By Colleen Tinker
This week we will look at four different news stories about Adventism which discuss four different aspects of its identity. This organization, which began as a small apocalyptic movement in the mid-nineteenth century, has become a fast-growing, financially and politically influential religion which now characterizes itself as a “world church”. Underneath its various public faces, however, Adventism is shaped and driven by an unbiblical Jesus and a false gospel.
We will see how these four stories grow out of Adventism’s worldview.
Adventist Church One of Three Richest Churches in Kenya
The online Business Daily Africa news outlet reported on Monday, July 10, that
“three Kenyan churches are doing business with annual turnovers of between Sh350 million [Kenyan shillings] and Sh1 billion, signaling increased involvement by religious institutions in taxable commercial activities to boost their incomes.”
The three churches are the Coptic Orthodox Church, Nairobi Pentecostal Church (NPC), and the Seventh-day Adventist Church. According to Business Daily, this listing places these three churches in the income league of Kirinyaga Construction, the Kenya National Union of Teachers, and Google Kenya.
In order to increase their bases of financial support so they don’t depend entirely upon tithes and offerings from members, churches, including the Adventist church, have established “charitable activities” including hospitals, schools, financial services, hospitality and real estate. Kenyan law allows non-governmental organizations (NGOs) including churches and their charitable organizations to be tax-exempt as long as they are properly registered and also document their activities.
The news story acknowledged that the top three richest Kenyan churches surprisingly did not include the Catholic Church. The Catholics own “one of the largest real estate portfolios in Kenya, including undeveloped land” which surprisingly did not qualify them to be on the list.
The structure of Kenyan NGO tax-exemption has resulted, however, in several churches having internal battles for financial control which “have raised suspicions that some of the investments are initiated with self-enrichment as the primary objective.” Among these scandal-tainted churches are the NPC, the African Independent Pentecostal Church of Africa (AIPCA), the Catholic Church, and Christ Is The Answer Ministries (CITAM).
Interestingly, Adventism has traditionally prided itself on being a small, financially-limited organization that will ultimately be targeted by the rich and powerful Catholic Church for keeping the Sabbath. This financial report from Kenya demonstrates that Adventism’s impoverished self-identity is changing.
Adventists Celebrate 25 Years of Publishing in Russia
Meanwhile, in Russia, Adventists celebrated the 25th anniversary of their Source of Life Publishing House from June 2–4. During these 25 years, Source of Life has published 50 million copies of Adventist books and handbooks of various kinds.
In fact, “Source of Life” is the only Russian Protestant publishing house with its own printing facilities in the Russian Federation and publishes Christian literature in thirteen languages, including Armenian, Georgian, Russian, Ukrainian, and Uzbek,” according to the Adventist Review.
“‘In remote villages and big cities, these books witness of the power of Jesus Christ to change lives,’” said Publishing Ministries director Pavel Liberanskiy. ‘Even in places where there is not yet a single preacher, books are there, bringing hope.’”
During the celebratory weekend, “several people shared their testimonies about finding Jesus [learning Adventism] through a Source of Life book donated or purchased.”
Adventism is effectively spreading throughout eastern Europe because of the organization’s commitment to publishing its own literature in local languages.
“People In Bright White Clothes”
The Northern-Asia Pacific Division of Seventh-Day Adventists has a special program for training young people to take Adventism to “unentered areas across Asia”. Unentered areas are regions and towns where there are few if any Adventists.
Recently, the fourth wave of Indonesian missionaries trained in this program—which is named 1000 Missionary Movement, or 1000MM—conducted “evangelistic meetings” in two cities which contained a total of eight Adventists. Most of the residents were Muslims, and the balance were members of various Christian denominations. During the days of the meetings, the missionaries “prayer walked” the neighborhoods every morning at 4:30.
One set of missionaries visited a couple who were respected members of their local Christian church. The husband began to study with the Adventists and liked their teachings, but the wife resisted. Eventually the husband decided to be baptized into Adventism, but the wife was not interested.
The day before the baptism, the woman heard her neighbors telling a frightening story:
“Yesterday at 4:00 AM, we saw people in bright white clothes walking around; there were four of them, and we saw them in front of your house, too.”
The woman, terrified that ghosts might have visited her home, shared the story with the Adventist missionary women. They were surprised and told the woman that the time when the four shining beings were seen was the exact time they themselves had been prayer-walking the neighborhood.
The wife immediately decided that God was leading the missionaries and decided to be baptized with her husband the next day. Consequently, they and five others nearly doubled the Adventist population the next day as they were baptized into Adventism.
Interestingly, the woman’s superstition and fear were the factors that ultimately convinced her to become Adventist. From the Adventists’ perspective, the reports of shining ghostly people was a miraculous manifestation that God used to convince a superstitious Christian from a rural town to join the one true church.
Who Is This Adventist Jesus?
These three preceding stories are seemingly unrelated vignettes from the realm of Seventh-day Adventism. They do have something in common, however: they all reveal the growth of Adventism in different parts of the world, and they also provide glimpses into the ways people are drawn into the religion.
Adventism seems to offer solutions to people’s felt needs through medical care, social services, books, literature, and personal contact. The reality behind these forms of proselytizing, though, is usually hidden. Adventism is driven by a false gospel and “another Jesus”.
In this last news article we see a glimpse of Adventism’s view of Jesus. While many individual Adventists might say they see Jesus differently, this article, nevertheless, was published on July 10 in the Adventist Review, the official magazine of the Seventh-day Adventist Church. While a “boiler plate” disclaimer appears under the article saying it represents the author’s view and not necessarily that of the magazine itself, the statement also says that content in the magazine’s articles “has been selected because it is deemed useful to the purposes and mission of the journal to inform, educate, and inspire the denomination it serves.”
The article leads with a story about the author’s wife wife cleaning the bathroom with a sponge called “Miracle Cleaning Eraser” which causes spots to disappear. After his wife cleaned and used air fresheners, his son walked in and “said one of the most deeply spiritual things an 11 year-old can say: ‘Ahhhhh, I like the smell of clean!’”
The author then compares that Miracle sponge with Jesus, saying,
“Each of us is blessed in the way that we can come to Jesus, who is like that incredible little plainly packaged Miracle Cleaning Eraser. We confess our sin, repent, and have that sin totally erased from our dirty, evil, selfish self.”
The next point the author makes is that, in order to stay clean, one must be and stay connected to Jesus, citing John 15:1-7 and Jesus’ illustration of the branches remaining in the vine.
It discussing how to stay connected with Jesus, the author reveals a profound confusion and lack of understanding of the reality of the new birth. He directs his readers to “just stay there”, whatever happens during one’s day. He cites the 12 disciples who doubtless left Jesus’ side during the day to obtain food or to visit sick people, but “at the end of the day they always came back and ended their day re-connecting with Jesus.”
Then the author concludes his article with this advice and observation:
“We have to come back at the end of the day and re-connect with Jesus. When we succeed—and especially when we fail—come back to Jesus. Tell Him all about the good and bad, the wins and losses. Unload on Him. Connect with Him. Confess your sins, and let that connection magically and powerfully erase all the grime, dirt, and sin of the day.
When we do this day in and day out, I promise, not only will we be able to stay spiritually clean, but we—and more importantly, God—will like the way we smell of clean.”
The comparison of Jesus to a magic Miracle Eraser is demeaning and completely misses the reality of the gospel. It denies Jesus’ substitutionary death for sin and the fact that Jesus isn’t just a good guy who has pity on us mortals and graciously forgives our sins because He can’t bear to see us suffer for them.
This description of connecting with Jesus denies that we can only be reconciled to God through the blood of Jesus. Instead, the article suggests that just “the opening of the heart to God as to a friend”, as Ellen White famously described prayer, (Steps to Christ, p. 93), is the means of creating a connection with the Lord of the Universe.
This article does not mention the need for repentance and for admitting one is a sinner who needs a Savior. It does not describe the need to believe Jesus and accept the payment for our sin by His shed blood. Moreover, it completely misses the fact of the new birth that occurs when we believe. When we believe in the substitutionary death of Jesus for our sin and in His resurrection from death as the One whose blood paid the propitiating price that satisfied God’s judgment against sinners, we are born again of the Spirit (Jn. 3:3-6). We are given a new heart, and we receive the Holy Spirit promised to those who believe (Eph. 1:13-14).
The author of the Miracle article betrays that he lacks the knowledge of the true gospel and the completely new identity we receive when we believe and trust Him. He also lacks understanding of Jesus’ teaching about remaining in the vine. In John 15:1-7 Jesus is teaching that there is no such thing as a true believer whose life bears fruit apart from being in a living union with Christ. The biblical teaching of being in union with Christ is a reality quite different from the notion that person can leave the actual presence of Jesus during the rush of the day but then must come back and “re-connect”, like a husband coming home from work and seeing his wife again.
A believer’s union with Christ is a spiritual reality that our triune God gives us when we trust in Jesus. We are literally given new hearts, as He promised in Jeremiah and in Ezekiel, and then He gives us His own Spirit. He indwells us and never leaves us. He is with us always. We don’t walk away from His presence and then have to come back when we’re able to focus.
The comparison of Jesus to a Miracle Eraser is actually an accurate glimpse into Adventism’s understanding of Jesus. The Adventist Jesus is a bit of a super-hero who magically forgives us when we ask just because He has a tender heart.
Adventism conceals the fact that Jesus became sin for us and shed His blood as a personal act of obedience to the Father to reconcile us to God. He did not die to demonstrate that He was loving and would accept persecution at the hands of cruel men without fighting back. Rather, He died as our substitute. He shed blood to cleanse us from sin, and when we believe and trust in His completed blood atonement for our helpless depravity, we receive forgiveness and are born again, adopted as God’s children (Rom. 8:15-17), and sealed with the Holy Spirit (Eph. 1;13-14).
Adventism diminishes Jesus and ignores the intractable depth of sin. This religion masquerades as Christianity but in fact does not teach either the truth about our human condition or the eternal fact of Jesus’ blood and the new covenant it inaugurated.
Instead, Adventism is a religion that makes people believe they can be right with God through making moral choices and living a healthy lifestyle. Oh, it teaches that people have to “accept Jesus” and “stay connected” with Him, but that interaction with Jesus is driven by the human, not by the sovereign God of creation who alone can create, destroy, and save from destruction.
Throughout the world, Adventism is growing and prospering, but the people who are being brought into membership are being deceived into thinking they are spiritually safe when in reality they are trusting in a false Jesus and a man-centered “gospel”.
It is imperative that we who know the Lord Jesus and are members of His body understand that Adventists need to be evangelized. We dare not assume they are saved because they say words that sound like Christian declarations. Only the recognition that they are born intractably sinful and that they need the blood of Jesus to cleanse them from sin, once for all, will rescue them from the blindness they do not know they have.
Business Daily: Three Churches Join the Rich Taxpayers Club
Adventist Review: Russia Publishing House Celebrates 25 Years Instilling Hope
Adventist Review: “People in Bright White Clothes Were Walking Around”
Adventist Review: It’s a Miracle!