As we look still further in Paul’s writings, we see in his comparison of the gifts why this order is observes: “Wherefore tongues are for a sign, not to them that believe, but to them that believe not: but prophesying serves not for them that believe not, but for them which believe.” 1 Corinthians 14:22.
The work of an apostle is to lead out in raising up companies of believers, and in planting the standard of truth in various fields; then follows instruction through the gift of prophecy, for the counsel, encouragement, and building up of the church.
As we look at the apostle Paul’s writings concerning the second coming of Christ, it will be observed that he connects the gift of prophecy with the heralding of that event. In the Thessalonians letter he says: “For yourselves know perfectly that the day of the Lord so comes as a thief in the night…But you, brethren, are not in darkness, that that day should overtake you as a thief. You are all the children of light, and the children of the day” we are not of the night, nor of darkness.” 1 Thess. 5:2, 4-5.
To that people who are not in the dark concerning the coming of the Lord, the apostle gives the following weighty exhortations: “Rejoice evermore. Pray without ceasing. In everything give thanks: for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you. Quench not the Spirit. Despise not prophesying. Prove all things; hold fast that which is good,” Verses 16-21.
It is evident from this language that if the Spirit of the Lord is left to work as God designs, there will be among the believers of the second advent, good and true manifestations of the prophetic gift. Murdock’s Syriac translation of this text reads: “Despise not prophesying.” Greenfield, in his Greek lexicon, gives as the meaning of the word here rendered “prophesying,” ”the exercise of the gift of prophecy, in this sense.” Verse 20. With this also agree the lexicons of Parkhurst, Robinson, and Liddell and Scott.
In writing to the Corinthians concerning the day of the Lord, and the end of all things, the apostle teaches the same great truth respecting the exercise of the gifts of the sprit of God. He says, “I thank my god always on your behalf, for the grace of God which is given you by Jesus Christ; that in every thing you are enriched by him, in all utterance, and in all knowledge; even as the testimony of Christ was confirmed in you (among you, Syriac and Boothroyd): so that you come behind in no gift; waiting for the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ: who shall also confirm you unto the end, that you may be blameless in the day of our Lord Jesus Christ.” 1 Corinthians 1:4-8.
From this Scripture we learn that those who are waiting for Christ’s coming, and who are to be confirmed to the end, and who are found “blameless” at His coming, are to be favoured with all the gifts of the Holy Spirit.
That which prepares the way for this desirable condition is the confirming of the testimony of Christ. What is this “testimony of Jesus” which is “confirmed in” them and “among” them? This is clearly defined in Revelation 19, where we have a record of John in vision on the Isle of Patmos. As he saw the glory of the angel who showed him those wonderful things, he took him to be an object fro his worship, and he said: “I fell at his feet to worship him, And he said unto me, See thou do it not: I am thy fellowservant, and of they brethren that have the testimony of Jesus: worship God; for the testimony of Jesus is the spirit of prophecy.” Revelation 19:10.
This being an inspired explanation of the “testimony of Jesus,” let us read the text given in 1 Cor. 1 with the definition inserted: “The spirit of prophecy” was confirmed in you or among you” so that you come behind in no gift: waiting fro the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.
Of the church waiting of Christ’s second coming, we read in Revelation: “And the dragon (the devil) was wroth with the woman (the church) 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. Here, then, is the last of the church in her probationary state, two features being prominent in her work-- the keeping of all the commandment of God, and having the spirit of prophecy.
That we are right in applying the “remnant” to the last phase of the church is apparent from the words found in Joel’s prophecy. When speaking of the end, the prophet says:
“And I will show wonders in the heavens and in the earth , blood, and fire, and pillars of smoke. The sun shall be turned into darkness, and the moon into blood, before the great and the terrible day of the LORD come. And it shall come to pass, that whosoever shall call on the name of the LORD shall be delivered: for in mount Zion and in Jerusalem shall be deliverance, as the LORD has said, and in the remnant whom the LORD shall call.” Joel 2:30-32.So the “remnant” church, the church called out, and fitted for the LORD’s coming, will be keeping all of the commandments of God, and the gift, or spirit, of prophecy will be with them to “confirm” them to the end.
In the prophecy of Isaiah we have a testimony concerning this same people, and a statement respecting the opposition to their work. The prophet says:
“Now go, write it before them in a table, and note it I a book, that it may be for the time to come for ever and ever (Hebrew: the later day, margin) that this is a rebellious people, lying children, children that will not ear the law of the LORD: which say to the seers, See not; and to the prophets, Prophesy not unto us right things, speak unto us smooth things, prophesy deceits; get you out of the way, turn aside out of the path, cause the Holy One of Israel to cease from before us.” Isaiah 30:8-11.Here is presented what is to be found in the last days, a people teaching the law of God, and the gift of prophecy as connected with their work, which work is the exalting of the Holy One of Israel, and making plain His pathway of light and truth. Those opposing them desire an easier path, and “smooth things,” consequently they reject the law of God and the teachings of His Holy Spirit through the gift of prophecy.
That it is the gift that is here spoken of, and not teachers in the ordinary sense, is evident from the word here used to designate them. They “say to the seerssee not.” What is a “seer”? In the book of Samuel is given an account of Saul and his father’s servants seeking for lost animals. In their journey they came to the town where Samuel the prophet lived,” and as they went up the hill to the city, they found young maidens going out to draw water, and said unto them, Is the seer here?
(Beforetime in Israel, when a man went to inquire of God, thus he spake, come, and let us go to the seer: for he that is now called a Prophet was beforetime called a Seer) 1 Samuel 9:11,9.
A “seer”, then, was one who communicated knowledge from God to the people’; for when they went to him, they went to inquire of God. Then in the light of this testimony of Isaiah, such a prophetic gift is to be connected with the proclamation of the law of God in the latter days.
In the prophecy of Ezekiel we have a comparison of the final deliverance of God’s people with the deliverance of Israel from Egypt. He says:
“And I will bring you out from the people, and will gather you out of the countries wherein you are scattered, with a mighty hand, and with a stretched out arm, and with fury poured out. And I will bring you into the wilderness of the people, and there will I plead with you face to face. Like as I pleaded with your fathers in the wilderness of the land of Egypt, so will I plead with you, saith the Lord God. And I will cause you to pass under the rod, and I will bring you into the bond of the covenant.” Ezekiel 20:34-37.
Instead of this people being in a literal wilderness, as were the Israelites, they come into the “wilderness of the people.” In the twelfth chapter of Revelation, is a view of the Lord’s church going into the wilderness for twelve hundred and sixty years. Rev. 12:6,14. In the Song of Solomon the church is represented as coming out of the wilderness, and here the inquiry is raised, “Who is this that comes up from the wilderness, leaning (not on civil law, nor earthly supports. No, but) upon her beloved?” Song of Solomon 8:5. Again: the church is spoken of as “she that looks forth as the morning, fair as the moon, clear as the sun, and terrible as an army with banners.” Song of Solomon 6:10.
With the church brought out of the wilderness of the people, the Lord says He will plead as He pleaded with Israel in the literal wilderness. By looking at the testimony in Exodus 16:28-29, we see how He began to plead with them there. He said: “how long refuse you to keep my commandments and my laws? See, for the Lord has given you the Sabbath, therefore he gives you on the sixth day the bread of two days; abide you every man in his place, let no man go out of his place on the seventh day.”
By this comparison we see that as the Lord carries on this work of leading His people from the “wilderness of the people”, He will plead with them to keep His holy Sabbath. He also said that he would bring them into the “bond of the covenant.” See Ezekiel 20:37. God’s “covenant commanded” is the Ten Commandments. See Deuteronomy 4:13. The bond-seal, or sign of authority, of that covenant, is the Sabbath of the fourth commandment. See Exodus 31:13,17; Ezekiel 20:12, 20. This bringing of the people into the “bond of the covenant” shows a Sabbath reform as a part of the pleading with those brought forth from the wilderness of the people.
As the deliverance of this people is to be after the manner of the deliverance of the Israelites, it is well to consider another point connected with their deliverance, which is mentioned by the prophet Hosea. He says, “By a prophet the LORD brought Israel out of Egypt, and by a prophet was he preserved.”. Hosea 12:13/ If there is to be a similarity to this in the final deliverance, it must be that the gift of prophecy, as has been shown in the Scripture citations, is to act its part in preparing a people for that event. As we are nearing the time of that final deliverance, and are in the very period when a people should be heralding the glorious advent of Christ, the inquiry naturally arises, Where is to be found the gift of prophecy?
This “testimony of Jesus,” as we have learned from Revelation 19, is “the spirit of prophecy”; and from the Scripture just quoted, we see that the prophetic gift was to be with the people who were proclaiming and waiting for the second coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.
About 1833, but more especially since 1840, a message has been sounding through he earth proclaiming the coming of Christ near at hand, “even at the door.” In connection with this proclamation the Lord has been pleased to manifest the power of His Spirit in various ways, and in a marked manner. In many7 instances, not only in America, but in other lands, the Lord has been gracious to His people who have been engaged in heralding the glad tidings of our returning Lord, by speaking to them through the gift of prophecy. Attention is here called to some instances of this character in America.
The first to be noticed is that of a godly man--a well-educated and talented minister by the name of William Foy, who resided in Boston, Massachusetts. At two different times during the year 1842, the Lord came so near to him that he was wrapped in holy vision. One of these occasions was on January 18, and the other was on February 4. By invitation he went from city to city to tell of the wonderful things he had seen; and in order to accommodate the vast crowds who assembled to hear him, large halls were secured, where he related to thousands what had been shown him of the heavenly world, the loveliness of the New Jerusalem and of the angelic hosts. When dwelling upon the tender, compassionate love of Christ for poor sinners, he exhorted the unconverted to seek God, and scores responded to his tender entreaties.
Brother Foy’s work continued until the year 1844, near the close of the twenty-three hundred days. Then he was favored with another manifestation of the Holy Spirit--a third vision was given--one which he did not understand. In this he was shown the pathway of the people of God through to the heavenly city. He saw a great platform, on which multitudes of people gathered. Occasionally one would drop through this platform out of sight, and of such a one it was said to him, “Apostatized he saw the people rise to a second platform, and some of these also dropped out of sight; and finally a third platform appeared, which extended to the gates of the holy city. A great company gathered with those who had advanced to this platform. As he expected the Lord Jesus to come in a very short time, he failed to recognize the fact that a third message was to follow the first and second messages of Revelation 14. Consequently the vision, to him, was inexplicable, and he ceased public speaking. After the close of the prophetic period, in the year 1845, he heard another relate the same vision, with the explanation that “ the first and second messages had been given, and that a third was to follow.”
Another instance of the manifestation of the gift of prophecy is found in the case of a young man who resided in Poland, (Maine) by the name of Hazen Foss. He was a man of fine appearance, pleasing address, with a good academic education. In the month of September, 1844, about six weeks before the close of the twenty-three hundred days, the Lord gave him a vision, in which he, like Brother Foy, was shown the “three platforms” in the heavenly pathway. Some messages of warning to individuals were also given him, which he was instructed to deliver. In connection with this he was shown the trials and persecutions that would follow if he was faithful in relating what had been shown to him. As he also was expecting the Lord to come “in a few more days” (as they then sang), he did not understand the third step (platform) in the journey; and shrinking from the cross, he refused to relate the vision. The view was repeated to him; and in addition to the first, he was told that if he still refused to tell what had been shown him, the burden would be taken from him, and given to one of the weakest of the Lord’s children, one who would faithfully narrate what god would reveal. Again he refused. A third vision was given him, a very short one, in which he was told that he was released, and was shown the person upon whom the Lord had laid the burden, ”one of the weakest of the weak, who would do the Lord’s bidding.”
This startled the young man, who at once appointed a meeting on McGuire Hill, Poland, Maine, for the purpose of relating what had been revealed to him. The people crowded together to see and hear him. He carefully related his experience--how he had refused to relate what the Lord had shown him, and what would result from his refusal.
“Now,” said he, “I will tell you the vision.” But, alas! It was too late. It had gone from him. Not a word could he recall. He wrung his hands in anguish, saying, “God has fulfilled His word. He has taken the vision from me. I am a lost man.”
From that time the man lived without hope, and died in 1893.
Within two months after the close of the twenty-three hundred days (about january1, 1845) Miss Ellen G. Harmon, of Portland, Maine, then only about seventeen years of age, began to receive revelations from the Lord. She was at that time in a very critical condition of health, being indeed, as Foss was told, the instrument God would choose, “the weakest of the weak.”
From a wound received when she was about nine years of age, she nearly bled to death, and ever afterward was unable to attend school. For several weeks before her first revelation she had scarcely been able to speak above a whisper. One physician diagnosed her case as dropsically consumption, with the right lung decayed, and the left one considerably diseased: and to aggravate her condition, her heart was also affected. All this made her recovery doubtful. In fact, he thought she could live but a very short time at most, and was liable to drop away at any moment. It was with great difficulty that she could breathe when lying down, and at night rest could be obtained only by being bolstered up in bed in an almost sitting posture. Frequent spells of coughing and haemorrhages from the lungs had greatly reduced her physical strength. Her weight at that time was only seventy pounds.
In this weakened condition, she was instructed, in vision, to go and relate to others what the Lord had made known to her. She was directed to go to Poland, Maine, the place where Foss had failed when trying to relate the vision given to him. Here she related what the Lord had shown her. In an adjoining room, Foss heard the narration; and after the meeting he remarked to others, “The vision Ellen related is as near like what was shown to me as two persons could tell the same thing.”
The next morning on seeing Sister Harmon, Foss said, “That is the instrument on whom the Lord has laid the burden.” To Miss Harmon he said, “Be faithful in bearing the burden laid upon you, and in relating the testimonies the Lord shall give you, and you will get through to the kingdom”, and then, in anguish, he said, “Oh, I am a lost man!”
The gift of prophecy, as manifested through Miss Harmon (now Mrs. E.G, White, she having been married to Elder James white in August, 1846) has been connected with the third angel’s message for about fifty-three years. (Writtne in 1899)
The Scriptures show clearly that such a gift is to be connected with the last work of the people of God’ that it is to go before in preparing the way for the development of all the gifts, so that the church will “come behind in no gift; waiting for the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.” Such a gift of prophecy was to be connected with a message proclaiming obedience to all God’s commandments.
The students of Scripture prophecies have ever claimed that “when the time comes for the fulfillment of a prophecy, the genuine fulfillment is there, and not a counterfeit.” The Lord’s time came for the third angel’s message--for a people to arise, teaching the observance of all the commandments of God--a message with which should also be connected the Spirit of Prophecy.
There is just such a message now being given to the world, and the gift of prophecy is connected with it; not to give a new revelation to take the place of the Scriptures, but simplifying and making clear the truths taught therein, and urging the importance of more earnest study of the Sacred Word.
It comes in these times, when there is a “form of godliness” without the power,, to show us where we are liable to be swerved from the way of God’s eternal truth. It comes as a counsellor and guide in the management and extension of the work.
The above was written in a five part series in the Review and Herald
June 27, July 4, 11, 18, 25, 1899