermeneutical Keys to Prophetic Interpretation


The following keys are crucial to pretrib/premillennialism: first, Bible prophecy must be interpreted as literally as possible; second, when the Bible refers to Israel, it means literal Israel, not the Christian Church; third, the promises of God are unconditional unless conditionality is clearly stated or clearly implied.

Literal Interpretation Preferred


Should Bible prophecy be interpreted literally, if possible?  I believe the answer is YES because fulfilled prophecies of past ages have been fulfilled literally.  For example, the prophecies of the Messiah were fulfilled in exact detail. In addition, the symbols in Nebuchadnezzar’s dream of the great image have been fulfilled dramatically and literally according to Daniel’s interpretation.  (While no one would argue that Nebuchadnezzar’s kingdom was a literal head of gold, the head corresponded to a literal fulfillment.)  There are times when symbols require a non-literal interpretation (e.g. sword proceeding from the mouth of Christ in Revelation), but we should seek plain interpretations before pursuing allegorical or symbolic meanings.

God Still Has a Plan for Literal Israel


Adventists (and many Christians who are not dispensationalists) interpret prophecies that were given to Israel as applying to the church because the church is grafted on to Israel according to Romans 11.  However, Paul is quite clear that Israel will be grafted back to God:

“I do not want you to be ignorant of this mystery, brothers and sisters, so that you may not be conceited:  Israel has experienced a hardening in part until the full number of the Gentiles has come in, and in this way all Israel will be saved.  As it is written:  ‘The deliverer will come from Zion; he will turn godlessness away from Jacob.  And this is my covenant with them when I take away their sins.’  As far as the gospel is concerned, they are enemies for your sake; but as far as election is concerned, they are loved on account of the patriarchs, for God’s gifts and his call are irrevocable” (Romans 11:25-29, NIV).

As verse 29 states, God’s gifts and calling are “irrevocable.”  Notice that when God made His covenant with Abraham, He swore by Himself to fulfill the covenant:

“When God made his promise to Abraham, since there was no one greater for him to swear by, he swore by himself, saying, ‘I will surely bless you and give you many descendants.’  And so after waiting patiently, Abraham received what was promised.  People swear by someone greater than themselves, and the oath confirms what is said and puts an end to all argument.  Because God wanted to make the unchanging nature of his purpose very clear to the heirs of what was promised, he confirmed it with an oath” (Heb. 6:13-17).

Abraham was a dazed and utterly passive observer at the institution of the covenant relationship (Genesis 15:12).  He did nothing other than believe God.  There was no law or duty imposed on Abraham; therefore, the covenant was completely God’s doing—and the fulfillment must be entirely God’s doing.  If the fulfillment is God’s doing, then it cannot be abrogated by the failures of Israel to live up to God’s laws.  Prophecies given specifically to Israel continue to apply specifically to Israel because they are conditioned upon the faithfulness of God—not the faithlessness of Israel.

Conditional vs. Unconditional Prophecies


Many Old Testament prophecies are so detailed and specific that they could not be fulfilled to the church (“spiritual Israel,” as some like to call the church).  Why were these prophecies ever given if there was no chance of fulfillment?


Some will answer that prophecies such as Ezekiel 36-39 and Zechariah 14 no longer apply because they were conditioned upon obedience.  Israel rejected the Messiah, and in so doing, forfeited the future spelled out in these prophecies.  Of course, the conditions must be implied (or read into these passages) because no conditions are stated.  Probably the best example of implied conditionality in the Bible is the prophetic message of Jonah, who warned the people of Nineveh that destruction was imminent without ever mentioning that God might spare the people if they repented.  However, conditionality is strongly implied (and clearly understood by Jonah – see Jonah 4:2) because God would not have sent the prophetic warning if doom was irrevocable.  A warning implies the opportunity for repentance.

I believe a strong case can be made that no conditions are implied in the eschatological, Judeo-centered prophecies of the Old Testament because these prophecies promise violent destruction prior to deliverance.  It is hard to imagine that Israel would suffer such terrible destruction had they obeyed God and accepted Christ as Messiah.  Rather, it appears that the destruction is the result of unbelief that God foreknew and incorporated into His plan for the end times.  Therefore, these prophecies and others like them seem to be completely unconditional.  Since they were never fulfilled, and since they cannot be applied to the church, they must be fulfilled to Israel in the future.

Introduction to Pretribulation/Premillennialism


The following list is a very basic outline of prophetic events that are key to pretrib/premillennialism.  I have tried to select the most important points and to avoid specific interpretations that may not be vital to an overall acceptance of the outline of events proposed here.

Evidence for a Pretribulation Rapture


At the outset of this study, it is important to admit that the Bible never pinpoints the timing of the Rapture with respect to the Tribulation.  That said, I think Scripture clearly differentiates between the Rapture and the Second Coming, and I believe the Scripture provides enough evidence to justify a pretrib Rapture position.  The key difference between Rapture passages of Scripture and Second Coming passages is the physical position of the saints.  In the Rapture (I Cor. 15:51-58; I Thess. 4:13-18), Christ calls the living saints and the resurrected bodies of those who died in Christ up to Him in the air; at the Second Coming, the bride of Christ comes down with Him from Heaven (Rev. 19:11).  Due to this key difference, the Rapture must be a different event from the Second Coming.

If the Rapture is different from the Second Coming, when does the Rapture occur?  Is it before or after the Tribulation?  It is interesting that the Rapture passages of Scripture do not associate the Rapture with apocalyptic-style judgments.  Could it be that the Rapture precedes the Tribulation—that God does not intend to pour out His wrath upon the bride of Christ (or even in close proximity to the bride of Christ)?

Christians are repeatedly warned to watch for Christ’s imminent and unexpected return, and this may pose a problem for those who conflate the Rapture with the Second Coming (as Adventists do).  “Watch therefore:  for ye know not what hour your Lord doth come.  But know this, that if the goodman of the house had known in what watch the thief would come, he would have watched, and would not have suffered his house to be broken up.  Therefore be ye also ready:  for in such an hour as ye think not the Son of man cometh” (Matt. 24:42-44, KJV).  The Second Coming follows the Time of Trouble (Tribulation) with all the signs predicted in Matthew 24 and the Book of Revelation.  If the Second Coming and Rapture occur at the same time, following the Tribulation, then Christ’s return could not be a surprise to Christians.  But Scripture is clear that Christians will be taken off guard at some aspect of Christ’s return.  Therefore, the pretribulation Rapture is a necessary teaching if believers are to understand the thief-in-the-night imagery of scripture and preserve the idea of Christ’s imminent return.

Another powerful argument in support of the pretribulation Rapture is the disappearance of the church from the middle of Revelation.  After the messages to the churches in Revelation 2-3, the church isn’t mentioned in until the marriage supper of the Lamb in Chapter 19.  It just disappears.  (The body of believers described in Chapter 12, the focal point of Revelation, is actually the woman who gives birth to the Messiah.  And who is this woman?  Is she the Christian Church, or is she Israel?  She must be Israel because Jesus was born a Jew.)  In fact, the church is pointedly NOT mentioned in Revelation 13:9, which reads, “If any man have an ear, let him hear.”  What’s so amazing about this verse?  Contrast the instruction repeatedly given to the churches in Chapters 2 and 3:  “He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the churches.”  Why is the reference to churches omitted from the exhortation in chapter 13—right in the middle of the Tribulation?  Could it be that the modified phrase applies to Israel, not the church?  If this reasoning is correct, it appears the church escapes the Tribulation upheaval outlined in Revelation 6-18.

God promises to keep the church of Philadelphia from the trial that is coming upon the whole world:  “Because thou hast kept the word of my patience, I also will keep thee from the hour of temptation, which shall come upon all the world, to try them that dwell upon the earth” (Rev. 3:10, KJV).  Has this prophecy been fulfilled, either to the literal Philadelphian church or to the prophetic time period symbolized by the church of Philadelphia?  The trial or temptation from which Philadelphia is to be spared is a worldwide trial.  It appears that the Philadelphian Christians may be the raptured saints of 1 Thess. 4:13-18, and that these saints are in heaven celebrating the marriage supper of the Lamb while Tribulation judgments fall upon the wicked.  How else could the bride be in heaven for the wedding?  If this interpretation is correct, true believers must now be living in the period symbolized by Philadelphia.  I believe the Laodicean Church represents unconverted persons who may outwardly appear to be Christians, but who have never actually been saved through faith in Jesus Christ.  These persons may be saved during the Tribulation if they follow the counsel to Laodicea.

Basic Pretribulation/Premillennial Outline of End-Time Events


After leaving the SDA Church, I was shocked to discover that the end of Revelation seems to pose so many problems for the SDA system of prophetic interpretation, and I came to the conclusion that dispensational theology, which I had previously derided, seemed to provide a clear framework for understanding Revelation 19-21.  I admit that human understanding of prophecy—and particularly my own analysis—leaves much to be desired.  I am not a prophecy expert, and I certainly won’t be offended if people disagree with me.  I simply hope this article sheds some light on the alignment of Adventist eschatology to a literal reading of Revelation 19-21 and Zechariah 14.

  • Restoration of nation of Israel in 1948 (Is. 11:11-12; Eze. 20:34-42; Eze. 37)
  • Rapture of living saints and resurrection of the dead who are in Christ (I Cor. 15:51-58; I Thess. 4:13-18)

  • False religious system (Babylon) established to worship beast from the sea (Rev. 13:1-10; Rev. 18); Tribulation begins (Matt. 24-25; Rev. 6-16)

  • Rise of antichrist (lamb-like beast from earth) as world ruler (Dan. 9:27; Rev. 13:11-18)

  • Gog attacks Israel (Eze. 38-39)

  • Conversion of Jews; intense persecution of God’s people (Rev. 7:4-14)

  • Seven last plagues poured upon wicked & fall of Babylon (Rev. 15-18)

  • Wedding supper of the Lamb (Rev. 19:7-8)

  • Armageddon and Second Coming of Christ with His bride, the church (Zech. 14:2-15; Rev. 19:11-16)

  • Destruction of wicked at Armageddon (Zech. 14; Rev. 19:19-21)

  • Satan bound (Rev. 20:1)

  • Resurrection of martyrs from tribulation (Rev. 20:4-6)

  • From throne in Jerusalem, Christ rules nations during millennium (Zech. 14:16-21; Rev. 20:1-9)

  • Satan released to deceive nations at end of millennium (Rev. 20:7-9)

  • Satan’s rebellion crushed with fire from heaven (Rev. 20:9)

  • Wicked dead raised to face judgment at Great White Throne (Rev. 20:11-15); thrown into lake of fire (Rev. 20:10; 15)

  • New heaven and new earth created; New Jerusalem descends to earth (Rev. 21:1-2)


Revelation 19-21—Overview of End-Time Events


Revelation 19 outlines two feasts:  the first is the wedding supper of the Lamb, who is marrying His bride, the church (Eph. 5:25-27; II Cor. 11:2-3); the second is a feast of rotting human flesh after Christ destroys His enemies at the Second Coming.  Revelation 20 discusses the events of the millennium, leading to the final uprising against God and the condemnation of sinners at the Great White Throne.  Chapter 21 concludes the drama by revealing that heaven and earth are re-created, and that the New Jerusalem descends to earth.  I believe the most sensible reading of Revelation 19-21 is both chronological and predominately literal.

“And after these things I heard a great voice of much people in heaven, saying, Alleluia; Salvation, and glory, and honour, and power, unto the Lord our God: For true and righteous are his judgments: for he hath judged the great whore, which did corrupt the earth with her fornication, and hath avenged the blood of his servants at her hand. And again they said, Alleluia And her smoke rose up for ever and ever. And the four and twenty elders and the four beasts fell down and worshipped God that sat on the throne, saying, Amen; Alleluia. And a voice came out of the throne, saying, Praise our God, all ye his servants, and ye that fear him, both small and great” (Rev. 19:1-5, KJV).

The setting of Revelation 19 is the fall of Babylon.  All heaven rejoices in the judgments inflicted upon Babylon in the preceding chapters.

“And I heard as it were the voice of a great multitude, and as the voice of many waters, and as the voice of mighty thunderings, saying, Alleluia:  for the Lord God omnipotent reigneth.  Let us be glad and rejoice, and give honour to him:  for the marriage of the Lamb is come, and his wife hath made herself ready.  And to her was granted that she should be arrayed in fine linen, clean and white:  for the fine linen is the righteousness of saints” (Rev. 19:6-8, KJV).

Verse 7 reveals that “the marriage of the Lamb is come” and that the bride is ready, wearing robes of Christ’s righteousness.  So, is the bride in heaven (raptured), or is she still on earth?  Verse 14 will clarify that the bride of Christ is in heaven at this time.  Therefore, Revelation 19 clearly teaches that the church has been raptured before the Second Coming.

“And he saith unto me, Write, Blessed are they which are called unto the marriage supper of the Lamb.  And he saith unto me, These are the true sayings of God.  And I fell at his feet to worship him.  And he said unto me, See thou do it not:  I am thy fellowservant, and of thy brethren that have the testimony of Jesus:  worship God:  for the testimony of Jesus is the spirit of prophecy” (Rev. 19:9-10, KJV).

Because Seventh-day Adventists call Ellen White’s visions the Spirit of Prophecy, they use this text (along with Rev. 12:17), to identify themselves as the remnant.  Of course, this interpretation rests entirely on the SDA designation of Ellen White’s writings as the Spirit of Prophecy.

“And I saw heaven opened, and behold a white horse; and he that sat upon him was called Faithful and True, and in righteousness he doth judge and make war.  His eyes were as a flame of fire, and on his head were many crowns; and he had a name written, that no man knew, but he himself.  And he was clothed with a vesture dipped in blood:  and his name is called The Word of God.  And the armies which were in heaven followed him upon white horses, clothed in fine linen, white and clean” (Rev. 19:11-14, KJV).

This passage describes the beginning of the Second Coming, a point upon which virtually everyone agrees.  Who are the armies of heaven?  They are wearing the “fine linen, white and clean” of the bride of Christ (see verse 8).  Therefore, the church must be in heaven prior to the Second Coming.  They must have been raptured at some point.  If Adventists admit that the church is pictured coming down from heaven with Christ at the Second Coming, they are forced to conclude that this depiction is symbolic rather than literal because they do not believe the church is in heaven during the Time of Trouble.  However, the text literally says that the church which was “in heaven followed him.”  Ellen White depicts Christ coming with His angels only—not with the church:  “A retinue of holy angels, with bright, glittering crowns upon their heads, escorted Him on His way” (EW 286).

“And out of his mouth goeth a sharp sword, that with it he should smite the nations:  and he shall rule them with a rod of iron:  and he treadeth the winepress of the fierceness and wrath of Almighty God.  And he hath on his vesture and on his thigh a name written, KING OF KINGS, AND LORD OF LORDS” (Rev. 19:15-16, KJV).

Christ is coming to rule the nations “with a rod of iron,” indicating that some human beings will be spared from the wrath of God at this time.  They will remain alive, and Christ will rule over them from Jerusalem (Zech. 14:8-19).  This contradicts the Adventist teaching that the entire world will be destroyed at the Second Coming.  In this vision, we see that Christ comes to rule the nations, and we know that He will bind Satan to keep him from deceiving the nations (Rev. 20:3).  Thus, there must be nations of people who survive the Second Coming and the Battle of Armageddon; otherwise, it would be pointless to bind Satan to keep him from deceiving the nations, as the saints would already be secure with Christ. Zechariah 14:16 reveals that there will definitely be survivors of the nations—people who have come through the Tribulation and who have turned to God despite the general apostasy and evil.  In contrast to the Bible teaching that some inhabitants of earth will survive the Second Coming, Ellen White states, “At the coming of Christ the wicked are blotted from the face of the whole earth—consumed with the spirit of His mouth and destroyed by the brightness of His glory.  Christ takes His people to the City of God, and the earth is emptied of its inhabitants” (GC 657).


“And I saw an angel standing in the sun; and he cried with a loud voice, saying to all the fowls that fly in the midst of heaven, Come and gather yourselves together unto the supper of the great God; That ye may eat the flesh of kings, and the flesh of captains, and the flesh of mighty men, and the flesh of horses, and of them that sit on them, and the flesh of all men, both free and bond, both small and great” (Rev. 19:17-18, KJV).

In this case, the word all must mean all the wicked persons upon the earth because we know that some representatives of the nations will survive (Zech. 14:16).

“And I saw the beast, and the kings of the earth, and their armies, gathered together to make war against him that sat on the horse, and against his army.  And the beast was taken, and with him the false prophet that wrought miracles before him, with which he deceived them that had received the mark of the beast, and them that worshipped his image.  These both were cast alive into a lake of fire burning with brimstone.  And the remnant were slain with the sword of him that sat upon the horse, which sword proceeded out of his mouth:  and all the fowls were filled with their flesh” (Rev. 19:19-21, KJV).

The Battle of Armageddon ends with the birds feasting upon the flesh of the deceased.  The beast and the false prophet are thrown “alive” into hell, indicating that the beast and the false prophet are actual people.

“And I saw an angel come down from heaven, having the key of the bottomless pit and a great chain in his hand. And he laid hold on the dragon, that old serpent, which is the Devil, and Satan, and bound him a thousand years, And cast him into the bottomless pit, and shut him up, and set a seal upon him, that he should deceive the nations no more, till the thousand years should be fulfilled: and after that he must be loosed a little season” (Rev. 20:1-3).

This verse provides additional teaching that nations of people remain upon the earth at the beginning of the millennium, and that these nations are to be protected from the deceptions of Satan while Christ rules them “with a rod of iron” (verse 15).  Ellen White understood the term nations as applying to the inhabitants of other worlds:  “Limited to the earth, he will not have access to other worlds to tempt and annoy those who have never fallen” (GC 659).

“And I saw thrones, and they sat upon them, and judgment was given unto them:  and I saw the souls of them that were beheaded for the witness of Jesus, and for the word of God, and which had not worshipped the beast, neither his image, neither had received his mark upon their foreheads, or in their hands; and they lived [NIV reads “came to life”] and reigned with Christ a thousand years.  But the rest of the dead lived not again until the thousand years were finished.  This is the first resurrection.  Blessed and holy is he that hath part in the first resurrection:  on such the second death hath no power, but they shall be priests of God and of Christ, and shall reign with him a thousand years” (Rev. 20:4-6, KJV).

According to this vision, the saints who come to life in the first resurrection (of Revelation) are those who passed through the Tribulation and who did not worship the beast.  Adventists believe that the first resurrection applies to all the departed saints, but only Tribulation overcomers are specified here.  Note the clarity of the NIV:  “And I saw the souls of those who had been beheaded because of their testimony about Jesus and because of the word of God.  They had not worshiped the beast or its image and had not received its mark on their foreheads or their hands.  They came to life and reigned with Christ a thousand years . . . . This is the first resurrection.”  The other saints had been previously resurrected at the Rapture (I Cor. 15; I Thess. 4).

“And when the thousand years are expired, Satan shall be loosed out of his prison, And shall go out to deceive the nations which are in the four quarters of the earth, Gog, and Magog, to gather them together to battle:  the number of whom is as the sand of the sea.  And they went up on the breadth of the earth, and compassed the camp of the saints about, and the beloved city:  and fire came down from God out of heaven, and devoured them” (Rev. 20:7-9, KJV).

Adventists believe the second resurrection coincides with the release of Satan because they believe the earth is uninhabited during the millennium, with all the wicked having been slain at the Second Coming.  However, the second resurrection takes place after fire devours the wicked nations who attempt to throw off the authority of Christ (Rev. 20:12-13).

“And the devil that deceived them was cast into the lake of fire and brimstone, where the beast and the false prophet are, and shall be tormented day and night for ever and ever” (Rev. 20:10, KJV).

Note that the beast and the false prophet “are” in the lake of fire, and that they have been there for a thousand years.  Adventists believe that the lake of fire consumes the wicked—turns them to ashes—but these two individuals are still present in the fire after a thousand years.

“And I saw a great white throne, and him that sat on it, from whose face the earth and the heaven fled away; and there was found no place for them.  And I saw the dead, small and great, stand before God; and the books were opened: and another book was opened, which is the book of life:  and the dead were judged out of those things which were written in the books, according to their works.  And the sea gave up the dead which were in it; and death and hell delivered up the dead which were in them: and they were judged every man according to their works.  And death and hell were cast into the lake of fire.  This is the second death.  And whosoever was not found written in the book of life was cast into the lake of fire” (Rev. 20:11-15, KJV).

The second resurrection takes place in verse 13.  The resurrection of the wicked follows the fiery destruction of the rebellious nations (verse 9) rather than preceding it, as Adventists teach.

“And I saw a new heaven and a new earth:  for the first heaven and the first earth were passed away; and there was no more sea.  And I John saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down from God out of heaven, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband” (Rev. 21:1-2, KJV).

Ellen White’s visions reveal that the New Jerusalem descends from heaven immediately after the millennium ends and prior to the judgment at the Great White Throne; in sharp contrast, the Bible depicts the coming of the New Jerusalem after the wicked are judged and sent to the lake of fire.

Zechariah 14—The Second Coming and the Millennium

in the Old Testament

The Rapture is not discussed in the Old Testament because the OT prophecies were given to Israel.  However, many passages such as Zechariah 14 fit well in a pretrib/premillennial understanding.  Adventists believe that Zechariah 14 and many other OT prophecies will never be fulfilled because of Israel’s disobedience to the Messiah.  But the Apostle Paul cites the promises of God to prove that Israel will be saved through God’s faithfulness to His covenant:  “I do not want you to be ignorant of this mystery, brothers and sisters, so that you may not be conceited:  Israel has experienced a hardening in part until the full number of the Gentiles has come in, and in this way all Israel will be saved.  As it is written:  ‘The deliverer will come from Zion; he will turn godlessness away from Jacob.  And this is my covenant with them when I take away their sins.’  As far as the gospel is concerned, they are enemies for your sake; but as far as election is concerned, they are loved on account of the patriarchs, for God’s gifts and his call are irrevocable” (Romans 11:25-29, NIV).  I believe Zechariah 14 shows what will happen on behalf of Israel at the end of the Tribulation and during the millennium.

“Behold, the day of the LORD cometh, and thy spoil shall be divided in the midst of thee.  For I will gather all nations against Jerusalem to battle; and the city shall be taken, and the houses rifled, and the women ravished; and half of the city shall go forth into captivity, and the residue of the people shall not be cut off from the city” (Zech. 14:1-2, KJV).

The nations gather for the Battle of Armageddon at Jerusalem, and terrible suffering comes upon the Jewish people.

Then shall the LORD go forth, and fight against those nations, as when he fought in the day of battle.  And his feet shall stand in that day upon the mount of Olives, which is before Jerusalem on the east, and the mount of Olives shall cleave in the midst thereof toward the east and toward the west, and there shall be a very great valley; and half of the mountain shall remove toward the north, and half of it toward the south.  And ye shall flee to the valley of the mountains; for the valley of the mountains shall reach unto Azal:  yea, ye shall flee, like as ye fled from before the earthquake in the days of Uzziah king of Judah: and the LORD my God shall come, and all the saints with thee” (Zech. 14:3-5, KJV).

The NIV reads, “Then the LORD my God will come, and all the holy ones with him.”  This is a description of the Second Coming, and this text should be compared to Revelation 19:7-8 &14 to determine that the saints/holy ones who return with Christ are the raptured saints of the church—the bride of Christ.  These saints come from heaven with Christ.  Ellen White applies this passage to the coming of the New Jerusalem—not to the Second Coming:  Christ descends upon the Mount of Olives, whence, after His resurrection, He ascended, and where angels repeated the promise of His return. … ‘And His feet shall stand in that day upon the Mount of Olives, which is before Jerusalem on the east, and the Mount of Olives shall cleave in the midst thereof, ... and there shall be a very great valley.’  ‘And the Lord shall be king over all the earth:  in that day shall there be one Lord, and His name one.’ Zechariah 14:5, 4, 9. As the New Jerusalem, in its dazzling splendor, comes down out of heaven, it rests upon the place purified and made ready to receive it, and Christ, with His people and the angels, enters the Holy City” (GC 662-63).  Ellen White’s use of this text completely ignores the context of Jerusalem raped and pillaged (verse 2), followed by the subservience of the nations under the rule of Christ (verses 16-21).

“And it shall come to pass in that day, that the light shall not be clear, nor dark:  But it shall be one day which shall be known to the LORD, not day, nor night:  but it shall come to pass, that at evening time it shall be light.  And it shall be in that day, that living waters shall go out from Jerusalem; half of them toward the former sea, and half of them toward the hinder sea:  in summer and in winter shall it be.  And the LORD shall be king over all the earth: in that day shall there be one LORD, and his name one.  All the land shall be turned as a plain from Geba to Rimmon south of Jerusalem:  and it shall be lifted up, and inhabited in her place, from Benjamin's gate unto the place of the first gate, unto the corner gate, and from the tower of Hananeel unto the king's winepresses.  And men shall dwell in it, and there shall be no more utter destruction; but Jerusalem shall be safely inhabited” (Zech. 14:6-11, KJV).

This passage emphasizes that Jesus comes to rule the nations from Jerusalem.

“And this shall be the plague wherewith the LORD will smite all the people that have fought against Jerusalem; Their flesh shall consume away while they stand upon their feet, and their eyes shall consume away in their holes, and their tongue shall consume away in their mouth.  And it shall come to pass in that day, that a great tumult from the LORD shall be among them; and they shall lay hold every one on the hand of his neighbour, and his hand shall rise up against the hand of his neighbour.  And Judah also shall fight at Jerusalem; and the wealth of all the heathen round about shall be gathered together, gold, and silver, and apparel, in great abundance.  And so shall be the plague of the horse, of the mule, of the camel, and of the ass, and of all the beasts that shall be in these tents, as this plague” (Zech. 14:12-15, KJV).

The opponents of God are destroyed decisively, but those who did not rebel against God remain on earth to worship Christ.

“And it shall come to pass, that every one that is left of all the nations which came against Jerusalem shall even go up from year to year to worship the King, the LORD of hosts, and to keep the feast of tabernacles.  And it shall be, that whoso will not come up of all the families of the earth unto Jerusalem to worship the King, the LORD of hosts, even upon them shall be no rain.  And if the family of Egypt go not up, and come not, that have no rain; there shall be the plague, wherewith the LORD will smite the heathen that come not up to keep the feast of tabernacles.  This shall be the punishment of Egypt, and the punishment of all nations that come not up to keep the feast of tabernacles.  In that day shall there be upon the bells of the horses, HOLINESS UNTO THE LORD; and the pots in the LORD's house shall be like the bowls before the altar.  Yea, every pot in Jerusalem and in Judah shall be holiness unto the LORD of hosts:  and all they that sacrifice shall come and take of them, and seethe therein: and in that day there shall be no more the Canaanite in the house of the LORD of hosts” (Zech. 14:16-21).

The survivors of the nations come to Jerusalem every year to worship Christ in His millennial kingdom.  During this time, the saints will reign with Christ; they are given authority to judge the wicked (Rev. 20:4).



A primarily literal reading of Revelation 19-21 and Zechariah 14 shows that Adventist eschatology relies on mixing the order of end-time events to fit the template of Ellen White’s visions.  Adventists believe that the focal point of the Time of Trouble will be seventh-day Sabbath-keeping vs. worship on Sunday.  They believe that all other Christian churches will become Babylon, and that these apostate churches will severely persecute Adventists for their stance on the Sabbath.  While this article doesn’t directly address the issue of the New Covenant Sabbath, it does show that the apocalyptic timeline envisioned by Adventists doesn’t fit the biblical evidence.  Secondly, this article demonstrates that the teaching of a pretribulation Rapture is at least a reasonable interpretation of Scripture.  And if the church is spared the Time of Trouble (Tribulation), then there can be no Sunday law and no imposition of the Mark of the Beast as a result of Sunday worship.  If the Rapture, the tribulation, the Second Coming, the millennial rule of Christ, and the final judgment take place as indicated by a chronological reading of Revelation 19-21 and Zechariah 14, then Ellen White is not a prophet, and Christians can truly rejoice in the blessed and imminent hope of our gathering unto Christ.

“Since you have kept my command to endure patiently, I will also keep you from the hour of trial that is going to come on the whole world to test the inhabitants of the earth.” (Rev. 3:10, NIV).



Appendix A—Adventist Eschatology vs. Rev. 19-21/Zech. 14


  • The Rapture removes the church prior to the Time of Trouble, negating the SDA doctrine of the Sunday law leading to the Mark of the Beast
  • Jesus comes to rule the nations with a rod of iron, invalidating the Adventist teaching that the earth is uninhabited during the millennium

  • Tribulation martyrs are raised in the “first resurrection,” not the righteous of all ages, as taught by Adventists

  • The second resurrection takes place after Satan’s final insurrection is halted, in contrast to the Adventist teaching that Satan deceives the resurrected wicked prior to the judgment

  • The New Jerusalem descends after the final judgment rather than prior to Satan’s final attack

  • The Beast and the false prophet are living people, and they are not annihilated by the lake of fire as Adventists envision


Appendix B—Ellen G. White Quotations


Babylon & the Great Harlot


“The woman (Babylon) of Revelation 17 is described as ‘arrayed in purple and scarlet color, and decked with gold and precious stones and pearls, having a golden cup in her hand full of abominations and filthiness:...and upon her forehead was a name written, Mystery, Babylon the Great, the mother of harlots.’  Says the prophet:  ‘I saw the woman drunk with the blood of the saints, and with the blood of the martyrs of Jesus.’  Babylon is further declared to be ‘that great city, which reigneth over the kings of the earth.’ Revelation 17:4-6, 18.  The power that for so many centuries maintained despotic sway over the monarchs of Christendom is Rome.  The purple and scarlet color, the gold and precious stones and pearls, vividly picture the magnificence and more than kingly pomp affected by the haughty see of Rome.  And no other power could be so truly declared "drunken with the blood of the saints" as that church which has so cruelly persecuted the followers of Christ” (GC 382).

Daughters of the Harlot


“Babylon is said to be ‘the mother of harlots.’  By her daughters must be symbolized churches that cling to her doctrines and traditions, and follow her example of sacrificing the truth and the approval of God, in order to form an unlawful alliance with the world” (GC 382-83).

The Beast


“In [Revelation] chapter 13 (verses 1-10) is described another beast, ‘like unto a leopard,’ to which the dragon gave ‘his power, and his seat, and great authority.’  This symbol, as most Protestants have believed, represents the papacy, which succeeded to the power and seat and authority once held by the ancient Roman empire.  Of the leopardlike beast it is declared:  ‘There was given unto him a mouth speaking great things and blasphemies. . . .  And he opened his mouth in blasphemy against God, to blaspheme His name, and His tabernacle, and them that dwell in heaven.  And it was given unto him to make war with the saints, and to overcome them: and power was given him over all kindreds, and tongues, and nations.’  This prophecy, which is nearly identical with the description of the little horn of Daniel 7, unquestionably points to the papacy” (GC 439).

Mark of the Beast vs. Seal of God


“What then is the change of the Sabbath, but the sign, or mark, of the authority of the Roman Church—‘the mark of the beast’?” (GC 448).


“The seal of the living God is placed upon those who conscientiously keep the Sabbath of the Lord” (7BC 980).


“Are we seeking for His fullness, ever reaching higher and higher, trying to attain to the perfection of His character? When God’s servants reach this point, they will be sealed in their foreheads” (3SM 427).


“The sign, or seal, of God is revealed in the observance of the seventh-day Sabbath, the Lord’s memorial of creation…. The mark of the beast is the opposite of this—the observance of the first day of the week” (8T 117).

Lamb-like Beast


“It has been shown that the United States is the power represented by the beast with lamblike horns, and that this prophecy will be fulfilled when the United States shall enforce Sunday observance, which Rome claims as the special acknowledgment of her supremacy” (GC 578-79).

Sunday Law


“The enforcement of Sundaykeeping on the part of Protestant churches is an enforcement of the worship of the papacy—of the beast.  Those who, understanding the claims of the fourth commandment, choose to observe the false instead of the true Sabbath are thereby paying homage to that power by which alone it is commanded.  But in the very act of enforcing a religious duty by secular power, the churches would themselves form an image to the beast; hence the enforcement of Sundaykeeping in the United States would be an enforcement of the worship of the beast and his image” (GC 448-449).

"As America, the land of religious liberty, shall unite with the papacy in forcing the conscience and compelling men to honor the false sabbath, the people of every country on the globe will be led to follow her example” (6T 18).

Satan Impersonates Christ


“In the last days he [Satan] will appear in such a manner as to make men believe him to be Christ come the second time into the world. He will indeed transform himself into an angel of light. But while he will bear the appearance of Christ in every particular, so far as mere appearance goes, it will deceive none but those who, like Pharaoh, are seeking to resist the truth” (5T 698).

Seventh-day Sabbatarians Persecuted


"As the decree issued by the various rulers of Christendom against commandment keepers shall withdraw the protection of government and abandon them to those who desire their destruction, the people of God will flee from the cities and villages and associate together in companies, dwelling in the most desolate and solitary places.… But many of all nations and of all classes, high and low, rich and poor, black and white, will be cast into the most unjust and cruel bondage.  The beloved of God pass weary days, bound in chains, shut in by prison bars, sentenced to be slain, some apparently left to die of starvation in dark and loathsome dungeons.  No human ear is open to hear their moans; no human hand is ready to lend them help" (GC 626).


“Many will be imprisoned, many will flee for their lives from cities and towns, and many will be martyrs for Christ’s sake in standing in defense of the truth” (3SM 397).

Mediation of Christ Ceases


“When [Christ] leaves the sanctuary [during the Time of Trouble], darkness covers the inhabitants of the earth.  In that fearful time the righteous must live in the sight of a holy God without an intercessor” (GC 614).


“Now, while our great High Priest is making the atonement for us [serving as our intercessor], we should seek to become perfect in Christ. Not even by a thought could our Saviour be brought to yield to the power of temptation…. This is the condition in which those must be found who shall stand in the time of trouble” (GC 623).


Ellen White teaches that Christ’s mediation in heaven is part of the atonement (a “second phase” of the atonement).  When the second phase of the atonement is complete, Christ will cease His mediation, probation will close, and the righteous will be required to live without sin because forgiveness would no longer be available.

Second Coming of Christ


“Soon appeared the great white cloud, upon which sat the Son of man. When it first appeared in the distance, this cloud looked very small. The angel said that it was the sign of the Son of man. As it drew nearer the earth, we could behold the excellent glory and majesty of Jesus as He rode forth to conquer. A retinue of holy angels, with bright, glittering crowns upon their heads, escorted Him on His way” (EW 286).


“The earth mightily shook as the voice of the Son of God called forth the sleeping saints. They responded to the call and came forth clothed with glorious immortality…. The living saints are changed in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, and caught up with the risen ones, and together they meet their Lord in the air” (EW 287)


“On each side of the cloudy chariot were wings, and beneath it were living wheels…. And the chariot rolled upward to the Holy City” (EW 287-88).


“At the coming of Christ the wicked are blotted from the face of the whole earth—consumed with the spirit of His mouth and destroyed by the brightness of His glory. Christ takes His people to the City of God, and the earth is emptied of its inhabitants” (GC 657).

Satan Bound


“Now the event takes place foreshadowed in the last solemn service of the Day of Atonement. When the ministration in the holy of holies had been completed, and the sins of Israel had been removed from the sanctuary by virtue of the blood of the sin offering, then the scapegoat was presented alive before the Lord; and in the presence of the congregation the high priest confessed over him ‘all the iniquities of the children of Israel, and all their transgressions in all their sins, putting them upon the head of the goat.’ Leviticus 16:21. In like manner, when the work of atonement in the heavenly sanctuary has been completed, then in the presence of God and heavenly angels and the hosts of the redeemed the sins of God’s people will be placed upon Satan; he will be declared guilty of all the evil which he has caused them to commit. And as the scapegoat was sent away into a land not inhabited, so Satan will be banished to the desolate earth, an uninhabited and dreary wilderness. The revelator foretells the banishment of Satan and the condition of chaos and desolation to which the earth is to be reduced, and he declares that this condition will exist for a thousand years” (GC 658).


Ellen White taught that the scapegoat of Leviticus 16 is a representation of Satan.  Thus, in Adventist theology, Satan unwillingly performs a work of atonement.  Other Christians understand that the scapegoat sent to the wilderness on the Day of Atonement represents Christ, who bore away sin.


“Here is to be the home of Satan with his evil angels for a thousand years. Limited to the earth, he will not have access to other worlds to tempt and annoy those who have never fallen. It is in this sense that he is bound: there are none remaining, upon whom he can exercise his power” (GC 659).

New Jerusalem Descends to Earth and Wicked Raised


“At the close of the thousand years, Christ again returns to the earth. He is accompanied by the host of the redeemed and attended by a retinue of angels. As He descends in terrific majesty He bids the wicked dead arise to receive their doom. They come forth, a mighty host, numberless as the sands of the sea. What a contrast to those who were raised at the first resurrection!” (GC 662)


“Christ descends upon the Mount of Olives, whence, after His resurrection, He ascended, and where angels repeated the promise of His return. … ‘And His feet shall stand in that day upon the Mount of Olives, which is before Jerusalem on the east, and the Mount of Olives shall cleave in the midst thereof, ... and there shall be a very great valley.’ ‘And the Lord shall be king over all the earth: in that day shall there be one Lord, and His name one.’ Zechariah 14:5, 4, 9. As the New Jerusalem, in its dazzling splendor, comes down out of heaven, it rests upon the place purified and made ready to receive it, and Christ, with His people and the angels, enters the Holy City” (GC 662-63).

Satan and the Resurrected Wicked Attack New Jerusalem; Found Guilty at the Great White Throne Judgment


“Now Satan prepares for a last mighty struggle for the supremacy. While deprived of his power and cut off from his work of deception, the prince of evil was miserable and dejected; but as the wicked dead are raised and he sees the vast multitudes upon his side, his hopes revive, and he determines not to yield the great controversy. He will marshal all the armies of the lost under his banner and through them endeavor to execute his plans” (GC 663).


“At last the order to advance is given, and the countless host moves on—an army such as was never summoned by earthly conquerors, such as the combined forces of all ages since war began on earth could never equal. Satan, the mightiest of warriors, leads the van, and his angels unite their forces for this final struggle. Kings and warriors are in his train, and the multitudes follow in vast companies, each under its appointed leader…. By command of Jesus, the gates of the New Jerusalem are closed, and the armies of Satan surround the city and make ready for the onset” (GC 664).


“In the presence of the assembled inhabitants of earth and heaven the final coronation of the Son of God takes place. And now, invested with supreme majesty and power, the King of kings pronounces sentence upon the rebels against His government and executes justice upon those who have transgressed His law and oppressed His people. Says the prophet of God: “I saw a great white throne….’” (GC 666).

Lake of Fire


“The wicked receive their recompense in the earth. Proverbs 11:31. They ‘shall be stubble: and the day that cometh shall burn them up, saith the Lord of hosts.’ Malachi 4:1. Some are destroyed as in a moment, while others suffer many days. All are punished ‘according to their deeds.’ The sins of the righteous having been transferred to Satan, he is made to suffer not only for his own rebellion, but for all the sins which he has caused God’s people to commit. His punishment is to be far greater than that of those whom he has deceived. After all have perished who fell by his deceptions, he is still to live and suffer on. In the cleansing flames the wicked are at last destroyed, root and branch—Satan the root, his followers the branches” (GC 673).


“The theory of eternal torment is one of the false doctrines that constitute the wine of the abomination of Babylon, of which she makes all nations drink. Revelation 14:8; 17:2. That ministers of Christ should have accepted this heresy and proclaimed it from the sacred desk is indeed a mystery. They received it from Rome, as they received the false sabbath” (GC 536-37).

February 27, 2012