Seventh-Day Adventists: Facts and Fables

Date: 11/21/2015 
What is true about Seventh-day Adventists? What is fact, and what is fable?
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>>It's interesting - it seems like in recent months, for a variety of reasons, Seventh-day Adventists have been coming - and I expect will be coming more into the public eye. And so, I thought, 'Well, I’d like to take a moment to try and talk about what is a Seventh-day Adventist and some of the facts and try to debunk some of the fiction. And that'll be the title of our message today: Seventh-day Adventists: Facts and Fables.

So, what is a Seventh-day Adventist and what makes us different? Well, in a word, Seventh-day Adventists are, very simply, Bible Christians and, of course, a lot of Christians will say that, but really, this is what we believe. And if you want to find out what a church is, let's get something out of the way right from the start. When you want to find out what a denomination believes, don't say, 'Well I knew a Baptist so I know what Baptists believe, because I think every Baptist will admit there are people that go to Baptist churches that don't very nicely represent Baptists or don't even know what they believe. And that will be true of Methodists and Presbyterians, and Church of Christ, and Seventh-day Adventists.

And so, if you want to really find out what they believe, look in the foundational documents. And if you look in the documents of what the Seventh-day Adventists believe, they'll tell you very clearly this is one of our baptismal vows. When you join the church you say, 'We believe the Bible is God's inspired word and that it constitutes the only rule of faith and practice for the Christian. We believe both the Old and New Testaments comprise the word of God. We believe and take the word of God quite literally. We believe it's the inspired, infallible word of God. Jesus said, 'Heaven and Earth will pass away, My word will not pass away.' Now that's Matthew 24:35 - Matthew 4 - 'It is written, man shall not live by bread alone, but we live by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God.' And so everything - what the pastor says, what a prophet says, what anybody says - must be measured up against what the word of God says.

Now, when I first heard about Seventh-day Adventists, I'll just be very honest with you, I thought it was a peculiar name. You know, when I started saying, 'Lord, just show me Your church.' because I worshiped with many different churches and found that they disagreed on some, what I thought were, pivotal doctrines and I - I just went back up to the cave and I said, 'Lord, I just want to know the truth. Show me.' And I expected that I’d find a church that was named Cchurch of God. And there are churches that are called The Church of God - and that's a great name. Or I’d find one that said The Church of Christ and there is a church called The Church of Christ. That's a good name - simple.

So why Seventh-day Adventist? Well, it's very simple: because, along with the other nine commandments, we believe in keeping a hundred percent, and one of them says 'Remember the Sabbath day' so we worship on the seventh day of the week - Saturday - as the Sabbath. We don't see evidence in the Bible or history that it has been changed by God. And so, we're going to just do what God tells us to do. We figure that it's a commandment. That's one reason.

The word Adventist means that we believe in the soon coming or the imminent return of Jesus. Christ said, 'Behold, I am coming quickly.' Several times in Revelation He tells us He's coming. In John chapter 14, 'I go to prepare a place for you and if I go and prepare a place for you I will come again.' and so the disciples and the apostles made a great priority about talking about the shortness of life, the return of the Lord, and getting people ready for that event. And so, we believe that we are a church that's been called in the last generation - the last age of the church - the age of Laodicea - to prepare the world for the advent of Jesus. That's all that means is - so we are Seventh-day Adventists, but we're Bible Christians and so sometimes the names can sound confusing.

A little history about the formation of the church: back in 1835 there was a great revival - it became known as - it was The Great Second Awakening or The Great Advent Movement - not to be confused with Seventh-day Adventists. Seventh-day Adventists were not organized as a church until 1863. I think the name was picked in 1860. They were formally organized and incorporated in 1863.

We're going back now to 1835 through 1844. There was a Millerite movement - William Miller was a Baptist. He was an Adventist Baptist and there was a Great Advent Movement that's known in history as The Great Disappointment when, in 1844, and that October date passed - Jesus didn't come. And so what I love about the Adventist church is that we are - we're sort of the co-mingling of Christians from many different backgrounds that basically put aside their differences. Back after Jesus didn't come in 1844, there were Baptists, Methodists, Congregationalists, Presbyterians - all these different churches and they said, 'Let's study together. We've obviously misunderstood the word. There's probably many other misunderstandings.' It had not been that long since the Protestants came out of the Dark Ages where the truth was cast to the ground and they said, 'Let's study.' and in those studies from Christians of many denominations, the church developed. They said, 'Let's get back to the Bible.' They realized there were several things they'd been following that were not biblical.

And so, what do we believe as a church? What grew out of that Bible study that developed us into the church we are today? Well, one thing, we believe in following the Bible, loving the Lord, and loving your neighbor. We believe in serving our fellow man. Seventh-day Adventists have a world-wide community service program. Some of you have heard of ADRA - the Adventist Relief Development Agency - and we go into countries around the world - especially when there's disasters - and we provide relief plus ongoing help in developing countries to alleviate the needs of the people. Jesus said, 'I was hungry and you fed Me. I was thirsty and you gave Me drink. I was naked and you clothed Me. I was a stranger and you visited Me. I was in prison and you came to Me.' and Christ said, 'Inasmuch as you do it to the least of these, you've done it to Me.'

So Seventh-day Adventists believe in alleviating the suffering of humanity and that is part of the ministry of Christ - that's what it means to be a Christian. And some of the evidence of that is that all over the world we have a very extensive health and ministry work. We have hospitals and sanitariums - actually, there are 171 Seventh-day Adventist hospitals and sanitariums around the world. It is the largest healthcare ministry - largest Christian healthcare ministry next to the Catholics. Catholics have a long history of medical work in hospitals. Seventh-day Adventists, considering that we're certainly not the oldest protestant group, but we're #2 when it comes to our understanding relieving the physical suffering of humanity and ministering to the sick - and that means that they're treating 14,997,000 people every year.

According to the research done not too long ago, some of you heard of the Blue Zone study? Because of the Seventh-day Adventist belief that the Bible teaches healthful living - that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit - we need to care for our bodies. A number of studies have shown that Seventh-day Adventists live an average of ten years longer than the average citizen. Now, in some countries it's much better than that, but in America we live an average of ten years longer. Matter of fact, I think I've got a picture somewhere that shows - yeah, there she is - that's Marge - at the time of this picture, 104 years old.

Some of you saw the National Geographic magazine Secrets of Living Longer. They identified four groups. One of them was Seventh-day Adventists. They focused on Loma Linda, California, but it wasn't because of their race or their geography, it was because of the belief system in this study, and they said Seventh-day Adventists clearly live longer than the average and it was attributed to one thing - the rest and community on the Sabbath - there's something healthful about that - but a lot because of the life style. And it's much more common for a Seventh-day Adventist to reach 100 years of age than it is for the average citizen, because we believe in caring for our bodies. We abstain from unclean food, alcohol, tobacco, and - along with a number of other important health practices - so we're a health-conscious people.

But what about our teachings? Well, let's look at some of those. What about our teaching of God? Let me read to you what our teaching is. There is one God - Father, Son, and Holy Spirit - a unity of three co-eternal persons. God is immortal, all-powerful, all-knowing, above all, and ever-present. He is infinite beyond human comprehension, yet known through His self-revelation. He is forever worthy of worship, adoration, service - by the whole creation. We believe in what you would call the Trinity. That word is not found in the Bible - that God the Father, Son, and Spirit comprise God. And so no, we don't believe Jesus was created. We believe all things that were made were made by Him. We do not believe that the Holy Spirit is just some electric force that God uses. The Holy Spirit is a person. Jesus said, 'When He, the Spirit of truth is come, He will lead you into all truth.' and Christ identifies Him as Father, Son, and Spirit - being part of God.

What do we believe about salvation? One of the myths that I hear is that Seventh-day Adventists believe that we're the only ones that are going to be in Heaven.


>>Do any of you believe that only Seventh-day Adventists are going to Heaven?


>>Okay, that's good. (Laughter) I hear people say, 'Oh, Adventists, they think they're the only ones that are going. One reason I joined the church is I was pleased to finally find a group that said that they believe the largest part - matter of fact, this is something Ellen White says in the book Great Controversy the greatest part - not the smallest part - the greatest part of Christ's true followers are in the fellowship of other denominations. I said, 'Oh, that's refreshing.' I don't agree with all of the teachings, but God knows their hearts and that there are many people in these other churches and they love Him and they walk in the light they've got and they're God's children and His spirit works in them and God answers their prayers, but theologically they may be wrong on some things. I’m in this church because I believe it's theologically closer to the Bible.


>>But the Seventh-day Adventists, I think, there's more to it than that. Do we believe we're saved by works or faith?


>>Salvation - Ephesians 2 - "For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God," - do we all believe that?


>>Does anyone believe we're saved by keeping the Sabbath?


>>Or any command - no. And it says this in our teachings: 'We accept the death of Jesus Christ on Calvary as the atoning sacrifice for our sins and believe, through faith in His shed blood, I am saved from sin and its penalty.' It is through faith alone we are saved. We all believe that. And so, one of the myths out there is that we somehow believe by not eating pork we're saved, or eating more garlic - you've all met people that believe in righteousness by garlic, haven't you? (Laughter) and they come to church and sit in their own pew - and that's a pun. (Laughter) It's through faith. Now, with that, I should probably say something about the law and the Sabbath. We do not keep the law to be saved, we keep the law because we are saved.


>>Jesus said, 'If you love me' - what comes first? Love for Me. 'If you love Me' - do what?

>>Keep My commandments.

>>Keep commandments. If anyone says you love the Lord and you don't keep His commandments, John says you're a liar and the truth is not in you. And that wouldn't mean 50% or 80% - we believe 100%, including the Sabbath commandment that has never been changed. And, of course, you find that in Exodus 20, "Remember the Sabbath day to keep it holy." Wouldn't it seem odd to you that God would say the one commandment you're supposed to really forget about is the only commandment He said to remember. He says, 'Remember the Sabbath day' and then on the next page He says, 'Well, but that's the one you're supposed to forget.' No, He's very clear. And so we believe that. We believe in keeping all of them. I don't believe I’m saved more by keeping the Seventh-day Sabbath than I am by not committing adultery - or by not stealing or lying - it's all part of God's law and if we love the Lord we're going to want to keep His commandments.


>>In Mark chapter 16 Jesus said, 'Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved.' and then, in John chapter 3, Jesus also said, 'Unless you're born of the water and the Spirit, you cannot enter the Kingdom of Heaven. So, how important is baptism? Does it matter how you're baptized? How old does a person need to be to be baptized? Would you like to understand this and many more issues relating to baptism? Then we have a free offer for you - a very informative book called Baptism, Is It Really Necessary? It's free - we'd love to send it to you - to get your free copy, go to or call the phone number on your screen and ask for offer #165. And when you get your free resource, make sure and read it and then share it with someone else, because God's message is our mission.

>>Now something that is admittedly different from typical evangelicals with the Seventh-day Adventists is our understanding of what happens when you die. We believe that when a person dies, that they sleep a dreamless, peaceful sleep - an unconscious sleep in the grave - until the resurrection. 'But what about that verse in the Bible, Pastor Doug? It says, in 2 Corinthians 5:8, " be absent from the body and to be present with the Lord." And as soon as you die you, you get ushered off to Abraham's bosom or somewhere in spirit form and then when Jesus comes back you'll get the body and then you'll have the judgment.' We just don't find that's biblical. First of all, it is true that to be absent from the body is to be present with the Lord. Meaning, if you're saved, and you should die, your next conscious thought is the resurrection and the presence of the Lord. There's no awareness of time for you and so - God lives in all dimensions of time - but you and I, we live in time and the resurrection hasn't happened yet. Do we all agree?


>>Christ said, 'I'll raise him up the last day.' Very clear. Jesus said, 'In the last day.' The judgment hasn't happened yet. The idea that people go right to Hell or Heaven as soon as they die, before the resurrection, before the judgment is not biblical. And so, yes, we are in that group and we're not alone. That was the belief of many of the Protestant reformers, but some of the mythological - the teachings of the dark ages that were in the church, crept into the Protestant churches.

Let me give you a quote - and this is from Martin Luther - this is actually written by the Lutheran scholar Dr. A.T. Cantonin in his book The Christian Hope, p. 37, "For just as one who falls asleep and reaches morning unexpectedly when he awakes without knowing what happened to him, we shall suddenly rise, on the last day, without knowing how we have come into death or through death." That was the teaching of Luther. He believed you slept in the grave, unconsciously, but he believed your next conscious thought was the resurrection of the Lord - or the resurrection - the coming of the Lord.

That's also what William Tyndale believed. You've heard of the Tyndale Bible translators. Many of these evangelicals would be surprised how many of the great reformers believed exactly what Seventh-day Adventists believe about the subject of death. The Bible is very clear: "For the living know that they will die;" - Ecclesiastes 9:5 - "but the dead know nothing." It is the living that praise the Lord. Those that die, it says in the day their breath goes forth - Psalm 146 'Their thoughts perish' - they stop thinking. They're not thinking anything. They're sleeping.

There are about twelve resurrections in the Bible - Old and New Testament. Are you aware that in every one of those cases none of those resurrected ever made a single comment about knowing anything when they died? Wouldn't you think that the first question that would be asked when someone was dead and they were raised is, 'What did you see? What did you experience? What was it like? What did you feel?' But the record of the Bible is that none of them have anything to say about their experience during death because the dead don't know anything. It's pretty clear. But that flies in the face of what some Christians have heard for years. And I know it troubles people because they say, 'You know, I lost my husband and I just feel his presence with me and' - you know, you've got those memories. I’m sure they're very precious, but they're sleeping. And some of us know loved ones that have died that maybe didn't know the Lord. I hope you find relief in the knowledge that they're not roasting while you walk the earth. That's why, on many of the ancient graves it says, 'R.I.P.' What does that mean? Rest in peace. They're sleeping - dreamless sleep until the resurrection. So that's one thing that is admittedly different about the Adventist belief.

Connected with that is our understanding about hellfire. Okay, we've been accused 'Seventh-day Adventists do not believe in Hell.' Let me ask you, do we believe in Hell?


>>Okay. Is Hell hot?


>>Will the lost burn in Hell?


>>matter of fact, our Hell is hotter than the Baptist Hell (Laughter) because the Baptist Hell just sort of simmers them forever and our Hell burns them up. (Laughter) They don't burn forever and ever. And I know that's different. During the Dark Ages it was very profitable for the church to scare people out of their wits with the idea of the wicked being tormented forever and ever and ever. And can you imagine - and they say as soon as you die they go to torment - they haven't even been judged yet and they go to Hell to burn forever and ever and ever for the sins of one lifetime. This is not what the Bible teaches.

Jesus said there are two choices: believe and live; the devil said, 'You will not surely die.' That doctrine that you just burn forever and ever comes from the devil. God said, 'In the day you sin you will die.' Life is a gift. God doesn't give eternal life - where in the Bible does it say that everybody has immortality? When Jesus comes, then 'This mortal will put on immortality.' God and God only has immortality. The idea that sinners are immortal - well, the devil would like to believe that because even he will be cast into the lake of fire, but he's not immortal. Only God is immortal. God gives us the gift of immortality in the resurrection. We don't have that yet. So we believe that the wicked are cast into Hell.

Hell is real. It's going to burn. Everyone is punished according to what they deserve, but the Bible says they are consumed - Malachi chapter 4 - they are burnt up. In Revelation 20 it says fire comes down from Heaven and devours them. The scriptures are very clear that the wicked burn up in Hell. By the way, this was the belief of John Stott, who was probably the most influential evangelical theologian in the last century. He firmly believed in what we call annihilation - that the wicked will be burnt up. And, you know what? I’m relieved.

I need to be honest and tell you that Seventh-day Adventists don't really hold a monopoly on that teaching. More and more evangelicals I am meeting - matter of fact, I meet some of them at these religious broadcaster meetings and they come up and they look around to make sure nobody's listening and they'll say, 'I agree with you on the subject of Hell.' they said, 'You can't prove the other from the Bible.' And there are Pentecostals, Baptists, Presbyterians, Methodists - more and more leading scholars in these churches realize that the idea of the eternal torment of the lost is - was a medieval theology that had kind of come over into the evangelical churches. It's not what Jesus taught.

Alright, moving along here. Another interesting belief is regarding the sanctuary. Now, you know, the reason - what I’m doing is I’m highlighting some of the things that are unique about Seventh-day Adventists. In many ways we're typical Christians and believe and do the typical Christian things, but Seventh-day Adventists believe that Jesus is our High Priest. And doesn't the Bible teach this? And that there is a literal dwelling place of God known as the sanctuary in Heaven. The Bible talks about it. Hebrews is very clear. And that Christ has entered into the last phase of His work of redemption. Yes, He died once. He was sacrificed once, but He hasn't ceased working as our High Priest.

If the ministry of Jesus is totally over, then why hasn't He come back? What's God waiting for? If it's all over, what are we doing here? Obviously, it's not over yet and Christ is continuing His work - His intercession - His mediation as our High Priest. If you look in Hebrews 8:1 and 2, "Now this is the main point of the things we are saying: we have such a High Priest, who is seated at the right hand of the throne of the Majesty in the heavens, a minister of the sanctuary and of the true tabernacle which the Lord erected, and not man."

Like most Christians, Seventh-day Adventists celebrate the communion. We use unleavened bread and unfermented grape juice. That would be the same as Methodists, Baptists, most - some churches - Presbyterian, Catholic use fermented grape juice. We believe that it is a type of the blood of Christ, which is unpolluted and is to be pure. It should be unfermented. And here's the question - you might say, 'Well, Pastor Doug, I've heard - Seventh-day Adventists - I've heard that you're a cult.' Have you heard that before? If the Lord did have a unique church in the last days that had a revival of biblical truth, and if you were the devil, how would you want to portray them? Wouldn't you do everything you could to smear that name? Are you aware that that's what they did to Jesus when he walked the earth? They accused Paul of that. Listen to what they said about Paul. They called him a heretic. Acts 24:5, "For we have found this man a plague, a creator of dissension among all the Jews throughout the world, and a ringleader of the sect" - the cult - "of the Nazarenes." And they portrayed Paul in the most violent and outrageous terms. Acts 24:14 - Paul said, "But this I confess to you, that according to the way which they call a sect, so I worship the God of my fathers, believing all things which are written in the law and in the prophets." And friends, that's why I’m a Seventh-day Adventist. Some will call it a cult, but I will be happy to stand toe to toe with a pastor from any church and say, 'Here's why I believe what I believe. Now let me challenge what you believe from the Bible.'

>>That's right.

>>It's all about can you prove it from the scriptures? Now I respect that different people are convinced differently and I understand that. But I believe, as Jesus comes back, there's going to be a great shaking in our world and people are going to be called into biblical faith. I don't know exactly how it's going to happen, friends, but something's going to happen and there's going to be a shaking. It'll affect our church, it'll affect the whole world, and people are going to be searching for God. Men's hearts failing for fear - there's going to be a great time of trouble and a small time of trouble and, during this small time of trouble, I think there's going to be the outpouring of the Holy Spirit. People are going to be digging in the Bible like never before. God's people are going to be brought before kings and rulers of the world to give a testimony. We invite people to study the word for themselves and make sure you're building on the Rock. Jesus said there's going to be a storm coming and the only house that's going to survive is the one that is built on the foundation of God - Christ's teaching - and His word. Amen?

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