Cults and Sects: Seventh-Day Adventists

The Adventist movement originated with William Miller, a converted deist, who became a Baptist minister. He became a close student of the Scriptures, especially of the prophetic portions. He became convinced that Christ’s second coining was to be personal, premillennial, and that it was near at hand. The outstanding feature of his teaching was that Christ’s second coming would occur in 1843 or 1844 and then also the “cleansing of the entire earth” would take place.

Much interest was aroused in Mr. Miller’s message. At first, however, the movement was carried on entirely within the existing churches, with no intention or attempt to organize a separate denomination.

William Miller took for the foundation text of his theory the same verse that so many self-appointed prophets had bungled over, Daniel 8:14, “Unto two thousand and three hundred days then shall the sanctuary be cleansed.” He concluded that the symbolic “day” of Bible prophecy really represents a year. Also concluded was, that the 2,300 “days” of Daniel 8:14 started in 457 B.C., the year of the command to rebuild and restore. Miller thought that the sanctuary mentioned in Daniel 8:14 was actually the earth, which would be cleansed with fire at the time of the second coming. He believed that Christ’s second coming and this cleansing would take place sometime between March 21, 1843 and March 21, 1844.

When by the spring of 1844, the great event failed to materialize; Miller discovered that he had miscalculated and reset the date for October 22, 1844. It is said, although flatly denied that on this day the Millerites put on their specially prepared white ascension robes and climbed to the house tops and waited for the moment to come when they would be “caught up with the Lord in the air.” Property was given away, good were disposed of, and crops were left to rot in the fields. They knew that the end of the world was upon them, but time marched on and Christ did not come.

The results were pathetic. Confusion followed, many were left destitute, vast numbers lost all interest in Adventism and went back to their churches. A conference was held in Albany in 1845, and a general organization of those who held to the Adventists belief was formed. This group held generally to Miller’s position and theology — emphasizing the personal and premillennial character of the second coming of Christ, the resurrection of the dead — the faithful to be raised at Christ’s second coming, the rest 1,000 years later — and the renewal of the earth as the eternal abode of the redeemed.

Gradually, the Adventists became divided into the five separate groups in which we find them today. They became divided over such questions as:
1. Does the cleansing of the sanctuary of Daniel 8 refer to a sanctuary in heaven or on earth?
2. Is there eternal punishment for tire wicked or ultimate annihilation?
3. What is the nature of immortality?
4. When should the Sabbath be celebrated — on the first day or on the seventh?

The Seventh-day Adventist Church is the largest single Adventist body in the United States. It traces its origin back to the split caused by the controversy over the interpretation of Daniel 8:14. They had taught that Christ was coming in 1844, to cleanse the earth, the sanctuary mentioned in Daniel 8:14, but since Christ very plainly did not come in 1844 they had to find an explanation. They began to look for a heavenly sanctuary. In Revelation, they read of a “temple of God that was opened in heaven,” and in Hebrews of a heavenly “sanctuary” a “tabernacle” which the Lord pitched, and they had their explanation. Christ was not going to come out of, but was going to enter into the Most Holy Place in heaven to complete the second phase of his high priestly office before coming to this earth. This cleansing, they claim began on the day set by William Miller, October 22, 1844. When He is finished, He will make His second coming to the earth. How is He cleansing the Most Holy Place? He is investigating the sins of His people in order to make complete atonement for them and thus secure the pardon of God. Satan, is discovered to be the author of sin, so he will be the scapegoat to bear away the sins of God’s people. It is also taught that when Christ entered the heavenly sanctuary the door of mercy was closed to all who at that time were unsaved. Says Mrs. White, “My accompanying angel bade me look for the travail of soul for sinners as used to be. I looked but could not see it for the time of their salvation is passed.”‘

The growth of this group around their leaders, Joseph Rates, James White, his wife, Ellen White, and Hiram Edson was slow at first, owing to the general derision in which the Adventists were held and to their economic and social handicaps. By 1855 they set up their headquarters in Battle Creek, Michigan, with a publishing house called the Review and Herald Publishing Association. In 1860 the name Seventh-day Adventists was officially adopted and in 1903 they moved their headquarters to its present location in Washington, D. C.

Mrs. James White, until her recent death, was the leader and prophetess of the Seventh-day Advent movement. She was an early disciple of William Miller. She was a nervous girl and at the age of seventeen claimed to have had her first vision. Afterwards, she claimed to have been repeatedly caught up into heaven, where she saw the sanctuary. These revelations she called her “Testimonies,” which are now in print. She claims inspiration for them, like the inspiration which the writers of the Scripture received.

What are some of the teachings of the Seventh-day Adventists?

1. They take the Bible as their only rule of faith and practice.
2. They believe in God as revealed in the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.
3. Creation by command of God and the fall of man.
4. They hold to the Ten Commandments as the standard of righteousness.
5. Tithing is made obligatory for all members.
6. They practice adult immersion.
7. They stand for religious liberty for all men and complete separation of church and state.
8. They rigidly abstain from alcoholic beverages and tobacco.
9. One of the main differences between the Seventh-day Adventist Church and most Protestant Churches is that they teach that man is not immortal. When a man dies, not only his body, but also his soul ceases to exist. Seventh-day Adventists hold that because we cannot see the soul and because it has no physical dimensions it does not exist as a being in distinction and apart from the body. This clearly is the language of rationalism and not the language of men who believe in the Bible as an infallible rule for faith and practice. The very fact that man was created in the image of God implies that man has a soul that will not die. The soul is not eternal, as God is, but has the attribute of immortality endowed by God.
10. They also believe in the doctrine of soul sleep. The souls of the dead are sleeping in the grave. They say, “The state to which we are reduced by death is one of silence, inactivity, and entire unconsciousness.”- The Bible teaches us that neither in the case of the righteous or the unrighteous does the soul lapse into a state of unconsciousness at death.
11. Another doctrine is the annihilation of the wicked. This doctrine too is unbiblical. We read in Revelation 20:10 of punishment that is to continue “day and night forever and ever.” John .3:36 mentions the wrath of God “abiding on the wicked,” and Matthew 25:46, “and these (the wicked) shall go away into everlasting punishment, but the righteous into everlasting life.”
12. The Seventh-day Adventist are convinced that the seventh-day of the week is to be kept holy as the Sabbath of the Lord and not the first day of the week. They conclude that the law given on Sinai was never abolished, therefore, we are today as much obligated to keep the seventh day as were the Jews in the Old dispensation. They insist on a very literal interpretation of the Ten Commandments, especially of the Fourth Commandment. Mrs. White claims to have seen the heavenly sanctuary and she says, “Two angels stood one at either end of the ark with their wings spread over the mercy seat and their faces turned toward it.” Jesus raised the cover of the ark and she beheld the tables of stone on which the Ten Commandments were written. She was amazed as she saw “the Fourth Commandment in the very center of the ten precepts with a soft halo of light encircling it.”
In Acts 20:7, we read. “And upon the first day of the week when we were gathered to break bread, Paul discoursed with them, intending to depart on the morrow, and prolonged his speech till midnight.” This verse is a hard one for the Seventh-day Adventist. The fact is that Paul stood up on the day when the people of God were want to worship, that being the first day of the week.

Paul writes in I Corinthians 16:1, 2, “Now concerning the collection for the saints, as I have given order to the churches of Galatia, even so do ye. Upon the first day of the week let every man of you lay for him in store, as God hath prospered him, that there be no gatherings when I come.” Dr. F. W. Grosheide, a New Testament scholar wrote: “the fact that Paul speaks of the first day of the week and calls that the day for the collection implies that Sunday was destined for the special service of the Lord.”4

It is hard to believe that the Church for the past 1900 years has been guilty of law-lessness, as the SDA’s claim, by observing the first day of the week as the true day of rest.

A more serious objection to the Seventh- day Adventist belief is their claim to a special revelation from God to observe the last day of the week. This revelation, they claim, came to Mrs. White by means of the third angel mentioned in Revelation 14:9-12. Francis D. Nichol, a leading Seventh-day Adventist writes, “the third angel’s message is a warning against the keeping of Sunday and a call to man to keep God’s true Sabbath day. The true Sabbath has two distinguishing marks 1.) The mark of time. “The Seventh day is the Sabbath of the Lord thy God.” 2.) The purpose. The Sabbath was instituted as a memorial of a certain historical event, the creation of the world.”5

The truth of the matter is that, there is no proof that Mrs. White was taken up into heaven, or that she did receive a specific revelation from God, and furthermore, that the entire church has been guilty of apostasy all these years by observing the first day of the week. It seems strange that these people, who are proud of their loyalty to Scripture should take the testimony of one woman, when there is no way to verify her testimony.

The Seventh-day Adventists ignore the teaching of the Apostles, disregard the plain leading of God in making certain great events to take place on the first day of the week, and they ignore the clear distinction in Scripture between the Old and New Testaments.

1. Present Truth, August, 1849 P. 22
2. Fundamental Principles p. 12
3. Seventh-day Adventism
4. Commentary on First Corinthians P. 398
5. Reason for Our Faith P. 209