What is the Spirit of Prophecy?
“I have Adventist friends and hear a few of them ‘quoting from the Spirit of Prophecy.’ What does that mean? Why is it important today? Why is the name Ellen White associated with the Spirit of Prophecy?”
Let’s take a journey back in time to a spectacular scene: the Apostle John is exiled to an island because of his faith in Jesus Christ. While on the island, he sees images that cannot be described with earthy language. Horrendous beast with several heads, heavenly talking creatures covered in eyes, and most incredible; visions of the Son of God.
Through these visions, John sees how the history of the world will play out down to the Second Coming of Christ. During one of the visions, he’s so overwhelmed by the glory that he falls down to worship the angel who is explaining the visions to him.
“And I fell at his feet to worship him. And he said unto me, See thou do it not: I am thy fellow servant, and of thy brethren that have the testimony of Jesus, Worship God, for the testimony of Jesus is the spirit of prophecy” (Revelation 19:10).
And this is where we begin to explore the words of the angel.
- Bible prophets like Daniel, Joel, and Ezekiel had the Spirit of Prophecy
- Over 8,000 predictions and prophecies are made in the Bible
- Prophecies made by Ellen White have come true
- The collection of work written by Ellen White is referred to as the Spirit of Prophecy
What is the Spirit of Prophecy?
The “testimony of Jesus” is defined as the “spirit of prophecy,” meaning that Jesus is using prophecy to communicate with His church. Because of sin, God cannot directly communicate His will to us face to face. In His love, He has found various ways to convey His messages. He uses the written Word, nature, and inspired people. Throughout the Bible, before bringing judgment on a place, God chose someone (a prophet) to speak for Him. When a prophet speaks, he or she is ‘prophesying.’ A prophecy is a message given by God through a prophet to an individual or a group of people. This message can either predict something that is going to happen, gives clarity about a situation, or reveals the will of God. The prophet gave people instructions (prophesied) on how to turn back to God and outlined the consequences they would suffer if they rejected His love.
There are true prophets (those who communicate messages received by God) and false prophets (those who speak their own opinions as divine or receive messages from evil spirits).
But God didn’t choose everyone to be prophets. In 1 Corinthians 12, Paul the Apostle provides a list of gifts or special abilities that the Holy Spirit gives to different people. Some have the gift of healing or faith, while others have the gift of prophecy (the ability to prophesy), also known as the Spirit of Prophecy (vs 10). Let’s examine a few aspects of the Spirit of Prophecy.
It’s relevant to your everyday life and helps prepare for the Second Coming.
Imagine there was a person who lived in your neighborhood who could give you the best biblical advice about any situation you were facing. Whether you need advice on what to cook for Thanksgiving dinner, what to wear to your friend’s wedding, how to budget for the year, or who you should marry, that “wise, old man down the street” knew exactly what to say. Better yet, every advice he gave would be based on the Bible alone. No charge. No strings attached. He would only require that you double check his counsel with God’s holy Word. Would you visit the “wise old man”? How often would you go see him?
More than likely, because his advice relates to your everyday life and it’s based on God’s Word, you’d probably go to him often (if you wanted wise counsel that is). The Spirit of Prophecy works similar to this little analogy. Our Heavenly Father wants us to live in such a way that glorifies Him and brings joy and peace to our lives. This is why He commands;
Do not forsake wisdom, and she will protect you (Proverbs 4:6,7).
Many people may disregard the importance of the Spirit of Prophecy because they believe that it only has to do with predicting what’s going to happen in the end times and associate the term with lots of “doom and gloom.” However, the testimony of Jesus Christ, which is the Spirit of Prophecy, is the Gospel made practical. It’s about breaking down the Gospel and applying it to making dinner, decorating your college dorm room, dating, sexual intimacy with your spouse, rearing children, shopping for shoes, working out, walking your dog, and worship. It also covers matters relating to eternity such as salvation, what happens when we die, and how to prepare for the end of times.
So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God (1 Corinthians 10:31).
In order to fulfill the command to do everything for the glory of God, He provides counsel to show us how to do everything for Him. Prophets like Moses, Elijah, Isaiah, Jeremiah, and Daniel gave God’s people instructions on how they should live. When their counsel was followed, the result was blessings from God. If the people ignored the Spirit of Prophecy and chose to follow their own inclinations, they suffered the results of their decisions.
In the 1800’s, the church was still in the dark in relations to many subjects such as the relationship between diet and overall health or the purpose of education. God chose someone to convey messages that were relevant to that time and can also be applied to our lives today. When you follow the Spirit of Prophecy, whether it’s given through prophets in the Bible or through the writings on Ellen White, you will experience the Gospel on a practical level. Everyday life is a way to prepare for the Second Coming. When we put God’s Word into practice every day, we’re improving our quality of life here on earth and also getting ready for Jesus to come.
It’s a Gift
When the holidays come around, a lot of people are excited at the possibility of receiving a gift from someone special. I imagine you wouldn’t be very thrilled to find out that you got the exact same gift as everyone else – it wouldn’t seem personal. God, through His Spirit, gives us all different gifts.
“There are diversities of gifts, but the same Spirit. 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 12:4, 8-10).
These gifts are given so that the church of God might be built up (Ephesians 4:12). There are three lists that describe various gifts that God gives His people (Romans 12:6-8, 1 Corinthians 12:8-10, 1 Peter 4:11). Having one of these gifts doesn’t mean that an individual is infallible or on the same level as the Bible. An individual with a gift from the Holy Spirit is not more important or holier than another. Ellen White had the gift of prophecy while someone else may have the gift of teaching or the gift of leadership. All these individuals should work together to edify the entire body of Christ. When you receive a gift, you show appreciation to the giver. Because we cannot walk directly into God’s throne room and thank Him for His gifts, we show appreciation by sharing that gift and using it to draw others closer to Him.
It was manifested in the life of Ellen White
Based on the criteria of a true prophet outlined in the Bible, Seventh-day Adventists believe that Christianity Today published a piece exploring how self-proclaimed prophets and apostles amass millions of followers and lead megachurches around the globe. Jesus warned his disciples that “many false prophets will appear and deceive many” (Matthew 24:11). We then can conclude that true prophets will also appear. If God was no longer going to speak through prophets, He would’ve made it very clear to not listen to anyone who claimed to be a prophet. What’s important is the ability to discern the true from the false.
“Do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, because many false prophets have gone out into the world” (1 John 4:1).
“But you may wonder, ‘How will we know whether or not a prophecy is from the LORD?’ If the prophet speaks in the LORD’s name but his prediction does not happen or come true, you will know that the LORD did not give that message. That prophet has spoken without my authority and need not be feared” (Deuteronomy 18:21,22).
Even though she saw visions and received inspired messages from God about health, education, and religion, Ellen White herself never claimed the title of a prophet. But it is not strange to conclude that she was. In the preceding point, we examined the various gifts of the Spirit. One who has the gift of teaching is called a teacher and the one with the gift of leadership is called a leader. The same principle applies to a person endowed with the gift of prophecy – he or she is a prophet.
There are two major factors that have led the Adventist church to regard the writings of Mrs. White as inspired: her work lines up with the Bible and her predictions have come true.
Professor Walter Veith Ph.D. gives a list of ways we can identify a true prophet:
- A true prophet will be in complete harmony with God’s Word
- A true prophet’s predictions must come to pass
- The message of a true prophet must edify the church
- They will exalt Jesus Christ as the Son of God and Savior
- They will speak with authority
- A true prophet will bear good fruit
- There will be physical signs when a true prophet is in vision
Ellen White met these criteria. Her writings are not equal to the Bible. Instead, they point to God’s Word as the standard for living. Through the Spirit of Prophecy, God gave counsel on spirituality, education, social life, evangelism, prophecy, publishing, health, and business. Especially prominent is the advice to follow the Bible alone. Every reader has the responsibility to test a prophet instead of simply relying on what the masses may say. God promises to give wisdom and guidance to those who seek Him.
It’s a way to identify God’s Church
New Testament writers do not suggest that the gift of prophecy was to end with the apostolic church. Ephesians 4:11-13 says it was to continue “till we all come in the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ”. All of the other special gifts mentioned are still needed in the church. Men and women are still qualified by the Holy Spirit to fill these offices and the Spirit of Prophecy is not an exception.
Jesus knew that thousands of churches would claim to be the true church. To help us distinguish the true from the false, He outlined criteria (similar to identifying marks of a prophet). One of the ways we know that a group of people is following God’s divine will is if they do not despise prophecies (1 Thessalonians 5:20) but embrace it.
Seventh-day Adventists thus interpret the passage and believe that the “remnant church” will be distinguished by the manifestation of the gift of prophecy in their midst. The “testimony of Jesus Christ,” is the witness of Jesus among them through the medium of the prophetic gift (Nichol, F. D. (Ed.). (1980). The Seventh-day Adventist Bible Commentary (Vol. 7, p. 812).
The Spirit of Prophecy is a beautiful gift and not something to be afraid of. We can appreciate each other for the gifts that God has given to us. There is so much to learn about the Spirit of Prophecy but we do even better when we apply the counsel in our lives. Ellen White, who we believe was given this gift by God, did a great job by not only verbally conveying what God had shown to her, but she wrote down the counsels so that we could have them today. Her writings, which many Adventists refer to as the Spirit of Prophecy, does not in any way replace the Bible nor is it on par with God’s infallible Word. Like a telescope helping us to see the grandeur of the night sky, her work helps us to see the beauty in the Scriptures with greater detail.
In the end, what matters most is not the ability to possess or understand the Spirit of Prophecy but to love God. A time will come when we will be able to understand fully and will no longer need another person to explain God’s Words to us. In this case, prophecies will fail but God’s love and our love for Him will remain.
“Love never fails. But where there are prophecies, they will cease; where there are tongues, they will be stilled; where there is knowledge, it will pass away” (1 Corinthians 13:8).
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