National Sunday Law - Fact or Fiction?

Chapter 6

Mark of the Beast?

In 1847 Ellen White wrote:

"I saw that the number (666) of the image beast was made up; and that it was the beast that changed the Sabbath and the image beast followed on after and kept the Pope's, and not God's Sabbath. And all we were required to do, was to give up God's Sabbath and keep the Pope's and then we should have the mark of the beast and of his image."1
Fifty years later, in 1897, Adventist pioneer Uriah Smith reiterates the Adventist stance that the Pope's Sabbath is the mark of the beast:
"This change of the fourth commandment must therefore be the change to which the prophecy points, and the Sunday sabbath must be the mark of the beast!"2
In 1898 Mrs. White wrote:
"John was called to behold a people distinct from those who worship the Beast and his image by keeping the first day of the week. The observance of this day is the mark of the Beast."3
How does one obtain the mark of the beast? According to Seventh-day Adventists, it is by observance of Sunday. How does one observe Sunday? Mrs. White makes that perfectly clear:
"If the light of truth has been presented to you, revealing the Sabbath of the fourth commandment, and showing that there is no foundation in the Word of God for Sunday observance, and yet you still cling to the false sabbath, refusing to keep holy the Sabbath which God calls "My holy day," you receive the mark of the beast. When does this take place? When you obey the decree that commands you to cease from labor on Sunday and worship God, while you know that there is not a word in the Bible showing Sunday to be other than a common working day, you consent to receive the mark of the beast, and refuse the seal of God."4
Notice carefully that in order to receive the mark of the beast one must:
  1. "Cease from labor on Sunday" and ...
  2. "Worship God" on Sunday
In the 1800s a few Seventh-day Adventists managed to get themselves arrested and imprisoned for brief durations for violating laws forbidding work on Sunday. Two of their publishing houses, one in London and one in Basil, Switzerland, were closed for disregarding Sunday laws and laws regulating the hours of female labor. At this time many Adventists regarded ceasing from labor on Sunday as a violation of the 4th Commandment. The reason behind their refusal to cease from work is found in Exodus 20:9, "Six days shalt thou labor, and do all thy work." They interpreted this to mean they were under a requirement from God to work six days a week. Therefore, they felt it was a violation of God's commandment and a renunciation of their faith to cease working on Sunday.

There was a rift in the church on this subject. Some in the church questioned the necessity of purposely inciting local authorities by working on Sunday. They proposed that Adventists comply with the local laws forbidding Sunday labor. Finally, a small crisis occurred in Australia in the early 1900s. A law was enacted requiring the closing of certain businesses, including publishing houses, in Melbourne on Sundays. After receiving notice of the law the Adventists continued to operate their publishing facility for three Sundays. Finally, local authorities threatened them with arrest. Adventists were now faced with a decision. Was it worth being arrested to prove their point about working six days a week? Adventist leaders turned to their prophetess who provided a testimony from God to solve the problem:

"The light given me by the Lord at a time when we were expecting just such a crisis as you seem to be approaching was that when the people were moved by a power from beneath to enforce Sunday observance, Seventh-day Adventists were to show their wisdom by refraining from their ordinary work on that day, devoting it to missionary effort."

"At one time those in charge of our school at Avondale inquired of me, saying: 'What shall we do? The officers of the law have been commissioned to arrest those working on Sunday.' I replied: 'It will be very easy to avoid that difficulty. Give Sunday to the Lord as a day for doing missionary work. Take the students out to hold meetings in different places, and to do medical missionary work. They will find the people at home and will have a splendid opportunity to present the truth. This way of spending Sunday is always acceptable to the Lord.'"5

Notice that Mrs. White directs Adventists to keep Sunday the same way all conscientious Sunday observers do! They are instructed to hold religious "meetings" and do "missionary work!" They are to refrain "from their ordinary work on that day." Furthermore, the prophetess told them that "this way of spending Sunday is always acceptable to the Lord."

Ellen White, 1898 Ellen White, 1902
" receive the mark of the beast... When you obey the decree that commands you to cease from labor on Sunday." "Seventh-day Adventists were to show their wisdom by refraining from their ordinary work on that day."
"Give Sunday to the hold meetings in different places, and to do medical missionary work."

It appears that the threat of arrest was enough to convert the Adventist prophetess to Sunday observance! In 1902 she said that holding religious meetings, refraining from ordinary work, and doing missionary work is an acceptable way for Adventists to spend Sunday. Therefore, it must also be acceptable for Baptists, Catholics, Methodists, Lutherans, Pentecostals, Presbyterians, and other Christians to do the same. How could Sunday-keeping Christians receive the mark of the beast for observing Sunday when God's prophet said that this type of Sunday observance is "acceptable to the Lord?" If Sunday-keeping Christians receive the Mark of the Beast for spending Sunday in religious meetings and doing missionary work, it logically follows that Adventists will also receive the mark of the beast for doing the same!

If Adventists follow the counsel of their prophet, how will they ever possibly be persecuted for violating the Sunday law? What reason could Sunday-keepers possibly conceive to persecute and kill people who are holding religious meetings and doing missionary work on Sunday? Since Adventists will be holding religious meetings and doing missionary work on Sunday it will be impossible to distinguish them from Sunday worshippers! Therefore, it will be impossible to arrest them and impossible to prosecute them.

Why should Adventists fear persecution from a future Sunday law? They have already been given instructions that will prevent them from ever being persecuted for working on Sunday. This testimony invalidates the entire Great Controversy scenario of Sabbath-keepers being persecuted for not worshipping on Sunday. If a Sunday law is ever passed, Adventists will not be hiding in the woods or mountains. They will be holding religious meetings on Sunday and doing missionary work. The authorities will see that the Adventists are doing the exact same thing the Baptists next door are doing. Therefore, there will be no arrests and no persecution. It will be a non-event.

Ellen White a Convert to "Wordly Policy"?

Years before the Sunday law incidents, Ellen White made this statement:

"There is a prospect before us of a continued struggle, at the risk of imprisonment, loss of property, and even of life itself, to defend the law of God, which is made void by the laws of men. In this situation worldly policy will urge an outward compliance with the laws of the land, for the sake of peace and harmony."6
Did Ellen White adopt a "worldly policy" when she urged "an outward compliance with the laws of the land, for the sake of peace and harmony?"

In Daniel 3 a story is told of three Hebrews who refused to bow down to the golden image. Have you ever wondered what happened to all the thousands of other Hebrews? Why weren't they standing up? There were probably plenty of Hebrews on the plain of Dura that morning that acted the same way the Adventists did in Australia. They compromised. The book of Daniel does not mention those Hebrews because they are not worth mentioning. Only those who have the determination to stand up for what they believe--even at the risk of their lives--are worth mentioning. True Christians do not try and see how close they can appear to non-Christians so that they can avoid detection. True Christians stand for what they believe. Ellen White and her associates backed down on the Sunday law issue when they agreed it was not an issue worth getting arrested over. There are only two possible reasons for this:

  1. Either Sunday laws are not the mark of the beast...
  2. The church's prophet and its leaders compromised their values.
Which was it?


1. Ellen G. White, A Word to the Little Flock, p. 19 (1847).

2. Uriah Smith, Daniel and the Revelation, p. 606, 1897 edition.

3. Ellen G. White, Testimonies to Ministers and Gospel Workers, page 133.

4. Ellen G. White, SDA Bible Commentary, vol. 7, p. 980.

5. Ellen G. White, Testimonies, vol. 9 pp. 232, 238. The testimony was written in 1902 to Elder Irwin who was in Australia at that time (see Report of Progress, December 3, 1907).

6. Ellen G. White, Testimonies, vol. 5, p. 712.

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