The Great Controversy is a book by Ellen G. White, one of the founders of the Seventh-day Adventist Church, and held in esteem as a prophetess or messenger of God among Seventh-day Adventist members. In it, White describes the "Great Controversy theme" between Jesus Christ and Satan, as played out over the millennia from its start in heaven, to its final end when the remnant who are faithful to God will be taken to heaven at the Second Advent of Christ, and the world is destroyed and recreated. Regarding the reason for writing the book, the author reported, "In this vision at Lovett's Grove (in 1858), most of the matter of the Great Controversy which I had seen ten years before, was repeated, and I was shown that I must write it out."
This synopsis is only of the current, 1911 edition and its predecessor, the 1888 edition. While the original 1858 edition covered the entire history of sin from its beginning in heaven until it is eradicated in the new earth, these two editions cover just the Christian dispensation.
The book begins with a historical overview, which begins with the destruction of Jerusalem in AD 70, covers the Reformation and Advent movement in detail, and culminates with a lengthy description of the end times. It also outlines several key Seventh-day Adventist doctrines, including the heavenly sanctuary, the investigative judgment and the state of the dead.
Much of the first half of the book is devoted to the historical conflict between Roman Catholicism and Protestantism. White writes that the Papacy propagated a corrupt form of Christianity from the time of Constantine I onwards, and during the Middle Ages was opposed only by the Waldensians and other small groups, who preserved an authentic form of Christianity. Beginning with John Wycliffe and Jan Huss and continuing with Martin Luther, Huldrych Zwingli, and others, the Reformation led to a partial recovery of biblical truth. In the early 19th century William Miller began to preach that Jesus was about to return to earth; his movement eventually resulted in the formation of the Adventist Church.
The second half of the book is prophetic, looking to a resurgence in papal supremacy. The civil government of the United States will form a union with the Roman Catholic Church as well as with apostate Protestantism, leading to enforcement of a universal Sunday law (the mark of the beast), and a great persecution of Sabbath-keepers immediately prior to the second coming of Jesus. And these will be part of the end time remnant of believers who are faithful to God, which will be sealed and manifested just prior to the second coming of Jesus.
The official Ellen G. White Estate web site views the 1888 version as the original "Great Controversy," with the 1911 edition being the only revision.
While working to complete the book in 1884, White wrote, "I want to get it out as soon as possible, for our people need it so much.... I have been unable to sleep nights, for thinking of the important things to take place.... Great things are before us, and we want to call the people from their indifference to get ready."
In the 1911 edition preface, the author states the primary purpose of the book to be "to trace the history of the controversy in past ages, and especially so to present it as to shed a light on the fast-approaching struggle of the future."
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