Seventh-day Adventists share with Christians everywhere a belief in the doctrines of the Bible. And they seek to follow the Apostle Peter's advice to "be ready always to give an answer to every man that asketh you a reason of the hope that is in you."a
Dr. J. E. Brown was once asked why he had not included Seventh-day Adventists in his book on cults. He replied: "On all the cardinal doctrines of the Bible--the Miraculous Conception, the Virgin Birth, the Crucifixion, Resurrection and Ascension, the Deity of Christ, the Atonement of Christ, and the Second Coming, the Personality of the Holy Spirit, and the Infallible Bible, the Seventh-day Adventist rings as true as steel."1
Although Seventh-day Adventists share the above doctrines with most Christian churches, they also see in their teachings a continuation of the Protestant Reformation, a restoration of the Gospel to its original apostolic purity, and a reillumination of the teachings of Scripture (especially those forgotten or tarnished during the centuries when Christianity struggled to resist the inroads of unscriptural traditions).
Seventh-day Adventists are conservative evangelical Christians numbering 14 million. Many have asked, "Just who are Seventh-day Adventists and what do they believe?" In particular, they wonder why such a large group of Christians "keep Saturday for Sunday." Two major doctrines of the Seventh-day Adventist church are conspicuously exhibited in its name. To understand their position on the Seventh-day Sabbath, one must first understand the Adventists' high regard for Scripture as the only unerring rule of faith and practice, their method of Bible study, and the different kinds of law recorded in the Bible.
The Sacred Scriptures
Seventh-day Adventists believe that "all Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness";b and that "holy men of God...were moved by the Holy Ghost"c to write the truths which God revealed to them.
The validity of the Bible's claim to be the inspired, infallible Word of God rests on such evidences as:
...its authenticity as an historical document. Its accuracy is confirmed by both ancient history and modern archeological discoveries of cities and customs described in Scripture.
...its enduring nature. It has survived repeated efforts over the centuries to destroy it.
...its prophetic accuracy. Though written thousands of years in advance, many prophecies of Scripture have come true (or are now being fulfilled).
...its unity. Though some 40 prophets wrote the 66 books of the Bible over a 1600-year period, they wrote with one voice, inspired by One Author. Christ, the apostles, and the early Christian church shared one common faith, one common view of truth.
...the testimony of Jesus. In the New Testamentd Jesus pointed out that the Old Testament Scriptures prophesied many centuries before His birth the details of His life on earth. He did not regard the Scriptures as a collection of myths or historical legends.e Rather, he regarded the Scriptures as divine truth which would enable His followers to live a life like His, a life which revealed God's glory: His goodness, grace, and mercy.f
...its life-changing power. Seventh-day Adventists believe that it does matter what one believes--that beliefs mold character, conduct, and relationships with God and man. So they diligently study the Bible to prevent human opinion or "private interpretation"g from giving them distorted views of Christ, the Gospel, or the work of the Holy Spirit.h
Many Adventists enjoy searching the Scriptures for themselves--studying a specific topic, reading verse by verse, proceeding no faster than the meaning unfolds clearly. They find that one of the best ways to locate all the Scriptures on a particular topic is to use a concordance, preferably an unabridged version which lists in alphabetical order and by subject almost every verse in the Bible. For many, recent advances in computer technology have greatly enhanced Bible study.
This simple method of Bible study--comparing all related Scriptures on a particular topic--takes time and prayerful thought. Yet it is the method which has led to every major advance in the history of Christian thought, every rediscovery of neglected truth. This method also helped form the teachings of the Seventh-day Adventist church.2 The serious student of Scripture, using this method, finds the most persuasive evidence of all that the Bible is God's Word: he finds a loving Saviour who changes his life and gives him peace, happiness, and hope.
Different Kinds of Law
The Jews referred to the first five books of the Bible as "the law." These books explained God's four distinctly different kinds of laws: the moral law of God before sin entered, of which sin was a transgression; the ceremonial law, the law that sin made necessary because it regulated the sacrifices and gifts offered for sin; the laws of health, cleanliness, sanitation, and quarantine; and the civil laws, which defined the civic duties of citizens in God's nation while it was under His direct authority.
The Ten Commandments
Seventh-day Adventists believe that the moral law is God's standard of judgment and right living for all humankind; that it is a revelation of God's just and loving character. They believe that its unchangeable precepts are binding on all people in all ages and that our obedience is a response to God's eternal love which is even further revealed in His gift of salvation.
God's moral law was reiterated in the Ten Commandments on Mt. Sinai to the children of Israel, but it has always existed. "Sin is the transgression of the law."i For "by the law is the knowledge of sin."j "...where no law is, there is no transgression."k Paul "had not known sin, but by the law."l Before the Ten Commandments were given to the children of Israel, Adam sinned.m And Abraham was blessed because he obeyed "my [God's] commandments."n
Apparently the Word of God was passed from parent to child from Eden until the time of Moses, because Scriptural evidence shows that each of the Ten Commandments were known by mankind before they were written on the tables of stone by the finger of God.
For example, Cain killed Abelo and thus broke the sixth commandment.p And God indicted himq and punished himr for it. Committing adultery is breaking the seventh commandment.s Joseph refused to lie with Potiphar's wife, asking, "how then can I do this great wickedness, and sin against God?"t
The Sabbath Commandment
The Sabbath of the moral law was given to man before sin and therefore was not related to the ceremonies, or rituals, connected with God's remedy for sin--Jesus' death--nor with the system of sacrifice which pointed toward His death as the sacrificial Lamb of God. (Christ died on the very day and at the very hour the priests in Jerusalem's temple were sacrificing the Passover lamb as commanded by the ceremonial law). It was another fulfillment of the Bible prophecies implied in that law.
Moses spoke of the seventh-day Sabbath before receiving the Ten Commandments on Mt. Sinai. This is documented in Exodus 16. About two and a half months after the Exodus from Egypt, the children of Israel were in the Wilderness. Weeks before they reached Sinai, they were sent "bread from heaven,''u "manna, a small round thing.''v "It was like coriander seed, white; and the taste of it was like wafers made with honey."w
"This is the bread which the Lord hath given you to eat," said Moses.x "They gathered every man according to his eating."y If they kept it overnight, "it bred worms, and stank."z But "on the sixth day they gathered twice as much,"a "which the Lord hath said...to be kept until the morning."b "And it did not stink, neither was there any worm therein."c
"Six days ye shall gather it; but on the seventh day, which is the sabbath, in it there shall be none."d Some people went out on the seventh day and found no manna.e
Seven times in Exodus 16, "seventh day" and "sabbath" are used interchangeably. To teach the sacredness of this holy day, God wrought a threefold miracle every week for 40 years.f Because he was dealing with a horde of undisciplined, oppressed, suddenly-liberated slaves, prone to forget His laws, God re-established His commandments in a most spectacular way--by inscribing them on tables of stone with His own finger while His people "saw the thunderings, and the lightnings, and the noise of the trumpet, and the mountain smoking."g
The seventh-day Sabbath is an eternal sign of God's power as our Creator and Redeemer, and it was "made for man"h at the creation of the world.i It is a memorial of God's creative power. "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."j
Sabbath--The Lord's Day
Contrary to the later tradition, Seventh-day Adventists believe that the original term "Lord's day," mentioned only once in Scripture,k was the seventh-day Sabbath. John himself, the author of the term "Lord's day," did not specify which day is the Lord's day. He did, however, call the day of Christ's resurrection "the first day of the week."l
Both Old and New Testaments identify the Sabbath as the Lord's day. "...the seventh day is the sabbath of the Lord thy God."m The Sabbath is also called "the holy of the Lord," and "my holy day,"n and Jesus claims to be Lord of the Sabbath.o
Sabbath Observance Continues
The activities of the first Sabbath after Christ's death are significant. "And the women also, which came with him from Galilee, followed after, and beheld the sepulcher, and how his body was laid. And they returned, and prepared spices and ointments; and rested the sabbath day according to the commandment."p Luke, writing of the event years later, specifically mentions three consecutive days: "the preparation day," "the sabbath," and "the first day of the week."q
Did Christ abolish His moral law of Ten Commandements? "Think not that I am come to destroy the law, or the prophets," He said, "but to fulfill.''r Isaiah said that the Messiah would "magnify the law, and make it honorable."s Christ Himself said, "Till heaven and earth pass, one jot [smallest letter of the Hebrew alphabet] or one tittle [a minute detail of various Hebrew letters] shall in no wise pass from the law."t And David said that all of the commandments "stand fast for ever and ever.''u God Himself said to David, "My covenant will I not break, nor alter the thing that is gone out of my lips.''v "For I am the Lord, I change not.''w
From Sabbath to Sunday
Evidence suggests that early Christians began observing Sunday because of a strong love for Jesus Christ. The beheaded Justin Martyr, for example, who willingly died for Christ's sake in the middle of the second century, had observed the first day of the week.
In general, Christians of the second and third centuries who kept Sunday referred to the biblical fact that Jesus rose from the dead on the first day of the week as the main reason for observing Sunday.
Also, by Christ's time, the weekly Sabbath had been tainted. He labored to rid the Sabbath of its burdensome traditions and to restore it as a day of joy and delight.x "Irksome restrictions had been loaded on the people...nearly a thousand years after Moses' time. It was these legalistic traditions that Jesus had scathingly condemned (Matthew 15:1-13)."3
"This legalistic system reduced religion to a matter of form and banished the spirit of true worship and obedience, without which a man serves God in vain (see John 4:23, 24; cf. Mark 7:7)."4 These man-made restrictions did not belong to God's Sabbath.
Because the beauty of the Bible Sabbath had been tainted, according to C. Mervyn Maxwell, Ph.D., SDA church historian, "those Christians who gave up the Sabbath (many did not give it up and others kept both days) did not abandon the Sabbath of the Ten Commandments but the Sabbath of contemporary legalism. Sunday, with its joyous resurrection, seemed a vastly superior memorial of their Saviour's love.
"If we are going to draw our conclusions from the clearest evidence available, it seems that we shall have to say that those second- and third-century Christians who preferred Sunday to the Sabbath did so largely because they loved the Lord and thought that Sundaykeeping honored His memory."5
During the 16th century Reformation, however, Sundaykeeping was challenged by those who questioned tradition and who were determined to follow Scripture. Paul had taught that baptism was to be a memorial of Christ's resurrection.y Sabbatarians such as Andreas Fischer and Oswald Glait insisted that the Sabbath should not be confused with the ceremonial law because the Sabbath was sanctified by God at Creation week before mankind needed a ceremonial law and therefore belongs to the unchangeable moral law. And they, too, died for their faith.6
The Protestant Dilemma
Dr. Edward T. Hiscox, author of the Baptist Manual, spoke to a New York ministers' conference on November 13, 1893: "There was and is a commandment to keep holy the Sabbath day, but that Sabbath was not Sunday.... There is no Scriptural evidence of the change of the Sabbath institution from the seventh to the first day of the week.
"...this Sabbath question...is the gravest and most perplexing question connected with Christian institutions...and the only reason that it is not a more disturbing element in Christian thought and in religious discussions, is because the Christian world has settled down content on the conviction that somehow a transference has taken place at the beginning of the Christian history....
"To me it seems unaccountable that Jesus, during three years...with His disciples, often conversing with them upon the Sabbath question,...never alluded to any transference of the day; also, that during forty days of His resurrection life, no such thing was intimated."7
In From Sabbath to Sunday, Carlyle B. Haynes documents similar statements from clergymen of the Congregationalist, Methodist, Episcopal, Presbyterian, Lutheran, Protestant Episcopal churches, and the Church of England.8
In 1966 Dr. Ernest R. Palen, for 30 years minister of New York's Middle Collegiate Church, proposed that Protestants and Catholics join the Jews in observing Saturday instead of Sunday in a step toward religious unity. "It should not be too great a break for us," he said, "to observe the same Sabbath day that Jesus himself observed."9
A spokesman for the National Council of Churches replied that "the loss of the traditional Sunday as a day of worship would not be catastrophic and might be healthy." He emphasized that Sunday was not "sacrosanct" (sacred), and pointed out that both Seventh-day Adventists and Seventh-day Baptists observe the Sabbath on Saturday. "'Sunday was picked (by early Christians) rather arbitrarily,' he explained.''10
Ten years later, in 1976, Christianity Today--one of America's leading evangelical magazines--also proposed that Saturday become a national day of rest. In an editorial, Harold Lindsell said, "For Protestants and Catholics, it should prove no theological hardship:...there is nothing in Scripture that requires us to keep Sunday rather than Saturday as a holy day...."11
Sabbath--A Foretaste of Heaven
The Sabbath was made for manz before he sinned.a It was instituted in Eden thousands of years before there was a Jew. Jesus was our Example.b He kept the Sabbath, and stated, "If any man serve me, let him follow me."c Paul, the apostle to the Gentiles, while preaching on grace and the resurrection of Christ, held his services on the Sabbath day.d It was "his manner" to worship on Sabbath, just as it was Christ's "custom."e The book of Acts records 84 Sabbaths on which the Apostle Paul and his associates held religious services up to 23 years after Christ's resurrection.
Jesus Himself spoke of the Sabbath of the future when warning about the destruction of Jerusalem, which took place in 70 A.D.: "But pray ye that your flight be not in the winter, neither on the sabbath day."f
It is interesting to note that three of the four significant components of the calendar are based on astronomical phenomena. The year is the time it takes the earth to orbit the sun. The month is the time it takes the moon to circle the earth. The day is the time it takes the earth to rotate once on its axis. But upon what is the seven-day week based? There is no obvious astronomical phenomenon on which to base the week. Creationists can trace the seven-day week to the Creation week of Genesis 1 and 2. It is true that calendars have been revised several times over the centuries. However, these changes are mid-course leap-year-type corrections in the number of calendar days in a month. These corrections have never involved the seven-day cycle. Unknowingly, most people of the world acknowledge the biblical Creation of the world by organizing their lives around the seven-day week.
Seventh-day Adventists consider the Sabbath to be a release from the secular activities of the working week. They observe the ancient Sabbath of Creation week, the day on which God Himself rested as an example, the day He sanctified and blessed, the day observed by God's chosen people, and the day observed by Christ and His followers.
They do not observe Sabbath as an act of penitence or to earn merit, but as a memorial to God's creative and recreative power and as a foretaste of fellowship with Christ and His followers in the new earth. Isaiah tells of the Sabbaths there: "And it shall come to pass, that...from one sabbath to another, shall all flesh come to worship before me, saith the Lord."g
The Second Coming: Door to Heaven
The Second Coming is the other major doctrine exhibited in the name Seventh-day Adventist. An "adventist" is one who anticipates the Advent or Coming of Christ. By this definition, Enoch was clearly an adventist. "And Enoch also, the seventh from Adam, prophesied of these, saying, Behold, the Lord cometh with ten thousands of his saints."h Other Old Testament adventists included Job, David, Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, Daniel, Joel, Micah, and Malachi. Anticipation of the Advent was the theme of most of the Old Testament prophets and is the dominant theme throughout the Old Testament.
Probably the most prominent New Testament adventist (except for Christ Himself) was the Apostle Paul, who many times referred to the Second Advent in his writings: "For the Lord himself shall descend from heaven;"i and "...that blessed hope, and the glorious appearing of the great God and our Saviour Jesus Christ."j
And Christ Himself promised to return: "I will come again, and receive you unto myself; that where I am, there ye may be also."k As Jesus was ascending to heaven, angels appeared to the astonished disciples and described the Second Coming: "This same Jesus, which is taken up from you into heaven, shall so come in like manner as ye have seen him go into heaven."l At the Second Advent He will not come secretly; "every eye shall see him."m Those who have waited for Him will "rejoice in his salvation."n Christ will bring all of the holy angels with him;o the dead in Christ will be raised to life--resurrected; the righteous who are already alive will be changed from mortal to immortal;p and He will take those who believe in Him to the place He has prepared according to His promise.q
When a Person Dies
What happens when a person dies? Do they go to heaven (paradise), hell, or purgatory? Can they come back and tell us something for our own good? What does the Bible say?
The unscriptural teaching that the soul is immortal is a masterpiece of deceit, based on the Devil's first recorded lie when he told Eve, "Ye shall not surely die."r The Bible teaches that the "Lord of lordsÉonly hath immortality"s and that people are mortal.t Nowhere does the Bible teach immortality of the soul, but just the opposite. According to the Bible, the soul can die.u We seek for immortalityv, and if we are faithful, will put it on at the Second Adventw. Jesus Himself called death a sleep: "Our friend Lazarus sleepeth."x When His disciples thought He had spoken of taking rest in sleep, Jesus said to them plainly, "Lazarus is dead."y
The righteous dead are not in heaven, but in the grave "sleeping." On the day of Pentecost, Peter, referring to David who had been dead a thousand years, said, "Éhe is both dead and buriedÉ. David is not ascended into the heavens."z On 36 occasions, the King James Version of the Bible says that when the Kings of Israel died, they "slept with their fathers."
When Jesus called Lazarus from death-sleep at the grave, he "cried with a loud voice, Lazarus, come forth."a He did not say, "Lazarus come down from Heaven," or "Come up from hell," or "Come back from purgatory." He called him forth from the grave, where Jesus finds the saved at His Second Coming. "Éall that are in the graves shall hear His voice and shall come forth.b The dead "know not anything."c Their "thoughts perish."d "The dead praise not the Lord,"e but "sleep in the dust of the earth."f A loving Saviour will bring from death and the grave those who "sleep in Jesus."g
A statement which has misled many into the belief that they go to heaven immediately upon death is attributed to the Apostle Paul. He supposedly said, "To be absent from the body is to be present with the Lord." What Paul really said has a completely different meaning. "Éwhilst we are at home in the body, we are absent from the LordÉ. We are confident, I say, and willing rather to be absent from the body, and to be present with the Lord."h We would probably all rather be present with the Lord.
In I Thessalonians 4, Paul himself said, "But I would not have you to be ignorant, brethren, concerning them which are asleepÉ. For the Lord Himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God: and the dead in Christ shall rise first."i
Some may ask, What about Christ's promise to the thief on the cross that He would meet him in Paradise that very day? The apparent contradiction is due simply to a misplaced comma in Luke 23:43. "Verily I say unto thee, today shalt thou be with me in paradise."
The original Greek text, which had neither punctuation nor word division reads: amen soi ego semeron met emou ese en to paradeiso; literally "truly to-you I-say today with-me you-will-be in the paradise." To place the comma before the word "today" makes Jesus contradict what He and the various New Testament writers have plainly stated elsewhere. What Jesus actually said to the thief on the cross was, "Verily I say unto thee today, thou shalt be with me in paradise."
We can be certain of this interpretation by further study of the Scriptures. The life and teachings of Jesus should determine the placing of the comma. Earlier in the same book, Jesus said, "Éthou shalt be recompensed at the resurrection of the just."j And the Bible itself teaches that Jesus did not meet the repentant thief in paradise that day, because Jesus, Himself, two days later, said, "ÉI am not yet ascended to my father."k
Some people have defined "soul" as "spirit" and with that definition have been misled by the quotation, "Éthe spirit shall return unto God who gave it."l But soul is not spirit, when studied in context. The scripture teaches that "spirit" here refers to the breath of life. In Job 27:3, Job said, "all the while my breath is in me, and the spirit of God is in my nostrils." Regarding the dead, the Bible says, "His breath goeth forth, he returneth to his earth; in that very day his thoughts perish."m
David understood the condition of death. "For in death there is no remembrance of thee: in the grave who shall give thee thanks?n
This condition is perhaps no more clearly stated than in Ecclesiastes 9: 5, 6: "For the living know that they shall die: but the dead know not any thing, neither have they any more a reward; for the memory of them is forgotten. Also their love, and their hatred, and their envy, is now perished; neither have they any more a portion for ever in any thing that is done under the sun." Verse 10 says, "Whatsoever thy hand findeth to do, do it with thy might; for there is no work, nor device, nor knowledge, nor wisdom, in the grave, whither thou goest."
A person goes to his reward after he is resurrected. "And as it is appointed unto men once to die, but after this the judgment."o Jesus said the hour would come in "which all that are in the graves shall hear His voice, And shall come forth; they that have done good, unto the resurrection of life; and they that have done evil, unto the resurrection of damnation."p
Heaven and the New Earth
Jesus said that He would "go and prepare a place" for His people.q In Scripture it is called "a city which hath foundations, whose builder and maker is God.''r And God will also create a new earth: "For, behold, I create...a new earth: and the former shall not be remembered,..."s The holy city, the new Jerusalem, is located in heaven;t but it will come down to the new earth in the future at the end of the 1,000 years of Revelation 20.u It is a city where "there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain.''v
God would have all to be saved. He is "not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance.''w There is salvation for all believers--by faith in Jesus Christ, who died as if guilty of our sins. Reading the Bible, we see God's revelation of Jesus' life and teachings. "There is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved."x He "was made a little lower than the angels...that he by the grace of God should taste death for every man."y
We are reconciled, redeemed, justified, and cleansed by His blood.z "So Christ was once offered to bear the sins of many; and unto them that look for him shall he appear the second time without sin unto salvation."A
There is nothing mankind can do to earn salvation. It was purchased on Calvary by the "precious blood of Christ."B "For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: Not of works, lest any man should boast."C
Works of obedience to God's law, good deeds, sacrificing something for another's good, prayers, Sabbath keeping; none of these can save. Works are not the means of salvation; they are the result. Man is not saved by good works. He is saved for good works. The Apostle James said it this way: "I will shew thee my faith by my works."D Abraham's offering of Isaac upon the altar (his "works") demonstrated his faith, "and by works was faith made perfect."E "Faith without works is dead also."F Christ said that good works were to "glorify your Father which is in heaven."G
Salvation in Perspective
The cross of Jesus on Calvary is God's symbol of salvation. It reveals the love of God. It was here that Deity met and embraced all humanity in the God-man, Jesus Christ. "For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life."H The Saviour left heaven and came to dwell with and in humanity to reveal to both men and angels the merciful love of God. Ellen White wrote, "Christ was treated as we deserve, that we might be treated as He deserves. He was condemned for our sins, in which He had no share, that we might be justified by His righteousness, in which we had no share. He suffered the death which was ours, that we might receive the life which was His.''12
Christ was crucified between two thieves. Their crosses represent man's response to God's love. The two thieves (who were also crucified--one rebellious, and the other repentant and submissive)I could be seen as symbolizing the conflict between good and evil which has existed throughout history, traits which reflect the criteria for judgment. Humankind needs only to be willing to submit to Christ's love and believe on Him, to have eternal life. The Gospel, the "good news," is that God forgives and forgets the darkest past and offers eternal life to those who choose Christ as their Saviour.
The natural response to God's love is a desire to share it with others. God provided for this by giving His followers the Gospel commission: "Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost: Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world."J Seventh-day Adventists share with Christians everywhere a compelling mission to tell the Gospel story throughout the world.
For Further Information
For further information on how to cultivate physical, mental, and spiritual health...nutrition...overcoming alcohol or drug problems...coping with marital, personal, or social problems...the occult...how to pray...understanding the prophecies of Daniel and the Revelation about the immediate future...and other practical subjects--the following Adventist radio and television programs offer books or free Bible correspondence school coursework (from six to 40 lessons per course, depending on the series chosen). A list of the courses offered and an enrollment card may be obtained by writing to any of the following:
Breath of Life
12501 Old Columbia Pike
Silver Spring, MD 20904-6000
Faith for Today
P.O. Box 1000
Thousand Oaks, CA 91359
It Is Written
Thousand Oaks, CA 91360
Voice of Prophecy
P.O. Box 53055
Los Angeles, CA 90053
A catalog listing books and booklets on such topics as the above, or the address of the Adventist Book Center (a retail Christian book store) nearest the reader--may be obtained by consulting the yellow pages or writing to:
General Conference of Seventh-day Adventists
12501 Old Columbia Pike
Silver Spring, MD 20904-6600