The Seventh Day Adventist church was formed in 1860 as an offshoot of the Millerite movement earlier in the 19th century.
William Miller, a former New England minister, had a revelation that the Lord was to return and the Tribulation was to begin in 1843-44. Miller’s calculations were based on his study of Daniel 8:14, which says that the holy place would be restored after 2,300 evenings and mornings. Miller interpreted this to mean “years” (based on the Jewish calendar) instead of “days,” and after a few failed predictions, settled on October, 22, 1844 as the day.
Termed “The Great Disappointment,” this day came and went without fanfare. On the morning following the Great Disappointment, Hiram Walker claimed to have a vision that confirmed that Miller had been right all along in his timing, just not in his application.
Walker’s vision, later confirmed by the church’s prophetess, Ellen G. White, was that the event marked by the 1844 date was not the Second Coming of Christ, but His ascension into the Holy of Holies to sit at the right hand of God. This doctrine is called Investigative Judgment and is the basis for the SDA church.
As the church grew in numbers and Mrs. White continued to have her visions, doctrines were added, revised and removed over the next 160 years. There are too many doctrinal corrections and contradictions to be included in the scope of this article, but for those who are interested, SDA-Outreach has documented a wealth of information on this.
Mrs. White’s visions told her that in the end days, the Lord would call a remnant church out of the apostasy to keep His commandments as written and that the Adventists were this remnant. Additionally, she taught that only those in the SDA would be saved at that time and that the separating wall between the “real Israel of God” (the SDAs) and the unbelievers would be the observance of the Saturday Sabbath.
The SDA leadership affirms that they are indeed the remnant church, the true “Israel of God,” because they have the mark of the Lord, Saturday worship, and the prophetess to confirm this. This was reaffirmed in their June 2000 General Prophecy Conference as reported by Adventist Today.
The organization has its own version of Scripture, the Clear Word Bible, and as affirmed, the group holds the Ellen White Spirit of Prophecy as doctrine. White’s best-known work is The Great Controversy (GC), referring to the controversy she saw between the message of Satan and that of Christ regarding the nature of God.
This unique doctrine is the basis and foundation for the Seventh Day Adventist church; no other sect has ever taught this belief. Volumes have been written about this; I am just presenting the SDA beliefs in a nutshell.
In 1844, rather than denying that the prediction for the Second Coming of the Messiah was a false prophecy, the prediction was clarified and redefined. The position taken on this was that the Lord DID “make a move” on October 22 of that year, but that move, rather being His return to earth, had been His ascension to the right hand of God to complete the plan for atonement.
This doctrine asserts that while Christ said on the cross, “It is finished” (John 19:30), only the first phase of atonement was complete and the second and final phase began in 1844. This doctrine maintains that people’s deeds are being investigated and recorded so that their worthiness for eternal life may be determined at Judgment Day. These deeds include the adherence to the laws of the Old Testament, particularly Saturday worship.
From the Adventist website, the group’s fundamental belief #23 states:
“…(Christ) was inaugurated as our great High Priest and began His intercessory ministry at the time of His ascension. In 1844, at the end of the prophetic period of 2300 days, He entered the second and last phase of His atoning ministry. It is a work of investigative judgment which is part of the ultimate disposition of all sin, typified by the cleansing of the ancient Hebrew sanctuary on the Day of Atonement. In that typical service the sanctuary was cleansed with the blood of animal sacrifices, but the heavenly things are purified with the perfect sacrifice of the blood of Jesus.
The investigative judgment reveals to heavenly intelligences who among the dead are asleep in Christ and therefore, in Him, are deemed worthy to have part in the first resurrection. It also makes manifest who among the living are abiding in Christ, keeping the commandments of God and the faith of Jesus, and in Him, therefore, are ready for translation into His everlasting kingdom. This judgment vindicates the justice of God in saving those who believe in Jesus. It declares that those who have remained loyal to God shall receive the kingdom. The completion of this ministry of Christ will mark the close of human probation before the Second Advent.”
Ellen White was the main promoter of this doctrine, teaching that not only is belief in it imperative for salvation but that Jesus’ atonement on the cross was not complete; He will yet make another special and final atonement in Heaven once the investigative judgment is complete.
The investigative judgment doctrine says that those who were faithful in keeping the commandments will be vindicated from God’s judgment.
Role of Jesus
SDAs don’t readily admit that they once denied the existence of the Trinity. They do say that a part of that denial remains in their beliefs today. Like the Jehovah’s Witnesses, they maintain that the archangel Michael and Jesus are one and the same.
While they do not maintain that Jesus was an angel, they explain that, based on Daniel 10:13, Jesus was one of the “chief princes” – a God who is “chief over the angels.” Additionally, they teach that Jesus had a fallen sinful human nature.
Again, keeping in doctrinal step with the Jehovah’s Witnesses, the SDA also teaches that there is no such thing as Hell. This is the concept of “soul sleep,” which says that there is no punishment for sin and that those found unworthy will simply cease to exist.
The doctrine of soul sleep is based on the belief that human beings don’t have immortal souls, that their souls are their physical existence, and that when their bodies die, their souls go to the graves. From there, those who are righteous are said to arise at the resurrection, and those who are evil are said to be annihilated.
This doctrine denies the teachings of Jesus himself on this subject. Jesus spoke more about Hell than he did about Heaven. Jesus described Hell (Hades as well as Gehenna) as a place of torment and agony in a fire that does not go out. All of these teachings are denied in lieu of a doctrine of eternal sleep and a cessation of existence.
Our Sins Placed on Satan?
The Bible clearly tells us that our sins were borne by Jesus.
1Pe 2:24: Who his own self bare our sins in his own body on the tree, that we, being dead to sins, should live unto righteousness: by whose stripes ye were healed.
The SDAs have a different take on this passage of Scripture. They teach that Satan will be made a scapegoat and that Christ will cause him to bear our sins. This also adds to the atonement on the cross as an additional action necessary by Christ to complete the plan of salvation.
Salvation and Legalism
Ellen White taught that salvation, by definition, is only a means of giving man another trial at the end of days. Additionally, the SDA organization teaches that sins are only forgiven up to and including the time that one accepts Christ, is baptized and is made a member of the Adventist organization. All sins from that point forward are not considered covered by grace.
In The Great Controversy, White wrote that Sabbath observance would be the “line of distinction” in the “final test” that will separate God’s chosen people from those who are doomed. The prophesied mark of the beast in SDA teachings is Sunday worship.
The organization maintains that the plan of salvation was not devised until after the Fall and that its plan is that people will be judged worthy based upon their adherence to the law. This is referred to as “Christ’s Righteousness” and maintains that the believer’s perfection of character is a prerequisite to salvation.
Included in this perfection of character is the dogma that people will not be forgiven until all sins are eradicated from their lives. In addition to the admonition to live sin free, a few other lifestyle issues are taught to SDA believers, namely, health-oriented practices such as vegetarianism, the abstention from alcohol and tobacco, and the keeping of the Ten Commandments. White has gone as far as to say that Adam and Eve kept the Sabbath even though the commandment to do so was not handed down until the days of Moses.
On top of the legalism that they promote as a basis for salvation, the SDAs also adhere to the remnant church philosophy and maintain that there is no salvation outside of SDA membership.
In order to become a member of the SDA, one has to swear to a 13-point Profession of Faith. Once this is done and deemed satisfactory, then the membership votes on the potential candidate. If the candidate is voted in, he is to complete an approved, full-body baptism before the salvation is considered valid.
After the candidates have, in the presence of the church membership or other properly appointed body, answered the questions of the vow in the affirmative, or assurance has been given to the church that such answers have already been given, the church body should be asked to vote on their acceptance into the church, subject to baptism, which ordinance should not be delayed (Adventist.org – Baptismal Vow and Baptism).)
Let me begin this section with a quote from Mrs. White, from her book, Testimonies for the Church (vol. 4, p. 230).
“God is either teaching his church, reproving their wrongs and strengthening their faith or He is not. This work is of God or it is not. God does nothing in partnership with Satan. My work…bears the stamp of God or the stamp of the enemy. There is ho half-way work in this matter. The testimonies are of the spirit of God or of the Devil.”
Given that, let’s look at some of the prophecies of Mrs. White.
She claims to have been told in a vision the date and time for Jesus’ return. She predicted it to be in the 1850s, and said that people living in 1856 would be alive to see it. She added that she would be among the living saints to witness this event. Mrs. White died in 1915.
Mrs. White also made many other erroneous claims, such as that England would attack the United States during the Civil War, which would result in the U.S. being “humbled into dust.” She also said that Jerusalem would never be rebuilt into a city of any importance.
Mrs. White attributed her prophecies to visions and angels. Additionally, she wrote that angels were the ones to communicate with Adam after the fall (and they laid out the commandment about keeping the plan of salvation to him at that time); that in Genesis 4:6-7, angels, not the Lord, communicated with Cain; and that the Tower of Babel was built before the Flood. The latter was originally published in Spiritual Gifts, v.3, p.301, 1864, but was rewritten to correct the error in the 1870 edition of Spirit of Prophecy.
Let’s remind ourselves what the Scriptures say about angels appearing with a message contradictory to the message of the Gospel and salvation by grace:
Galatians 1:8: But though we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel unto you than that which we have preached unto you, let him be accursed.
The SDAs use as their litmus test, the prophetic teachings of religions. They maintain that if a group embraces a teacher proven to be a false prophet, then that group is condemned out of hand as a false church. Sadly, they don’t apply these same qualifications to their own prophetess. When it comes to the visions of Ellen White, they claim that they are “conditional” and that the conditions were not met. In other words, she was not a false prophetess; God just changed His mind after revealing the “truth” to her because of conditional circumstances.
Although on the surface, Seventh Day Adventists appear to be just another Christian denomination, they clearly preach another gospel, another atonement and another path to salvation.