Theme: The Gift of Prophecy and God’s Remnant Church
Leading Question: Does the presence of the gift of prophecy in Adventism guarantee once-and-for-all our status as God’s remnant people?
For our pioneers, the conviction that Adventism was a prophetic movement, a movement of destiny, was a source of great encouragement. A key formula pointing in that direction was simple and straightforward, involving two passages from the KJV of the book of Revelation. Revelation 12:7 speaks of the “remnant” of the woman’s seed who “keep the commandments of God and have the testimony of Jesus Christ.” Then in Revelation 19:10 the “testimony of Jesus” is identified as the “spirit of prophecy.” Since Adventists believe that Ellen White’s presence in our midst constituted the “spirit of prophecy,” the identity of the remnant seems assured.
With the passage of time, two factors need to be addressed with reference to this line of argumentation. First, the last recognized manifestation of the prophetic gift in Adventism, Ellen White, died in 1915, nearly 100 years ago. Can we still claim to have the “spirit of prophecy” simply by have the writings of the deceased prophet? Or should we look for another messenger who would carry on the work that Ellen White began?
A second more tantalizing concern grows out of our understanding of God’s original plan for Israel, an earlier “prophetic movement,” a “movement of destiny.” While our dispensationalist friends would see the promises as still holding true for some future time, Adventists, along with other devout Protestants, have argued that the mantle has fallen on the church instead of on Israel. In other words, a plan and a movement which God clearly identified as his, is no longer seen as having the same status that it once had.
A powerful biblical example of a “failed” prediction is found in Psalm 89. The psalmist repeats at great length all God’s promises to the house of David. But suddenly, beginning with vs. 38, the psalmist admits to rejection:
“But now you have spurned and rejected him;
you are full of wrath against your anointed.
You have renounced the covenant with your servant;
you have defiled his crown in the dust.
In short, the Old Testament, in particular, highlights the great danger of relying on external proofs as a sign of God’s favor. One of the most vivid passages in that connection is Jeremiah’s temple discourse in Jeremiah 7. The people apparently were chanting their trust in the temple, “The temple of the Lord, the temple of the Lord, the temple of the Lord” (Jer 7:4). But in real life, Jeremiah accused them of defying everything that the temple stood for: “Here you are trusting in the deceptive words to no avail. Will you steal, murder, commit adultery, swear falsely, make offerings to Baal, and go after other gods that you have not known, and then come and stand before me in this house, which is called by my name, and say, ‘We are safe!’ – only to go on doing all these abominations?” (Jer 7:9-10).
Jeremiah was accused of treason for his strong words. But the presence of his book in our Old Testament demonstrates that with the passage of time his message was recognized as the right one.
In the New Testament, a similar example could be cited in the prayer of the Pharisee who declared all his righteous deeds, including a twice-weekly fast and regular tithe-paying (Luke 18:11-12). But Jesus said that such careful practicing of the externals wasn’t the essence of true religion.
What possible applications can we make to God’s last-day remnant – without risking the charge of “treason” as it was leveled against Jeremiah? How can we find a both/and approach that would preserve our historic identity while recognizing the dangers of spiritual pride?