There is among some Adventists an obsession with prophetic speculation. The present time of relative peace and waiting is disturbing to them, leading them to reinterpret apocalyptic prophecy along futurist lines. In the prophecies of Daniel and Revelation, they find predictions related to some of the contemporary nations of the Middle East and even identify prominent political and religious leaders as specific fulfillments of prophecy. In doing so they commit two errors about which Ellen G. White has alerted us.

1. Misapplication of Prophecy. By misapplying biblical prophecy they reach wrong conclusions. How does this happen? She explains: “Some will take the truth applicable to their time, and place it in the future. Events in the train of prophecy that had their fulfillment away in the past are made future, and thus by these theories the faith of some is undermined.”1 This statement rejects the introduction of futurism into Adventist prophetic interpretation, through the reapplication of prophecies, and makes two points about those who would try to do so. First, they have forgotten that the adversary is constantly at work upon human minds. Therefore Bible students should be wary of personal interpretations of prophecy. Second, they ignore the Lord’s past leading of His people in the interpretation of prophecy. They detach themselves from the rest of the body of Christ by coming up with their own personal interpretation of biblical prophecies.2

2. Emotional Excitement. A false sense of excitement will damage the image and message of the church. There are some who, when studying not only prophecy but the Bible more generally, “have a burning desire to get out something new and strange to present to the flock of God. The rebuke of God is upon all such teachers.”3 When this becomes known outside the church its reputation is damaged. Ellen G. White wrote, “It is the desire and plan of Satan to bring in among us those who will go to great extremes—people of narrow minds, who are critical and sharp, and very tenacious in holding their own conceptions of what the truth means . . . . Through the work of a few of this class of persons, the whole body of Sabbath keepers will be designated as bigoted, pharisaical, and fanatical. The work of the truth, because of these workers, will be thought to be unworthy of notice.”4 When it comes to eschatology the Scripture provides only an outline of eschatological events; it is dangerous to try to fill in every gap. Our eschatology should be placed within the soteriology of the New Testament, emphasizing hope as its primary content.

Ángel Manuel Rodríguez is director of the Biblical Research Institute at the General Conference of Seventh-day Adventists, Silver Spring, Maryland, USA. This article comes from Reflections, the BRI Newsletter, Number 30, April 2010. Reprinted with permission.

1 Ellen G. White, Manuscript Releases, vol. 1, 195.
2 Ellen G. White comments: “It is true that there are prophecies yet to be fulfilled. But very erroneous work has been done again and again, and will continue to be done by those who seek to find new light in the prophecies, and who begin by turning away from the light that God has already given . . . . But the Lord does not lay upon those who have not had an experience in His work the burden of making a new exposition of those prophecies which He has, by His Holy Spirit, moved upon His chosen servants to explain” (Manuscript Releases, vol. 17, 15).
3 Ellen G. White, Manuscript Releases, vol. 1, 61.
4 Ellen G. White, Medical Ministry, 269.