Many years ago, James and Ellen White, while traveling, attended a funeral. Elder White had just finished speaking and his wife was sharing about the joyous reunion of loved ones at Jesus’ return when suddenly, she paused. Those listening looked up, wondering.
What a marvel they saw. Her expression had completely changed. She was no longer looking at them; she was looking upward, as if into the distance. They heard her exclaim, “Glory to God!” then lower and softer, “Glory to God!” and then a third time, as though from a great distance, “Glory to God!”
Ellen was in a heavenly vision. As usually happened when going into vision, she became very weak and needed support. Several people approached her to examine her. One exclaimed, “She’s not breathing!” It was true! Her heart was still beating. Her pulse was regular, but she was not breathing.
At that moment Mrs. White regained strength, stood up on her own and stepped forward, her face radiant. A man stepped towards her to steady her, but her weakness was gone. She was so strong no one could change her motions or direct her actions.
The congregation sat spellbound in awe. From time to time she uttered a word, a phrase, sometimes even a statement or question. As time went on, they began asking questions of Elder White.
At one point he said, “She is conversing with her accompanying angel. Often she has described him as a tall, majestic-appearing young man with a beautiful countenance and a musical voice.” He shared that in these visions she was shown many things, past, present and future. Sometimes she even seemed to be in heaven talking with Jesus and the angels.
Again silence reigned. Then a whisper was heard, clearly audible in the quiet room, “Heaven is near, very near!” Another voice spoke. “It seems as if we are listening at the open gate of heaven. If only we could catch a glimpse of the glory within, and hear the angel voices!”
Elder White replied, “Yes, Jesus has sent His angel direct from His throne to assure us that all His promises are true. … They all tell the same story: Jesus is coming back to this earth to bring an end to sin and sorrow and to set up His everlasting kingdom of righteousness and joy and peace.”
Suddenly, he was interrupted. A distressed voice whispered, “What can she be looking at now? It must be something terrible! See! She is wringing her hands as if in distress; and the expression of anguish on her face—what can it mean?” Elder White responded, “It must be that Mrs. White is looking at scenes of great suffering!”
All continued to watch and silently wait. In time, her expression changed again. A pleased look came over her face.
For two hours the sorrow, the funeral, the coffin, all were forgotten. God was speaking through “the weakest of the weak” to give comfort, hope and instruction to His believing people on earth.
For two hours Mrs. White had not drawn a breath, but now she took a full deep breath; then, after a brief pause, another, and then a third. She became aware of her surroundings. People began asking what she had seen and heard. But she could not talk—not yet; what she had seen was too solemn.
The funeral completed, the White’s continued their journey home. While traveling Mrs. White shared with her husband things she had seen in the vision. She said, “As soon as I get some very important letters written, I’ll begin to write it out.” James added, “We’ll print it in a little book and send it out through the mail.”
But Satan did not want it written out. At one stop on their journey Mrs. White had a severe stroke. A strange sensation entered her mouth. Her tongue seemed thick and numb. A chill passed over her head, down her right side, and she lost consciousness. When she came to, she tried, but could not rise. What would she do? They were not even home yet. She decided they would travel on. Soon they were on their way to the train station and a two-hour ride to Battle Creek and home.
For weeks, she could not take one unaided step or feel the coldest water on her head. Yet she could not forget the command God had given her to write out the vision. She requested writing materials and, with all the strength she could muster, wrote a few sentences and that day completed one page. Daily she wrote. She would not give up. She had been warned, “Satan would try to prevent my writing out the vision because it exposes his secret plans to deceive people and lead them to destruction. But I have been promised that angels will strengthen me.” And strengthen her they did.
Those writings eventually became a wonderful story, in five volumes, The Conflict of the Ages. It tells of the beginnings of sin and sorrow, begun in heaven, then brought to this earth. It tells of the covenant of God the Father and Jesus to offer fallen man salvation. It shows Jesus’ great battle with Satan while here on earth. It describes the intense interest of the heavenly beings in this “great controversy” and the wonder and adoration of the entire universe in seeing the unspeakable love of God and Jesus for this race of rebels. And ultimately these writings instruct and guide God’s true followers through the troublous times ahead to the glorious restoration of the universe to its original pure, free, beautiful and perfect state. What a wonderful God we serve.