By Paul Miller
October 30, 2015
In this article, we would like to address the Seventh-day Adventist beliefs, which have taken some plain families by storm. I’d like to thank Paul Miller for the many hours of research and studying he did to prepare for this. May the Spirit of God give you, the reader, clarity of mind as you begin to understand the why's and how's of Seventh-day Adventism.
— Joe Keim
Seventh-day Adventism is a growing religion. Some people are convinced that it is a legitimate branch of evangelical Protestantism, while others view it as a deceptive cult to be avoided at all costs. Of course, we need to be interested in truth, especially when it comes to matters of eternity and God’s Word. We should not be content with partial truth, and we should want to avoid truth mixed with error. Even Satan mixes his lies with God’s truth in an attempt to deceive many. Sadly, taking God’s Word and mixing in a little man-made religion is far too common. Often it ends up in lies and deception, resulting in eternal death.
Are the teachings of the Seventh-day Adventist church right? If you follow the teachings of the Seventh-day Adventist church, will you go to heaven? What are the Biblical qualifications to make it to heaven? Do you have to be nice? Must you be religious? Are you required to go to church? How many good deeds do you have to do? Do you have to teach others about Jesus? What about those who cast out demons or do miracles?
Our standards for going to heaven would probably be much different than God’s. For example, if you knew someone who was nice, religious, belonged to a good church, helped others, taught the Bible, and even cast out demons in the name of Jesus, would you let him into heaven? Most of us probably would. However, Jesus tells us: Many will say to me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name? and in thy name have cast out devils? and in thy name done many wonderful works? And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity (Matthew 7:21-23).
We need to know what God’s requirements are. We can find His requirements in the Bible, and that is where we all should be looking. Do we get to heaven by following a specific group or religion? If we are saved by faith, is it up to us to keep that salvation by works? What does God say? Having begun in the Spirit, are ye now made perfect by the flesh? (Galatians 3:3). Is salvation by works or faith—or both? And if by grace, then is it no more of works: otherwise grace is no more grace. But if it be of works, then is it no more grace: otherwise work is no more work (Romans 11:6).
There are many religious groups today that use the Bible but include some specific beliefs that are not found in the Bible. For some groups (and it seems that the Seventh-day Adventists are included here) some of their most prominent and distinctive teachings cannot be found in God’s Word—at least not without a whole lot of stretching and twisting. The apostle Paul wrote: 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 (Galatians 1:8). It is surprising, therefore, to learn that the founders of many religious groups (i.e. Seventh-day Adventists, Mormons, Jehovah’s Witnesses) claim to have had special revelations or visions from God, or special visits from an angel. Many of these “angels” seem to have given messages that contradict the Bible. Often, more emphasis is placed on these visions and revelations than on the pure Word of God—the Holy Scriptures.
For example, Joseph Smith claimed to have had visits from the angel Moroni. The angel supposedly led him to the golden plates that Smith translated into what became known as the Book of Mormon. Jehovah’s Witnesses say that “scripture therefore suggests that Jesus himself is the archangel Michael” and that “the Bible indicates that Michael is another name for Jesus Christ” (jw.org), and He came to earth again in 1914 (invisibly). By the way, Charles Taze Russell, early leader of the “Jehovah’s Witnesses,” was greatly influenced in his beliefs by the early Seventh-Day Adventists.
What about the Seventh-Day Adventists? They have many good teachings. They do much good around the world. Much of what they teach seems to be Biblical. However, their founders, Ellen G. White being one of them, formed some of their main teachings on the basis of visions or by visits from angels. Having claimed in the past that these teachings came from God by way of an angel, they cannot now deny these messages and claims without denying that God gave them.
The Seventh-Day Adventist (SDA) church is headquartered in Silver Spring, Maryland, and has nearly 20 million members in over 200 countries around the world. Its origins can be traced back to a Baptist preacher named William Miller, who was convinced that Daniel 8:14 taught that Jesus would return to earth in 1843. (His return is known as “advent”). Jesus did not return in 1843. Miller, recalculating his figures, determined that he was off a year, and that Jesus would return on October 22, 1844. Jesus did not return then, either. Now what would they do? Would the group of “Millerites” die off?
Fortunately for them, a man named Hiram Edson claimed that he had a vision from God. His vision showed him that the date of October 22, 1844, was not the day when Jesus was to return to earth, but was the day when Jesus entered the heavenly sanctuary and began His “investigative judgment.” The “truth" of this vision was confirmed by Ellen G. White, who claimed to have prophetic gifts. From 1844-1851, White also taught that the door of mercy had closed in 1844, so no one else could be saved. Of course, after more people later converted to Seventh-Day Adventism, she had to change her story.
While many of the teachings of Seventh-Day Adventism seem true to the Bible, some of their teachings seem quite foreign to God’s Word. It is those teachings which should concern us. Some of these teachings include the investigative judgment, the command to worship God on the seventh day of the week (Saturday) rather than on Sunday, the three angels’ messages of Revelation 14, and annihilationism. According to their official Statement of 28 Fundamental Beliefs, the SDA church believes that in addition to the Bible, the many writings of Ellen G. White “are a continuing and authoritative source of truth which provide for the church comfort, guidance, instruction, and correction.”
Some people turn to Seventh-Day Adventism because it sounds like a nice, peaceful, Biblical religion. Others are dissatisfied with their current religion full of rules and law-keeping, and so find a little more freedom in the SDA church. However, this may be what the prophet Amos described: As if a man did flee from a lion, and a bear met him; or went into the house, and leaned his hand on the wall, and a serpent bit him (Amos 5:19). It is not beneficial to go from one man-made religion to another man-made religion; both are deadly.
Let us look at some of these SDA teachings and see if they are indeed Biblical, or if the messages contained in these alleged visions and messages are outside of and contrary to the truth of the Bible.
Even Seventh-day Adventists find the teaching of the investigative judgment hard to fully understand, and it is difficult to explain from the Bible. Simply reading the Bible, one would likely never think of such a belief. The official Seventh-Day Adventism teaching on the investigative judgment is:
“There is a sanctuary in heaven, the true tabernacle that God set up and not man. In it, Christ ministers on our behalf, making available to believers the benefits of His atoning sacrifice offered once for all on the cross. He 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 2,300 days, He entered the second and last phase of His atoning ministry (28 Fundamental Beliefs, no. 24).”
Now read Daniel 8:13-14: Then I heard one saint speaking, and another saint said unto that certain saint which spake, How long shall be the vision concerning the daily sacrifice, and the transgression of desolation, to give both the sanctuary and the host to be trodden under foot? And he said unto me, Unto two thousand and three hundred days; then shall the sanctuary be cleansed.
The typical person who reads Daniel 8 would never conclude that those verses teach that that on October 22, 1844, Jesus entered the heavenly sanctuary to begin an investigative judgment and the second phase of His atoning work. That interpretation is not found in the Bible.
The typical person who reads Daniel 8:14 would think that 2,300 days means 2,300 days. William Miller, however, read Daniel 8:14 and concluded that the 2,300 days really meant 2,300 years. To him that meant Jesus was going to return to earth 2,300 years after 457 B.C., which Miller calculated was in 1843. When Jesus did not return in 1843, Miller did an “Oops,” said he miscalculated, and said that Jesus was really going to return on October 22, 1844. When Jesus did not return on that date (known as the “Great Disappointment”), they were not sure what to do.
Then another SDA man, Hiram Edson, claimed to have had a vision in which it was revealed to him that October 22, 1844 was not the day that Jesus was to return to earth, but was the day that Jesus was to enter the Most Holy Place in the heavenly sanctuary for the first time. Jesus had been in the Holy Place, they teach, but on October 22, 1844, Jesus entered the Most Holy Place to begin His investigative judgment— “the second and last phase of His atoning ministry.”
In this investigative judgment, the Seventh-Day Adventists teach that Jesus is supposedly investigating who among the dead had trusted in Jesus and who among the living are abiding in Him, so one’s eternal fate is not certain until Jesus finishes His investigation. However, the Bible tells us that Jesus has already declared that the thief on the cross would be with Him in paradise (Luke 22:43), and also that Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob would be in heaven (Matthew 8:11). How could He already know those things if He first had to do an investigative judgment? According to the teaching of investigative judgment, Jesus begins with the dead and moves on to the living. We never know when He will get to us, so we had better be good so that when our turn comes up, Jesus will approve of us.
According to Ellen G. White, “Every name is mentioned, every case closely investigated. Names are accepted, names rejected. When any have sins remaining upon the books of record, unrepented of and unforgiven, their names will be blotted out of the book of life, and the record of their good deeds will be erased from the book of God’s remembrance ” (The Great Controversy, p. 483). One day, Jesus will allegedly place the confessed sins of the Christians onto the head of Satan (like the priest did to the scapegoat in Leviticus 16) who will be punished for us.
According to Ellen G. White, "When sin has been repented of, confessed, and forsaken, then pardon is written against the sinner's name; but his sins are not blotted out until after the investigative judgment " (The Whole Duty of Man, May 16, 1895). God said: I, even I, am he that blotteth out thy transgressions for mine own sake, and will not remember thy sins (Isaiah 43:25). When one is born again, his or her sins are then blotted out. There is no need to wait for a supposed investigative judgment. And you, being dead in your sins and the uncircumcision of your flesh, hath he quickened together with him, having forgiven you all trespasses; Blotting out the handwriting of ordinances that was against us, which was contrary to us, and took it out of the way, nailing it to his cross (Colossians 2:13-14).
Don’t be concerned if you do not fully understand this SDA teaching on the investigative judgment. It seems that not many do. It is enough to know that this teaching, one of the Seventh-Day Adventist’s most important, is found nowhere in the Bible and is in fact contrary to the Bible. While the SDA church claims that on October 22, 1844, Jesus entered “within the veil” to the Most Holy Place to begin the second phase of His atoning work, Hebrews 6:19-20 tells us that Jesus already entered “within the veil” at His ascension. While the SDA investigative judgment teaching says that on October 22, 1844, Jesus began the second phase of His atoning ministry, the Bible says that the atoning work of Jesus is finished, that those who put their faith in Jesus have their sins forgiven (Colossians 2:13-14). Jesus paid it all by His death on the cross; there is not a part one and a part two of the atonement. The apostle Paul wrote: we also joy in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom we have now received the atonement (Romans 5:11).
There are many problems with this investigative judgment teaching. The SDA church teaches that Satan is the scapegoat who is punished for our sins. The Bible says that Jesus is our scapegoat who was punished for our sins: For the bodies of those beasts, whose blood is brought into the sanctuary by the high priest for sin, are burned without the camp. Wherefore Jesus also, that he might sanctify the people with his own blood, suffered without the gate. Let us go forth therefore unto him without the camp, bearing his reproach (Hebrews 13:11-13).
There are additional historical and Biblical problems with the investigative judgment teaching, but let us move on and look at a few more problems with the teachings of the Seventh-Day Adventist church. The SDA church teaches that while the redeemed will have eternal life, those who are not redeemed will be temporarily punished and then simply exist no more—that there is no eternal suffering or eternal lake of fire. In fact, the SDA church teaches that those who die simply remain in an unconscious state until the judgment. They teach that our deceased loved ones “are not burning in hell—or enjoying the bliss of heaven while watching us continue to suffer through life on earth without them. They are simply resting until God gives them His final call ” (http://www.adventist.org/en/beliefs/apocalypse/death-and-resurrection/article/go/0/three-things-you-should-know-about-death).
The redeemed will be resurrected and will be given eternal life, while the wicked will be resurrected and will be judged and condemned to the second death. However, the SDA church teaches that “the second death refers to annihilation (or extinction) of the unrepentant, rather than a continual and eternal conscious torment ” (http://www.adventist.org/beliefs/apocalypse/death-and-resurrection/article/go/0/waking-up-to-eternity).
That is, the Seventh-Day Adventist church teaches that there is no eternal lake of fire; the wicked are simply burned up and cease to exist. Let us hear God’s Word speak on this matter. Daniel writes that the dead will indeed be resurrected: some to everlasting life, and some to shame and everlasting contempt (Daniel 12:2). Jesus Himself warned us: it is better for thee to enter into life halt or maimed, rather than having two hands or two feet to be cast into everlasting fire (Matthew 18:8). Again Jesus tells us of everlasting fire, and that these shall go away into everlasting punishment: but the righteous into life eternal (Matthew 25:41, 46). We read in Revelation 14:10-11 that the wicked shall be tormented with fire and brimstone in the presence of the holy angels, and in the presence of the Lamb: and the smoke of their torment ascendeth up for ever and ever.
Revelation 20 explains what will happen: death and hell were cast into the lake of fire. This is the second death. And whosoever was not found written in the book of life was cast into the lake of fire (Revelation 20:14-15). Although the SDA church teaches that this second death is short and temporary, it would be far better to hear God’s explanation of how long the lake of fire lasts: the devil that deceived them was cast into the lake of fire and brimstone, where the beast and the false prophet are, and shall be tormented day and night for ever and ever (Revelation 20:10).
These and other Bible verses show that though it might be more pleasant to think of the wicked suffering a little punishment and then ceasing to exist, God tells us that the lake of fire and the punishment and torment of the wicked is for ever and ever. Which will you believe: the SDA church or the Word of God?
Another emphasis of the Seventh-Day Adventist church is the belief that the only proper day to worship God is on Saturday, the Jewish Sabbath. In fact, they tie this in with their emphasis on the three angels’ messages of Revelation 14. The message of the first angel, they believe, is to preach the everlasting gospel (the SDA message) to all people. The message of the second angel is the fall of Babylon, in part due to the corruption of the Protestant churches which have rejected the SDA “truth.” The third angel’s message deals with the mark of the beast and the observance of the seventh-day Sabbath. The observance of the seventh-day Sabbath, they teach, is the seal of God identifying the true followers of God.
We see in the Bible that the apostles met on the first day of the week. We see throughout church history that Christians met on the “Lord’s Day,” or the first day of the week. However, Jesus taught that true worshippers shall worship the Father in spirit and in truth: for the Father seeketh such to worship him. God is a Spirit: and they that worship him must worship him in spirit and in truth (John 4:23-24). While the great majority of Christians since the time of the early church worshipped and still meet together on Sunday, whether a church meets on Saturday or on Sunday is neither a matter of salvation, nor a determination of who receives the mark of the beast. True Christians can meet on Saturday or on Sunday (though the great majority since the resurrection have met on the Lord’s Day). It would be quite wrong to declare that those who worship God on one day rather than the other cannot be born again.
But I fear, lest by any means, as the serpent beguiled Eve through his subtilty, so your minds should be corrupted from the simplicity that is in Christ. For if he that cometh preacheth another Jesus, whom we have not preached, or if ye receive another spirit, which ye have not received, or another gospel, which ye have not accepted, ye might well bear with him (2 Corinthians 11:3-4).
There are many false religions in the world. Many of these false religions are related to Christianity. Some of these sound very good and are often difficult to distinguish from true Christianity. To detect these counterfeit religions, we must know the truth. It is not enough to be told what to believe or even to trust that what someone tells us is right, even if someone seems to use to Bible to prove one’s beliefs. Remember: Mormons, Jehovah’s Witnesses, Roman Catholics, Anabaptists, Seventh-Day Adventists, Baptists, Methodists, and others all use the Bible and claim to have the truth; however, not all of these groups teach God’s truth. It is not enough to use the Bible to teach a belief, for even Satan does this. In the Garden of Eden, Satan asked Eve, Yea, hath God said . . . ? Satan quoted from the Bible as he was tempting Jesus in the wilderness. We must be careful to examine God’s Word and to seek God rather than simply believe man.
Like the Berean Jews who received the word with all readiness of mind, and searched the scriptures daily, whether those things were so (Acts 17:11), let us search the Scriptures daily and make sure that we are not being deceived by a religious system of works that cannot bring us true peace, love, and forgiveness.
The Seventh-Day Adventist church may sound very good and Biblical. They use the Bible to explain many of their beliefs. There may be some true Christians in the SDA church, just as there may be true some Christians in other Christian-based religions. However, what has been explained here regarding Sabbath-keeping, annihilationism, and investigative judgment ought to be enough to warn you to be careful and to seek God’s Word. Many people are attracted to the kindness and teachings of the Mormons, Jehovah’s Witnesses, Seventh-Day Adventists, and others. Satan can transform himself into an angel of light. We must be careful with any group that teaches that we are saved by faith in Jesus, but then must keep that salvation by works or by following rules, just as we must be careful about those religious groups that teach that we are saved by keeping rules or belonging to a specific church.
Freedom comes by way of faith in Jesus. We are truly free when we repent of our sins, trust in the Savior, and are forgiven for our sins and adopted into the family of God. If you become a son or daughter of the King of Kings, you do not have to work and keep rules and follow laws in order to remain a child of the king. Your faithful life and actions can help to prove that you have been changed by God’s Holy Spirit and adopted into God’s family, but you do not keep your adopted status based upon your works.
Are you bound in a religious system of works and rules, or have you found the peace, truth, and freedom that come through Jesus Christ alone?
Are you looking for truth? Be careful that you do not go from one religious system to another. Go to Jesus alone. Trust in Him and in the Word of God. Find a church that teaches the Bible and not man’s traditions in place of the Bible.
How is it with you? Will you trust in a church or a religion, or in Jesus Christ?
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