It is accepted that Mrs.Ellen White (1827-1915) was the founder of the modern SDA movement although she followed on from the work of a William Miller (1782-1849) in the USA. The latter was a bible student who was interested in the Lord’s return. He predicted that would occur in 1844. When it failed to eventuate, Miller’s followers disbanded but Ellen White set to work to re-interpret the teachings, as she had been part of the date-setting team.
The SDA system says that the bible is the authority, but in fact the revelations and writings of Ellen White are given almost equal weight. An SDA member, Dr. William Russell, wrote in 1869 that her visions were “the result of a diseased organization or condition of brain or nervous system”. Another physician, also an SDA, wrote in 1887 that he had no doubt her visions were “simply hysterical trances”. Her best known work is “The Great Controversy”.
1. The SDA teaching is that Christ inherited a sinful, fallen nature. This means that they have no saviour. In John’s gospel the Lord says of Satan, “The ruler of this world comes and in me he has nothing”. Only he could say that. In Luke 1:35, the angel told Mary that “the holy thing which shall be born shall be called Son of God”. Conceived of the Holy Spirit, he could inherit nothing of the fallen race. It defies logic that a divine person could inherit a nature tainted by sin. We need a sinless sacrifice. 1 John 3:5, “And ye know that he has been manifested that he might take away our sins; and in him sin is not”.
2. They deny that Christ alone atoned for sins. They teach that Satan is the joint sin-bearer, and is the vicarious substitute for the sinner. This comes from false application of the two goats in Leviticus 16:5, and 34, where Israel’s day of atonement is outlined. Ellen White taught in “The Great Controversy” that Satan will be the “scapegoat”; that the Lord will place the sins of his people on Satan; so Satan will be banished from the presence of God and his people and he will be blotted from existence in the final destruction of sin and the sinner. Scripture is abundantly clear that Christ alone is the sin-bearer. “Redeemed … by precious blood, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot, the blood of Christ”, 1 Peter 1:18-19. “Who himself bore our sins in his body on the tree”, 1 Peter 2:24.
Well, what does the type point to for us? It refers I believe to two sides of the Lord’s atonement – the one for the satisfaction of God, and the other for us. The blood of the goat sacrificed as the sin offering was sprinkled on the mercy seat - that was for the eye of God. The nation of Israel could not see that as it was in the Holy of Holies. When the priest lay his hands of the goat that was to be sent away, this was visible to all. “Laying on of hands” by the priest typified identification. By this action, and by simultaneously confessing the sins of the people, they could see and understand that the sins of the nation were being sent “to a land apart from men”, Leviticus 16:21-21.
To say that Satan bears sin and is destroyed is to deny that “without the shedding of blood there is no remission of sin” – see Hebrews 9:22, and elsewhere. Nor is Satan, nor are fallen angels, nor are the wicked ever said to be annihilated. They are cast into the lake of fire, for eternity. Revelation 20:10, “And the devil who deceived them was cast into the lake of fire and brimstone…and they shall be tormented day and night for the ages of ages.” Finally, in verse 15 - those before the great white throne, raised sinners - “and if anyone was not found written in the book of life, he was cast into the lake of fire”. SDAs and Jehovah’s Witness teachings deny this reality.
3. “Investigative judgment” is a concept invented to explain the fact that Christ did not return in 1844. Some one of their number hit on the idea that Christ had rather “come” to a different part of some sanctuary in heaven (?) to do more work; that believers’ sins were still on the books of record - even for those who have put their faith in Christ and his finished work – and investigation is being performed by him as to whether they will receive the benefits of his [Christ’s] atonement. This leaves its adherents in an uncertain state as to salvation – which thing scripture never does.
4. Soul sleep after death. They teach that a person has no conscious existence from the time of death until resurrection. Scripture shows otherwise. In Luke 16, we are given a “peep” at the state of things in hades. It is not “hell” as the KJV translates. “Hades” in the Greek and “Sheol” in the Hebrew are terms for the unseen world of departed spirits, awaiting the resurrection of the just, or that of the unjust. Paul tells us that as soon as a believer dies, his spirit is with the Lord. “Absent from the body and present with the Lord” – see 2 Corinthians 5:1-8, and Philippians 1:23,24. Further, scripture forbids the attempt to communicate with those who are dead. This goes to prove that the spirits of those who are departed have consciousness. We have an example of this when King Saul used a woman who had a spirit of Python to call up Samuel, see 1 Samuel 28:7-20. The verses in Ecclesiastes that have been used by the SDA teachers to develop their theory are those of a man looking at things as they are “under the sun”; things as they appear to the natural man, who may see the death of a man the same as that of a beast. But they forget that even in that same book, Ecclesiastes 12:6,7 describes death poetically - “the silver chord be loosed, or the golden bowl be broken, or the wheel be broken at the cistern; and the dust return to the earth as it was, and the spirit return unto God who gave it”.
5. The Sabbath. The observance of the Sabbath did not come as a result of the study of scripture on the subject, but via one of Ellen White’s visions. This shows that they have put her teachings above that of scripture. On April 3, 1847 she claims to have had a vision in which she saw “the law of God in the ark of the heavenly sanctuary with a halo of light encircling the fourth commandment”. Instead of testing such claims by scripture, some have believed her. The epistle to the Galatians condemns this return to works of law. Like some in Galatia, the SDAs teach that salvation is by faith in Christ, but to that they must add works of law. Paul denounces those who teach faith plus works – Galatians 1:8, 3:1-11. Many New Testament scriptures could be quoted.
God never gave the Sabbath to man to keep until it was given to Israel as a sign of his covenant with them. It was never given to the nations [gentiles], nor were the nations required to observe it in Acts 15 when the meeting was held in Jerusalem. It belongs to Israel. This is not the place to embark on a full outline, save to say that their very strong insistence on keeping it is heresy.
There are true believers in the SDA system in spite of, not because of, their teaching. There are many SDA hospitals and services - but such can be set up by anyone with good will and money, without any link with God. It is to the scriptures that we must go to test everything.
There were two books found to be helpful in preparing this article:
Heresies Exposed, Wm. C. Irvine, Loizeaux Brothers, USA.
I have heard that this Christian publisher is now out of business.
What They Believe, Harold J. Berry, Back to the Bible, Lincoln USA
Christianity.com PO Box 608, Beecroft, NSW, 2119
MM 5 March 2007