Seventh-day Adventist Church Profile
Organization Structure: Headquarters in Washington, D.C. Organized as
representative democracy. Lower echelons elect representatives to higher units;
determination and administration of policy, enforcement of doctrinal orthodoxy,
imposed from top down. President, and Executive Committee of General Conference
are standing chief administrative offices. Lower administrative units are the
General Conference, Divisions (over continents), Union Conferences, local Conferences,
and congregations. Several small Universities and Colleges and numerous well
respected hospitals are maintained worldwide.
Unique Terms: Investigative Judgement, Spirit of Prophecy,
Coming into the Truth (believing and living the full SDA message
and lifestyle), Remnant Church.
The world was predicted to end in 1844 with the Second Coming of Christ,
by William Miller, a New England Baptist itinerant preacher. Miller's followers
condemned all the churches of the day as apostate and Babylon, and
warned Christians to come out of them. A
great many did, and the adventist movement was born and grew rapidly
(Melton, J. Gordon, Encyclopedia of American Religions, Vol. 2, pp. 2122).
Christ did not appear in 1844. After this Great
Disappointment, one little flock still insisted the date of
their original predictions had been correct. They decided the event marked by
1844 was not the Second Coming, but the entrance of Christ into the Holy of
Holies in the Heavenly Sanctuary. There, they said, He began the Investigative
Judgement. This doctrine was received and endorsed by Ellen G. White (Ibid.,
From 1844 to 1851 the group taught the shut door doctrine, based
on Jesus parable of the ten virgins. Anyone
who had not accepted the Adventist message by the time Jesus entered the Holy
of Holies was to be shut out permanently, as were the five foolish virgins.
Cut off from the Bridegroom, they could not join the Adventists or have any
hope of eternal life. Ellen White not only approved and taught this doctrine,
but her first vision experience was largely responsible for its being received
by the Adventist group (Brinsmead, Robert, D., Judged by the Gospel: A Review
of Adventism, pp. 13033).
By 1846 the group had adopted the Seventh-day Baptists view that the
Saturday Sabbath must be observed by Christians. A highly elevated form of this
doctrine, together with the doctrine of the Investigative Judgment, became the
hallmarks of Seventh-day Adventism. In 1850 James and Ellen White began publishing
a magazine, The Review & Herald, to disseminate adventist and sabbatarian
doctrines. This helped many of the remaining Millerites to coalesce
into a distinctive body which adopted the name of Seventh-day Adventist Church
in 1860, and formally incorporated in 1863, with approximately 3,500 members
in 125 congregations (Encyclopedia of American Religion, Vol. 2, p. 681).
Ellen White never held official title as the head of the church, but was one
of its founders and acknowledged spiritual leader. She rather disingenuously
declined to claim the title of prophet, calling herself a messenger
instead (Damsteegt, P.G., et. al., Seventh-day Adventists Believe. . .,
p. 224). But she claimed to have the spirit of prophecy, and that
her messages were direct from God for the guidance and instruction of the church.
With her knowledge and consent others called her a prophet, and even the
Spirit of Prophecy (Barnett, Maurice, Ellen G. White & Inspiration,
pp. 517). Having only a third grade education, Ellen White said for years
she was unable to read, bolstering the claim that her beautiful prose was inspired
by God. However, it has been discovered that she not only read, but plagiarized
other Christian authors throughout virtually all her writings. The sad facts
of this matter have been thoroughly and indisputably established in several
books. (e.g., see; Rea, Walter, The White Lie; and Judged by the Gospel,
pp. 36183). Ellen White died in 1915 at age eighty-eight.
Historically, evangelicals have had difficulty defining and categorizing SDA.
Much SDA doctrine is biblically orthodox. Within its ranks are many true Christians,
some even in positions of prominence. At various points in its history, most
notably in the 1888 General Conference, the SDA church has been shaken by the
biblical gospel. In the 1970s this became quite intense (Se: Paxton, Geoffrey,
J., The Shaking of Adventism). Unfortunately, it produced a polarization.
The church administrators generally became more entrenched in the unorthodox
positions of traditional SDA, while some pastors and even whole congregations
left or were asked to leave the SDA church (From Controversy to Crisis,
CRI Journal, Vol. 11, No. 1, pp. 914). In official publications
the SDA church continues to defend Ellen White legends, and maintain there was
no difference in the degree of inspiration she received from that received by
Bible writers (Review & Herald, 4 October 1928, p. 11; Source
of Final Appeal, Adventist Review, 3 June 1971, pp. 46; G.
A. Irwin, Mark of the Beast, p. 1; The Inspiration and Authority
of the Ellen G. White Writings, Adventist Review, 15 July 1982,
p. 3; Ministry, October 1981, p. 8; see also, Judged by the Gospel,
pp. 12530). In their June, 2000, General Conference they voted to more
aggressively affirm and support the Spirit of Prophecy through the ministry
of Ellen White(Adventist
Today, [online: July 2000] ). They also teach a number of other doctrines
clearly irreconcilable with the biblical gospel (see Doctrine, below).
So long as these things continue, evangelicals must persist in questioning the
status of the SDA church organization in Christianity,
and much more, her claim to be Gods only true, end-time Remnant
SDA teachings most clearly contrary to the gospel and unorthodox in nature are
its insistence on water baptism as an essential prerequisite to salvation, its
teaching about the end time significance of sabbath observance to identification
of true believers, and its doctrine of the Investigative Judgement.
Christ made it clear
that He required baptism of those who wished to become part of his church, His
spiritual kingdom. In baptism believers enter into the passion experience
of our Lord.
[B]aptism also marks [a] persons entrance
into Christs spiritual kingdom.
it unites the new believer to Christ.
Through baptism the Lord adds the new disciples to the body of believers
His body, the church.
Then they are members of Gods family
, pp. 182, 184, 187).
[T]he divine institution of the Sabbath is
to be restored
The delivering of this message will precipitate a conflict
that will involve the whole world. The central issue will be obedience to God's
law and the observance of the Sabbath.
Those who reject it will eventually
receive the mark of the beast (Ibid., pp. 26263).
In one of her most revered works, Ellen White wrote that Sabbath observance
would be the line of distinction in the final test that
will separate Gods end-time people who receive the seal of God
and are saved, from those who receive the mark of the beast (The
Great Controversy Between Christ and Satan, p. 605).
Describing a supposed vision direct from God, Ellen White wrote, I saw
that the Holy Sabbath is, and will be, the separating wall between the
true Israel of God and unbelievers (Early Writings, p. 33;
emphasis added). She also wrote of some Adventists failing to understand that
observance was of sufficient importance to draw a line between
the people of God and unbelievers (Ibid., p. 85).
The Investigative Judgement: In 1844
entered the second and last phase of His atoning ministry. It is a work
of investigative judgement which is part of the ultimate disposition of all
It also makes manifest who among the living are abiding in Christ,
keeping the commandments of God and the faith of Jesus,
and in Him, therefore, are ready for translation into His everlasting
kingdom. This judgement vindicates the justice of God in saving those
who believe in Jesus. It declares that those who have remained loyal to God
shall receive the kingdom (SDAs Believe
, p. 312; emphasis
[O]ur High Priest enters the holy of holies [in 1844]
the work of investigative judgement and to make an atonement for all
who are shown to be entitled to its benefits
Every mans work
passes in review before God and is registered for faithfulness or unfaithfulness
The law of God is the standard by which the characters and the lives of men
will be tested in the judgement
As the books of record are opened in the
judgement, the lives of all those who have believed on Jesus
come in review before God
Names are accepted, names rejected
they have become partakers of the righteousness of Christ,
and their characters are found to be in harmony with the law of God,
their sins will be blotted out, and they themselves will be accounted
worthy of eternal life
Jesus does not excuse their sins, but shows
their penitence and faith, and, claiming for them forgiveness, He lifts
His wounded hands before the Father
Sins that have not been repented of
and forsaken will not be pardoned and blotted out of the books of record,
but will stand to witness against the sinner
[Christ] had kept His Fathers
commandments, and there was no sin in Him
this is the condition in
which those must be found who shall stand in the time of trouble (Great
Controversy, pp. 480, 48284, 486, 623).
According to Ellen White one must believe this doctrine to be saved. Those
who would share the benefits of the Saviors mediation should permit nothing
to interfere with their duty to perfect holiness in the fear of God
subject of the sanctuary and the investigative judgement should be clearly understood
by the people of God. All need a knowledge for themselves of the position [in
the Holy of Holies] and work [investigative judgement] of their great High Priest.
Otherwise it will be impossible for them to exercise the faith which is essential
at this time or to occupy the position which God designs for them to fill.
Every individual has a soul to save or to lose. Each has a case pending at the
bar of God
All who have received the light on these subjects are to bear
testimony of the great truths which God has committed to them. The sanctuary
in heaven is the very center of Christs work in behalf of men
is of the utmost importance that all should thoroughly investigate these subjects
The intercession of Christ in mans behalf in the sanctuary above is as
essential to the plan of salvation as was His death upon a cross. By
His death He began that work which after his resurrection He ascended
to complete in Heaven (Ibid., pp. 48889; emphasis
Other distinctive SDA teachings include vegetarianism and other health
issues; the doctrine of soul sleep, a misnomer for the belief that
between death and resurrection one is essentially non-existent except
in the memory of God; the annihilation of the wicked (as opposed to conscious
torment for eternity).
Baptism: Rom. 3:2126, 28; 4:46, 2324; 5:1; Gal. 2:16;
3:26; 5:16; Eph. 2:410; Col. 1:1314; 2:1314. These passages
make it clear that salvation is entirely by Gods grace alone, apart from
any works, and laid hold of by faith alone. Baptism is mentioned in close proximity
to some of these passages, but the New Testament uses the word baptism
in various ways. Clearly, the one baptism (Eph. 4:45) that
is essential is the baptism of the Spirit. If a passage makes baptism essential
to salvation it can only refer to the baptism of the Spirit, or it would conflict
with other Scriptures which plainly teach salvation is apart from any human
The Sabbath: The quoted statements above, particularly Ellen Whites,
are crystal clear. Sabbath observance, not trust in Christ alone for complete
forgiveness of sins and eternal life, is to be the dividing line between the
saved and the lost in the end time. This is certainly antithetical to the gospel
defined by the passages above. See also, Rom. 14:56; Col. 2:1617.
The Old Testament Sabbath was never anything more than a shadow of the substance.
The reality of the New Testament Sabbath rest of God, which Paul and the writer
of Hebrews make clear, is Christ Himself, and the rest one experiences from
ones own works when one enters into Christ (Heb. 4:110).
The Investigative Judgement: the whole concept of the investigative
judgement is antithetical to the Gospel. Jesus did not wait until 1844 to enter
the Holy of Holies in heaven (Heb. 1:3; 6:1920; 8:1; 9:612, 24;
12:2). Neither is he still making an atonement in heaven (Heb. 9:2526;
10:1114). The investigative judgement proposes to vindicate the
justice of God in saving those who believe in Jesus, by showing they were
loyal, penitent, and faithful commandment
keepers. This is an outrage. Gods justice in saving sinners is vindicated
by Christs death on the cross, period (Rom. 3:2426).
Even when speaking of being saved by the righteousness of Christ, Adventist
writers refer to imparted righteousness, seldom to the biblical concept
of imputed righteousness. Calling it Christs righteousness,
while insisting on the believers perfection of character as a prerequisite
to salvation, is at worst a thinly veiled works salvation, or at best an attempt
to mix grace and works, something the Bible says is impossible to do (Rom. 11:6).
Mrs. Whites words are crystal clearone will not be forgiven until all
sins are eradicated from ones life and ones character is perfected.
Precisely the same heresy is found (besides many others) in Mormonism. It is
not the salvation by grace alone through faith alone offered in the Bible.
The error is compounded by the teaching that this latter day 1844 event must
be believed in to exercise the proper faith necessary to be saved. When Jesus
said on the cross, It is finished, i.e. completed, paid in full,
it cannot be that there is yet another salvation event more than 1800 years
later, just as essential to salvation as Christs death on the cross, in
which one must believe in order to be saved. This is clearly another gospel
Other doctrines: Some of the SDA health message may actually be helpful,
and it does not conflict with the gospel except when, as is often the case,
spiritual stigma is attached to non-observance of its asceticism (Gal. 2:11-16).
The soul-sleep doctrine conflicts with the gospel because, closely examined
and fully understood, it actually constitutes a denial of the resurrection (though
it is doubtful any SDA understands it to be so). Notwithstanding a smattering
of proof-texts, the annihilation doctrine is definitely aberrant
from the teaching of the Bible. It leaves the
sinner facing no eternal consequences for his sin; angst over annihilation
will not survive annihilation. Indeed, many people today think annihilation
preferable to even this life. They live on only because they cannot shake the
conviction that there is hell to pay. God has set eternity in their
hearts (Eccl. 3:11).
Ratzlaff, Dale, The Sabbath in Crisis. Excellent book by a former SDA
pastor, covers virtually every aspect of the Sabbath question. 345 pages, include.
scripture index, $15.
Ratzlaff, Dale, The Cultic Doctrine of Seveth-day Adventists. Probaly
the best popular, overall, treatment of Seventh-day Adventism, and especially
the 1844/Investigative Judgment/Sanctuary doctrine, ever penned. Leaves no doubt.
384 pages, four appendices, incl. bibliography, $15.
Tardo, Dr. Russell, K., Sunday Facts and Sabbath. Presents 25
Reasons Why the Christian Church Worships on Sunday. 144 pages, $5.
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