"Korah" "challenged the authority of Moses" (Num. 16:1, Revised English Bible). This Levite felt he had just as much of the spirit of prophecy as did Moses and Aaron, who were God's appointed messengers to ancient Israel. But Moses could go into the West Wing and speak with the President face to face, receiving direct communications from God (Num. 12:8).
Ellen White frequently drew the parallels between the rebellion of Korah, et. al., and the brethren of the 1888 era. In 1890 she wrote to Uriah Smith, "You have refused my testimonies given me ... from the Lord" and "labored to make them of none effect as did Korah" (The Ellen G. White 1888 Materials, p. 599). Before the 1891 General Conference held in Battle Creek, she said that in refusing the light placed before them, they were "like the Jews" and "like Korah, Dathan, and Abiram" who "set themselves against the light" (ibid., p. 912). To her nephew Frank Belden she wrote in 1892, "Never before have I seen among our people such firm self-complacency and unwillingness to accept and acknowledge light as was manifested at Minneapolis. ... They were actuated by the same spirit that inspired Korah. ..." (ibid., p. 1067).
Ellen White decided "to leave Minneapolis." But the angel told her to stay. "The people are acting over the rebellion of Korah. ..." She was to shine the light. However, "they will not heed your testimony." "It is not you they are despising, but the messengers and the message I send to My people. They have shown contempt for the word of the Lord. Satan has blinded their eyes. ..." (ibid., p. 1068).
This rebellion extended to the very sources which controlled the reading material available to our people from the Battle Creek publishing house. In 1896 Ellen White wrote to Kate Lindsay, "The publishing house at Battle Creek has been under the reproof of God for years, especially since the time of the Minneapolis meeting, when some acted the part of Korah, Dathan, and Abiram" (ibid., p. 1518).
As one reads Patriarchs and Prophets (PP) it can be seen why there was much foot-dragging on its final publication, which was finally announced in the Review of August 26, 1890. Ellen White had begun the revision of volume 1 of The Spirit of Prophecy sometime in 1886-1887 (Arthur L. White, Ellen G. White: The Lonely Years 1876-1891, vol. 3, p. 443). This expansion of her Old Testament history (Spirit of Prophecy, vol. I) reflected the conflict of the 1888 crisis in her application of "The Rebellion of Korah" (PP, chapter 35) to what was happening with the leading brethren.
She wrote of how Korah sought to "overthrow the authority of the leaders appointed by God." "... Korah had been secretly opposing the authority of Moses. ..." (PP 395). "Korah and his associates gained the attention and enlisted the support of the congregation" (p. 397). This went on secretly for sometime before it became an open rebellion. Moses did not attempt self-justification.
It was Jesus, "the angel of the Lord," who was leading Israel. The rebellion was really against Him. Those who were confused and deceived by the principal conspirators were extended "forgiveness" "lingering for them." (p. 401).
After God had withdrawn His protection from the rebels and they were destroyed, the enmity of the people was manifest by their purpose "to put both Moses and Aaron to death." "It is hardly possible for men to offer greater insult to God than to despise and reject the instrumentalities He would use for their salvation" (p. 402).
Despite God's forbearance in convincing them to be "the greatest of sinners" "they still cherished hatred of the men of God's appointment, and braced themselves to resist their authority" (p. 402).
Ellen White wrote that the same spirit of pride and "ambition for position and honor" which motivates Lucifer's rebellion "worked upon the minds of Korah" and his friends. There is a "... desire for self-exaltation" which excites "envy, distrust, and rebellion. Satan caused them to reject God as their leader, by rejecting the men of God's appointment" (p. 403).
Then she drew her most forceful parallel. "Do not the same evils still exist that lay at the foundation of Korah's ruin? Pride and ambition are widespread. ... Like Korah and his companions, many, even of the professed followers of Christ, are thinking, planning, and working so eagerly for self-exaltation that in order to gain the sympathy and support of the people they are ready to pervert the truth, falsifying and misrepresenting the Lord's servants, and even charging them with the base and selfish motives that inspire their own hearts. ... While endeavoring to destroy the confidence of the people in the men of God's appointment, they really believe that they are engaged in a good work, verily doing God service" (pp. 403, 404).
The sad fact is that the rejection of light engenders a spirit of continued rejection of advanced light. "Every advance made by those whom God has called to lead in His work has excited suspicion. ..." Solemn indeed! "... They had committed the sin against the Holy Spirit, a sin by which man's heart is effectually hardened against the influence of divine grace. ..." (pp. 404, 405).
It is no wonder that the book committee dragged its feet in publishing Patriarchs and Prophets. But Ellen White urged: "God gave me the light contained in Great Controversy and Patriarchs and Prophets, and this light was needed to arouse the people to prepare for the great day of God, which is just before us. These books contain God's direct appeal to the people. Thus He is speaking to the people in stirring words, urging them to make ready for His coming. The light God has given in these books should not be concealed" (MS 23, 1890; quoted in Arthur L. White, Ellen G. White, vol. 3, p. 444).
Ellen White wrote these lessons plainly for the benefit of God's people today who might heed them and correct the mistakes of their past history related to 1888. Patriarchs and Prophets is prime evidence of what happened in our 1888 era crisis. It is still relevant today so far as attitudes toward God's message and His messengers.
If the "beginning" of the latter rain and loud cry was the message itself, there is a real hope that we can do something positive: we can restudy and accept the message. And it logically follows that when our people worldwide come to understand and believe the message, the long-awaited eschatological blessings can at least begin to be realized again.
--Paul E. Penno