I have met some folks who are Seventh-Day Adventists. They are a wonderful group of people and appear to know Jesus; however, I definitely do not agree with many of their concepts and would like to get some reliable and scriptural information on this church, if it IS a church. Or is it a cult?
You have raised a very important question. Are Seventh-Day Adventists Christian? Is what they believe consistent with biblical precepts? How do we address members of this group?
The adventist movement goes back to the 19th century. In the middle of the century there was widespread expectation that the return of Christ was imminent. A Baptist minister named William Miller was convinced that Jesus was coming sometime between 1843 and 1844. This idea was based on Daniel 8:14, "And he said to me, 'For 2,300 evenings and mornings. Then the sanctuary shall be restored to its rightful state.'" He interpreted these evenings and mornings as years, arriving at the date of March 21 of 1843 or 1844.
Well, when this date came and went with no appearance by Christ, Miller ended his relationship with the Adventist movement. Others after him, such as Hiram Edson and Ellen G. White, were not so willing to give up just yet. They attempted to reinterpret Miller's prediction according to new revelations. Edson said that Jesus had actually returned in 1844, but His return was different from that expected. He essentially changed "apartments" in heaven, setting up the sanctuary spoken of in Daniel in heaven, where He could begin to evaluate Christians' deeds in order to judge whether they would inherit eternal life. This revelation was called "investigative judgment."
Ellen G. White may be the most well known Adventist in history. Many understand her prophetic revelations and interpretations of the Bible to be inspired by God. White is attributed with much of the doctrinal stances of Seventh-Day Adventism. Some of the beliefs in question are the idea that worship ought to take place on Saturday instead of Sunday (maintaining the Old Testament paradigm for the Sabbath), the complete annihilation of the wicked at judgment, the strict adherence to moral and dietary laws, and the strong exclusive nature of the Adventist sect. Many Adventists feel that unless these views are shared by other Christian denominations then they will not share in the eternal reward.
The premise under which Adventism had its beginning is predicting the day of Christ's return. The Bible clearly states that we will not know the day or the hour in which He will return (Matthew 24-25). It seems obvious that the doctrine of "investigative judgment" is one of convenience. The Great Disappointment that followed Miller's misspoken words needed to be addressed. Thus Edson's idea that Jesus actually cleansed the sanctuary in heaven, and not on earth would aid in that. There is no biblical support for such a claim.
Worship on Sunday has been a Christian tradition since the very day of Christ's resurrection, as a celebration of that same event. It ought not be offensive for others to gather on Saturday, but the Adventists have made more of this than a simple point of preference. They rebuke churches for meeting on Sunday. Some helpful Scriptures to look at when addressing this are Acts 20:7 and 1 Cor. 16:2, which seem to indicate that the early church met to worship on Sunday, the first day of the week. Consider also Colossians 2:16-17 and Romans 14:4-6. Paul makes it clear that there is no right to judge others on the basis of what they eat and when they celebrate.
In conclusion, one must be careful when trying to determine the orthodoxy of an entire group. The Adventists are a prime example of a denomination with some outrageous claims, but still holding to Christian truth at its core. They have historically had some biblically questionable stances on those issues such as the Sabbath, the Old Testament law, annihilation of the wicked, and investigative judgment. But to place them outside Christian orthodoxy when they teach the divinity of Jesus, the doctrine of the Trinity, salvation by grace through faith alone, and the inspiration of the Scriptures would be too much. I suppose it would be best to take each Adventist on a case by case basis.
There are certainly many strong believers in this movement. The moral character of Seventh-Day Adventists cannot be questioned. In fact, it ought to be commended. And it takes one who is dedicated to knowing God's word thoroughly to carry on a dialogue with an Adventist due to the questionable ideas and their adamant stances, but it is still very important not to rob them of their significant place in the body of Christ.
I hope this short response helps in your attempts to understand the Seventh-Day Adventists according to biblical truth.
About the Author
Kris Samons is a former research associate and resident editor of Probe Ministries. He received the B.A. in both speech communication and religion from Southwest Baptist University and the M.A.(TH) in philosophy of religion from Southwestern Seminary where he studied mainly postmodern thought and minored in church history.
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