Did you recently meet an Adventist? Maybe you saw an ad for an event at a local Adventist church, or drove by one of the denomination’s schools or hospitals. You may have just heard the word “Adventist” somewhere and want to find more about what it means.
Seventh-day Adventists are a global family of Christians who hold the Bible as the ultimate authority. There are, however, a few distinguishing characteristics that set them apart from many other Christian denominations.
Let’s look at a few core components of their collective identity, which can give you an idea of what it means to be a Seventh-day Adventist.
Adventists look to Jesus Christ alone for salvation
A foundational belief for Adventists is also shared by the majority of Christians around the world. Jesus Christ, the Son of God and Savior of humanity, is “the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to Father except by [Him]” (John 14:6, NKJV).
“For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life. For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved” (John 3:16, 17, NKJV, emphasis added)
It all started soon after the creation of our world. Adam and Eve were tempted and sinned.1 Then we became a sin-infected race, bent toward temptation and selfishness.
If our final outcomes were left to our own devices, we’d be doomed—for “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23), and “the wages of sin is death” (Romans 6:23a, ESV).
But there’s more to that last verse. Yes, the wages of sin is death… “but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (vs. 23b, ESV)
In the New Testament, Paul writes, “For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God” (Ephesians 2:8, ESV).
That’s right, salvation is a gift.
Available by way of God’s grace.
We’ve all sinned, so none of us can do anything by our own efforts to become worthy of salvation.
However, God doesn’t want us lost forever. He loves us so much He sent His Son Jesus, as our substitute, to live a perfect life on earth as our example. Then Jesus bore the consequences of all humanity’s sins by dying on the cross and being raised from the dead 3 days later2—all so we could have the chance merely to choose to follow God. He died even for those who might not make that choice.
Jesus’ death and resurrection make up the cornerstone for Seventh-day Adventists’ faith. Their drive to both study God’s Word and to incorporate that Word into their lives is in response to God’s ultimate love, as demonstrated on the Cross—anyone of us can be saved by grace just by accepting this Gift and following Him.
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Adventists believe the Bible introduces you to God
Who’s your best friend? Is it your old college roommate, or a buddy from high school? Maybe you’re close with your cousin or uncle, or someone you grew up with. Whoever they are, think about them for a minute.
When you first met, did you tell them everything about yourself?
Probably not. So, how did you get to know each other?
Talking, calling, texting, telling stories, working on a project, playing games, etc.
All of that can be clumped into “spending time together.” Because you spent loads of time together intentionally, it fits to call you friends.
Is that also how it works with Jesus?
Sure, you’ll spend time with Jesus differently than how you spend it with your “earthly” friend. It might even take some getting used to. But then it grows.
You’ll talk—through prayer. You’ll learn stories—through the Bible. You’ll meet up at your favorite church. Soon you’ll become so close, you can’t wait to introduce him to your other friends.
Since we can’t physically see Jesus or hug Him or laugh with Him, we go to the stories that tell us who He was and what He was like.
Think about your great-grandparent. You may not have gotten the chance to meet them in your life, but maybe your parents or grandparents tell stories of them. Maybe anytime someone spills sauce at the dinner table they laugh and say, “Doesn’t that remind you of Grandma?”
Her memory is alive through the stories of your family members.
With Jesus it’s similar, but even better. He’s still here! He’s with us 24/7, no matter where we are. That’s what the Bible teaches us. It tells of His life, death, and resurrection.
There are also many miraculous stories of his 33 years on earth (see Matthew, Mark, Luke and John). Tucked into those stories are the reports and descriptions that help us really get to know Him. They show us His personality, His compassion, His priorities. And He also showed us the Father.
The Bible records Jesus talking about how much the Father values our lives—how He notices when each little sparrow falls to the ground, yet we “are of more value than many sparrows” (Matthew 10:31, NKJV).
All throughout the Bible, even before Jesus’ earthly ministry, we read about God’s character and His will.
We see how He lovingly created mankind. While he spoke everything else into existence, He got down in the dirt to trace out the human form (Genesis 2:7).
We see how He gave chance after chance to His wayward people, even providing miracle after miracle to feed them (Exodus 16), lead them (Exodus 13), and help them escape their enemies (Exodus 14).
Adventists uphold the Bible as their only source of beliefs, regarding this holy book as the authority in revealing an infinite God to finite, sinful beings.
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Adventists acknowledge the call to be unique, or “set apart” from the world.
The Bible is full of advice for living Christ-centered lives of love, justice, and mercy (Micah 6:8). It’s clear God cares how we conduct ourselves each day, and how we care for our minds and bodies.
“Finally, brethren, whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy—meditate on these things.
The things which you learned and received and heard and saw in me, these do, and the God of peace will be with you” (Philippians 4:8, 9, NKJV)
“Or do you not know that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God, and you are not your own? For you were bought at a price; therefore glorify God in your body and in your spirit, which are God’s” (1 Corinthians 6:19, 20, NKJV).
It makes sense. God wants to help us grow spiritually and in character—to “have life, and … have it more abundantly” (John 10:10, NKJV).
But following God is not always easy. We live in a world driven by selfishness cloaked in prestige. Jesus even warned us that living principled lives for Him would be difficult. It would indeed “set us apart:”
“If the world hates you, you know that it hated me first. If you were of the world, the world would love you as its own. However, because you are not of the world, but I have chosen you out of it, the world hates you” (John 15:18-19, CSB).
Yikes. Hates us? That’s pretty strong language there.
But you don’t need to worry that by living a principled life, the rest of the world will immediately start hating you for it. In fact, people might take notice and be encouraged by you.
In that verse, however, Jesus is making the point that ultimately, the world doesn’t care about you—especially if your priorities are different.
A certain phrase is popular in various movies, books and social media memes: “You see a person’s true colors when you are no longer beneficial to their life.”
Jesus was warning us that sooner or later, the world’s true colors will show. And if God’s “principled people” are out doing good when the rest of the world is trying to get away with murder (literally or figuratively), they’re going to hate the people making them look bad.
That’s why God seeks to elevate us from the rat race of the world. He calls us to be different, and for good reason.
“Dear friends, I urge as strangers and exiles to abstain from sinful desires that wage war against the soul. Conduct yourselves honorably among the Gentiles [the world], so that when they slander you as evildoers, they will observe your good works and will glorify God on the day He visits” (1 Peter 2:11, 12, CSB, emphasis added).
To oppose what the world values can be difficult, but God doesn’t send us out flying blind. He knows our pain. When Jesus lived on this earth, He personally endured each struggle we face (see Hebrews 2:18, 4:15). He understands and encourages us to push on under His guidance. And as a result, we bring glory to God. The good works we do out of love for God can make an impression on the world around us, rather than the world making an impression on us.
Adventists have historically prioritized mission work, wanting to share this freedom, healing and hope with anyone and everyone. When we habitually strive to live a principled life, taking care of our minds and bodies as well as others, we also set ourselves apart from the values of the world. While this will inevitably cause tension, it also creates wonderful opportunities to demonstrate God’s love to those who are searching for it.
Adventists uphold the importance of the 4th Commandment, the seventh-day Sabbath, even today.
The Sabbath is a wonderful blessing God declared for the world right after He finished creating it. In essence, He gave everyone permission to stop what they’re doing and just enjoy the world He made, the life He made.
“Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy. Six days you shall labor and do all your work, but the seventh day is the Sabbath of the Lord your God.
In it you shall do not work: you, nor your son, nor your daughter, nor your male servant, nor your female servant, nor your cattle, nor your stranger who is within your gates.
For in six days the Lord made the heavens and the earth … and rested the seventh day. Therefore the Lord blessed the Sabbath day and hallowed it” (Exodus 20:8-11).
Throughout the Bible, God’s followers found the Sabbath to be a great time to get together for worship and study as well. There are many mentions of Jesus going to the synagogue on Sabbath, reading and studying with others in His earthly community.
Today, the majority of Christians keep Sunday, the first day of the week, as the day selected to meet at church for worship. There have been many reasons given throughout history for this change. In the mid 1800s, however, a group of Christians felt compelled to get back into a rigorous study of Scripture during the Second Great Awakening in the United States (read more about this in the next section).
During their studies they discovered several biblical truths of great importance that were hardly being practiced during the current time period. One of these truths was in upholding the original seventh-day Sabbath, as proposed in Genesis 2. As they searched the Scriptures, they found no evidence that the fourth commandment was to be altered in any way.
Therefore they sought to keep the seventh day of each week holy, recognizing its benefit to their busy lives and their relationship with God. It wasn’t easy, since most of society’s calendar was structured to give preference to Sunday, setting up Saturday as another day for work.
But honoring this commandment of God, and partaking in the blessings it was meant to provide to His children, remains a priority to this day. As you can tell by the name, “Seventh-day” Adventist, this emphasis on Sabbath rest is foundational, and holds great significance for Adventists and their history.
Adventists have a rich history, fueled by a renewed emphasis on rigorous Bible study.
Before the name “Seventh-day Adventist” was even a thought, a group of protestant Christians began gathering for Bible studies and tent meetings in the early-to-mid 1800s. At that time, in the United States, there was a religious climate of revival that later came to be known as the Second Great Awakening.
While some took this newfound religious fervor to the extreme, others were reading the Bible for themselves again, rather than just listening to a sermon each weekend.
One preacher named William Miller was also fervently studying Scripture and was spending time in the prophecies in Daniel and Revelation. He became convinced that the Second Coming of Jesus, which at the time many thought to be figurative, would be literal.
His study on these prophecies continued, and he gained a substantial group of followers called “Millerites.” The more they learned about these prophecies and the ideal of a literal Second Coming, the more they began to think in literal, predictive terms. Eventually it was determined by the Millerites that Jesus would return to earth on October 22, 1844.
Many were deeply disappointed, as you can imagine. Which is why that event, or non-event, is referred to as the “Great Disappointment.”
But instead of losing all hope, most of the Millerite Christians dove back into the Bible. Where could they have gone wrong? What else did they need to consider?
It was almost like a second revival. More and more people were studying, learning, and applying. And through their studies, many realized some of the things they were finding didn’t line up with the current traditions.
While starting a new denomination was not the plan from the get-go, the more these Christians studied, the more they became convicted of truths that differentiated them from the churches they’d grown up in. Among these truths were the literal Second Coming of Jesus (though not the exact date!), the state of the dead, and the seventh-day Sabbath.
The more they studied and shared, the more people became interested. This endeavor to get back to looking for answers in the Bible became the Advent Movement.
Even more exciting things happened after the Advent Movement officially organized into the Seventh-day Adventist Church. There were always growing pains, but the flame of revival kept burning, making Adventism the global influence it is today.
There’s more! Learn about how the Adventist Church became what it is today.
Read this article to see the Adventist Church history timeline that explains how each event shaped and refined the focus on important biblical truths.
The Adventist Church today—Belief in action
Today you can find Adventists in almost every country of the world. The small but powerful grassroots movement mentioned above grew miraculously fast, and is now a global church.
And this Church is more than just churches. Because the Seventh-day Adventists’ active faith permeates every aspect of life, they want to take worship and mission work beyond the pews and out into the world.
Within the church pews, Seventh-day Adventists remain a dynamic body of believers, consistently meeting together on Saturday mornings in much the same manner other Christian churches do on Sunday. Adventists encourage the edifying experience of corporate worship, seeing it to be vital for spiritual growth.
Want to know more?
Learn where you can find an Adventist church or ministry near you, and discover the many exciting things Adventists are doing around the world today!
The Goal—Eternal Life with Jesus Christ
Building hospitals and schools around the world is nice, and so is a focus on living out biblical principles in our daily interactions. It’s part of Adventists’ mission to bring hope and help to our broken world. But what is it all worth if not to end up with Jesus, the reason we have this hope of salvation to begin with?
God created humanity with the intention of living in harmony with us forever. Jesus mentions in John 14:2-3 that the goal is to reconcile us all to Him so that we can live with Him eternally, in Heaven.
“In my Father’s house are many rooms. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, that where I am you may be also” (John 14:2, 3, ESV).
“I will come again.” Those are words of hope that have inspired Adventists from day one.
Most religions of the world involve a concept of heaven and of salvation. But there’s a beautiful thing about the biblical description of heaven Adventists and other Christians believe in. How wonderful to know that we can live forever alongside humanity’s loving Creator—the most interesting being in the universe. And He has promised we will be made perfect. Sin will be but a memory.
“Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away … And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband.
And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, ‘Behold, the dwelling place of God is now among the people. He will dwell with them, and they will be His people, and God himself will be with them as their God.
He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.’
And he who was seated on the throne said, ‘Behold, I am making all things new!’ Also he said, ‘Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true’” (Revelation 21:1-5).
Heaven isn’t the shallow fairytale cloud city where people sit idly, playing harps all day. Heaven is a massive city, built for the primary purpose of housing humanity forever.
That’s why God also planned for it to also become part of the “New Earth,” as described in the verses above. God will bring this holy city down to a newly-created earth, cleansed from the evil that once ran rampant on its soil.
While the Bible does include some physical descriptions of Heaven, God knows it would be futile to try to describe something so indescribable. All we really need to know is that it will be everything we could ever need or want. And the mystery makes it even more enticing.
But there is more we can learn about Jesus’ Second Coming and the role Heaven plays in the plan of Salvation. Read more here.
By now, you can probably see why the beginning of the Advent Movement was so exciting to the people involved. Imagine discovering a clearer picture of the freedom, healing and hope that awaits us. All we have to do is make a choice to accept God’s gift of salvation.
And while the biggest part of this gift happens at Christ’s Second Coming, this gift can also give us “life abundantly” right now. This begins to happen when we accept God’s advice for daily living and choose to focus on things that point us toward Him.
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- Genesis 3
- Mark 9:31; Luke 9:22