The Seventh Day Adventist (SDA) church has been around since the mid-1800s. Originally followers of a Baptist preacher named William Miller, they split off to start their own church after a disagreement on the legitimacy of one of Miller’s prophecies. Today, there are over a million of us in North America, and 18 million worldwide. We have many fascinating practices that are drawn both from the Bible and from our early founders. But it can be hard to know where to begin.
For example, do Seventh Day Adventists fast? Seventh Day Adventists believe that fasting is an integral part of their spiritual practice. We believe that fasting helps us to cleanse the heart of distractions and allows us to hear what God wants more clearly us to do with our lives.
We believe that the bible says that fasting is a requirement, not a choice. In fact, we believe that Jesus Christ is still fasting in heaven, and will continue to do so until all His children are with Him. We have many fascinating beliefs and practices that go way beyond the practice of fasting. While we are considered Christian, many of our basic beliefs are unique to us.
In the early years of the religion, long before we were officially recognized by our current name, we were led by some noticeably young religious organizers. One of them, Ellen White (born Ellen Harmon), was only sixteen years old when she became an active organizer of this yet-to-be-named religion.
From the beginning of her involvement, she had visions from God. These visions, along with her writings detailing them, became instrumental in the forming of the doctrines and belief system that came to be known as the SDA Church. In her lifetime, Ellen wrote forty books and over five thousand periodical articles.
In June of 1863, just fifteen days after the SDA Church was officially organized, Ellen White had another vision. In it, it was revealed to her that her congregation would regain and keep their health if they followed these simple rules in addition to getting lots of clean air, sunshine, exercise, and water:
- Eat a plant-based, or vegetarian, diet
- Refrain from alcohol, tobacco, and caffeine
- Plain, or clean, eating
- Just two meals a day
Prior to her revelation and publication of this new health plan, many of her followers back then were unhealthy or sick. Even her husband struggled with his health. Once her vision became available and people started following the new guidelines, they noticed that their ailments and physical complaints healed themselves quickly.
With her two-meal-a-day plan, Ellen White advocated eating breakfast at 7 a.m. and dinner at 1 p.m. Food was simple, and meat, rich foods, dessert, and spices were all left out. The time between dinner and the next day’s breakfast was intended as a fast.
Mrs. White believed that fasting combined with prayer would help us present the word of God to the unconverted. In fact, she believed that fasting helped:
- People who were trying to understand the Scripture more clearly
- Provide unity among church members
- Congregants overcome spiritual temptation
- Cleanse the heart and with spiritual renewal
- Develop an appetite for plain food
- In cases of demonic possession
But fasting is more than just not eating food. While that’s a big part of the tradition in the SDA Church today, we recognize that some people can’t go without food for extended periods of time. For example, many people who have health issues like diabetes can’t fast without suffering potentially grave consequences.
That is why we believe that, in addition to eating no or little food for a while, fasting can also be as simple as giving up something that we feel we are too attached to. For example, we could fast from television for a week, or give up social media for a while. The important thing is to fast from something that takes up too much of our brain-space. By giving up either food or something else, we make room for God’s message.
While we are encouraged to pray and fast as often as we require, our church sets aside several “special emphasis“ days each year. On these days, our worldwide congregations practice a day of fasting and prayer together. In 2019, the SDA has set aside four days specifically for prayer and fasting.
What Are Some Other Beliefs And Practices?
In the 1840s, followers of the Baptist preacher William Miller became divided after one of his prophecies did not come true. He had said that Jesus would return sometime between March 1843–1844. When that didn’t happen, a lot of his congregation became disillusioned and left.
Others, however, decided that it did happen, just not as Miller originally said. These other followers believed that Christ didn’t return to earth but to an even higher heavenly realm. This belief, now called the Sanctuary Doctrine, eventually led to the founding of what was to become the Seventh Day Adventists church.
We accept only the Bible as our standard of faith and practice. We have twenty-eight fundamental beliefs that can be broken down into six categories:
- The church
- Christian life
- Last day events/Resurrection
When reading through the twenty-eight beliefs, you find that many of them are similar to beliefs among other protestant religions. They differ in four main ideas: we believe the Sabbath falls on Saturday, we believe in the gift of prophecy, that Christ has risen again and now resides in the Sanctuary in Heaven, and that when we die we don’t automatically go to heaven, but remain waiting for Jesus Christ to return.
We take to heart the fact that God rested on the seventh day. What is different is how we count out the week. Instead of starting it on Monday, we consider the week to begin on Sunday. So, Saturday becomes the seventh day of the week. On Saturdays, all work is set aside and time is spent in prayer, doing family activities such as spending time together, going on missionary visits, or going to church.
Much of our beliefs around prophecy center around those given to us by Ellen White. It is estimated that, in her lifetime, she had over two thousand visions and dreams. These visions varied in length from a minute or so to four hours. And while the we don’t consider her visions scripture; they still are an invaluable contribution to our belief system.
In most Christian religions, people believe that you go to either heaven or hell after you die. We believe that you instead simply stay unconscious until Christ’s second coming. On that day, Christ will resurrect the worthy and bring us to meet their Lord. We will remain with God for one thousand years, while Satan walks the earth.
After a millennium, a second resurrection will take place, this time of the unworthy. Then, they will be judged. Those who remain unworthy will face a second death and remain dead forever. Satan will be wiped from the earth, and those of us who made it through the first round will be sent back to earth. This new earth will be wiped clean of sin and wrongdoing forever.
Having reached our 150th birthday in 2013, we are still relatively new when compared to older beliefs such as Catholicism and Anglicanism. Still, our foundation is rooted deep in the Christian faith. We take the recommendations and advice given in the Bible as the word of God. However, our belief in prophecy also means that God is still talking to us and helping us. In the end, we believe salvation is open to everyone if we live a good life and do charitable deeds.
If you are interested in learning about other Religions in the world, then check out this book on World’s Religions on Amazon.