Adventist Teaching: The Holy Spirit manifest in the writings of Ellen G. White
Biblical Teaching: The Holy Spirit himself
Central to the Adventist system of theology is their claim that the “spirit of prophecy” found in Revelation 19:10 refers to the Holy Spirit speaking through the writings of Ellen G. White, pointing people back to the Bible. Their chain claim is “the testimony of Jesus” = “the spirit of prophecy” = Ellen G. White’s writings. They interpret this text—along with Revelation 12:17—to be saying that the end times church will be marked by the one possessing the spirit of prophecy, which is Jesus testifying through an individual. Since that was manifest in Ellen G. White supposedly, that identifies them as the remnant church of bible prophecy. Within Adventist circles the phrase “spirit of prophecy” refers to the writings of Ellen G. White.
There are a plethora of issues with this anachronistic reading of the biblical text.
The foundational error in the Adventist interpretation is the underlying assumption that “spirit of prophecy” refers to someone who has the spiritual gift of prophecy. It does not. The word “spirit” in Revelation 19:10 comes from the standard Greek word for spirit which is pneuma. There isn’t a single time in the New Testament where it is used to refer to having the “gift” of prophecy.
The spiritual gifts are mentioned in 1 Corinthians 12:7-11 and we are told that the Holy Spirit is the source of those—one of which is the gift of prophecy (verse 10). The phrase “spirit of prophecy” is not in reference to the spiritual gift of prophecy, however, but the Holy Spirit himself.
The same John that penned the Revelation uses the same greek word for “testimony” in John 21:24 indicating his gospel is a testimony about Jesus Christ. In other words, his gospel message is the “testimony of Jesus.” John reiterates this same thing in 1 John 5:9-11, stating that the testimony of God is the Gospel revealed about Jesus Christ and that all that believe in the Son actively possess this testimony within themselves. This testimony that God gave is eternal life (1 John 5:11).
The testimony of Jesus is not in reference to Jesus speaking through someone such that they possess the spiritual gift of prophecy—the testimony of Jesus is the Gospel. And all believers possess that—which means the “testimony of Jesus” being the “spirit of prophecy” cannot be used to uniquely identify the SDA Church as the remnant church of Bible prophecy. Revelation clearly says 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). This is long before Ellen White was around and it had application long before the SDA Church was born in the 1800s. This is a consistent usage by John through his gospel, his epistles and the Revelation (Revelation 1:1-2, 6:9, 12:10-17, 19:10, 20:4).
The “spirit of prophecy” is about a person—the Holy Spirit—not the act of prophesying and Jesus speaking through the one who has the spiritual gift of prophecy. The “testimony of Jesus” refers to the believer’s personal witness about Jesus Christ and His Gospel. It is not exclusively about prophetic utterances received from Jesus, but the believer’s personal testimony about Jesus. Are there instances where people uttered prophetically and the Spirit was behind it? Absolutely. No question about it. But it isn’t exclusive to this act which is the Adventist Church’s claim.
Revelation had application to the 1st-century audience is was written to. It cannot be denuded from it’s history to try and claim it is talking about an end times group of people who will have a prophet from North America in the 19th century. That is an anachronistic reading of the text, inserting things that are not in focus.