Seventh-day Adventism: Is there Really Anything Wrong With it?
It is interesting that one particular article I wrote well over one year ago (May, 2011) still continues to receive comments and posts. The article dealt with aspects of Mormonism, Jehovah’s Witnesses, and Seventh-day Adventism, but by far, most of the people who respond are from the Seventh-day Adventist system of belief. Many write to tell me that I am wrong, that they were raised within Seventh-day Adventism and as such, they assure me that either the beliefs I mention that are attributed to SDA are either erroneous, or limited to the fringe within SDA.
It does not seem to matter to these individuals what I have personally heard directly from those within SDA. It does not matter that I have read and studied books from those within SDA. None of that matters to them, because the problem is me. Either I am unfairly categorizing SDA people or my lack of knowledge has served to simply place them all in one group, irrespective of whether or not my generalizations are essentially true for the entire group.
A plethora of books have been written by SDA folks as well as by those outside of SDA who have sought to adequately portray what is believed within the Seventh-day Adventist belief system. It is not as though there is a complete lack of materials available to those who yearn to learn more about Seventh-day Adventism.
Aside from many who have come after Ellen G. White, there are plenty of writings from White herself where her positions are clearly delineated for the average person. In fact, it is also quite clear that the succession of SDA leaders continually refer to White’s original teachings as the foundation for the Seventh-day Adventist movement itself. To deny this is to essentially state that the theology upon which Seventh-day Adventism was founded no longer applies, which is completely absurd. In that case, why bother with Ellen G. White at all?
Without Ellen G. White, there would be no Seventh-day Adventism. That is patently clear and people within Seventh-day Adventism need to understand that this is the way it is for a reason.
Just as Joseph Smith started Mormonism and Charles Taze Russell began Jehovah’s Witnesses and Mary Baker Eddy created Christian Science, so too is Ellen G. White’s name forever connected with the group that is known as Seventh-day Adventism. We are left then to do our best to determine in what areas (if at all) SDA fails, when compared with the Bible.
It is also very important to understand why I am dealing with the subject of Seventh-day Adventism at all. Am I writing this article because I simply want to pick on the people involved in SDA? Do I have a complete lack of care and concern for them and am only interested in picking apart their beliefs?
Without equivocation, the answer is NO. My main desire is that the people within SDA would come to grips with their beliefs and compare them with the Bible. Does what they believe – as taught to them by Ellen G. White – stand up under the careful scrutiny of God’s Word? Does Seventh-day Adventism teach another form of salvation from the one clearly presented in Scripture?
Does Ellen G. White fail at any point in relation to her apparent understanding of God’s Word and the valuable and precise doctrine taught within it? In essence, what does Seventh-day Adventism teach related to salvation and other important doctrines?
I know for a fact that there are those within Seventh-day Adventism who believe for instance that failing to worship on Saturday is a formula for failure and loss of salvation. I know also that there are those within Seventh-day Adventism who advocate a salvation that is at least somewhat dependent upon works. The question really is whether or not these individuals are the exception to the rule within Seventh-day Adventism, or the norm? We will take some time to investigate this situation.
My major concern is for a person’s soul. There will be some who, after reading this article, will take it as nothing more than an attack on Seventh-day Adventism. No one likes to be challenged with respect to what they believe. No one wants to have their beliefs questioned, certainly by someone who is not part of their belief system. No one likes that at all.
Again, my concern is for a person’s soul – their eternal state. In general, can Seventh-day Adventists be in relationship with Jesus (have salvation) if they fully believe what Ellen G. White taught as the foundation for the very system that is called Seventh-day Adventism? If not, then the error needs to be exposed and pointed out.
For those Adventists who would unequivocally state that they are actual Christians, that they know they have salvation, and they do not necessarily follow or adhere to the teachings of Ellen G. White, then I have an important question. Why are you continuing to be part of a system that you yourself obviously are in disagreement with regarding the very founder of that system?
That is like remaining a Mormon yet not really believing what Joseph Smith (or later Brigham Young) taught. That makes absolutely no sense. While I will admit that it is possible to continue to be part of something that is – overall – a lie, while being an authentic Christian, it seems to me that this would be rare and not the norm.
For instance, within Catholicism, it seems to me from my study of it and in talking with people who have left Catholicism (including my wife) and those who are still part of it, yet understand the problems of it, it is difficult to remain with Catholicism while attesting to actually be an authentic Christian. This is not to say that this cannot happen, but for the most part, it would appear that authentic Christianity is not something that is found easily within the Roman Catholic system.
We are all familiar with the Reformation and the main reasons why it occurred. Moreover, if you know history, you also understand that Martin’s “95 Theses” were nailed to the Wittenburg Door as his way of protesting those things within Roman Catholicism that he believed were (and remain) unbiblical. Most noted is the system of indulgences that the Roman Catholic Church invented in order to coerce people into giving money so that souls trapped in Purgatory could fly free earlier. Martin was incensed with this notion and fought against it. The very idea of indulgences smacks against God’s system of absolute free grace and unmerited favor toward the sinner.
Yet, it is ironic to me that over the years, I have attended a number of Roman Catholic funerals and at each one of them, this same unbiblical theology was put forth by the presiding priest. If only we would offer prayers and empty our wallets, the person who had recently died and who was being interred would spend less time in Purgatory. This is absurd. It reduces the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ to nothing less than an agreement to work with Him in order to gain or secure our salvation.
Does the Seventh-day Adventist system have something similar? Do they rely on their own works to save them? Do they believe – overall – that there is a cooperative effort between the penitent and God to gain or keep salvation, somewhat by faith, and somewhat by works?
During most of my aunt’s adult life, she turned from Lutheranism to the Watchtower. She became a Jehovah’s Witness and a devout one at that. It was difficult, if not impossible to discuss Christianity with her because she had her particular proof texts that she would go to when discussing it. Moreover, my aunt had a very forceful demeanor. She would kowtow to no one and she thoroughly believed she was correct in her faith and everyone else was wrong.
The Jehovah’s Witnesses (like Mormons, Seventh-day Adventists, and too many others to count) believe that they are the true Church where Jesus Christ is concerned. For JWs, the 144,000 noted in Revelation have already been numbered and those who are not numbered with them will not have a part in heaven per se, but will live out eternity on the earth.
It is ironic (though it makes perfect sense) that groups like Jehovah’s Witnesses, Mormons, Seventh-day Adventist and others, all have a clear starting point with some renowned and charismatic (in the natural sense) leader who brings people together under the particular umbrella of their (new) beliefs.
This is what essentially happened with Ellen G. White. She took lemons and made lemonade. Seventh-day Adventism is an off-shoot of the Millerites, who were led to believe that Jesus was going to physically return approximately in 1843. This was the first mistake because Jesus Himself clearly pointed out that no one would know the day or hour (Mark 13:32). While it might be argued that Miller was simply giving a period of time (sometime around 1843) and not the exact day or hour, he did not understand the intent of Jesus’ words. Jesus was basically saying that we should not concern ourselves with His ultimate return, but to simply note the times and seasons. One thing He stressed was that our main work should be involved in the task of evangelizing the lost and that work did not hinge upon knowing His return.
Miller was a Baptist lay preacher and student of the Bible. There’s nothing wrong with that, but I have found over the years that people who are often self-taught with respect to the Bible are often wrongly taught. I don’t say this to be arrogant. I simply point out that people like Miller often fail to learn the basic principles of hermeneutics and can often be found going off on tangents because of it.
This of course, does not automatically apply to everyone. People like Harry Ironsides and many others were self-taught and did very well under the tutelage of the Holy Spirit. At the same time, it also helped that people like Harry Ironsides had others to whom he could go for counsel and advice when needed. It seems like Miller was not like that. He was an itinerant preacher.
As he traveled and preached, he developed a following and before long, was teaching people to look for and expect the physical return of Jesus in the not-too-distant future. By the year 1840, a full-blown group of followers known as “Millerites” had formed into a national campaign.
This is testament to the fact that people enjoy and even yearn for things that are related to future events outlined in the Bible. Because of that, it is incumbent upon all Bible and specifically prophecy teachers to understand the tremendous responsibility and pressure that is their mantle. We must absolutely remain true to God’s Word, neither going beyond it when it is silent nor cutting short the actual meaning of the Bible to suit ourselves and our own pet theories.
Even today, with respect to the future, in my view, there are way too many teachers of the Bible who go well beyond the bounds set by Scripture. At the same time, there are also too many who do not say enough about God’s plans for this world in the coming days, months, and years. If we are going to teach God’s Word, we must teach all of it, or none of it.
From 1840 to 1847, the periodical Signs of the Times was a veritable hit among many people, eagerly soaking up the information provided by Miller regarding the last days and prophetic discourse in general. While Miller himself never set a specific date for Christ’s return, he did say, “My principles in brief, are, that Jesus Christ will come again to this earth, cleanse, purify, and take possession of the same, with all the saints, sometime between March 21, 1843 and March 21, 1844.”  So we see, that he narrowed it down to a space of time within one year.
Some time later, the date was extended to April 18, 1844. Eventually, this date came and went and it was not until later that year – August – that another Millerite preached on Christ’s soon return and determined (based on his study of Daniel 8:14) that Jesus would return to the earth on “the tenth day of the seventh month of the present year, 1844.”  Eventually, a new date of October 22, 1844 was finally decided upon and everyone waited.
This reminds me of what continues to happen even in these modern times. Harold Camping predicted that the Lord would return physically May 21, 2011. That came and went and so he amended that date to October 21, 2011. That day also came and went and lo and behold he wound up doing the very same thing that some within the Millerite camp did – stated that Jesus had returned albeit spiritually. Instead of simply admitting defeat, which would cause people to turn away from the false teachings of that particular preacher, it seems easier to say that Jesus did return, but no one saw Him do so. How do you prove that individual is wrong? Well, we do so by going back to the Bible, amidst all the guffawing and snickering of the world. Those of us who understand what the Bible says regarding the physical return of Jesus have to pick up the slack and try to point out the error of the individual who is busy date-setting. We try to gently rebuke that individual while holding out continued hope to a dying world that Jesus is indeed physically returning to this planet…one day.
Unfortunately for Miller and his Millerites, October 22, 1844 came and went just like every day before it and since. Jesus did not return physically. There were no signs in the heavens other than the normal “rising” and “setting” of the sun and moon. Life went on to the huge disappointment of many, including Miller himself.
The resultant disappointment actually gave rise to a number of different groups – offshoots of the Millerites. Eventually, the one group that gained the most popularity was the one that adhered to “The Great Disappointment” belief.
Originally the Millerites were made up of people across denominational lines and were all united under one particular umbrella: the belief in the imminent return of Jesus Christ to this earth. It was because of this issue that ultimately resulted in what came to be known as “The Great Disappointment,” more splintering occurred within the ranks of the Millerites.
What people seem not to realize is that the entire group, while focused on a legitimate doctrine of Scripture, became overly focused on it going to the unscriptural extreme of date-setting, which is completely prohibited in Scripture and by Jesus Himself.
Interestingly enough, there was also a direct connection with Jehovah’s Witnesses and the Millerites, with Charles Taze Russell admitting an indebtedness to the Millerites.
The Great Disappointment led to the belief that the October 22, 1844 (non)event was really a heavenly event. This became the foundation for later Seventh-day Adventist theology detailing what became known as Investigative Judgment.
In our next installment, we will discuss more about the Great Disappointment and the resultant Investigative Judgment. Please remember that my number one goal is regarding authentic salvation. Yes, I realize that people within SDA will find the very fact that I am taking the time to dissect various SDA beliefs offensive. The truth of the matter is that I am not interested in simply dissecting beliefs for the purpose of castigating or denigrating individuals. I am providing this information as a means of helping people better understand the doctrine that undergirds the entire system of Seventh-day Adventism. I’ve lost count of how many people within SDA will write to tell me “That’s not what I believe!” or “I don’t follow the teachings of Ellen G. White!” or some other statement that is designed to negate in one swell sweep all that is available regarding the decidedly aberrant teachings found within Seventh-day Adventism.
Look, I’ve been called a heretic simply because I believe that the Rapture will occur prior to the Tribulation. I am called a heretic because of the recent man-made belief that I am deluded and deceived. It is because I am deceived that I will ultimately take the mark of the beast after I wake up one day only to realize that the Rapture has not occurred and the Tribulation has begun. The so-called reasoning behind this is tragically superficial and decidedly unbilbilical, yet it persists. I also note that people who believe I am deluded due to being a PreTrib Rapturist have absolutely no love loss for me (or others like me). They (wrongly) believe that not only am I deceived but I have willingly and rebelliously placed myself in the position of being deceived (by teachers like C. I. Scofield, etc.), therefore they do not pity me, but simply believe I have made my bed, therefore I should lie in it. One individual I dealt with actually had the gall to refer to himself as a prophet. It didn’t matter that I pointed out a number of times where he was incorrect in his assessment of me. That, apparently, did not take away from his being a true prophet of God.
I have also been referred to as “lost” by numerous members of Seventh-day Adventism, as well as Jehovah’s Witnesses, and other groups. For the most part, as far as the SDA is concerned who has chosen to take the time to tell me I am lost, the reason is due to the fact that I do not worship on Saturdays. I don’t worship on Saturdays, therefore, I have broken the Ten Commandments. By breaking the Ten Commandments deliberately and continually, I have risked God’s judgment upon my life.
I realize there are those within SDA who tell me that they are free to worship on any day they choose and that for them, whether they worship on Saturdays or not is not grounds for loss of salvation. I’m obviously not talking about those people, am I (in spite of the fact that I find it difficult to believe that they would actually choose to worship on Sunday when no other Seventh-day Adventists would show up to join them)? There appears to be plenty of individuals within Seventh-day Adventism who would resolutely disagree with these people and have no qualms about saying it.
In fact, I have books by numerous SDA authors who come right out and say it. Their condemnation of the Roman Catholic Church for example, extends to pointing out that the Pontiff is the system of the Beast and one particular Pontiff was the Antichrist, who is said to have changed the times and seasons. This means that he changed the worship of our Lord from Saturdays to Sundays some time ago. By joining in worshiping Jesus on Sundays, innocent people fall prey to the deceptive clutches of Satan found within Roman Catholicism.
If you have not been called a “heretic,” then you haven’t arrived yet. When I was first called one (based on my belief regarding the timing of the Rapture), I was incensed. However, it caused me to go back to the Bible and study it with a new demeanor. I endeavored to throw out (as much as I possibly could) what I knew before hand regarding the Rapture and simply study the Bible afresh, allowing it to take me where it was pointing, not where I necessarily wanted to go.
I not only studied the Bible afresh, but I again began reading what other authors wrote – those pro and con regarding the PreTrib Rapture – to determine if their conclusions were seemingly valid or whether or not they were simply grasping at straws.
Now, when someone calls me a heretic or “unsaved,” I tend to take it with a grain of salt. That doesn’t mean I don’t listen. It means I don’t automatically place a higher value on their words over my own study. You shouldn’t either. You should simply read what I am saying and ask yourself if it applies to you?
If Seventh-day Adventism makes the same mistake that the Jehovah’s Witnesses does regarding salvation (that it is part grace and part works on our part), then it needs to be pointed out, doesn’t it? I recall a conversation with my aunt (the same Jehovah’s Witness) who essentially said that the “works” they do are not done for salvation, but because they love the Lord. That sounds all well and good, but when you actually read what Russell and other leaders within the Watchtower Society have written, it becomes clear that this is actually not what is taught. A Jehovah’s Witness who stops tithing, or stops going door-to-door for evangelism is in absolute danger of losing the salvation they believe they have gained (up to that point). For them, they are constantly walking a tightrope; a tightrope from which they could fall at any moment.
(It’s the same way talking with Mormons. They often use vernacular that is familiar to the average church-goer and because of that, most believe (wrongly) that Mormonism is simply a denomination within Christendom. It’s not. It’s a cult for a variety of reasons, chiefly is the way they view Jesus Christ. To the Mormon, Jesus is not God. He is the brother of Lucifer – you know – the devil. The Holy Ghost is not the second Person of the Trinity for the Mormon. The Mormon Holy Ghost is essentially a supernatural force, yet impersonal.)
Imagine living like that! Imagine doing things for some “god” because you are taught that if you fail to continue in the chosen path, you could well lose your salvation. That is not only biblically dishonest, but tragic because it creates within people the idea that God only grants (and continues to grant over the course of that person’s life) salvation to those who continually obey Him without question. He becomes this taskmaster that accepts no excuse for failure and insists that we prove our love by dutiful obedience every step of the way.
If we really did things for God because we love Him, then we would not be focusing on the “do’s” and “don’ts” in this life. Yes, there are things that Christians should not do and things we should do. But those are not the focus. Those are the natural outcome of a life that is dedicated to God through Jesus Christ. I tend to think that for the person who is totally committed to following Christ (as opposed to being a “fan”), he/she does not really even notice the things that are done because they are simply so busy focusing on Jesus Himself. I realize for many reading this, the difference seems moot.
In other words, God does not measure our salvation by the things we do, but by the way we are. That includes attitude, outlook, dedication, and work. Someone could go to church religiously for years. They could pray, read the Bible, and go witnessing door-to-door, but none of that makes a person an authentic Christian.
I can be an authentic Christian and never go witnessing door-to-door. I might not be consistent in my devotional or prayer life. I might love God vastly one day, and not think of Him too much the next. That may be the character of some who are saved. To the onlooker, if they compared the two people, they would likely say that the one who did all the right things is the one who is truly saved, not the one who seemed to be more carnal, or immature. I am thankful that God does not judge by externals, but by internals. People do the exact opposite.
Salvation – authentic salvation - is the most important issue that every person needs to deal with before they leave this life. Whether people are offended or not by my discussion of Seventh-day Adventism is not the issue. The true issue is whether people actually have salvation. Are they truly in relationship with Jesus Christ, which is the only true source of salvation?
That and that alone is the issue at hand. Stay tuned.
 Quoted in Everett N. Dick, William Miller and the Advent Crisis Berrien Springs: [Andrews University] Press, 1994, 96-97.
 Samuel S. Snow, The Advent Herald, August 21, 1844, 20. See also Samuel S. Snow, True Midnight Cry, August 22, 1844, 4.
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