The Revealer and the Revealed“The Helper will come—the Spirit, who reveals the truth about God and who comes from the Father. I will send him to you from the Father, and he will speak about me” (John 15:26, TEV).
The Gospel is not about Jesus; the Gospel is Jesus and what He taught. Teachings about Jesus provide the framework for proclaiming the “good news,” but Jesus Himself is the “good news.” Jesus and His teachings are not the prelude to the gospel, they are the gospel!1
The “good news” is that in the wonder-full mind of God, One of the Godhead chose to come to this rebel planet with hands outstretched, inviting men and women everywhere to return to the family of God. The “good news” is that the God-who-became-man “gave” Himself to the human family forever, forever limited to time and space. For what purpose? To show us what God is like! (John 14:7.)
As we will see, the Revealer we call “Jesus”; the Revealed we call “God”; and the Person through whom the Godhead chose to “reveal” the Revealer to the human race is the Holy Spirit.
Jesus made this clear a few hours before Gethsemane: “I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Helper, who will stay with you forever. He is the Spirit, who reveals the truth about God” (John 14:16, 17, TEV). Further, “The Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you everything and make you remember all that I have told you” (John 14:26, TEV).
And to make sure that the point was clear: “The Helper will come—the Spirit, who reveals the truth about God and who comes from the Father. I will send him to you from the Father, and he will speak about me” (John 15:26, TEV).
Jesus said further: “When, however, the Spirit comes, who reveals the truth about God, he will lead you into all the truth. He will not speak on his own authority, but he will speak of what he hears and will tell you of things to come. He will give me glory, because he will take what I say and tell it to you. All that my Father has is mine; that is why I said that the Spirit will take what I give him and tell it to you” (John 16:13-15, TEV).
The Holy Spirit is our Lord’s counterpart. The Spirit will say and do exactly what Jesus would say and do if He were present today!
How does all this work? The Holy Spirit gives to each Christian some special gift: “There are different kinds of spiritual gifts, but the same Spirit gives them. . . .The Spirit’s presence is shown in some way in each person for the good of all” (1 Cor. 12:4, 7, TEV).
The Gift of Prophecy
One of those special gifts is the gift of “prophecy” (1 Cor. 12:10; Eph. 4:11). Through the gift of prophecy the Holy Spirit links Himself with certain men and women who then convey to others the truth about Jesus. That is the Spirit’s job description—to “speak about” Jesus through gifted men and women called “prophets.” Knowing Jesus and what He can tell us about God is the most essential information needed by the human family, for “to know [Jesus] is life eternal” (John 17:3, KJV).
In the book of Revelation, the prophet John wrote how this gift was working in his own life: “The revelation of Jesus Christ, which God gave him to show to . . . his servant John, who bore witness to the word of God and to the testimony of Jesus Christ” (Rev. 1:1, 2, RSV).
Here we see the divine communication system at work: The Revealer working through the Spirit to reveal the truth about God through His prophet. In chapter 19, the angel who visited John reminded him that the “testimony of Jesus is the spirit of prophecy” (vs. 10, RSV).
The purpose of the gift of prophecy is to tell the story of Jesus. The prompting Agent who inspires the human prophet to tell the truth about Jesus is the Holy Spirit. In Biblical shorthand, the Spirit of prophecy is “the testimony of Jesus.”
Peter understood this divine system of communication: “You love him, although you have not seen him, and you believe in him, although you do not now see him. So you rejoice with a great and glorious joy which words cannot express, because you are receiving the salvation of your souls, which is the purpose of your faith in him. It was concerning this salvation that the prophets made careful search and investigation, and they prophesied about this gift which God would give you. They tried to find out when the time would be and how it would come. This was the time to which Christ’s Spirit in them was pointing, in predicting the sufferings that Christ would have to endure and the glory that would follow. God revealed to these prophets that their work was not for their own benefit, but for yours, as they spoke about those things which you have now heard from the messengers who announced the Good News by the power of the Holy Spirit sent from heaven. These are things which even the angels would like to understand” (1 Peter 1:8-12, TEV).
Genuine prophets are not motivated by personal whim or reward but by the direct moving of the Spirit of Christ, the “Holy Spirit sent from heaven.” In one sense, the “Spirit of prophecy” is the Spirit of Christ through His Divine Helper, the Holy Spirit—made known to men and women through the human prophet. In another sense, “the Spirit of prophecy” is also the testimony about Christ, the chief purpose for the gift of prophecy.
Since Jesus returned to heaven, this simple, double-edged formula is one of the clearest, safest tests as to the genuineness of a “prophet’s” claim: Does he or she tell the truth about Jesus? In the spirit of Jesus?
Why has the very name of Jesus, through the years, softened the voice and calmed the heart of people on all continents? Because men and women remember the courage recovered, the hope revived, and the surge of strength they received to pick up life’s challenge anew—when they remembered how much they matter to Jesus who said through the Spirit of prophecy, “Fear not, for I am with you” (Isa. 41:10, RSV); “I will never fail you nor forsake you” (Heb. 13:5, RSV). They have learned through experience what He meant when He said, “I will not leave you desolate; I will come to you” (John 14:18, RSV).
Telling the Truth About God
Why such confidence in a Man called Jesus who lived for only thirty-three years in old Palestine? Because men and women came to know Him as their Creator who became man. Why? Because He was the only One in the universe who could convincingly tell the truth about God—the One who had been sorely misrepresented by the great rebel and by many of the world’s greatest thinkers. God was not severe, arbitrary, and unforgiving, as He had been portrayed. When He asked men and women for willing allegiance, He also showed them that He too, by nature, was self-denying, and that love means doing for others what they cannot do for themselves, or even do not deserve.
How was that revealed? Paul contemplated Christ’s magnificent revelation as an “emptying” of His divine prerogatives when He entered the human family (Phil. 2). Not suddenly as a valiant prince wielding the sword of justice, but slowly in the womb of a woman. Not to be honored as a special guest, but to be misunderstood and maligned because of His unambiguous integrity and focus.
How can it be that earth’s only hope became this planet’s target of humiliating abuse? “He came unto his own, and his own received him not” (John 1:11, KJV). Christians are not only awed by this monstrous ingratitude, they are strangely moved with regret and determined that He will find a hearty welcome in their lives. Christians are amazed at the God-man’s condescension, and this wonder becomes part of a daily reason to honor Him in all they do.
Both Sacrifice and High Priest
When they look at Jesus they see Him both as Sacrifice and High Priest.2 On Calvary, He did something about the crushing “wages of sin” that forever changed our relationship with God: He died! He is the only Person who has ever truly died! All other men and women who have “passed on” are now sleeping,3 except for those few who have been resurrected or translated and are now in heaven.4 Jesus alone has tasted “death,” so that all who make Him Lord of their lives will never have to “die.” “For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Rom. 6:23, RSV). What a gift! Through Him we escape what we deserve!
But there is even more! He now lives as our High Priest. What does this mean? He stands before the heavenly beings and the unfallen worlds as a Man whose cheerful obedience proved that God had not been unfair in asking for willing compliance from His created beings. Satan was wrong! And they see this heroic Overcomer who went through the unspeakable anguish of being “God-forsaken” on Calvary, proving that God Himself did care about His creation, that He was unselfish and the essence of genuine love. The whole universe (beyond the confines of earth) sees Jesus standing in heaven’s Most Holy Place as God’s answer to Satan’s lies about Him.
What do we see when we think of Jesus as our High Priest? We see Him as the Mediator between God and sinful humanity. We see Him as our Advocate who joins justice and mercy, stopping all charges against God and believers (1 John 2:1). He is our Intercessor, not only representing us before the Father but also interceding between us and the evil one (Heb. 4:16).5
The apostle Paul put it this way: “Since then we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus, the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession. For we have not a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sinning. Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and grace to help in time of need” (Heb. 4:14-16, RSV).
This kind of intercession every person needs every day: the peace of pardon and the power of interceding grace. Christ’s powerful presence, through the Holy Spirit and angels, reaches out to every person committed to Him. He breaks through the power with which Satan has held each person captive. He reaches into their neural pathways. He strengthens the believer’s will power. He is ever ready to assist human beings in resisting sin, both from within and without. Jesus simply shares with us the defense system by which He overcame temptation (Rev. 3:21).
Too often, after contemplating Christ’s condescension as a hounded and finally crucified Man, believers consider His “gift” to earth finished. But God did not give “his only Son” (John 3:16, RSV) on a kind of temporary lend-lease basis. The Creator of hundreds of billions of island galaxies, who walked among the stars and whirled universes into orbit, imprisoned Himself within His own creation, not for just nine months, nor for only thirty-three years, but forever!
This kind of love awakens love. And heart-appreciation. And towering commitment to this great Lover, above any of this world’s most alluring appeals.
Before the prophet can tell the truth about God, as known through Jesus, the prophet must know Jesus personally. Theological talk is cheap; personal experience comes with a price.
Ellen White’s Devotion to Jesus
Ellen White responded wholeheartedly to this love, and made it a major theme of her writings. Wherever one turns in her voluminous books and letters to family, friends, and co-workers, one sees evidences of her deep love for the Saviour. Many whose first contact with Seventh-day Adventists was through the writings of Ellen White have expressed amazement at her awareness of, and deep appreciation for, the dimensions of our God’s “Gift” to this rebel planet.
Her spiritual insights began early. In her early teen years, deeply affected by William Miller’s preaching, she longed for a deeper religious experience: “As I prayed, the burden and agony of soul that I had so long felt left me, and the blessing of God came upon me like the gentle dew. I gave glory to God for what I felt, but I longed for more. I could not be satisfied till I was filled with the fullness of God. Inexpressible love for Jesus filled my soul.”6
Ellen White was, above all, a spiritual person, full of appreciation for her Saviour and Lord. This personal sense of God’s presence put her on-line with God, enabling Him to reveal much more of Himself and His plans for this world. Her personal experience in responding to the simple gospel preceded theology—Jesus was the core and center of all her theological thought.
Here is one example of her pervasive theme of extolling Jesus: “It will be profitable to contemplate the divine condescension, the sacrifice, the self-denial, the humiliation, the resistance the Son of God encountered in doing His work for fallen men. Well may we come forth from contemplation of His sufferings exclaiming, Amazing condescension! Angels marvel, as with intense interest they watch the Son of God descending step by step the path of humiliation. It is the mystery of godliness. It is the glory of God to conceal Himself and His ways, not by keeping men in ignorance of heavenly light and knowledge, but by surpassing the utmost capacity of men to know. Humanity can comprehend in part, but that is all that man can bear. The love of Christ passes knowledge. The mystery of redemption will continue to be the mystery, the unexhausted science and everlasting song of eternity. Well may humanity exclaim, Who can know God? We may, as did Elijah, wrap our mantles about us, and listen to hear the still, small voice of God.”7
Ellen White walked with Jesus, through sunshine and shadow. Writing to son William and his young bride, Mary, she spoke of her husband James’s companionship and their common walk: “We are trying to humbly follow in the footprints of our dear Saviour. We need His Spirit and His grace every hour, or we shall make blunders and shall do harm.”8
A few weeks later, during a very strenuous covered-wagon trip from Texas to Kansas, she wrote again to Mary: “I am worn and feel as though I was about 100 years old. . . . My ambition is gone; my strength is gone, but this will not last. . . . I hope that by the cheering light of the countenance of my Saviour, I shall have the springback power.”9 Contemplating Christmas in 1880, now 53, she wrote to a friend, “Christmas will be spent in seeking Jesus to be a welcome guest in my heart. His presence will drive all the shadows away.”10
Ellen White wrote hundreds of articles for both the Review and Herald and the Signs of the Times. Almost every article contained some reference to her Lord, who had become not only her strength but the joy of her life. At 69, she wrote: “I love to speak of Jesus and His matchless love. . . . I know that He is able to save to the uttermost all that come unto Him. His precious love is a reality to me, and the doubts expressed by those who know not the Lord Jesus Christ, have no effect upon me. . . . Do you believe that Jesus is your Saviour, and that He has manifested His love for you in giving His precious life for your salvation? Take Jesus as your personal Saviour. Come to Him just as you are; give yourself to Him; grasp His promise by living faith, and He will be to you all that you desire.”11
Ellen White considered Jesus her Saviour and best Friend.12 But more than that, He was her Lord. In Europe she was told that people would be more receptive to the advent message, “if we dwell on the love of Jesus.” They warned that there was “danger of losing our congregations if we dwell on the sterner questions of duty and the law of God.”
Having heard that kind of talk before, she wrote in her travel notes, “There is a spurious experience prevailing everywhere. Many are continually saying, ‘All that we have to do is to believe in Christ.’ They claim that faith is all we need. In its fullest sense, this is true; but they do not take it in the fullest sense. To believe in Jesus is to take Him as our redeemer and our pattern. If we abide in Him and He abides in us, we are partakers of His divine nature, and are doers of His word. The love of Jesus in the heart will lead to obedience to all His commandments. But the love that goes no farther than the lips is a delusion; it will not save any soul. Many reject the truths of the Bible, while they profess great love for Jesus; but the apostle John declares, ‘He that saith, I know him, and keepeth not his commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in him.’ While Jesus has done all in the way of merit, we ourselves have something to do in the way of complying with the conditions.”13
The Great Controversy Theme
In her theological instruction, Ellen White’s insight into the prevailing theme of the Bible, the Great Controversy Theme,14 illuminated the reason why Jesus became man. This core understanding permeated all her writings. For example: “In order to grow in grace and in the knowledge of Christ, it is essential that you meditate much upon the great themes of redemption. You should ask yourself why Christ has taken humanity upon Himself, why He suffered upon the cross, why He bore the sins of men, why He was made sin and righteousness for us. You should study to know why He ascended to heaven in the nature of man, and what is His work for us today. . . . We think that we are familiar with the character of Christ, and we do not realize how much is to be gained by the study of our glorious Pattern. We take it for granted that we know all about Him, and yet we do not comprehend His character or mission.”15
“Listening” to Ellen White is like hearing Handel’s Messiah, page after page. “The Spirit of Christ” pervades her ministry. Consistency, clarity, and coherency mark her devotion to her best Friend. More than all else, it seems, Ellen White helps to satisfy our human craving for grace. In personal letters, in magazine articles, and speaking to large audiences, her grace-oriented messages enlarged God’s embrace of grace to needy, weary hearts. For those who listen, Ellen White has the surest mark of the “Spirit of prophecy”—she bore witness to Jesus.
1. “The gospel is glorious because it is made up of His righteousness. It is Christ unfolded, and Christ is the gospel embodied. . . .We are not to praise the gospel, but praise Christ. We are not to worship the gospel, but the Lord of the gospel.”—Manuscript 44, 1898, cited in Seventh-day Adventist Bible Commentary (SDABC), vol. 7, p. 907.
2. The Acts of the Apostles, p. 33.
3. The Bible speaks of the first death as a “sleep.” See John 11:11-14; 1 Thess. 4:13-16; 5:10. The second death is reserved for sinners who reject the gospel’s invitation. See Rev. 20:6, 14; 21:8.
4. Enoch (Gen. 5:24), Elijah (2 Kings 2:11), Moses (Jude 9), those raised with Jesus (Matt. 7:52, 53).
5. “Everyone who will break from the slavery and service of Satan, and will stand under the blood-stained banner of Prince Immanuel will be kept by Christ’s intercession. Christ, as our Mediator, at the right hand of the Father, ever keeps us in view, for it is as necessary that He should keep us by His intercession as that He should redeem us with His blood. If He lets go His hold of us for one moment, Satan stands ready to destroy. Those purchased by His blood, He now keeps by His intercession.” (Manuscript 73, 1893, in SDABC, vol. 6, comments on Romans 8:34, p. 1078; also Manuscript Releases (MR), vol. 15, p. 104.
6. Early Writings, p. 12.
7. Bible Echo, April 30, 1894.
8. Letter 18, 1879, cited in Arthur White, Ellen White Biography, vol. 3, (Washington, D.C.: Review and Herald Publishing Association, 1984), p. 105. Hereafter, references to Arthur White’s biography of Ellen White, six volumes, will be Bio., followed by volume number and pages.
9. Letter 20, 1879, cited in Ibid., p. 117.
10. Letter 51, 1880, cited in Ibid., p. 149.
11. Review and Herald, June 23, 1896.
12. See James Nix, “Oh, Jesus, How I Love You!” Adventist Review, May 30, 1996, pp. 10-14.
13. Historical Sketches of the Foreign Missions of the Seventh-day Adventists, (Basle, Switzerland: Imprimerie Polyglotte, 1886), p. 188.
14. See pp. 256-263.
15. Signs of the Times, Dec. 1, 1890.
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