Many of Ellen White’s statements that are seen as legalistic in nature can almost make sense if we work backwards from what is expected of Christians after the second coming of Jesus.
During the resurrection of the dead-in-Christ those who are raised will be raised with perfect and sinless bodies. They will be able to live a sinless life without a mediator and they will be expected to live according to the perfect law of God. There will be no sin in heaven.
Christians who are alive to see Jesus return will be changed in a twinkling of an eye from sinful to sinless. Once they are glorified they will be able to live in heaven without sin. The condition for living in heaven is perfect obedience to the laws of God. Those who are not willing to live by the laws of heaven will not be happy and will only serve to perpetuate the problem of sin.
But all this happens AFTER the close of probation/During the Second Coming of Jesus.
Until the second coming of Jesus, we are called to prepare for the final tribulation. There is no room for lukewarm discipline since Christians will have to undergo immense suffering and spiritual struggle to maintain faith in Jesus. If we are not praying now then we most likely will not be staying with Christ during the tribulation period. Many will lose faith in the gospel during this period. We need to prepare ourselves now.
It is understandable that Ellen White spoke out against spiritual complacency and came down quite hard on those who felt at liberty to accept Jesus as savior but not as Lord of their life. She was concerned that many would fall away during persecution and that some were misleading themselves by believing that they were not going to live under God’s law in the heavenly kingdom.
I am willing to admit that she may have overstated things and that she seemed to come across as harsh and legalistic at times. It may be easier to understand when we put her in the immediate context of what type of heresy she was attempting to correct.
Ellen White does have a habit of jumping from justification to sanctification to glorification and then back again without giving us a clear understanding of when she is talking about a certain phase of salvation. She tends to blend them all together at times which makes it difficult to follow her line of reasoning. However, there are times when she makes herself clear about how each phase of salvation is separate and distinct.
Stephen Beagles (2023)