Victor Houteff was accused of making false predictions about a number of things, including the setting of time or dates for specific events. It needs to be made plain, that the Rod’s message or it author never engaged in time-setting or spurious predictions. In fact, in response to a question on this very point, he wrote, “the message sets no date, either exact or approximate . . .”
The 1959 - 1962 Fiasco
While it is true that Mr. Houteff never set time or dates, it is true that others did after his passing in 1955. Shortly after his death, some leaders of the movement formulated strained interpretations about several prophecies in Daniel and Revelation and concluded, contrary to the Bible, the Testimonies, and Rod’s message, that the slaughter of Ezekiel Nine and the establishment of the kingdom would begin on April 22, 1959. Needless to say, the prediction did not come to fruition and plunged much of the movement into confusion for several years. Even now, from time to time, a radical element sets a date for something or the other. They are typically individuals who have studied the Rod but who have severely altered the message to their liking..
This phenomenon should not be strange or new to us. It is, unfortunately, the standard dynamic of almost every true movement throughout history, including our own Seventh-day Adventist denomination. There are literally hundreds of splinter groups, persons and movements within the ranks of Adventists. Does this make it wrong? In fact, it is the contrary! The enemy of God and man always endeavors to fracture God’s work. So, do remember that Victor Houteff, had nothing to do with these elements and unfortunate predictions because they took place after his death. Neither did everyone share in the fiasco. There was a large group of believers who did not participate in the events of 1959- 62.
It was from these faithful adherents to the truth that we still have the original message.
What About Ezekiel Chapter Four?
Because of a particular teaching on Ezekiel Four, which refers to dates, many cite this as an example of date setting. However, those who know or would study the prophecy will soon realize that no dates were set for the future. He only pointed to events of the past. Nothing was predicted.
“Your accusations against setting time is like a man talking when out of his mind,” wrote Houteff. “What definite time has been set? Do you mean Ezekiel, chapter four? If so will you not study the subject a little closer than you have and see what it says? Do you not see that the prophetic period had already ended when the statement was made? Or do you mean to say that God knows not the length of time from one event to another, and that He must not put it in the Bible?”
Did He Say that He and Others Would Never Die?
In responding to criticisms about his marriage (a subject we will address in another section) from some of the believers, Houteff said:
“Those who believe in Present Truth, yet continue to find fault with Brother Houteff’s marriage, prove to us one of two things: either that they are shallow thinkers, or that they have no faith in what they believe, for the message teaches that we, as a part of the 144,000, shall never die.”
In other statements he wrote:
“Keep your knees in motion and let not opportunities be neglected, for the “final movements will be rapid ones.” Thus shall you “walk with God” as Enoch of old, and as he was translated without tasting death so shall you be.
“Moreover, as the Shepherd’s Rod is the Elijah message (Testimonies to Ministers, 475), it is impossible for anyone who accepts it and lives it to die, for the type demands translation. Thus it is that Elijah stands as a type of the 144,000.
“There is nothing that can take the life of the 144,000.
“The denomination has always believed that its purpose was to gather the remnant people, the 144,000. Hence, when it (the net) was first sent forth in 1844, it was for the gathering of the 144,000, which it still vaguely believes it is after, but which the Shepherd’s Rod proves it [the church] has already gathered.”
The above statements have been used to convince many that the Rod’s message is erroneous because it predicted that Rod-believing Adventists would never die. However, to reach such a conclusion based only on these statements without a thorough study of the entire message and even the context of these statements, is not only disingenuous, dangerous scholarship, but unfair. If we followed this same practice with the Bible and the writings of Mrs. White, we should not be Seventh-day Adventists or a Christian at all! What do we mean?
As with Brother Houteff, Sister White’s early statements were also misunderstood, and she too was accused of making false predictions. It is worth our time here to study a part of the reply to her dissenters.
A statement published in 1851 in Experience and Views, and found on page 49 [page 58, present Edition] of Early Writings is quoted as proving her testimonies false:
“ ‘I saw that the time for Jesus to be in the most holy place was nearly finished, and that time can last but a very little longer
“As the subject was presented before me, the period of Christ’s ministration seemed almost accomplished. Am I accused of falsehood because time has continued longer than my testimony seemed to indicate? How is it with the testimonies of Christ and His disciples? Where they deceived?
Paul writes to the Corinthians: “But this I say, brethren, the time is short: it remaineth, that both they that have wives be as though they had none; and they that weep, as though they wept not; and they that rejoice, as though they rejoiced not.” (I Cor. 7:29,30). .”
Then God’s servant quoted another statement from Paul and two more from John showing the urgency of Christ’s coming, after which she continued:
“The angels of God in their messages to men represent time as very short. Thus it has always been presented to me. It is true that time has continued longer than we expected in the early days of this message. Our Saviour did not appear as soon as we hoped. But has the word of the Lord failed? Never! It should be remembered that the promises and threatenings of God are alike conditional. . . Had Adventists, after the great disappointment in 1844, held fast their faith, and followed on unitedly in the opening providence of God, receiving the message of the third angel and in the power of the Holy Spirit proclaiming it to the world, they would have seen the salvation of God, the Lord would have wrought mightily with their efforts, the work would have been completed, and Christ would have come ere this to receive His people to their reward. . . .But in the period of doubt and uncertainty that followed the disappointment, many of the advent believers yielded their faith. Dissensions and divisions came in.”
To understand the issue at hand, we must consider that the above Rod statements in question were made just within the first eight years of the movement, so the initial presentation of the message was with the same urgency as was Ellen White”s, the apostles, the early Adventists, and practically every movement before us; they expected their work to have closed within a short time and thus spoke in positive terms. Note that none of the controversial Rod statements explicitly say that he and the other believers were never to die. He was just speaking in positive terms, not making predictions! Don’t we say, when “we” get to heaven “I” will do this or that? Does that mean that you are predicting that you are saved? We say, when God pours out his Spirit upon us, “we” will go and preach the gospel to the world (or something similar to that). Are we making predictions? So why accuse the Rod of false predictions? Again, he like every one else was speaking in positive, hopeful terms.
Third, if Victor Houteff is guilty of false predictions, then we have to accuse Sister White and all the prophets of the same thing! Take, for example, this statement by Ellen White—a statement used against her by non-Adventists:
“I was shown the company present at the Conference. Said the angel: “Some food for worms, some subjects of the seven last plagues, some will be alive and remain upon the earth to be translated at the coming of Jesus.”
The interesting point here is that all of the persons she referred to are all dead! Would we say that she was a false prophet because of that? How about this one from the same book:
“ I saw that your views concerning swine’s flesh would prove no injury if you have them to yourselves; but in your judgment and opinion you have made this question a test, and your actions have plainly shown your faith in this matter. If God requires His people to abstain from swine’s flesh, He will convict them on the matter. He is just as willing to show His honest children their duty, as to show their duty to individuals upon whom He has not laid the burden of His work.”
(Note: There are explanations for these statements, but time and space will not permit).
Now we all know from the Scriptures that swine’s flesh—the meat of the pig—is clearly prohibited, yet God’s servant, at that stage of her ministry, was condoning its use. Of course, as light progressed she was shown, not only that we should not consume pork, but that we should be vegetarians! That is just the point, brothers and sisters, light is progressive. A prophet’s message is not completed all at once, and even then they do not attain to a “full understanding of the great plan of redemption, or even to a perfect appreciation of the divine purpose in the work for their own time. That is why we are told that “God and heaven alone are infallible”
Which brings us to the final point.
Fourth, none of these supposed, questionable statements change the truth of the message. They are only incidental, not fundamental and are applicable only to the time and circumstances. In other words, they were not taught as doctrines as church leaders would have us believe. They do not alter the “weight of evidence” brought forth from the Scriptures establishing the 144,000, the slaughter of Ezekiel nine, the Great Multitude, and the kingdom as truth.
Half and Half
This controversy surrounds a statement in the first volume of The Shepherd’s Rod.
“Our denomination numbers about 300,000. This means the denomination will be divided in half and suggests the ten virgins, five of whom were wise and five were foolish. In other words, half and half.”
Obviously, the question is, how can this be when church membership today is now in the millions? The answer to the previous query is the same for this one. Then we must also remind the reader that the word, “suggest” was used, connoting something apparent, not necessarily definite. Thus the statement was incidental not doctrinal. In addition, the author himself gives further insight.
“Writing in 1930, the Rod was necessarily speaking the terms, not of the then unknown membership of today, but of the established membership at that time. And though the number then (300,000) did naturally suggest about an even division of members (two classes, good and bad–“wise virgins” and “foolish virgins”), yet as there are only 144,000 Israelites to be sealed, the number of the unsealed would have even then exceeded the number of the sealed.
In the final analysis, however, it is neither the Rod’s purpose nor its intent to say just how many wise and how many foolish there will be in this first-fruit harvest, for when the whole truth is made known, the figure of the “five wise virgins,” besides comprehending the 144,000 from the tribes of Israel, may be found to include a considerable number from the Gentile nations.”
In other words, although it is neither the Rod’s message nor intent to predict a number, the idea of the half and half could (God knows) turn out to be correct when others from the world (gentiles) may join its ranks after Ezekiel nine. “When the whole truth is made known” we could end up with half and half. For this one, we will have to wait and see.
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