What Seventh-day Adventists Believe about the Bible
For Seventh-day Adventists, the Bible forms the foundation for all they believe and teach. The Bible is also the final authority on all issues relating to morals, doctrine, salvation, and the very nature and purpose of life itself (Isaiah 8:20).
In fact, it was in-depth Bible study that spurred the Advent Movement, which later became the Seventh-day Adventist Church.
This page explains how Adventists prioritize the Bible and apply the Scripture within. It will cover:
- Why the Bible is the Word of God
- Why we need the Bible
- The infallibility of Scripture
- The importance of “Present Truth” when applying Scripture
- What the Bible tells us about the “big picture” (good vs. evil)
- How a deeper understanding of Scripture birthed the Adventist Church
- How Adventists use and regard the Bible today
Here is the official statement on this belief as found on the church’s website:
The Holy Scriptures, Old and New Testaments, are the written Word of God, given by divine inspiration.
The inspired authors spoke and wrote as they were moved by the Holy Spirit. In this Word, God has committed to humanity the knowledge necessary for salvation.
The Holy Scriptures are the supreme, authoritative, and the infallible revelation of His will.
They are the standard of character, the test of experience, the definitive revealer of doctrines, and the trustworthy record of God’s acts in history. (Ps. 119:105; Prov. 30:5, 6; Isa. 8:20; John 17:17; 1 Thess. 2:13; 2 Tim. 3:16, 17; Heb. 4:12; 2 Peter 1:20, 21.)
The Bible is the Word of God
From their start, Adventists have believed that the Bible is the written Word of God. It introduces us to Him, His plan of salvation, and principles behind an “abundant life” (John 10:10, Matthew 4:4).
This means God inspired the writers of the Bible to reveal the truths about Himself, history, salvation, and the parts of the future God wants us to know (2 Peter 1:21).
Adventists accept what has been called “Thought Inspiration” as opposed to “Verbal Inspiration.”
But what does this mean?
This means that God didn’t verbally dictate every word of Scripture as it is written to the authors.
It wasn’t as if they were tape recorders who simply took dictation from heaven. Though in some cases certain authors were instructed to write down word for word (usually preceded with “thus saith the Lord”).
Most of the time, however, those who were “moved by the Holy Spirit” wrote down the truths God had given them, using their own voice and style (Jeremiah 3:20; 2 Peter 1:21).
This explains the wide variety of styles found in the Bible—everything from the lyrical poetry of David in the Psalms, to the deep theological writings of the apostle Paul. All these books were written in the style of the individual authors as they were moved by the Holy Spirit.
God inspired authors of varying age, personality, perspective, gender, social status, economic status, and more. This helps us learn about Him from many different viewpoints and situations.
“All Scripture is inspired by God and is useful for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness” (2 Timothy 3:16, NRSV).
Why We Need the Bible
The Bible reveals to us the things nature cannot.
Adventists believe we can learn something about God from nature itself. In fact, the Bible teaches we can infer God’s existence and certain things about His nature from the created world (Romans 1:20-21).
However, there are many things about God we cannot learn from nature itself, especially because nature has been damaged by sin (Genesis 3: 17, 18; Romans 8:22). That’s why these truths about God have to be told to us.
Adventists see the Bible as God revealing to us the truths and mysteries (Ephesians 1:9; Colossians 1:26) we could never know otherwise.
For instance, how do we know that we can have salvation in Jesus by faith? The Bible tells us:
“Knowing that a man is not justified by the works of the law but by faith in Jesus Christ, even we have believed in Christ Jesus, that we might be justified by faith in Christ and not by the works of the law; for by the works of the law, no flesh shall be justified” (Galatians 2:16).
This is a truth that all the study of nature, logic, reason, or science could never teach us.
Other teaching as well—such as the Second Coming of Jesus (Acts 1:10-11; Revelation 1:7; John 5:28, 29)—could never be discovered by human intelligence or study of nature alone. This truth has to be revealed to us in the Bible too.
Thus, the Bible has been, and remains to this day, the means that God has used for thousands of years to teach humans what they could not learn by themselves.
Is the Bible Flawless?
Because they believe that the Bible is the Word of God, Adventists accept the infallibility of Scriptures (Psalm 119:160; John 17:17).
This means that what the Bible teaches about history, salvation, prophecy, and last-day events is always correct.
At the same time, Adventists understand it is possible for minor mistakes in copying to have happened through the ages. After all, the Bible you have is only a copy of a copy of the original manuscript.
However, these discrepancies have always been relatively insignificant and have never changed the essential meaning of the texts. God wouldn’t let that happen. The underlying principles in Scripture stand firm. It is God’s perfect revelation of His will to humanity (Psalm 19:7-9).
Adventists also believe that the Bible is a self-authenticating document. This means that it can prove itself to be true and trustworthy.
But a person must trust, and be willing to learn and submit to its teaching.
The Bible teaches that it is the Word of God, and it gives us good reasons to believe this (2 Timothy 3:16; 2 Peter 1:21; Revelation 22:18-19).
For instance, many prophecies in Scripture that were first written in the past, came true centuries later. Examples of these are found in Daniel 2 and 7. And looking back today, we can see that these things happened just as Scripture had predicted.
Even the Old Testament predictions of the coming of the Messiah—which Jesus fulfilled perfectly—provide more powerful evidence for the truth of Scripture (Isaiah 53; Isaiah 7:14; Isaiah 9:6-7; Micah 5:1-3; Psalm 22:1-2).
As Jesus said:
“And now I have told you before it comes, that when it does come to pass, you may believe” (John 14:29, NKJV).
Scripture affirms itself in other ways as well, including the powerful, personal impact it can have on people who accept its teachings (Hebrews 4:12).
Adventists believe that Scripture truly affirms and authenticates itself as the Word of God for those who are open to accept it.
What Books of the Bible Do Adventists Accept?
As do most Protestants, Adventists believe all the books of the Bible, both Old Testament and New Testament, comprise the Word of God (2 Peter 1:21).
They believe all 66 books are equally inspired.
“All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness” (2 Timothy 3:16, NKJV).
And yes, “all Scripture” includes the 39 books of the Old Testament and the 27 of the New.
However, believing that all books of the Bible are the Word of God doesn’t mean that everything written is still applicable today, at least in the exact way it was written.
For instance, Adventists don’t believe that Old Testament rules concerning how to deal with those who have leprosy (Leviticus 13) are still applicable to Christians today, even though the instructions given to the Children of Israel at the time were indeed inspired.
When dealing with passages of Scripture where context and relevance must be determined, Adventists measure Scripture by the idea of “Present Truth.”
What do Adventists mean by “Present Truth”
Present truth is the idea that at certain times in sacred history, certain truths have a particular importance and relevance, and serve a different purpose at other times (i.e., information vs. inspiring action).
- Thousands of years ago the “present truth” message of Noah was that a world-wide flood was coming—so, get on the boat (Genesis 6:5-8:1). Genesis 6 is still “true” because it happened, but it isn’t what is happening right now. It’s a “past truth.”
- In the time of the nation of ancient Israel, the “present truth” message was to worship the only true God, the Creator of the heavens and the earth, and nothing or no one else (Exodus 20:4; 1 Chronicles 29:11; Psalm 115:15; Isaiah 45:6, 21).
- During the time of John the Baptist, the “present truth” message was “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand” (Matthew 3: 2).
- And, after the death of Jesus on the cross, the “present truth” was that Jesus of Nazareth was the Messiah, and salvation for everyone could be found in Him (Romans 10:12).
Today, Adventists believe that the Three Angels’ Messages of Revelation 14: 6-12 is the “present truth.” That is, it’s a message of specific relevance and importance at this time.
The apostle Peter wrote:
“For this reason I will not be negligent to remind you always of these things, though you know and are established in the present truth” (2 Peter 1:12, NKJV).
However, many of those past truths do remain relevant in teaching us the context of the time and the lessons and principles we can take from that situation.
For example, though another world-wide flood isn’t coming (Genesis 9:11), the principle remains that when God warns us of trouble ahead, it’s in our best interest to listen to His words and heed His guidance.
How do Adventists understand what the Bible teaches about Evil?
Adventists believe that the story of the fall of humanity, as depicted in Genesis 3, is a true story, and it happened exactly as revealed in these texts.
(Unless a text is clearly portrayed as symbolic, such as the symbolic language of Revelation, all biblical texts should be taken as straightforward a manner as possible.)
Therefore, believers understand that evil arose because of a rebellion in heaven by a real being known as Lucifer or Satan (Revelation 12:7-9; Ezekiel 28:12-15; James 4:17; Luke 10:18-20).
It was Satan’s selfishness and anger that caused the evil here on this Earth (Job 1-2).
This is what Adventists call “The Great Controversy.”
But the good news is that Jesus defeated Satan at the cross, and one day death, evil, and Satan will be destroyed forever.
The Bible says:
“Inasmuch then as the children have partaken of flesh and blood, [Jesus] Himself likewise shared in the same, that through death He might destroy him who had the power of death, that is, the devil” (Hebrews 2:14, NKJV).
Thus, Adventists place their only hope of salvation and the end of evil and suffering, not on what humans can accomplish, but only on what Jesus has done for us.
What Role Did the Bible Have in the Formation of the Adventist Church?
In the early 1800s, many people in the United States and in Europe developed a deeper interest in the Bible and its prophecies. Much of this was a revival response from the First and Second Great Awakenings in the United States.
Before the Great Awakenings was the “Enlightenment” in Europe, which led most schools of thought from 1715-1789. Going to church had become more of a tradition and ritual than it was about spiritual growth. And then those who had grown complacent started looking toward other ideas.
This Enlightenment promoted the idea that human thinking, reason, and science could solve all of humanity’s problems. So people began looking to themselves, instead of depending on God, for answers to their deepest problems.
But in the early 19th century, a new interest arose in Scripture and in the prophecies of the end-times found in the Bible. This was partly because people could see the hopes of the Enlightenment weren’t working.
Many even believed that Jesus Christ was going to return in the mid-1800s. One group of Christians, called the Millerites, believed that Christ was going to return in the year 1844.
When that didn’t happen, a small group of Christians in the New England area began an intense study of the Bible, wondering where the Millerites might have gone wrong. Through years of diligent Bible study—with significant focus on end-time prophecies—they developed the teachings that inspired the Advent Movement, which would eventually become organized into the Seventh-day Adventist denomination.
Adventists started out and continue to be believers in the Reformation concept of sola scriptura, which means “Scripture alone.” This means they believe in the “Bible only” as the foundation of faith, as opposed to the use of tradition and the teaching of the early church fathers in order to formulate doctrines and beliefs.
Adventist beliefs are firmly grounded in the Word of God, whether teachings they share with many other Christians such as salvation by faith in Christ alone (Romans 3:27, 28; 4:1-13). Or those that are more distinctly Adventist such as the seventh-day Sabbath (Genesis 2:1-3; Exodus 20: 8-11; Matthew 12:8; Luke 23:56; Acts 16:13; Revelation 14:12).
Even the beliefs that are somewhat unique to Adventism are based on deep study of the Bible.
And it was also from their study of the Bible, especially the Old Testament book of Daniel and the New Testament book of Revelation, that they found their calling and reason for existence.
These end-time prophecies were not common topics of discussion during that time.
And to this day, Adventists still study the Scriptures to learn more and more, always seeking a deeper understanding of biblical truth.
What Role Does the Bible Play in the Moral Lives of Adventists Today?
The Bible is the foundation of an Adventist’s beliefs. And this is not just about the creation of the world, the origins of life, or the future hope of eternity in Jesus, but also about how to live day by day.
The Bible gives moral guidance in dealing with the challenges of everyday living.
For example, the Bible gives answers for questions like:
How should I respond when mistreated? – (Romans 12:9; Matthew 5:11-21; Luke 6:27).
How should I treat the needy? – (Proverbs 14:31; Luke 14:14; 1 Corinthians 10: 23-24).
Should I pay my taxes? – (Luke 10:25).
Is it wrong to lust after someone, even if I don’t have sexual relations with that person? – (Matthew 5:28).
What kind of actions does the Bible speak against? – (Galatians 5:19-21).
What does the Bible say about money, greed and the love of money? – (Luke 12:15; 1 Corinthians 6:10; Hebrews 13:5; 1 Timothy 6:10).
Though there are many examples of the Bible giving us specific direction, this doesn’t mean that it has a direct answer for every situation. For instance, the Bible certainly has nothing specific to say about spending too much time on social media.
Instead, the answers we look for are written in the form of principles.
Scripture talks about the principle of how to best use our time (Ephesians 5:15-17; Colossians 4:5). And it also talks about the kind of things that we should focus on (Philippians 4:8). These biblical principles can then be used to help someone with the question about how they spend their time.
Adventists believe that for almost any moral issue a person might face, they can find guidance in the Bible on how to respond as God would have them.
“Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path” (Psalm 119:105, NKJV).
Even if the answer isn’t explicitly mentioned, the Bible is rich with the principles for healthy, moral living.
Looking to learn more about the Bible? Come join us in a Bible study.
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