God at Various Times Spoke by the Prophets
The Call to the Prophetic Office
Names Applied to the Messages of the Prophets
Prophets in the New Testament Church
Prophets in the Remnant Church
To accept the existence of God is to accept His statement as to how He has chosen to communicate with man. It is neither reasonable nor sensible to accept God and then deny or reject what He says regarding the prophets through whom He has chosen to speak to man here on earth. The Bible offers neither scientific proof nor a well-reasoned argument for or against prophets. It simply declares that there are prophets through whom God spoke:
God, who at sundry times and in divers manners spake in time past unto the fathers by the prophets, hath in these last days spoken unto us by his Son (Heb. 1:1, 2).
In Eden, God spoke directly to Adam and Eve (Genesis 2, 3). And they heard the voice of the Lord God walking in the garden in the cool of the day (Gen. 3:8). This thought is amplified by James White:
Once, man walked with God in Eden. With open face he beheld the glory of the Lord, and talked with God, and Christ, and angels, in Paradise, without a dimming vail between. Man fell from his moral rectitude and innocency, and was driven from the garden, from the tree of life, and from the visible presence of the Lord and His holy angels.Introduction in Ellen G. White, The Spirit of Prophecy, vol. 1, p. 7.
When sin came it formed a wall of partition between God and man. But God did not discard or neglect the work of His hand. He chose to communicate with men primarily through prophets (Gen. 20:6, 7); but also at times through priests (Gen. 14:18) and through angels (Gen. 16:7-13). (See also 2 Chron. 36:15; Jer. 35:15; 2 Peter 1:21.)
Ellen G. White states:
God has been pleased to communicate His truth to the world by human agencies, and He Himself, by His Holy Spirit, qualified men and enabled them to do this work. He guided the mind in the selection of what to speak and what to write. The treasure was intrusted to earthen vessels, yet it is, none the less, from Heaven. The testimony is conveyed through the imperfect expression of human language, yet it is the testimony of God; and the obedient, believing child of God beholds in it the glory of a divine power, full of grace and truth.The Great Controversy (C.H.L.), pp. 8, 9.
The men of God chosen to do this very essential and all-important work were generally known as prophets, but there are other names or titles applied to them in the Scriptures: prophet in 1 Samuel 9:9; son of man
in Ezekiel 4:1; 5:1; seer in 2 Chronicles 16:7; messenger in Malachi 3:1; Haggai 1:13; spokesman in Exodus 4:16; 7:1; fellow servant in Revelation 22:9; 19:10; servant of God in 1 Chronicles 6:49; man of God in 1 Samuel 9:6; 2 Peter 1:21; watchman in Isaiah 52:8.
The work of all these men, by whatever title they were known, is well stated in these words:
From the earliest times, prophets had been recognized as teachers divinely appointed. In the highest sense the prophet was one who spoke by direct inspiration, communicating to the people the messages he had received from God.Education, p. 46.
It is but natural that we should expect to see prophets among God's people, and indeed there have been many who have claimed to be God's prophets. This is in accord with Scripture, and therefore we are counseled not to despise prophesyings, but rather to prove all things, holding fast that which is good (1 Thess. 5:20, 21).
Jesus Himself, looking down to our day, said, There shall arise false Christs, and false prophets, and they shall shew great signs and wonders; insomuch that, if it were possible, they shall deceive the very elect (Matt. 24:24). Through John He adds this caution, Beloved, believe not every spirit, but try the spirits whether they are of God: because many false prophets are gone out into the world (1 John 4:1). Somehow, it is to be expected that where the true
exists there is likely to be the false; where there is the genuine, there likewise will be found the counterfeit. Our business is to try, test, and prove the prophets to find the true and reject the false.
The call to prophetic office is in the hands of God, who knows what He wants and when, where, and why He wants it at any given time. Therefore, it is not man's responsibility to direct in the choice of the prophet. This call does not come by committee action or by human planning or devising. As with the priesthood, no man taketh this honour unto himself, but he that is called of God, as was Aaron (Heb. 5:4; see 2 Peter 1:21). God's men are individually chosen, prepared, called, and directed by Him, and yet it is done in such a way that the call to prophetic office comes to the individual with convincing power and sufficient evidence that both he and his associates know it for a certainty.
The call of Amos is to the point in question. I was no prophet, neither was I a prophet's son; but I was an herdman, and a gatherer of sycomore fruit: and the Lord took me as I followed the flock, and the Lord said unto me, Go, prophesy unto my people Israel (Amos 7:14, 15).
Again, God's call to Isaiah was of an entirely different nature. The young man went into the Temple and while there God opened his eyes and gave him a
vision of the throne of God and the angels about that throne, which seemed high and lifted up. Isaiah caught that vision of God in all His glory and celestial majesty. Immediately he felt his own humiliation and sensed his unworthiness. He would flee from the presence of such awful holiness and grandeur, but the Lord took a live coal from off the altar and, as it were, placed it upon his lips and said, Lo, this hath touched thy lips; and thine iniquity is taken away, and thy sin purged (Isa. 6:7). Purification made him ready to be God's servant and God's messenger. Then in response to the call, Whom shall I send, and who will go for us? Isaiah in his youth responded, Here am I; send me.
Isaiah, as God's chosen mouthpiece, became the gospel prophet of the Old Testament, and has left for the Christian world a piece of literature of surpassing beauty. The testimony of Jesus through Isaiah is an example of the prophetic gift in sublime and powerful action.
It is important that we find the various terms used in the Bible to designate the messages spoken or written by the prophets. In these there is a clue as to their use, application, and significance. They are as follows:
1. Prophecy or prophecies (2 Chron. 9:29; 15:8; 1 Cor. 13:8).
2. Word of God (1 Sam. 9:27; 1 Kings 12:22).
3. The Lord's message (Haggai 1:13).
4. Testimonies (2 Kings 17:15; Neh. 9:30).
5. Counsel (Isa. 44:26).
6. Burden (Jer. 23:33, 38; Isa. 13:1; 15:1).
The word testimony or testimonies is frequently used, and carries with it, among other meanings, that of intentions. The testimony of Jesus would, therefore, be the intentions of God as revealed through Jesus, His angel, and His prophet to the people. The expression the testimony of Jesus is used but three times in the whole Bible, in Revelation 12:17 and 19:10. The Biblical meaning of the term is found in the latter verse, For the testimony of Jesus is the spirit of prophecy.
Seventh-day Adventists, accepting the whole Bible from Genesis l:l to Revelation 22:21, believe in God, and in His Word as a revelation of God's intentions, or will, as revealed through the prophets. They believe the gifts of God are available in this our day the same as in apostolic times.
J. Peter Lange's Commentary on the Holy Scriptures has this to say concerning Luke 2:26:
lf the spirit of prophecy had departed from Israel since the time of Malachi, according to the opinion of the Jews, the return of this Spirit might be looked upon as one of the tokens of the Messiah's advent.
Without discussing either the opinion of the Jews or the comment by Lange, it is of interest to note that the apostle Luke recognizes that John the Baptist, the forerunner of the Messiah, was indeed a prophet (Luke 1:76; 7:28). In Matthew 21:11 and Luke 7:16 it is likewise acknowledged that Jesus Himself was a prophet among men. And when He ascended to heaven He gave gifts unto men, some, apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers (Eph. 4:8, 11).
The objectives of these workers in the church of the early apostolic period were to equip His people for service, to build up the church, to help all to arrive at oneness in faith and in knowledge of the Son of God, to attain to the stature of mature men in Jesus Christ instead of remaining babes in the Christian life, and to cease being carried about with every wind of doctrine, but to hold to the truth through union with Christ (Eph. 4:12-15).
Paul admonished the Ephesians that Christians should no longer live as the Gentiles live, but become new men who after God are created in righteousness and true holinessfit for God's everlasting kingdom and for the society of angels (Eph. 4:17-24).
These verses, together with those in 1 Corinthians 14:3, 4, 20, 22, would lead us to the conclusion that prophets are placed in the church by God primarily for the benefit of the church itself. In the Revised Standard Version we read:
On the other hand, he who prophesies speaks to men for their upbuilding and encouragement and consolation. He who speaks in a tongue edifies himself, but he who prophesies edifies the church . Brethren, do not be children in your thinking; be babes in evil, but in thinking be mature . Thus, tongues are a sign not for believers but for unbelievers, while prophecy is not for unbelievers but for believers.
Thus we can emphasize this very important principle: The work of prophets is essentially for the members of the churchfor reproof to the erring and for the upbuilding, encouragement, and comfort of the believers. The words of counsel and instruction from God through the prophets to the believer are designed to help the spiritually newborn babe to grow by his use of the sincere milk of the word (1 Peter 2:2) unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ: that we henceforth be no more children (Eph. 4:13, 14).
The chief business of the prophets in the church has been that of guiding the believers in the path that leads to heaven, of pointing out the signposts along the way so that believers could walk and work intelligently. They are not saved by the signposts or by the instruction given or by the deeds performed along the way. There is but one Saviour, for there is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved.
It is clear that any man who hears the gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ, who becomes aware of the fact
that he is a sinner in need of a Saviour, and who acknowledges Christ as his Saviour, immediately becomes a member of God's family, a believer. Then, after he believes, and has become a son of God, he begins a process of growth in grace by which he becomes an intelligent Christian.
All of this is in harmony with the passage we read in 2 Timothy 3, which says that all Scripture is given by inspiration, for the purpose of making a man holy and perfect, thoroughly furnished unto all good works. We therefore draw a conclusion that the gift of prophecy is for you and for me. The Testimonies are primarily for those who already believe. It is the gospel that makes believers into sons of God, and it is the messages of the prophets that build up the believers into intelligent Christians.
Therefore, there is no salvation in this historical date or that; there is no eternal destiny at stake in this or that fulfilled or unfulfilled prophecy; there is no salvation in any particular viewpoint of the purely incidental doctrines or theories, or in what Mrs. White herself calls indefinite, frivolous questions, obscure, unimportant points, idle sophistries, things not essential to our salvation, questions not necessary for the perfection of the faith, and idle tales.
We should establish clearly in our minds the fact that as far as salvation is concerned there is one, and only one, fundamental doctrinethat I am a sinner in need of a Saviour, and Jesus Christ is my Saviour if
I only believe on Him and receive Him into my heart by faith.
Surrounding that one great fundamental doctrine of the Christian church are landmarks, way-marks, blocks, pegs and pins, which have made us an intelligent Seventh-day Adventist Christian people. These will preserve us as a people only as we clearly understand and live by them, allowing them to mold and fashion our character and to determine every detail in the habits of our daily living. Our ultimate aim is to become fit to live forever in God's everlasting kingdom, and to this end God has placed His prophets in the church to help in our preparation for an entrance into heaven.
One writer has stated, The Church which He [Christ] founded was a Church in which prophecy was to be a continuous possession.G. C. Joyce, The Inspiration of Prophecy, p. 139.
Ellen G. White says:
When He, the Spirit of truth, is come, He will guide you into all truth: and He will show you things to come. John 16:13. Scripture plainly teaches that these promises, so far from being limited to apostolic days, extend to the church of Christ in all ages.The Great Controversy (C.H.L.), p. 10.
This is equally true of the church of God in the time of the end and in the end of time. The Bible
refers to God's chosen people of the last days as the remnant.
The following Bible specifications help us to identify the remnant church:
They will be gathered (Isa. 11:11); be distinguished from others (Micah 5:7, 8); keep the commandments of God and have the testimony of Jesus (Rev. 12:17); shall not do iniquity or speak lies (Zeph. 3:13); and shall be saved in God's kingdom (Rom. 9: 27; Dan. 7:18).
A study of church history shows that through the centuries there have always been groups of Christian people who have claimed the prophetic gift among them.
To the church waiting for the coming of the Lord, Paul wrote a message:
That in every thing ye are enriched by him, in all utterance, and in all knowledge; even as the testimony of Christ was confirmed in you: so that ye come behind in no gift; waiting for the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ: who shall also confirm you unto the end, that ye may be blameless in the day of our Lord Jesus Christ (1 Cor. 1: 5-8).
Mrs. White adds:
In ancient times God spoke to men by the mouth of prophets and apostles. In these days He speaks to them by the Testimonies of His Spirit. There was never a time when God instructed His people more earnestly than He instructs them now concerning His will and the course that He would have them pursue.Testimonies for the Church, vol. 4, pp. 147, 148.
Seventh-day Adventists believe they are the remnant church because they comply with all the Scripture specifications for it. Among them is the gift of prophecy, or the testimony of Jesus, which is the spirit of prophecy. It is not for Christians to deny or reject or despise, but rather to test and try the gift as claimed by Ellen G. White, who for seventy years spoke in the name of the Lord, and who claimed to have visions and revelations in which God revealed His intentions for individuals and for the church as a whole. Because of the very nature of the divine guidance given through Ellen G. White, Seventh-day Adventists esteem most highly the counsel, the admonitions, the warnings, the reproofs, the encouragement, and the comfort contained in her messages.
Now that a little more than a century has passed since the earliest manifestation of the gift of prophecy among us, Seventh-day Adventists should pause to evaluate the gift of God in the remnant church and apply the Bible tests. How does the work of Ellen G. White stand the test of time? Has the church prospered as the result of heeding her counsel and of molding its policies in harmony with her testimonies? These questions are reasonable and logical and deserve a candid and unbiased answer, not so much to prove that God has chosen and used men and women as His prophetic messengers, but rather to show that Ellen G. White was one of those so chosen by God.