In May of 1863, the Seventh-day Adventist Church was founded in Battle Creek, Michigan. The church is categorized as a Christian denomination because they recognize Jesus as the Saviour of mankind. believing He atoned for man’s sins on the cross and rose again in glory. The Seventh-day Adventists also hold to the doctrines of the Trinity and the infallibility of Scripture. However, the Seventh Day Adventists do not hold to Scripture alone and they have variant practices and beliefs that are outside of mainstream evangelical orthodoxy (authorized doctrines). Let’s consider how this church’s beliefs and practices vary.
The Writings of Ellen G White
One of the church’s founders had a profound influence on the direction of the church’s beliefs. Ellen G. White (1827 – 1915) wrote extensively and her doctrinal teachings continue to be accepted as truths, even those that are in conflict with biblical teachings.
Worship on the Jewish Sabbath
Seventh-day Adventists are best known for their worship on Saturday, the seventh day of the week, the Jewish Sabbath day. This is contrary to all first century (and following) church practices. The apostles, who knew Jesus during His ministry, and spent 40 days with Him after His resurrection, established Sunday as the day of worship for the early Church. It has been such ever since.
Seventh-Day Adventists claim to be keeping the fourth commandment. However, but such practice fails to acknowledge that Jesus fulfilled the Sabbath and He is now our Sabbath rest (Matt 11:28, Heb 4:9–11). Additionally, although Seventh-day Adventists meet on Saturday and claim to keep the fourth commandment, they probably don’t. The entire commandment reads:
Exo 20:8-11 Remember the sabbath day, to keep it holy. Six days shalt thou labor, and do all thy work: But the seventh day is the sabbath of the LORD thy God: in it thou shalt not do any work, thou, nor thy son, nor thy daughter, thy manservant, nor thy maidservant, 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.
Keeping the fourth commandment means one must work for six days. Most people only work for five days.
The early church chose Sunday, the day after the Jewish Sabbath, to rest from one’s work. This was the day when the Lord Jesus was raised from the dead and so, weekly, it is a day to gather and celebrate the resurrection and Jesus’ finished work in paying for man’s sins. (Read: Saturday or Sunday Sabbath?)
Belief in Soul Sleep
Seventh-day Adventists hold an unbiblical view of the soul’s existence after physical death. They believe that the soul sleeps in an unconscious state until it is awakened in the bodily resurrection. This teaching is in direct opposition to what the Bible teaches. (Read: What is Soul Sleep?)
The Teaching of the Investigative Judgment
This is a teaching that is unique to Seventh-day Adventists. It teaches that God has been judging Christians since 1844 (seems to be not long after the founding of the Seventh-day Adventist church). This opposes the biblical teaching of sin being judged by the cross (“It is Finished” John 19:30) and a repentant sinner receiving full forgiveness of their sins (past, present, and future) and being justified by grace through faith when they trust in Jesus. (Read: The Gift of SalvaTION: Justification & Imputation and What are the Doctrines of Imputed, Infused, and Imparted Righteousness?)
The Great Controversy
This teaching comes from a book by the same name, published by Ellen G. White in 1858, and it is the most heretical of the beliefs of the Seventh Day Adventist church. White claimed that the information in her book came to her in a vision (sadly, it didn’t come from an understanding of Holy Scripture). In the book, White teaches that a controversy between Satan and Jesus began in Heaven and has continued ever since.
We know that the Bible teaches about a cherub, Lucifer, who rebelled against God and was cast out of Heaven and was then called Satan (Read: Is Satan’s Real Name Lucifer? Or Should We Call Him Satan?) There’s really no controversy there. Satan’s expulsion from Heaven was simply God’s judgment of his sin.
Is there a controversy between Satan and Jesus?
Ellen G. White’s teaching of an ongoing battle between Satan and Jesus diminishes the omnipotence of Jesus and creates a false teaching that Jesus died to save us from the “clutches” of Satan. (Read: Was Jesus a Sacrifice to Satan? Did Jesus Fight Satan to Take Back the Keys Of Death and Hell? and How Much Should I Fear Satan?)
The Bible teaches that Jesus died to pay for man’s sin. The atonement was made to God who justly judges all sin. Jesus redeemed mankind from the bondage to sin that began in the Garden, not from Satan’s clutches. All creation (including redeemed man and unregenerate man) belongs to God, not to Satan:
Psa 24:1 The earth is the LORD’S, and the fulness thereof; the world, and they that dwell therein.
Job 41:11 Who hath prevented Me, that I should repay him? whatsoever is under the whole heaven is Mine.
For the above reasons (and others), the Seventh-day Adventist church can be considered a Christian cult.
A Christian cult, as defined by Walter Martin in 1965, is a group that claims faith in Jesus but follows the personal interpretation of an individual rather than the Bible. Because of the adherence to the teachings of Ellen G. White, the Seventh-day Adventist church fits this definition. However, please TAKE NOTE, this is not the same as a non-Christian cult. Non-Christian cults are demonic by nature and hold no biblical truths about the person or works of God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit. Seventh-day Adventists do profess faith in Christ and claim to be Christians. They do trust in Christ’s atoning work for the forgiveness of their sins.
Therefore, although this denomination can be considered a Christian cult, I would advise against proclaiming it that. Many do not understand the distinctions between a Christian cult and a demonic cult. There can be many in this church who belong to Jesus because only God knows their hearts and minds, and He saves all who put their full trust in Jesus — even if they are in a church with some unbiblical practices and beliefs.
Instead of labeling Seventh-Day Adventists as a Christian cult, be quick to explain the biblical Christian doctrines that have been misunderstood and wrongly taught by Ellen G. White and the SDA church. There are many Jesus-loving people in this church. Whether or not they are truly saved is known only to God. Preach the gospels of saving grace and sanctifying power to open the ears and soften the hearts for the Holy Spirit to work.
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