You may have a Seventh-day Adventist church in your town. Or perhaps you have an Adventist friend or neighbor. You may have wondered, “What makes the SDA church different from other churches?” This article will give you answers to help you better understand Adventists and what they believe.
Adventism began when William Miller (1782–1849), a Baptist preacher in the United States, concluded that the “second Advent” (second coming) of Jesus Christ would occur between March of 1843 and March of 1844. Many people followed his message. When the prediction didn’t come true, some second-Advent believers shifted the date of Jesus’ return to October 22, 1844. When this date also failed (an event known as the “Great Disappointment”), some of his followers introduced a variety of new dates, but still others reinterpreted the October 1844 prediction in order to make it spiritually true.
One of them, Hiram Edson (1806–1882), claimed to have a vision while walking in a cornfield the day after the October 1844 date failed. Mr. Edson said he saw Jesus moving from one compartment of the “heavenly sanctuary” to another instead of returning to earth. Edson announced that this was the true meaning of Miller’s prediction, rather than admit that 1844 was a false prophecy.
Two of Miller’s followers who accepted this explanation were James White (1821–1881) and his wife, Ellen (1827–1915). Ellen suffered a severe head injury as a young child, and in her teen years often said she had messages from God. Now she claimed visions and prophecies far beyond Edson’s brief vision in the cornfield. As time went by, her visions were increasingly accepted as a source of divine guidance.
In 1863 the Whites and others formed the Seventh-day Adventist Church, which today claims over 21 million members in over 200 countries and territories.
The Seventh-day Adventist church is different from other churches in at least six important areas:
 Ellen G. White
Mrs. White plays a central role in Seventh-day Adventism. She is said to have experienced more than 2,000 visions during her lifetime, and Adventists call her “the Lord’s messenger” and the “spirit of prophecy.”
Mrs. White was a prolific writer; she claimed that God had given her visions of the past, the future, and even the inhabitants of other planets. Though she was not always in error, in her revelations she often contradicted not just the Bible, but herself. She wrote that Christ had a sinful human nature on earth, declared that His atoning work on the cross was incomplete, and at times she undermined the deity of Christ. We now know that in her supposedly “inspired” writings, she copied vast amounts of material from other writers, pretending it was her own; SDA leaders have actively tried to suppress this information. Because the SDA church claims that Ellen G. White is a “continuing and authoritative source of truth” from God, we must use the biblical tests of a prophet (such as 1 Thess. 5:19–22 and Deut. 18:21–22) to test her teachings.
The early Adventist “pioneers” clearly rejected the historic Christian belief that Jesus is God.
The SDA church now officially states that Jesus is equal to God the Father. However, beliefs related to their leaders’ original denial of Jesus’ deity can be seen in the Adventist teachings that He was capable of sinning and failing in His mission as Savior; that His perfect life demonstrates how we are able to live sinless lives; and that He is Michael the Archangel.
Making the picture even more complicated, Adventism also has a long history of confusing teachings about God. Most early Adventist leaders were Arian or semi-Arian and anti-trinitarian, believing that Jesus is a created being and not equal with God the Father. Ellen White taught that Jesus is Michael the Archangel and that because God exalted Jesus, this made Lucifer jealous. While she endorsed “the Godhead” in her later writings, she still referred to the Trinity as “the three Worthies of Heaven” and as “the heavenly Trio.” Although the current SDA statement of “Fundamental Beliefs” sounds orthodox on the Trinity, nevertheless Adventists are taught that the Trinity is “like” a family, with three distinct people but a common purpose and name. They state that God is one in “purpose, mind, and character,” but they will not state that He is one in substance. Modern Adventism contains both functional tritheism and a movement back toward Arianism.
 Investigative Judgment
Hiram Edson claimed to have a vision of Jesus moving from one part of the Heavenly Sanctuary to another in 1844 to begin the “Investigative Judgment.”
This doctrine states that Jesus’ death on the Cross did not finish the work of salvation. Instead, Jesus moved from the Holy into the Most Holy Place (Holy of Holies) to begin reviewing the records of all those who professed Christ. According to the Adventist “sanctuary doctrine” patterned after the Old Testament Day of Atonement, the sins of those who claim to be believers are transferred from the professed believers to heaven by the blood of Christ. These sins remain on the books of heaven with “pardon” written beside them—but not full forgiveness. Jesus must still determine whether or not they have been individually confessed. If the sins have been specifically confessed, they are forgiven and ultimately placed on Satan (the “scapegoat”), who bears them into the Lake of Fire where he is punished for them. But if not, the sins are placed back on the person who committed them, who will then be punished for them in the Lake of Fire. Thus heaven will finally be cleansed of the sins carried there by Jesus’ blood.
Adventism teaches that Christians who fail to confess even one sin will have their sins placed back onto them, and they will suffer in the lake of fire. Believers who confess every sin will be pardoned, and their sins will be placed on Satan the scapegoat, who will be punished for them in the lake of fire, thus cleansing heaven. Those who attain perfect obedience to the law will then “vindicate God’s character”; this will prove to the sinless beings who watch from other worlds across the universe that Satan was wrong in accusing God of requiring mankind to obey a law that couldn’t be kept.
The Investigative Judgment doctrine is not found in the Bible, and it goes against its clear teachings. An all-knowing God does not require time to investigate the deeds of believers. Christians do not have perfect memory of their sins. And righteousness does not come by law-keeping (see Rom. 4:14–15, Gal. 3:21–22). Jesus Himself bore our sins once and for all on the Cross (Eph. 2:14–16, Col. 1:19–20), and His own blood is always the cleansing agent (1 John 1:7).
 “Remnant” Church
The Adventist church claims that it is the true church portrayed in Revelation chapter 12.
This teaching indicates that other churches are apostate and lack the “full truth”—so Adventists seek to convert evangelicals and other Christians to Adventism. The SDA church and its related organizations (like The Voice of Prophecy, It Is Written, and The Quiet Hour) often proselytize in a way that hides their true identity and their dependence on the teachings of Ellen G. White.
The Adventist church teaches that God requires His true followers to worship Him on the “seventh day”—that is, the Sabbath.
Adventists say the Sabbath is the “seal of God” (or “sign of the seal of God”) and will be the final wall of separation between true believers and unbelievers. Adventists also believe the Antichrist will set up an “international Sunday law,” requiring all nations to rest on Sunday and work on the Seventh Day. When Jesus returns, the “mark of the beast” will be going to church on Sunday; only the Sabbath-keepers will be saved.
The Bible says which day to worship is optional for believers (Rom. 14:5–8). Worship on the first day of the week is approved in the New Testament (John 20:19, 26; Acts 20:7, 1 Cor. 16:2).
In her teachings, Ellen G. White placed an unbearable—and unscriptural—burden of righteousness through works on her followers.
Mrs. White wrote that the teaching that Christ’s imputed righteousness fulfills the law is “gross deception.” She taught that God demands that we obey the law perfectly, and that accepting Jesus is necessary to be saved. However, once a person accepts Jesus, he is obligated to keep the 10 Commandments (with special attention to the fourth), with increasing perfection until either the person dies or Jesus returns. Jesus will not return, she taught, until the character of Christ is been perfectly reflected in His people.
The Seventh-day Adventist church promotes many other errors and strange teachings, including soul-sleep (conditional immortality and the denial of an immaterial human spirit apart from one’s “breath”), and the denial of eternal hell. The SDA church also prints and promotes The Clear Word, a deceptive version of the Bible that frequently inserts the strange teachings of Adventism into the text where there is no basis in the original Bible manuscripts to do so.
The teachings of the Seventh-day Adventist church are clearly in conflict with the Bible’s warnings in a number of areas.
• They teach that the 10 Commandments are eternal and that a person’s works ensure his salvation (in contradiction with Gal. 3:1–3).
• They teach that the seventh-day Sabbath is required and is not a shadow of Christ (in contrast with Colossians 2:16–17).
• Their food restrictions are “doctrines of demons” (1 Tim. 4:1–4).
• They have a prophetess whose legacy continues to teach a different gospel in spite of Paul’s warnings (Gal. 1:8–9) and the statement in Hebrews 1:1–3 that in these last days, God “has spoken to us by His Son.”
• They deny that the human spirit is anything other than breath, thus denying that the spirit is capable of knowing thoughts (1 Cor. 2:11).
• And they contradict Jesus Himself when they deny that He completed His atonement on the cross (John 19:30).
It’s possible that many individual Adventists genuinely trust in Christ as their Savior. But because the Seventh-day Adventist church teaches many serious errors, Christians who trust in the Bible alone as God’s final and sufficient Word cannot be in partnership with it, and should not assume that most Adventists are fellow Christians.
Hope for Adventists
Seventh-day Adventists need to hear the Good News that Jesus Christ is their true and sufficient “Sabbath rest.” The Bible promises that He alone can provide the way to eternal life—apart from any good works that you and I can do ourselves.