|Chapter 17: THE GIFT OF PROPHECY
Seventh-day Adventists Believe...
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.
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'"
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"
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
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
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
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.
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'"
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."
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
"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
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
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
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
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
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
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.
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,"
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
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
21.Jemison, 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.