Would you classify the Seventh-Day Adventist Church as a cult?
The Merriam-Webster Dictionary defines a cult in this way:
According to this definition, the Seventh Day Adventist Church qualifies as a cult. While they call themselves Christian (and probably many who attend Adventist churches are, in fact, believers in Jesus Christ), the organization itself professes unbiblical and harmful doctrines and beliefs outside the mainstream of orthodox Christianity.
Their movement originated in 1836 with William Miller (1782-1849), a false prophet who claimed to know that the second coming of Christ would happen in 1843. When this prediction proved false, many left the movement in a period called “The Great Disappointment.” Given this man’s obvious fraud, we might assume his followers would abandon him quickly since he failed the basic biblical test for the office of prophet.
But as Jesus predicted and Peter repeated:
Though these circumstances should have put an end to this movement, Adventism continued. After his death, Miller's followers took to calling themselves “Adventists,” referring to their anticipation for the second appearing of Christ.
In response to Miller’s false prediction, Adventists contrived an explanation for Jesus’ failure to appear in 1843. The church proposed that Jesus was unable to return because He was engaged in an "Investigative Judgment" process of examining all who dwell on the earth to determine who has repented sufficiently to receive the benefit of His atonement. Only after His investigation was complete would Jesus return to the earth, Adventists claimed.
Not only is the Adventist doctrine of Investigative Judgment unsupported by scripture, it is contrary to scripture.
First, Jesus is omniscient, so He always knows the state of every human heart in all history at every moment, so He needs no time to accomplish such a work (see John 2:25).
Secondly, the Bible says that the repentance that leads to salvation is a gift from God, not a work of man. As we read in several places, including:
The work of bringing repentance unto salvation is one "granted" us by "the will of God," scripture teaches. Therefore, it is nonsensical to suggest Jesus is tarrying while He "inspects" hearts on earth to learn who has sufficiently repented. Jesus doesn't need to undertake such an inspection since Jesus Himself is the Author and Perfector of our faith, including granting us repentance as He chooses.
Christ is not delaying because He is investigating hearts. In fact, Christ is not delaying at all (see 2Peter 3:9). The Bible says plainly that the specific timing of Christ's return will always be unknowable by any human being, because the timing of His return is entirely dependent on the Father's will, as Jesus says:
When the time appointed by the Father arrives, Jesus will return and not a moment sooner nor later. Therefore, William Miller's prediction of a return in 1843 was nothing more than a false claim by a false prophet, and the Adventists invention of the doctrine of Investigative Judgment was an attempt to cover up Miller's error with still more lies.
Consequently, the Adventist's core doctrine of Investigative Judgment, upon which the church was founded and from which the church gets its very name, is a false teaching. More importantly, it leads to a false Gospel since it implies a works requirement to be saved. If men must do sufficient repentance in order to obtain Christ's atonement, then men would be required to accomplish a work to be saved.
Later, the Adventist church recognized another so-called prophet, Ellen White, who claimed to receive "visions" and who the church believed spoke for God (despite the Bible’s teaching that no new revelation will come after the canon of scripture closed).
Under the influence of these (likely demonic) visions, White and others in the church invented new, unbiblical concepts of life after death, including the notion that the dead enter a period of soul sleep, where they know nothing. They also taught that no hell exists and that the wicked merely cease to exist at the end of time. Each of these beliefs contradicts the clear teaching of scripture.
Perhaps the Seventh-Day Adventists are best known for their distorted view of the Bible's teaching on Sabbath. The Bible teaches that faith in Christ is the fulfillment of our Sabbath rest requirement, yet Adventists maintain that Christians must return to observing a literal sabbath day rest on Saturday, which is the Sabbath day for Jews under the Law of Moses. Therefore, the second part of the church's name (i.e., Seventh-Day) is also rooted in a false teaching.
The Adventists promote other unbiblical and legalistic requirements for their followers, including abstaining from pork and certain other restrictions found in the Levitical Law given to Israel. All of these practices are unnecessary for the New Testament believer, and harmful to our Christian liberty, which Paul calls our "prize" in Colossians:
The Seventh-Day Adventist teachings concerning living under the Law of Moses are an attempt to reinstitute (selectively) a lifestyle of law-keeping as part of their works-based Gospel, despite the Bible’s clear teaching that the New Testament believer is not bound to keep the Law of Moses.
In summary, the church's fraudulent beginnings, false doctrines, legalistic requirements and restrictive governing practices lead to the conclusion that the Adventist religion is not orthodox Christianity. It operates as a cult-like organization founded on the teaching of false prophets and holds to views contrary to the plain teaching of scripture.
Though the Seventh-Day Adventist church may count many true Christians among its ranks, those believers have been deceived and are being mistaught concerning the Bible, salvation, eternity and the Christian life. Therefore, we strongly recommend any believer caught up in Adventism to flee this false church and seek for true Christian fellowship elsewhere, preferably in a church that holds to orthodox, biblical truth.
Finally, it's no coincidence that Adventism was founded at about the same time in history and in the same place as three other false churches with similar distorted teaching: Mormonism, Christian Science, and Jehovah’s Witnesses. This pattern suggests that Satan was at work at one time to establish these false churches in an effort to confuse and mislead new believers during the Great Awakening period of North American Christianity. Together, these four false religions continue to deceive many today.
For a more in-depth exposé of Adventist heresy compared to orthodox biblical doctrines, we encourage you to visit the website Gently Broken, a blog written by a Christian who was formerly a member of the Adventist religion.