He Still Speaks
Adventist World magazine has published a selection from the writings of Ellen G. White in each edition since its launch in September 2005. Beginning with this edition and continuing through the next two years, special articles about the biblical gift of prophecy will also appear in this space every other month to help Seventh-day Adventists around the world appreciate and learn more about God’s special gift to His remnant people. These “Discovering the Spirit of Prophecy” features will include explorations of Bible teaching about spiritual gifts, practical articles about applying insights to everyday life, and helpful methods to share the richness of this gift with friends and neighbors.
God Speaks in Nature
God reveals Himself to humankind “in various ways” (Heb. 1:1). One way is through nature, with the uncountable mysterious forms of life around us and the splendid stellar skies above us. Evidences of God’s creative and sustaining power can be seen by lifting up our eyes “on high” (Isa. 40:26), for “the heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of his hands” (Ps. 19:1). God’s restoring love is showcased in the endless life-renewal process that permeates the whole creation. Ellen White explains that “through the agencies of nature, God is working, day by day, hour by hour, moment by moment, to keep us alive, to build up and restore us. When any part of the body sustains injury, a healing process is at once begun; nature’s agencies are set at work to restore soundness. But the power working through these agencies is the power of God. All life-giving power is from Him. When one recovers from disease, it is God who restores him” (The Ministry of Healing, pp. 112, 113).
The whole healing and renewal process that keeps nature alive also points silently to the ultimate restoration when God will “make all things new” (Rev. 21:5). “The trees cast off their leaves, only to be robed with fresher verdure; the flowers die, to spring forth in new beauty; and in every manifestation of creative power is held out the assurance that we may be created anew in ‘righteousness and holiness of truth.’ Ephesians 4:24, margin. Thus the very objects and operations of nature that bring so vividly to mind our great loss [after the fall] become to us the messengers of hope” (Education, p. 27). Yet, the message of nature is not only unclear, because of the presence of evil, but also incomplete, for it does not speak explicitly about the plan of redemption.
A clearer form of divine revelation took place through the ministry of genuine prophets, who were chosen by God to be His special spokespersons to humanity. The relationship between God and His prophets cannot be limited to mere one-sided encounters, for it involved the communication of pointed truths in propositional forms. God stated in Numbers 12:6 (NIV), “When a prophet of the Lord is among you, I reveal myself to him in visions, I speak to him in dreams.” There are many instances in the Bible in which prophets claim the “word of the Lord” came to them and was delivered as such to the people (Jer. 1:4; Eze. 1:3; etc.). Because of their divine origin, the prophetic messages (whether in oral or written form) bear divine credentials and authority (Isa. 8:20; Gal. 1:8, 9; Rev. 22:18, 19). Many Old Testament prophets announced the coming of the Messiah, but it was John the Baptist who actually became His forerunner (Matt. 3:1-12; Luke 3:1-18).
Undoubtedly, the supreme revelation of God to humankind is found in the person and ministry of Jesus Christ, the Son of God, who became also the Son of man. Hebrews 1:1-3 (NIV) explains, “In the past God spoke to our forefathers through the prophets at many times and in various ways, but in these last days he spoke to us by his Son, whom he appointed heir of all things, and through whom he made the universe. The Son is the radiance of God’s glory and the exact representation of his being, sustaining all things by his powerful word.” For this very reason He was called “‘Immanuel’—which means, ‘God with us’” (Matt. 1:23, NIV). Indeed, “we have only one perfect photograph of God, and this is Jesus Christ” (E. G. White, in The Seventh-day Adventist Bible Commentary, vol. 7, p. 906).
Despite the fact that Jesus Christ is no longer visible in our midst and that, as far as we know, there is no genuine prophet alive in our days, God’s providence generated and preserved the Scriptures throughout the ages. As our only rule of faith and practice, they bear witness about Christ (John 5:39). The Old Testament messianic prophecies portrayed the forthcoming Messiah in such distinct colors that Jesus of Nazareth could be identified as the true One. The New Testament writers confirmed such identification, presenting Him as the only hope of salvation and eternal life for the sinners. The apostle John says that the Gospel record was written so that we “may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing” we “may have life in his name” (John 20:30, 31, NIV). This implies both a living relationship with the person of Christ and a true commitment to His teachings found in the Scriptures (see Matt. 7:21-27).
The Holy Spirit’s Role
Crucial in the whole revelation process is the work of the Holy Spirit. He inspired the prophets to write the Scriptures (2 Tim. 3:16; 2 Pet. 1:19-21), enlightens our minds when we study them (1 Cor 2:10), pours out the love of God “in our hearts” (Rom. 5:5), and tries to guide us “into all truth” (John 16:13). So significant is the work of the Holy Spirit that Ellen White even states that, without His work, “the sacrifice of Christ would have been of no avail” (The Desire of Ages, p. 671) for us, because we would not accept it. Besides leading us to accept the Scriptures as the written Word and Christ as the living Word, the Holy Spirit also tries to guide us in the right path. Isaiah 30:21 (NIV) says, “Whether you turn to the right or to the left, your ears will hear a voice behind you, saying, ‘This is the way; walk in it.’”
God reveals through nature His creative and sustaining power and restoring love. But He spoke more explicitly to humanity through His servants the prophets. The basic prophetic message was incorporated in the Scriptures and preserved by divine providence throughout the ages. The revelation process found its climax in the person and ministry of Jesus Christ, who was actually “God with us.” The same Holy Spirit who inspired the prophets to write the Scriptures also enlightens our minds to understand them properly, to accept Jesus Christ as our Savior and Lord, and to walk with Him and for Him. The whole process aims to free us from our sinful paths of death and guide us in the way where we find fullness of life in the presence of our loving God.
Alberto R. Timm is rector at the Latin-American Adventist Theological Seminary in Brasilia, Brazil.