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The Tsunami & Sunday Breaking

The Prediction

In 1884 Ellen White made the following prediction, which appears relevant to the horrid tsunami tragedy of December 26, 2004:

Men in responsible positions will not only ignore and despise the Sabbath themselves, but from the sacred desk, will urge upon the people the observance of the first day of the week, pleading tradition and custom in behalf of this man-made institution. They will point to calamities on land and sea—to the storms of wind, the floods, the earthquakes, the destruction by fire—as judgments indicating God's displeasure because Sunday is not sacredly observed.Signs of the Times, January 17, 1884, bold added.

So strongly did Mrs. White feel about this matter that in 1884 she incorporated this prediction, along with a reference to tidal waves, into what is now known as Spirit of Prophecy, vol. 4. This volume was rewritten and expanded in 1888 to become The Great Controversy, which was then revised in 1911. Here is how the prediction reads in the 1911 edition:

Tsunami damage: car on roof.
Building and car in Khao Lak, Thailand, destroyed by the tsunami.—MCEER.
In accidents and calamities by sea and by land, in great conflagrations, in fierce tornadoes and terrific hailstorms, in tempests, floods, cyclones, tidal waves, and earthquakes, in every place and in a thousand forms, Satan is exercising his power. He sweeps away the ripening harvest, and famine and distress follow. He imparts to the air a deadly taint, and thousands perish by the pestilence. These visitations are to become more and more frequent and disastrous. . . .

And then the great deceiver will persuade men that those who serve God are causing these evils. The class that have provoked the displeasure of Heaven will charge all their troubles upon those whose obedience to God's commandments is a perpetual reproof to transgressors. It will be declared that men are offending God by the violation of the Sunday sabbath; that this sin has brought calamities which will not cease until Sunday observance shall be strictly enforced; and that those who present the claims of the fourth commandment, thus destroying reverence for Sunday, are troublers of the people, preventing their restoration to divine favor and temporal prosperity.—Great Controversy, pp. 589, 590, bold added.

Thus, Ellen White predicted that there would be more tidal waves and earthquakes toward the end of time, and that these tidal waves would be attributed to God's wrath against people for not keeping Sunday as the Sabbath. Is it at all possible that something like this might happen?

News Reports of February 2005

In February of 2005, various media outlets, like WorldNetDaily.com, picked up a story about the comments of John MacLeod, a prominent minister of the Free Presbyterian Church of Scotland. You can read his comments firsthand in the February issue of his church's magazine, posted on FPChurch.org.uk. Here is what John MacLeod has to say about the reason God allowed the tsunami to wipe out more than 200,000 lives:

John MacLeod: Tsunami sent by God.
John MacLeod—Grampian TV.
Does He not reveal the reason why, in the days of Noah, He brought in the flood upon "the world of the ungodly" and, later on, why He rained fire and brimstone from heaven upon Sodom, where they were "wicked and sinners before the Lord exceedingly"? Do not worldliness, materialism, hedonism, uncleanness and pleasure-seeking characterise our own generation to a great extent and does not this solemn visitation in providence remind us that He remains the same God still? "No calamity happens, except through God" is Calvin's paraphrase of the scripture: "Shall there be evil in a city and the Lord has not done it?" . . . In other words, He is no idle spectator of what is happening here in time and He treats men with "sharpness and severity" in order that they "may know their vices".

Some of the places most affected by this tsunami attracted pleasure-seekers from all over the world. It has to be noted that the wave arrived on the Lord's Day, the day that God has set apart to be observed the world over by a holy resting from all employments and recreations that are lawful on other days. We cannot but fear that it found multitudes unprepared for the eternity into which they were ushered so suddenly and without warning. There is much sorrow over those who perished and much sympathy for those that survived, especially for the bereaved and the destitute — and rightly so. But, as far we are able to judge, there has been, as yet, little acknowledgement of the hand of God in the matter and no evidence of repentance.

Thus, what John MacLeod said was what Ellen White predicted would be said.

An Inconsistency

We hesitate to mention the following inconsistency in Pastor MacLeod's comments, but it is relevant to this topic. In the passage quoted from above, Ellen White said:

The class that have provoked the displeasure of Heaven will charge all their troubles upon those whose obedience to God's commandments is a perpetual reproof to transgressors. . . . Thus the accusation urged of old against the servant of God will be repeated and upon grounds equally well established: "And it came to pass, when Ahab saw Elijah, that Ahab said unto him, Art thou he that troubleth Israel? And he answered, I have not troubled Israel; but thou, and thy father's house, in that ye have forsaken the commandments of the Lord, and thou hast followed Baalim." 1 Kings 18:17, 18.—Great Controversy, p. 590, bold added.

So Ellen White predicted that people would blame the disasters on the breaking of the Sunday sabbath, when in reality, she suggests, the problem lies with those who follow Baalim and refuse to keep the Bible Sabbath. We'll consider her reference to the sun god Baal a little later, after we look at a few more news reports.

John MacLeod attributes the tidal waves to breaking the Sunday sabbath, while Ellen White suggests that the opposite might possibly be the case. In considering which writer is correct, read the following news notes from BarnabasFund.org:


18 January 2005

A Christian congregation in Aceh were in church when the tsunami struck at about 8.30 a.m. The children were having their Sunday school classes on the ground floor and the adults were at worship on the floor above. Many of the children were washed away and perished. . . .


31 December 2004

E-mail from partners in Sri Lanka, 31st December 2004:
"At the present time the destruction is so vast that we have not been able to get very specific details on the number of churches and Christians affected. The tsunami hit us on a Sunday morning while thousands were at church services. From the information we received thousands of churches have been affected and some congregations were wiped out by the tidal wave. . . .

29 December 2004

Report from a partner in Sri Lanka, by phone 29 Dec 2004:
"Church building have been washed away by the wave — we don't yet know how many. The floods hit when Christians were in church for Sunday worship at about 9.00 a.m. Many Christians have been drowned, including women and children and some pastors. Bodies are still being pulled from rubble of churches and other places.—"News on Tsunami Relief."

If John MacLeod is correct that God was punishing people for breaking the Sunday sabbath, God certainly sent the tsunami at a strange time of day. Why did He send it when Christians were in church? Should He not have sent it a little earlier or a little later, before or after the services?

Tsunami damage in Tahiland.
Water level inside a completely destroyed shop on Phi Phi Island, Thailand.—MCEER.
We can't see how John MacCleod could possibly be correct when he says that the tidal wave was a judgment of God against those breaking the Sunday sabbath.

Baal Worship

The prophecies of the book of Revelation contain a number of references to Elijah and the worship of the sun god Baal (Rev. 11:3, 6; 2:14; cf. James 5:17; Num. 25:1-3; 31:16). Jezebel, the queen that brought Baal worship into Israel in Elijah's day, is also mentioned (Rev. 2:20). Revelation therefore appears to be predicting that there will be some sort of problem in the last days involving practices derived from sun worship.

Indeed, while there can be found no command in the Bible to rest from work on Sunday, we do find in history that Constantine the Great in 321 AD forbade most types of labor on the "venerable day of the Sun" god. Thus, the idea of turning Sunday into some sort of sabbath rest can be traced back to sun worship, but cannot be found anywhere in Scripture.

MacLeod at Odds with Church Founder

Scholars tell us that the founder of John MacLeod's Scottish Presbyterian faith, the courageous reformer John Knox, did not believe in keeping Sunday as a sabbath, and neither did Calvin, the reformer John MacLeod quotes from more than once in his comments. One wonders why MacLeod feels impelled to depart from the teachings of Knox and Calvin regarding Sunday not being a sabbath.

Those interested in the documentation on Knox's beliefs can read on. Those not interested are welcome to skip down to the poll at the bottom of the page.

Though the foundation of the Presbyterian church of Scotland was laid by Knox, or rather by Calvin, for Knox carried out Calvin's system, and though that church is now very strict in the observance of Sunday as the Sabbath, yet Knox himself was of Calvin's mind as to the obligation of that day. The original Confession of Faith of that church was drawn up by Knox in A.D. 1560 [Cox's Sabbath Laws, &c. p. 123; M'Clintock and Strong's Cyclopedia, vol. v. pp. 137-140.]. In that document Knox states the duties of the first table of the law as follows:—

"To have one God, to worship and honor him; to call upon him in all our troubles; to reverence his holy name; to hear his word; to believe the same; to communicate with his holy sacraments, are the works of the first table." [Quoted in Hessey's Bampton Lectures, p. 200]

It is plain that Knox believed the Sabbath commandment to have been stricken out of the first table. Dr. Hessey, after speaking of certain references to Sunday in a subsequent work of his, makes this statement respecting the present doctrine of the Sabbath in the Presbyterian church:—

"On the whole, whatever the language held at present in Scotland may be, it is certainly not owing to the great man whom the Scotch regard as the apostle of the Reformation in their country." [Id. p. 201.]

That church now holds Sunday to be the divinely authorized memorial of the resurrection of Christ, enforced by the authority of the fourth commandment. But not thus was it held by Calvin and Knox. A British writer states the condition of things with respect to Sunday in Scotland about the year 1601:—

"At the commencement of the seventeenth century, tailors, shoemakers, and bakers in Aberdeen were accustomed to work till eight or nine every Sunday morning. While violation of the prescribed ritual observances was punished by fine, the exclusive consecration of the Sunday which subsequently prevailed was then unknown. Indeed, there were regular 'play Sundays' in Scotland till the end of the sixteenth century." [Westminster Review, July, 1858, p. 37]

But the Presbyterian church, after Knox's time, effected an entire change with respect to Sunday observance. The same writer says:—

"The Presbyterian Kirk introduced into Scotland the Judaical observance of the Sabbath [Sunday], retaining with some inconsistency the Sunday festival of the Catholic church, while rejecting all the other feasts which its authority had consecrated." [Westminster Review, July, 1858, p. 37]

—John N. Andrews, History of the Sabbath and First Day of the Week, pp. 443-445.

Our Thoughts

We agree with Pastor MacLeod that God is calling us all to repentance from "worldliness, materialism, hedonism, uncleanness and pleasure-seeking." We agree with him that God is calling us to repentance for breaking the commandments of God, including the Sabbath commandment. However, we prefer to take the Bible just as it reads, without changing it at all.

The fourth commandment of the Decalogue specifically commands us to rest from our own labors on the seventh day, not the first, and we find nowhere in Scripture where God ever commanded anything different. Thus, if it be true that God wants us to keep the Ten Commandments today, then we have to side with Ellen White on this one. If God be displeased with men for Sabbath breaking, it is working and playing on Saturday that bothers Him, not working and playing on Sunday.

Give Us Your Opinion

What do you think of this prediction of Ellen White?
She got this one right. She said people would blame tsunamis on Sunday breaking, and that's happening. 72.0%
This stuff about Sunday being a sabbath or the Lord's Day is utter nonsense. Where can you find that in the Bible? 21.5%
I believe God did send that tidal wave because people are breaking Sunday. We need more Sunday blue laws. 3.7%
John Knox and John Calvin were absolutely wrong when they taught that Sunday is not the Christian Sabbath. 2.8%
Total Votes: 107
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