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'"

(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.

References

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, 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.