One of the gifts of the Holy Spirit is prophecy. This gift is an identifying mark of the remnant church and was manifested in the ministry of Ellen G. White. As the Lord's messenger, her writings are a continuing and authoritative source of truth which provide for the church comfort, guidance, instruction, and correction. They also make clear that the Bible is the standard by which all teaching and experience must be tested.—Fundamental Beliefs, 17
17 The Gift of Prophecy
Jehoshaphat, king of Judah, was distressed. Enemy troops were closing in, and the outlook seemed hopeless. "And Jehoshaphat . . . set himself to seek the Lord, and proclaimed a fast throughout all Judah" (2 Chron. 20:3). The people began streaming to the Temple to beg mercy and deliverance of God.
As Jehoshaphat led out in the prayer service, he called upon God to change the circumstances. He prayed: "'Are You not God in heaven, and do You not rule over all the kingdoms of the nations, and in Your hand is there not power and might, so that no one is able to withstand You?'" (verse 6). Hadn't God specially protected His own in the past? Hadn't He given this land to His chosen people? So Jehoshaphat pleaded, "'O our God, will You not judge them? For we have no power . . . nor do we know what to do, but our eyes are upon You'" (verse 12).
As all Judah stood before the Lord, one Jahaziel arose. His message brought courage and direction to the fearful people. He said, "'Do not be afraid. . . for the battle is not yours, but God's. . . . You will not need to fight in this battle. Position yourselves, stand still and see the salvation of the Lord, . . . for the Lord is with you'" (verse 15-17). In the morning King Jehoshaphat told his troops to "'Believe in the Lord your God, and you shall be established; believe His prophets, and you shall prosper'" (verse 20).1
So fully did this king believe that little-known prophet, Jahaziel, that he replaced his front-line troops with a choir singing praise to the Lord and the beauty of holiness! As the anthems of faith filled the air, the Lord was at work bringing confusion among the armies allied against Judah. The slaughter was so great that "no one . . . escaped" (verse 24).
Jahaziel was God's mouthpiece for that special time.
Prophets played a vital role in both Old and New Testament times. But did
prophecy cease to function with the closing of the Biblical canon? To find the answer let us retrace prophetic history.
The Prophetic Gift in Bible Times
Though sin ended face-to-face communication between God and human beings (Isa. 59:2), God did not end His intimacy with humanity; instead, He developed other ways of communicating. He began sending His messages of encouragement, warning, and reproof through prophets.2
In the Scriptures a prophet is "one who receives communications from God and transmits their intent to His people."3 Prophets did not prophesy on their own initiative, "for prophecy never came by the will of man, but holy men of God spoke as they were moved by the Holy Spirit" (2 Peter 1:21).
In the Old Testament the word prophet is generally a translation of the Hebrew nabi. Its meaning is expressed in Exodus 7:1, 2: "The Lord said to Moses: 'See, I have made you as God to Pharaoh, and Aaron your brother shall be your prophet [nabi]. You shall speak all that I command you. And Aaron your brother shall speak to Pharaoh.'" Moses' relationship to Pharaoh was like that of God to His people. And as Aaron communicated Moses' words to Pharaoh, so the prophet conveyed God's words to the people. The term prophet, then, designates a divinely appointed spokesperson for God. The Greek equivalent of the Hebrew nabi is prophetes, from which the English word prophet is derived.
"Seer," a translation of the Hebrew roeh (Isa. 30:10) or chozeh (2 Sam. 24:11; 2 Kings 17:13) is yet another designation for persons with the prophetic gift. The terms prophet and seer are closely related. Scripture explains, "Formerly in Israel, when a man went to inquire of God, he spoke thus: 'Come let us go to the seer'; for he who is now called a prophet was formerly called a seer" (1 Sam. 9:9). The designation seer emphasized the prophets' reception of a divine message. God opened to the "eyes," or minds, of the prophets information He wanted them to transmit to His people.
Through the years, God has given revelations of His will for His people through persons with the gift of prophecy. "'Surely the Lord God does nothing, unless He reveals His secret to His servants the prophets'" (Amos 3:7; cf. Heb. 1:1).
The Functions of the Prophetic Gift in the New Testament. The New Testament gives prophecy a prominent place among the gifts of the Holy Spirit, once ranking it first and twice second among the ministries most useful to the church (see Rom. 12:6; 1 Cor. 12:28; Eph. 4:11). It encourages believers to desire especially this gift (1 Cor. 14:1, 39).
The New Testament suggests that prophets had the following functions:4
1. They assisted in founding of the church. The church was "built on the foundation
of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ Himself being the chief cornerstone" (Eph. 2:20, 21).
2. They initiated the church's mission outreach. It was through prophets that the Holy Spirit selected Paul and Barnabas for their first missionary journey (Acts 13:1, 2) and gave direction as to where missionaries should labor (Acts 16:6-10).
3. They edified the church. "He who prophesies," Paul said, "edifies the church." Prophecies are spoken "to men for their upbuilding, and encouragement and consolation" (1 Cor. 14:3, 4, RSV). Along with other gifts, God gave prophecy to the church to prepare believers "for the work of ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ" (Eph. 4:12).
4. They united and protected the church. Prophets helped to bring about "the unity of the faith," protect the church against false doctrines so believers would "no longer be infants tossed back and forth by the waves, and blown here and there by every wind of teaching and by the cunning and craftiness of men in their deceitful scheming" (Eph. 4:14, NIV).
5. They warned of future difficulties. One New Testament prophet warned of an approaching famine. In response the church initiated a relief program to assist those who suffered because of that famine (Acts 11:27-30). Other prophets warned of Paul's arrest and imprisonment in Jerusalem (Acts 20:23; 21:4, 10-14).
6. They confirmed the faith in times of controversy. At the first church council the Holy Spirit guided the church to a decision on a controversial issue dealing with the salvation of Gentile Christians. Then, through prophets, the Spirit reaffirmed the believers in the true doctrine. After conveying the council's decision to the membership, "Judas and Silas, who themselves were prophets, said much to encourage and strengthen ["confirm," KJV] the brothers" (Acts 15:32, NIV).
The Prophetic Gift in the Last Days
Many Christians believe that the gift of prophecy ceased at the close of the apostolic era. But the Bible reveals the church's special need for divine guidance during the crisis at the time of the end; it testifies to a continuing need for and provision of the prophetic gift after New Testament times.
Continuation of Spiritual Gifts. There is no Biblical evidence that God would withdraw the spiritual gifts He gave the church before they had completed their purpose, which, according to Paul, was to bring the church "to the unity of the faith and the knowledge of the Son of God, to a perfect man, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ" (Eph. 4:13). Because the church has not yet reached this experience, it still needs all the gifts of the Spirit. These gifts, including the gift of prophecy, will continue to operate for the benefit of God's people until Christ returns. Consequently, Paul cautioned
believers not to "quench the Spirit" or "despise prophecies" (1 Thess. 5:19, 20) and counseled, "Desire spiritual gifts, but especially that you may prophesy" (1 Cor. 14:1).
These gifts have not always manifested themselves abundantly in the Christian church.5 After the death of the apostles, prophets enjoyed respectability in many circles until A.D. 300.6 But the decline of spirituality in the church and the resultant apostasy (see chapter 12 of this book), led to a diminishing of both the presence and the gifts of the Holy Spirit. At the same time false prophets caused a loss of confidence in the prophetic gift. 7
The decline of the prophetic gift during certain periods in church history did not mean that God had withdrawn the gift permanently. The Bible indicates that, as the end approaches, this gift will be present to assist the church through those difficult times. More than that, it points to an increased activity of this gift.
The Prophetic Gift Just Before the Second Advent. God gave the gift of prophecy to John the Baptist to announce Christ's first advent. In a similar way we may expect Him to send the prophetic gift again to proclaim the Second Advent so that everyone will have the opportunity to prepare to meet the Saviour.
In fact, Christ mentions the rise of false prophets as one of the signs that His coming is near (Matt. 24:11, 24). If there were to be no true prophets during the time of the end, Christ would have warned against anyone claiming that gift. His warning against false prophets implies that there would be true prophets, as well.
The prophet Joel predicted a special outpouring of the prophetic gift just before Christ's return. He said, "'And it shall come to pass afterward that I will pour out My Spirit on all flesh; your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, your old men shall dream dreams, your young men shall see visions; and also on My menservants and on My maidservants I will pour out My Spirit in those days. And I will show wonders in the heavens and in the earth: Blood and fire and pillars of smoke. The sun shall be turned into darkness, and the moon into blood, before the coming of the great and terrible day of the Lord'" (Joel 2:28-31).
The first Pentecost saw a remarkable manifestation of the Spirit. Peter, citing Joel's prophecy, pointed out that God had promised such blessings (Acts 2:2-21). However, we may ask whether Joel's prophecy reached its ultimate fulfillment in Pentecost or whether there must yet be another, more complete, fulfillment. We have no evidence that the phenomena in the sun and moon that Joel spoke of either preceded or followed that outpouring of the Spirit. These phenomena did not occur until many centuries later (see chapter 24 of this book).
Pentecost, then, was a foretaste of the full manifestation of the Spirit before the Second Advent. Like Palestine's early rain, which fell in the autumn, shortly after the crops were planted, the outpouring of
the Holy Spirit at Pentecost inaugurated the dispensation of the Spirit. The complete and final fulfillment of Joel's prophecy corresponds to the latter rain, which, falling in the spring, ripened the grain (Joel 2:23) Likewise, the final bestowal of God's Spirit will take place just before the Second Advent, after the predicted signs in the sun, moon, and stars (cf. Matt. 24:29; Rev. 6:12-17; Joel 2:31). Like the latter rain, this final outpouring of the Spirit will ripen the harvest of the earth (Matt. 13:30, 39), and "'whoever calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved'" (Joel 2:32).
The Prophetic Gift in the Remnant Church. Revelation 12 reveals two major periods of persecution. During the first, which extended from A.D. 538 to A.D. 1798 (Rev. 12:6, 14; see chapter 12 of this book), loyal believers suffered intense persecution. Again, just before the Second Advent, Satan will attack "the remnant of her offspring," the remnant church that refuses to give up allegiance to Christ. Revelation characterizes the loyal believers who make up the remnant as they "who keep the commandments of God and have the testimony of Jesus Christ" (Rev. 12:17).
That the phrase "the testimony of Jesus" speaks of prophetic revelation is clear from later conversations between the angel and John.8
Near the end of the book the angel identifies himself as "'your fellow servant, and of your brethren who have the testimony of Jesus'" (Rev. 19:10) and "'your fellowservant, and of your brethren the prophets'" (Rev. 22:9). These parallel expressions make it clear that it is the prophets who have "the testimony of Jesus."9 This explains the angel's statement that "'the testimony of Jesus is the spirit of prophecy'" (Rev. 19:10).
Commenting on this text, James Moffat wrote, "'For the testimony or witness of (i.e., borne by) Jesus is (i.e., constitutes) the spirit of prophecy.' This. . . specially defines the brethren who hold the testimony of Jesus as possessors of prophetic inspiration. The testimony of Jesus is practically equivalent to Jesus testifying (xxii.20). It is the self-revelation of Jesus (according to [Rev.] 1:1, due ultimately to God) which moves the Christian prophets."10
So the expression the Spirit of prophecy can refer to (1) the Holy Spirit's inspiring the prophet with a revelation from God, (2) the operation of the gift of prophecy, and (3) the medium of prophecy itself.
The prophetic gift, Jesus' witness "to the church through the medium of prophecy, "11 comprises a distinctive characteristic of the remnant church. Jeremiah linked the demise of this gift with lawlessness. "The Law is no more, and her prophets find no vision from the Lord" (Lam. 2:9). Revelation identifies the possession of the two as distinctive characteristics of the end-time church; its members "keep the commandments of God and have the testimony of Jesus Christ"—the prophetic gift (Rev. 12:17).
God gave the prophetic gift to the "church" of the Exodus to organize, instruct, and guide His people (Acts 7:38, KJV). "By a prophet the Lord brought Israel out of Egypt, and by a prophet he was preserved" (Hosea 12:13). It comes as no surprise, then, to find that gift among those who are involved in the ultimate exodus—the escape from sin-polluted Planet Earth to the heavenly Canaan. This exodus, which will follow the Second Advent, is the final and complete fulfillment of Isaiah 11:11: "It shall come to pass in that day that the Lord shall set His hand again the second time to recover the remnant of His people who are left."
Help in the Final Crisis. The Scriptures reveal that God's people in the last days of earth's history will experience the full wrath of the satanic dragon power as he engages in a final attempt to destroy them (Rev. 12:17). This will "be a time of trouble, such as never was since there was a nation" (Dan. 12:1). To help them survive this most intense conflict of the ages, God in His loving-kindness gave His people the assurance that they would not be alone. The testimony of Jesus, the Spirit of prophecy, would guide them safely to their final objective—unification with their Saviour at the Second Advent.
The following illustration explains the relationship between the Bible and post-Biblical instances of the prophetic gift: "Suppose we are about to start upon a voyage. The owner of the vessel gives us a book of directions, telling us that it contains instructions sufficient for our whole journey, and that if we will heed them, we shall reach in safety our port of destination. Setting sail, we open our book to learn its contents. We find that its author lays down general principles to govern us in our voyage, and instructs us as far as practicable, judging the various contingencies that may arise till the end; but he also tells us that the latter part of our journey will be especially perilous; that the features of the coast are ever changing by reason of quicksands and tempests; 'but for this part of the journey,' says he, 'I have provided you a pilot, who will meet you, and give you such directions as the surrounding circumstances and dangers may require; and to him you must give heed.' With these directions we reach the perilous times specified, and the pilot, according to promise, appears. But some of the crew, as he offers his services, rise up against him. 'We have the original book of directions,' say they, 'and that is enough for us. We stand upon that, and that alone; we want nothing of you.' Who now heeds that original book of directions? those who reject the pilot, or those who receive him, as that book instructs them? Judge ye."12
Post-Biblical Prophets and the Bible
The prophetic gift produced the Bible itself. In post-Biblical times it is not to supersede or add to Scripture, because the canon of Scripture is now closed.
The prophetic gift functions in the end-time much as it did in the time of the apostles.
Its thrust is to uphold the Bible as the basis of faith and practice, to explain its teachings, and to apply its principles to daily life. It is involved in establishing and edifying the church, enabling it to carry out its divinely appointed mission. The prophetic gift reproves, warns, guides, and encourages both individuals and the church, protecting them from heresy and unifying them on Bible truths.
Post-Biblical prophets function much like prophets such as Nathan, Gad, Asaph, Shemaiah, Azariah, Eliezer, Ahijah, and Obed, Miriam, Deborah, Huldah , Simeon, John the Baptist, Agabus, Silas, Anna, and Philip's four daughters, who lived in Bible times, but whose testimonies never became a part of the Bible. The same God who spoke through the prophets whose writings are in the Bible inspired these prophets and prophetesses. Their messages did not contradict the previously recorded divine revelation.
Testing the Prophetic Gift. Because the Bible warns that before Christ's return false prophets will arise, we must investigate carefully all claims to the prophetic gift. "Do not treat prophecies with contempt," Paul said. "Test everything. Hold on to the good. Avoid every kind of evil" (1 Thess. 5:20-22, NIV; cf., 1 John 4:1).
The Bible specifies several guidelines by which we can distinguish the genuine prophetic gift from the spurious.
1. Does the message agree with the Bible? "To the law and to the testimony! If they do not speak according to this word, it is because there is no light in them" (Isa. 8:20). This text implies that messages of any prophet ought to be in harmony with God's law and testimony throughout the Bible. A later prophet must not contradict earlier prophets. The Holy Spirit never contradicts His previously given testimony, for God "does not change like shifting shadows" (James 1:17, NIV).
2. Do the predictions come true? "'How can we know when a message has not been spoken by the Lord?' If what a prophet proclaims in the name of the Lord does not take place or come true, that is a message the Lord has not spoken. That prophet has spoken presumptuously. Do not be afraid of him" (Deut. 18:21, 22, NIV; cf. Jer. 28:9). Though predictions may comprise a comparatively small part of the prophetic message, their accuracy must be demonstrated.
3. Is Christ's incarnation recognized? "By this you know the Spirit of God: Every spirit that confesses that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is of God, and every spirit that does not confess that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is not of God" (1 John 4:2, 3). This test demands more than a simple acknowledgement that Jesus Christ lived on earth. The true prophet must confess the Biblical teaching on Christ's incarnation—must believe in His deity and pre-existence, His virgin birth, true humanity, sinless life, atoning sacrifice, resurrection, ascension, intercessory ministry, and second advent.
4. Does the prophet bear good or bad "fruit"? Prophecy comes through the
Holy Spirit's inspiring "holy men of God" (2 Peter 1:21). We can discern false prophets by their fruits. "'A good tree cannot bear bad fruit'" Jesus said, "'nor can a bad tree bear good fruit. Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. Therefore by their fruits you will know them'" (Matt. 7:16, 18-20).
This counsel is crucial in evaluating a prophet's claim. It speaks first of the prophet's life. It does not mean that the prophet must be absolutely perfect—Scripture says that Elijah was a man of "like passions as we are" (James 5:17, KJV). But the prophet's life should be characterized by the fruit of the Spirit, not by works of the flesh (see Gal. 5:19-23).
Second, this principle pertains to the influence of the prophet on others. What results accrue in the lives of those who accept the messages? Do their messages equip God's people for missions and unify them in their faith (Eph. 4:12-16)?
Any person claiming to have the prophetic gift should be subjected to these Biblical tests. If he or she measures up to these criteria we can have confidence that indeed the Holy Spirit has given that individual the gift of prophecy.
The Spirit of Prophecy in the Seventh-day Adventist Church
The gift of prophecy was active in the ministry of Ellen G. White, one of the founders of the Seventh-day Adventist Church. She has given inspired instruction for God's people living during the time of the end. The world of the early nineteenth century, when Ellen White began to deliver God's messages, was a man's world. Her prophetic call put her under critical scrutiny. Passing the Biblical tests, she went on to minister through her spiritual gift for 70 years. From 1844, when she was 17, until 1915—the year of her death—she had more than 2, 000 visions. During that time she lived and worked in America, Europe, and Australia, counseling, establishing new work, preaching, and writing.
Ellen White never assumed the title of prophetess, but she did not object when others called her by that title. She explained, "Early in my youth I was asked several times, Are you a prophet? I have ever responded, I am the Lord's messenger. I know that many have called me a prophet, but I have made no claim to this title. . . . Why have I not claimed to be a prophet?—Because in these days many who boldly claim that they are prophets are a reproach to the cause of Christ; and because my work includes much more than the word 'prophet' signifies. . . . To claim to be a prophetess is something that I have never done. If others call me by that name, I have no controversy with them. But my work has covered so many lines that I can not call myself other than a messenger."13
The Application of Prophetic Tests. How does Ellen White's ministry measure against the Biblical tests of a prophet?
1. Agreement with the Bible. Her abundant literary production includes tens of thousands of Bible texts, coupled often with detailed expositions. Careful study has shown that her writings are consistent, accurate, and in full agreement with the Scriptures.
2. The accuracy of predictions. Ellen White's writings contain a relatively small number of predictions. Some are in the process of being fulfilled, while others still await fulfillment. But those that can be tested have been fulfilled with an amazing accuracy. Two instances that demonstrate her prophetic insights follow.
a. The rise of modern spiritualism. In 1850, when spiritualism—the movement that touts communication with the spirit world and the dead—had but just arisen, Ellen White identified it as a last-day deception and predicted its growth. Although at that time the movement was decidedly anti-Christian, she foresaw that this hostility would change, and that it would become respectable among Christians.14 Since that time spiritualism has spread worldwide, gaining millions of adherents. Its anti-Christian stance has changed; indeed, many call themselves Christian spiritualists, claiming that they have the true Christian faith and that "Spiritualists are the only religionists who have used the promised gifts of Christ, by which gifts they heal the sick, and demonstrate a future conscious and progressive existence."15 They even assert that spiritualism "gives you the knowledge of all the great systems of religion, and still more, it gives you more knowledge of the Christian Bible than all the Commentaries combined. The Bible is a book of Spiritualism."16
b. A close cooperation between Protestants and Roman Catholics. During Ellen White's life a gulf existed between Protestants and Roman Catholics that seemed to preclude any cooperation between the two. Anti-Catholicism raged among Protestants. She prophesied that major changes within Protestantism would bring about a departure from the faith of the Reformation. Consequently, differences between Protestants and Catholics would diminish, leading to a bridging of the gulf separating the two.17
The years since her death have seen the rise of the ecumenical movement, the establishment of the World Council of Churches, the Catholic Church's Vatican II, and Protestant ignorance and even out-right rejection of the Reformation views of prophetic interpretation.18 These major changes have broken down barriers between Protestants and Catholics, leading to growing cooperation.
3. The acknowledgement of Christ's incarnation. Ellen White wrote extensively on the life of Christ. His role as Lord and Saviour, His atoning sacrifice at the cross, and His present intercessory ministry dominate her literary works. Her book Desire of Ages has been acclaimed as one of the most spiritual treatises ever written on the life of Christ, while Steps to Christ, her most widely distributed book, has led millions to a deep relationship with Him.
Her works clearly portray Christ as fully God and fully man. Her balanced expositions fully agree with the Biblical view, carefully avoiding the overemphasizing of one nature or the other—a problem that has caused so much controversy throughout the history of Christianity.
Her overall treatment of Christ's ministry is practical. No matter what aspect she deals with, her overriding concern is to bring the reader into a more intimate relationship with the Saviour.
4. The influence of her ministry. More than a century has passed since Ellen White received the prophetic gift. Her church and the lives of those who have heeded her counsels reveal the impact of her life and messages.
"Although she never held an official position, was not an ordained minister, and never received a salary from the church until after the death of her husband, her influence shaped the Seventh-day Adventist Church more than any other factor except the Holy Bible."19 She was the moving force behind the establishment of the church's publishing work, schools, medical-missionary work, and the worldwide missionary outreach that has made the Seventh-day Adventist Church one of the largest and fastest growing Protestant missionary organizations.
The material that she wrote fills more than 80 books, 200 tracts and pamphlets, and 4, 600 periodical articles. Sermons, diaries, special testimonies, and letters comprise another 60, 000 pages of manuscript materials.
The scope of this material is astounding. Ellen White's expertise was not limited to a few narrow fields. The Lord gave her counsel in matters of health, education, family life, temperance, evangelism, the publishing ministry, proper diet, medical work, and many other areas. Perhaps her writing in the field of health is the most amazing because of the way her insights, some given more than a century ago, have been verified by modern science.
Her writings focus on Jesus Christ and uphold the high moral and ethical values of the Judeo-Christian tradition.
Although many of her writings are directed to the Seventh-day Adventist Church, large portions have been appreciated by wider audiences. Her popular book Steps to Christ has been translated into more than 100 languages and has sold more than 15 million copies. Her greatest work is the well-received five-volume Conflict of the Ages Series, which details the great controversy between Christ and Satan from the origin of sin till its eradication from the universe.
The impact of her writings on individuals is profound. Recently the Institute of Church Ministry of Andrews University did a study comparing the Christian attitude and behavior of Adventists who regularly read her books and those who do not. Their research strongly underscores the impact her writings have on those who read them. The study
reached these conclusions: "Readers have a closer relationship with Christ, more certainty of their standing with God, and are more likely to have identified their spiritual gifts. They are more in favor of spending for public evangelism and contribute more heavily to local missionary projects. They feel more prepared for witnessing and actually engage in more witnessing and outreach programs. They are more likely to study the Bible daily, to pray for specific people, to meet in fellowship groups, and to have daily family worship. They see their church more positively. They are responsible for winning more converts."20
The Spirit of Prophecy and the Bible. The writings of Ellen White are not a substitute for Scripture. They cannot be placed on the same level. The Holy Scriptures stand alone, the unique standard by which her and all other writings must be judged and to which they must be subject.
1. The Bible the supreme standard. Seventh-day Adventists fully support the Reformation principle of sola scriptura, the Bible as its own interpreter and the Bible alone as the basis of all doctrines. The founders of the church developed fundamental beliefs through study of the Bible; they did not receive these doctrines through the visions of Ellen White. Her major role during the development of their doctrines was to guide in the understanding of the Bible and to confirm conclusions reached through Bible study.21
Ellen White herself believed and taught that the Bible was the ultimate norm for the church. In her first book, published in 1851, she said, "I recommend to you, dear reader, the Word of God as the rule of your faith and practice. By that Word we are to be judged."22 She never changed this view. Many years later she wrote, "In His Word, God has committed to men the knowledge necessary for salvation. The Holy Scriptures are to be accepted as an authoritative, infallible revelation of His will. They are the standard of character, the revealer of doctrines, and the test of experience."23 In l909, during her last address to a general session of the church, she opened the Bible, held it up before the congregation, and said, "'Brethren and sisters, I commend to you this Book.'"24
In response to believers who considered her writings an addition to the Bible, she wrote, saying, "'I took the precious Bible and surrounded it with the several Testimonies for the Church, given for the people of God. . . . .You are not familiar with the Scriptures. If you had made God's word your study, with a desire to reach the Bible standard and attain to Christian perfection, you would not have needed the Testimonies. It is because you have neglected to acquaint yourselves with God's inspired Book that He has sought to reach you by simple, direct testimonies, calling your attention to the words of inspiration which you had neglected to obey, and urging you to fashion your lives in accordance with its pure and elevated teachings.'"25
2. A guide to the Bible. She saw her work as that of leading people back to the Bible. "Little heed is given to the Bible," she said, therefore "the Lord has given a lesser light to lead men and women to the greater light."26 "The Word of God," she wrote, "is sufficient to enlighten the most beclouded mind and may be understood by those who have any desire to understand it. But notwithstanding all this, some who profess to make the Word of God their study are found living in direct opposition to its plainest teachings. Then, to leave men and women without excuse, God gives plain and pointed testimonies, bringing them back to the word that they have neglected to follow."27
3. A guide in understanding the Bible. Ellen White considered her writings a guide to a clearer understanding of the Bible. "Additional truth is not brought out; but God has through the Testimonies, simplified the great truths already given and in His own chosen way brought them before the people to awaken and impress the mind with them, that all may be left without excuse." "The written testimonies are not given to give new light, but to impress vividly upon the heart the truths of inspiration already revealed."28
4. A guide to apply Bible principles. Much of her writings apply the Biblical counsels to everyday life. Ellen White said that she was "directed to bring out general principles, in speaking and in writing, and at the same time specify the dangers, errors, and sins of some individuals, that all might be warned, reproved, and counseled."29 Christ had promised such prophetic guidance to His church. As Ellen White noted, "The fact that God has revealed His will to men through His Word, has not rendered needless the continued presence and guiding of the Holy Spirit. On the contrary, the Spirit was promised by our Saviour, to open the Word to His servants, to illuminate and apply its teachings."30
The Challenge to the Believer. Revelation's prophecy that the "testimony of Jesus" would manifest itself through the "spirit of prophecy" in the last days of earth's history challenges every one not to take an attitude of indifference or disbelief, but to "test everything" and "hold on to the good." There is much to gain—or lose—depending on whether we carry out this Biblically mandated investigation. Jehoshaphat said, "'Believe in the Lord your God, and you shall be established; believe His prophets, and you shall prosper'" (2 Chron. 20:20). His words ring true today, as well.
1 Italics supplied.
2 For Biblical examples of female prophets, see Ex. 15:20; Judges 4:4; 2 Kings 22:14; Luke 2:36; Acts 21:9.
3 Frank B. Holbrook, "The Biblical Basis for a Modern Prophet," p. 1 (Shelf document, Ellen G. White Estate Inc., General Conference of Seventh-day Adventists, 6840 Eastern Ave. NW, Washington, D.C. 20012). Cf. Jemison, A Prophet Among You (Mountain View, CA: Pacific Press, 1955), pp. 52-55.
4 See Holbrook, "Modern Prophet," pp. 3-5.
5 Unfortunately no complete records of what occurred throughout the Christian era are available.
6 Gerhard Friedrich, "Prophets and Prophecies in the New Testament" in Theological Dictionary of the New Testament, vol. 6, p. 859.
7 Cf. Friedrich, pp. 860, 861.
8 The expression "testimony of Jesus" is best understood as a subjective genitive, not an objective genitive. "Two translations are possible: a) The testimony (witness) about or concerning Jesus (objective genitive) = what Christians witness about Jesus. 'Who bear testimony to Jesus' (RSV).b) The testimony (witness) from or by Jesus (subjective genitive) = messages from Jesus to the church. The evidence from the use of this expression in the book of Revelation suggests that it should be understood as a subjective genitive (a testimony from or by Jesus), and that this testimony is given through prophetic revelation" (Holbrook, "Modern Prophet," p. 7).
As one of the evidences Holbrook quotes Rev. 1:1, 2: "The Revelation of Jesus Christ which God gave unto him, to shew unto his servants . . . and he sent and signified it by his angel unto his servant John: who bare record of the Word of God, and of the testimony of Jesus Christ, and of all things that he saw.' In this context it is evident that 'the Revelation of Jesus' designates a revelation from or by Jesus to John. John bears record of this testimony/witness from Jesus. Both genitive expressions make the best sense in context as subjective genitives and agree with Christ's closing words in the book: 'He which testifieth (witnesses) these things, saith, Surely I come quickly' (Revelation 22:20)" (ibid., pp. 7, 8).
9 See SDA Bible Commentary, rev. ed., vol. 7, p. 812; T.H. Blincoe, "The Prophets Were Until John," Ministry, Supplement, July 1977, p. 24L; Holbrook, "Modern Prophet," p. 8.
10 James Moffatt in Expositor's Greek Testament, ed., W. Robertson Nicoll, vol. 5, p. 465.
11 "Spirit of Prophecy," SDA Encyclopedia, rev. ed., p. 1412. Those looking for the Second Advent, Paul said, have the testimony of Christ confirmed so that they come short in no gift (1 Cor. 1:6, 7).
12. Uriah Smith, "Do We Discard the Bible by Endorsing the Visions?" Review and Herald, Jan. 13, 1863, p. 52, quoted in Review and Herald, Dec. 1, 1977, p. 13.
13 White, "A Messenger," Review and Herald, July 26, 1906, p. 8. The title "the Lord's messenger" was given by inspiration (ibid.).
14 White, Early Writings, p. 59.
15 J. M. Peebles, "The Word Spiritualism Misunderstood," in Centennial Book of Modern Spiritualism in America (Chicago, IL: National Spiritualist Association of the United States of America, 1948), p. 34.
16 B. F. Austin, "A Few Helpful Thoughts," Centennial Book of Modern Spiritualism, p. 44.
17 White, The Great Controversy Between Christ and Satan (Mountain View, CA: Pacific Press, 1950), pp. 571, 588.
18 For the historicist view of Daniel's and Revelation's prophecies that dominated Protestantism from the Reformation until the nineteenth century, see Froom, Prophetic Faith of Our Fathers, vols. 2-4. See also chapter 12.
19 Richard Hammill, "Spiritual Gifts in the Church Today," Ministry, July 1982, p. 17.
20 Roger L. Dudley and Des Cummings, Jr., "A Comparison of the Christian Attitudes and Behaviors Between Those Adventist Church Members Who Regularly Read Ellen White Books and Those Who Do Not," 1982, pp. 41, 42. A research report of the Institute of Church Ministry, Andrews University, Berrien Springs, Michigan. The survey sampled more than 8, 200 members attending 193 churches in the United States.
21 Jemison, A Prophet Among You, pp. 208-210; Froom, Movement of Destiny (Washington, D.C.: Review and Herald, 1971), pp. 91-132; Damsteegt, Foundations of the Seventh-day Adventist Message and Mission, pp. 103-293.
22 White, Early Writings, p. 78.
23 White, Great Controversy, p. vii.
24 William A. Spicer, The Spirit of Prophecy in the Advent Movement (Washington, D.C.: Review and Herald, 1937), p. 30.
25 White, Testimonies, vol. 5, pp. 664, 665.
26 White, "An Open Letter," Review and Herald, Jan. 20, 1903, p. 15 in White, Colporteur Ministry (Mountain View, CA: Pacific Press, 1953), p. 125.
27 White, Testimonies, vol. 5, p. 663.
28 Ibid., p. 665.
29 Ibid, p. 660.
30 White, Great Controversy, p. vii.
Faith in a lie will not have a sanctifying influence upon the life or character. No Error is truth, or can be made truth by repetition, or by faith in it. Sincerity will never save a soul from the consequences of believing an error. Without sincerity there is no true religion, but sincerity in a false religion will never save a man. I May be perfectly sincere in following a wrong road, but that will not make it the right road, or bring me to the place I wish to reach. The Lord does not want us to have a blind credulity, and call that the faith that sanctifies. The Truth is the principle that sanctifies, and therefore it becomes us to know what is truth. We must compare spiritual things with spiritual. We must prove all things, but hold fast only that which is good, that which bears the divine credentials, which lays before us the true motives and principles which should prompt us to action. Selected Messages Bk2, pg. 56
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