Scripture Reading: Colossians 2:11-17
The Seventh-day Adventist Church
1. Seventh-day Adventism champions the 7th day (Sabbath) and the imminence of Christ’s Advent (return), hence, their name.
2. Membership in mid-2004: 13,663,497 (“Annual Council: 13.6 Million Are Adventist Members; 2,756 Baptized Daily,” Mark A. Kellner, Source: Adventist News Network).
a. Increase of 1 million during the year of July ’03 – June ’04.
b. On average, 2,756 new Adventists are baptized daily, with 13 congregations formed in the same 24 hour period.
3. Seventh-day Adventist Church (SDA) is representative in government; headquartered in Silver Spring, Maryland, since 1989.
4. Discuss: Origin, its sources of authority (Ellen G. White), sin and salvation, 10 commandments and the Sabbath, and some other practices and doctrines.
I. ORIGIN OF THE SEVENTH-DAY ADVENTIST CHURCH.
A. Beginning of Adventism Generally:
1. “Adventism began in Massachusetts in 1831, under the leadership of Wm. Miller. In 1833, in Low Hampton, New York, he began to preach that the end of the world was at hand, publishing a pamphlet entitled, “Evidences from Scripture and History of the Second Coming of Christ about the year 1843 and of His Personal Reign of One Thousand Years” (Churches of Today in the Light of Scripture, L.G. Tomlinson, 76).
2. “Adventism is based on the conviction that the Second Advent of Christ is the sole hope of the world. The present age is evil and irredeemable, except through the direct action of God. Adventism holds that humanity’s nature is fallen because of sin and that those who rebel against the government of God will be ultimately destroyed, while believers, by God’s grace, will be saved. After that cataclysmic event, Jesus Christ will reign in triumph through the thousand-year period, or millennium, of Revelation 20:1-6. Thus Adventists are pessimistic about the present but are filled with confidence and hope for God's future. In the meantime, they teach that God’s people must be righteous, devout, and disciplined. Those who would be saved should practice a wholesome personal and family life, as well as a life of obedience to God. They should also work diligently toward the evangelization of the whole world in preparation for the return of Christ.
3. “In other areas there have been differing viewpoints among Adventists. Are the dead conscious or unconscious as they await the resurrection? Who are to arise: Both the righteous and the wicked or only the righteous? Is there to be eternal punishment or ultimate annihilation for the wicked? What is the nature of immortality? Does the cleansing of the sanctuary in Daniel 8 refer to a sanctuary in heaven or to one on earth? Should the sabbath be recognized as the first day or the seventh day of the week? Answers to these questions have served to divide various Adventist groups.” (“Adventist Churches,” Handbook of Denominations in the United States, 11th Ed., Mead et al.)
4. SDA arose out of the “Great Disappointment” of Oct. 22, 1844 (failed prediction of Christ’s return).
B. Timeline of SDA Church:
1846: Washington, N. H. – Small group of Adventists began observing Sabbath (7th day), including James White and his wife, Ellen Harmon (Ellen G. White)
1855: Set up headquarters in Battle Creek, Michigan, with a publishing house
1860: Name “Seventh-day Adventists” was officially adopted
1863: The Sabbath-keeping Adventists were organized as the Seventh-day Adventist Church with 3,500 members in Battle Creek, Michigan
1903: Headquarters moved to Takoma Park, a suburb of Washington, D. C.
1989: Headquarters moved to Silver Spring, Maryland
II. SOURCES OF AUTHORITY.
A. The Holy Scriptures.
“Seventh-day Adventists accept the Bible as their only creed and hold certain fundamental beliefs to be the teaching of the Holy Scriptures.” (Preamble, Statement of Fundamental Beliefs, General Conference of Seventh-day Adventists, April, 1980)
“The Holy Scriptures, Old and New Testaments, are the written Word of God, given by divine inspiration through holy men of God who spoke and wrote as they were moved by the Holy Spirit. In this Word, God has committed to man the knowledge necessary for salvation. The Holy Scriptures are the infallible revelation of His will. They are the standard of character, the test of experience, the authoritative revealer of doctrines, and the trustworthy record of God’s acts in history. ” (Statement of Fundamental Beliefs, 1)
B. The Gift of Prophecy.
“One of the gifts of the Holy Spirit is prophecy. This gift is an identifying mark of the remnant church and was manifested in the ministry of Ellen G. White. As the Lord’s messenger, her writings are a continuing and authoritative source of truth which provide for the church comfort, guidance, instruction, and correction. They also make clear that the Bible is the standard by which all teaching and experience must be tested.” (Statement of Fundamental Beliefs, 17, emp. mine)
1. Ellen G. White (1827-1915): The Spirit of Prophecy in the SDA Church.
a. Her claim: Messenger of the Lord.
“She said: “My commission embraces the work of a prophet, but it does not end there” (Selected Messages, Book One, p 36); “If others call me by that name [prophetess], I have no controversy with them” (ibid., p 34); “My work includes much more than this name signifies. I regard myself as a messenger, entrusted by the Lord with messages for His people” (ibid., p 36).” (A Statement of Confidence in the Spirit of Prophecy, General Conference, June 30, 1995)
“In these letters which I write, in the testimonies I bear, I am presenting to you that which the Lord has presented to me. I do not write one article in the paper expressing merely my ideas. They are what God opened before me in vision – the precious rays of light shining from the throne” (Testimonies, V:31, p. 63).
b. SDA claims: Spirit of Prophecy.
“In the life and ministry of Ellen G. White (1827-1915), we see God’s promise fulfilled to provide the remnant church with the “spirit of prophecy.” Although Ellen G White did not claim the title “prophet,” we believe she did the work of a prophet, and more.” (A Statement of Confidence in the Spirit of Prophecy, General Conference, June 30, 1995)
c. Applicable and authoritative:
“We believe that Ellen White was inspired by the Holy Spirit and that her writings, the product of inspiration, are applicable and authoritative, especially to Seventh-day Adventists” (Adventist Review, July 15, 1982).
d. Inspired like the Bible:
“…we reaffirm our abiding confidence in the teaching of Sister White to the church, as the teaching of the Spirit of God.” (SDA Yearbook for 1914, p. 253)
“We do not believe that the quality or degree of inspiration in the writings of Ellen White is different from that of Scripture” (Adventist Review, July 15, 1982).
e. Avoid two extremes?
“We conclude, therefore, that a correct understanding of the inspiration and authority of the writings of Ellen White will avoid two extremes: (1) regarding these writings as functioning on a canonical level identical with Scripture, or (2) considering them as ordinary Christian literature” (Adventist Review, July 15, 1982).
-Yet, E.G. White said:
“If you lessen the confidence of God’s people in the testimonies he has sent them, you are rebelling against God as certainly as were Kora, Dathan, and Abiram” (Testimonies, V:31, p. 62).
2. Not canonical, not ordinary: Why the uncertainty? -Because much of Ellen G. White's writings resulted from plagiarism.
a. Plagiarize: “copying, or imitating the language, ideas, and thoughts of another author and passing off the same as one’s original work;” “to steal and pass off (the ideas or words of another) as one’s own: use (another’s production) without crediting the source” (Webster).
b. Chief accuser and documenter: Walter Rea (The White Lie, 1982): Adventist Minister for 33 years who lost faith in White’s inspiration while writing a commentary on the Bible using only White’s writings when he discovered how extensively she “borrowed” from other writers.
“On the basis of his research he challenges anyone to find even twenty percent of her writings that were original and not borrowed from others” (Ellen G. White and Inspiration, Maurice Barnett, 5).
3. SDA recommendation:
“We consider the biblical canon closed. However, we also believe, as did Ellen G White’s contemporaries, that her writings carry divine authority, both for godly living and for doctrine. Therefore, we recommend:
1) That as a church we seek the power of the Holy Spirit to apply to our lives more fully the inspired counsel contained in the writings of Ellen G White, and
2) That we make increased efforts to publish and circulate these writings throughout the world.” (A Statement of Confidence in the Spirit of Prophecy, General Conference, June 30, 1995)
1. Writing that was inspired by the Holy Spirit is Scripture – 1 Cor. 2:13; 14:37; 2 Tim. 3:16-17.
2. Holy Spirit is not a plagiarist – 2 Pet. 1:20-21 (origin and interpretation).
3. Inspiration ended with completed gospel – Jno. 16:13; 1 Cor. 13:8-10.
4. Ellen G. White was not the “spirit of prophecy” in the church.
III. SIN AND SALVATION.
A. SDA: Men are Born Sinners (Original Sin).
-THE Bible: Sin is actual and is committed, not inherited – Ezek. 18:20; Rom. 5:12-13.
B. SDA: How to be Saved.
1. SDA: Believe, repent and exercise faith.
a. “Led by the Holy Spirit we sense our need, acknowledge our sinfulness, repent of our transgressions, and exercise faith in Jesus as Lord and Christ, as Substitute and Example.” (Fundamental Beliefs, 10)
b. On becoming a Christian:
“You are a sinner. You cannot atone for your past sins; you cannot change your heart and make yourself holy. But God promises to do all this for you through Christ. You BELIEVE that promise. You confess your sins and give yourself to God. You WILL to serve Him. Just as surely as you do this, God will fulfill His word to you. If you believe the promise – believe that you are forgiven and cleansed – God supplies the fact; you are made whole, just as Christ gave the paralytic power to walk when the man believed that he was healed. It IS so if you believe it.” (Steps to Christ, E.G. White, 51; cited in Handbook of Religious Quotations, Dawson and MacArthur, 164)
c. SDA distinguish between “forgiveness of sins” (prior to 1844) and “blotting out of sins” (Christ in the Most Holy Place of heaven after 1844).
a. Condition of church membership.
“Baptism by immersion typifies the death, burial, and resurrection of Christ, and openly expresses faith in His saving grace, and the renunciation of sin and the world, and is recognized as a condition of entrance into church membership.” (“Summary of Doctrinal Beliefs,” #22; cited in Handbook of Religious Quotations, Dawson and MacArthur, 164)
b. A Symbol…
“By baptism we confess our faith in the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, and testify of our death to sin and of our purpose to walk in newness of life. Thus we acknowledge Christ as Lord and Saviour, become His people, and are received as members by His church. Baptism is a symbol of our union with Christ, the forgiveness of our sins, and our reception of the Holy Spirit. It is by immersion in water and is contingent on an affirmation of faith in Jesus and evidence of repentance of sin. It follows instruction in the Holy Scriptures and acceptance of their teachings.” (Fundamental Teachings, 14)
c. Prerequisites to being baptized into the SDA Church:
(1) Thorough instruction previous to baptism (individually and baptismal class).
(2) Public examination of readiness.
(3) Publicly affirm (vow) acceptance of the doctrinal beliefs of the SDA Church by answering 13 questions, including:
-Vow to keep the Sabbath
-Vow to abstain from all unclean foods (pork, ham, shrimp, lobster and clams) for health reasons, (The Four Major Cults, Hoekema, 133-134).
1. Actual reception after baptism: Remission, blotting out, forgiveness, blessings of the Spirit: All before 1844 and now – Acts 2:38; 3:19; Eph. 1:7.
2. Union with Christ is after baptism – Rom. 6:3-5.
3. Bible prerequisites: Believe, confess faith, repent of sins – Mk. 16:15-16; Acts 8:36-37; Acts 2:38.
4. Result: Lord adds the saved person to His church – Acts 2:47 (1 Cor. 12:13).
IV. THE TEN COMMANDMENTS AND THE SABBATH.
A. SDA: Ten Commandments are God’s Unchangeable Law and Binding on All.
“The great principles of God’s law are embodied in the Ten Commandments and exemplified in the life of Christ. They express God’s love, will, and purposes concerning human conduct and relationships and are binding upon all people in every age.” (Fundamental Beliefs, 18)
1. 10 Commandments: To Israel, not binding on all people – Deut. 5:1-3.
2. 10 Commandments: Part of old law nailed to cross – Col. 2:14-15.
a. Includes its Sabbath law: Col. 2:16-17. Not to be bound today.
b. Includes its moral laws: Rom. 7:7 (coveting); Discharged from that law, 7:6; Dead to it, 7:4. (Morality is now defined and revealed in the gospel teaching on love – Rom. 13:8-10.)
B. SDA: The Sabbath: A Perpetual Commandment; Required as a Day of Rest, Worship and Ministry.
“The beneficent Creator, after the six days of Creation, rested on the seventh day and instituted the Sabbath for all people as a memorial of Creation…The Sabbath is God’s perpetual sign of His eternal covenant between Him and His people.” (Fundamental Beliefs, 19)
DEFINITION OF “SABBATH.”
A. Root Meaning: To Cease, Desist (Vine, III:311).
1. “The idea is not that of relaxation or refreshment, but cessation from activity” (Ibid.).
2. “Sabbath” means rest, not ‘seventh.’
SABBATH OBSERVANCE ESTABLISHED?
A. At Mount Sinai – Neh. 9:13-14 (Exo. 20:1, 8-11, 22; Deut. 5:1-3, 12-15).
B. The Sabbath was Not Commanded at Creation.
1. Gen. 2:2 – God rested on the 7th day of creation – Not man.
2. Fact that God “sanctified” the 7th day does not
address for what purpose He dedicated it -- that must be learned from
other Scripture (Deut. 5:12-15).
3. Exo. 20:11 – God used His day of rest from creative work to illustrate the rest (Sabbath) He commanded Israel.
TO WHOM WAS THE SABBATH GIVEN?
A. To the Nation of Israel – Exo. 31:13, 16-17; Deut. 5:2-3 (12-14).
-(Not to Abraham, Isaac, Jacob and his sons, Deut. 5:2-3.)
B. Not to All Men (the Gentiles) – Ezek. 20:9-12, 18-20.
-(Not to the Egyptians, Deut. 5:12-15.)
WHY WAS ISRAEL GIVEN THE SABBATH?
A. It was a Sign between God and Israel –
Exo. 31:13, 17.
1. Sign: “a distinguishing mark,” a token of agreement.
2. 31:13 – Of Israel’s faith in and relationship with the Lord.
3. 31:16 – Hence, it was a covenant (divine ordinance).
B. It was a Memorial for Israel to Remember God Delivered them Egyptian Bondage – Deut. 5:15.
HOW LONG WAS
ISRAEL TO OBSERVE THE SABBATH?
A. Until the End of Israel’s Obligation to the Law of Moses – Exo. 31:13, 16-17.
1. 31:13 – Throughout your generations: Those living during a period (period of Israel’s history).
2. 31:16 – Perpetual: Everlasting, always, continuance existence.
3. 31:17 – Forever: Age-lasting.
4. A “perpetual” and “forever” covenant is age-lasting in nature:
a. Levitical priesthood (sons of Aaron) – Exo. 40:15.
(1) Yet, that priesthood ended with changing of the law –
(2) Therefore, what was “forever” had an end.
b. The age of the OT law has ended – Jer. 31:31-34; Heb. 8:13 (1:1-2).
B. Old Law and the Christian: Dead to it (Rom. 7:4); Discharged from OT law (Rom. 7:6), done away (2 Cor. 3:14), blotted out (Col. 2:14), abolished (Eph. 2:15), no longer under it (Gal. 3:25).
1. Therefore, the Sabbath is not binding on anyone today – Col. 2:16-17.
2. Those who do so are debtors to keep all, severed from Christ and without grace – Gal. 5:2-4.
A SABBATH REMAINS FOR THE PEOPLE OF GOD: Heaven – Heb. 4:9-11 (Rev. 14:13).
V. OTHER SDA PRACTICES AND DOCTRINES.
A. SDA: Tithing.
1. “Scripture tells us that the tithe is “holy to the Lord,” symbolizing God’s ownership of everything (Lev. 27:30, 32).” (Seventh-day Adventists Believe…, 271, Ministerial Association, General Conference of Seventh-day Adventists).
2. “The tithe belongs to the Lord, and He requests that we return it to Him” (Ibid.).
1. Tithing was part of OT law to Israel – Lev. 27:34: “These are the commandments which the Lord commanded Moses for the children of Israel on Mount Sinai.”
2. NT teaches Christians about giving to the Lord:
a. First give ourselves to the Lord – 2 Cor. 8:12, 5.
b. As prospered on first day of week – 1 Cor. 16:2.
c. Purpose of heart, freely and cheerfully – 2 Cor. 9:7.
B. SDA: The Communion Service.
1. Foot washing and the Lord’s Supper. (Observed quarterly)
“The ordinances of foot washing and the Lord’s Supper make up the Communion services. Thus, Christ instituted both of these ordinances to assist us with entering into communion with Him.” (Seventh-day Adventists Believe…, 196, Ministerial Association, General Conference of Seventh-day Adventists)
“So believers must confess and repent of all sin – including pride, rivalry, jealousy, resentful feelings, and selfishness – before they can be in the right spirit to have communion with Christ at this deepest level.
“To this end Christ instituted the ordinance of foot washing. Not only did He set an example but stated they ought to do the same, and promised them a blessing: “If you know these things, happy are you if you do them” (Jno. 13:17). This ordinance, preceding the Lord’s Supper, fulfills the injunction that all should examine themselves so as not to participate in that meal “in an unworthy manner” (1 Cor. 11:27-29).” (Ibid.)
-SDA says foot washing is…
a. A memorial of Christ’s condescension.
b. A type of higher cleansing of the heart and deeper communion with Christ.
c. A fellowship of forgiveness.
d. A fellowship with Christ and believers.
1. Foot washing: Common courtesy of the day (Lk. 7:44).
2. Jesus in Jno. 13:12-17: Gave an example of humble service for disciples to follow; not a ceremonial “ordinance” to keep.
3. 1 Cor. 11:27-29: Examination of self, not to eat “in an unworthy manner” – Failure to discern the Lord’s body – to remember His death (cf. 11:20-21).
4. If foot washing, why not a holy kiss ceremony? (Rom. 16:16)
5. Lord’s Supper:
a. First day of every week – Acts 20:7.
b. Communion, memorial and proclamation – 1 Cor. 10:16; 11:23-26.
C. SDA: After Death, Man Sleeps in a State of Unconsciousness.
1. The wages of sin is physical death.
“But after they transgressed God’s command, Adam and Eve discovered that the wages of sin is, indeed, death (Rom. 6:23). Their sin brought this sentence: You shall “return to the ground, for out of it you were taken; for dust you are and to dust you shall return” (Gen. 3:19). These words do not point to a continuation of life but to its cessation.” (Seventh-day Adventists Believe…, 350, Ministerial Association, General Conference of Seventh-day Adventists)
2. Soul sleep.
“The wages of sin is death. But God, who alone is immortal, will grant eternal life to His redeemed. Until that day death is an unconscious state for all people.” (Fundamental Beliefs, 25)
“The teaching of the Bible regarding the intermediate state of man is plain. Death is really and truly a sleep, a sleep that is deep, that is unconscious, that is unbroken until the awakening at the resurrection.
“In death man enters a state of sleep. The language of the Bible makes it clear that it is the whole man which sleeps, not merely a part. No intimation is given that man sleeps only as to his body, and that he is wakeful and conscious as to his soul. All that comprises the man sleeps in death.” (Life, Death, and Immortality, 202; cited by Hoekema, 135)
1. The wages of sin is spiritual death – cf. Gen. 2:17.
a. Consequence of sin is physical death – Gen. 3:17, 19.
2. If physical death is the wage of sin, then…
a. Free gift of grace in Jesus (salvation) means no more physical death, Rom. 5:12-15.
b. But, that gift is spiritual life, Rom. 6:4, 11-13, 22-23.
c. Therefore, spiritual death is the wage of sin!
3. Conscious after death – Lk. 16:19-31 (22-25).
D. SDA: No Hell.
1. No eternal place of never-ending punishment. (All those who have rebelled against God, including Satan, will be wiped out of existence.)
2. Wicked are annihilated.
“…The finally impenitent, including Satan, the author of sin, will, by the fires of the last day, be reduced to a state of non-existence, becoming as though they had not been, thus purging God’s universe of sin and sinners.” (Fundamental Beliefs, Article 12; cited by Hoekema, 142)
“When Christ spoke of ‘everlasting punishment’ (Matt. 25:46) He did not mean everlasting punishing. He meant that as the “eternal life [the righteous will enjoy] will continue throughout the ceaseless ages of eternity; and the punishment [the wicked will suffer] will also be eternal – not eternal duration of conscious suffering, however, but punishment that is complete and final. The end of those who thus suffer is the second death. This death will be eternal, from which there will not, and cannot, be any resurrection.” (Questions on Doctrine, 539; cited in Seventh-day Adventists Believe…, 370-371, Ministerial Association, General Conference of Seventh-day Adventists)
1. Hell is real – Matt. 10:28; 23:33.
2. Place of destruction (Matt. 10:28); condemnation (Matt. 23:33).
3. Hell and its punishment is everlasting – 2 Thess. 1:8-9.
a. Everlasting fire that is never quenched and worm does not die – Matt. 25:41; Mk. 9:43.
b. Lake of fire where torment of Satan and wicked occurs “day and night forever and ever” – Rev. 20:10.
c. No rest day or night as “the smoke of their torment ascends forever and ever” – Rev. 14:11; the “second death” (Rev. 20:14-15).
d. Matt. 25:46: If “everlasting punishment” does not mean everlasting punishing, then “everlasting life” does not mean everlasting living!
E. SDA: The Earth Will Last Forever.
-(SDA is premillennial with a twist: Believe in a future 1000 year reign of Christ on earth…final annihilation of all the wicked…the earth will be restored and last forever.)
“The earth, restored to its pristine beauty, will become forever the abode of the saints of the Lord. The promise of Abraham, that through Christ he and his seed should possess the earth through the endless ages of eternity, will be fulfilled.” (Fundamental Beliefs, Article 22, cited by Hoekema, 143)
“On the new earth, in which righteousness dwells, God will provide an eternal home for the redeemed and a perfect environment for everlasting life, love, joy, and learning in His presence. For here God Himself will dwell with His people, and suffering and death will have passed away. The great controversy will be ended, and sin will be no more. All things, animate and inanimate, will declare that God is love; and He shall reign forever. Amen.” (Fundamental Beliefs, 27)
1. Kingdom of Christ exists now – His church (Col. 1:13; Rev. 1:9).
2. Land promise to Abraham’s seed was fulfilled long ago – Gen. 12:7; Josh. 21:43.
3. Earth and its works will “burn up”, not be “restored” – 2 Pet. 3:10, 12.
4. “New heavens and a new earth” is heaven, the eternal realm of righteousness – 2 Pet. 3:13.
-Rev. 21:1: “Now I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away.”
5. Meet the Lord in the air and in this manner we will always be with Him – 1 Thess. 4:17.
1. SDA Church began because of error (William Miller’s false dates of the return of Jesus).
2. It is perpetuated by false doctrine and false hopes.
3. To Seventh-day Adventists we say:
a. “Let no one cheat you of your reward” by binding the abolished laws of the Sabbath and by promising false hope of the future. (Col. 2:18)
b. Come out from among them and be separate (2 Cor. 6:17-18).
Barnett, Maurice, Ellen G. White and Inspiration
Dawson, Samuel G. and MacArthur, Rod, Handbook of Religious Quotations
General Conference of Seven-day Adventists, Seventh-day Adventists Believe…, A Biblical Exposition of 27 Fundamental Doctrines
Hoekema, Anthony A., The Four Major Cults
Kellner, Mark A., “Annual Council: 13.6 Million Are Adventist Members; 2,756 Baptized Daily,” Adventist News Network,
Mead, Frank S., Handbook of Denominations in the United States, 8th Edition
The Seventh-day Adventist Church Web Site, www.adventist.org/
Tomlinson, L. G., Church of Today in the Light of Scripture