What Do Seventh-day Adventists Believe About the Prophetic Gift?
The belief in and importance of spiritual gifts is central to Christianity and to carrying out Jesus’ Great Commission (Matthew 28:16-20). These gifts are given by the Holy Spirit so we can have the privilege of participating in His ministry.
Among those gifts is the gift of prophecy. It is regarded with special importance by the Apostle Paul in 1 Corinthians 14:3, NKJV since he points out that one who prophesies strengthens, encourages, and comforts others.
Any person the Holy Spirit chooses can serve with the prophetic gift. And Adventists believe this gift has been manifested in a unique but powerful way in recent times, and will be even more so in the last days.
This post will explore:
- What Seventh-day Adventists believe about the prophetic gift
- Why this spiritual gift is so important
- How the prophetic gift has enriched the Adventist church
- How to test the validity of prophets and prophecies (then and now)
Here is one of the Adventist church’s fundamental beliefs that explains this topic succinctly:
“The Scriptures testify that one of the gifts of the Holy Spirit is prophecy.
This gift is an identifying mark of the remnant church and we believe it was manifested in the ministry of Ellen G. White.
Her writings speak with prophetic authority and provide comfort, guidance, instruction, and correction to the church. They also make clear that the Bible is the standard by which all teaching and experience must be tested.”
What exactly then, do Seventh-day Adventists believe about the prophetic gift and how it has been established in their church?
Why is the prophetic gift so important to Adventists?
Adventists believe that the very existence of the Bible itself testifies to the importance of the prophetic gift. This is because its writers were prophets—meaning they were people who manifested the prophetic gift.
This gift was given to them so that they could communicate God’s message to the people of God. And the Bible is simply a compilation of those messages that were written through “the inspiration of God” (2 Timothy 3:16, NKJV).
Some good examples of such prophets include Moses, Isaiah and Jeremiah. Some of them even penned God’s own statement of how He sends prophets. Such as when God said:
“Since the day that your fathers came out of the land of Egypt until this day, I have even sent to you all My servants the prophets, daily rising up early and sending them” (Jeremiah 7:25; see also Jeremiah 35:15; Daniel 9:6; Zechariah 1:6, NKJV).
These messages instructed the people for whom they were written, and are still relevant to this day. This is because they are “profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness” (2 Timothy 3:16, NKJV).
And just as these messages given through the prophetic gift were vital for God’s people then, they are just as vital for God’s people now.
God still needs to give timely messages of instruction, warning, affirmation, comfort, and encouragement to His church today.
That’s why Adventists have a high regard for the prophetic gift.
Do all who make use of the prophetic gift have writings in the Bible?
No. Not all prophets are published, or even widely recognized.
In the Bible, some served as prophets and only got a few mentions. For instance, along with the prophets such as Amos, Jeremiah, and Ezekiel, the Bible tells us of prophets like Nathan.
Nathan was a prophet of such stature that when King David committed adultery and murder, it was Nathan who was sent to rebuke him (1 Kings 1:10; 1:23; 1 Chronicles 17:1; 2 Samuel 11:1-12:14). But interestingly enough, you will find no book called the ‘Book of Nathan’ in the Bible. And that’s because Nathan the prophet didn’t write any book of the Bible. Yet he remained a prophet of power and of importance.
Then there is Prophet Elijah, who played some pivotal roles in sacred history (1 Kings 18, 19). But just like Nathan, no book of the Bible was written by this great prophet.
Also, John the Baptist. Even Jesus Himself said that “among those born of women, there is not a greater prophet than John the Baptist” (Luke 7:28, NKJV). That means that even Daniel and Moses, who wrote powerful portions of Scripture, could not measure up to John the Baptist.
Yet, he also didn’t write any book.
It’s easy to get the idea that someone with the prophetic gift would be widely renowned, publish many writings, or speak in front of large numbers of people. Yes, we’ve heard about several prophets in which that was the case, but that’s hardly the majority.
Many people, even in the Bible, were used by God through the prophetic gift and only “prophesied” to a few people. God used them wherever this gift was needed.
What else does the Bible say about prophets and the prophetic gift?
Ever since the Fall of humanity in Eden, God has been reaching out to us.
And as seen throughout Scripture one of His potent ways to do so has always been through the ministry of various prophets. The prophets became God’s conduit to speak to His people.
And God Himself made it very clear about His intention to speak through the prophets when He said, “Hear now My words: If there is a prophet among you, I, the LORD, make Myself known to him in a vision; I speak to him in a dream” (Numbers 12:6, NKJV).
In another instance, He emphasized the importance of taking note of the ministry of the prophets. He admonished them saying, “Hear me, O Judah and you inhabitants of Jerusalem: Believe in the LORD your God, and you shall be established; believe His prophets, and you shall prosper” (2 Chronicles 20:20, NKJV).
And to show the vital part they hold in His ministry to humanity, we read that He “does nothing, unless He reveals His secret to His servants the prophets” (Amos 3:7, NKJV).
The New Testament also talks about the existence of prophets and the prophetic gift. Like in the book of Acts when the church was first getting started, the apostle Peter quoted the Old Testament prophet Joel in his sermon on the day of Pentecost saying:
“And it shall come to pass in the last days, says God, that I will pour out of My Spirit on all flesh; your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, your young men shall see visions, your old men shall dream dreams’’ (Acts 2:16, NKJV).
And Paul was also very clear about the importance of the gift of prophecy in the church in his writing. Examples include:
“And He Himself gave some to be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, and some pastors and teachers, for the equipping of the saints for the work of ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ” (Ephesians 4:14–15, NKJV).
“And God has appointed these in the church: first apostles, second prophets, third teachers, after that miracles, then gifts of healings, helps, administrations, varieties of tongues. Are all apostles? Are all prophets? Are all teachers? Are all workers of miracles? Do all have gifts of healings? Do all speak with tongues? Do all interpret?” (1 Corinthians 12:28, NKJV).
“For to one is given the word of wisdom through the Spirit, to another the word of knowledge through the same Spirit, to another faith by the same Spirit, to another gifts of healings by the same Spirit, to another the working of miracles, to another prophecy, to another discerning of spirits, to another different kinds of tongues, to another the interpretation of tongues” (1 Corinthians 12:8-10, NKJV).
“Having then gifts differing according to the grace that is given to us, let us use them: if prophecy, let us prophecy in proportion to our faith; or ministry, let us use it in our ministering; he who teaches, in teaching; he who exhorts, in exhortation; he who gives, with liberality; he who leads, with diligence; he who shows mercy, with cheerfulness” (Romans 12: 6-8, NKJV).
How will the prophetic gift be used increasingly near the end times?
The Book of Revelation depicts two specific characteristics that God’s remnant will possess in the last days. These characteristics are brought to light in the context of Satan’s attack on the church. It says:
“And the dragon was wroth with the woman, and went to make war with the remnant of her seed, which keep the commandments of God, and have the testimony of Jesus Christ” (Revelation 12:17, NKJV).
These distinct traits are:
They keep the commandments of God.”
And this refers to the whole law. These aren’t people who pick and choose which parts of God’s law are convenient to them. The remnant people make God’s law their priority, because it represents who He is and the love He has for us.
They have the testimony of Jesus Christ.
What does that mean? Revelation 19:10 defines “the testimony of Jesus” as “the spirit of prophecy” (NKJV).
In other words, the “testimony of Jesus” is revealed in the manifestation of the prophetic gift. And this is taught in the New Testament.
The prophetic gift which is still in operation, will be specifically manifested among this end-time remnant. Adventists also believe that this gift has been active among them in the life and ministry of Ellen G. White (1827-1915). She is the most widely translated woman author in the world, and a prominent co-founder of the Adventist church.
Adventists believe she was inspired by the Holy Spirit, just like biblical authors, but they do not hold her writings at par with the Bible or above Scripture. Just as with most prophets, their words are meant to draw people toward Scripture, reminding them of things they forgot, or helping them deepen their understanding.
Ellen White’s writings always point her readers back to the Bible as the final and ultimate authority in the church.
Seventh-day Adventists believe that her life and writings reveal how she had the gift of prophecy, a spiritual gift that can be put into action even among those who don’t have writings in the Bible.
Just like like others such as:
- Nathan (1 Kings 1:10)
- Elijah (Malachi 4:5)
- Deborah (Judges 4:4)
- Huldah (2 Kings 22:14)
- John the Baptist (Luke 7:28)
- Anna (Luke 2:36)
- Philip’s four daughters (Acts 21:9)
How can we tell if there are modern prophets among us? What are the tests of a prophet?
No true prophet—someone being used by the Holy Spirit through this particular spiritual gift—will demand or even expect you to believe them based on their word alone. God doesn’t expect you to, either.
That’s why the Bible says to “test all things” (1 Thessalonians 5:21, see also 1 John 4:1, 2). And the Bible also provides several methods for testing prophets, messages, etc.
- They must glorify God alone, seeking no glory for themselves (John 16:13; Romans 16:8, Deuteronomy 18:20).
- If they make a specific prediction (not one with conditions, or a warning), it must come true. If it does not, they cannot be trusted (Deuteronomy 18:21, 22).
- They enrich believers, inspiring them toward mission (1 Corinthians 14:3-4).
- Their messages must always harmonize with Scripture (Isaiah 8:20; 2 Peter 2:1; Galatians 1:6-8).
- They must uphold Jesus Christ as our only Savior (1 John 4:1-3; 1 Corinthians 12:3; Revelation 19:10).
- They should have moral consistency, making effort to practice what they preach (Matthew 7:15, 20; 2 Corinthians 11:13-15).
- The manner in which they communicate should not be erratic or disorderly. They should speak not to stir up chaos, but promote organized action and peaceful discourse (1 Corinthians 14:29-33).
And if what we test passes these criteria, we should then “hold fast to what is good” (1 Thessalonians 5:21, NKJV).
Does Ellen G. White pass the tests for a true prophet?
Many have reviewed Ellen G. White’s life and words with these very tests, and have found that she indeed manifested what Scripture calls “the spirit of prophecy” (Revelation 19:10, NKJV).
Additionally, Ellen White herself had to confront some fellow believers on this very topic.
“But there are not many of you that really know what is contained in the Testimonies. You are not familiar with the Scriptures. If you had made God’s word your study … 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.”1
In this situation, Ellen White was responding to another Adventist who asserted that her writings were an “addition to the Word of God.”2 She was quick to correct this train of thought among her community of believers and instead put forth that Scripture can stand on its own. A prophet’s primary job is merely to bring people back to the Bible:
“The Word of God 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.”3
In the same way any prophet’s words should be tested, one should study for themselves if they believe someone to have the prophetic gift. Ellen G. White’s writings are available online, meant to be studied alongside the Bible, and also considering historical context.
Knowing the biblical importance of the spiritual gift of prophecy, Adventists approach this subject with solemn caution, as well as honor and joy that comes from witnessing the work of the Holy Spirit in another human being.
Recognizing evidence for the “spirit of prophecy” in Ellen White and her writings is why her influence and guidance has been so integral to the growth and development of the Adventist church.
As you go through your own life, learning more about the Bible and growing closer to Jesus, you never know what kind of people you will meet, what kinds of things you’ll see, or what kind of messages you will hear.
That’s why God promises to send the Holy Spirit with you (John 14:16), to help call your mind to Scripture and be able to test the things you come across.
Want to learn more about the gift of prophecy, or how to test the validity of spiritual gifts? Start your own Bible study today
 White, Ellen G. Counsels for the Church Pacific Press Publishing Association, 1991, p. 92.
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