Seventh-day Adventist History
In the years immediately following the second great awakening in the United States, several religious movements were formed. The current attitude toward prophecy was that the world would keep getting better and better until the millennium. However, one William Miller, a Baptist farmer, studied the Bible beginning with Genesis 1. He didn’t leave a text until he thought that he understood it. When he got to Daniel 8:14 he realized that the implications were that Christ was coming soon to judge the earth. He calculated that the 2300 years had started in 457BC. He figured, incorrectly that the ending date would be 1843. Miller started preaching in the neighboring towns and soon ministers of other denominations gathering around Miller also began preaching that Jesus would be coming soon. The date came and went and Jesus had not returned. Restudying, he and others realized that he had miscalculated and that the year was really 1844 and that the day which corresponded to the Jewish day of atonement was October 22. Again the date came and went and Jesus had not returned. The believers were devastated. Some had left their crops in the fields believing that Jesus would come back before harvest time. That time period is known to the various adventist denominations that arose as the Great Disappointment.
While walking across a cornfield to visit and encourage other believers, Hiram Edson suddenly realized that their assumption that the earth was the sanctuary to be cleansed was incorrect. The Bible stated that there was a sanctuary in heaven. Suddenly it all made sense. Christ had not come to earth but rather had gone from the Holy Place to the Most Holy Place in the heavenly sanctuary to begin the pre-advent judgment.
One of the adventist preachers was the Methodist Frederick Wheeler living in New Hampshire. In response to his sermon wherein he admonished the congregation to keep all of the commandments of God, Rachel Oakes, a Seventh Day Baptist present in the congregation challenged him to keep all of them himself including the fourth commandment. After study and soul searching he decided that the seventh day of the week is the true Sabbath of the Lord and began to keep it. Several members of his congregation joined him in the observance of Saturday Sabbath. Soon tracts were printed and Joseph Bates, a former sea captain, read one. He found the evidence convincing and spread the news that Saturday is the Sabbath everywhere he went. That news soon reached Ellen and James White who accepted that truth. Together, Bates and Ellen and James White became the leaders of the Sabbath keeping adventists. But it wasn’t until 1863 that an official church was formed with the name Seventh-day Adventist.
One of the doctrines of the church is the belief in the continuance of the spiritual gifts. This includes the gift of prophecy. Ellen White has manifested that gift through some 2000 visions and dreams which she wrote out for the benefit of the church at the time and to guide it in the future. By doing so she was instrumental in shaping the doctrinal stance of the church. Her visions and dreams ranged from seeing the battle between heavenly and Satanic forces and its final outcome to visions dealing with health topics. As a result the Seventh-day Adventist Church has long considered health, education, publishing, work among the poor and foreign missions of high priority. The mix of all these gives rise to what might be called a sub-culture. Currently the Seventh-day Adventist Church is one of the fastest growing churches in the world. It has a world-wide membership of approximately 18,000,000 with approximately 30,000,000 adherents. It is truly a world church with only about 7% of members coming from North America.
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