Jesus said, "He who rejects Me, and does not receive My words, has that which judges him---the word that I have spoken will judge him in the last day." John 12:48. Everyone decides his own destiny by his attitude to truth. Ellen White did not claim to be a prophet, because the behavior of those who profess to be prophets is often unworthy of the name, and also because her work is more than that of a prophet. She claims to be God's messenger. When people ask her, "Are you infallible?" she says, "God alone is infallible." Yet she affirms that her testimonies come from the Holy Spirit.
"As the Lord has manifested Himself through the spirit of prophecy, 'past, present, and future have passed before me. I have been shown faces that I had never seen, and years afterward I knew them when I saw them. I have been arouswed from my sleep with a vivid sense of subjects previously presented to my mind; and I have written, at midnight, letters that have gone across the continent and, arriving at a crisis, have saved great disaster to the cause of God. This has been my work for many years. A power has impelled me to reprove and rebuke wrongs that I had not thought of. Is this the work of the last thirty-six years from above or from beneath?'" Testimonies for the Church, Vol. 5, p. 671.
"This work is of God, or it is not. God does nothing in partnership with Satan. My work for the past thirty years bears the stamp of God or the stamp of the enemy. There is no halfway work in the matter. The Testimonies are of the Spirit of God, or of the devil." Op cit Vol. 4, p. 23o.
1) I learn that there are 66 books of the Bible, and some of their contents are copied from each other. Is that true? Please explain.
Answer: The writing of the prophetic books sometimes involved some copying. Isa 2:2-4 is identical with Micah 4:1-3. The two prophets lived at the same time in Judah, so it cannot be ascertained who copied from whom. The writer of the Gospel of Luke wrote of how he assembled his material as follows:
"Inasmuch as many have taken in hand to set in order a narrative of those things which are most surely believed among us, just as those who from the beginning were eyewitnesses and ministers of the word delivered them to us, it seemed good to me also, having had perfect understanding of all things from the very first, to write to you an orderly account." Luke 1:1-3.
Luke himself was not a first-hand eyewitness, so had to consult the writings of possibly Mark and Matthew. The words of Jude 14,15 were evidently copied from the psuedepigraphical book of Enoch. It must have been an authentic saying of Enoch preserved in a book of common sayings of men.
The "jewels" Ellen White might have gathered in her reading, when employed in her writings, were ably improved and refined, much after the manner of plain folk songs taken by master musicians and turned into masterpieces. Many gems of truth, if they had not been saved and put in circulation, would have been buried forever. Since she has collected and improved them, they have become our wealth. And we should always remember that Christ is the Author of all truth.
2) Does the Bible teach us how to tell a true prophet from a false one?
Answer: Jesus says, "If anyone wants to do His will, he shall know concerning the doctrine, whether it is from God, or whether I speak on My own authority." John 7:17. Four hundred years passed after the last book of the Old Testament was written. After the New Testament were written, came another 1700 years of silence. If God continued to hold His peace and not speak to men again through a prophet, and then bring on a sudden cataclysm, that does not seem to be God's way of acting. It seems more reasonable to expect that the longer God waits in patience, the more spectacularly would He break His silence, and issue a certain warning before He brings on the grand finale. That is exactly what He has done. He has given abundant light to His church and sent her out to preach a warning to every nation, tribe, tongue and people.
1 Thess 5:20, 21 says, "Do not despise prophecies. Test all things; hold fast what is good." Jesus warns us, "False christs and false prophets will arise and show great signs and wonders, so as to deceive, if possible, even the elect." Matt 24:24. The appearance of false christs predicates the existence of the true Christ; and false prophets predicate the existence of a true prophet. According to the Bible, true prophets are few, while false ones are many. The ratio can be as high as one to 450. See 1 Kg 18:22. Jesus said, "Most assuredly, I say to you, he who receives whomever I send receives Me, and he who receives Me receives Him who sent Me." John 13:20. The emphasis is on "whomever." Christ knew that the one He sends may not meet peoples' expectations and be despised by them. We must not use our own standards in judging one who claims to speak for God. The Bible gives the following criteria for judging a prophet:
a) "Should not a people seek their God? . . .To the law and to the testimony! If they do not speak according to this word, it is because there is no light in them." Isa 8:19,20. The first clause in our text shows that the law and testimony in the second clause is the law and testimony of God. The Ten Commandments are the supreme standard by which all other teachings are to be judged.
b) "You will know them by their fruits." Matt 7:16. "Fruits" refer to words and actions.
c) "When a prophet speaks in the name of the Lord, if the thing does not happen or come to pass, that is the thing which the Lord has not spoken; the prophet has spoken it presumptuously; you shall not be afraid of him." Deut 18:22.
d) "If there arise among you a prophet or a dreamer of dreams, and he gives you a sign or a wonder, and the sign and wonder comes to pass, of which he spoke to you, saying, 'Let us go after other gods which you have not known, and let us serve them,' you shall not listen to the words of that prophet or that dreamer of dreams." Deut. 13:1-3. This indicates that false prophets can also perform miracles.
"In ancient times God spoke to men by the mouth of prophets and apostles. In these days He speaks to them by the testimonies of His Spirit. There was never a time when God instructed His people more earnestly than He instructs them now concerning His will and the course that He would have them pursue." Testimonies for the Church, Vol. 4, pp 147,148.
3) Is it true that the revelations by a prophet have also their time and space limitations, so in applying them, people must consider the immediate circumstances, and make allowances for time and place?
Answer: Yes. Ellen White said, "Regarding the testimonies, nothing is ignored; nothing is cast aside; but the time and place must be considered. Nothing must be done untimely. Some matters must be withheld because some persons would make an improper use of the light given. Every jot and tittle is essential and must appear at an opportune time." Selected Messages, Vol 1, p. 57.
"If you seek to turn aside the counsel of God to suit yourselves, if you lessen the confidence of God's people in the testimonies He has sent them, you are rebelling against God as certainly as were Korah, Dathan and Abiram. You have their history." Op cit., Vol. 5, p. 66. Korah and his men denied that Moses was a prophet, saying to Moses and Aaron, "You take too much upon yourselves, for all the congregation is holy, every one of them, and the Lord is among them. Why then do you exalt yourselves above the congregation of the Lord?" Num 16:3. Today men say, "People can all receive the Holy Spirit just like Ellen White," thus denying the prophetic gift. Actually, this is the spirit of rebellion against God; because one who rejects whomever He sends rejects Him.
4) Some ask, "Could it be that Ellen White never made a mistake and never made a wrong statement?
Answer: Bible prophets were chosen of God to speak in His name, yet they had human frailties and did not know everything. For instance, when the son of the Shunemite woman died, she found Elisha the prophet and held him by his feet. Gehazi tried to push her away, but Elisha said, "Let her alone, for her soul is in deep distress, and the Lord has hidden it from me, and has not told me." 2 Kg 4:27. When a prophet does not receive word from God, he does not know more than others.
A prophet can also make mistakes in judgment by himself. For instance, when David told Nathan that he wanted to build a temple for God, Nathan said to David, "Do all that is in your heart, for God is with you." But that night God corrected Nathan, and sent him to David with the words, "You shall not build Me a house to dwell in. . . because you have shed much blood on the earth in My sight." 1 Chron. 17:2-4; 22:8. God let the son of David build the temple. Nathan had at first given his own opinion, and added the words, "God is with you," making David think it was God's reply. So God had to correct him.
Ellen White committed a similar error. The Adventist Southern Publishing House was deeply in debt due to poor management. The board of directors decided to close it and convert it into a warehouse and distribution depot of the northern publishing house. Ellen White was in favor of the decision. On December 26, 1902 she wrote to the church leaders saying, "During the night following our interview . . . October 19, 1902, in regard to the work in the Southern field, the Lord instructed me that I had taken a wrong position." Spalding & Magan Collection, p. 282. The Publishing House must not be closed. Improve the management, and pull the publishing house out of debt.
In May, 1891, the General Conference called Ellen White to assist the work in Australia. She wished to stay at home and write the Life of Christ. On this she prayed for light, but got no reply. She worked by the principle that if she received no divine instruction to the contrary, she would abide by the decision of the General Conference. In the end God gave no reply, so she decided to embark for Australia. People often take their own feelings to be the voice of the Holy Spirit. That is dangerous. Ellen White did not consult her own desires, but only prayed for guidance. Since God did not answer, she would submit to the call of the General Conference. This shows that she followed a sound course of action.
5) What difference are the visions and dreams seen by prophets different from their ordinary dreams?
Answer: Ellen White's son once asked her how she told the difference between an ordinary dream and an inspired one. She said that the angel that speaks to her in her dreams is the same angel that speaks to her in her visions. She does not relate her common dreams. God does not always inform her of everything.
In 1899 a man who said he was a sea captain came to a meeting of the General Conference and professed to embrace the truth, and pledged large donations. Ellen. White was in Australia at the time and learned that he had pledged $15,000 to the work in Australia, so she wrote a letter of thanks, and told him of other needs of the cause. Later it it turned that this man was a swindler, had courted a stenographer of the General Conference, borrowed $300 dollars from her and disappeared. The lesson from this was that when a rich man makes large donations to the cause, the zeal of sacrificial giving on the part of our laity will wane. God let the church learn a lesson from this, and did not warn Ellen White against deception, so that she should with all others gain a practical lesson. But it did not detract from her office as messenger of the Lord.
6) I understand that people have asked Ellen White, "Are all your domestic correspondence and daily conversation inspired of God?" How did she respond to that question?
Answer: Her answer was, "Of course not!" Because people have queer ideas of her prophetic gift, she was careful not to answer petty questions people bring up. Even to questions of much import, concerning which she has had no instruction, her answer was, "I have had no light on that, and cannot answer you."
People often say, "The Bible is enough for me, I do not need any other instruction." If that is true, then you should believe what the Bible teaches regarding the prophetic gift of the Holy Spirit to the church. It is like a sea captain saying, "The Navigator's Manual is enough for me, I do not need a pilot to steer my ship." But the Navigator's Manual clearly states that every sea-going vessel that arrives at a port must wait outside the harbor to receive a pilot to steer the vessel safely past the shoals and sand bars into the wharf. The Bible is our Navigator's Manual, the Spirit of prophecy is the pilot who applies the word of the Lord in steering us safely into the haven of God.
"Believe in the Lord your God, and you shall be established; believe His prophets, and you shall prosper." 2 Chron 20:20. One who wants to doubt, will always find some pretext "God will never remove every occasion for doubt. He will never work a miracle to remove unbelief when he has given sufficient evidence for faith." Spirit of Prophecy, Vol 4, p. 349.
Before her death Ellen White was asked, "Will you have a successor?" She replied, "I don't know." "Whether or not my life is spared, my writings will constantly speak, and their work will go forward as long as time shall last." Selected Messages, Vol. 1, p. 55.