WHAT IS A PROPHET?
Is there a light at the end of the tunnel? Is the light bright enough to show us the right path to follow? Light--"Thy word is a lamp unto my feet, and a light unto my path," said David the Psalmist. Yet, there seem to be so many lights today--glaring into our eyes, blinding us instead of leading us. How can we tell which is the true light?
We live in one of the most difficult times of earth's history. We face many questions the Bible doesn't seem to answer very directly. We struggle with the monsters of uncontrolled science, expanding warfare, changing morality. We don't want to be alarmed. Yet, we want the truth. You and I as human beings long for and need certainty; we need truth. We want to know that there is a purpose and a plan for our lives. We want to be assured that wisdom greater than our own exists, and that it is available to help guide us in a tumultuous world.
The Bible tells us that it was written by prophets. "For no prophecy recorded in Scripture was ever thought up by the prophet himself. It was the Holy Spirit within these godly men who gave them true messages from God." (2 Peter l:20,21, LB) Has God had no prophets since the Bible was finished being written almost 1900 years ago? Don't we deserve a prophet for our age, our needs today? Has God stopped speaking to us? The questions demand answers. And today you will discover them as you encounter...GOD'S GUIDING GIFT.
We have no lack of prophets today. They confront us everywhere..on newsstands and bookshelves.. in the news and even in some churches. But so often their voices don't agree. So often they're wrong. How can you judge them? Do you follow the one with the best batting average? Do you follow the one with the most startling predictions?
You must judge the modern prophets with the words of the Bible. "To the law and to the testimony: if they speak not according to this word, it is because there is not light in them." (Isaiah 8:20) Jesus himself warned his disciples to be careful of those coming with wonders and predictions. He said, "There shall arise false Christs, and false prophets, and shall show great signs and wonders; insomuch that, if it were possible, they shall deceive the very elect." (Matthew 24:24)
Some of these prophets would set times for the end of the world. But Jesus warned against these. He said, "But of that day and hour knoweth no man, no, not the angels of heaven, but my Father only." (Matthew 24:36) In fact, Paul mentioned that one of the gifts given to the church would be prophecy. He said, "And he gave some, apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers." (Ephesians 4:11) What was the purpose of all these gifts? "For the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ." (Ephesians 4:12) To help strengthen those already Christians...to reach out to those who weren't yet Christians,these were the purposes of the gifts. The gifts of the Spirit were never given for personal use, for worldly gain or honor.
Let us now specifically examine the work of a prophet of God. As Jesus did, the true prophet will direct our attention to the Scriptures. After his resurrection, when Jesus walked with his disciples, "he expounded unto them in all the scriptures the things concerning himself." (Luke 24:27) And later, the disciples said one to another; "Did not our heart burn within us, while he talked with us by the way, and while he opened to us the scriptures?" (Luke 24:32) We can conclude that the true prophet will lead us to God's Word, and never away from it.
The true prophet will also speak with authority, for God has sent him. Jesus told people he was sent from God. "And he taught them as one having authority, and not as the scribes." (Matthew 7:29) There weren't any maybes or perhapses. Rather, he spoke the unchangeable principles of eternal life and righteousness.
The true prophet will always exalt Christ as the Son of God and our Savior. If he belittles Jesus in any way, he is not of God. If he says he's greater than Jesus, he is a false prophet. The apostle John pointed this out. He said, "Whosoever shall confess that Jesus is the Son of God, God dwelleth in him, and he in God." (1 John 4:15) No one can be a prophet of Jesus and not exalt him. Although the work of some prophets does not include much telling of the future, yet if they make predictions in the name of the Lord, they must come true, or they are false prophets. The Bible points this out; "When a prophet speaketh in the name of the Lord, if the thing follow not..the prophet hath spoken it presumptuously; thou shalt not be afraid of him." (Deuteronomy 18:22)
A true prophet will also bear good fruit in his own life and in the lives of those who obey his counsel. Jesus, telling his listeners to beware of false prophets, gave them this test: "Wherefore by their fruits ye shall know them" (Matthew 7:20) A good tree brings forth good fruit. A rotten tree brings forth bad fruit. The test is as simple as that. What happens in the lives of those who follow the prophet? What is happening in the life of the prophet himself?
Now, that we have the standards by which we can test anyone claiming to be a prophet, let's apply those biblical tests to one person who lived in the last hundred years. Let's see what we canfind out. Let's choose a woman name Ellen G. White, a prominent religious leader of the late 19th and early 20th century. And let's be strict as we measure her to the Bible's standards.
In 1844, at the age of 17, Ellen received her first vision. It was about the second coming of Christ and those preparing to meet him. During the rest of her life she received some two thousand visions. We have 71 years to test her by.
Let's apply our first test: Did Ellen White direct people to the Bible. The answer is an unqualified yes. Over and over again she wrote of the importance of knowing God's Word and following it. She wrote: "The Holy Scriptures are to be accepted as an authoritative, infallible revelation of His will. They are the standard of character, the revealer of doctrines, and the test of experience." Great Controversy, p. 7. Ellen White looked upon her own writings as a means to direct others to the Bible itself. She wrote; "The Lord has given a lesser light to lead men and women to the greater light."
In her writings Jesus is the central figure. She said, "Jesus Christ is everything to us, the first, the last, the best in everything." Ellen White was a prophetess who directed attention to God's Word. She met that test with flying colors.
Did she speak with authority? The answer is yes, for she spoke for God. Over and over again she said or wrote, "The Lord has shown me..the Lord told me." There were no maybes..no personal opinions. She claimed to be the messenger of the Lord. She wrote: "My work has covered so many lines that I cannot call myself
other than a messenger, sent to bear a message from the Lord to His people, and to take up work in any line that He points out." Selected Messages, book l, p. 34.
Now, let's apply our next test; Did Ellen White exalt Christ as the Son of God and our Savior? The answer again is yes. She wrote four books specifically about the life of Christ and his teachings. Throughout all her books and manuscripts the theme is Christ, the Son of God, our Savior, our Redeemer. Here's just one of her depth-filled paragraphs on what Jesus means to us. She wrote: "Christ was treated as we deserve, that we might be treated as He deserves. He was condemned for our sins, in which He had no share, that we might be justified by His righteousness, in which we had no share. He suffered the death which was ours, that we might receive the life which was His. 'With His stripes we are healed.'" Desire of Ages, p. 25.
If you want to read a book on the life of Christ that will inspire you, draw you closer to Jesus, read this one, The Desire of Ages. Many Christian leaders have called it the best devotional book onthe life of Christ ever written. As you read it, you will see Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior, for Ellen White always exalted Christ.
What about Ellen White's predictions? Did she make any? Did they come true? Ellen White was a practical prophet. And one of the most urgent needs in the America of her day was health reform. The Lord gave her hundreds of visions and instructions about improving health and diet. Even today some of them are just being proven to be correct. For instance, only in the last while has our attention been directed to the danger of a high cholesterol diet. At a time when people considered animal fat and flesh to be absolutely essential to health, Ellen White wrote, "The oil, as eaten in the olive, is far preferable to animal oil or fat." The Ministry of Healing (1905) p. 298.
Until recently, sugar was looked upon as a good source of quick energy. But over a hundred years ago Ellen White warned, "Sugar clogs the system. It hinders the working of the living machine." Testimonies, Vol. 2 (1868) p. 369.
In the 1950's the scientific and medical world started becoming concerned about smoking and cancer. About 50 years earlier Ellen White wrote, "Tobacco is a slow, insidious, but most malignant poison." The Ministry of Healing, p. 327
These are only a few of hundreds of counsels on health and diet that helped to change the eating and living habits of not only America, but much of the world.
In the field of current events, Ellen White's predictions were amazingly accurate. In 1902 she warned that cities around the Bay area of California would suffer disaster. She wrote, "Not long hence these cities will suffer under the judgments of God. San Francisco and Oakland are becoming as Sodom and Gomorrah, and the Lord will visit them in wrath." Evangelism (1902) pp. 403,404. Those who heeded Ellen White's warning and fled avoided the earthquake of April 18, 1906, that devastated the cities mentioned.
1890 was generally a time of peace throughout the world. Many preachers predicted a millennium of peace. But Ellen White wrote, "The tempest is coming...We shall see troubles on all sides. Thousands of ships will be hurled into the depths of the sea. Navies will go down, and human lives will be sacrificed by millions." Signs of the Times, April 21, 1890. Then, again in 1904, she warned, "Soon great trouble will arise among the nations-- trouble that will not cease until Jesus comes." Review and Herald, Feb. 11, 1904.
And ten years later the wars started--World War I, World War II, Korea, Vietnam, Middle East. Five horrible, devastating wars in 60 or 70 years..and they have not ceased. Her predictions have been fulfilled and are being fulfilled. They cover economics, politics, international affairs, religions, and many other areas we can't cover in this lesson.
But what of her fruits? Let's briefly examine those. Ellen White was a missionary. She helped to establish missions in several parts of the world. Through her counsel and writings she encouraged a worldwide mission program. "Talk it, pray it, sing it," she urged, "fill the world with the message of His truth, and keep pressing on into the regions beyond." Testimonies Vol. 9, p. 30.
Today, the church Ellen White spoke to has gospel work in 98 percent of the world's countries. They are proclaiming the Good News of Jesus Christ in 900 languages. This very Bible lesson you are studying is a direct result of her emphasis on sharing the word of God with the world.
As a health reformer with God's message of good health, Ellen White helped to found a new outreach in medical evangelism. Today, as a result, the Seventh-day Adventist church supports or sponsors 200 medical institutions, employing 12,000 nurses, doctors and personnel, and helping millions every year find better health and firmer hope. Loma Linda University Medical Center in Loma Linda, California and Portland Adventist Hospital in Portland, Oregon are two examples of this world-wide work.
In the area of education Ellen White was a pioneer. She wrote: "To restore in man the image of his Maker, to bring him back to the perfection in which he was created, to promote the development of body, mind, and soul...this was to be the work of redemption. This is the object of education, the great object of life." Education,pp.15,16.
Today the Seventh-day Adventist church sponsors over 5,000 schools, 350 academies and colleges, all over the world. Loma Linda University and Pacific Union College in California; Spokane Junior Academy, in Spokane, Washington; Upper Columbia Academy in Spangle, Washington; and Walla Walla College in College Place, Washington are a few of the many Christ centered schools circling the globe with a message of hope.
And as for her personal life, she always remained a humble, loving servant of God. Many are the verified stories of her sharing her time, love and goods with others.
Thousands are the letters she wrote to individuals, encouraging them, sometimes reproving them, but always speaking the truth with love. And in her published works--numbering 55 volumes--you will find the tone of one who knows the Lord and loves him...you will find the heart of one who loves mankind and wants to see all accept the Lord and Savior and his message for these times.
What a wonderful gift God has given us for these last days of earth's history...the gift of abundant personal counsel and encouragement! And friend, it's yours. The Bible predicted that the last true church would have this gift. John the Revelator wrote, "The dragon (or devil) was wroth with the woman (which is a symbol of the church) 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)
And what is this "testimony of Jesus Christ"? We learn the answer in Revelation 19:10--"The testimony of Jesus is the spirit of prophecy." (Revelation 19:10.)
Friend, you can have the spirit of prophecy working in your life. All you have to do is to obey your Lord and Savior, Jesus, and follow in all of his ways of teachings. Listen to him speak to you through the Word of God every day. He will lead you to more and more truth. He will guide you to the counsel and encouragement you need today.