I’m convinced that there are Christians out there who don’t know much about their faith. It’s an inherited faith, passed down through generations. Many find themselves “in the fold” because it’s always been that way.
Parents and grandparents loaded them in a car and drove them to a building with a sign out front. The sign served as an announcement. It told the world of the churches denominational allegiance. But for many people, it was just a name. There was no real reflection on what the denomination believed or how it interpreted Scripture. If you asked them about the denomination’s “Statement of Faith”, you’d be hard-pressed to get a uniform answer. Admittedly, before attending seminary, I knew very little about the background of the Baptist church—the denomination my family chose to associate itself with. And I wonder how many adults are still out there who don’t know about their denominational roots and background.
There’s a rich history behind many of the major denominations. A history worth exploring. A history that has helped strengthen my faith. So I want to explore many of those major denominations in a series of posts. Today, we’ll look at the origins and denominations found in the Adventist Church.
The origins of the Adventist church can be traced to William Miller. Miller was born in Pittsfield, Massachusetts, in 1782. Miller became a Christian during the Second Great Awakening in 1816. He became especially interested in dates—specifically the date of Christ’s second coming.
Many Adventists interpreted the verse in Daniel to mean that Christ cleansed a heavenly sanctuary and that a heavenly judgment started in 1844.
Ultimately, Miller determined a date for Christ’s second coming based on his reading of a passage in Daniel. He predicted that Jesus would return within a year of March 1943. Predictably, people got on board and Miller had close to 100,000 followers that year, ready for Christ’s return in spring 1944. The date came and passed. Nothing. It was later dubbed “The Great Disappointment.”
Miller confessed his error, lost followers, but was still convinced that the Lord’s “Advent” (Second Coming) was near. Another failed prediction sent Miller into a spiritual funk and he eventually died. He was succeeded by Ellen White, who is seen as the founder of many modern Adventist denominations.
How did they navigate Miller’s failed prediction? Many Adventists interpreted the verse in Daniel to mean that Christ cleansed a heavenly sanctuary and that a heavenly judgment started in 1844.
Denominations (starting with the largest) (*-denotes Af-American denomination)
Seventh-Day Adventist Church (1845) (northamerica.adventist.org)
12 million members
- Founded by Ellen White
- Established in New England in 1845
- Largest Adventist body in the U.S.
- Believe that Saturday is the proper day of worship because God rested on the seventh day (Saturday)
- In 1844, Christ moved from the Holy to the Most Holy Place in heaven to began an investigative judgment
- Only men participate in pastoral roles
Advent Christian Church (1860) (adventchristian.org)
- Founded by followers of William Miller
- Established in 1845
- Reject the prophecies of Ellen White
- The proper day of worship is Sunday, the Lord’s Day
- Don’t set dates for Christ’s return (lesson learned, right?), but we are living in general time of Christ’s second coming
Seventh-Day Adventist Reform Movement (1925) (sdarm.org)
Over 24,000 members
- Emerged out of a conflict with Seventh-Day Adventist. The issue: Should Christians participate in war? During WWI, the Seventh Day Adventist position changed to support war
- The SDA Reform movement does not support Christian participation in war
- Saturday is proper day of worship