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What is the Testimony of Jesus?

Are Mrs. White's Writings the Spirit of Prophecy?

By Dirk Anderson


In a book entitled Loma Linda Messages, is printed a letter written on February 4, 1905, in which Ellen White writes:
The law of God and the Spirit of Prophecy go hand in hand to guide and counsel the church, and whenever the church has recognized this by obeying His law, the spirit of prophecy has been sent to guide her in the way of truth. Rev. 12:17: "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." This prophecy points out clearly that the remnant church will acknowledge God in His law and will have the prophetic gift. Obedience to the law of God, and the spirit of prophecy has always distinguished the true people of God, and the test is usually given on present manifestations.1
In the same book, Ellen White refers to herself or her writings as the "spirit of prophecy" more than 30 times. For example,
Brother B.... Study the messages that God has sent to His people for the last sixty years through the Spirit of Prophecy.2

Adventist Algegbra

Adventists use an interesting formula to equate Ellen White with the Spirit of Prophecy. First, Adventists say that Rev. 12:17 uniquely identifies the Seventh-day Adventist remnant who are loyal to God. One of the identifying marks of the remnant is that they have the "testimony of Jesus". Adventists say that Revelation 19:10 unlocks the meaning of the testmimony of Jesus: "for the testimony of Jesus is the spirit of prophecy." This provides the first half of the equation: Testimony of Jesus = Spirit of Prophecy.

Testimony of Jesus = Spirit of Prophecy = ?

According to Adventist doctrine, the true remnant church must have a prophet. This argument was introduced as early as 1855. After its formation in 1863, the SDA Church recognized Ellen White as having the prophetic gift. For many years the SDA church boasted that the prophetic gift must be active in the church--in other words, there must be a living prophet in the remnant church. Some of Ellen White's books--the forerunners to the Conflict of the Ages series--were entitled Spirit of Prophecy, and as noted above, Mrs. White and other Church leaders frequently referred to her testimonies (written or verbal) as the Spirit of Prophecy.

Testimony of Jesus = Spirit of Prophecy = Ellen G. White

Note carefully from the quote at the top of this page that Ellen White said, "the test is usually given on present manifestations." After Mrs. White's death in 1915, the Adventist church was in a dilemma because they no longer had a living prophet. So, they redefined their previous teachings, and began teaching that Ellen White "lives on" through the writings of her books.

Who has the Spirit of Prophecy?

In 1 Corinthians 12:7-11 the Bible says the Holy Spirit is the source of spiritual gifts. One of those gifts is the gift of prophecy (1 Cor. 12:10). Therefore, the phrase "Spirit of Prophecy" would be a reference to the Holy Spirit--the One who gives the gifts--and not to the human recipient of the gift.4 Mrs. White claimed to be (or have) the "spirit of prophecy" but in order to make such a claim, one must, of course, pass the tests of a prophet. There is significant evidence that Mrs. White failed six of the seven Biblical tests of a prophet.

Even if Mrs. White did pass the tests, the SDA Church has not had a living prophet in over 93 years. That puts it in the exact same position as all other commandment-keeping Christian churches who do not have a living prophet. Other Christian churches follow the writings of dead prophets, such as Isaiah, Jeremiah, and the Apostle John. How is the SDA Church different from any other Christian Church in this regard? Is it because they follow the writings of 25 deceased prophets instead of 24?5 Does the fact that SDA's have one more prophet than most other churches prove that they are the only ones who have the Spirit of Prophecy?

Even Ellen White described her writings as a "lesser light" pointing to the writings of the 24 Biblical authors who had the spirit of prophecy.6 In fact, she admitted that her writings were not even necessary:

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.7
So, how important, then, is that 25th prophet? Mrs. White implies she is not even necessary so long as one follows the writings of the other 24 prophets. That being the case, how can the SDA Church claim to be the sole church having the Spirit of Prophecy, when they only have 1 more deceased prophet that most other churches, and that one prophet said her writings merely pointed to the writings of the other 24 and she was not needed if believers would study the other 24?

Biblical definition of the "Testimony of Jesus"

In Revelation 12:17, the word, "Testimony" (Greek marturia) comes from a root word which, in its various Greek forms, means "testifying," "testimony," "witness," and "martyr."

The phrase "Of Jesus" could be understood in two ways:

  • The testimony came from Jesus. This stresses Jesus as the source of the testimony.
  • The testimony is about Jesus. This stresses that Jesus is the subject of the testimony.
Notice how the apostle John understood the meaning of the word "testimony" (marturia):
This is the disciple which testifieth of these things, and wrote these things: and we know that his testimony [marturia] is true. John 21:24
What John is telling us in this verse is that his gospel is a testimony about Jesus. Therefore, John's gospel is the "testimony of Jesus."

Now, notice how John uses marturia to describe the testimony of the believer concerning Jesus:

...for this is the witness [marturia] of God which he hath testified of his Son. He that believeth on the Son of God hath the witness [marturia] in himself: he that believeth not God hath made him a liar; because he believeth not the record [marturia] that God gave of his Son. And this is the record [marturia], that God hath given to us eternal life, and this life is in his Son. 1 John 5:9-11

In these important verses we find that those who believe on Jesus have the marturia, the witness or testimony of Jesus, in them!

How is the "testimony of Jesus" used in Revelation?

[John] Who bare record of the word of God, and of the testimony [marturia] of Jesus Christ, and of all things that he saw. Rev. 1:2
In this verse John says he bore witness of three things:
  1. The Word of God
  2. The Testimony of Jesus Christ
  3. The things that he saw (in vision)
John goes on to say in verse 9:
I John, who also am your brother, and companion in tribulation, and in the kingdom and patience of Jesus Christ, was in the isle that is called Patmos, for the word of God, and for the testimony [marturia] of Jesus Christ.
Notice the two reasons that John gives for being imprisoned on the isle of Patmos:
  1. The Word of God
  2. The Testimony of Jesus
Clearly it was John's testimony about Jesus that resulted in his being imprisoned.

Notice something else: John had the "Testimony of Jesus" when he was on Patmos. That was somewhere between 65 AD and 100 AD. So, the "Testimony of Jesus" being the "Spirit of Prophecy" existed in the ministry of John, over 1,700 years before the birth of Ellen Harmon.

Look at Revelation 6:9:

And when he had opened the fifth seal, I saw under the altar the souls of them that were slain for the word of God, and for the testimony [marturia] which they held.
Notice the martyrs were slain for two reasons:
  1. The Word of God
  2. Their testimony [marturia], presumably about Jesus.

The SDA Church teaches that among these martyrs were those who died in the 1,260-year reign of the papacy, which is claimed by them to have started in 538 AD and ended in 1798 AD. Again, these martyrs had the "testimony" long before Ellen Harmon was born.

From the context of Revelation chapter 12, the testimony of Jesus clearly refers to the word of testimony of those who "loved not their lives unto the death":

And they overcame him by the blood of the Lamb, and by the word of their testimony [marturia]; and they loved not their lives unto the death. ... 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 [marturia] of Jesus Christ. Revelation 12:11, 17

Revelation 19:10:

...I am thy fellowservant, and of thy brethren that have the testimony [marturia] of Jesus: worship God: for the testimony [marturia] of Jesus is the spirit of prophecy.
Here we find that John's "brethren" also had the marturia, or testimony of Jesus. The marturia is here described as the gift of prophecy, which is given to testify about Jesus Christ. Here are some alternate readings of the last part of Revelation 19:10
The prophetic spirit proves itself by witnessing to Jesus. (New American Bible)

Testimony to Jesus is the spirit which underlies Prophecy. (Weymouth New Testament)

Those who bear testimony to Jesus are inspired like all the prophets. (New English Bible)

The purpose of all prophecy and of all I have shown you is to tell about Jesus. (Living Bible)

The last reference to marturia is found in Revelation 20:4:

...I saw the souls of them that were beheaded for the witness [marturia] of Jesus, and for the word of God, and which had not worshipped the beast, neither his image, neither had received his mark upon their foreheads, or in their hands; and they lived and reigned with Christ a thousand years.
This verse parallels Rev. 6:9. Again, the two reasons for martyrdom are given:
  1. The Word of God
  2. The witness [marturia] of Jesus.

Conclusion

Throughout the New Testament we find a pattern of the "testimony of Jesus" referring to the believer's personal witness about Jesus Christ. Rather than being the prophetic utterances received from Jesus, the testimony of Jesus is the believer's personal testimony about Jesus. The "testimony of Jesus" is found in the writings of the New Testament, whose writers personally knew Christ and bore witness to Him. Furthermore, John tells us that the testimony of Jesus is found in the heart of all those who accept and believe in Jesus as the Son of God:
He that believeth on the Son of God hath the witness [marturia] in himself (1 John 5:10)
Therefore, the "testimony of Jesus" cannot be used to uniquely identify the SDA Church as the remnant church of Bible prophecy. Revelation clearly teaches that John had the "testimony of Jesus" (Rev. 1:9), the martyrs had it (Rev. 6:9), and John's brethren had it (Rev. 19:10). None of these ever knew Ellen White, so it could not refer directly to her.

The gift of prophecy is available to any church led by the Holy Spirit. However, the era of major prophets has ended.

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)

NOTES

1. Ellen White, Loma Linda Messages, p. 33.

2. Ibid., p. 191.

3. On October 2, 1904, in a public address, Mrs. White claimed she was not a prophet: "When I was last in Battle Creek, I said before a large congregation that I did not claim to be a prophetess. Twice I referred to this matter, intending each time to make the statement, 'I do not claim to be a prophetess.' If I spoke otherwise than this, let all now understand that what I had in mind to say was that I do not claim the title of prophet or prophetess." (The Review and Herald, July 26, 1906) However, she later clarified that what she actually meant was her work was much higher and loftier than that of a mere prophet: "I am instructed that I am the Lord's messenger...my work includes much more than the word 'prophet' signifies." (Selected Messages, book 1, p. 32)

4. The Spirit of God is called by many names in the Bible. In all cases it would be blasphemy to ascribe these names to any human: Spirit of Wisdom - Isa. 11:2; Spirit of Understanding - Isa. 11:2; Spirit of Counsel - Isa. 11:2; Spirit of Power - Isa. 11:2; Spirit of Knowledge - Isa. 11:2; Spirit of the Fear of the Lord - Isa. 11:2; Spirit of Judgment - Isa. 28:6; Spirit of the Lord - Micah 2:7; Spirit of Grace - Zech. 12:10; Spirit of Supplications - Zech. 12:10; Spirit of God - Matt. 3:16; Spirit of Your Father - Matt. 10:20; Spirit of Truth - John 14:17; Spirit of Jesus - Acts 16:7; Spirit of Holiness - Rom. 1:4; Spirit of Life - Rom. 8:2; Spirit of Christ - Rom. 8:9; Spirit of Adoption - Rom. 8:15; Spirit of the Living God - 2 Cor. 3:3; Spirit of His Son - Gal. 4:6; Spirit of Promise - Eph. 1:13; Spirit of Wisdom - Eph. 1:17; Spirit of Revelation - Eph. 1:17; Spirit of Jesus Christ - Phil. 1:19; Spirit of Power - 2 Tim. 1:7; Spirit of Love - 2 Tim. 1:7; Spirit of Grace - Heb. 10:29; Spirit of Glory - 1 Pet. 4:14; Spirit of Prophecy - Rev. 19:10. A pattern can be seen here. The Bible uses "Spirit of ..." to describe the attributes of God and His Spirit. Thus, the "Spirit of Prophecy" refers to the Spirit of God, not to any human or any human's writings.

5. The prophecies of at least 24 individuals having the "gift of prophecy" appear in the Bible: Enoch, Jacob, Joseph, Moses, David, Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, Daniel, Hosea, Joel, Amos, Obadiah, Jonah, Micah, Nahum, Habakkuk, Zephaniah, Haggai, Zechariah, Malachi, John, Paul, and Jesus.

6. Ellen White, The Review and Herald, Jan. 20, 1903.

7. Ellen White, Testimonies for the Church Vol. 2 (1868-1871), p. 605.


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