What Do Adventists Believe About the Gift of Prophecy?

Adventists believe the gift of prophecy is a spiritual gift that the Holy Spirit gives to specific individuals to help the church carry out Jesus’ Great Commission (Matthew 28:16–20). Prophecy helps strengthen, encourage, and comfort His people (1 Corinthians 14:3).

But this gift goes beyond the spiritual calling that God has given to every believer. The prophetic gift is specifically given to a person that the Holy Spirit chooses to fill this role.

Adventists believe this gift has been expressed in a unique but powerful way in recent times—and will be even more so in the last days.

Let’s explore:

Before we get into the details, here is the the Seventh-day Adventist Church’s fundamental belief on the topic:

“The Scriptures testify that one of the gifts of the Holy Spirit is prophecy.

This gift is an identifying mark of the remnant church and we believe it was manifested in the ministry of Ellen G. White.

Her writings speak with prophetic authority and provide comfort, guidance, instruction, and correction to the church. They also make clear that the Bible is the standard by which all teaching and experience must be tested.”

Keep reading to understand this belief more.

Why is the gift of prophecy important to Adventists?

The prophetic gift is important to Adventists because the Bible emphasizes its importance and necessity (Ephesians 4:11–12; 1 Corinthians 12:8–10). It’s one way God communicates with His people. It also brought us the Bible, a source of counsel, encouragement, and guidance. Lastly, we value the gift of prophecy because it’s one of the characteristics of God’s people who will live in the end times of earth’s history.

It’s a method of communication between God and us

The fall of humanity in Eden cut off face-to-face communication between God and humans. But God has still been reaching out to us in every way He can. One way He has done this is through the ministry of the prophets.

The prophets became one way that God could speak to His people.

God Himself made it very clear that He wanted to speak through His prophets: “Hear now My words: If there is a prophet among you, I, the Lord, make Myself known to him in a vision; I speak to him in a dream” (Numbers 12:6, NKJV).

In another instance, we find this appeal: “Hear me, O Judah and you inhabitants of Jerusalem: Believe in the Lord your God, and you shall be established; believe His prophets, and you shall prosper” (2 Chronicles 20:20, NKJV).

Here are some examples of prophets that communicated messages on behalf of God in both the Old Testament and the New Testament:

  • Moses delivered God’s promise of deliverance to the Israelites and helped lead them out of Egypt (Exodus 3:10–18)
  • Elijah warned King Ahab of a coming drought because of His disobedience and the way He led God’s people into idolatry (1 Kings 17:1; 18:1, 18) 
  • Huldah gave God’s message of mercy and judgment to King Josiah (2 Kings 22:11–20)
  • Agabus warned Paul of his arrest (Acts 21:10–11)

And these examples only scratch the surface! In fact, almost all the Bible writers were prophets who wrote the messages God inspired them with.

It brought us the Bible

The very existence of the Bible testifies to the prophetic gift. After all, its writers were prophets.

The Holy Spirit inspired them with messages that they then communicated to the people—whether by speaking or writing. The Bible is a compilation of these messages that were written by “the inspiration of God” (2 Timothy 3:16, NKJV).

Some good examples of Old Testament prophets include Moses, Isaiah, and Jeremiah. One of them even penned God’s statement of how He sends prophets:

“Since the day that your fathers came out of the land of Egypt until this day, I have even sent to you all My servants the prophets, daily rising up early and sending them” (Jeremiah 7:25, NKJV).1

Paul writes that these messages are “profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness” (2 Timothy 3:16, NKJV).

And just as they were vital for God’s people then, they are crucial for the church today.

Do all who have the gift of prophecy have writings in the Bible?

No. Not all prophets are published or even widely recognized.

In the Bible, some served as prophets and only got a few mentions. The prophet Nathan is one example.

Nathan was a prophet of such stature that when King David committed adultery and murder, God called Nathan to rebuke the king (2 Samuel 11:1–12:14). But interestingly enough, you won’t find a “Book of Nathan” in the Bible. And that’s because Nathan didn’t write any book of the Bible.

Then there’s Elijah, who played a pivotal role in sacred history (1 Kings 18, 19). But like Nathan, he didn’t write anything in the Bible.

And how about John the Baptist? Jesus said that “among those born of women, there is not a greater prophet than John the Baptist” (Luke 7:28, NKJV). That means that even Daniel and Moses, who wrote powerful portions of Scripture, didn’t measure up to John the Baptist.

Yet he didn’t write any books.

We’d think that someone with the prophetic gift would have popularity, publish many writings, or speak in front of crowds. Yes, that was the case for several prophets, but they’re hardly the majority.

Many people in the Bible had the prophetic gift and only “prophesied”—or shared their prophetic messages—with a few people or a small group. Besides the ones already mentioned, these prophets include:

  • Deborah (Judges 4:4)
  • Elisha (2 Kings 2) 
  • Huldah (2 Kings 22:14) 
  • Anna (Luke 2:36)
  • Philip’s four daughters and Agabus (Acts 21:9–10)

God used them wherever and whenever their gift was needed.

It’s a characteristic of God’s people in the end times

The Book of Revelation talks about two specific characteristics God’s people will have in the last days—one of those will be the gift of prophecy.

The passage that mentions them is about Satan’s attack on the church. It says:

“And the dragon was enraged with the woman, and he went to make war with the rest of her offspring, who keep the commandments of God and have the testimony of Jesus Christ” (Revelation 12:17, NKJV).

According to this verse, God’s people will:

1. Keep the commandments of God
2. Have the testimony of Jesus Christ

What is this testimony of Jesus Christ?

Some other passages in Revelation help us identify it.

In Revelation 19:10, an angel told John, “I am your fellow servant, and of your brethren who have the testimony of Jesus. Worship God! For the testimony of Jesus is the spirit of prophecy (NKJV).

We also find a nearly identical passage in Revelation 22:9, in which the angel again says to John, “I am your fellow servant, and of your brethren the prophets, and of those who keep the words of this book. Worship God” (NKJV).

Notice the parallel between “your brethren who have the testimony of Jesus” and “your brethren the prophets.”

In short, “the testimony of Jesus” is the gift seen among the prophets, whose messages always point back to Jesus.

Another passage in the New Testament also indicates that this spirit of prophecy didn’t stop when the Bible had been written; it will continue down to the last days. Here’s how the apostle Peter put it, quoting from Joel 2:28:

“And it shall come to pass in the last days, says God, that I will pour out of My Spirit on all flesh; your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, your young men shall see visions, your old men shall dream dreams” (Acts 2:17, NKJV).

The apostle Paul talks about how the gift of prophecy will be needed until “we all come to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a perfect man, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ” (Ephesians 4:13, NKJV).

This passage is saying God still needs to give timely messages of instruction, warning, comfort, and encouragement to His church to help them grow into His love and reflect His character. He also goes on to mention that the spiritual gifts are one way that God helps keep us from deception and false teaching (Ephesians 4:14–15).

And in the Adventist Church, it has served these purposes, as we’ll see next.

How has the gift of prophecy enriched the Adventist Church?

A man holding up the Bible as the authority for testing all other writings and teachings

Photo by Ben White on Unsplash

As we’ve seen, the prophetic gift guides God’s people in the last days. Adventists believe that God has given us this guidance through the life and ministry of Ellen G. White (1827–1915). As the most-translated female author in the world and a prominent co-founder of Adventism, God has used her to keep us focused on the truths of His Word.

We believe she was inspired by the Holy Spirit, just like biblical authors. But this doesn’t mean that we place her writings above the Bible. Instead, we test them with the Bible.

These writings have drawn Adventists toward Scripture, reminding us of things we have forgotten or deepening our understanding. They have pointed us back to the Bible as our final and ultimate authority.

But how can we know that Ellen White—or anyone claiming to have the gift of prophecy—really is a prophet?

How do we test the validity of prophets and their prophecies?

The Bible tells us to “test all things” (1 Thessalonians 5:21; see also 1 John 4:1) and provides us with several methods for testing prophets and their messages. We can evaluate a prophet’s life and teachings by these biblical principles.

After all, no true prophet—someone used by the Holy Spirit through this particular spiritual gift—will demand or even expect you to believe them based on their word alone. God doesn’t expect you to, either.

So here are those tests:

  • The prophets must glorify God alone, seeking no glory for themselves (John 16:13; Deuteronomy 18:20). 
  • If they make a specific prediction (not one with conditions or a warning), it must come true (Deuteronomy 18:21–22).
  • They will enrich and inspire believers in their biblical mission (1 Corinthians 14:3–4).
  • Their messages must always harmonize with Scripture (Isaiah 8:20; 2 Peter 2:1; Galatians 1:6–8).
  • They must uphold Jesus Christ as our only Savior (1 John 4:1–3; 1 Corinthians 12:3; Revelation 19:10).
  • They should have moral consistency, making an effort to practice what they preach (Matthew 7:15–20).
  • They shouldn’t communicate in an erratic or disorderly way. Their goal should be to promote organized action and peaceful discussion rather than chaos (1 Corinthians 14:29–33).

And when an individual’s gifts meet this criteria, we should do what it says in 1 Thessalonians 5:21: “Hold fast to what is good” (NKJV). We can embrace the prophetic messages as long as they continue to fit the tests of true prophecy.

Does Ellen White pass the tests of a true prophet?

A man reading one of Ellen White's books with a red cover to test it for himself

Photo by Burst

Many have reviewed Ellen White’s life and words with these very tests and have found that she indeed passes them.

Additionally, Ellen White herself had to address some fellow believers on this very topic:

“There are not many of you that really know what is contained in the Testimonies [her writings]. You are not familiar with the Scriptures. If you had made God’s Word your study…you would not have needed the Testimonies. It is because you have neglected to acquaint yourselves with God’s inspired Book that He has sought to reach you by simple, direct testimonies, calling your attention to the words of inspiration which you had neglected to obey, and urging you to fashion your lives in accordance with its pure and elevated teachings.”2

In this situation, she was responding to another Adventist who asserted that her writings were an “addition to the Word of God.”3 She was quick to correct this train of thought and make clear that Scripture can stand on its own.

A prophet’s primary job is to bring people back to the Bible:

“The Word of God is sufficient to enlighten the most beclouded mind and may be understood by those who have any desire to understand it. But notwithstanding all this, some who profess to make the Word of God their study are found living in direct opposition to its plainest teachings. Then, to leave men and women without excuse, God gives plain and pointed testimonies, bringing them back to the Word that they have neglected to follow.”4

Just as a prophet’s words should be tested, we should study for ourselves if we think someone has the prophetic gift. Ellen White’s writings are available online, meant to be studied with the Bible and with a consideration of historical context.

The gift of prophecy points us back to God’s Word

Knowing the biblical importance of the gift of prophecy, Adventists approach this subject with solemn caution and with the honor and joy that comes from witnessing the work of the Holy Spirit in another human being.

Because we see evidence of the spirit of prophecy in Ellen White, we have chosen to embrace her counsel. Her influence and guidance have been integral to the growth and development of the Adventist Church.

As you go through your own life, learning more about the Bible and growing closer to Jesus, you never know what kinds of people you’ll meet, what kinds of things you’ll see, or what kinds of messages you’ll hear.

That’s why God promises to send the Holy Spirit with you (John 14:16) to call your mind to Scripture and help you test the things you come across.

  1. See also Jeremiah 35:15, Daniel 9:6, and Zechariah 1:6. []
  2. White, Ellen G. Counsels for the Church (Pacific Press Publishing Association, 1991), p. 92. []
  3. Ibid.[]
  4. Ibid.[]

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