Although Ellen White died more than 100 years ago, she wrote for people of her time as well as for future generations.
Published on: 07-01-2019
During her 70 years of public ministry Ellen White was powerfully and impressively used by God for the development and support of the Seventh-day Adventist prophetic movement.
We should note to begin that the Spirit of prophecy existed long before Ellen White’s ministry began, and her writings never added anything to the Bible. For her, the Scriptures were the “authoritative, infallible revelation”¹ of God’s will. She recommended to every reader “the Word of God as the rule of your faith and practice,”² because her “written testimonies are not to give new light, but to impress vividly upon the heart the truth of inspiration already revealed.”³
The growth in Adventist Church membership in the nineteenth century brought with it many blessings as well as challenges. The navigational struggles paid big dividends, but it was not an easy road. God used His messenger to support and build His church and its work on all fronts. Following a metaphor often used by Uriah Smith, Ellen White functioned as a pilot giving directions for a perilous time.⁴
In her continuous efforts to uplift Christ, Ellen White produced her small but extremely vibrant, most-translated, and most-read book, Steps to Christ (1892); a masterpiece on Christ’s life, The Desire of Ages (1898); and a book on the best-loved teachings of Jesus, Christ’s Object Lessons (1900). These books uphold the divine and eternal nature of the Savior, and show Him as being a self-existent manifestation of “all the fullness of the Godhead.”⁵
Her doxology about Christ, often repeated, contains a crystal-clear statement about who Jesus was and is: “Christ was God essentially, and in the highest sense. He was with God from all eternity, God over all, blessed forevermore.”⁶
In spite of various critics of her time and doubters and skeptics since, the life, ministry, and writings of Ellen White have directed people’s attention to God and His Word. Her legacy and prophetic contribution to the church has inspired and motivated Adventists to balanced progress in theological stability, numerical growth around the globe, mission to unreached people, cutting-edge health-care institutions, quality education, family and youth ministry, publishing, and support of quality of human life in general, while preparing people to meet Jesus Christ.
A Messenger to Contemporary Generations
The challenges and opportunities we experience today make it essential that God still speaks to His people. His plan and desire to save us with His unchanging truth have not changed. While methods of reaching today’s generations have differed, God has always addressed people where they are, at their level of understanding and acceptance.
The Lord has had messengers throughout history. He has never left His earthly children without His support and spiritual provision. The purpose and function of God’s prophets have always been to provide guidance to His people and to keep them faithful in spite of differences in culture or worldview (Prov. 29:18; Eph. 4:13, 14). This was true for biblical prophets, and it is true for Ellen White, because the same Author inspired them all (2 Peter 1:21).
Although Ellen White died more than 100 years ago, she wrote for people of her time as well as for future generations. She was confident that her “writings will constantly speak, and their work will go forward as long as time shall last,”⁷ as they point readers to Jesus and uplift His Word.
Ellen White’s contemporaries needed the Bible, and its message is even more necessary today. The fundamental truth of Christ, as revealed in Scripture and reiterated in her writings, will never become old-fashioned; it will always be present truth (2 Peter 1:12). That is why every culture and people group should be exposed to God’s good-news message (Deut. 30:19, 20; Heb. 3:13, 15).
The idea that Ellen White’s writings may be eclipsed by contemporary alternatives will never hold for God’s chosen ones who read and proclaim the biblically based and Spirit of Prophecy-supported truths about Jesus Christ and His plan of salvation. For those who search for meaning and purpose in life, Ellen White provides answers, especially when her writings are read through the prism of the great controversy. Those of us who value God’s instructions, and educate ourselves in the richness of His counsel, benefit not only in our future lives with Him, but also in our lives here and now.⁸
While a variety of miscommunications, distorted interpretations, and criticisms exist concerning Ellen White, her writings are given to contemporary generations because God wants to get people into His Word so that He can get His Word into them. Biblical truth elevates our lives, our thinking, our decisions, our outlook, and our behavior.
And as we grow in Christ, we will be motivated by the Holy Spirit and the Father’s love to live what we have learned and share it with others.
¹ Ellen. G. White, The Great Controversy (Mountain View, Calif.: Pacific Press Pub. Assn., 1911, 1950), p. vii.
² Ellen G. White, Early Writings (Washington, D.C., Review and Herald Pub. Assn., 1882, 1945), p. 78.
³ Ellen G. White, Testimonies for the Church (Mountain View, Calif., Pacific Press Pub. Assn., 1948), vol. 2, p. 605.
⁴ Uriah Smith, “Do We Discard the Bible by Endorsing the Visions?” Review and Herald, Jan. 13, 1863.
⁵ Ellen G. White, Evangelism (Washington, D.C.: Review and Herald Pub. Assn., 1946), p. 614.
⁶ Ellen G. White, “The Word Made Flesh,” Review and Herald, April 5, 1906, 227; Selected Messages (Washington, D.C.: Review and Herald Pub. Assn., 1946), p. 614.
⁷ Ellen G. White, Selected Messages, book 1, p. 55.
⁸ Ibid., pp. 41, 42.