Friday, February 27, 2009

"The Integrity of the Prophetic Gift"

The 66 books of the Bible are all inspired by God and are the only rule ("yardstick") of faith and practice. "All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness" (2 Tim. 3:16). All other work must be checked against this "Yardstick." Unless we do this we will see an erosion of faith and practice. In fact this has happened over the last 2000 years and needs to be revisited and rectified. For this purpose God has raised up others in these last days to point to the scriptural Yardstick and say, let's take another look.

There are a number of modern day "prophets" considered so by many. Are they all correct? Is it possible that some could be false prophets? If so, how can we tell which "prophet(s)" may be true and which ones are false. Fortunately, we are not left up to our own devices, for we do have help. The Bible presents clear tests to be applied to a professed prophet:

1. "To the law and to the testimony: if they speak not according to this word, it is because there is no light in them" (Isa. 8:20).

2. "Wherefore by their fruits ye shall know them" (Matt. 7:20).

3. "When the word of the prophet shall come to pass, then shall the prophet be known, that the Lord hath truly sent him" (Jer. 28:9).

4. "Every spirit that confesseth that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh is of God" (1 John 4:2).

These four tests can be enhanced by checking some indicators: (1) physical manifestations of a supernatural element documented by eyewitnesses, (2) timeliness in giving the messages borne, (3) certainty in predictions (100% accuracy rating), (4) high spiritual plane of the prophet's life and the messages borne, (5) practical nature of the messages and testimonies. All the tests must be applied to a prophet, maybe even over a long period of time, if necessary, making careful note of all the evidence over the life and career of the individual in question.

Ellen G. White did meet the criteria for a true prophet in every sense of the word:

1. She had supernatural visions that during the process of receiving such visions were witnessed and the results documented.

2. Every prophetic prediction came true as predicted. And many times messages were sent halfway around the world, a journey of weeks or months, only to arrive at the precise moment when the testimony was most needed.

3. All her work stands the test against the Bible yardstick. She always said she was not the yardstick, but only pointed to it, calling attention to concepts that we may have missed, having been lost to the annals of time.

Ellen White herself claims that not all of her writings were "inspired" in the strictest sense of the word, particularly personal letters to family, for example. However, in other documents, even personal letters, this can become a little murky to those of us who live after her death and cannot ask her about specifics. When she says, "I was shown ... ," for example, it is easy to assume that what follows is specifically and divinely inspired. Other situations are not so easy, which leaves us to assume that all her works ought to be considered inspired unless proven otherwise by the Bible. We should not assume that because we may not understand or because we may not like something that the prophet says that he or she was not inspired when that was written. Nevertheless, everything Ellen White wrote must be compared to the Bible.

There are other authors and/or their works that are endorsed by authoritative prophetic statements. An example would be the statements listing various prophets in 1 Chronicles 29:29 and 2 Chronicles 9:29; 12:15. These writings should be taken seriously, studied, and compared to the Bible. Ellen White endorsed several writers and, in some cases, specific books. Writers that were endorsed include E. J. Waggoner, A. T. Jones, and W. W. Prescott. Books she endorsed include Daniel and the Revelation, by Uriah Smith, and the two books, The Story of Daniel the Prophet and The Story of the Seer of Patmos, by S. N. Haskell. These writings must be compared to both the Bible and to the works of the one who endorsed them. Where they are in agreement, we need to take them seriously and receive their benefit.

Sometimes in their work, authors will use the work of other writers because it is not conceivable to improve on the language used. The Bible writers quoted from each other extensively many times without even giving references, or at best the references are rather sketchy, with the reader being expected to recognize the quote. In fact whole sections are virtually reproduced in some cases! (e.g., 1 Kings 22 and 2 Chronicles 18).

However, the greatest prophetic deception is still in the future: "And no marvel; for Satan himself is transformed into an angel of light" (2 Cor. 11:14). "And I saw three unclean spirits like frogs come out of the mouth of the dragon, and out of the mouth of the beast, and out of the mouth of the false prophet. For they are the spirits of devils, working miracles, which go forth unto the kings of the earth and of the whole world, to gather them to the battle of that great day of God Almighty. Behold, I come as a thief. Blessed is he that watcheth, and keepeth his garments, lest he walk naked, and they see his shame" (Rev. 16:13-15).

Satan himself will appear as an angel of light. Wouldn't it only make sense that if Christ was about to come and the world was about to end, that Satan would want to appear as Christ Himself and tell all who would listen that the Bible is obsolete and no longer binding? That is the work of a false prophet. That would be Satan's last ditch final effort. Don't be deceived! Cherish the white garments of the righteousness of Christ, hold the integrity of the prophets, and don't let false prophecy deceive you. God will hold you with a hand that will never let go. Rely on His hand.

–Craig Barnes

Sunday, February 15, 2009

The Work of the Prophets

Our lesson this week shows how the prophets, including Ellen White, are required by God to do things they would rather not do. This is especially true when they are called to give instruction and reproof to individuals. Invariably, the prophet is criticized though the message really comes from God.

Generally, the work of a prophet is to preach the Gospel: Jesus Christ and Him crucified. If that is true, why does God ask prophets to deliver unpopular messages of reproof to individuals and groups? Is it possible that we need to be individually warned when we have personal “filters†that are interfering with or preventing us from hearing the Gospel?

A message that puts the glory of mankind in the dust is just such a message:

“The offense of the cross is that the cross is a confession of human frailty and sin and of inability to do any good thing. To take the cross of Christ means to depend solely on Him for everything, and this is the abasement of all human pride. Men love to fancy themselves independent. But let the cross be preached, let it be made known that in man dwells no good thing and that all must be received as a gift, and straightway somebody is offended†(E. J. Waggoner, The Glad Tidings, p. 113).

When the special message of Christ our righteousness was first given to our church in the 1880s and 1890s, our church’s prophet likened our reception of it to that of ancient Israel:

“Now I want you to be careful, every one of you, what position you take, ... because you see imperfections; ... and judge them [Jones and Waggoner] from that. ... You are to see whether God is working with them, and then you are to acknowledge the Spirit of God that is revealed in them. And if you choose to resist it you will be acting just as the Jews acted†(MS 2, 1890; Sermon, March 9; The Ellen G. White 1888 Materials, pp. 608, 609).

Often, Israel attacked her messengers with either threats or actual physical persecution. To avoid this, they were forced to flee. The 1888 counterpart is when Ellen White was sent to Australia, and Waggoner to England. She wrote:

“The Lord was not in our leaving America. ... Those who were weary of the testimonies borne were left without the persons who bore them. Our separation from Battle Creek was to let men have their own will and way, ...†(Letter to O. A. Olsen, 0-127, 1896; 1888 Materials, pp. 608, 609).

The prophet Micaiah had almost been forgotten when Jehoshaphat asked Ahab whether there was still another who could tell them the will of the Lord. Ahab identified Micaiah, but added that “I hate him, for he never prophesies anything favorable about me, but only disaster†(1 Kings 22:8).

The 1888 counterpart is recorded:

“Some have been cultivating hatred against the men whom God has commissioned to bear a special message to the world. They began this satanic work at Minneapolis. Afterward, when they saw and felt the demonstration of the holy Spirit testifying that the message was of God, they hated it the more, because it was a testimony against them†(Testimonies to Ministers and Gospel Workers, pp. 79, 80, 1895).

Ellen White likened Israel’s experience to that of the Adventist church, associating our experience with a delay of the Second Advent:

“The history of ancient Israel is a striking illustration of the past experience of the Adventist body. God led His people in the Advent movement, even as He led the children of Israel from Egypt. In the great disappointment their faith was tested as was that of the Hebrews at the Red Sea. Had they still trusted to the guiding hand that had been with them in their past experience, they would have seen of the salvation of God. If all who had labored unitedly in the work in 1844 had received the third angel’s message, and proclaimed it in the power of the Holy Spirit, the Lord would have wrought mightily with their efforts. A flood of light would have been shed upon the world. Years ago the inhabitants of the earth would have been warned, the closing work completed, and Christ would have come for the redemption of His people†(The Spirit of Prophecy, vol. 4, p. 291; emphasis added).

The message of Christ Our Righteousness was given to our church to strengthen the faith of a corporate group that would be ready to stand in the events leading up to the final Advent of Christ. Times when God has had to execute judgment are always notable for the need for nothing but faith. Those who have relied on what they think is faith, plus their good performance, will find no assurance to sustain during trouble. Like five of the virgins they will realize their mistake, but there will be no time to learn and receive the gift of faith. There is nothing human nature can muster that will sustain them in that terrible time.

Since it was given by the prophet and the “heavenly credentialed†messengers, the message itself has been analyzed, dissected, diluted, criticized, ignored, mischaracterized, and for a few, accepted. In some cases, it has even been difficult to find the message because suspicion and misunderstanding have kept the information and books in vaults or off trusted bookstore shelves.

We as a church do not need the work of another prophet to give us some new message. It is unreasonable for the laity to sit back waiting for this or that leader to accept and and teach this message. Those of us who have been privileged by God to know this “most precious message†are not to keep it hidden, as if it was meant to benefit only us. We are responsible to continue the work of the messengers. We need to return to the original simple message, and study to understand it so we can accept and teach it to our people.

Like the prophets of old and more recent history, all believers are duty-bound to tell the true Gospel regardless of its reception. By so doing, God is involving us in the most important aspect of a prophet’s work: sharing the Good News.

—Arlene Hill


Friday, February 06, 2009

“Testing the Prophets”

The Lord never wants us to accept a prophet’s message blindlessly. Intrinsic to His relationship with us, His creatures, is His desire that we learn to think for ourselves.

He would not be honored with a race of beings in His eternal kingdom who were not intelligently thoughtful for themselves. One could almost want to say that there will be no one in His eternal kingdom who is not intelligently thoughtful and inquiring; even if we discuss the issue of babies that die in infancy, they will “grow up” as intelligent beings in His kingdom. For sure, we know that now He wants us to receive the messages of His inspired prophets with the use of our own intelligence.

Hence the thought of “testing” the Lord’s inspired prophets is appropriate. The Lord is always kind and merciful to “doubters.”

In His incarnation, He was thoughtful of people who wrestled with the idea that He who appeared to be only a humble carpenter from the village of Nazareth, was the divine Son of God incarnate. He would meet people on the sidewalk as He was carrying boards for His carpentry work; they could now know Him by any beauty of countenance for Isaiah had said that He was “a root out of dry ground”: with “no form nor comeliness, ... no beauty that we should desire Him” (53:2).

He was especially considerate of those who wanted to recognize Him as the divine Son of God in human flesh, when they saw Him subject to the most terrible humiliation possible—death on a cross as though He were merely a Roman criminal.

The story of the two disciples walking to Emmaus is poignant: the risen Son of God was not too high and lofty to feel a concern for them; He joined them as an unknown fellow traveler discussing current Jerusalem history (Luke 24:13-31). If Jesus had initially blurted out that Jesus of Nazareth is the Messiah, He would probably have lost them; but He patiently and in a lowly manner reviewed the familiar Scripture statements —giving us this unspeakably precious little story. He left these two disciples to weigh the evidence for themselves—which He always does for us, too. It’s all a part of His plan for us to “weigh” or “test the prophets.”

The Lord is considerate of you if you are a born “doubter.” Test Him, test His Book, the Bible. The Lord welcomes your inquiries, even your honest doubts. Here’s what you should do:

(a) Show Him the respect you would show anyone who is an important person.

(b) Kneel before Him with the Bible open.

(c) Ask Him directly, “Is this Book your inspired word to mankind?”

(d) Then wait , ... before Him patiently (there was no Hebrew word anciently for “patiently”—it was just “wait, and wait, and wait . ...” Test the Sovereign Lord. Wait ...

(e) You will learn a confidence that thereafter nothing can ever shake again.

Robert J. Wieland