There are words in the Spirit of Prophecy that appear to say one thing to one person and something different to another person. One of these is the combination of the words ‘all eternity’. In fact, even the word ‘eternity’ causes problems to some when it refers to the Son of God. But putting ‘all’ in front of the word appears to be an emphasis of the word ‘eternity’, but it compounds the problem.
Is it like Paul adding the word ‘free’ to ‘gift’, making salvation the ‘free gift’? In fact, the word ‘free’ is not necessary, as all gifts are free, if they are to remain a gift. The word ‘all’ before ‘eternity´ is not necessary either, as you can’t add to eternity. Eternity alone means eternity. However, with the word eternity, the context is important, as eternity does not always mean eternity!
The only way we can find out what the prophet meant by the use of these words is to see how she has used these words in other contexts.
What did the prophet mean by the following quotation?
"Christ was God essentially, and in the highest sense. He was with God from all eternity, God over all, blessed forevermore. The Lord Jesus Christ, the divine Son of God, existed from eternity, a distinct person, yet one with the Father." Review and Herald. April 5. 1906.
A Trinitarian mind will say it means that Christ is co-eternal with the Father, without beginning.
But is this what it meant?
On another subject Sister White said, "As the angels beheld the overmastering anguish of the Son of God, the words were spoken, ‘The Lord hath sworn, and He will not repent.’ Father and Son have clasped their hands and are mutually pledged to fulfill the terms of the everlasting covenant, to give fallen man another chance.” 12 Manuscript Release. 408.
"The covenant of mercy was made before the foundation of the world. It has existed from all eternity, and is called the everlasting covenant." Signs of the Times. June 12. 1901.
Did the everlasting covenant have a beginning? The reference said it “was made before the foundation of the world”, and this we understand, but then the prophet adds,“It has existed from all eternity.” It seems to be a contradiction – unless she meant something different from what her words could imply.
We do know that at some point, way back in eternity, the Father and Son covenanted together to form the everlasting covenant. This was a specific event. The plan of redemption was formulated in eternity. Of course, the omniscient mind of God knew of it, but the agreement was made at a certain point in eternity.
Thus we can see that Sister White never intended her words, “existed from all eternity” to mean the covenant had no beginning.
Another reference uses the same words, but adds another thought. “Let those who are oppressed under a sense of sin remember that there is hope for them. The salvation of the human race has ever been the object of the councils of heaven. The covenant of mercy was made before the foundation of the world. It has existed from all eternity, and is called the everlasting covenant. So surely as there never was a time when God was not, so surely there never was a moment when it was not the delight of the eternal mind to manifest His grace to humanity.” Signs of the Times. June 12. 1901.
If we take this portion of the sentence alone, “So surely as there never was a time when God was not…” we can say it means eternity, without beginning, but if this is so, God has manifested His grace to mankind for eternity.
How long has it been God’s delight to manifest His grace to humanity? We cannot say it has been for eternity, except in the mind of God. To be honest we must admit it has only been approximately 6000 years.
"The church, in His name, is to carry to glorious perfection the work which He has commenced; and when that church shall be finally ransomed in the Paradise of God, He will look upon the travail of His soul and be satisfied. Through all eternity the ransomed host will be His chief glory." 3 Spirit of Prophecy 261.
Here again, the church had a beginning, and yet through all eternity it will be God's chief glory.
"It will take the whole of eternity for man to understand the plan of redemption. It will open to him line upon line, here a little and there a little." Manuscript 21. 1895.
"The terms of this oneness between God and man in the great covenant of redemption were arranged with Christ from all eternity." Signs of the Times. Aug 24. 1891.
How was this oneness between God and man before man was created?
"The covenant of grace is not a new truth, for it existed in the mind of God from all eternity. This is why it is called the everlasting covenant." Ibid.
In another reference the prophet states, “Christ is the pre-existent, self-existent Son of God.... In speaking of His pre-existence, Christ carries the mind back through dateless ages. He assures us that there never was a time when He was not in close fellowship with the eternal God. He to whose voice the Jews were then listening had been with God as one brought up with Him.” Signs of the Times. August 29. 1900. Evangelism 615.2
Again we can ask -- How long is "there never was a time when He (Christ) was not in close fellowship with the eternal God"?
The Trinitarian mind will say – eternally, without beginning. Certainly the Son of God was in His mind, as we are told He is God’s thought made audible. DA 21. But if we take these phrases together, it means -- since He was begotten "there never was a time when He (Christ) was not in close fellowship with the eternal God."
How long has Christ been in existence? We don’t know.
Our prophet says. “Although we may try to reason in regard to our Creator, how long He has had existence, where evil first entered into our world, and all these things, we may reason about them until we fall down faint and exhausted with the research when there is yet an infinity beyond.” 7 Bible Commentary 919. 1888.
Either we jump to conclusions and say it means Christ is the second person of the Triune God, or we compare statements and realise what the prophet’s words really mean.
"After His inauguration, the Spirit came and Christ was indeed glorified, even with the glory which He had from all eternity with the Father." Signs of the Times. May 17. 1899. Again, the glory Christ had was from the time He received it after being begotten. He had never been without it, until He came to the earth.
When Sister White uses the word ‘eternal’ in the following quotes, she is not calling Him a Son who has no beginning, which is a Catholic teaching, but that He is the ‘eternal Son’, begotten in eternity. He was not first begotten in time, on this earth, but at some point in eternity.
“That the transgressor might have another trial, that men might be brought into favor with God the Father, the eternal Son of God interposed Himself to bear the punishment of transgression. One clothed with humanity, who was yet one with the Deity, was our ransom.” Lift Him Up 153. It was the eternal Son who offered to give His life for humanity, not a co-eternal God-Being.
“Christ is the Pearl of great price. He is the Way, the Truth and the Life. In Eden, before the heavenly universe, before the unfallen worlds, and before Satanic agencies, God declared that the eternal Son was to be given as the ransom for a fallen world.” Signs of the Times. Jan 4. 1899.
Yes, the Father announced that His “eternal Son” would be given as a ransom for the fallen world. Not His earthly Son, but His eternal Son. It is this that was denied by the Jewish leaders, and in fact, it was the charge they laid upon Him for His death sentence.
"The Word existed as a divine being, even as the eternal Son of God, in union and oneness with His Father. From everlasting He was the Mediator of the covenant, the one in whom all nations of the earth, both Jews and Gentiles, if they accepted Him, were to be blessed. "The Word was with God, and the Word was God" (John 1:1). Before men or angels were created, the Word was with God, and was God.”1 Selected Messages 247.
The word ‘everlasting’ is subjective regarding how long the Son of God has existed in eternity, and how long the covenant has existed for mankind.
The Word of God is not a co-eternal God-Being, but a divine Being. The word ‘God’ is a title, but we often use it as a personal noun. It is also used to speak of the nature of the Son; He is deity, like the Father. He is God, or a God-Being, but He is God’s Son.
Our prophet is not inconsistent. We must be willing to study her words and see what she intended her meaning to be.