Christian or Cult
Seventh-day Adventism has borne a stigma of being called a non-Christian cult for over a century. This study will reveal that it should not be viewed as a “cult,” but that it does vary significantly in a few areas from the position of evangelical/fundamental Christianity. This will not be an exhaustive study on Adventism, but it should assist the curious regarding the denomination’s history and founders, its doctrine and its deviation from Bible doctrine in several very important areas. Should the reader wish to become schooled in detail regarding Seventh-day Adventism, the book, The Truth About Seventh-day Adventism (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing Company, 1960) by the late Walter Martin, is recommended. Most of the material in this study is derived from Dr. Martin’s book, The Kingdom of the Cults (Bethany House Publishers, 1985), which is an excellent work on many of today’s cults and is a must for every Christian’s library, as is the book Encyclopedia of Cults and New Religions by John Ankerberg and John Weldon.
Dr. Walter Martin, who held four earned degrees, having received his Doctorate from California Coast University in the field of Comparative Religions, and who was an author of many books, booklets and articles, became known as “The Bible Answer Man” on a syndicated radio program heard across the United States. He was the founder and director of The Christian Research Institute, located in southern California. The institute conducts research on contemporary trends, both secular and theological, and provides up-to-date information in fields bearing on Christianity.
It should also be understood that the word “religion,” as used herein, is primarily meant to describe an organization (denomination) or system of teachings that profess a spiritual philosophy apart from true Christianity. Although the word, “Christianity,” is loosely used by main-stream society to refer to any denomination or system that is in any way associated with the Bible or Christ, this writer uses the word only in the Biblical sense of the term, which is to refer to the body of believers or the doctrine that subscribes to salvation by faith alone in Christ alone.
Nevertheless, in this study, there may be times that this writer will use the word, “Christian,” as does mainstream society, to refer to some group or organization. If this should occur, the writer will make it clear as to how he is using the term should he believe that the context does not make it clear.
This writer is abhorrent to the idea that (true) Christianity is “religion.” The two terms are incongruous. Religion is the antithesis of Christianity. Religion is man’s attempt or endeavor to secure the approbation (approval) of God through man’s self-efforts or “human good” (works). Christianity, on the other hand, is a relationship or union with a divine Person, Jesus Christ, the Son of God—the third Person of the one triune God. This relationship or union subsequently produces “divine good”—works administered under the influence of the Holy Spirit that do indeed bring pleasure to God.
Whereas a person cannot be a true Jehovah’s Witness, Mormon, Christian Scientist, Unitarian, Scientologist, etc., and be a Christian (unless of course he becomes one prior to adopting the cult-theology), it is possible to be a Christian and a Seventh-day Adventist, despite certain unorthodox or heretical concepts adhered to by the denomination, provided, of course, the person by faith alone in Christ alone was saved. By this phrase, by faith alone in Christ alone, this writer means the following:
· A person who comes to the realization that he is a sinner before God and must be saved (granted eternal life) in order to spend eternity with God
· And comes to the realization that there is absolutely nothing he can do through self-efforts of good works to be saved
· And also realizes that no organization or system or person, other than Jesus Christ as God’s Son, can save him and
· Who then turns (repents) from himself and any other confidence (self-efforts—past or future—or any other means whatsoever) to only Jesus Christ and His sacrifice on Calvary’s cross as the total payment for his sin and thereby places his total confidence and trust in this (Christ and His sacrifice) for his personal salvation.
Now if a person, Seventh-day Adventist or not, when accepting Jesus Christ and His sacrifice for the purpose of eternal salvation also believed at that time that it would be up to himself, through good works (righteous living), to keep himself saved; THEN, he did not completely place his trust and confidence solely in Christ and His sacrifice. He therefore was trusting in Christ + himself for his salvation; hence, he was not saved.
Dr. Anthony Hoekema in his book, The Four Major Cults, classifies Seventh-day Adventism as a non-Christian cult-system., as do other notable Christian leaders as Louis T. Talbot, M.R. DeHaan, John R. Rice, J.K. Van Baalen, Herbert Bird and John R. Gerstner. Dr. Hoekema’s conclusion is based on reasons that through his understanding of the denomination are part and parcel to its spiritual doctrine. He has concluded that Seventh-day Adventism holds to the following:
If Dr. Hoekema is correct regarding these points, this writer would agree with him. But given the exacting study made by Dr. Walter Martin in 1957 on Seventh-day Adventist, which was based on the Adventist’s book, Questions on Doctrine, the official publication defining the doctrines of this denomination and which was confirmed by the General Conference of Seventh-day Adventists (Washington, D.C.) to Dr. Martin in their letter to him dated April 29, 1983, Dr. Martin came to the determination that Dr. Hoekema’s conclusion was based on fallacious deductions—and this writer concurs with Dr. Martin’s conclusion.
In brief, Seventh-day Adventism accepts only the Bible as their source of authority; although, as in every religion and Christianity, commentaries on Scripture are considered. Seventh-day Adventism also accepts the position that justification is solely by grace. It devalues Christ and His sacrifice no more than several other “Christian” denominations that are steeped in Arminianism, e.g., Pentecostals, Methodists, Anglicans, Episcopalians, Lutherans and others who accept the Arminian premises, though they have not carried them out to the literalism that the Adventists have in their presentation of the “Investigative Judgment.”
And the Adventists do not believe that they alone compose the “community of the saved.” They believe, as does evangelical Christians, that there are truly saved individuals in many other denominations outside of evangelical circles. Seventh-day Adventism’s specific remarks regarding these issues of doctrine are detailed in Dr. Martin’s book, The Kingdom of the Cults. Based on this, it is believed that many of the “saved” may very well exist within the fellowship of the Seventh-day Adventist denomination.
This study is not to be construed in any sense of the term as an endorsement of the entire theological structure of Seventh-day Adventism, since portions of its theology are definitely in contrast to Biblical doctrine. Several of these heretical views will be considered in this study.
Seventh-day Adventism History and Founders
Seventh-day Adventism sprang from the “Great second advent awakening” which shook the religious world just before the middle of the nineteenth century, when a reemphasis about the second advent of Jesus Christ was rampant in Britain and on the continent of Europe. Before long, many of the Old World views of prophetic interpretation crossed the Atlantic and penetrated American theological circles.
Based largely upon the apocalyptic books of Daniel and Revelation, the theology of the Advent Movement was discussed in the newspapers as well as in theological journals. New Testament eschatology competed with stock market quotations for front-page space, and the “seventy weeks,” “twenty-three hundred days,” and the “the abomination of desolation” (Daniel 8, 9) were common subjects of conversation.
Following the chronology of Archbishop Ussher, and interpreting the 2300 days of Daniel as 2300 years, many Bible students of various denominations concluded that Christ would come back about the year 1843. Of this studious number was one William Miller, a Baptist minister and resident of Lower Hampton, New Your.
(The Kingdom of the Cults by Walter Martin)
William Miller taught in the year 1818 that in “about” 25 years, that is, 1843, Jesus Christ would come again. His associates set October 22, 1844, as the final date when Jesus Christ would return for His saints, visit judgment upon sin, and establish the Kingdom of God upon earth. Strict adherents of God’s Word realize that Miller was teaching in contradiction to Bible doctrine, since Jesus Himself had declared, “But of that day and hour no one knows, not even the angels of heaven, but My Father only” (Matthew 24:36, also 24:42, 44; 25:13; Mark 13:33; Acts 1:7). But Miller, along with scores of prophetic scholars in Europe and the United States, had espoused this view. And history bears a bitter record of their terrible disappointment when Christ did not show.
William Miller, although wrong on this account, was not a crackpot. He was, as far as can be ascertained, not dishonest or deceptive in his prophetic interpretation of the Scripture. He enjoyed a reputation, among all who knew him, of being an honest and forthright Christian.
Regardless of the number of scholars who confirmed his errors, however, the fact remains that Miller and the Millerite movement operated contrary to the express injunction of Scripture. Both Miller and his followers lived to reap the reward of their foolhardy quest and to suffer crushing humiliation, ridicule and abject despair. . .
The final phase of the movement, then, closed with the “Great Disappointment of 1844,” but as the Millerites disbanded, there emerged other groups . . . William Miller, it should be noted, was “never” a Seventh-day Adventist and stated that he had “no confidence” in the “new theories” which emerged from the shambles of the Millerite movement. . .
Aside from chronological speculation, therefore, the theology of William Miller differed from Seventh-day Adventist theology in three distinct points: he denied the Seventh-day Sabbath, the doctrine of the sleep of the soul, and the final, utter destruction of the wicked—all doctrines held by the Seventh-day Adventist denomination. And he never embraced the “sanctuary” and “investigative judgment” theories developed by Seventh-day Adventists. For William Miller the era of chronological speculation was over, and he died shortly after the fiasco, a broken and disillusioned man who was, nevertheless, honest and forthright when in error or when repudiating error.
(The Kingdom of the Cults by Walter Martin)
There were three segments or groups of Millerism that united to form the Seventh-day Adventist denomination. Each group had a distinct doctrine, as follows:
1. The group headed by Hiram Edson proclaimed the doctrine of the sanctuary “as embracing a special or final ministry of Christ in the Holy of Holies in the heavenly sanctuary.”
2. The group headed by Joseph Bates advocated the observance of the seventh-day Sabbath “as involved in the keeping of the commandments of God.”
3. The group headed by Ellen G. White emphasized the “spirit of prophecy” or “the testimony of Jesus,” which they believed was to be manifest in the “remnant” (Revelation 14:6-12; also 12:17; 19:10), or the “last segment of God’s church of the centuries.”
Not only did these three groups come together to change the face of Adventism, but a singular event took place the very next day after the “Great Disappointment,” which changed the face of Adventist history and brought about a reinterpretation of the eighth and ninth chapters of Daniel, an interpretation which is key to the Adventist’s view of prophecy. On October 23, 1844, Hiram Edson, a devout Adventist and follower of William Miller, experienced a “spiritual revelation” in a corn field near Port Gibson, New York.
In that instant, according to Seventh-day Adventist history, Hiram Edson found the reason why the Millerites had been disappointed the day before. They had expected Christ to come to earth to cleanse the sanctuary, but the sanctuary was not the earth but was located in Heaven! Instead of coming to earth, therefore, Christ had passed from one “apartment” of the sanctuary into the other “apartment” to perform a closing work now known as the “investigative judgment.”
(The Kingdom of Cults by Walter Martin)
This new interpretation of the 1844 event meant that Christ entered the “second phrase” of His ministry in the heavenly sanctuary, and ever since has been reviewing the cases of believers to determine their worthiness for eternal life. Upon the completion of this “second phrase,” Christ will come forth from the “second apartment” for the purpose of ushering in judgment upon the world at His second advent. So this then became the interpretation that shaped the later concept of the “Heavenly Sanctuary” and the “Investigative Judgment” in Seventh-day Adventist theology. Accepting this view, the Millerite-Adventists were now justified in endorsing the work of William Miller, even maintaining that God had allowed Miller to make mistakes for a greater subsequent blessing.
The second of the three Millerite-Adventist groups, led by Joseph Bates, a retired sea captain, issued a 48 page pamphlet entitled The Seventh-day Sabbath a Perpetual Sign in 1846. In it the Sabbath was declared as a divine institution ordained in Eden, prefigured in Creation, and buttressed at Mt. Sinai. This doctrine became a strong influence upon what later became the Seventh-day Adventist denomination.
Later, Bates wrote a second pamphlet entitled, “A Seal of the Living God,” which inseparably tied together the Sabbath and the sanctuary. In Volume 4 of The Prophetic Faith of Our Fathers, Dr. Froom sums it up:
This became henceforth a characteristic and separating feature of Sabbatarian Adventist preaching. Bates here held that the message of Revelation 14 is the foundation of the full Advent message “Fear God and give glory to Him, for the hour of His judgment is come.” This, he maintained, began to be fulfilled in the preaching of the Millerite movement. And the second angel’s message on the fall of Babylon, with its climax in the call “Come out of her my people” was likewise initially sounded in 1843-1844 . . . They must not stop with the first two messages.
There is a third inseparable in the series to be received and obeyed—namely, full obedience to God’s holy commandments, including the observance of the Seventh day as a Sabbath. But that obedience is by faith. The Sabbath was next set forth as the “seal of God” as based on the sealing work of Revelation 7. On January 8, 1849, Bates issued his tract, “A Seal of the Living God.” From the fact of John’s declaration that the number of sealed was 144,000, Bates drew the conclusion that the “remnant” who keeps the commandments of God and have the testimony of Jesus Christ would number 144,000. So, to the concept of Christ entering the most holy place in the heavenly sanctuary on October 22, 1844, for the final work of judgment and the receiving of His kingdom, was added the Sabbath as involved in the third of this commission series of special “latter-day” messages. This concept of the “seal” was likewise built into the message of the Sabbath, as an added prophetic element. And this thought was similarly attested by Ellen White who wrote: “This seal is the Sabbath,” and described the “most holy place” in which was the ark (Revelation 11:9), containing the “Ten Commandments with a halo of light surrounding the fourth! Thus the Sabbath and the sanctuary became inseparably tied together.
The third of the Millerite-Adventist groups emphasized “the spirit of prophecy,” and was led by Ellen G. Harmon of Portland, Maine, who later became Mrs. James White, hence Ellen G. White. She was recognized as the possessor of this spirit. The body of former Millerites believed that it was through her that a restoration of the spiritual gift of prophecy or counsel came to the Seventh-day Adventist Church. Mrs. White had numerous visions that confirmed many of the Adventist doctrines.
When the these three Millerite-Adventist groups, led by Edson, Bates and White, joined forces, the Seventh-day Adventist denomination was launched; although the name “Seventh-day Adventist” was not officially assumed until 1860 at a conference held in Battle Creek, Michigan. In 1855, their headquarters was established in Battle Creek and remained there until 1903, when they transferred it to Takoma Park, a Maryland suburb of Washington, D.C. Today, the Seventh-day Adventist number over 5,000,000 strong around the world.
Seventh-day Adventism Doctrine
Seventh-day Adventism is far from being completely unified in their beliefs. In fact, those who follow Adventism closely know that the last two decades have been characterized by a deep internal conflict which has divided the denomination and left many Adventists disillusioned. Today, there are various divisions or factions within Adventism. There are Adventists who could be described as being theologically liberal (denying key foundational Christian doctrines), others who are ultra-traditional (emphasizing almost exclusively Adventists distinctive doctrines), and still others who are strongly evangelical (or gospel centered).
Our research indicates, however, that mainstream Adventism is primarily evangelical. While Adventism has not always been crystal clear in making proper distinctions between what saves us (faith or works), the great majority of Adventist scholars, teachers and pastors that I have spoken with believe firmly in salvation by grace through faith alone. Over the past four years, I have personally interviewed over one hundred Adventist pastors and over twenty of their best scholars.
It is our sincere hope that this almost six-million-member church body, which has historically been a mixture of orthodox and aberrational doctrine, will move toward an even more sound evangelical position and away from some of the doctrinal errors of its past. It is our hope that the leadership of Seventh-day Adventism will lead its people out of all forms of legalism and into the liberty that results from being justified by God's grace through faith alone (Eph. 2:8-9).
(Apologetics Index website, at www.apologeticsindex.org)
The following is a list of doctrines that the Seventh-day Adventist affirm, a list of various teachings they deny and a list of specific doctrinal deviations to which they adhere. This list may vary, depending on which investigative resource or Seventh-day Adventist group one uses as a source. The lists below are not complete, but do represent what this writer believes to be many of their primary beliefs affecting the focus of this article.
It is not the intention of this article to cover but a few of the most predominantly aberrant doctrines to which the Seventh-day Adventist adhere. This writer has no problem with the list of “affirmations” above, but finds it difficult to understand how anyone believing such can harmonize them with the above list of “deviations.” In one particular doctrine, the most important doctrine of Salvation, their belief in “salvation by faith and not of works” is contradictory to their belief in the “Investigative Judgment” and all that it entails. Nevertheless, the following three doctrines will be addressed.
Punishment of the Wicked
Seventh-day Adventism rejects the doctrine of eternal torment for those who pass from this life to the next without Jesus Christ for the following major reasons, as taken from a response to Walter Martin from the General Conference of Seventh-day Adventists (Washington, D.C.):
The Seventh-day Adventists believe that a merciful God would not subject anyone to a state of eternal torment; therefore, those without Christ will simply be annihilated in the end. But to come to such a conclusion, even though it may serve to sooth their collective conscious, disregards some very specific scriptural passages that indicate otherwise.
The Bible clearly teaches that anyone who passes on from this life without Jesus Christ as his personal Savior will in fact be separated from God and tormented forever. Seventh-day Adventism not only confuses eternal life with eternal death, but it is also guilty of assuming characteristics of God’s nature that are unsubstantiated in God’s Word. A careful study of the Bible reveals that due to the fall of Adam physical and spiritual death were passed on to all mankind. At the “Fall” Adam immediately became separated from God (spiritual death) and his physical body began the process of dying, which would ultimately culminate in the separation of the non-physical part of Adam from his physical body (physical death). Every person born with man’s seed since Adam is born spiritually dead and will, subject the Rapture, die a physical death. The marvelous message of grace from God though is that anyone may by faith alone in Christ alone be spiritually reborn, that is, his spirit be regenerated and re-linked with God through His Holy Spirit, an eternal condition that can never be reversed.
This article will not go into a detailed refutation of this doctrine advanced by Seventh-day Adventism, except to point to one very clear passage of Scripture from a book of the Bible that this denomination often chooses to use—Revelation 19:20; 20:7-15:
Then the beast was captured, and with him the false prophet who worked signs in his presence, by which he deceived those who received the mark of the beast and those who worshiped his image. These two were cast alive into the lake of fire burning with brimstone.
Now when the thousand years have expired, Satan will be released from his prison and will go out to deceive the nations which are in the four corners of the earth, Gog and Magog, to gather them together to battle, whose number is as the sand of the sea. They went up on the breadth of the earth and surrounded the camp of the saints and the beloved city. And fire came down from God out of heaven and devoured them. The devil, who deceived them, was cast into the lake of fire and brimstone where the beast and the false prophet are. And they will be tormented day and night forever and ever. Then I saw a great white throne and Him who sat on it, from whose face the earth and the heaven fled away. And there was found no place for them. And I saw the dead, small and great, standing before God, and books were opened. And another book was opened, which is the Book of Life. And the dead were judged according to their works, by the things which were written in the books. The sea gave up the dead who were in it, and Death and Hades delivered up the dead who were in them. And they were judged, each one according to his works. Then Death and Hades were cast into the lake of fire. This is the second death. And anyone not found written in the Book of Life was cast into the lake of fire.
The Scripture speaks for itself. Unregenerate men will suffer the eternal wrath of God. At the end of the battle of Armageddon, the beast and the false prophet are cast alive into the lake of fire burning with brimstone, where they remain alive for a thousand years while Christ reigns upon the earth. Then the devil will also be cast into this lake of fire that contains the beast and false prophet (all creatures of God), and they will be tormented day and night forever and ever. Then, as a result of the Great White Throne Judgment, all that are found not written in the Book of Life, and due to the judicial finding that their works are insufficient, will also be cast into this same “lake of fire” where they will be tormented day and night forever and ever, which is the second death.
Yes, God is mercy and love; but He is also justice and wrath. When a person refuses His mercy and love in Christ Jesus and His substitutionary sacrifice on the cross of Calvary, he is then subject to God’s justice and wrath. And yet man in light of these wondrous truths still exhibits deadly pride by refusing to submit to God and His will.
A passage from The Kingdom of the Cults by Walter Martin is most apropos in concluding this specific doctrinal discussion:
John 3:36: “He that believeth on the Son hath everlasting life, and he that believeth not the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God abides on him.”
One fourth and final grammatical point relative to the doctrine of annihilation is made by coupling Romans 2:8, 9 and Revelation 14:10 with John 3:36. Jesus tells us that the one who believes in the Lord Jesus Christ already “has” everlasting life (present tense); and then, of one who “believes not the Son,” he states that he “shall not see life, but the wrath of God abides on him.” The Greek word “menei,” here translated “abide,” appears several times in the New Testament. It carries the idea of continuous action (see John 1:33; 2:12; 8:31; 15:9). Thus, in John 3:36 the Holy Spirit says that the wrath of God continually abides on the one who “believeth not the Son.” Comparing this with Romans 2:8, 9, we see that those who do not obey the truth but do evil are the objects of God’s wrath, which Revelation 14;10, 11 describes as eternal. “The same shall drink of the wine of the wrath of God . . . and the smoke of their torment ascendeth up for ever and ever: and they have no rest day nor night.”
“Orges,” translated “wrath,” appears in each of the verses cited, so there can be no doubt that the same subject is being discussed. It is apparent then that, far from the comparatively blissful prospect of total annihilation, those who “have not the Son of God have not life,” and “the wrath of God continues upon them.” God’s wrath even now hangs like the sword of Damocles over the heads of those who deny Jesus Christ. It will strike when the rebellious soul goes into eternity and appears before the bar of God’s eternal justice.
Investigative Judgment of Christ
Walter Martin posed the following question to the General Conference of Seventh-day Adventist in Washington, D.C.: “Does your teaching of the sanctuary service mean that the work of Christ on Calvary was not an all-sufficient, complete, once-for-all sacrifice—a sacrifice that obtains for us eternal redemption? Or was something subsequently necessary to make the sacrificial work of Christ effective for the salvation of man?” (The Kingdom of the Cults)
The Conference’s reply to the question was essentially that the work Christ on Calvary was completely sufficient and once-for-all in that His sacrifice was a one-time offering in order to obtain the right for eternal salvation for mankind and by which, as mankind’s High Priest, He administers the virtues of His atoning sacrifice to man through His “investigative judgment,” which is performed in the “holy places” (or, “holiest”) within the heavenly sanctuary in the presence of God.
The Conference goes on with the following remarks:
The time of the cleansing of the sanctuary, synchronizing with the period of the proclamation of the message of Revelation 14, is a time of investigative judgment; first, with reference to the dead, and second, with reference to the living. This investigative judgment determines who of the myriads sleeping in the dust of the earth are worthy of a part in the first resurrection, and who of its living multitudes are worthy of translation (1 Peter 4:17, 18; Dan. 7:0; Rev. 14:6, 7; Luke 20:35) (p.15).
The great judgment scene of heaven will clearly reveal those who have been growing in grace and developing Christ-like characters. Some who have professed to be God’s people, but who have disregarded His counsel, will in amazement say to the Lord, “Have we not prophesied in thy name? and in thy name have cast out devils? and in thy name done many wonderful works?” His reply to such will be brief but emphatic: “I never knew you. Depart from me, ye that work iniquity” (Matt. 7:22, 23) (p. 417).
In view of the principles here set forth, it seems to us abundantly clear that the acceptance of Christ at conversion does not seal a person’s destiny. His life record after conversion is also important. A man may go back on his repentance, or by careless inattention let slip the very life he has espoused. Nor can it be said that a man’s record is closed when he comes to the end of his days. He is responsible for his influence during life, and is just as surely responsible for his evil influence after he is dead” (p. 420).
It is our understanding that Christ as High Priest concludes His intercessory ministry in heaven in a work of judgment. He begins His great work of judgment in the investigative phase. At the conclusion of the investigation the “sentence” of judgment is pronounced. Then as judge Christ descends to “execute” or carry into effect, that sentence. . . . When God’s final sentence of judgment is consummated the redeemed will be singing the song of Moses and the Lamb” (p.422)
The blotting of names out of the book of life is, we believe, a work of the investigative judgment. A complete and thorough check of all the candidates for eternal life will need to be completed before Christ comes in the clouds of heaven, for when He appears, the decisions for life and death are already made. The dead in Christ are called to life, and the living followers of Christ are translated (1 Thess. 4:15-17)—the entire citizenry of the everlasting kingdom. There’s no time subsequent to the second advent for such decisions” (pp. 438, 439). (The Kingdom of the Cults by Walter Martin)
In understanding the Sanctuary teaching of the Seventh-day Adventist, Ellen G. White declared:
As anciently the sins of the people were by faith, placed upon the sin offering and through its blood transferred in figure to the earthly sanctuary, as in the new covenant the sins of the repentant are by faith placed upon Christ and transferred in fact to the heavenly sanctuary. And as the typical cleansing of the earthly was accomplished by the removal of the sins by which it had been polluted, so the actual cleansing of the heavenly is to be accomplished by the removal or blotting out of the sins that are there recorded.
(The Kingdom of the Cults by Walter Martin)
To which Walter Martin responds:
Here is the heart of Seventh-day Adventism’s teaching relative to the expiation of sin, which is that the sins of believers have been transferred, deposited or recorded in the heavenly sanctuary, and are now being dealt with in the Investigative Judgment. . . . The Adventist teaching, then, is that Christ as our high priest transferred the sins of believers (i.e., the “record” of sins in Adventist thinking) to the heavenly sanctuary which will be finally cleansed at the conclusion of the great day of atonement, the Investigative Judgment having been concluded. Then the cases of all the righteous having been decided, their sins will be blotted out, followed by the return of the Lord Jesus Christ in glory. Mrs. White made it clear that the sin transferred to the sanctuary in Heaven would remain there until the conclusion of the Investigative Judgment and the subsequent cleansing of the sanctuary. (The Kingdom of the Cults by Walter Martin)
It is difficult for this writer to know where to start in reply to this perplexing and specious amalgamation of Bible doctrine. One thing is for certain. If a person understands this doctrine, as expressed above, upon accepting Christ’s offer of salvation, he or she is NOT saved. To understand that “by placing one’s faith in Christ for salvation” it includes (or is insufficient without) the individual’s ability to stay faithful or perform “righteous” works subsequent to the decision of faith, then the “act of faith” is one of trusting both Christ and oneself, rather than solely in Christ, for one’s salvation—and this in effect is not faith alone in Christ alone, which is the complete and only salvation formula.
As to any judgment pertaining to one’s salvation, the very words of Christ Himself are clear on the matter.
Most assuredly, I say to you, he who hears My word and believes in Him who sent Me has everlasting life, and shall not come into [under] judgment, but has passed from death into life. (John 5:24)
While it is true that the Christian will appear before the judgment seat of Christ to receive the deeds done in the body (2 Corinthians 5:10), this judgment will have nothing to do with his eternal state. Note the following two passages of Scripture:
For no other foundation can anyone lay than that which is laid, which is Jesus Christ. Now if anyone builds on this foundation [salvation] with gold, silver, precious stones [works of divine good], wood, hay, straw [works of human good], each one's work will become clear; for the Day will declare it, because it will be revealed by fire [of judgment]; and the fire will test each one's work, of what sort it is. If anyone's work which he has built on it [his salvation] endures, he will receive a reward. If anyone's work is burned, he will suffer loss; but he himself will be saved, yet so as through fire.
(1 Corinthians 3:11-15)
It is actually reported that there is sexual immorality among you, and such sexual immorality as is not even named among the Gentiles—that a man has his father's wife! . . . In the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, when you are gathered together, along with my spirit, with the power of our Lord Jesus Christ, deliver such a one to Satan for the destruction of the flesh, that his spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord Jesus.
(1 Corinthians 5:1, 4, 5)
The Bible never once uses the term “investigative” regarding any judgment mentioned in it. This alone would not preclude the concept, since the world “Trinity” is also never once used in the Bible. But the historical roots of the concept of the Investigative Judgment, as proffered by Second-day Adventism, is revealing. Its contrivance was born upon failed interpretation of prophecy and the subsequent extreme disappoint as is seen in the following remarks regarding “The Sanctuary, the Investigative Judgment, and the Scapegoat” from Walter Martin’s book, The Kingdom of the Cults:
The foundation of Seventh-day Adventism is its view of prophecy which is of the historic school of interpretation, a school which maintains that prophecy is to be understood in the light of consecutive fulfillment in history. The exaggeration of this idea led William Miller and his followers to teach that the 2300 days of Daniel 8:14 were actually 2300 years. Figuring from 457 B.C., the now verified time of the decree to rebuild Jerusalem (Daniel 9:24), the Millerites thought that 1843 would be the date for the second advent of Jesus Christ. Miller and his followers, among whom were James and Ellen G. White and other prominent Seventh-day Adventists, understood “the sanctuary” of Daniel 8:14 to be the earth which would be cleansed by Christ at the “great and terrible Day of the Lord,” which they interpreted as the Second Advent of Christ.
We have seen, however, that the Millerites were bitterly disappointed; and when Christ did not appear, Miller himself renounced the system and all resultant movements, including Seventh-day Adventism. But the early Seventh-day Adventists, relying upon the “vision” of Elder Hiram Edson, transferred the location of the sanctuary from the earth to Heaven, and taught that in 1844 Christ went instead into the second apartment of the sanctuary in Heaven (which contemporary Seventh-day Adventists term “the second phase” of His ministry), there to review the cases of those deemed to be worthy of eternal life. This phase of our Lord’s ministry the Seventh-day Adventists call the “investigative judgment.”
This unique theory is intended, I believe, to discipline Christians by the threat of impending judgment and condemnation upon those whose cases are decided upon unfavorably by our Lord. When concluded, the Investigative Judgment will usher in the Second Advent of Jesus Christ, according to the Seventh-day Adventist theology, and the devil, prefigured by the second or scapegoat of Leviticus 16 (Azazel), will bear away unto eternal destruction or annihilation his responsibility for causing sin to enter the universe.
The view of Hiram Edson is, so far as this writer is concerned, an attempt to escape the terrible calamity which befell the Millerite movement and the disappointment and embarrassment that must have followed the failure of the Millerite prophecies and their interpretations of the Book of Daniel.
With the exception of the once-for-all and final judgment of all man’s sins upon the cross of Calvary, all judgments subsequent to this, regardless of the issues at hand, or in the future at or after the second advent of Christ. There is no special judgment, investigative or otherwise, taking place now in Heaven. Matthew 13:24-30; 36-43; 25:31-46; Acts 10:42; Romans 14:10-12; 1 Corinthians 3:13; 2 Corinthians 5:10; 2 Timothy 4:1; 1 Peter 4:5; Revelation 20:11-15.
In addition to these verses that unmistakably indicate future judgment, the author of the book of Hebrews (9:27) declares, “As it is appointed unto men once to die, but after this the judgment.” Here is conclusive evidence that there is no “investigative judgment” now going on for believers to fear.
But for the believer in Jesus Christ nothing is more conclusive and comforting relative to any judgment regarding his or her eternal state than Romans 8:1, “Therefore, there is now no condemnation [Gk. judgment] for those who are in Christ Jesus.” (NIV) An exegetical/analytical translation based on the original language of this verse, within its immediate subsequent context (8:1-4), is provided by the late Kenneth S. Wuest, Teacher Emeritus of New Testament Greek of the Moody Bible Institute:
Therefore now, there is not even one bit of condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus, for the law of the Spirit, that of the life in Christ Jesus, freed you once for all from the law of the sinful nature and of death. For that which is an impossibility for the law, because it was weak through the sinful nature, God having sent His Son in likeness of flesh of sin, and concerning sin, condemned sin in the sinful nature, in order that the righteous requirement of the law may be brought to completion in us who, not as dominated by the sinful nature are ordering our behavior but as dominated by the Spirit.
As stated earlier in this commentary, but bears repeating, the Apostle John faithfully records the proclamation of Jesus Christ that the believer will no longer face any judgment regarding his eternal state.
Most assuredly, I say to you, he who hears My word and believes in Him who sent Me has everlasting life, and shall not come into [under] judgment, but has passed from death into life. (John 5:24)
The Christian may take great comfort in that when by faith alone in Christ alone he received the gift of eternal life, he was permanently sealed with and by the Holy Spirit; and, this is in fact his guarantee that he will be delivered into God’s hand to remain in it for eternity.
In Him you also trusted, after you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation; in whom also, having believed, you were sealed with the Holy Spirit of promise, who is the guarantee of our inheritance until the redemption of the purchased possession, to the praise of His glory. (Ephesians 1:13, 14)
And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. (Ephesians 4:30)
Regarding this doctrine of Seventh-day Adventism, Walter Martin in The Kingdom of the Cults, most appropriately states the following:
Adventists, in the opinion of conservative Biblical scholars, not to mention the liberal wing of Protestantism, are only speculating with their sanctuary and investigative judgment theories. Actually, most are agreed that they have created doctrines to compensate for errors in prophetic interpretation. But the very doctrines intended to solve their theological problems have in turn only increased their dilemma—a dilemma which they have yet to solve! . . . Holding as they do to the doctrine of the investigative judgment, it is extremely difficult for us to understand how they can experience the joy of salvation and the knowledge of sins forgiven. This is, however, true of so-called Arminian theology on the whole, which teaches that eternal life, given by God to the believer, is conditioned by the sustained faith of the believer in the grace of God.
Should the readers of this commentary wish to explore the truth of the “Security of the Believer” in much greater detail, please access the topical study on this issue in the Topical Bible Studies section of www.bibleone.net.
But at the very least take comfort in 1 John 5:13:
These things have I written unto you that believe on the name of the Son of God; that you may know that you have eternal life . . . .
The Sabbath as the Day for Worship
In response to Walter Martin’s inquiry regarding the Sabbath, the seventh day of the week, as the day God has set aside on which believers are to worship, the General Conference of Seventh-day Adventist (Washington, D.C.) said the following:
(The Kingdom of the Cults by Walter Martin)
This writer has great difficulty in understanding how the Seventh-day Adventists justify this position in light of what they believe regarding their “Investigative Judgment” theory. On one hand they believe it is God’s will that believers honor the Sabbath as their day of worship, yet they admit that it has nothing to do with their salvation and at the same time understand that Jesus Christ is presently judging them for their acceptance or defiance of God’s will (instructions), which ultimately at Christ’s Second Advent will affect their eternal salvation.
Nevertheless, the Seventh-day Sabbath is the most distinctive doctrine propagated by Seventh-day Adventism and one of the two (the other being the Second Advent of Christ) from which they derive their name. From their beginning they have attempted to equate the Sabbath with the Lord’s Day. They do it by linking Mark 2:28, “Therefore the Son of Man is also Lord of the Sabbath” with Revelation 1:10, “I was in the Spirit on the Lord's Day, and I heard behind me a loud voice, as of a trumpet. They reason that since “the Son of Man is also Lord of the Sabbath” (Mark 2:27, 28), when John says he “was in the Spirit on the Lord’s day” (Revelation 1:10), the Sabbath and the Lord’s Day must be the same.
Unfortunately, for Seventh-day Adventism, the passage, when exegetically translated from the original text (Greek), has no such grammatical structure. In the Mark passage the Lord was only stating that as Lord of all He could do as He pleased on the Sabbath (or any other day for that matter). The grammatical structure of the Greek is most explicit here. And in the Revelation passage the Greek is not the genitive of possession, which it would have to be in order to make te-kuriake (the Lord’s) agree with hemera (day). John was not saying the Lord’s Day was the Lord’s possession, but rather that it was the day dedicated to Him by the early church, not in accordance with Mosaic Law, but in honor of Christ’s resurrection.
The following remarks of Walter Martin in The Kingdom of the Cults are relevant:
We may certainly assume that if the Sabbath had meant so much to the writers of the New Testament; and if, as Adventists insist, it was so widely observed during the early centuries of the Christian Church, John and the other writers of Scripture would have equated it with the Lord’s Day, the first day of the week. Scripture and history testify that they did not, and Adventists have, therefore, little Scriptural justification for their Sabbatarianism.
The testimony of the early Church Fathers provides ample evidence that the first day of the week, not the seventh, is the Lord’s Day. The following records pertaining to only a few of them are reproduced in The Kingdom of the Cults by Walter Martin, and they in turn are reproduced below:
It is interesting to note that all of the Ten Commandments, with only one exception, are mentioned by Jesus Christ in the New Testament. The one exception was the one commanding the Israelites to observe the Sabbath.
The New Testament reveals that the Sabbath as “the law” was fulfilled at the cross and was not binding upon the Christian. This is clear from the inspired counsel of the Apostle Paul, not only considered by most as the greatest of the apostles, but a Pharisee whose passion for fulfilling the law outdoes that of the most zealous Seventh-day Adventist:
And you, being dead in your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, He has made alive together with Him, having forgiven you all trespasses, having wiped out the handwriting of requirements that was against us, which was contrary to us. And He has taken it out of the way, having nailed it to the cross. Having disarmed principalities and powers, He made a public spectacle of them, triumphing over them in it. So let no one judge you in food or in drink, or regarding a festival or a new moon or a Sabbath, which are a shadow of things to come, but the substance is of Christ. (Colossians 2:13-17)
The essential meaning of this passage in terms of the law or the “handwriting of requirements,” is that the believer is free from the condemnation of the law in all its aspects, because Christ took his condemnation upon Himself while on the cross. Because of this, the Apostle Paul states that the believer is now no longer subject to anyone’s judgment when it comes to the observance of the law, to include the observance of the Sabbath. In the King James Version the word “Sabbath” is in the plural, “sabbaths.” Because of this the Seventh-day Adventists argue that it means the ceremonial sabbaths, not the weekly Sabbath, which they contend is still in effect. They say that these Sabbaths mentioned in this passage refer to sabbaths and feast days which were shadows of things to come, and thus part of ceremonial laws, but that the seventh-day Sabbath is not a shadow of redemption but a memorial of creation and part of the moral law.
A proper exegetical/grammatical translation of this passage, following the best New Testament scholars, render Colossians 2:16 as “a sabbath” or “a sabbath day” not “sabbath days” as in the King James Version. Their reason for doing this is well stated by W.E. Vine who wrote:
“Sabbaton” or “sabbata,” the latter the plural form, was transliterated from the Aramaic word which was mistaken for a plural: hence the singular “sabbaton” was formed from it. . . . In the epistles the only direct mentions are in Colossians 2:16 “a sabbath day” (RV), which rightly has the singular . . . where it is listed among things that were “a shadow of things to come;” i.e., of the age introduced at Pentecost and in Hebrews 4:4-11 where the perpetual “sabbatismos” is appointed for believers: . . . . For the first three centuries of the Christian era the first day of the week was never confounded with the Sabbath; the confusion of the Jewish and Christian institutions was due to declension from apostolic teaching.
(An Expository Dictionary of New Testament Words by W.E. Vine)
The rendering of sabbaton in the singular is in accord with the use of the word throughout the New Testament. In 59 of 60 occurrences in the New Testament, Adventists affirm that they refer to the weekly Sabbath; but in the 60th occurrence they maintain it does not, although all grammatical authorities contradict them.
It is therefore clear that from a grammatical standpoint if the Adventists insist that this passage refers only to ceremonial sabbaths, they conflict with the use of the word for weekly sabbaths in the New Testament. On the one hand, if “sabbaths” be allowed, it must include all Sabbaths, weekly, monthly or yearly. On the other hand, if Adventists admit the correction of the revisers and render Colossians 2:16 “a sabbath day,’ its use in the New Testament still refers almost exclusively (see Acts 17:2) to the weekly Sabbath, which Adventists maintain is permanent, although Paul deliberately classes it with the ordinances which Christ by His death nailed to the cross.
Another passage that refutes Seventh-day Adventism on the issue of the Sabbath is Galatians 4:9-11:
But now after you have known God, or rather are known by God, how is it that you turn again to the weak and beggarly elements, to which you desire again to be in bondage? You observe days and months and seasons and years. I am afraid for you, lest I have labored for you in vain.
The book of Galatians was a concerted theological effort by the Apostle Paul to fortify the young church at Galatia against the Judaizers who were attempting to turn the believers there from the “grace of Christ” to a “different gospel” (Galatians 1:6) as they sought to “pervert the Gospel of Christ” (1:7).
Walter Martin’s commentary regarding this passage is excellent, as follows:
Though steeped in Jewish lore and the law of Moses, Paul steadfastly opposed the Judaizers. The entire epistle to the Galatians is an apologetic against those who would seek to bring the Christian “under the law.” After mentioning the errors into which the Galatian church had fallen, Paul, evidently with great disgust, remarks, “You observe days, and months, and seasons, and years! I am afraid I have labored over you in vain” (4:10, 11, RSV). In the Greek the expression “days, and month, and seasons, and years,” matches both the Septuagint translation of the ordinances in Numbers 28 and 29, of which all Sabbaths are a principal part, and the ordinances mentioned in Colossians 2. Paul was familiar with the Septuagint and quoted it, and the law, including the weekly Sabbaths, was so cherished by the Judaizers of his day that its legalistic observance called forth his strong words. . . . To them Paul says,
“Tell me, you who desire to be under the law, do you not hear the law? . . . Now before faith came, we were confined under the law, kept under restraint until faith should be revealed. So that the law was our custodian until Christ came, that we might be justified by faith. But now that faith has come, we are no longer under a custodian; for in Christ Jesus you are all sons of God, through faith (Galatians 4:21; 3:23-26, RSV).
Bearing in mind that “the law” in its larger connotation includes the entire Pentateuch, it is apparent from Paul’s language that one is “under the law” when he attempts to observe any part of it, because the Christian has been freed from the law. Seventh-day Adventists are doubtless Christians, saved by grace, but we do not find Scriptural warrant for their attempt to enjoin the Sabbath upon their fellow believers.
(The Kingdom of the Cults)
A very strong argument against Sabbatarians (Seventh-day Adventism) is found in the words of the Apostle Paul in Romans 13:8-10:
Owe no one anything except to love one another, for he who loves another has fulfilled the law. For the commandments, "You shall not commit adultery," "You shall not murder," "You shall not steal," "You shall not bear false witness," "You shall not covet," and if there is any other commandment, are all summed up in this saying, namely, "You shall love your neighbor as yourself." Love does no harm to a neighbor; therefore love is the fulfillment of the law.
Paul states it this way in Galatians 5:14:
For all the law is fulfilled in one word, even in this: "You shall love your neighbor as yourself."
And again it is stated a little differently in James 2:8:
If you really fulfill the royal law according to the Scripture, "You shall love your neighbor as yourself," you do well.
But all reflect the teachings of Jesus Christ as seen in the following two passages:
Therefore, whatever you want men to do to you, do also to them, for this is the Law and the Prophets. (Matthew 7:12)
Jesus said to him," 'You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.' "This is the first and great commandment. "And the second is like it: 'You shall love your neighbor as yourself.' "On these two commandments hang all the Law and the Prophets." (Matthew 22:37-40)
The truth is that even though the early Christians met on the first day of the week (Acts 20:7) in honor and remembrance of the resurrection of Jesus Christ, the Apostle Paul’s main concern was that believers not make any observance as holy in itself; thereby, establishing it as a legalistic practice, which in effect then could be used as a stumbling block to another. This is expressed by Paul in Romans 14:4-6, 10-13:
Who are you to judge another's servant? To his own master he stands or falls. Indeed, he will be made to stand, for God is able to make him stand. One person esteems one day above another; another esteems every day alike. Let each be fully convinced in his own mind. He who observes the day, observes it to the Lord; and he who does not observe the day, to the Lord he does not observe it. He who eats, eats to the Lord, for he gives God thanks; and he who does not eat, to the Lord he does not eat, and gives God thanks. . . . But why do you judge your brother? Or why do you show contempt for your brother? For we shall all stand before the judgment seat of Christ. For it is written: "As I live, says the LORD, Every knee shall bow to Me, and every tongue shall confess to God." So then each of us shall give account of himself to God. Therefore let us not judge one another anymore, but rather resolve this, not to put a stumbling block or a cause to fall in our brother's way.
The truth is that every day should be “observed unto the Lord.” For any Christian to elevate any day beyond simply another occasion to honor, praise and worship His Savior is to relegate it into the realm of legalism, which is contrary to the royal law of love and grace.
Although this commentary only addresses a few of the legalistic and, to this writer, misfortunate interpretations of Scripture, the following should be said in summary. Seventh-day Adventism, according to its General Conference and its representation of doctrine, should not be considered as a non-Christian cult. In the words of Walter Martin:
Christians who are familiar with historical theology know that the Adventists position on law, though tinged with legalism, has its roots in the basic Arminian position that one receives salvation as a free gift of God; but, once he has received this gift, the believer is responsible for its maintenance and duration, and the chief means of accomplishing this is “commandment-keeping” or “obedience to ‘all’ the laws of God.”
Since Adventists are basically Arminian, we may logically deduce that, in a sense, their salvation rests upon legal grounds. But . . . Adventists, like other so-called Arminians, give true evidence that they have experienced the “new birth,” which is by grace alone, through faith in our Lord and His sacrifice upon the cross. . . . They cannot rightly be called non-Christian cultists or “Judaizers,” since they are sound on the great New Testament doctrines including grace and redemption through the vicarious offering of Jesus Christ “once for all” (Hebrews 10:10) and give evidence of “life in Christ.”
But one caveat! Only faith alone in Christ alone will insure anyone’s salvation. If one comes to Christ believing (1) that he must trust in Christ’s vicarious sacrifice on the cross AND (2) also maintain his relationship with Christ through good works, he will NOT be saved. Salvation is either “all of Christ” or “not at all!”