Everywhere we look, we see plenty of evidence that we are living in the last days of the earth’s history. As we look at the end-time period, we have to admit that this period is almost over, so we are living at the end of the end-time period. This is especially true if we recognize the signs of the times in the advent movement. There is not only apostasy of mainstream Adventism, but the increase of fanaticism we see everywhere shows us that we are in the time of shaking and sifting and that we are in a fierce battle with the archenemy of God. In Revelation 12, we find this war of Satan against the beloved church of God. In verse 17, it says: “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.”
That makes it very simple for us. All we have to be aware of is that our feet stand upon the Ten Commandments and the Spirit of Prophecy (Revelation 19:10). Sometimes we may be confused when we listen to a debate on a question of doctrine, and we may not know which position is right. But if we view it in the light of Revelation 12:17, it usually gets very simple again. No matter how convincing any argument may seem to us, if it leads us away from or brings us in opposition to the Ten Commandments or the Spirit of Prophecy, we should know that this position is wrong.
The Very Last Deception
This is especially true for the third person of the Godhead. In recent years, an increasing number of Seventh-day Adventists have refused to believe that the Holy Spirit is the third person of the Godhead. They argue with the Bible and sometimes quote the Spirit of Prophecy. But as soon as they are shown quotes from Ellen G. White in which she calls the Holy Spirit the third person of the Godhead, they have no other argument than, “This quote has been changed.”
That shows that the real issue is not the Godhead but the Spirit of Prophecy. If we read anything in the writings of Ellen G. White and come to the conclusion that she is wrong and we are right, we can be sure that Satan has succeeded in his warfare against the Spirit of Prophecy, and we have been separated from the remnant that have the testimony of Jesus, which is the Spirit of Prophecy.
We have not been warned that the very last deception would be about the Godhead but about making the testimonies of none effect. “The very last deception of Satan will be to make of none effect the testimony of the Spirit of God. ‘Where there is no vision, the people perish’ (Proverbs 29:18). Satan will work ingeniously, in different ways and through different agencies, to unsettle the confidence of God’s remnant people in the true testimony.—Letter 12, 1890.” Selected Messages, Book 1, 48.
This is what it is really all about. If you come to believe a lie that the testimonies concerning the third person of the Godhead have been changed, you are deceived by Satan. “The workings of Satan will be to unsettle the faith of the churches in them [the testimonies] . . . . —Letter 40, 1890.” Ibid.
These skeptics are comparable to soldiers believing that the commands of their general are a delusion of the enemy. If a pilot comes to believe that the commands he receives in his jet bomber come from the enemy, he will do the opposite of what he is told to do and will surely die. But you cannot be used in Christ’s army, if you do not do what He tells you. “And why call ye me, Lord, Lord, and do not the things which I say?” Luke 6:46.
“One thing is certain: Those Seventh-day Adventists who take their stand under Satan’s banner will first give up their faith in the warnings and reproofs contained in the Testimonies of God’s Spirit.” Ibid., Book 3, 84.
A Mystery not Clearly Revealed
In a letter from Brother Chapman, Ellen White was asked about his special view concerning the Holy Spirit. He believed that the Holy Ghost was not a person or a personality of the Godhead “but the angel Gabriel.” Manuscript Releases, vol. 14, 175. In rejecting this view, she makes clear that the nature of the Holy Spirit is not fully revealed to us.
“Some are ever seeking to be original, to bring out something new and startling. . . .
“Your ideas of the two subjects you mention do not harmonize with the light which God has given me. The nature of the Holy Spirit is a mystery not clearly revealed, and you will never be able to explain it to others because the Lord has not revealed it to you. You may gather together scriptures and put your construction upon them, but the application is not correct. The expositions by which you sustain your position are not sound. You may lead some to accept your explanations, but you do them no good, nor are they, through accepting your views, enabled to do others good.
“It is not essential for you to know and be able to define just what the Holy Spirit is. Christ tells us that the Holy Spirit is the Comforter, and the Comforter is the Holy Ghost . . . . [John 14:16, 17 quoted.]” Ibid., 178, 179. [Emphasis supplied.]
Ellen White points out that the nature of the Holy Spirit is a side issue and puts it into nice words that someone who believes the Holy Spirit is not a person who would serve the work of God more if he or she kept silent. She goes on: “There are many mysteries which I do not seek to understand or to explain; they are too high for me, and too high for you. On some of these points, silence is golden.” Ibid., 179. (See Deuteronomy 29:29.)
This thought is repeated in The Acts of the Apostles, 52: “The nature of the Holy Spirit is a mystery. Men cannot explain it, because the Lord has not revealed it to them. Men having fanciful views may bring together passages of Scripture and put a human construction on them, but the acceptance of these views will not strengthen the church. Regarding such mysteries, which are too deep for human understanding, silence is golden.” [Emphasis supplied.]
People who think they have the burden to proclaim that the third person of the Godhead is a papal error should heed the closing words of Sister White to Brother Chapman: “Now, my brother, it is truth that we want and must have, but do not introduce error as new truth.” Manuscript Releases, vol. 14, 180.
Now, take a closer look at some quotes referring to the Holy Spirit as the third person of the Godhead. Often it is said that the quotes in the book Evangelism are a fake. This book was first published several years after Ellen White’s death, so it is said that these quotations were added without her approval. Look at the first one:
“The Comforter that Christ promised to send after He ascended to heaven, is the Spirit in all the fullness of the Godhead, making manifest the power of divine grace to all who receive and believe in Christ as a personal Saviour. There are three living persons of the heavenly trio; in the name of these three great powers—the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit—those who receive Christ by living faith are baptized, and these powers will co-operate with the obedient subjects of heaven in their efforts to live the new life in Christ.—Special Testimonies, Series B, No. 7, pp. 62, 63. (1905)” Evangelism, 615. [Emphasis supplied.]
This quote was first printed in 1905 in Special Testimonies, Series B, No. 7, page 63.1 In this edition, you read exactly the same words as in the book Evangelism. If you do a research on that in the original files, you find the same words.2
When Ellen White was in Australia, she helped to found Avondale School. In 1899, she addressed the students of the school: “We need to realize that the Holy Spirit, who is as much a person as God is a person, is walking through these grounds.—Manuscript 66, 1899. (From a talk to the students at the Avondale School.)” Evangelism, 616.
You cannot put it more clearly. The Holy Spirit is as much a person as is God the Father a person. If you look at the original file, you find it indexed as Manuscript 66, March 25, 1899. A copy of the original is shown in the end notes.3
You will also find that quote in Sermons and Talks, vol. 2, 137; Manuscript Releases, vol. 7, 299; and The Faith I Live By, 52. If you take a closer look, you will notice that Ellen White read this text, as she was used to it, after it had been typed by her secretary, and she made some remarks. Sometimes she crossed out some words, but concerning the third person of the Godhead, she never did so. It was typed in exactly the way she wanted it to be. There is no fake at all.
Another quote we read in Evangelism, 617, is indexed as Manuscript 20, February 7, 1906. Ellen White had also read the original document, after it had been typed by her secretary. She gave her final approval by writing the words down: “I have read this carefully and accept it.”4
In that document you find the words, “The Holy Spirit has a personality, else he could not bear witness to our spirits and with our spirits that we are the children of God. He must also be a divine person, else he could not search out the secrets which lie hidden in the mind of God. . . .” 5
In the same document, you find another quotation which has been published in Evangelism, 616. “The Holy Spirit is a person, for He beareth witness with our spirits that we are the children of God.” These words may be read in Mrs. White’s own handwriting.6
One famous quotation, that is available in many Seventh-day Adventist homes, may be found in the Seventh-day Adventist Bible Commentary, vol. 6, 1074: “The work is laid out before every soul that has acknowledged his faith in Jesus Christ by baptism, and has become a receiver of the pledge from the three persons—the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit (MS 57, 1900).” The same statement, in Ellen G. White’s handwriting, is shown in the end notes.7
Another handwritten statement was published in Manuscript Releases, vol. 20, 324: “The Holy Spirit is the Comforter, in Christ’s name. He personifies Christ, yet is a distinct personality.” 8
No Room for Doubt
I could go on showing statement after statement. Study the references shown in the end notes9 to realize how many quotations have been given on this subject, and assure yourself that they are all reliable. Notice that there are plenty of quotes from periodicals released during Ellen White’s lifetime. They were widely spread throughout Adventism in her days. You may also look up facsimile reprints of periodicals like the Review and Herald or The Signs of the Times, if they are available, to see the original printing authorized by Ellen White personally. They were printed during her lifetime. See it with your own eyes. There is no doubt about it at all.
To those who still cannot believe that the Holy Spirit is the third person of the Godhead, I would like to ask: Why do you hesitate? Why do you doubt? Who put this doubt in your heart? Is it God who wants you to doubt His Word, or is it His enemy? God is displeased because you doubt the words of His prophet.
When you one day will stand before the throne of God, and He asks you why did you not believe the Holy Spirit to be the third person of the Godhead, you will have to admit that you did not trust His Word and believed it had been changed. God will then say to you, “You were the one who changed it for yourself. Could you not believe My words, ‘There has not failed one word . . .’ or ‘Thy testimonies are very
sure . . .’ ?” 1 Kings 8:56; Psalm 93:5.
Do you not believe that God is able to keep His Word unchanged for your and my salvation today? Has He told you to be the judge over His Word to decide what is true and what is not true?
Do not make this side issue a salvation topic. Ellen White says: “The nature of the Holy Spirit is a mystery. Men cannot explain it, because the Lord has not revealed it to them.” The Acts of the Apostles, 52. By occupying your mind with this question, Satan diverts you from the Three Angels’ Messages.
“Here is your danger, of diverting minds from the real issues for this time.” Manuscript Releases, vol. 14, 180. These words were written to Brother Chapman who had some special ideas about the Holy Spirit.
“We are to pray for divine enlightenment, but at the same time we should be careful how we receive everything termed new light. We must beware lest, under cover of searching for new truth, Satan shall divert our minds from Christ and the special truths for this time. I have been shown that it is the device of the enemy to lead minds to dwell upon some obscure or unimportant point, something that is not fully revealed or is not essential to our salvation. This is made the absorbing theme, the ‘present truth,’ when all their investigations and suppositions only serve to make matters more obscure than before, and to confuse the minds of some who ought to be seeking for oneness through sanctification of the truth.” Ibid., 178.
You might say that the pioneers did not believe in the trinity. By the way, Ellen White never used the term “trinity,” but she wrote about the “heavenly trio.” It is true that we do not believe in the trinity as the Catholics might do when they refer to one God with three heads. But we believe in “three living persons of the heavenly trio . . .—the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.” “Ellen G. White Comments,” Seventh-day Adventist Bible Commentary, vol. 7a, 441. The pioneers rejected not only the Catholic view, but they also rejected the idea of the Holy Spirit being the third person of the Godhead. They also rejected the belief, as Ellen White put it, that “Christ was God essentially, and in the highest sense. He was with God from all eternity, God over all, blessed forevermore.” Review and Herald, April 5, 1906.
James White, for example, referred to the trinity in 1846 as that “old unscriptural Trinitarian creed,” in 1852 as “the old Trinitarian absurdity that Jesus Christ is the very and Eternal God,” and in 1877 as the “inexplicable trinity” that was a less than helpful teaching. The Day-Star, January 24, 1846; Review and Herald, August 5, 1852; November 29, 1877.
Uriah Smith and J. N. Andrews also rejected the trinity. Smith did not only deny the personhood of the Holy Spirit, but also had an Arian or at least Semi-Arian view of Christ. In 1865, for example, he wrote, in his book, Thoughts on Revelation, that Christ was “the first created being, dating his existence far back before any other created being or thing.”
Ellen White did not openly discuss this issue with the leaders of the movement. This, some say, proves that Ellen White’s writings support the view of the pioneers. But they do not seem to be aware of the fact that Ellen White—unlike her husband and most other early Adventist leaders—did not make any explicit anti-Trinitarian or Semi-Arian statement. When she first touched this issue directly and clearly in the 1890s, she did not contradict her own previous writings.
Reaction to Inspiration
Ellen White is the Lord’s messenger, and the Lord knew when the time had come to reveal to His people the truth about the God-head, as He knew the right time not to touch this issue.
The important point is not what the pioneers believed before the 1890s but how they dealt with the revelation from the pen of Ellen White. This test came to the pioneers when The Desire of Ages was first published. Perhaps her most controversial and surprising statement for most Adventists in the 1890s was a sentence in her book on the life of Jesus in which she noted that “in Christ is life, original, unborrowed, underived.” The Desire of Ages, 530. The forcefulness of that sentence caught many off guard. One was a young preacher by the name of M. L. Andreasen. He was convinced that she really had not written that statement, that her editors and assistants must have altered it. As a result, he asked to read her handwritten book manuscript. She gladly gave him access to her document files.
He later recalled: “ ‘I had with me a number of quotations that I wanted to see if they were in the original in her own handwriting. I remember how astonished we were when The Desire of Ages was first published, for it contained some things that we considered unbelievable, among others the doctrine of the Trinity which was not then generally accepted by the Adventists.’
“Staying in California for several months, Andreasen had adequate time to check out his suspicions. He was especially ‘interested in the statement in The Desire of Ages which at one time caused great concern to the denomination theologically: “In Christ is life, original, unborrowed, underived.’’ . . . That statement may not seem very revolutionary to you,’ he told his audience in 1948, ‘but to us it was. We could hardly believe it. . . . I was sure Sister White had never written’ the passage. ‘But now I found it in her own handwriting just as it had been published’ (MLA MS, November 30, 1948).” 10 [Emphasis supplied.]
The evidence is clear. If her handwriting and the original files do not convince those who doubt, even an angel from heaven or God’s own voice could not convince them. So I close with a Bible text urging you to take your stand with those who have the “testimony of Jesus” (Revelation 12:17) which is the “Spirit of Prophecy” (Revelation 19:10): “Believe in the Lord your God, so shall ye be established; believe his prophets, so shall ye prosper.” 11 Chronicles 20:20.
9 “Sin could be resisted and overcome only through the mighty agency of the Third Person of the Godhead.” The Desire of Ages, 671.
“He determined to give His representative, the third person of the Godhead.” Seventh-day Adventist Bible Commentary, vol. 6, 1053; The Signs of the Times, December 12, 1898, par. 2; The Watchman, November 28, 1905, par. 2; My Life Today, 36.
“Evil had been accumulating for centuries and could only be restrained and resisted by the mighty power of the Holy Spirit, the Third Person of the Godhead.” Testimonies to Ministers and Gospel Workers, 392, (Cooranbong, Australia, February 6, 1896); The Upward Look, 51; Special Testimonies for Ministers and Workers—No. 10, 25; Manuscript Releases, vol. 2, 34; vol. 4, 329; vol. 10, 63; The Ellen G. White 1888 Materials, vol. 4, 1493.
“The eternal heavenly dignitaries—God, and Christ, and the Holy Spirit—arming them [the disciples] with more than mortal energy, . . . would advance with them to the work and convince the world of sin.—Manuscript 145, 1901.” Evangelism, 616.
“The prince of the power of evil can only be held in check by the power of God in the third person of the Godhead, the Holy Spirit.”—Special Testimonies, Series A, No. 10, p. 37. (1897)” Ibid., 617.
“We are to co-operate with the three highest powers in heaven,—the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost,—and these powers will work through us, making us workers together with God.”—Special Testimonies, Series B, No. 7, p. 51. (1905)” Ibid.
“Sin could be resisted and overcome only through the mighty agency of the third person of the Godhead, who would come with no modified energy, but in the fulness of divine power.” The Desire of Ages, 671; Review and Herald, May 19, 1904, par. 3; November 19, 1908, par. 6. See also Special Testimonies for Ministers and Workers—No. 10, 25; The Ellen G. White 1888 Materials, vol. 4, 1493.
“The three powers of the Godhead have pledged their might to carry out the purpose that God had in mind when he gave to the world the unspeakable gift of his Son.” Review and Herald, July 18, 1907, par. 3.
“The three powers of the Godhead, the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, are pledged to be their [those who have been baptized] strength and their efficiency in their new life in Christ Jesus.” Australasian Union Conference Record, October 7, 1907, par. 9.
“There are three living persons of the heavenly trio; in the name of these three great powers—the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit—those who receive Christ by living faith are baptized and these powers will cooperate with the obedient.” In Heavenly Places, 336; Evangelism, 615.
“There are three living persons of the heavenly trio. In the name of these three powers,—the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost, those who receive Christ by living faith are baptized, and these powers will cooperate with the obedient subjects of heaven in their efforts to live the new life in Christ.” Bible Training School, March 1, 1906, par. 2; Special Testimonies, Series B, No. 7, 63.
“The rite of baptism is administered in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost. These three great powers of heaven pledge themselves . . . .” Manuscript Releases, vol. 6, 27.
10 George R. Knight, A Search for Identity: The Development of Seventh-day Adventist Beliefs, Review and Herald, Hagerstown, Maryland, 2000, 116, 117.
Dr. Hermann Kesten is a physician and elder of the Historic Seventh-day Adventist Church in Berlin, Germany. He may be contacted by e-mail at: email@example.com. Check out his web sites at: http://www.historische-adventisten.de www.mefag.com