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101 Questions on the Sanctuary and on Ellen White

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    65. The Shut Door

    The true meaning of the phrase “and the door was shut” (Matthew 25:10) unfolded only gradually to the pioneers of the Seventh-day Adventist Church. When Christ did not return on October 22, 1844, many Advent believers thought that on that date the door of mercy had been “forever closed to the world” (Selected Messages 1:63).QSEW 57.2

    Seventeen-year-old Ellen Harmon was one of those who shared this belief. However, she soon changed her mind. About a month after the disappointment, Ellen concluded that the “seventh-month movement” of the autumn of 1844 was not the real midnight cry of Matthew 25:6 after all. The October 22 date appears for a few weeks to have lost all of its significance for her. James White stated in 1847, “When she received her first vision, December, 1844, she and all the band in Portland, Maine had given up the midnight cry, and shut door, as being in the past” (A Word to the Little Flock, 22; facsimile published in F. D. Nichol’s Ellen G. White and Her Critics, Page 582). That first vision was intended to reassure the little advent band of God’s leading in the Millerite movement and of the integrity of the October 22 date. (See Early Writings, 14-20.) Ellen was shown three groups of people:QSEW 57.3

    (a) The living saints, 144,000 in number, who maintained their faith in the October 22 experience.QSEW 57.4

    (b) Former Millerites who looked upon the 1844 movement as a mistake and who claimed that “it was not God that had led them out so far,” andQSEW 58.1

    (c) “The wicked world which God had rejected.”QSEW 58.2

    Ellen misinterpreted this vision. She correctly understood that the day of salvation for the latter two groups was past. For them, the door was shut. (See Selected Messages 1:62.) But she incorrectly concluded that no one could accept Christ after October 22, that only the little flock remaining in the household of faith would be saved, and that everyone else would be lost. She somehow failed to see that the figure 144,000, however interpreted, must surely include more than a few small groups of advent bands. In January, 1845, Ellen Harmon began visiting the little advent bands in Maine and New Hampshire to tell them what she had seen in vision. Concerning her ministry at this time, Otis Nichols wrote William Miller:QSEW 58.3

    “Her message was always attended with the Holy Ghost, and wherever it was received as from the Lord, it broke down and melted their hearts like little children, fed, comforted, strengthened the weak, and encouraged them to hold on to the faith, and the seventh month movement, and that our work was done for the nominal church and the world, and what remained to be done was for the household of faith.”—Otis Nichols to William Miller, April 20, 1846, White Estate Document File #439b.QSEW 58.4

    In February, 1845, while she was on her first journey to eastern Maine, the Lord gave Ellen another vision which illuminated still further the events of October 22, 1844. (See Early Writings, 54-56.) Concerning this vision she wrote Joseph Bates:QSEW 58.5

    “While in Exeter, Maine, in meeting with Israel Damon, James, and many others, many of them did not believe in a shut door.... There was one sister there that was called very spiritual. She had traveled and been a powerful preacher the most of the time for twenty years. She had been truly a mother in Israel. But a division had risen in the band on the shut door. She had great sympathy, and could not believe the door was shut. (I had known nothing of their differences.) Sister Durben got up to talk. I felt very, very sad.QSEW 58.6

    “At length my soul seemed to be in an agony, and while she was talking I fell from my chair to the floor. It was then I had a view of Jesus rising from His mediatorial throne and going to the holiest as Bridegroom to receive His kingdom.... Most of them received the vision and were settled upon the shut door.”—Letter 3, 1847.QSEW 58.7

    It appears that in 1847—the date of this letter to Bates—Ellen White still held that the door of mercy had been closed for the world in 1844. However, during the next two years, her view of the implications of the shut door enlarged materially, as is evident from the following documentation:QSEW 59.1

    In May, 1848, Ellen White wrote the Hastings family:QSEW 59.2

    “How are the children? Do they feel their acceptance with God? Dear children, do not rest a moment if you do not.... I do love you, children, and I want you to be saved in the kingdom and enjoy the beauty of the earth made new.”—Letter 1, 1848.QSEW 59.3

    In the November, 1848, vision when she saw “streams of light that went clear round the world” (Life Sketches of Ellen G. White, 125), Joseph Bates recorded the following words as Ellen White spoke them:QSEW 59.4

    “The angels are holding the four winds.... The saints are not all sealed.... Yea, publish the things thou has seen and heard, and the blessing of God will attend.... The shut door we have had. God has taught and taught, but that experience is not the seal.”—Quoted in Ellen G. White and Her Critics, Page 249.QSEW 59.5

    In a vision on January 5, 1849, Ellen White “saw that Jesus would not leave the Most Holy Place until every case was decided either for salvation or destruction” (The Present Truth, August, 1849, Page 22).QSEW 59.6

    On March 24, 1849, she was shown that,QSEW 59.7

    “Jesus had shut the door in the Holy Place and no man can open it, and that He had opened the door in the Most Holy Place and no man can shut it. And that since Jesus had opened the door in the Most Holy Place the commandments have been shining out and God has been testing His people on the holy Sabbath.”—Letter 5, 1849. See Early Writings, 42-45.QSEW 59.8

    On January 11, 1850, Ellen White joyfully reports,QSEW 59.9

    “O my brother and sister, I wish all of God’s people could get a sight of it as God has shown it me. The work of the Lord is going on. Souls are coming in to the truth and soon the work will be all done. Keep up good courage, hope in God, let nothing weigh thee down. We have the truth. We know it. Praise the Lord. I saw yesterday our work was not to the shepherds who have rejected the former messages, but to the honest deceived who are led astray.”—Letter 18, 1850.QSEW 59.10

    By January, 1850, Ellen White had reached two firm conclusions. These were that on October 22, 1844:QSEW 59.11

    (1) The door of mercy was closed for some individuals but not for the world at large, andQSEW 59.12

    (2) While one door in heaven had been shut, another door had been opened. The shut door represented the completion of one phase of Christ’s heavenly ministry while the open door represented the beginning of the second phase of his heavenly ministry. The Sabbath-keeping Adventists came to be known as the “Sabbath and shut-door” people. That is, their two unique doctrines were that the seventh day was the Sabbath and the cleansing of the heavenly sanctuary began on October 22, 1844. The “shut door” had become a catch phrase for “faith in October 22, 1844.”QSEW 59.13

    Ellen White continued firmly to hold this concept of the “shut door” throughout her life. In 1888 and again in 1911 she emphasized that, after having completed eighteen centuries of first-apartment ministry, Christ entered the most holy place of the heavenly sanctuary on October 22, 1844. (See The Great Controversy, 420-422.)QSEW 60.1

    In the five years from December, 1844, to January, 1850, Ellen White had gained a much clearer and broader understanding of the phrase “and the door was shut” in Matthew 25—admittedly, a fundamental change. However, this in no way invalidates the reliability of her visions. Years later she stoutly defended the integrity of those early visions when she declared:QSEW 60.2

    “With my brethren and sisters, after the time passed in forty-four, I did believe no more sinners would be converted. But I never had a vision that no more sinners would be converted.”—Selected Messages 1:74.QSEW 60.3

    Sometimes, she explained, the Lord gave her several visions on a particular subject before she understood it. She declared:QSEW 60.4

    “Often representations are given me which at first I do not understand. But after a time they are made plain by a repeated presentation of those things that I did not at first comprehend, in ways that make their meaning clear and unmistakable.”—Selected Messages 3:56.QSEW 60.5

    The full meaning of her first vision was now plain. Those who “saw the light of the first and second angels’ messages and rejected that light, were left in darkness.” But “those who did not see the light, had not the guilt of its rejection” (Selected Messages 1:63). The phrase “all the wicked world which God had rejected” referred only to those who had rejected light. Progressive revelation on God’s part had been accompanied by progressive understanding on Ellen White’s part.QSEW 60.6

    In order to avoid further misunderstanding, when she published her 1846 broadside in her first book in 1851 she dropped out the “wicked world” phrase. Compare Early Writings, 15, with Selected Messages 1:62. (See The Great Controversy, 429.)QSEW 60.7

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