Ellen G. White and the Shaking of Hebrews 12

Posted on May 18, 2013


Lightning ChurchAuthor: Marion R. Miller, B.A.T.

Ellen White’s view of the Shaking of Hebrews 12 is quite nuanced. However, as one searches her writings a central theme seems to emerge: those who pray, confess their sins, and surrender their lives completely to God will not be shaken. On the other hand, those who are just following God for convenience sake but who are inwardly serving themselves will be shaken.

Whenever I read Ellen White’s writings, I always endeavor to see where I can find Biblical support for her ideas. In regards to the Shaking, I found Biblical principles throughout the twelfth chapter of Hebrews that validate her comments. Even though I had studied the topic of the Shaking before, I discovered a new layer of meaning in Hebrews 12 when I compared the chapter to her writings.

In contemporary Adventism many often ridicule the writings of Ellen White, especially in regards to the health reform message. In fact, during one particular course at the Andrews University Theological Seminary, one student commented to me in the hallway, “I should have written the health message.” This person mentioned several aspects of their life in which they loved to indulge in unhealthful practices. Their comments reminded me of what Ellen White mentioned in relation to the Korah confederacy.

In my research I was at first surprised to find that Ellen White implicates rebellion against health reform as a contributing factor to the Shaking. However, as I began to ponder all of these quotes, I began to formulate what I term the “Esau Principle”. Esau’s selling of the birthright for a bowl of lentils did not happen overnight. His compromise was a result of the indulgence of appetite over the course of many years. This course of selfish indulgence affected his mind in such a way that he no longer saw the birthright as a blessing but as something that kept him from getting what he wanted. I believe that many in Adventism are committing the same mistake when they belittle the health reform message and live their lives in open defiance against the health principles that God has revealed to them. As with Esau, many will compromise their spiritual birthright when the time comes to choose between God and being able to buy and sell.

However, God always gives a warning in order to help us turn from our ways. I have not always appreciated the health message as I should. Due to this short research project, I have decided that I should appreciate health principles more than I do now. I know as I follow God’s will for my health, that it will help my mind to become clearer and thereby strengthen my spiritual walk with Christ.


My methodology started with the Bible text in Hebrews 12:27. Next I searched the writings of Ellen White for the term “the Shaking”. I found several interesting quotes. I then searched the term “straight testimony”. This term came to view as I read Ellen White’s comment in Testimonies to the Church Volume 1, p. 181.  I also saw that the terms “straight testimony” and “plain testimony” were used interchangeably in her writings. So I did a further search using the term “plain testimony”. After finding that health reform is tied to the “straight testimony” I then compared Ellen White’s writings to Hebrews 12. I noticed that Hebrews 12 mentions Esau in the general context of the Shaking, so I did a further search on Esau. I also found that Ellen White links Korah to the straight testimony and health reform. Throughout my research time, I compared Hebrews 12 with the statements by Ellen White to see possible correlations.

If I had to do anything differently, I would simply take more time to further develop this topic. Ideally I would like to explore the historical context of Ellen White’s statements and see if they shed further depth on this issue.

The following are my humble findings. I have added emphasis to Ellen White’s comments by italicizing the quotes. This was done in an endeavor to draw out the principles that I believed related to the Shaking. I have also added explanatory notes and comments where I have compared what Ellen White has stated with the account of the Shaking in Hebrews 12 as well as other pertinent Bible passage.

The Meaning of the Shaking

“I asked the meaning of the shaking I had seen, and was shown that it would be caused by the straight testimony called forth by the counsel of the True Witness to the Laodiceans. This will have its effect upon the heart of the receiver, and will lead him to exalt the standard and pour forth the straight truth. Some will not bear this straight testimony. They will rise up against it, and this will cause a shaking among God’s people.”—Testimonies For The Church Volume 1, p. 181.

Comments: The shaking is caused by those who rise up against the True Witness and the straight testimony or straight truth that He brings to Laodicea. According to the Bible, Jesus is the True Witness. (See Revelation 1:5; 3:14-22)

This is validated by Hebrews 12:22-25. God, the Judge of all, and the mediator, Jesus, will shake His people once more. Some might argue that it is God the Father Who shakes the church. But the context seems to be talking about Jesus. Jesus is God, and Jesus is the Judge. (John 1:1, 5:22)

Those Who Do Not Obey God’s Word Will Be Shaken

“We are in the shaking time, the time when everything that can be shaken will be shaken. The Lord will not excuse those who know the truth if they do not in word and deed obey His commands.”—Testimonies for the Church Volume 6, p. 332.

Comments: Hebrews 12 again validates these comments. Verses 4-12 admonish us to accept the rebuke or chastening of the Lord. Paul further states in verse 25 that we should not “refuse Him who speaks.” Paul is referring back to the experience in Exodus 20 when Jesus was speaking the Ten Commandments and the people did not want God to speak to them anymore. In fact, they begin to distance themselves from God. (See Exodus 20:18-21)

Jesus, the True Witness, mentions in Matthew 7:24-26 that those who hear His Words and do not put them into practice will be like the man who built his house on the sand. The storm came and beat on that house and it fell. Likewise, as Mrs. White indicates, if we know the truth and do not “in word and deed” obey His commands, we will be shaken.

The Meaning of the Straight Testimony

“The Lord calls for a renewal of the straight testimony borne in years past. He calls for a renewal of spiritual life. The spiritual energies of His people have long been torpid, but there is to be a resurrection from apparent death. By prayer and confession of sin we must clear the King’s highway.”—Testimonies for the Church Volume 8, p. 297.

Comment: Part of the straight testimony is a call for a renewal of spiritual life. It is also a call for prayer and confession of sin. This brings into perspective the renewed calls of the General Conference for revival and reformation.

The Straight Testimony is Related to Health Reform

“Let those who are teachers and leaders in our cause take their stand firmly on Bible ground in regard to health reform, and give a straight testimony to those who believe we are living in the last days of this earth’s history. A line of distinction must be drawn between those who serve God and those who serve themselves.” {ChL 75.1}

“One night I was awakened and instructed to write a straight testimony regarding the work of our school at Loma Linda. By that school a solemn and sacred work was to be done. The teachings of health reform were to stand out clearly and brightly, that all the youth in attendance might learn to practice them. All our educators should be strict health reformers. The Lord desires that genuine missionaries shall go out as pioneers from our schools. They are to be fully consecrated to the work as laborers together with God, daily enlarging their sphere of usefulness and becoming more fully sanctified through the truth. The influence of a consecrated medical missionary teacher in our schools is invaluable.”— Manuscript 31, 1908.

Comment: Jesus gives the straight testimony through His leaders and teachers. Ellen White relates the straight testimony to the health reform message found in the Bible. Those who do not follow the health reform message will end up serving themselves. By implication of the previous statements, they will rise up against the message and will be shaken out.

The issue of serving God or serving oneself is validated in Hebrews 12 when Paul comments on the case of Esau. (See Hebrews 12:16, 17)

Ellen White’s Comments on Esau in Relation to Health Reform

“Esau had a strong desire for a particular article of food, and he had so long gratified himself that he did not feel the necessity of turning from the tempting, coveted dish. He allowed his imagination to dwell upon it until the power of appetite bore down every other consideration, and controlled him. He thought he would suffer great inconvenience, and even death, if he could not have that particular dish. The more he reflected upon it, the more his desire strengthened, until his birthright lost its value and sacredness in his sight, and he bartered it away. He flattered himself that he could dispose of his birthright at will, and buy it back at pleasure; but when he sought to regain it, even at a great sacrifice, he was not able to do so. He then bitterly repented of his rashness, his folly, his madness; but it was all in vain. He had despised the blessing, and the Lord had removed it from him forever.” {CTBH 43.3}

“’Thus Esau despised his birthright.’ In disposing of it he felt a sense of relief. Now his way was unobstructed; he could do as he liked. For this wild pleasure, miscalled freedom, how many are still selling their birthright to an inheritance pure and undefiled, eternal in the heavens!” {PP 179.2}

“Because of his indifference to the divine blessings and requirements, Esau is called in Scripture “a profane person.” Verse 16. He represents those who lightly value the redemption purchased for them by Christ, and are ready to sacrifice their heirship to heaven for the perishable things of earth. Multitudes live for the present, with no thought or care for the future. Like Esau they cry, “Let us eat and drink; for tomorrow we die.” 1 Corinthians 15:32. They are controlled by inclination; and rather than practice self-denial, they will forgo the most valuable considerations. If one must be relinquished, the gratification of a depraved appetite or the heavenly blessings promised only to the self-denying and God-fearing, the claims of appetite prevail, and God and heaven are virtually despised. How many, even of professed Christians, cling to indulgences that are injurious to health and that benumb the sensibilities of the soul. When the duty is presented of cleansing themselves from all filthiness of the flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear of God, they are offended. They see that they cannot retain these hurtful gratifications and yet secure heaven, and they conclude that since the way to eternal life is so strait, they will no longer walk therein”. {PP 181.3}

“Multitudes are selling their birthright for sensual indulgence. Health is sacrificed, the mental faculties are enfeebled, and heaven is forfeited; and all for a mere temporary pleasure—an indulgence at once both weakening and debasing in its character. As Esau awoke to see the folly of his rash exchange when it was too late to recover his loss, so it will be in the day of God with those who have bartered their heirship to heaven for selfish gratifications.” {PP 182.1}

The Case of the Rebellious Children of Israel

“Under Satan’s direct temptations the children of Israel suffered appetite to control reason, and they were, through indulgence, led to commit grievous sins which awakened the wrath of God against them, and they fell in the wilderness. He thought that he should be successful in overcoming Christ with the same temptation. He told Christ that one of the exalted angels had been exiled to the world, and that His appearance indicated that, instead of His being the King of heaven, He was the angel fallen, and this explained His emaciated and distressed appearance.” 1 SM 274

“Many have their present wants supplied, yet they will not trust the Lord for the future. They manifest unbelief, and sink into despondency and gloom at anticipated want. Some are in continual trouble lest they shall come to want, and their children suffer. When difficulties arise, or when they are brought into strait places—when their faith and love to God is tested, they shrink from the trial, and murmur at the process by which God has chosen to purify them. Their love does not prove pure and perfect, to bear all things. The faith of the people of the God of Heaven should be strong, active, and enduring—the substance of things hoped for. Then the language of such will be, Bless the Lord, oh my soul, and all that is within me, bless his holy name; for he hath dealt bountifully with me. Self-denial is considered by some to be real suffering. Depraved appetites are indulged. And a restraint upon the unhealthy appetite would lead even many professed Christians to now start back, as though actual starvation would be the consequence of a plain diet. And, like the children of Israel, they would prefer slavery, diseased bodies, and even death, rather than to be deprived of the flesh-pots. Bread and water is all that is promised to the remnant in the time of trouble.” 3 SG 251.2

Comment: The rebellious children of Israel are embedded in Paul’s description of the Shaking in Hebrews 12. You can see this in verses 18 and onward in Hebrews 12. Why did the majority of the children of Israel rebel against God? It was because they refused to hear the “straight testimony” of God’s voice on Mt. Sinai. Instead, they would rather indulge their appetites by worshipping a golden calf and clamoring for a diet which they deemed better than God’s prescribed diet. Because of this, the majority of those who first left Egypt were shaken out in the wilderness.

The Case of Korah

“The facts relative to Korah and his company, who rebelled against Moses and Aaron, and against Jehovah, are recorded for a warning to God’s people, especially those who live upon the earth near the close of time. Satan has led persons to imitate the example of Korah, Dathan and Abiram, in raising insurrection among the people of God. Those who permit themselves to rise in opposition to the plain testimony, become self-deceived, and have really thought that those upon whom God laid the burden of his work were exalted above the people of God, and that their counsels and reproofs were uncalled for. They have risen in opposition to the plain testimony which God would have them bear in rebuking the wrongs among God’s people. The testimonies borne against hurtful indulgences, as tea, coffee, snuff and tobacco, have irritated a certain class, because it would destroy their idols. Many for a while were undecided whether to make an entire sacrifice of all these hurtful things, or reject the plain testimonies borne, and yield to the clamors of appetite. They occupied an unsettled position. There was a conflict between their convictions of truth and their self-indulgences. Their state of indecision made them weak, and with many, appetite prevailed. Their sense of sacred things was perverted by the use of these slow poisons; and they at length fully decided, let the consequence be what it might, they would not deny self. This fearful decision at once raised a wall of separation between them and those who were cleansing themselves, as God has commanded, from all filthiness of the flesh, and of the spirit, and were perfecting holiness in the fear of the Lord. The straight testimonies borne were in their way, and caused them great uneasiness, and they found relief in warring against them, and striving to make themselves and others believe that they were untrue. They said the people were all right, but it was the reproving testimonies which made the trouble. And when the rebellious unfurl their banner, all the disaffected rally around the standard, and all the spiritually defective, the lame, the halt, and the blind, unite their influence to scatter and sow discord.” Spiritual Gifts 4a, 36

Comments: The use of the words “plain testimony” are also used interchangeably by Ellen White with the words “straight testimony.” In other words, the case of Korah, which came about by the indulgence of appetite and the rejection of self-control, is related to the Shaking. Ellen White notes that the same attitude of those who united with Korah would war, scatter, and sow discord among God’s people in the last days. This helps to verify that the unconverted professed Adventists are the ones who cause a shaking among God’s people. They are the ones who cause discord and a scattering of God’s people in the last days. It is interesting to note that the case of Korah is also alluded to in Hebrews chapter 12 and verses 25 and 29. Compare with Numbers 16, especially the consuming fire of verse 35.

The spirit of Korah will also be directed against the straight testimonies. This would, by extension, include trying to make the writings of Ellen White appear to be untrue.

The Straight Testimony Applies to Our Schools and Institutions

“In our schools in Battle Creek, Healdsburg, and Cooranbong I have borne a straight testimony concerning these matters. There were those who thought the restraint too severe; but we told them plainly what could be and what could not be, showing them that our schools are established at great expense for a definite purpose, and that all which would hinder the accomplishment of this purpose must be put away.” {CT 101.2}

Comment: One can gain a glimpse of the conditions of our institutions by Ellen White’s counsel to the Advondale school:

“Again and again I stood before the students in the Avondale school with messages from the Lord regarding the deleterious influence of free and easy association between young men and young women. I told them that if they did not keep themselves to themselves, and endeavor to make the most of their time, the school would not benefit them, and those who were paying their expenses would be disappointed. I told them that if they were determined to have their own will and their own way, it would be better for them to return to their homes and to the guardianship of their parents. This they could do at any time if they decided not to stand under the yoke of obedience, for we did not design to have a few leading spirits in wrongdoing demoralizing the other students.” {CT 101.3}

The Straight Testimony Brings a Separation Among God’s People

“According to the light that God has given me in vision, wickedness and deception are increasing among God’s people who profess to keep His commandments. Spiritual discernment to see sin as it exists, and then to put it out of the camp, is decreasing among God’s people; and spiritual blindness is fast coming upon them. The straight testimony must be revived, and it will separate those from Israel who have ever been at war with the means that God has ordained to keep corruptions out of the church. Wrongs must be called wrongs. Grievous sins must be called by their right name. All of God’s people should come nearer to Him and wash their robes of character in the blood of the Lamb. Then will they see sin in the true light and will realize how offensive it is in the sight of God.” {3T 324.1}

Ministers are Called to Give the Straight Testimony

“There is need of a great reformation in our ranks. The ministers who are drawing pay from the conference need to ask themselves the question “Am I a faithful worker? Am I a spiritual help to the church?” There are those who demand high wages for their labors, but who bring few souls into the truth to stand steadfast and true to its principles. It is time for our ministers to humble their hearts before the Lord, and bear a straight, convincing testimony to the people. It is time for them to labor earnestly to increase the membership of the churches, leading all to a thorough understanding of the truth for this time. The Lord wants living members in His church, men and women who will encourage one another in faithful service.”—Manuscript Releases 9:115.

The Sealing of God’s People Is Followed by the Shaking

“Just as soon as the people of God are sealed in their foreheads—it is not any seal or mark that can be seen, but a settling into the truth, both intellectually and spiritually, so they cannot be moved—just as soon as God’s people are sealed and prepared for the shaking, it will come. Indeed, it has begun already; the judgments of God are now upon the land, to give us warning, that we may know what is coming.” (Manuscript 173, 1902).

The Mark of the Beat Separates the Dross and the Gold

“The time is not far distant when the test will come to every soul. The mark of the beast will be urged upon us. Those who have step by step yielded to worldly demands and conformed to worldly customs will not find it a hard matter to yield to the powers that be, rather than subject themselves to derision, insult, threatened imprisonment, and death. The contest is between the commandments of God and the commandments of men. In this time the gold will be separated from the dross in the church.”—Testimonies for the Church 5:81 (1882).

“The great issue so near at hand [enforcement of Sunday laws] will weed out those whom God has not appointed and He will have a pure, true, sanctified ministry prepared for the latter rain.”—Selected Messages 3:385 (1886).

Comment: In the last days God will again shake the earth. The first shaking was when Jesus gave the Ten Commandments. (Hebrews 12:18-27) In fact, the experience on Mount Sinai was so dreadful that even Moses was trembling. (Hebrews 12:21) In the last days, the issue will again be in the context of Jesus making His commandments prominent. (Revelation 12:17; 14:12) We will either choose to love Jesus supremely and allow His law to be written in our hearts or we will choose to sacrifice our relationship with Jesus for the temporary safety that the beast power offers.

Also, according to Revelation 13, in the last days God’s people will not be able to buy or sell. Many Adventists will “sell out” like Esau did, in order to provide food and provisions for themselves or for their family.

The Church Will Appear to Fall

“The church may appear as about to fall, but it does not fall. It remains, while the sinners in Zion will be sifted out—the chaff separated from the precious wheat. This is a terrible ordeal, but nevertheless it must take place.”—Selected Messages 2:380 (1886).

God Faithful People Will Be Revealed During the Shaking Time

“The Lord has faithful servants who in the shaking, testing time will be disclosed to view. There are precious ones now hidden who have not bowed the knee to Baal. They have not had the light which has been shining in a concentrated blaze upon you. But it may be under a rough and uninviting exterior the pure brightness of a genuine Christian character will be revealed. In the daytime we look toward heaven but do not see the stars. They are there, fixed in the firmament, but the eye cannot distinguish them. In the night we behold their genuine luster.”—Testimonies for the Church Volume 5, pp. 80, 81.

“The numbers of this company had lessened. Some had been shaken out and left by the way. The careless and indifferent, who did not join with those who prized victory and salvation enough to perseveringly plead and agonize for it, did not obtain it, and they were left behind in darkness, and their places were immediately filled by others taking hold of the truth and coming into the ranks. Evil angels still pressed around them, but could have no power over them.” {CET 177.1}


  1. The Shaking is Commenced by the True Witness, Jesus Christ
    1. Jesus gives a message through His leaders and teachers

i.      A Call to prayer and confession of sin

ii.      A message that calls sin by its right name

iii.      A message that uplifts health reform

  1. The Shaking actually happens when those who do not want to bear it, rise up against it.
    1. As in the case of Korah, they form alliances and endeavor to rebel against those who are bearing the straight testimony.
    2. Those who rebel against the straight testimony do so because Adventism becomes unpopular.

i.      They have to choose between following God or serving themselves

  1. The Shaking is precipitated by Sunday Laws being passed due to the judgments of God hitting the world.
    1. Those who rise up against the straight testimony have to choose between God and their everyday provisions.
    2. Many, like Esau, will sell their spiritual birthright for food and provisions.

i.      Indulgence of Appetite leads to this compromise

ii.      Not willing to take heed to health reform paves the way for unhealthy appetites to be cherished and eventually apostasy

  1. Adventism as we know it today will appear to fall
    1. Those who did not plead and agonize for salvation leave and go out into darkness.
    2. However, those who have been shaken out will be replaced by new converts who take hold of the truth.
  2. Those who remain true to God will be sealed and will eventually receive a kingdom that cannot be shaken. (See Hebrews 12:28-29)
Posted in: End Times, Leadership