It can be humbling to go back many decades and look at old issues of The Review and Herald. There are many confident claims that don't hold up to later history. There are examples where prejudice and cultural insensitivity are evident. I hope these examples will help us look more critically at ourselves and lead us to study the Bible more intensely. Ellen White wrote, “The fact that certain doctrines have been held as truth for many years by our people, is not a proof that our ideas are infallible.” (CW 35.2) “We have many lessons to learn, and many, many to unlearn.... Those who think that they will never have to give up a cherished view, never have occasion to change an opinion, will be disappointed.” (CW 37.1)
A Restored Kingdom
THERE must be something very fascinating in the idea of the literal return of the Jews to Palestine, or it would not, contrary to the Scriptures and logic, be held by so many people as it is.
The restoration of the Jewish state is a chimera, but though strange, it is true that such fanciful vagaries are believed by many.
The Review and Herald — Vol. 74, No. 36 — September 7, 1897
We do not think, however, that the Scriptures justify the expectation of even this much of a return of the Israel after the flesh to their native land of Palestine. It is the spiritual Israel to whom the promises of restoration are now to be fulfilled.
The Review and Herald — Vol. 92, No. 58 — November 25, 1915
The Gathering of Israel: God’s unchanging purpose to people the earth with a holy race
In the kaleidoscopic changes of the present age we would not wish to venture the prediction that the hope of the Zionists would never in any measure or for any length of time be fulfilled. It is barely possible that they may be. We are, however, quite willing to assert this proposition with all emphasis; that whatever proportions the Zionist Movement may assume in the future, it will not be in response to the prophecies of the Scriptures, or in the fulfilment of any of the promises made to this greatly persecuted and widely dispersed nation. The Scriptures clearly indicate that these promises were made to the spiritual seed of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, and not to their literal descendants. This will be clearly shown as we proceed with this study.
The literal seed of Abraham may still look for the coming of the Messiah. Politicians and statesmen may hold out, to them the hope of returning national prosperity, and this hope for a little time may meet with partial realization. But it is not the great consummation set before the Israel of God in the Scriptures of truth that the gathering of the nation will be fulfilled by the return of a few thousand Jews to the land of Canaan.
The Review and Herald — Vol. 94, No. 52 — December 27, 1917
The Failure of Zionism
It is barely possible that some little success may attend the movement to establish a Jewish state, but this will fulfil no prophecy. The only restoration promised in the Word of God to the seed of Abraham is the spiritual restoration which will be bestowed, not upon the literal descendants, but upon the children of faith through Christ Jesus
The Review and Herald — Vol. 96, No. 19 — May 8, 1919
There are some offensive ethnic stereotypes in the last paragraph of the next quote. I have included that paragraph in the quote to help us understand our cultural history.
The Jews Turning Zionward
The stirring events of the convention of American Zionists held at Chicago September 12-18, reveals to us the increasing interest that is being manifested among the Jewish people of America in the movement to create a Jewish state in Palestine. Looking at the question from a purely political viewpoint, there has never been a time when the success of this enterprise seemed as assured as it does now. For this reason Bible students— and Seventh-day Adventists in particular, who read the Scriptures correctly, and understand from them that the scheme will ultimately prove a failure— would do well to study this question with a view to meeting the supporters of Zionism on their own ground and in an intelligent and noncombative spirit.
In discussing the matter with Jews or others, it will not be sufficient to state that the Bible teaches that the Jews will never again return to Palestine as a people; … Yet there can be no doubt that the present effort, although it may attain partial success for a time, will ultimately end in failure, as all previous efforts have done.
But the main reason for believing that the Zionist Movement will fail lies in the very obvious fact that the Jews as a nation have deserted the God of their fathers and have refused the leadership of Jesus Christ their Messiah. They have truly gone after other gods just as they did in the days of Ahab; perhaps not gods of the wood and stone variety, but after the more subtle and seductive gods of worldly wealth and wisdom. They have substituted the knowledge of the sciences and professions for the knowledge of God, and burn their incense to the modern Molech in the banks and commercial concerns of the world.
The house of Israel will be without a land until the Lord comes in power and great glory.
The Review and Herald — Vol. 96, No. 44 — October 30, 1919
The Return of the Jews
The doctrine of the return of the Jews rests upon a misunderstanding of a number of texts, such as Ezekiel 37:21, which reads in part as follows: "Thus saith the Lord God: Behold, I will take the children of Israel from among the heathen, whither they be gone, and will gather them on every side, and bring them into their own land." The misapplication of this and similar scriptures is due to a strange failure on the part of many Christians to discriminate between the literal seed or descendants of Abraham and the spiritual seed.
If one will only keep in mind… he can never go astray or be troubled about the return of the Jews to Palestine. The Bible teaches nothing of the kind, nor are world conditions such as to lead us to believe that such a return is humanly possible.
The Review and Herald — Vol. 106, No. 44 — October 31, 1929
In identifying the flaws in earlier understanding, I do not have an agenda to promote any specific, alternative prophetic theory. My purpose is simply to lead us to study the Bible more intensely. I recommend the following link for more on re-examining our beliefs and studying the Bible.