Special thanks to Natasha, whose feedback, insights, and edits made this article better.
“The Spirit of Prophecy says…”
“Can you share any Bible or SOP references on this topic?”
“We need to pay more attention to the Spirit of Prophecy!”
Anyone who has been an Adventist long enough has heard these or similar phrases hundreds of times. Their meaning may seem opaque to the uninitiated, but to lifelong Adventists the intent is crystal clear: with few exceptions, when Adventists refer to the “Spirit of Prophecy”, they mean the writings of Ellen White.
This phrase, of course, reflects our recognition that Ellen White had the gift of prophecy. But more precisely, it reflects our sense of identity as God’s remnant church. At most traditional Adventist prophecy seminars, one will at some point hear these two verses cited:
And the dragon was wroth with the woman, and went to make war with the remnant of her seed, which keep the commandments of God, and have the testimony of Jesus Christ. (Revelation 12:17, KJV)
The chain of logic then follows: God’s remnant people have the testimony of Jesus; the testimony of Jesus is the spirit of prophecy; therefore, God’s remnant people have the spirit of prophecy. Thus, the fact that Ellen White had the gift of prophecy helps identify the Seventh-day Adventist church as God’s remnant.
I affirm the Adventist church’s belief that the gift of prophecy “is an identifying mark of the remnant church and … was manifested in the ministry of Ellen G. White.” The way we often defend this teaching, however, has several detrimental side effects: it models proof-texting rather than contextual study, it treats the Bible more as a cipher to solve than as a revelation to meditate on, and it obscures the meanings the author intended the words and phrases to have in context. This post will mainly focus on treating the third side effect by exploring what John meant by testimony of Jesus and spirit of prophecy. The testimony of Jesus is much more than a code word for the spirit of prophecy, which in turn is not a synonym for Ellen White.