What do Seventh-day Adventists Believe about the Life, Death, and Resurrection of Jesus?
For Adventists, Jesus Christ is the foundation of their faith. This is because it’s only through the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus that any of us have hope of life beyond the toil, suffering, and death of this world.
This post will go over the significance of the various stages of Jesus’ life and ministry for our salvation. They include:
- The birth and childhood of Jesus
- The public ministry of Jesus
- The death of Jesus
- The place of the judgement
- The resurrection of Jesus
- Evidences to prove that Jesus resurrected
Here is the Adventist Church’s official statement on this topic:
“In Christ’s life of perfect obedience to God’s will, His suffering, death, and resurrection, God provided the only means of atonement for human sin, so that those who by faith accept this atonement may have eternal life, and the whole creation may better understand the infinite and holy love of the Creator.
This perfect atonement vindicates the righteousness of God’s law and the graciousness of His character; for it, both condemns our sin and provides for our forgiveness. The death of Christ is substitutionary and expiatory, reconciling, and transforming. The bodily resurrection of Christ proclaims God’s triumph over the forces of evil, and those who accept the atonement assures their final victory over sin and death.
It declares the Lordship of Jesus Christ, before whom every knee in heaven and on earth will bow.”
The significance of Jesus Christ
Jesus, who is the Son of God and part of the Godhead is humanity’s Savior. And this role was set into motion during His earthly ministry—His life (our example), death (sacrifice/substitute), and resurrection (restoration/redemption).
Because Jesus went through this for us, all who come to Him in faith and repentance can be saved from sin’s eternal consequences. It also demonstrates to Earth an expression of divine love (John 1:14).
When Jesus came to Earth as a baby, it was an expression of divine love because He was fully God, yet He chose to come live among us as a human being, encountering the same limits, frustrations, and temptations we do.
As astonishing as it is that He chose to do this, what’s even more astonishing is that He chose to do it because He loved us.
As the verse says: “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life” (John 3:16, NKJV).
Jesus’ birth and childhood on earth
Other than the birth of Jesus, the Bible doesn’t reveal many details about His early years. Here’s what we do know.
His birth itself was a miracle—He was born from a virgin
When His human mother, Mary, had been told by an angel that she would bear a son (Luke 1: 28-33), she responded, “How can this be, since I do not know a man?” (Luke 1:34; Matthew 1:18-23, NKJV).
Jesus was born in rather crude circumstances (Luke 2:7).
Jesus’ parents were in the middle of traveling. Then there was no room at the inn. They had to camp out in a stinky, dirty stable. And give birth there.
A small feeding manger was Jesus’ first bed. Simple rags were His first clothes.
Jesus grew up in a small working-class town
History tells us that Nazareth in those days was likely a small farming village with a population only in the hundreds. Most of the residents were likely related in some way, and also may have been from the line of David.
And from the remark of Nathanael in John 1:45-46, we can deduce that it was not an area viewed favorably by the larger cities and towns around it.
“Philip found Nathanael and told him, ‘We have found the one Moses wrote about in the Law, and about whom the prophets also wrote—Jesus of Nazareth, the son of Joseph’
‘Nazareth! Can anything good come from Nazareth?’ Nathanael asked” (NKJV).
Jesus learned the family trade of carpentry
Joseph must have been known as Nazareth’s primary carpenter, since references in the Gospels recognized Jesus as the “carpenter’s son” and a carpenter Himself (Matthew 13:54-55; Mark 6:3).
He earned His living and helped His family by the work of His hands and the sweat of His brow.
But that’s about all we know concerning Jesus’ early life.
Outside of the time when His earthly parents had to flee with Jesus to Egypt after being warned that the child was in danger of being killed, not much is told about His childhood years (Matthew 2:13, 14).
All we know is “Jesus increased in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and men” (Luke 2:52, NKJV).
Together with other Christians, Adventists believe Jesus never sinned, not even as a child.
When the angel spoke to Mary, He told her this about her son Jesus:
“The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Highest will overshadow you; therefore, also, that Holy One who is to be born will be called the Son of God” (Luke 1:35, NKJV).
Since we are all born sinners, no other human being could have been called “the Holy One” (Romans 5:12, NKJV)
Being sinless, we can know that, even as a child, Jesus must have been quite different from other children.
An example of His uniqueness could be seen during His Passover visit to Jerusalem when He was 12.
After the feast, He left His parents who went on their way back home, forgetting Him behind. When they returned for Him three days later, they found Him among religious scholars, astonishing them with His knowledge (Luke 2:46-47).
After this account, the next time Jesus appears again in Scripture is when He is an adult and about to embark upon His ministry.
Jesus’ public ministry
Adventists believe Jesus came in fulfillment of Old Testament prophecies concerning the coming Messiah (Genesis 3:15; Micah 5:2; Isaiah 7:14; Daniel 9:24-27; Psalm 41:9; Isaiah 53:1-8; Psalm 22:7-8, 18).
And He was not just a Messiah for Israel, but for the whole world (John 3:16-17; Romans 5:18).
All four of the Gospels—Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John—spend a great deal of time writing about the ministry of Jesus, His teaching, and His miracles.
Jesus spent the years of His earthly ministry, which is believed to be three and half years, performing miracles. From the turning of water into wine at a wedding in Cana (John 2:1-11) to healing the ear of one of the high priest’s servants who came to arrest Him (Luke 22: 49-51).
He performed these miracles not only before His disciples but before the masses as well.
Perhaps most important among what Jesus did was His constant ministering to the hurt, the broken, and the suffering.
“Wherever He entered, into villages, cities, or the country, they laid the sick in the marketplaces and begged Him that they might just touch the hem of His garment” (Mark 6:56, NKJV).
“And as many as touched Him were made well” (Luke 5:15, NKJV).
One of the reasons Christians have been involved in ministering to the sick, the needy, the hurting has been to follow the example of Christ.
Adventist scholar Raoul Dederen commented about the work of Jesus in helping those in need:
“Jesus viewed the presence of illness as a result of the fall. Since His mission was to destroy the works of the devil, He made every effort to heal the sick and the diseased . . .. His healing activities were part of the plan of God and the work of Christ.”1
However, Jesus came to this Earth for more than just to minister to the suffering and hurting.
After all, even if He had raised people from the dead, like Lazarus (see John 16), sooner or later, the people would all die again. And if that were it and there was no hope for anything beyond death, what good would Jesus’ ministry accomplish in the long run?
That’s why Christ also came to die in our place, taking on the eternal wages of sin so we don’t have to, and demonstrating the ultimate act of love (John 15:13). He said this about His mission:
“The Son of Man must suffer many things, and be rejected by the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and be raised the third day” (Luke 9:22, NKJV).
And upon Christ’s death, and then His resurrection, Adventists pin their great hopes for eternal life.
What does the Death of Jesus say about our Salvation?
All four of the Gospels depict the death of Jesus. In fact, His death is central to the whole plan of salvation.
The simplest way to express it is that Christ died as our substitute.
As sinners, we have all violated God’s moral law. We have all offended the righteousness and holiness of a perfectly righteous and holy God (Isaiah 6:3; 1 1 Peter 1:16; Revelation 4:8; Deuteronomy 32:4).
Yet instead of punishing us for our violations, God punished Jesus.
But isn’t Jesus God?
Yes, He is.
God punishing God for sin?
In other words, God, in the Person of Jesus, took on Himself the punishment for our sins. Showing us how far Love is willing to go to make sure we’re not lost forever. It’s Jesus saying, “Take Me instead.”
God is a God of justice. Therefore, sin being a violation of the moral order of the cosmos must be punished. But God’s love for humanity is so great that He took upon Himself the punishment that we deserve for the sins we have committed.
It would be like a judge, having justly and fairly condemned a man to death, taking upon himself the punishment the guilty man deserved.
For further understanding, here’s an account in the Old Testament when the children of Israel had committed a terrible sin against God. Moses stood before God and said to Him:
“Yet now, if You will forgive their sin—but if not, I pray, blot me out of Your book which You have written” (Exodus 32:32, NKJV).
The Hebrew word for “forgive” is nasa, a word used hundreds of times in the Hebrew Bible which means to “bear, to lift, to carry.”
The text could have just as easily been translated, “Yet now, if You will bear their sin—but if not, I pray, blot me out of Your book which You have written.”
The very idea of God forgiving sin means also for God Himself to bear and to carry sin.
In fact, perhaps the most famous Old Testament passage about God, in the person of Jesus, bearing and suffering for humanity’s sins is in Isaiah 53.
“Surely He has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows” (Isaiah 53:4, NKJV).
The word for “borne” there is nasa. So when we look at Jesus on the cross, we are seeing God Himself taking upon Himself the suffering and punishment for the sins of the whole world so that everyone in the world, no matter who they are, could have eternal life.
Have you ever felt too sinful, too evil, to be forgiven by God?
Well, we are too sinful and too evil to be forgiven by God.
And that’s precisely why Christ died for us.
He died for all of us so that we might be forgiven despite our sins and despite the seemingly unforgivable things we have done—things we can barely seem to forgive ourselves for as well.
“But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8, NKJV).
Not while we were goody-two-shoes. Not while we were obeying God’s law.
No. But while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.
Perhaps nothing illustrates the reality of the Gospel better than this story of the thief on the cross.
Jesus had been crucified with two thieves. These were criminals who were deserving of their punishment, unlike Jesus.
At first, both thieves taunted and mocked Jesus.
“Even the robbers who were crucified with Him reviled Him with the same thing” (Matthew 27:44, NKJV).
But one of the thieves had a change of heart. And as though he was the only sinner in all the world who understood who Jesus was at that time, he cried out:
“Lord, remember me when You come into Your kingdom” (Luke 23:42, NKJV).
And what did Jesus say?
Well, Jesus did not throw in this criminal’s face all his sinful past. Jesus did not point out to him all the reasons he did not deserve salvation—though there were plenty.
Instead, Jesus looked at this man. A sinner. A man with many faults. A man who had nothing to offer. A man whose only relationship to God’s law was to violate it.
Yet without hesitation, Jesus said to him, “You will be with me in paradise” (Luke 23:43, NKJV).
It’s going to work the same with us all. If we believe, we will join God in paradise.
If we are saved by Christ’s sacrifice, will we still be “judged”?
Yes, the Bible does teach that. In fact, the Bible talks about judgment over and over. Perhaps the clearest text of all is:
“For God will bring every work into judgment, including every secret thing, whether good or evil” (Ecclesiastes 12:14, NKJV).
See also Matthew 12:36; 1 Corinthians 4:5; Romans 4:10; 2 Corinthians 5:10; Acts 17:31).
Imagine how we would fare standing before God who knows our every secret deed, our every secret thought. What would we do before Him who knew everything about us, even all the things we tried to forget?
What are the chances we could survive on our own?
None, of course.
But through Jesus, our chances skyrocket.
Jesus took the condemnation that we deserve at the cross. That way, His perfect life, and His perfect holiness stand in place of our sinfulness and evil in the judgment.
In other words, the same God whom we’d be afraid to stand before because of all our foul deeds is the God who bore all those evil deeds. He took them upon Himself at the cross, in the person of Jesus Christ.
As a result, the punishment we deserve for those deeds fell on Jesus instead, which means that during the judgment, we don’t have to face the punishment ourselves.
This is the Gospel—forgiveness freely offered to us regardless of our sinful past.
We can’t earn it, and we can’t make ourselves good enough to deserve it.
Instead, it’s ours only by faith.
We just need to repent, admit our sins, and ask Jesus into our lives. Then we can have the assurance that when we stand before God in judgment, we have already been accepted by Him.
Not for our sake but because of Jesus and His sacrifice for us. Jesus really is the answer.
The deep significance of Jesus’ resurrection
When writing to the church at Corinth, the apostle Paul said:
“For I determined not to know anything among you except Jesus Christ and Him crucified” (1 Corinthians 2:2, NKJV).
These words show just how central the cross was to Paul’s theology.
However, in the same letter, Paul later says something astonishing.
“And if Christ has not risen, then our preaching is empty and your faith is also empty. . .. And if Christ has not risen, your faith is futile; you are still in your sins! Then also those who have fallen asleep in Christ have perished” (1 Corinthians 15:14,17, 18, NKJV).
Even though Jesus died on the cross as the substitute for our consequences, had He not risen from the dead, His life and death would be all for nothing! But since Jesus arose and lives today, that’s not the case at all.
It’s Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection—all together—that saves us.
Without Christ’s resurrection from death, the death of Christ on the cross isn’t going to solve the problem of death, which is one of the reasons Christ came to begin with.
“For He must reign till He has put all enemies under His feet. The last enemy that will be destroyed is death” (1 Corinthians 15:25, 26, NKJV).
“And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes; there shall be no more death, nor sorrow, nor crying. There shall be no more pain, for the former things have passed away” (Revelation 21:4, NKJV, emphasis added).
“People of Israel, listen! God publicly endorsed Jesus the Nazarene by doing powerful miracles, wonders, and signs through Him, as you well know. But God knew what would happen, and His prearranged plan was carried out when Jesus was betrayed. With the help of lawless men you nailed Him to the cross and killed Him. But God released Him from the horrors of death and raised Him back to life, for death could not keep Him in its grip” (Acts 2:22-24, NLT, emphasis added).
And yet, without the resurrection, none of this will happen—which is why it’s crucial to understand that our Savior lives!
How Can We Be Sure that Jesus was Really Raised from the Dead?
Adventists believe the Word of God that Jesus was resurrected from the dead.
It was prophesied in the Old Testament. All four Gospel writers, though writing from different times, places and perspectives, talked about it. Paul discussed it over and over in his letters.
Other biblical writers also referred to Christ’s resurrection (Acts 1:3; Romans 8:34; 1 Peter 1:21; Revelation 1:5).
And beyond that, there is also hard evidence apart from the Bible.
For starters, many secular historians—men and women who do not believe in the resurrection of Jesus—will concede to the following three points based on historical evidence:
- Jesus Christ had been crucified by the Romans.
- After His death, many people claimed to have seen Him risen, and these people started what became the early Christian church.
- Saul of Tarsus, later known as the apostle Paul, who was once a fierce opponent of Jesus and the early church, became one of his greatest evangelists and apologists (a person who defends teaching).
Again, one could be a staunch atheist and yet believe these three points. Which leads to the question, though: how do they explain these points if Jesus were not resurrected?
One theory was that they all made the story up.
That His disciples, so discouraged and disappointed by what happened, concocted the idea of a risen Christ in order to keep their fledgling movement going.
However, this theory runs into many problems.
- First, we see by people’s behavior noted in each of the Gospel books that no one expected a risen Messiah. That was not what the Jews had anticipated from the Messiah (they had a very different idea in mind), so why create a story about a crucified and risen Messiah completely alien to what anyone expected?
- Second, these men faced persecution, suffering, jail, exile, calumny, even death from their recountings of what they saw. So what was it for? If the resurrection were just a story, then these men suffered and died for what they knew was a lie from the start.Think of your favorite novel. Could you imagine the author facing jail, torture, prison, and even death—insisting that the story and the characters were all true?
Even worse, imagine the author letting others, who also believe the story is true, suffer and die for what he knows is a lie?
- Next, some argue that being so traumatized by the death of Jesus, all His disciples hallucinated His resurrection. Kind of a mass PTSD episode or mass hysteria.However, what are the odds of everyone having the same hallucination, particularly about something that no one expected anyway?
Also, how does the hallucination theory explain the conversion of Saul of Tarsus, who was hardly traumatized by the death of Jesus?
- Some argue that Jesus didn’t really die, but only became unconscious on the cross and was later revived.Even if that were the case, Jesus would have been injured, bloody, hurt—and yet on the third day in which He appeared, He was supposedly the risen Christ, walking around unhindered, talking at full volume, etc.
Gary and Michael, authors of the book The Case for the Resurrection of Jesus, argue it out as follows:
“So if Jesus got off of the cross while he was still alive, the disciples would not have been convinced that he had risen from the dead since the sight of his body and his slow and careful movements would have clearly indicated that he was a horribly hurting man. Upon seeing a swooned Jesus who was limping, bleeding, pale, and stooped over in pain, Peter would not have responded, ‘Wow, I can’t wait to have a resurrection body just like that!’ Rather the disciples would have said, ‘Let’s get you a doctor. You need help!’”2
- And believe it or not, some believe that Jesus had a twin brother who took His place after He died, while others argued that aliens came and resurrected Jesus.
The mere existence of these theories shows that the evidence for His resurrection is so powerful that people have to resort to all sorts of far-fetched things to explain away the wonderful truth. This wonderful truth is that in the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus, we have the hope of eternity.
In Jesus, we have the opportunity to behold a perfect life and embrace it as our example for how we should and can live.
But beyond being the perfect example of how we should live, we see His sacrifice for us. The sacrifice that pays the ultimate price for our sins. Even the sins that we commit when we miss following His perfect example.
And finally, through His resurrection, He provides us with a chance to choose to follow Him. And while we follow Him, we can have the assurance and power to one day, through Him, overcome sin.
“For we died and were buried with Christ Jesus in baptism. And just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glorious power of the Father, now we also may live new lives.
Since we have been united with Him in His death, we will also be raised to life as He was.
We know that our old sinful selves were crucified with Christ so that sin might lose its power in our lives. We are no longer slaves to sin. For when we died with Christ we were set free from the power of sin.
And since we died with Christ, we know we will also live with Him” (Romans 6:4-8, NLT).
This is our ultimate hope, as we ponder the ultimate act of love anyone could ever do.
Jesus indeed paid it all, just as the words of the hymn express:
Jesus paid it all
All to Him I owe
Sin has left a crimson stain
He washed it white as snow3
 (Handbook of Seventh-day Adventist Theology, Review and Herald, 2000. p. 171.)
 (Gary R. Habermas; Michael Licona. The Case for the Resurrection of Jesus Kindle Locations 940-947. Kindle Edition.)
 Lyrics written by Elvina M. Hall
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