Hopewell, West Virginia
The Seventh-day Adventist denomination should never be considered as a small, insignificant group. It is an international denomination whose institutions a n d programs of work in relation to its size exceed those of most religious bodies today. Truly they m a d e an accurate statement when they said: "One of the fastest growing movements of Christendom today is the Seventh-day Adventist church" (THESE TIMES, June 1965).
The very name, Seventh-day Adventists, define the two foundation principles of that body Seventh day referring to their teachings on the observance of the seventh day Sabbath, and Adventists, referring to their views concerning the imminent return of Christ.
The history of this denomination stems from the time of William Miller, formerly a Baptist preacher, who taught that Jesus was coming back to earth in 1843. But when Christ did not return at that time he changed the date to 1844. It must be noted that after his great disappointment he repudiated all his prophetic charts referring to 1844 as the time of Christ's return and never became a Seventh-day Adventist. Though he longed for and taught the speedy return of Christ, he rejected all later interpretations that Seventhday Adventists adopted from his prophetic charts. He never embraced the Sabbath and the other teachings of the Seventh-day Adventist denomination.
Following the great disappointment of 1844, when Christ did not come as expected, the Advent Movement became scattered into little groups worshipping here and there, primarily in the New England states. From these groups came the formation of the Seventh-day Adventist denomination, the largest of the Adventist groups.
Today there are reportedly 1,149,256 members who belong to 12,421 churches. These are organized into 127 local conferences, which comprise 72 field conferences of the General Conference of the Seventh day Adventist Denomination with headquarters in Washington, D. C. Per member they contribute in tithes and offering an average (yearly) of $227.27, which exceeds the contribution per member of any other denomination.
One of their main beliefs is that of the claim of inspiration of Mrs. E. G. White, who was with that body since its origin until the time of her death in 1915. However, we shall limit our discussion to their teachings concerning Sabbath (seventh-day) observance and the second coming of Christ.
We shall deal with only two of their main arguments used to defend their Sabbath keeping. (1) It is in the "moral law." They make a distinction between the "moral law" and the "ceremonial law" as contained in the Old Testament. They claim the moral law, which is eternal and unchangeable, is binding upon us today while the "ceremonial law," pertaining to types, shadows and symbols, pointed to Christ and were "nailed to the cross." While space would not permit us to prove there is no scriptural grounds for such a distinction, we will, for the sake of argument, follow their claim concerning the "moral law" to prove that the Sabbath is not a moral precept, though contained in what they refer to as the "moral law." (2) They also teach that we must observe the Sabbath today because Christ observed it and we are to "follow in his steps" (I Pet. 1: 21).
Referring to the ten-commandment law Adventists say: "The sacred, unchanging nature of His law" was revealed to the inhabitants of heaven before the worlds began. (See Patriarchs and Prophets, E. G. White, pg. 17). Again: "The law of God" is a "revelation of his will, a transcript of his character" (Great Controversy, E. G. White, pg. 44). Hence, the moral laws of God are as eternal as God himself. They cannot be changed or destroyed. They must remain, as they eternally were, "a transcript of his character."
Concerning the Sabbath law, the fourth precept of the Decalogue Adventists say: " . . . the Sabbath is enshrined in the very heart of the commandments of God." (Questions on Doctrine, pg. 149) Mrs. White herself wrote: "In the very bosom of the Decalogue is the fourth commandment" (G. C., pg. 434). Thus, since the Sabbath command is "in the very bosom of the Decalogue", it is a moral precept, as are those in which it is contained.
Now since the "moral law" is as eternal as God himself and "a transcript of his character," and the Sabbath command is "in the very bosom of the Decalogue," then for the Sabbath command to be a moral obligation it must be as eternal as the "moral law" in which it is "enshrined." If the "moral law" is a "transcript of his character" and the Sabbath "enshrined in the very heart of the commandments" is also a moral precept, THEN IT MUST HAVE ALSO EXISTED AS ETERNAL AS GOD HIMSELF. But if the Sabbath, which Adventist claim is a moral precept, did not exist until AFTER creation, as they admit, then God's character, of which the law is a "transcript," was not perfect from eternity. He needed to add the Sabbath, another moral precept to bring the nature of his character to its present absolute and perfect state. But if God was eternally perfect and the law was a transcript of his character, then the Sabbath is not a moral precept for it came after the creation of the world. Thus we see it was not an inherent moral virtue but it was "made'' (Mark 2: 27).
Adventists claim that since Jesus observed the Sabbath, we must also observe it today to follow in his steps. But Jesus observed the rest of the law which they call the "Law of Moses," or "ceremonial law." Are we to observe the Passover simply because Jesus did to "follow in his steps"? When he cleansed a man from leprosy, he "charged him to. . . shew thyself to the priest, and offer for thy cleansing, according as MOSES COMMANDED" (Luke 5:14). Yes, Jesus observed what Adventists call the "ceremonial law," but they make no claim that we are to "follow in his steps" in the observance of this law.
Finally, Jesus was baptized by John the Baptist to "fulfill all righteousness" (Matt. 3:15). Yet, in the New Testament there were some at Ephesus who did "follow in his steps," being baptized "unto John's baptism" (Acts 19: 1-5). But this was not then valid, though Christ himself was baptized of John. Hence we see that the argument for observing the Sabbath because Jesus did is no argument at all, for it would necessitate the observance of all the law that Jesus observed. Since the Sabbath is not a moral command, and since we have learned that we do not observe all the laws Jesus observed during his lifetime to "follow in his steps," we may scripturally conclude that the Sabbath is not binding upon us today.
Second Coming of Christ
Mrs. White wrote: "Prophecy not only foretells the manner and object of Christ's coming, but presents tokens by which men are to know when it is near . . . 'The son shall be darkened, the moon shall not give her light, and the stars of heaven shall fall . . . And then shall they see the Son of man coming in the clouds with great power and glory"' (G. C., pg. 304). This is to follow "immediately after the tribulation of those days" (Matt. 24: 29). Adventists claim that this "tribulation" was the papal persecution, which lasted 1260 years and ended in 1789. They give a literal interpretation to "signs" which have symbolic meanings. In passing, let us know that it can be proven from scriptures that this "tribulation" referred not to the papal persecution, but to the days preceding the destruction of Jerusalem in 70 A. D. None of this referred to the second coming of Christ. But let us follow Adventists' line of reasoning and point out their fallacies.
They maintain that in 1780 the earth was darkened (eclipse of the sun), the fulfillment of the first sign, and in 1833 there was a meteoric shower which was the "falling of stars," the fulfillment of the second sign. But where was the "sign of the Son of man in heaven?" Let us observe three important facts in view of their teachings concerning these signs which were to point to Christ's second coming. (1) These signs would appear. (2) "AND THEN shall appear the sign of the Son of man in heaven" (Matt. 24; 301 (3) Jesus said in verse 34: "This generation shall not pass, till all these things be fulfilled."
Hence, if Adventists are correct in their claims, then "ALL THESE THINGS," the darkening of the sun, the falling of stars (meteoric shower,) AND THE COMING OF CHRIST must have occurred in THAT ONE GENERATION. But if these signs were fulfilled in "this generation" and Christ did not return in "this generation," then either Christ's prophecy failed or Adventists were wrong in their interpretation of his prophecy. It does not take much study or thought to determine where the fault lies . . . certainly not with Christ. Hence, if the "dark day" and the "falling of Stars" were "signs of times" or signs immediately preceding his coming, then why did not Christ come in "this generation?"
Speaking of these signs with reference to Christ's coming in their generation, James White, husband of prophetess E. G. White, stated: "It is evident that God reserves the warning to the generation which alone needs it . . . And those of this very generation who receive the message . . . will witness the coming of Christ" (Life Incidents, pp. 221, 339 emphasis mineLR).
This "warning," or "message" according to Adventists was given by God's chosen messengers to proclaim the final warning before the destruction of the world. According to them, the "three angel's messages" (Rev. 14: 6-10) constituted this final warning to the world just before its end. As we shall demonstrate, Adventists doctrine teaches that only 144,000 would receive the "third angel's message," the last of the three, and be sealed with the "seal of God," the Sabbath. These only would be saved. Notice their doctrine on the 144,000.
They come to this conclusion by their interpretation of Rev. 7: 1-3 as it is supposedly related to the "Third Angel's Message" of Rev. 14:9-10. Rev. 7:1-3 speaks of 144,000 who were sealed with the "seal of God." Adventists teach that the "seal of God" is the Sabbath. (See Daniel and the Revelation, Uriah Smith, chapter: "The Seal of the Living God.") The angel of Rev. 7: 1-3, as Mr. Smith states, "is therefore the same as the third angel of Rev. 14" (pg. 642). Mrs. White said that these are "The LIVING SAINTS, 144,000 in number" (Early Writings, pg. 15emphasis mine LR). They were living on earth when "the wicked were enraged, and would rush violently up to lay hands on us to thrust us into prison . . ." (ibid.) Thus we can see the expectation of an immediate return of Christ in "this very generation" or those who lived during the so-called "three angel's messages" between 1840-1844. Let us review what they originally taught concerning the second coming of Christ and the number that would constitute the saved (144,000).
Despite the repeated failures of their predictions and interpretations of prophecies they claim to relate to the coming of Christ, they still make this claim: "Adventists are a people of prophecy. They came on the scene in fulfillment of prophecies in the books of Daniel and Revelation, books which have always had a large place in their theology" (THESE TIMES, June 1965). The Bible and plain facts prove just the opposite.
TRUTH MAGAZINE X: 1, pp. 13-16 October 1965