by Colleen Tinker
Adventists have long stated that they are the inheritors of the Reformation. Martin Luther, they say, began well and overthrew papal control and the sale of indulgences. He didn’t complete the necessary reforms, however; it remained for the Adventists to re-introduce the message of Jesus’ soon coming and the necessity of keeping the seventh-day Sabbath.
In fact, Ellen White’s book The Great Controversy gives her version of the Reformation in the context of the Adventist worldview which insists that seventh-day Sabbath-keeping is the seal of God.
In The Great Controversy on p. 640 Ellen White says:
The enemies of God’s law, from the ministers down to the least among them, have a new conception of truth and duty. Too late they see that the Sabbath of the fourth commandment is the seal of the living God. Too late they see the true nature of their spurious sabbath and the sandy foundation upon which they have been building. They find that they have been fighting against God. Religious teachers have led souls to perdition while professing to guide them to the gates of Paradise. Not until the day of final accounts will it be known how great is the responsibility of men in holy office and how terrible are the results of their unfaithfulness. Only in eternity can we rightly estimate the loss of a single soul. Fearful will be the doom of him to whom God shall say: Depart, thou wicked servant.
The voice of God is heard from heaven, declaring the day and hour of Jesus’ coming, and delivering the everlasting covenant to His people. Like peals of loudest thunder His words roll through the earth. The Israel of God stand listening, with their eyes fixed upward. Their countenances are lighted up with His glory, and shine as did the face of Moses when he came down from Sinai. The wicked cannot look upon them. And when the blessing is pronounced on those who have honored God by keeping His Sabbath holy, there is a mighty shout of victory.
Ellen White also identifies worshiping on Sunday as the thing that will bring the mark of the beast onto a person:
The Sabbath will be the great test of loyalty, for it is the point of truth especially controverted. When the final test shall be brought to bear upon men, then the line of distinction will be drawn between those who serve God and those who serve Him not. While the observance of the false sabbath in compliance with the law of the state, contrary to the fourth commandment, will be an avowal of allegiance to a power that is in opposition to God, the keeping of the true Sabbath, in obedience to God’s law, is an evidence of loyalty to the Creator. While one class, by accepting the sign of submission to earthly powers, receive the mark of the beast, the other choosing the token of allegiance to divine authority, receive the seal of God (The Great Controversy, p. 605).
Russians and “Helen White”
Now, the Adventists in Russia have grabbed the momentum of this year’s 500th anniversary of Martin Luther’s nailing his 95 Theses to the Wittenberg church door. They have published a book entitled The Roads of the Reformation (TROR) which is condensed from the book The Great Controversy (TGC). Significantly, they obscured Ellen White’s actual name and have used the Russian name “Helen White” for the author.
Dima Rozet from the Russian office of The Centers for Apologetics Research tells us that this new book is extracted from Ellen White’s The Great Controversy.
“It is interesting, though,” Dima says, “that they spell Helen’s name in an unusual, sort of concealed way, which makes it harder to recognize who stands behind this publication. Many uneducated people probably won’t recognize this until they get to the end of the book,” Dima says.
Significantly, this book conceals not only its author’s real name but also the fact that its Adventist publishers believe their Sabbath-keeping is the true fruit of the Reformation. In reality, this supposed history of the Reformation is actually promoting not Martin Luther and his legacy but Ellen White’s interpretation of Scripture and of history. Although the editors have cleverly concealed the real author as well as the source of the book’s contents, it is an Adventist proselytizing tool that fulfills Ellen White’s own instruction:
I am more anxious to see a wide circulation for [The Great Controversy] than for any others I have written; for in The Great Controversy, the last message of warning to the world is given more distinctly than in any of my other books” (Colporteur Ministry, p. 127).
In short, Adventist evangelism is designed to convert unsuspecting people to a view of reality shaped not by the Bible but by Ellen White’s interpretation of the Bible. Sabbath-keeping as the mark of those who are obedient to God and thus worthy of salvation is the central “push” of Adventism. This new Russian book marketed as a book about Reformation history is actually a book derived from the prophetic warnings of a false prophet whose goal was to enslave Christians to keeping the old covenant law and to defending the seventh-day Sabbath with their lives if necessary.
As Mike Ryan, currently the general vice-president of the Adventist general conference, has said, “Ellen White played a large role one establishing much of the distinctiveness that marks Adventism, in that she unwrapped Scripture and left the Adventist Church with a certain view of the future.”
Ellen White is the central definer of Adventist identity, and her Sabbath-centric eschatology and her great controversy worldview determine how Adventists understand Scripture—and also how they think about the Reformation.
Adventist chief justice puts Sabbath over work demands
A recent story out of Kenya demonstrates the deep commitment true Adventists have to the Sabbath. The Adventist organization’s dedication to promoting Ellen White’s books and to teaching the Sabbath has yielded unwavering devotion in Kenya’s chief justice David Maraga.
Maraga was appointed chief justice on October 19, 2016 by a unanimous vote. This vote was in spite of the fact that Maraga informed the Judicial Service Commission that he was a devoted Seventh-day Adventist and would not sit on Saturday if a hearing were required.
His words came true this month. Kenya is in the midst of a presidential election. Saturday, August 26, was the eighth day after a candidate had filed a petition at the Supreme Court. Kenyan law requires a “pre-trial hearing with all the parties to the petition to forge the way ahead.” Maraga, however, would not meet on Saturday morning to preside over the requisite hearing. Instead, the Supreme Court announced that the hearing would start at 7:00 PM on Saturday.
The Kenyan online news source Daily Nation reported, “In the tradition of the Seventh Day (sic) Adventist church, the day of the Sabbath will have ended.”
The news story then quotes from the official Adventist website:
In this age of materialism, the Sabbath points men and women to the spiritual and to the personal. The consequences for forgetting the Sabbath day to keep it holy are serious. It will lead to the distortion and eventual destruction of a person’s relationship with God.…
Significantly, the official Adventist website explains Chief Justice David Maraga’s refusal to sit on the bench even in a national election emergency.
As the quotes above reveal, Adventism teaches that “forgetting the Sabbath” will ultimately destroy one’s relationship with God. In other words, as Ellen White taught, once a person has known about the Sabbath “truth”, he is responsible to observe it on pain of losing his salvation.
No matter how individual Adventists may deny that the Sabbath is necessary for them to be saved, in fact they deeply believe that it is. They may believe that a person who has not yet been taught the Sabbath “truth” will not be held accountable for it, but they believe that they themselves will be judged on the basis of their obedience to the fourth commandment.
The Adventist website is clear that it is the Sabbath that is the key factor in a person’s relating to God. A misunderstanding or abandonment of the Sabbath will distort a person’s connection with God, and a persistent abandonment of the day will destroy that relationship altogether.
The story of the Russian condensation of The Great Controversy and the account of David Maraga’s loyalty to the Sabbath confirm that Ellen White and her interpretations of Scripture are at the heart of Adventism. No matter how much they pose as Christian, the gospel of the Lord Jesus’ finished work of atonement accomplished in His death, burial, and resurrection is missing from Adventist theology.
Adventists, like all humanity, need to understand the glory of the new covenant as Paul explained it in 2 Corinthians 3:12-18:
Since we have such a hope, we are very bold, not like Moses, who would put a veil over his face so that the Israelites might not gaze at the outcome of what was being brought to an end. But their minds were hardened. For to this day, when they read the old covenant, that same veil remains unlifted, because only through Christ is it taken away. Yes, to this day whenever Moses is read a veil lies over their hearts. But when one turns to the Lord, the veil is removed. Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another. For this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit.