One of the members of our church gave me an A5 piece of paper a few weeks ago. A copy of this had gone through the letter box of every house on his estate, and he wanted to know more about it.
The sheet came from an organisation called “Advent Books”, and invited the reader to send off for a free book entitled The Great Controversy and/or to sign up for a free postal Bible course.
Whenever I see the offer of free Bible courses, I always think of 2 Timothy 3:6-7:
For among them are those who creep into households and capture weak women, burdened with sins and led astray by various passions, always learning and never able to arrive at a knowledge of the truth.
That’s not to say that a free Bible course necessarily teaches false doctrine. It is to say that one of the hallmarks of false teaching in the last days is that it will prey on those who are slow to reach conclusions. More precisely, it will pick on women who are like this. And it will offer them endless opportunities to learn.
What of Advent Books? They are a publishing / evangelistic arm of the Seventh Day Adventists in Britain. The Great Controversy is the story of world history – from Adam to bodily return of Christ – seen through their eyes. They claim at the outset that only the Scriptures are to be believed for learning sound doctrine, and that the Spirit will never lead the church to anything not found in the Scriptures.
But, as the various controversies (no relation, sadly) of the early centuries of the church show, claiming to be biblical is not the same thing as being biblical. In this case, their claim to be biblical is unpicked by what they teach.
In a nutshell… (with the exception of the one detail that, logically, could not have come from that source, all the following can be found in The Great Controversy)...
The adventists were started by a baptist minister by the name of William Miller in the early 1800s. He calculated, mainly from Daniel, that the second coming was due in 1844 – very exciting given how soon this was to come. It didn’t come that summer, which caused some trouble. But before long they decided that they had miscalculated the date when Artaxerxes ordered the temple rebuilding by a few months – the second coming was now due that Autumn.
Again, it didn’t come. At this point Miller repented. But one of his disciples Ellen White (nee Harmon) carried the torch enthusiastically. Jesus had indeed returned in 1844. But (being a premillenial group) they argued he returned not to earth but to the heavenly sanctuary. That did not mean that the period before Christ’s return when the door will be shut had begun. The way was still open for forgiveness. But it did mean you had to knock at a different door (to stretch the metaphor beyond the way they would, but quite helpfully). Christ has moved from heaven to the sanctuary, so if you ask for forgiveness of him in heaven there is no-one there to hear you. You need to ask him at the sanctuary now. Don’t ask for him at number 26, he’s moved three doors down to number 32.
What difference does this make? It means salvation is not open to anyone who is ignorant of what happened in 1844. Unless you are a 7th day adventist, you are knocking on the wrong door. Salvation is not open to “all who call on the name of the Lord”, but only to seventh day adventists who do.
To get to this they have had to teach against Scripture on lots of levels. Not least
- End times – Nowhere did Jesus speak of a perio before his return when he would be in a different place and only reacheable by an elite
- Christ’s finished work – He returned to the heavenly sanctuary, apparently, to cleanse it. But the work in that place is finished, once for all, and he sits beside his father to plead that work.
- Christ’s teaching – in particular his claim that no-one will know the day or hour of “that day”.
- The full significance of the destruction of Jerusalem in A.D. 70. Probably they should have calculated “70” instead of “1844”. So yes – Jesus has already returned as judge of Jerusalem, by the mediation of the Roman army. But no – he has not yet personally returned as judge of all.
So, if you (or someone you know) gets one of this group’s leaflets, please don’t be fooled. Please don’t get the book – the fact that they claim to be interpreting history through the Bible alone makes what they say all the more deceptive. This is not genuine Christianity being taught but a dangerous distortion.
But as for you, continue in what you have learned and have firmly believed, knowing from whom you learned it and how from childhood you have been acquianted with the sacred writings, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus.
Praise God that they are indeed able to do so!