Divine Foreknowledge and Future Possibilities


Ellen White wrote that “I AM means an eternal presence; the past, present, and future are alike with God. He sees the most remote events of past history, and the far distant future with as clear a vision as we do those things which are transpiring daily. We know not what is before us, and if we did, it would not contribute to our eternal welfare” (Lt 119, 1895). This she also applies to Christ, saying, “Christ is over all the works of His creation… His eyes seeing past, present, and future” (LS 93).


Ellen White believed in God as “Him who has divine foreknowledge” (RH, December 3, 1901), and “One who understands the past, the present, and the future” (RH, June 2, 1904), writing that “God knows the future. He is the One to be looked to and trusted in to guide and guard and direct in the future development of the various branches of His work” (Lt 192, 1901). She believed that “God sees the end from the beginning. He knows the future. Let us trust to His guidance” (Lt 28, 1903). Again she wrote, “The Lord knows all about the future” (Lt 22a, 1895; Lt 1, 1898), that “The Lord knows all about the past and present and future” (Lt 3, 1893) and that “The Lord God possesses infallible insight in regard to [the] past and the present and the future” (MS 175, 1897). Again she wrote, “He sees the end from the beginning. He knows all things. Past, present, and future are all clear to Him.” (Lt 6, 1894)


However, to Ellen White, God saw the future not as a single certainty, but “He who is mighty in counsel has taken His survey of all the possibilities and probabilities” (Lt 52, 1898). She wrote of “He who foresees all things” (SpTB07 53) going further to say that “God foresees all the possibilities” (Lt 109, 1900; RH July 2, 1901) and “In His infinite wisdom, He sees man’s possibilities” (Lt 96, 1902) and that “When we place ourselves in His hands, He shows us the possibilities and probabilities before us and bids us go for help to One infinitely higher than erring human beings” (MS 118, 1904). She believed that “The creation of our world was brought into the councils of heaven… Jesus Christ was to rule the earthly kingdom; under God He engaged to take the world with all its probabilities” (Ms 43b, 1891).


Ellen White understood this in terms of what God revealed about the future, saying “The angels of God in their messages to men represent time as very short. Thus it has always been presented to me. It is true that time has continued longer than we expected in the early days of this message. Our Saviour did not appear as soon as we hoped. But has the word of the Lord failed? Never! It should be remembered that the promises and the threatenings of God are alike conditional” (Ms 4, 1883). She believed that “God is working out His great plan for eternity, and His agencies are to be multiplied. We are all acting our part in obedience to the laws of cause and effect” (Ms 17, 1908). Thus God’s plans drive His foreknowledge, for He knows what He will do. She wrote “The Lord knows the future. He is the One to be looked to and trusted in to guide and guard and direct in the future development of the various branches of His work” (MS 156b, 1901)


Thus we read the following two statements which show the interplay between what God plans and His knowledge of the future possibilities. First, in speaking of prophecy, she writes “In the past the Lord God of ages revealed his secrets to his prophets. The Omniscient looked down the centuries, and predicted through his prophets the rise and fall of kingdoms, hundreds of years before the events foretold took place. The present and the future are equally clear to God, and he shows his servants what shall be. His voice echoes down the ages, telling man what is to take place. Kings and princes take their position at the appointed time. They think they are carrying out their own purposes, but in reality they are fulfilling the word God has given through his prophets. They act their part in carrying out God’s great plan. Events fall into line, fulfilling the word the Almighty has spoken” (RH, February 6, 1900; YI December 1, 1903). And then showing the conditionality in how the events will play out with the free-will of man, she says, “The Lord sees all the possibilities there are in man to work out His divine end, and those who are called to be laborers with Him will receive His ideas regarding those who are His by creation and by redemption… God must plan with and for His workers” (MS 70, 1899).


The fall of man is another example of the dynamic of God’s foreknowledge as a perfect anticipation of “infinite possibilities” (MS 168, 1902) that God sees in free-will beings, for “Though he foresees all things, he often permits men to take their own course, when they refuse to be guided by the counsels of infinite wisdom” (ST, July 13, 1882). In one place, she wrote that “From the beginning, God and Christ knew of the apostasy of Satan, and of the fall of man through the deceptive power of the apostate. God did not ordain that sin should exist, but He foresaw its existence, and made provision to meet the terrible emergency” (DA 22). Yet in another place, she indicates that the fall of man was only one possibility, saying “In the councils of heaven, before the world was created, the Father and the Son covenanted together that if man proved disloyal to God, Christ, one with the Father, would take the place of the transgressor, and suffer the penalty of justice that must fall upon him” (Ms 145, 1897). The conditionality is repeated in another quote which reads, “But His engagement was made, before the foundation of the world was laid, that if man proved rebellious, Christ would give His life a sacrifice, bearing their transgressions and making a way that man should return to his allegiance to God, and thus secure the salvation of His covenant people” (Ms 61b, 1895).


So we see that to Ellen White, while the fall of man was only a possibility, “In the divine plan, evil was foreseen and provided for (ST, April 22, 1903) and that God’s plan was comprehensive to embrace all possibilities, for “God, the One infinite and all-wise, sees the end from the beginning, and in dealing with evil His plans were far-reaching and comprehensive. It was His purpose, not merely to put down the rebellion, but to demonstrate to all the universe the nature of the rebellion. God’s plan was unfolding, showing both His justice and His mercy, and fully vindicating His wisdom and righteousness in His dealings with evil” (PP 78).


Ellen White wrote of the divine risk involved in the plan of salvation, “We do not comprehend the infinite condescension of Christ in consenting to war with the enemy, or the infinite risk he ventured in engaging in the great controversy in our behalf” (ST, April 25, 1892) and that “Christ was conqueror over the powers of darkness, and took the infinite risk of consenting to war with the enemy, that he might conquer him in our behalf” (ST, February 20, 1893). She believed that we must “remember that Christ risked all” (COL 196; GCB, December 1, 1895) and “meditate upon the risk that Jesus took” (ST, May 2, 1892), which was “to meet a bitterer conflict and a more fearful risk” (DA 49), “the risk of losing His own life” (MS 43, 1895) as “He not only became an exile from the heavenly courts, but for us took the risk of failure and eternal loss” (DA 131) for “Jesus risked all this and a hundred-fold more that He might bring salvation within the reach of every soul” (ST, August 4, 1898).


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