More Than a Christian: What Is a Seventh-day Adventist?

Consider the possibility that you’re not really a Seventh-day Adventist. 

Consider the possibility that you don’t even really know what it means to be a Seventh-day Adventist.  Consider the possibility that in all of your years as a member of the Seventh-day Adventist church, and your journey through the Seventh-day Adventist educational system, and after all the Little Debbie snack cakes you’ve eaten, that it’s never been presented to you what it really means to be a Seventh-day Adventist.  Just consider the possibility.

Seventh-day Adventists are Christians.  Praise the Lord.  But, true Seventh-day Adventists are more than Christians.  I hope that you’re more than a Christian as well. Why?  Because at the very end of the great conflict that has been raging for almost 6,000 years Satan will work with “all kinds of miracles and signs and false wonders and with every kind of evil deception” (2 Thess. 2:9-10, NET).

He will even “disguise himself as an angel of light” and his servants will “disguise themselves as servants of righteousness” (2 Cor. 11:14-15, NET). They will come in Jesus’ name claiming that Jesus is the Christ (Matt. 24:4). They will put God’s true followers to death all the while thinking that they are offering a service to God (John 16:2). When Jesus comes, they will cry out, “Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name and in your name drive out demons and in your name perform many miracles” (Matt. 7:22, NIV)?  However, while calling Jesus Lord they don’t do what He says (Luke 6:46). And while doing many things in Jesus’ name they never actually get around to doing the will of His Father who is in heaven (Matt. 7:21). They still break the law of God (Matt. 7:23, Gk. anomia, “iniquity, lawlessness”).

Understand this plainly.  At the very end, everyone on earth will be a professed Christian. Everyone will carry the name, Christian.  Everyone will say with their mouths that they worship Jesus.  Satan is in the process right now of coaxing the nations into a one world religion (Rev. 13:8, 12ff; 16:13-14).  The crowning act of his masterpiece of deception, “the powerful delusion,” will be impersonating Jesus and faking His second coming (2 Thess. 2:11, “strong, almost overmastering delusion” EGW, GC 624).  And many will “believe the lie… and all will be condemned who have not believed the truth but have delighted in wickedness” (2 Thess. 2:11-12, NIV).  But the true Christians will cling to God’s word and will uphold God’s law at the penalty of losing their lives.  That’s why I choose today to be more than a Christian.  And I hope you are too.

Being a Seventh-day Adventist means being a Christian, but it means more than being a Christian.  But what then is a Seventh-day Adventist?  Would you believe me if I told you that there is one verse in the Bible that captures the essence, the core, the very heart of what it means to be a Seventh-day Adventist?  It is found in the book of 1 John.  For your own study, I will tell you that 1 John is a wonderful nuts and bolts guide to being a Seventh-day Adventist. 1 John teaches us about the Character and the love of God (1 John 1:5; 3:1; 4:8, 16).  It teaches us about salvation through the righteousness of Jesus Christ (1 John 2:1-2). It teaches us about the necessity and joy of keeping God’s Commandments (1 John 2:3; 3:22; 5:3).  It warns us about the appearance and the spirit of the Antichrist (2:18, 22; 4:3).  It shows us the way to total victory over sin through faith in Jesus (1 John 2: 6; 3:3, 6, 9; 5:4-5).  It even alludes to the Heavenly Sanctuary and the Judgment (1 John 2:2).

But there’s one verse that captures the heart and soul of Seventh-day Adventism. “All who have this hope in Him purify themselves, just as He is pure” (1 John 3:3).  What hope is John speaking of?  Hope in who?  Let’s read the context:

“See what great love the Father has lavished on us that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are! The reason the world does not know us is that it did not know Him. Dear friends, now we are the children of God, and what we will be has not yet been made known. But we know that when Christ appears, we shall be like Him, for we shall see Him as He is. All who have this hope in Him purify themselves, just as He is pure” (1 John 3:1-3, NIV).

There it is!  Let’s break down this verse in light of our name, Seventh-day Adventist.  The first part of our name speaks of the Seventh-day Sabbath.  What do these verses in 1 John have to do with the Seventh-day Sabbath?  God spoke through the prophet Ezekiel, “Also I gave them my Sabbaths to be a sign between Me and them, that they might know that I am the Lord who sanctifies them” (Ezek. 20:12). 

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In the Bible, Sabbath-keeping is more than going to church on Saturday.  Sabbath-keeping is a sign of sanctified living.  People who truly keep the Sabbath don’t just stop working and show up at church on Saturday.  They live set apart from sin and the world (sanctified) and set right with God (justified) all seven days of the week.  In 1 John 3:3 this is called being like Jesus and purifying yourself as He is pure.  This is possible because the same God that created the heavens and the earth in six days and rested on the seventh can recreate repenting sinners in His image (Eph. 4:24).  Anyone desiring to live the sanctified life is not left to depend on the weakness of self.  God’s grace is sufficient, and His power is made perfect in weakness (2 Cor. 12:9).

But what leads a person to desire to be like Jesus and to purify themselves as He is pure?  John says, “this hope,” that is, the hope of Christ’s appearing.  This is where the “Adventist” part of our name comes in.  The Bible is clear that our hope to see Jesus in peace when He comes leads to radical holiness in the here and now.

“For the grace of God has appeared that offers salvation to all people. It teaches us to say “No” to ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives in this present age, while we wait for the blessed hope—the appearing of the great glory of our God and Savior, Jesus Christ” (Titus 2:11-13).
“But the day of the Lord will come like a thief. The heavens will disappear with a roar; the elements will be destroyed by fire, and the earth and everything done in it will be laid bare. Since everything will be destroyed in this way, what kind of people ought you to be? You ought to live holy and godly lives as you look forward to the day of God and speed its coming. That day will bring about the destruction of the heavens by fire, and the elements will melt in the heat. But in keeping with His promise we are looking forward to a new heaven and a new earth, where righteousness dwells.  So then, dear friends, since you are looking forward to this, make every effort to be found spotless, blameless, and at peace with Him” (2 Pet. 3:10-14).

There you have it.  The heart and soul of Seventh-day Adventism is hope that leads to holiness, sanctified living in light of Jesus’ Second Coming.

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But what about the person who has no desire for holiness?  The person who isn’t interested in sanctified living or Jesus’ second coming?  That just means that your hope is in something or someone else.  Maybe your hope is that you’ll endure just enough school to get a decent enough job to live comfortably, bide your time, collect a paycheck, and not rock the boat too much.  Maybe your hope is in a young man or a young woman who you just hope with all your heart likes you back.  Maybe your hope is in personal hobbies.  Maybe your hope is in the next episode of, or the new season of your favorite show. Maybe your hope was in the Cavaliers… or even the success of the Warriors.  Wherever your hope was, if your desire is not to live radically for Jesus and be like Him, your hope is not in Jesus.  Ask the Father to reveal His Son to you in such a way that He will become your greatest delight and His coming will become your greatest expectation.

And there’s the person who's given up hope because they’ve tried the whole sanctification thing and found it to be quite impossible.  If that’s you, then your hope is not in Jesus either. What’s worse is that your hope is in the last place it should be, yourself. 

Every time you’ve failed in doing God’s will you’ve looked at your weak, un-Christlike self and beat yourself up because you did not make the mark.  Look to Jesus.  Come before him confidently claiming His promises.  Say, “Lord, You authored my faith and only You can bring the faith that You gave me to the finish line” (Heb. 12:2).  Thank God for beginning a good work in you and trust that He will see it through to completion (Phil. 1:6).  He will sanctify you through and through.  He is faithful, HE will do it (1 Thess. 5:23, 24).

Will you hope in Jesus just now?

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Anthony C. Burrell is currently a student at Southern Adventist University majoring in theology. He is anticipating graduation in December 2018 and pursuing a career in pastoral ministry.  He is happily married to Avery Burrell and together they have a son Zion Burrell.  He finds his highest joy in partnering with Christ in making disciples in the everlasting gospel.