Looking for the blessed hope and the appearing of the glory |
of our great God and Savior, Christ Jesus (Titus 2:13)
Orthodox or Cult?
Christ did not appear in 1844. After this "Great Disappointment," one "little flock" still insisted the date of their original predictions had been correct. They decided the event marked by 1844 was not the Second Coming, but the entrance of Christ into the Holy of Holies in the Heavenly Sanctuary. There, they said, He began the "Investigative Judgment." (See #6 below.) This doctrine was received and endorsed by Ellen G. White (Ibid., p. 680).
From 1844 to 1851, the group taught the "shut door" doctrine, based on Jesus' parable of the ten virgins. Anyone who had not accepted the Adventist message by the time Jesus entered the Holy of Holies was to be shut out permanently, as were the five foolish virgins. Cut off from the Bridegroom, they could not join the Adventists or have any hope of eternal life. Ellen White not only approved and taught this doctrine, but her first vision experience (she claimed over 2,000 visions) was largely responsible for its being received by the Adventist group (Brinsmead, Robert, D., Judged by the Gospel: A Review of Adventism, pp. 1303).
By 1846, the group had adopted the Seventh-Day Baptists' view that the Saturday Sabbath must be observed by Christians. A highly elevated form of this doctrine, together with the doctrine of the Investigative Judgment, became the hallmarks of Seventh-Day Adventism. In 1850, James and Ellen White began publishing a magazine, The Review & Herald, to disseminate Adventist and Sabbatarian doctrines. This helped many of the remaining "Millerites" to coalesce into a distinctive body, which adopted the name of Seventh-Day Adventist Church in 1860, and formally incorporated in 1863, with approximately 3,500 members in 125 congregations (Encyclopedia of American Religion, Vol. 2, p. 681).
Ellen G. White (1827-1915) never held official title as the head of the
SDA church, but was one of its founders and acknowledged spiritual leader. She rather disingenuously declined to claim the title of "prophet," calling herself a "messenger" instead (P.G. Damsteegt, et al.,Seventh-day Adventists Believe A Biblical Exposition of 27 Fundamental Doctrines,
1988, p. 224). But she claimed to have the "spirit of prophecy," and that her messages were direct from God for the guidance and instruction of the church. With her knowledge and consent, others called her a prophet and an inspired commentator of Scripture, and even "the Spirit of Prophecy" (Maurice Barnett, Ellen G. White & Inspiration, pp. 5). Having only a third grade education, Ellen White said for years she was unable to read, bolstering the claim that her beautiful prose was inspired by God. However, it has been discovered that she not only read, but plagiarized other Christian authors throughout virtually all her writings. The sad facts of this matter have been thoroughly and indisputably established in several books. (e.g., see Walter Rea, The White Lie; and Judged by the Gospel,
SDA is organized as a representative democracy. Lower echelons elect representatives to higher units; determination and administration of policy and enforcement of doctrinal orthodoxy is imposed from the top down. President and Executive Committee of General Conference are standing chief administrative offices. Lower administrative units are the General Conference, Divisions (over continents), Union Conferences, local Conferences, and congregations.
In the late 1950s, cult expert Walter Martin, founder of the Christian Research Institute, in collaboration with neo-evangelical
Donald Barnhouse, made an extensive investigation of the teachings (doctrines) of Seventh-Day Adventism. Their purpose was to determine whether to classify SDA as part of the evangelical community, or to go along with the majority of evangelicals and treat SDAs as cult members (thereby requiring evangelicals to exercise Biblical separation). (In the 1955 edition of The Kingdom of the Cults,
Martin originally did classify SDA as cultic.) Martin and Barnhouse concluded that SDA was within the bounds of Christian orthodoxy. Walter Martin, in his article in the 12/19/60 Christianity Today, said: "That Adventists should be recognized as Christians and that fellowship should be extended to them we do not deny" (p. 15).
Even when speaking of being saved by the righteousness of Christ, Adventist writers refer to imparted righteousness, seldom to the Biblical concept of imputed righteousness. Calling it "Christ's righteousness," while insisting on the believer's perfection of character as a prerequisite to salvation, is at worst a thinly veiled works salvation, or at best an attempt to mix grace and works, something the Bible says is impossible to do (Rom. 11:6). Mrs. White's words are crystal clear -- one will not be forgiven until all sins are eradicated from one's life and one's character is perfected. Precisely the same heresy is found (besides many others) in Mormonism. It is not the salvation by grace alone through faith alone offered in the Bible.
5. Baptism. " Christ made it clear that He required baptism of those who wished to become part of His church, His spiritual kingdom"; "In baptism believers enter into the passion experience of our Lord"; " [B]aptism also marks [a] person's entrance into Christ's spiritual kingdom. it unites the new believer to Christ. Through baptism the Lord adds the new disciples to the body of believers -- His body, the church. Then they are members of God's family" (SDAs Believe , pp. 182, 184, 187).
7. The Sabbath. "In the last days, the Sabbath test will be made plain. When this time comes, anyone who does not keep the Sabbath will receive the mark of the beast and will be kept from heaven" (TGC, p. 449); " [T]he divine institution of the Sabbath is to be restored The delivering of this message will precipitate a conflict that will involve the whole world. The central issue will be obedience to God's law and the observance of the Sabbath. Those who reject it will eventually receive the mark of the beast" (TGC, pp. 262). In one of her most revered works, Ellen White wrote that Sabbath observance would be the "line of distinction" in the "final test" that will separate God's end-time people who "receive the seal of God" and are saved, from those who "receive the mark of the beast" (The Great Controversy Between Christ and Satan, p. 605). Describing a supposed vision direct from God, Ellen White wrote, "I saw that the Holy Sabbath is, and will be, the separating wall between the true Israel of God and unbelievers" (Early Writings, p. 33; emphasis added). She also wrote of some Adventists failing to understand that "Sabbath observance was of sufficient importance to draw a line between the people of God and unbelievers" (Ibid., p. 85).
SDAs have, thereby, made Sabbath-keeping a criterion for a personal relationship with the Lord -- even to the extent of one's salvation! Why? Because, according to SDAs, we are all to be under strict adherence to Old Testament Law, including the Ten Commandments, of which the fourth one says, "keep the Sabbath." (This Sabbath-keeping requirement was supposedly confirmed in a vision received by Ellen G. White, rather than by study of the Bible.) SDAs believe that "Sunday-keeping" will be the mark of the beast in the future.
8. Ellen G. White, the Prophet. Many rank-and-file SDA members deny that their organization any longer decrees Ellen G. White a God-inspired prophet. Yet in SDA official publications, the SDA church continues to defend Ellen White legends, and maintain there was no difference in the degree of inspiration she received from that received by Bible writers (Review & Herald, 4 October 1928, p. 11; "Source of Final Appeal," Adventist Review, 3 June 1971, pp. 4 G. A. Irwin, Mark of the Beast, p. 1; "The Inspiration and Authority of the Ellen G. White Writings," Adventist Review, 15 July 1982, p. 3; Ministry, October 1981, p. 8 (5); see also, Judged by the Gospel, pp. 1250). And in the SDA June 2000, General Conference, the church voted to more aggressively affirm and support the "Spirit of Prophecy through the ministry of Ellen White" (Adventist Today, [online: July 2000]).
* Besides relying heavily on the work of Dr. Whitcomb (1988 Syllabus notes), some of the material in this report has also been excerpted and or adapted from: "Seventh-day Adventist Church Profile," Timothy Oliver (Watchman Fellowship Profile, 1996).
1 The Bible lists six identifying marks of false
prophets, any one of which is sufficient for identification: (1) through signs and wonders
they lead astray after false gods (Dt. 13:1-4); (2) their prophecies don't come to pass
(Dt. 18:20-22); (3) they contradict God's Word (Isa. 8:20); (4) they bear bad fruit (Mt.
7:18-20); (5) men speak well of them (Lk. 6:26); and (6) they deny that Jesus, the one and
only Christ, has come once and for all in the flesh (1 Jn. 4:3), thereby denying His
sufficiency in all matters of life and godliness (2 Pe. 1:3). Most cults are founded upon
false prophecies, which, if pointed out, offer an effective way to open blind eyes and
rescue cultists. SDA originated with similar false prophesies about Christ's coming. It
began with William Miller's prediction that Christ would return in 1843 (revised to
October 22, 1844). Miller admitted his error. However, SDA prophetess Ellen G. White
(EGW), who had repeatedly endorsed Miller's prophecy, insisted that Christ had indeed
come, but not to earth. Instead, He had entered "the holy of holies" in heaven
"to make an atonement for all who are shown to be entitled to its
benefits" (The Great Controversy, p. 480).
4 This teaching of the "Investigative Judgment" is the foundational doctrine and major heresy of Seventh-Day Adventism: that the atonement was not complete on the cross, but was begun in heaven in 1844 and depends upon our works. According to Ellen G. White (EGW), the blood of Christ, instead of making "an atonement for the soul" (Lv. 17:11) and "cleans[ing] us from all sin" (l Jn. 1:7), brought sin into heaven: "[O]ur sins are, in fact, transferred to the heavenly sanctuary by the blood of Christ" (Spirit of Prophecy, Vol. 4, p. 266). Thus, Christ had to begin the work of cleansing the heavenly sanctuary (of sins His blood had brought there!) through the "Investigative Judgment." EGW declared that "Ministers who would not accept this saving message" were hindering God's work and "The blood of souls is upon them" (Early Writings, p. 234). Millerites who adopted this delusion became Seventh-Day Adventists. The whole concept of the Investigative Judgment is antithetical to the Gospel. Jesus did not wait until 1844 to enter the Holy of Holies in heaven (Heb. 1:3; 6:19; 8:1; 9:6, 24; 12:2). Neither is He still making an atonement in heaven (Heb. 9:25; 10:11). The Investigative Judgment proposes to "vindicate the justice of God in saving those who believe in Jesus," by showing they were "loyal," "penitent," and "faithful" commandment keepers. This is an outrage. God's justice in saving sinners is vindicated by Christ's death on the cross, period (Rom. 3:24). [Return to Text]
5 The SDA Church made this statement in their Ministry magazine of October 1981, and have never retracted it --"We believe the revelation and inspiration of both the Bible and Ellen White's writings to be of equal quality. The superintendence of the Holy Spirit was just as careful and thorough in one case as in the other" (June 1997, The Baptist Challenge). (Bold added) This sounds like SDAs also believe that Mrs. White is inerrant. [Return to Text]Biblical Discernment Ministries Revised 11/01