I was at the Hyde Park Baptist Church in West Monroe, Louisiana, the first of last month. After the morning services people were standing around outside the front door talking. Among them came a very nice looking young man with a good personality carrying several books. He made his way to several people and finally came to me. He was very friendly and began talking to me and handed me the books. They were very nice and colorful. I looked inside the front cover of one and saw the name "Ellen G. White" and said to him, "You are Seventh-day Adventist, aren't you?" He seemed a little surprised but said he was. He soon made his way to the pastor, Jeff Luellen, who made it clear to him that he was not to be selling his books in front of this church.
Just who are Seventh-day Adventists and where did they come from?
Early in the 1800s there was an awakening on the question of the advent (second coming) of Christ. One of the strongest leaders in this movement was William Miller, who was born in 1782 at Pittsfield, Mass. He became a Baptist in 1816.
It was never Miller's design to organize a new denomination. This adventist movement was at first an interchurch development with many Methodists, Christians, Baptists, Presbyterians, and Congregationalists among its adherents. So influential was Miller that for years his followers were known as "Millerites."
Although Miller never received any formal college or seminary training, he was a diligent student of the Bible. Using only the Bible, its marginal references and the Cruden's Concordance, he made a study of the book of Daniel. His conclusion was that the Second Advent would occur sometime between March 21, 1843 and March 21, 1844. This was around the year 1831. By 1844 between 50,000 and 100,000 people held Miller�s views.
After the great expectation failed to materialize, Samuel S. Snow, one of Miller's disciples, re-calculated and determined that the correct date for the Second Advent was to be October 22, 1844. It is reported that hundreds gave away their goods, settled all their accounts and waited prayerfully for the fateful day to come. As the anticipated day of the Advent approached, the name "Millerite" became a household term, and the movement received wide discussion in the public press. However, October 22 came and passed with no Second Coming. Vast numbers lost all interest in Adventism and went back to their former churches from which they had rather generally withdrawn during the last climactic months before the anticipated Advent.
There were enough Adventists left, however, to form several smaller bodies. The American Millennial Association came into being at a conference in Albany, New York, in 1845. This group generally held to Millers�s positions and theology, emphasizing the personal and premillennial character of the second advent of Christ, the resurrection of the dead, and the renewal of the earth as the eternal abode of the redeemed. Most held the position that no Biblical prophecy had been fulfilled on October 22, 1844.
A small group, most of whom were located in New England, insisted that the historical and prophetic evidence that had led the movement to set October 22, 1844, as the date of the ending of the prophecy of Daniel, was unimpeachable. They held that the mistake lay in a wrong interpretation of Daniel 8:13-14, and that this prophecy foretold a final work of investigative judgment in the sanctuary in heaven. Christ was not to come out of, but was to enter into, the Most Holy Place in heaven to complete the second phase of his high priestly ministry before coming to this earth.
Prominent in the small group who accepted the new interpretation was Ellen Harmon (later Mrs. James White). Ellen G. White's book, The Great Controversy between Christ and Satan, contains an authoritative account of the Seventh-day Adventism teaching. The publisher's preface states, "We believe she has been empowered by a Divine illumination to speak of some past events which have been brought to her knowledge with greater minuteness than is set forth in any existing records, and to read the future with more than human foresight!"
Soon this group began to believe that they should keep holy the seventh day of the week (Saturday) as the Sabbath. Joseph Bates, who had been a Millerite leader, led in promoting this Sabbath view in a tract he wrote in 1846. Hence, the name Seventh-day Adventists.
The growth of the group was slow, but by 1855 they were sufficiently prosperous and numerically strong enough to set up headquarters at Battle Creek, Michigan, with a publishing house called the Review and Herald Publishing Association. In 1860 they officially adopted the name Seventh-day Adventists. In 1989 their headquarters was moved to Silver Springs, Maryland.
Some of the distinctive doctrines held by Seventh-day Adventists are:
The Ten Commandments are to be the standard of righteousness for men of all ages. This, of course, includes the keeping of the Sabbath. Mrs. White had a vision, in which she was taken to heaven and shown the sanctuary. Jesus raised the cover of the ark and she saw the tables of stone on which the ten commandments were written. She was amazed as she saw the Fourth Commandment in the very center with a soft halo of light encircling it.
The gift of prophecy is still in effect in the church. This gift is an identifying mark of the remnant church and was manifested in the ministry of Ellen G. White. As the Lord�s messenger, her writings are a continuing and authoritative source of truth which provide for the church comfort, guidance, instruction, and correction.
The dead are awaiting the resurrection in an unconscious state. This is sometime referred to as soul-sleep. That is, when a person dies, he is aware of nothing until he is resurrected.
The wicked will not be in an eternal hell but will be annihilated by fire.
Seventh-day Adventists hold to the sanctity of the home, the family, and marriage, and oppose worldliness in theater attendance, dancing, card-playing, and lodge membership. Since the human body is considered to be the temple of the Holy Spirit, they rigidly abstain from the use of alcoholic beverages and tobacco. Many do not drink coffee or tea because they contain caffeine. Vegetarianism is encouraged.
They put many other Christians to shame by their very large per capita financial giving. Not only are they all tithers but give large sums of money for mission work.
Regarding themselves not as just another church but as a movement established in the fulfillment of Bible prophecy to prepare men for the Second Advent and to revive and restore the neglected truths of the apostolic church. Today some 10 million Seventh-day Adventists have established themselves in virtually every country of the world. Less than 10 percent of Seventh-day Adventists live in the United States.
The Seventh-day Adventists have 56 publishing houses around the world, printing literature in many languages and dialects.
The global Seventh-day Adventist educational program, includes over 7,800 schools, colleges and universities, with over 87,000 teachers and 1,680,000 students.
They operate over 40 hospitals in the United States and many more around the world.