How Did the Seventh-day Adventist Movement Begin?
In discussing the Seventh-day Adventist movement (hereafter referred to as “SDA”), it’s important to understand the actual meaning of the name of this movement.
Seventh-day Adventism takes it cue from the actual seventh-day of the week; Saturday. There is a strong belief among SDA adherents that the proper and therefore biblical day to worship God is on Saturday, not Sunday. More than one teacher within the SDA movement teaches that those who do not worship on Saturday have already taken the “mark of the beast” mentioned in Revelation 13. To these specific teachers within the SDA movement, the mark of the beast they refer to is actually worshiping on a day other than Saturday. This is an obvious spiritualizing of Scripture, when the text clearly states that those who take the mark will have it affixed to their foreheads or hands. The mark of the beast then is not a day, but an actual mark on the person.
This teaching goes all the way back to Ellen G. White (and we’ll get into more of who she is and her teachings shortly). She is quoted as saying, “Through the two great errors, the immortality of the soul and Sunday sacredness, Satan will bring the people under his deceptions. While the former lays the foundation of spiritualism, the latter creates a bond of sympathy with Rome. The Protestants of the United States will be foremost in stretching their hands across the gulf to grasp the hand of spiritualism; they will reach over the abyss to clasp hands with the Roman power; and under the influence of this threefold union, this country will follow in the steps of Rome in trampling on the rights of conscience.” (Ellen G. White, The Great Controversy, p. 588. also Spirit of Prophecy, Vol. 4, p. 405.).
In the book Marvel of the Nations, SDA Elder U. Smith clearly states “Sunday-keeping must be the mark of the beast,” (pg 170). In White’s Medical Ministry book, she states without equivocation, “Only those who keep the Sabbath will be saved in the last days,” (pg 123). This statement when seen in light of her previous statements from The Great Controversy obviously teaches that worshiping any other day than Saturday is anathema; it causes the loss of salvation. One of the things most cults do is teach either directly or indirectly that salvation can be lost. This is not to argue that the doctrine of eternal salvation is correct (though I believe it is), but it is more to emphasize the point that this is one of the ways cults hold sway over their membership. If they cease doing something the prescribed way by the leaders, they could be excommunicated and if they are excommunicated so goes their salvation since salvation is only found in that particular church/group/cult.
I have personally been told by SDA adherents that since I do not worship God on Saturday, I have already taken the mark of the beast. The beast in this case then was the Roman Catholic Pontiff who is credited with changing the day of worship from Saturday to Sunday. Some credit Constantine with the change and it was carried on from there. Others argue that a different pope made the change. Still others argue that no pope changed anything.
In Acts 20 we read that the disciples came together on the first day of the week to break bread. It seems clear enough that the first day of the week was Sunday and this is the day that the disciples came together to worship (as evidenced in breaking bread). Of course, SDA adherents will tell you that just because they broke break on Sunday, it doesn’t mean they were worshiping. This is a misdirect. Breaking bread, was an acronym for observing the Last Supper, or the common meal that was associated with the communion sacrament.
When I go to church and the church offers communion, it is done during the worship service, on Sunday. The only exception to this is the Thursday prior the Easter Sunday. To break bread during the observance of communion is every bit as much worship as singing songs to the Lord at the gathering of worship. SDAs would have us believe that members of the early Church came together to specifically worship on Saturday, then got together again to partake of the Lord’s Supper on Sunday (the first day of the week). That makes no sense.
But here is an even more important point to consider. The Mosaic Law was given to the nation of Israel. These individuals were Jewish. There are 613 laws that Jews were obligated to observe under Old Testament law, not merely ten. SDA often emphasizes the ten commandments, yet completely ignores the remainder of the 603 laws. Jesus said He came to fulfill the law and we are also told that whoever lives under the law has an obligation to uphold all of the law (cf. Galatians 3:10).
So what does this mean for the Christian since Paul emphasizes to us repeatedly throughout Galatians, Romans, Ephesian,s and elsewhere that we are not under the Law, but under Grace? Does this mean that Christians no longer have to obey the law? No, it means that Christians do not have to obey the law in order to gain salvation. We obey the law out of the love for God, but we are obligated to obey only His moral code.
As a Christian, I have an obligation to God to obey His moral code. Worshiping on Saturday or Sunday does not obey or disobey the moral code. Worshiping alone obeys the moral code. If I choose to worship on Saturday, Friday, Sunday, or Monday, I am pleasing the Lord because I am setting aside specific time to worship Him. Ultimately, I should get to the point where every day is a day of worship! My entire life to him should be involved in worshiping Him daily. I should not approach life with “Oh, tomorrow is Sunday, so I better get into the worship mode” demeanor. My obligation is to love the Lord with all my heart, soul, and mind, and to love my neighbor as myself. If I do this, I am fulfilling the law of love as far as God is concerned. Too often people get completely caught up in the dos and don’ts and again, this is not to say that there are not things we are to observe, but we should observe them because of our love for God, not because we are somehow in danger of losing our salvation if we don’t.
But from just the one quote above, we can see that Ellen G. White makes a connection between what she considers to be the evil of the Roman Catholic Church and Sunday worship. We will offer more quotes from not only White, but other leaders within the SDA movement as we progress.
So it is clear that Adventism is built on Saturday worship. That is one of its main tenets, though of course, not the only one. I find it interesting to say the least that within every cult or religious movement that deviates from Christianity, there are any number of teachings within those groups that add things to salvation. For SDA, it appears that at least one of those requirements for salvation is worshiping on the Sabbath, which to the SDA member is Saturday.
Of course, I have heard SDAs argue this away, but what is fascinating is how they argue it away, as if it is merely something that individual SDAs can do (worship on Saturday) or not. Really? While this could exist, I’m not aware of any SDA churches that routinely offer weekly worship services on a day other than Saturday, so while it might be stated that the SDA member can worship on another day, they would likely be doing it alone.
Like Mormons, SDAs believe they are the true church, especially for these latter days. If you are not a member of, or part of the SDA movement in some form, you are not part of the true church, according to them.
So how did it all begin? William Miller, an Adventist and itinerant preacher, went from place to place predicting that the world would end in 1844. We still have people doing this today in spite of the fact that Jesus argues against the possibility of us knowing when the world will end. Miller also took time out to roundly and routinely condemn all other churches as being born of “Babylon,” and told Christians they needed to come out of them in order to remove themselves from the paganism of Babylon. Many did follow Miller and the Adventist movement was born.
Interestingly enough, Harold Camping – the same man who set the date of Christ’s return at May 21, 2011 – has also started telling people that they need to leave established churches. Of course, he has also stated that God is completely finished with Israel and , as SDAs do, teach that since Israel is out of the picture, only the (true) Church remains. Of course, to the SDA, only they represent the true Church.
Unfortunately for Miller and many of his followers, neither the world ended nor did Jesus appear in 1844. That was severely disappointing to them and the event became effectively known as The Great Disappointment. Some followers however, were not disappointed and essentially turned lemons into lemonade by announcing that while Jesus did not return to the earth physically, He instead entered into the Holy of Holies in the Heavenly Sanctuary. They taught that there, Jesus began what became known as the “Investigative Judgment.” This doctrine was something believed and endorsed by Ellen G. White herself.
A number of years later, Ellen G. White, along with her husband James, began publishing The Review and Herald, which was essentially the vehicle used by White to spread the teachings of Adventism. Of course, this provided hope for Millerites who certainly felt left out in the cold after what became known as the Great Disappointment. Because of White’s teachings – with great emphasis on Sabbath (Saturday) worship and Investigative Judgment – the group began to grow and finally in 1863 officially incorporated as the Seventh-day Adventist Church. According to The Encyclopedia of American Religion, Vol 2., there were approximately 3,500 members spread over 125 different churches at that time.
Ellen G. White never held the official title of head of the SDA. Efforts to promote her as prophet were also not received well by her as she preferred to simply be called a “messenger.” It is also interesting to note that by her own admission, she never received more than a third grade education. This of course, was used later to point out that what she wrote had literally (and therefore obviously) been inspired by God Himself. We will spend more time looking into this later on. Suffice it to say that there have been numerous publications that have essentially proven that much of what White wrote was plagiarized from many other sources. If this is true, then she obviously either taught herself to read, or she lied about her own lack of education. Of course, there are any number of SDA adherents who dispute the claims by those who believe they have proven that White did in fact, plagiarize. The question for you – if you are one of the SDA members – is what do you think? It’s not what someone else tells you, but what do you actually believe about Ellen G. White? Moreover, once you arrive at a conclusion, ask yourself why you believe what you believe about White.
I cannot help but find it interesting that at the head of every movement that again, seems to deviate from orthodox Christianity, there always stands one person, who is credited with founding that movement. Whether it’s Joseph Smith, Charles Taze Russell, or Rutherford, or Ellen G. White, or Mary Baker Eddy, there is one individual that all followers point to as “the one” who brought new teaching, new insight, and as far as some are concerned, new Scripture to the fore. This is exactly why Paul condemned the idea that people stood behind someone saying, “I follow Paul, I follow Cephas, I follow Apollos,” (cf. 1 Corinthians 1:12). What is the point to that?
People have accused me of following C. I. Scofield because I happen to see validity within the aspects of normal Dispenstionalism. I do not follow Scofield, or Ryrie, or LaHaye, or anyone else. For me, it always comes back to the Bible. If their views differ from my understanding of Scripture, those views are tossed out. The other difference of course, is that no one (as far as I know, though there could be exceptions to this) look to Scofield, Ryrie, or others as if they are somehow prophets or even “messengers.” They would be the first to deny it.
Within Mormonism, Joseph Smith is the go-to guy. Within Christian Science, it’s Mary Baker Eddy. For Scientology, it’s L. Ron Hubbard. For Jehovah’s Witnesses, it’s Russell/Rutherford (who took over after Russell’s death). It is also interesting to note that many of these individuals had roots in the restoration movement, or what has become Replacement Theology (in which it is taught that the Church has replaced Israel). People like Eddy and Hubbard had backgrounds in the esoteric. Joseph Smith by most accounts was a bit of a charlatan and con artist. Of course, Mormons reading this would be offended, but it’s not my goal to offend. It’s my goal to educate.
So can anyone tell me who my “go-to” guy is please? Even if you knew the particular denomination I belong to, it would not matter because my “go-to” guy is Jesus Himself and His Word. The only thing I look for in a church is whether or not they are biblical sound in my opinion. If they are not, I keep looking. If they are caught up in minutiae, I keep moving. It’s very easy. The more a church or denomination, or religious group appears to be moored to one legal aspect after another, it is not too difficult to learn that they are essentially legalistic in nature. Their emphasis is on rules and the keeping of those rules.
As we will see, there are numerous problems with SDA theology. Though Walter Martin was in favor of them and said they should be extended the hand of fellowship, others like John C. Whitcomb are adamantly opposed to them because of what he considers to be the huge amount of discrepancies in Ellen G. White herself, the SDA origins, and SDA theology.
Here is the fact of the matter. If Ellen G. White was not a prophet at all, then hundreds of thousands of people have been and continue to be hoodwinked. If White was a prophet (or even a divine messenger; and what is the difference?), then the rest of evangelical Christianity is wrong. Why do I say this? Well, for one thing, that is what early SDA theology taught, and as we will see, some of the basic doctrines of SDA do not seem to square with Scripture, unless a far different meaning is applied than what is commonly understood.
We will take the time to investigate these things in upcoming blogs.
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