Seventh-day Adventism

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Seventh-day Adventism

(religion, spiritualism, and occult)

America has produced a host of people who have fanned the fires of messianic faith. The idea that a Messiah (see Messiah), most often identified as Jesus, will return to set things straight has spawned hope since the inception of the country.

One messianic group, known today as the Millerites, took the eastern states by storm ten years before the Civil War. William Miller (1782-1849), a farmer from Low Hampton, New York, had been converted in 1816. He was a Baptist who studied the Bible, trying to determine when Jesus would return. From evidence gathered from the generation tables listed in Genesis, the visions recorded by the prophet Daniel, and prophetic passages in the book of Revelation, he decided the return of Christ would happen "about the year 1843." His evidence seemed so overwhelming that some 50,000 people were convinced he was right. The target date he had determined was March 21st. Revival meetings were held as the time grew close. But when the day passed without incident, people began to despair. Miller, however, discovered he had made a crucial error. One of his followers pointed out that Habakkuk 2:3 and selected passages from Leviticus indicated that there would be a "tarrying time" before Christ would return. This gave the earth a second chance. October 22, 1844, was the actual date. It was "the tenth day of the seventh month" of the Jewish calendar. "Thank the Lord," said Miller, "I am almost home. Glory! Glory! I see the time is correct!"

Once again, it didn't happen. Miller's following, most of whom had sold homes and possessions, were despondent. Some of them became Shakers. Others just drifted away. Miller himself was excommunicated by the Baptist Church and died in 1849, a discredited and almost forgotten man. The whole episode was called the Great Disappointment.

But a few believers went back to their Bibles to figure out what had gone wrong. Some of them believed a minor miscalculation must have been made—a verse or two left out of the equation. They met in Albany, New York, in 1845 to form a new Protestant denomination, based on the premise that Christ would return according to a pattern prophesied in scripture. This new conference, following the pattern of many Protestant churches, later split into three factions. The largest remains today and is called the Advent Christian Church.

But some of Miller's followers began to think a woman named Ellen Gould White (1827-1915) had found the answer. Although only a young woman at the time of the Great Disappointment, after much study and prayer she began to preach a message that many were coming to believe. October 22, 1844, was the correct date. They hadn't miscalculated. They just had not interpreted correctly what was supposed to happen. Christ obviously didn't come back to Earth at that time. Instead, he entered the heavenly sanctuary to begin the second and last phase of his atoning ministry. Because the Church had neglected proper observance of the Sabbath, just as the Jews had done before the time of the Babylonian captivity (see Babylonian Captivity), Christ "was tarrying, not willing that any should perish." The world still had time. But there was a lot of work to do. Jesus would return shortly. But first people needed to know what was happening.

The name Seventh-day Adventist was chosen in 1860, but the denomination was officially formed on May 21, 1863. One hundred twenty-five churches and some 3,500 believers were now united as one Protestant, evangelical community who shared much in common with other fundamentalist Christian churches. What set the Adventists apart was their worship on what they called the true Sabbath, Saturday, the seventh day of the week.

White was a prominent author and gifted speaker. Her works are still studied today. The church believes she was given the spiritual gift of prophecy and was an integral part of God's plan concerning the return of Jesus Christ and the end of sin in the world.

Adventists, in common with many other fundamentalists, believe the Bible explains the plan of God. Satan was a created being, the greatest of the angels, who fell into sin. After the world was destroyed by the great flood as a result of that sin, God put into effect a plan to redeem it. The story is progressive. Little by little people began to understand more of the story as it unfolded. Throughout the Old Testament the plan was illustrated in type and symbol. The earthly sanctuary and its rules were a copy of the heavenly sanctuary. The rituals of the priests were a copy of what goes on in heaven. The laws showed God's plan for righteous living. When Christ, the Son of God, was born, humans rejected and crucified him. Christ's death on the cross was the ultimate, atoning sacrifice for sin. Jesus will return but is now serving in the heavenly sanctuary, fulfilling his role as high priest until, like the priest of old, he comes out of the sanctuary to minister to the people. That will be at the time of his Second Advent, or Second Coming. The dead will arise, Earth will be cleansed, and the heavenly sanctuary, the New Jerusalem, will literally come down from heaven to Earth. Some say it approaches even now down an immense "road," empty of stars, in the region of the constellation Orion.

Adventists have built a worldwide network of schools and hospitals, sending missionaries to every nation on Earth. They maintain their own publishing house and have been especially active in the fields of family life, health, and higher education, emphasizing excellent academic departments in the humanities.

The Religion Book: Places, Prophets, Saints, and Seers © 2004 Visible Ink Press®. All rights reserved.
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