Seventh-day Adventism

By James Bjornstad

I. History - Origin of Seventh-day Adventism
   A. The historical setting was during the great A Second Advent@ awakening of the 19th
   B. In 1818 William Miller, a Baptist minister, read Daniel 8:14 and predicted Christ's
       return in twenty-five years - between March 21, 1843 and March 21, 1844 [2300
       years from 457 BC]. Later his associates set the date for October 22, 1844.
   C. During the years 1844-1847, three groups came together to form Seventh-day
       1. Hiram Edson, Western New York - Provided the doctrine of the Sanctuary and
          Christ's final ministry in the Holy of Holies [the Investigative Judgment]. As he
          walked across a cornfield on October 23, 1844, suddenly there burst upon his mind
          the thought that there were two phases to Christ's ministry in the Heaven of
          Heavens, just as in the earthly sanctuary of old. In his own words, an overwhelming
          conviction came over him that instead of our high priest coming out of the most holy
          of the heavenly sanctuary to come to this earth on the tenth day of the seventh
          month at the end of the twenty-three hundred days, He for the first time entered
          on that day the second apartment of that sanctuary, and that He had a work to
          perform in the most holy before coming to this earth. (Froom 4: 881)
       2. Joseph Bates, Massachusetts and New Hampshire - Provided the doctrine of
          seventh-day worship, the Sabbath.
       3. Ellen G. Harmon [White], Maine - Provided the doctrine of the Spirit of Prophecy.
          Her visions and prophecies brought the theological notions above together to form
          a unique religious system.

II. Theology
   A. Seventh-day Adventists are in basic agreement with historic, biblical Christianity in
       many areas:
       1. The inspiration and inerrancy of the Bible.
       2. The Trinitarian nature of the Godhead: the Fatherhood of God, the deity of Jesus
          Christ, and the person and deity of the Holy Spirit.
       3. Man was created in the image of God, but is in a fallen state of sin and in need
          of redemption.
       4. Jesus Christ was virgin-born; lived a sinless life; was crucified, dead, and buried;
          and rose bodily from the grave.
   B. Seventh-day Adventists also have a number of distinctive doctrines not in accord with
       historic Christianity:
       1. The Role of Ellen G. White
          a. Seventh-day Adventist claims for Mrs. White. For example:

             Seventh-day Adventists hold that Ellen G. White performed the work of a true
             prophet during the seventy years of her public ministry. As Samuel was a prophet,
             as Jeremiah was a prophet, as John the Baptist, we believe that Mrs. White was
             a prophet to the Church of Christ today. (The Advent)

             One of the gifts of the Holy Spirit is prophecy. This gift is an identifying mark of
             the remnant church and was manifested in the ministry of Ellen G. White. As the
             Lord's messenger, her writings are a continuing and authoritative source of truth
             which provide for the church comfort, guidance, instruction, and correction. They
             also make clear that the Bible is the standard by which all teaching and
             experience must be tested. (Seventh-day Adventist Church Manual 40)
          b. Mrs. White's claims. For example:

             When I send you a testimony of warning and reproof, many of you declare it to be
             merely the opinion of Sister White. You have thereby insulted the Spirit of God.
             (Testimonies 4: 661)
          c. Problems with Mrs. White's gift of prophecy:
             (1) Her plagiarisms. See, for example, Walter Rea The White Lie.
             (2) Her errors. For example:

             Under these circumstances I yielded my judgment to that of others and wrote
             what appeared in number eleven in regard to the Health Institute, being unable
             to give all that I had seen. In this I did wrong. (Testimonies 1: 563)
       2. The Person of Jesus Christ
          a. Some early Seventh-day Adventists contended that the Son was not fully equal
             to the Father, and that the former must have had a beginning in the remote past.
             (Questions 46-49)
          b. The name Michael is applied not to a created angel but to the Son of God in His
             pre-Incarnate state. (Questions 71-83)
          c. When Christ became a man, He took upon Himself human flesh and a human
             nature, but no human soul as a distinct immaterial substance.
          d. [Christ] could have sinned, He could have fallen, but not for one moment was there
             in Him an evil propensity. (Nichol, Seventh-day Adventist Bible Commentary 4: 1128)
       3. The Sleep of the Soul and the Destruction of the Wicked
          a. The soul represents the whole man and the whole man [the body] remains in
             the tomb until the resurrection morning.
             (1) The soul cannot exist apart from the body.
             (2) There is no conscious existence after death.
          b. The righteous will be resurrected and caught up to meet the Lord at His return.
          c. The unrighteous will be resurrected after the millennium and then cast into the
             lake of fire where they will be destroyed or annihilated.
       4. The Sabbath and the Mark of the Beast
          a. The Seventh-day Sabbath [Friday evening until Saturday evening] was instituted
             by God. Observance of this day is a test of one's loyalty to Christ.
          b. A counterfeit Sabbath will be proclaimed during the Tribulation period.
             (1) Those that worship on that day will receive the mark of the beast.
             (2) Those who remain faithful to God will continue to worship on the Sabbath.
       5. The Heavenly Sanctuary, the Investigative Judgment, and the Scapegoat
          a. Jesus entered into the heavenly sanctuary in 1844 to begin a second phase of
             His ministry. (See Robert D. Brinsmead, 1844 Re-Examined, and Desmond Ford,
             Daniel 8:14, The Day of Atonement and the Investigative Judgment, for a critique)
          b. The sins of believers have been transferred to, deposited or recorded in the
             Heavenly Sanctuary, and are now being dealt with in the Investigative Judgment.
             Those who have died are examined to determine if they are worthy of being part
             of the first resurrection. The living are also examined to determine who are abiding
             and keeping God's commandments. When the cases of all the righteous will have
             been decided [the standard being the Ten Commandments], their sins will be
             blotted out and Jesus will return to this earth in all His glory.
          c. Azazel [the goat the high priest sent out into the wilderness on the Day of
             Atonement] designates Satan.

             Satan makes no atonement for our sins. But Satan will ultimately have to bear the
             retributive punishment for His responsibility in the sins of all men, both righteous
             and wicked. (Questions 400)
       6. Law, grace, and salvation - Two perspectives: (see Geoffrey Paxton, The Shaking
          of Adventism)
          a. Justification by faith alone.
          b. Justification by faith which is demonstrated by obedience to God's
             commandments. This view strongly advocates Sabbath-keeping and the Old
             Testament dietary laws which is difficult to harmonize with Seventh-day Adventist
             assurance that salvation is by grace through faith and not of works. For example:

             The best summary of the requirements for salvation is found in the counsel Jesus
             gave the rich young nobleman (Mt 19:15-21), If thou wilt enter into life, (1) keep the
             commandments . . . and (2) follow me. There is no other hope of salvation. By
             the standard of God's holy law we shall be judged in the day of reckoning.
             (Detamore, Just What 32-34)

             As long as Isaiah 66:15-17 is in this book, how dare I tell you it doesn't make any
             difference whether or not you eat swine's flesh and other unclean foods? . . . It
             would be much easier for me to say, Go ahead and eat as you please; You
             needn't worry about those things anymore. But God says those who are eating
             unclean things when He comes will be destroyed. Wouldn't you rather I put it
             plainly so that you'll not be deceived and be destroyed at our Lord's coming?
             (Detamore, Just What 22-23)

III. Sharing the Truth with Seventh-day Adventists
   A. Our concern - Evangelicals must confront individual Adventists with the one true gospel.
       1. If an Adventist will admit that Mrs. White was fallible, that no record in heaven
          could possibly bring a believer into condemnation, and that the works of the Law
          such as Sabbath-keeping are not necessary conditions of salvation, then other
          things being equal, he should be acknowledged as an evangelical.
       2. On the other hand, if the Adventist persists in defending Mrs. White's infallibility,
          the Investigative Judgment and the Old Testament dietary laws, he chooses for
          himself the Galatian heresy and places himself under the curse of the Law
          (Gal 3:10) and of preaching another gospel (Gal 1:8- 9).
   B. Our response
       1. To those who believe faith must be demonstrated by obedience to God's
          a. Stress the Biblical teaching that a man is justified by faith in Jesus Christ apart
             from the deeds of the Law (Rom 3:28; 4:6; Gal 2:16; 3:10-14).
          b. Point out that the Law of Moses [the ceremonial and moral aspects] has been
             fulfilled in Jesus Christ. By His perfect life He met all the requirements of the
             moral aspect of the Law; by His death He fulfilled all the ceremonial ordinances
             which prefigured His incarnation and sacrifice (Rom 5:10; Col 2:16-17).
          c. The law or commandment which Christians are called upon to follow is the law
             of love (e.g. Mt 22:37-40; Rom 13:8-10).
       2. To those who believe the Sabbath is binding on the believer:
          a. Constantine did not, as Adventists claim, change the day of worship from
             Saturday to Sunday.
             (1) He enacted that the first day of the week should be a public holiday.
             (2) Centuries before Constantine, Christians gathered together for worship on
                  the first day of the week.
                  (a) Reference to worship on the first day of the week can be found in
                       Scripture - See Acts 2:41; Acts 20:6-7; 1 Cor 16:2; and Rev 1:10 (Note:
                       both the Didache and Ignatius refer to Sunday as the Lord's Day [Kuriake]).
                  (b) References to worship on the first day of the week can be found in the
                       writings of the early church fathers - Ignatius (110 AD); Justin Martyr
                       (100-165 AD); Barnabas (120-150 AD); Irenaeus (178 AD); Bardaisan
                       (154 AD); Tertullian (200 AD); Origen (225 AD); Cyprian (200-258 AD);
                       Peter of Alexandria (300 AD) and Eusebius (315 AD).
          b. There is no indication in the New Testament that the observance of the Sabbath
             was binding on gentile believers. On the contrary we find such words as these:
             (1) One man regards one day above another, another regards every day alike.
                  Let each man be fully convinced in his own mind. He who observes the day,
                  observes it for the Lord (Rom 14:5-6).
             (2) Therefore let no one act as your judge in regard to . . . a Sabbath day (Col 2:16)

IV. Selected Bibliography
   A. Books
       General Conference of SDA. Seventh-day Adventists Believe . . . A Biblical Exposition
       of 27 Fundamental Doctrines. Washington: Review and Herald, 1988.

       Hoekema, Anthony A. ASeventh-day Adventism,@ The Four Major Cults. Grand
       Rapids: Eerdmans, 1963.

       Land, Gary (ed). Adventism in America. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1986.

       Lewis, Gordon R. The Bible, the Christian and Seventh-Day Adventism. Nutley, NJ:
       Presbyterian and Reformed, 1966.

       Martin, Walter R. AThe Puzzle About Seventh-day Adventism,@ The Kingdom of
       the Cults. Revised Edition. Minneapolis, Bethany Fellowship, 1992.
   B. Articles
       Samples, Kenneth R. AFrom Controversy to Crisis: An Updated Assessment of
       Seventh-day Adventism,@ Christian Research Journal, Summer 1988, 9-14.

V. Sources Cited
   Brinsmead, Robert D. 1844 Re-Examined. Sydney: Wittenberg Stream Press, c1976.
   Detamore, Fordyce. Just What Do You Believe About Your Church. Nashville, TN:
      Southern Publishing Association, n.d.
   Ford, Desmond. Daniel 8:14, The Day of Atonement and The Investigative Judgment.
      Escondido, CA: Operation Glacier View, 1980.
   Froom, Leroy. The Prophetic Faith of Our Fathers. 4 vols. Washington, D.C.: Review
      and Herald, 1946-54.
   Seventh-day Adventist Answer Questions on Doctrine. Washington, D.C.: Review and
      Herald, 1957. This work is better known as Questions on Doctrine.
   Paxton, Geoffrey. The Shaking of Adventism. Grand Rapids: Baker, 1977.
   Rea, Walter T. The White Lie. Turlock, CA: M&R Publications, c1982.
   Seventh-day Adventist Church Manual. General Conference of Seventh-day Adventists,
   The Advent Review and Herald. Oct. 4, 1928.
   Nichol, Francis D., ed. Seventh-day Adventist Bible Commentary. 7 vols. Washington,
      D.C.: Review and Herald, 1953-57