The Spirit of Prophecy
Authored by James White, originally published in Review and Herald, January 25, 1870
Communication Between God and Man Before Sin
Once, man walked with God in Eden. With open face he beheld the glory of the Lord. He talked with God and Christ and angels in paradise, without a dimming veil between. Man fell from his starting position of moral rightness and innocency. He was driven from the garden, from the tree of life, and from the visible presence of the Lord and His holy angels. Moral darkness like the pall of death, has since cast its shadows everywhere, and everywhere the blight and mildew of sin has been seen.
Amid the general gloom and moral wretchedness, man has wandered from the gates of paradise for six thousand years, subject to sickness, pain, sorrow, tears, and death. He has also been subject to the temptations and wiles of the devil, so much so, that throughout the entire period of his fallen state, Satan has reigned with almost universal sway.
When all was lost in Adam, and the shades of night blackened the moral heavens, there soon appeared the star of hope in Christ, and with it there was established a means of communication between God and man. In his fallen state, man could not converse face to face with God, and with Christ, and with angels, as when in his Eden purity. But through the ministration of holy angels, God could speak to him in dreams and in visions. “If there be a prophet among you, I the Lord will make Myself known to him in a vision, and will speak to him in a dream” (Numbers 12:6).
Prophecy Designed for All Ages
The manifestation of the spirit of prophecy was designed for all dispensations. The sacred record nowhere restricts it to any particular period of time, from the fall to the final restitution. The Bible recognizes its manifestation alike in the patriarchal age, in the Jewish age, and in the Christian age. Through this medium God communed with holy men of old. Enoch, the seventh from Adam prophesied; and so extensive was the range of his prophetic vision, and so minute, that he could look down over long ages and describe the coming of the Lord and the execution of the last judgment upon ungodly (Jude 14, 15).
God spoke to His prophets in the Jewish dispensation in visions and in dreams. He opened before them the great things of the future, especially those connected with the first coming of Christ to suffer for sinners, and His second appearing in glory to destroy His enemies and complete the redemption of His people. If the spirit of prophecy nearly disappeared from the Jewish church for a few centuries toward the close of that period because of the corruptions of that church, it reappeared at its close to usher in the arrival of the Messiah.
Zacharias, the father of John the Baptist, “was filled with the Holy Spirit, and prophesied.” Simeon, a just and devout man, who was “waiting for the consolation of Israel,” came by the Spirit into the temple, and prophesied of Jesus as “a light to lighten the gentiles, and the glory of Israel.” And Anna, a prophetess, “spake of Him to all them that looked for redemption in Jerusalem.” And there was no greater prophet than John, who was chosen of God to introduce to Israel “the Lamb of God that taketh away the sin of the world.”
The Christian age commenced with the outpouring of the Holy Spirit and the manifestation of various spiritual gifts. Among these was the gift of prophecy. After commissioning His disciples to go into all the world and preach the gospel, Jesus says to them, “and these signs shall follow them that believe. In My name shall they cast out devils; they shall speak with new tongues; they shall take up serpents; and if they drink any deadly thing it shall not hurt them; they shall lay hands on the sick, and they shall recover” (Mark 16:17-18). On the day of pentecost when the Christian dispensation was fully opened, some of these gifts were manifested in a wonderful manner (Acts 2:1-11).
Luke, in giving account of his travels with Paul and others, when a quarter of a century of the Christian age had passed, after speaking of entering into the house of Philip the evangelist, says: “And the same man had four daughters, virgins, which did prophesy. And as we tarried there many days, there came down from Judea a certain prophet, named Agabus” (Acts 21:9-10). Still later we see the beloved John on the Island of patmos, filled with the Spirit of Prophecy in all its fullness. The wonderful Revelation was given to him when more than a half a century of the Christian age had passed. And here the New Testament record leaves us without the slightest hint that the gifts of the Spirit should cease from the church till the day of glory should be ushered in by the second appearing of Jesus Christ.
The Gifts Become Rare
Since the great apostasy these gifts have rarely been manifested. For this reason, professed Christians generally suppose that they were designed to be limited to the era of the primitive church. But from the time of the primitive Christians to the present there have been manifestations among the most devoted followers of Jesus, which have been recognized by nearly all of the leading denominations as the gifts of the Holy Spirit. Then should not the errors and the unbelief of the church be assigned as a reason why these manifestations have been so seldom, rather than that God has taken these blessings from the church? When the people of God attain to primitive faith and practice, as they most certainly will under the last message, the latter rain will be poured out and all the gifts will be revived. The former rain was given at the beginning of the Christian age in the time of the sowing of the gospel seed, to cause it to germinate and take good root. Then the church enjoyed the gifts. And when the latter rain shall be poured out at the close of the dispensation, to ripen the golden harvest for the garner of God, then will the gifts of the Holy Spirit be manifested in all their fullness.
To this, the words of the prophet agree:
And it shall come to pass in the last days, (saith God,) I will pour out of My Spirit upon all flesh; and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, and your young men shall see visions, and your old men shall dream dreams. And on My servants and on My handmaidens I will pour out, in those days, of My Spirit; and they shall prophesy. And I will show wonders in heaven above, and signs in the earth beneath; blood, and fire, and vapor of smoke. The sun shall be turned into darkness, and the moon into blood, before that great and notable day of the Lord come (Acts 2:17-20).
The Spirit of prophecy is here seen among the special signs of the last days. Its revival in the last days was to be one of the most notable signs of the approaching end. This is evident from its being classed with the most prominent signs, in the sun, in the moon, and in the stars, and such wonders in the heavens above, and in the earth beneath, as blood, and fire, and vapor of smoke.
The Gifts in the Last Generation
Of all the blessings which God has bestowed upon His people, none have been so sacred, and as important to their welfare, as His holy law, and His Holy Spirit. And none have been so well calculated to thwart the plans of Satan—and consequently to stir his rage—as these. And when that people should arise in the last generation of men, who should be observing all ten of the precepts of God’s holy law, and should recognize the revival of the Spirit of Prophecy, they might expect to feel that bitterness from their opponents, which can arise only from the direct inspiration of Satan. “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).
“The testimony of Jesus,” said the angel to John, “is the spirit of prophecy” (Revelation 19:10). It is the keeping of the commandments of God, and the recognition of the revival of the Spirit of Prophecy by the remnant of the church—the Christians of the last generation—that stirs the ire of the dragon. This war is inevitable, and let it come.
The Jewish age, notwithstanding its apostasies, opened and closed with special manifestations of the Spirit of God. And could it possibly make any sense to think that the Christian age, the light of which, compared with the former dispensation, is as the light of the sun to the feeble rays of the moon, should launch in glory but end with a whimper? And since a special work of the Spirit was necessary to prepare a people for the first coming of Christ, how much more so for His second coming!
God has never manifested His power to His people simply for their gratification; but according to their necessities He has wrought for them. Then we may safely conclude that as His people are passing the perils of the last days in the final struggle with the aroused powers of darkness, when false prophets were to have such power to show signs and wonders, so much that if it were possible, they would deceive the very elect, our gracious God will bless and strengthen His fainting people with the gifts, as well as the graces, of the Holy Spirit. Amen. GCO