Seventh-Day Adventism began in 1845 with some former Millerites, a group who grew around William Miller. Miller believed that the date of the return of Jesus could be ascertained in Scripture, first suggesting He would return between March 21, 1843, and March 21, 1844, which was supposedly 2,300 years after the beginning of the prophecy in Daniel 8:14. When the spring of 1844 came and passed, many of Miller’s disciples determined that the date was truly October 22, 1844. When this day also passed, the group disbanded because of differences of interpretation over what happened in the “Great Disappointment,” as the event was called. One group believed that something important did happen in October 1844, that Jesus began His ministry from the Most Holy Place, which represented the beginning of the “end times.” The group recognized Ellen G. White as a prophet of God, and her writings were and are held in great esteem. The name “Seventh-Day Adventist” combines two of the group’s messages: that Christians are to hold to the Sabbath on the seventh day as God commanded Israel, and that the return of Jesus Christ is imminent, the “second advent.” Seventh-Day Adventism is known for adhering to many portions of the Law of Moses, including the Sabbath, the tithe, and dietary ordinances, and for strong premillennial beliefs.
Sections on this Page
There are some variants of the Millerite movement from which Seventh-Day Adventism originates. The Advent Christian Church was begun in 1860 from the Millerites, and they also preach the imminent return of Jesus Christ, although they do not believe that Ellen G. White was a prophet. Although there is internal disagreement over some issues and practices, the celebration of Easter being one, there have been no variants of Seventh-Day Adventism itself.
Seventh-Day Adventism teaches that the Sabbath, the day instituted by God for Israel to rest, is still binding upon Christians today. They believe that God instituted the commandment at creation1, that God never commanded Christians to do otherwise2, and that the Apostles observed the Sabbath3. Are these teachings validated by Scripture?
The commandment of God concerning the Sabbath was made in Exodus 20:9-11:
Six days shalt thou labor, and do all thy work; but the seventh day is a sabbath unto the LORD thy God: in it thou shalt not do any work, thou, nor thy son, nor thy daughter, thy man-servant, nor thy maid-servant, nor thy cattle, nor thy stranger that is within thy gates: for in six days the LORD made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that in them is, and rested the seventh day: wherefore the LORD blessed the sabbath day, and hallowed it.
The Sabbath was given to man as a day of rest for the reason that God rested on the seventh day. There is no evidence from the Scriptures that God commanded anyone before Moses to observe the Sabbath. Yes, God is said to sanctify the seventh day according to Genesis 2:3, but Genesis was no doubt written after the covenant was inaugurated between God and Israel, and the author demonstrates to Israel (and to us) the reasons behind the Sabbath regulation in the Law.
Likewise, there is never a commandment in the New Testament to observe the Sabbath. The Seventh-Day Adventists infer from the use of the term “sabbath” in Acts 13:14, 42, 44, 16:13, 17:1-2, and 18:4 that the Apostles did observe it. This inference, however, is not substantiated by the text: we see the Apostles preaching the word of God to the Jews on the Sabbath because that is when the latter came together. Paul says in Romans 1:16 that the Gospel went to the “Jew first, and then to the Greek,” and this is borne out in one example, Acts 17:1-2:
Now when they had passed through Amphipolis and Apollonia, they came to Thessalonica, where was a synagogue of the Jews: and Paul, as his custom was, went in unto them, and for three sabbath days reasoned with them from the Scriptures.
Paul’s custom was to reason with the Jews first in the cities he entered, and only after the Jews would not hear would he preach to the Gentiles.
It may be argued that since the term “sabbath” is used, this means that these Christians obviously observed it. This is not necessarily the case. “Christendom” recognizes December 25 as Christmas. If one speaks of doing something on Christmas day, does this necessitate that one observes Christmas as a religious observance? By no means, for it is the commonly understood term for December 25. Likewise, the early Christians recognized that the “seventh day” was the “Sabbath;” calling it as much does not necessitate its observance.
Concerning God having never “changed” the Sabbath, we must understand the nature of the covenants that God has with His children. We have been told in Colossians 2:13-14 the following:
And you, being dead through your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, you, I say, did he make alive together with him, having forgiven us all our trespasses; having blotted out the bond written in ordinances that was against us, which was contrary to us: and he hath taken it out that way, nailing it to the cross.
We also read the same message in Hebrews 7:12; 9:15:
For the priesthood being changed, there is made of necessity a change also of the law.
And for this cause he is the mediator of a new covenant, that a death having taken place for the redemption of the transgressions that were under the first covenant, they that have been called may receive the promise of the eternal inheritance.
The apostles of God spoke clearly that there was a change of law enacted by the death of Jesus Christ. Therefore, since there has been a change of law, the laws of the people under Moses are not by that virtue alone applicable to Christians today. There are many instances where the laws of God under Moses are the same as under Christ, but many have been changed. Colossians 2:14 makes it clear that the Law of Moses has been nailed to the cross, and any practice applicable to Christians must come from either before the Law or through the Apostles. The Sabbath does not meet either of these requirements, for the Sabbath was instituted as a practice only in the time of Moses.
Colossians 2:13-16 actually speaks of the Sabbath in this regard:
And you, being dead through your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, you, I say, did he make alive together with him, having forgiven us all our trespasses; having blotted out the bond written in ordinances that was against us, which was contrary to us: and he hath taken it out that way, nailing it to the cross; having despoiled the principalities and the powers, he made a show of them openly, triumphing over them in it. Let no man therefore judge you in meat, or in drink, or in respect of a feast day or a new moon or a sabbath day.
The Seventh-Day Adventists argue that this commandment only speaks concerning the “seven year” Sabbath of the land, since the rest of the acts are “ritual matters4.” Yet the text does not make any such distinction; the new moon comes monthly, and “in meat, or in drink,” refers to the dietary restrictions of the Law, which are by no means “ritual matters.”
We have further evidence of the change in the Sabbath in Hebrews 4:1-11:
Let us fear therefore, lest haply, a promise being left of entering into his rest, any one of you should seem to have come short of it. For indeed we have had good tidings preached unto us, even as also they: but the word of hearing did not profit them, because it was not united by faith with them that heard. For we who have believed do enter into that rest; even as he hath said, “As I sware in my wrath, They shall not enter into my rest:”
although the works were finished from the foundation of the world. For he hath said somewhere of the seventh day on this wise, “And God rested on the eventh day from all his works”;
and in this place again, “They shall not enter into my rest.”
Seeing therefore it remaineth that some should enter thereinto, and they to whom the good tidings were before preached failed to enter in because of disobedience, he again defineth a certain day, “Today,” saying in David so long a time afterward (even as hath been said before), “Today if ye shall hear his voice, Harden not your hearts.”
For if Joshua had given them rest, he would not have spoken afterward of another day. There remaineth therefore a sabbath rest for the people of God. For he that is entered into his rest hath himself also rested from his works, as God did from his. Let us therefore give diligence to enter into that rest, that no man fall after the same example of disobedience.
The Seventh-Day Adventists believe that this “rest” actually refers to the weekly Sabbath5. However, if we examine the text, we see that this cannot be so. The Hebrew author said in Hebrews 4:8:
If Joshua had given them rest, he would not have spoken afterward of another day.
Joshua is spoken of since he was the one who led the Israelites into the promised land and re-established the law in Joshua 8:32:
And he wrote there upon the stones a copy of the law of Moses, which he wrote, in the presence of the children of Israel.
The rest given by Joshua was the Sabbath, yet the Hebrew author demonstrates that there “remains a sabbath rest for the people of God.” He speaks further in Hebrews 4:10-11:
He that is entered into his rest hath himself also rested from his works, as God did from his. Let us therefore give diligence to enter into that rest, that no man fall after the same example of disobedience.
How can this rest be a weekly rest on Earth if we must “give diligence” to enter it? We are to give diligence to enter Heaven (cf. 2 Timothy 2:15), and yet are never told about diligence for a weekly rest. Therefore, it is evident from the Scriptures that the Christian sabbath represents the rest given to believers in Heaven, and our day of assembling follows the example of the Apostles in Acts 20:7:
And upon the first day of the week, when we were gathered together to break bread, Paul discoursed with them, intending to depart on the morrow; and prolonged his speech until midnight.
Seventh-Day Adventism also teaches that the dietary restrictions given under the Law of Moses are still applicable today6. However, we have numerous Scriptures showing that they are not so, including Mark 7:19 and Romans 14:2, 14:
“…because it goeth not into his heart, but into his belly, and goeth out into the draught?” This he said, making all meats clean.
One man hath faith to eat all things: but he that is weak eateth herbs.
I know, and am persuaded in the Lord Jesus, that nothing is unclean of itself: save that to him who accounteth anything to be unclean, to him it is unclean.
The Seventh-Day Adventists believe that Mark 7:19 was referring to the manner of the eating of foods, and not of the food itself7. It is true that contextually Jesus is discussing the Pharisees and their binding of external washings, yet the comment made in verse 19 is a commentary by Mark, not a statement of Jesus. It need not deal directly with the context of what Jesus is saying. Mark simply affirms that by teaching the Pharisees that food does not defile men, He also teaches that all foods are clean. They also teach concerning Romans 14:1-14 that the context simply discusses food offered to idols8, yet the text does not make any such distinctions. Paul says very clearly, “nothing is unclean of itself,” and that “one has faith to eat all things, but he that is weak eats herbs.” Nothing is spoken of concerning the nature of the foods themselves, only what they are. Paul makes it evident that all foods are clean for Christians.
The Second Advent
The other main teaching of Seventh-Day Adventism is the imminent return of Jesus Christ, or the “Second Advent.” Their belief system concerning the Second Advent has many parallels with Plymouth Brethren: Premillennialism. We will concern ourselves only with the main differences between the two belief systems.
The principal belief of the Seventh-Day Adventists concerning the Second Advent is the “Heavenly Sanctuary.” The Seventh-Day Adventists believe in a literal “Heavenly Sanctuary,” where Jesus now reigns as High Priest9. They believe that the prophecy of Daniel 8:14 gives a 2,300 year period for the cleansing of this sanctuary:
And he said unto me, Unto two thousand and three hundred evenings and mornings; then shall the sanctuary be cleansed.
If the date of 457 BCE is accepted for the decree to restore and rebuild Jerusalem, the “seventy sevens” of Daniel 9:24, or 490 years, brings us to about 33 or 34 CE; the remaining 1,810 years brings us to 1844, or the time of the prophecy of William Miller. It is believed that the actions of Daniel 7:13-14 occurred in 184410:
I saw in the night-visions, and, behold, there came with the clouds of heaven one like unto a son of man, and he came even to the ancient of days, and they brought him near before him. And there was given him dominion, and glory, and a kingdom, that all the peoples, nations, and languages should serve him: his dominion is an everlasting dominion, which shall not pass away, and his kingdom that which shall not be destroyed.
Therefore, it is the belief of Seventh-Day Adventism that Jesus began the final phase of His ministry in 1844, preparing to return for the Second Advent11. Is this what the Scriptures teach?
We have seen in Plymouth Brethren: Daniel 7: The Beasts and Plymouth Brethren: Daniel 9: The Duration of Israel that the signs of Daniel point clearly to the first coming of Christ, the establishment of the church, and the destruction of Jerusalem in 70 CE. The “seventy sevens” clearly refer to the time between Daniel and the destruction of Jerusalem, and this is confirmed by Jesus in Matthew 24:15.
The nature of this prophecy hinges upon the date of 457 BCE, the date wherein it is believed the decree of which Daniel spoke of in Daniel 9:25 was given:
Know therefore and discern, that from the going forth of the commandment to restore and to build Jerusalem unto the anointed one, the prince, shall be seven weeks, and threescore and two weeks: it shall be built again, with street and moat, even in troublous times.
It is believed that this prophecy was fulfilled in the decree of Artaxerxes in Ezra 7:11-26, when Ezra was given the authority of the king to teach the Jews the commandments of their God. Even if we were to accept that this command was the “restoration” of Israel as spoken of by Daniel, the “building” of Jerusalem was first commanded by Cyrus concerning the Temple (538 BCE; Ezra 1:1) and ultimately commanded by Artaxerxes concerning the walls of Jerusalem (444 BCE; Nehemiah 2:1). This period of “building” is a long span, long before and shortly after the decree of Artaxerxes in 457 BCE. This is another situation where individuals attempt to force history to fit prophecy, as opposed to examining prophecy in light of historical evidence. There is no evidence that the decree spoken of by Daniel conforms to a decree of Artaxerxes in 457 BCE.
It is also believed by the Seventh-Day Adventists that the “millennial reign” will be in Heaven, at the conclusion of which the saints and Christ will return to the “new earth” to live forever12. It is also believed that there will be two resurrections, the first for the righteous at the Second Advent, and the second for the unrighteous after the “millennium13.” Is this taught by the Scriptures?
These beliefs are mostly based on the Revelation of John, and as we have seen in Plymouth Brethren: The Nature of Prophecy: the Revelation is a “prophecy by sign,” and while we believe John saw everything that he wrote about, we cannot determine that what John saw will literally occur. We have seen in Plymouth Brethren: The Nature of Christ’s Kingdom, that the Kingdom exists today, comprised of all the saints, and is not limited to a thousand years. We have been told in Matthew 25:34 the following:
“Then shall the King say unto them on his right hand, ‘Come, ye blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world.'”
The Kingdom for the saints has been prepared from the foundation of the world; how can this be a “new earth,” created after this world is destroyed? It is evident that John is using language and signs understandable to man to describe a scene so magnificent that no comparison can be valid.
We have also seen in Plymouth Brethren: The Judgment that the texts in Matthew 25:31-46 and 2 Corinthians 5:10 demonstrate that the Judgment will be a one-time event, and that there will not be two judgments for two resurrections. Therefore, the teachings of the Seventh-Day Adventists concerning the Second Advent of Christ are not based in the complete message of the Scriptures.
- A Response to a Seventh-Day Adventist
- A Response to a Seventh-Day Adventist (2)
- The Importance of Understanding Covenant
- The Use of the Old Testament
1: Seventh-Day Adventists Believe…: A Biblical Exposition of 27 Fundamental Doctrines, p. 249
3: Ibid., pp. 253-254
4: Ibid., p. 254
5: Ibid., p. 258
6: Ibid., p. 285
7: Ibid., p. 292
9: Ibid., p. 314
10: Ibid., p. 324
12: Ibid., pp. 364, 367-368
13: Ibid., 358