The Tests of a Prophet
The Bible tells us not to despise prophecies (1 Thess 5:20-21) but also admonishes us to beware of false prophets (Mat 7:15). How can we tell a true prophet from a false one? Fortunately, the Bible provides us with tests of a prophet. It is essential that all tests be applied to anyone who claims to possess the gift of prophecy. Seventh-day Adventists believe that Ellen White fulfills each one of the following four tests.
1. Must Confess and Uplift Jesus
“Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits, whether they are of God; because many false prophets have gone out into the world. By this you know the Spirit of God: Every spirit that confesses that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is of God.” (1 John 4:1,2)
Ellen White wrote extensively on Jesus and devoted entire books, such as The Desire of Ages, as well as thousands of other pages to him. Here are two quotations, representative of many more:
Look, O look to Jesus and live! (FE 179)
Lift up Jesus, you that teach the people, lift Him up in sermon, in song, in prayer. Let all your powers be directed to pointing souls, confused, bewildered, lost, to ‘the Lamb of God.’ Lift Him up, the risen Saviour, and say to all who hear, Come to Him who ‘hath loved us, and hath given himself for us.’ Let the science of salvation be the burden of every sermon, the theme of every song. Let it be poured forth in every supplication. Bring nothing into your preaching to supplement Christ, the wisdom and power of God. Hold forth the word of life, presenting Jesus as the hope of the penitent and the stronghold of every believer. Reveal the way of peace to the troubled and the despondent, and show forth the grace and completeness of the Saviour. (GW 160)
2. Must Harmonize with Scripture
“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 8:20)
Ellen White wrote more than 100,000 pages which provide us not only with an abundance of material for applying this test, but also with the difficulty of having to study an incredibly large body of text to make a thorough assessment. This personal responsibility is beyond the scope of this summary, but we would encourage readers to apply this test for themselves as they read. In the words of Ellen White herself:
“The mind that depends upon the judgment of others is certain, sooner or later, to be misled.” (Ed 231)
Eager students of Ellen White’s writings will find that her writings stand this test.
3. Yields good Fruit
“Beware of false prophets [...] by their fruits you will know them.“ (Mat 7:15, 20)
Her Personal Life
The local newspaper of the California town, Saint Helena, wrote shortly after her death:
“The life of Mrs. White is an example worthy of emulation by all. … She was a humble, devout disciple of Christ and ever went about doing good. … She was revered by all the members of the Seventh Day Adventist church and honored and respected by all who appreciate noble womanhood consecrated to unselfish labor for the uplifting and betterment of mankind.”
Influence of her Life and Messages
The same newspaper contained a resumé of denominational accomplishments:
[…] in membership, nearly 100,000; 37 publishing houses; 34 sanitariums; 70 intermediate schools, academies, and colleges; and 510 elementary schools scattered all over the world. Mrs. White’s work as an author was mentioned, noting that some of her writings had been translated into 36 languages.
A detailed study involving these topics will produce a wealth of evidence of good fruit.
4. Prophecies must come to pass
“As for the prophet who prophesies of peace, when the word of the prophet comes to pass, the prophet will be known as one whom the LORD has truly sent.” (Jer 28:9)
In the same way that the major portion of the Bible is devoted to matters other than prediction, so the writings of Ellen White contain a relatively small number of predictive prophecies, other than those that pertain to the events connected with the second coming of Christ. However, her predictions should be scrutinized with the same care we give to those found in the Bible. One quick example will suffice to introduce this test.
In 1861, shortly before the American Civil War, conventional wisdom taught that there would be no war because the South wouldn’t be so stupid as to start one, or that it would be over quickly if indeed there were a war.
Ellen White received two visions indicating, among other things, that there would indeed be a long and protracted war with great carnage, prisoner-of-war camps, unspeakable squalor, filth and disease. She even said that some parents in the congregation she spoke to would lose sons in the war. Two years later, Ellen White was proven right.