A. Thanks for your question. This is one of those subjects on which the church may never cease to receive questions and queries till the Lord Himself clears the air on this. I will attempt to provide some clarification on the subject. I apologize for not answering the question as it is posed as I believe a biblical exposition may serve a more useful purpose.
Who is a Prophet? Do you recall the story of God in conversation with Moses regarding the latter’s doubt as to his ability to confront Pharaoh on the release of the Israelites from captivity? It’s right there in Exodus, chapter 4! Let’s go to verse 10. We see here Moses doubting his linguistic ability. He was basically saying, “My English is not good enough and I often stammer”. The Lord reminded him, “Who made your mouth? Who makes a man dumb or deaf or of sight or blind? Isn’t it I? Go therefore and I will be with your mouth and teach you what to say”. Not convinced, Moses requested that the Lord send anyone, except him. The Lord responded thus, verse 14 to 16, “Is not Aaron the Levite thy brother? I know that he can speak well……..And thou shall speak unto him, and put words in his mouth: and I will be with thy mouth, and with his mouth, and will teach you what ye shall do. And he shall be thy prophet unto the people……”
When penning the account of the exodus of the Israelites from Egypt, Moses wrote (see Ex 15:20), “And Miriam the prophetess, the sister of Aaron, took a timbrel in her hand: and all the women went out after her with timbrels and their dances”
Concerning Jonas the baptizer, Jesus said, (Lk 7:27 & 28) “This is he, of whom it is written. Behold, I send my messenger before thy face, which shall prepare thy way before thee. For I say unto you, among those that are born of women there is not a greater prophet than John the Baptist: but he that is least in the Kingdom of God is greater than he”
The common theme running through the three characters above is that their ministries focused on current, not eschatological events (as we seem to think all prophets do). They were spokespersons! A prophet is primarily a spokesperson, not necessarily a predictor of events. Biblical prophets spoke on behalf of God!
Prophets outside the Canon? The prophetic gift was quite active during the era of the biblical writers. But what about now! The biblical canon has been closed for hundreds of years now. Ellen White died around 1915. How could she, or any contemporary, be a prophet?
In the book that carries his name, the prophet Joel, (Joel 2:28-31) looking down the centuries wrote, “And it shall come to pass afterward, that I will pour my spirit on all flesh; and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, your old men shall dream dreams, your young men shall see visions. And also upon the servants and upon the handmaids in those days will I pour out my spirit. And I will shew 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 great and the terrible day of the Lord come”
Jesus, in a discussion with His disciples captured in Matthew, chapter 24, used similar imagery when speaking of an event yet future. It was in AD 31 that he said, “Immediately after the tribulation of those days shall the sun be darkened, and the moon shall not give her light, and the stars shall fall from heaven, and the powers of the heavens shall be shaken. And then shall appear the sign of the son of man in heaven: and then shall all the tribes of the earth mourn, and they shall see the son of man coming in the clouds of heaven with power and great glory”. It is clear that Joel’s prophecy was not of immediate application since Jesus, centuries later, still referred to the event as a future activity. Both biblical contributors, Joel and Jesus, ended their prophesies with the coming of the Lord, an event still future.
A partial fulfillment of Joel’s prophecy took place on the first Pentecost (Pentekoste = 50 days) following the resurrection of Christ. Jesus had ascended seven weeks ago and the disciples were gathered in Jerusalem, as instructed. Following the outpouring of the Holy Ghost on the disciples and the bestowing of the gift of tongues upon them, Luke records the words of Simon Peter in Acts 2: 16–21, “But this is that which was spoken by the prophet Joel. And it shall come to pass in the last days, saith God, I will pour out of my Spirit upon all flesh and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy……..and on my servants and on my handmaidens I will pour in those days of my Spirit: and they shall prophesy…….and it shall come to pass, that whosoever shall call on the name of the Lord shall saved”
Clearly, Joel, Jesus and Peter all understood that the gift of prophecy would survive the canon of the Bible. I once heard a Pastor comment on the fact that twice, not once, in Matthew 24, Jesus warned about the coming ministry of false prophets (Pseudoprophetes). He then asked the question, “Why would Jesus warn about false prophets if there wasn’t going to be true prophets?” The Pastor’s argument is sound!
Often times, the Ministry of Ellen White is criticized on the ground that she wrote on matters not captured in the canon. This criticism is refuted by devout Adventists who claim that she, under the influence of the Holy Ghost, simply added details necessary to aid the acceptance of Christ by a contemporary society. They often claim that many imageries and stories in the canon would not be there if the canon had to be written specifically to appeal to 21st century, technologically-advanced and career-oriented populations.
At the other extreme, though, is Jeremiah who, though led by the Spirit, wrote almost no new truth in the book that bears his name. Everything he wrote can be found elsewhere in the Bible. A similar situation exists with the Apostle Paul. This tentmaker from Tarsus simply repackaged the Gospel message and delivered it to the Gentiles in a way they could identify with. But still, both prophets added little new truths though much details. Notwithstanding, their “Prophets” status is never questioned. It seems we may be left with a situation to accept them all or reject the same.
Prophets in our time? So then, does Jesus have need for spokespersons beyond the timeframe of the canon?
The Bible answers the question unequivocally. In his epistle to the believers of Ephesus, Paul wrote in chapter 4, “But unto everyone of us is given grace according to the measure of the gift of Christ. Wherefore he saith, when he ascended up on high, he led captivity captive and gave gifts unto men…… And he gave some, apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers; for the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ”. I can confidently declare that the saints are still in need of “perfecting”; that the work of the ministry is not complete and that the edification of the body of Christ is an ongoing process. As a result, the gifts of apostleship, prophecy, evangelism, pastorship and teaching are still very active at this very moment.
Finally, we can turn to the Apocalypse. John is exiled on the Isle of Patmos for refusing to go back on his faith in Christ. He is given a vision of end-time things. Let’s join him in chapter 19, verse 10 as he is approached by a heavenly being, “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”
Much debate has gone on over the centuries as to what really is “the testimony of Jesus”. The text says that the testimony of Jesus is the spirit of prophecy but that does not shed adequate light on the question. However, John does not leave us to guess the answer. In the final chapter of the book, he makes it abundantly clear what the testimony of Jesus is all about. Let’s go to chapter 22: 8-9, “And I John saw these things, and heard them. And when I had heard and seen, I fell down to worship before the feet of the angel which shewed me these things. Then said he unto me, see thou do it not: for I am thy fellow servant, and of thy brethren the prophets, and of them which keep the sayings of this book: worship God”
The similarity of the two passages above cannot be missed. In chapter 19, John speaks about “….thy brethren that have the testimony of Jesus……”, but in chapter 20 he refers to these brethren as “…..thy brethren the prophets ……..”
The Bible definitely teaches the ministry of prophets up to the second coming of our Lord when He returns to receive repentant sinners. It’s not about Ellen White! It’s all about what the Bible teaches about prophets and prophesies. But, I must add, if one accepts that the gift of prophecy did not close with the biblical canon, then one would have no difficulty with the prophetic ministry of Ellen Gold White nee Harmon. Why not spend some time with her best-selling book Steps to Christ. A free download is available at www.stepstochrist.us/docs/Steps-To-Christ.pdf
Elder A. Chris JOSEPH
Electronic Media Ministry Coordinator
Bethel SDA Church