Who are Adventists?
The Seventh-day Adventist Church—“Adventists” for short—is a Christian denomination of ordinary people who seek to follow Jesus and live out His mission in this world. Established in 1863, we hold to the Protestant principle of sola scriptura, which means the Bible guides everything we do.
We are a global family with over 20 million members across 215 countries and territories. We have one of the largest healthcare systems in the world, as well as about 9,000 Adventist schools and universities.1
So maybe you’re hearing about Adventists for the first time.
You might have recently learned that your friend, neighbor or co-worker is an Adventist. Maybe a family member attended an Adventist event or church service. Maybe you drove past an Adventist school, college or hospital.
Whatever the case, you might be curious, and we get it. You want to better understand Adventists so that you know how to relate with us.
Don’t worry! You’ll find that we’re not that different from anyone else. We know what it’s like to experience real struggles—stressing over finances, dealing with tension in relationships, or trying to raise children in today’s world.
So let’s answer some questions you may have:
- How did the Adventist Church start?
- What does the name Seventh-day Adventist mean?
- What does it mean to be an Adventist?
- What makes Adventists different from others?
- How do Adventists live?
How did the Adventist Church start?
The Adventist Church started in the United States during the 1840s. It came after the Millerite Movement, which preached the imminent second coming of Jesus. In fact, they thought Jesus was supposed to come in 1844. When that didn’t happen, a group of believers began studying their Bibles again to see where they went wrong. The insights they discovered led them to eventually form the Adventist Church in 1863.
Bible students like Ellen and James White, Joseph Bates, Hiram Edson, and other former Millerites pored over the Scriptures. As they did so, they discovered new insights into its prophecies and the messages of the three angels in Revelation 14.
They saw these messages as God’s means to prepare the world for the Second Coming (Revelation 1:7; 14:14–16).
In short, those messages are:
- An announcement of the judgment and a call to glorify and worship the Creator (Revelation 14:6–7)
- A call to come out of religious confusion and unbiblical teaching (verse 8)
- A call to be loyal to the commandments of God and the faith of Jesus (verses 9–11)
This mission spurred the movement and caused it to grow, and in 1863 the General Conference of Seventh-day Adventists was officially organized in Battle Creek, Michigan.2 At that time, it had 3,500 members and 125 churches.
Today, with over 20 million members and 90,000 churches,3 it still remains committed to God’s Word and sharing the hope and inspiration of the three angels’ messages.
What does the name Seventh-day Adventist mean?
The name Seventh-day Adventist is divided into two parts—each with its own significance. It refers to our belief in the Seventh-day Sabbath and our expectation of the soon-coming of Jesus Christ.
Let’s look at each part more.
Seventh-day means we believe Saturday, the seventh day of the week, is God’s Sabbath. We believe in keeping the fourth commandment—as well as the other nine commandments—because God’s laws do not change. And we do this not to earn salvation but out of love for God; it’s sacred time that we get to spend with God and acknowledge Him as Creator.
Adventist shows that we await the second coming of Jesus—it’s the grand hope we’re living for. In Christian theology, the word advent means “coming” or “second coming of Christ.” If Christ were not coming again, we’d have no hope of escape from sin, suffering, and death. That’s why we keep His return as our focus.
What does it mean to be an Adventist?
Being Adventist, at its very core, is about loving Jesus and His Word, the Bible. In fact, Seventh-day Adventists are known as “people of the Book” because this book—the Bible—is the base for every one of the church’s 28 fundamental beliefs. They highlight how God is restoring our relationship with Him so we can experience the beautiful life He intended for us—now and forever.
Here’s an overview:
In the beginning of earth’s history, Adam and Eve doubted God’s character of love and chose to learn about what evil was (Genesis 3:1–6). This broke the relationship they had with Him, causing sin—selfishness—to enter our world.
Adventists believe that God sent Jesus to reveal the true character of God to the world and to heal the rift caused by sin. Through His life, death, and resurrection, we can be forgiven and freed from sin’s eternal consequences (1 Peter 2:21–25). He gives us eternal life (John 3:16).
We accept this gift of Jesus, believing we are saved by grace through faith (Ephesians 2:8–9). Though we can never do anything to earn that gift on our own strength, Jesus’ grace through the Holy Spirit empowers us to live out His love (Romans 8:3–5).
It all starts with knowing Jesus.
Adventists study both the Old Testament and New Testament because they reveal who Jesus is (John 5:39). We believe that the Holy Spirit inspired the Bible for the benefit and instruction of people across time and culture. Through its stories and teachings, we find overarching principles that guide us in living out our love for God (2 Timothy 3:16–17; 1 John 5:2–3).
As we recognize how much Jesus has done for us in saving us from our sins, our love for Him grows and becomes the motivating factor in our lives. It leads us to keep God’s commandments (John 14:15), which are simply the boundaries for healthy relationships with Him and one another (Matthew 22:37–40; Galatians 5:14).
Adventism boils down to knowing Jesus and living to glorify Him.
But you may be wondering:
What makes us unique from other Christian denominations?
What makes Adventists different from others?
As we’ve already seen, Adventists have many similar beliefs to other Protestant Christians—beliefs about the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus, salvation, the Godhead, the Holy Spirit, and the Bible’s importance, to name a few. But there are some differences too. Here are a few:
- A literal six-day creation
- Humans as holistic beings
- The seventh-day Sabbath
- Free will
- The sanctuary in heaven
- In-depth study of Bible prophecy
- Hell as nonexistence, rather than eternal torment
Let’s look at each one.
Literal six-day creation
Humans as holistic beings
God created human beings with an interconnected mind, body, and spirit. Genesis 2:7 says that God formed Adam’s body and then “breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living being” (NKJV).
The word for “being” is the same word translated “soul” in other versions. Instead of humans having souls that are separate from their bodies, the body and breath together make a soul.
This understanding of the soul shapes the way that we view death. When a person no longer has the breath of life, that person ceases to exist (Ezekiel 9:5–6) and rests in the grave (John 11:11–14, 43) until Jesus returns at the Second Coming.
When God finished Creation, the Bible says that He “blessed the seventh day and sanctified it” (Genesis 2:3, NKJV). Later, He repeats the Sabbath in the fourth commandment (Exodus 20:8–11) as a reminder of Creation and salvation (Deuteronomy 5:15).
Adventists keep the Sabbath out of their love for God and their desire to draw closer to Him. By faith, they rest one day a week, just as they rest in God’s saving power each day.
The freedom to choose whether to serve God is a vital part of Adventist beliefs. God has always provided this freedom, starting with the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil in the Garden of Eden (Genesis 2:16–17).
Why is it so important?
As a relational God (1 John 4:7–8), He longs for a real relationship with His creations, based on love and willing service. This is not possible without freedom of choice. People can choose to follow Him, and they can choose to walk away from Him.
This belief fuels our relationship with God and our emphasis on religious liberty.
The heavenly sanctuary
The Old Testament sanctuary is like a roadmap for salvation, showing how God is restoring His relationship with us (Exodus 25:8). It reflects the heavenly sanctuary or temple—which is God’s very throne room in heaven. Each of the symbols points to Jesus Christ’s sacrifice, as well as what He is currently doing in heaven (Hebrews 8:1–6; 9:11–12).
Study of Bible prophecy
The study of Bible prophecy, particularly the books of Daniel and Revelation, has been part of Adventism since its beginnings. We believe that the Bible’s prophecies can be understood (Daniel 12:9; Revelation 1:3) and that studying them helps us see the big picture of our world and Jesus’ plan to restore it.
We also see the Adventist Church as being part of the remnant church in Bible prophecy as mentioned in Revelation 12:17:
“And the dragon was enraged with the woman, and he went to make war with the rest of her offspring, who keep the commandments of God and have the testimony of Jesus Christ” (NKJV).
The word remnant refers to a small remaining quantity of something, and this passage describes a small remaining group of people that will keep the commandments of God and have the testimony of Jesus Christ.
Hell as nonexistence, not eternal torment
We believe that eternal torment in hellfire is not consistent with the character of God and His desire for us to have freedom of choice. What’s more, Scripture tells us that only those who choose Christ will receive eternal life.5
Before God re-creates the earth, it will temporarily become a lake of fire in which sin and those who choose to hold onto it will be permanently destroyed—known as “the second death.” Death, sickness, sadness, and evil will vanish away too (Revelation 20:14–15; 21:1).
These differences are a brief summary of what Adventists believe. To learn more, check out our fundamental beliefs.
How do Adventists live?
The Adventist lifestyle is simple, allowing us to focus on our mission to help others. Instead of prescribing specific behaviors, we allow the Bible’s principles and our love for Jesus to guide every part of our lives:
- Personal spirituality
- Church involvement
- Sabbath keeping
- How we appear to others
- Health decisions
- Serving others
Because we don’t look that different from other people, you may already know an Adventist and not even realize it!
But here are some principles we try to live by.
Personal spirituality and fostering a faith community
Church community and worship are also important to us (Hebrews 10:24–25). Most Adventists attend church services and Sabbath School (the equivalent of Sunday School) weekly, while some go to midweek small groups or prayer meetings too.
Speaking of Sabbath, how do Adventists keep Sabbath?
Sabbath starts at sundown on Friday evening and continues to sundown Saturday (Leviticus 23:32). During this time, we set aside secular work and avoid conducting business. Often, we welcome the Sabbath with a time of worship that we call “vespers.”
Though convictions about Sabbath activities vary, Adventists agree that it is a day to focus on God and people. After all, it’s a day God originally set aside to stop and enjoy Creation. So we seek to do the same.
After church service, families might take walks or go on hikes, sing for nursing home residents, serve food at a homeless shelter, or other activities that serve others or that allow intentional enjoyment of nature.
How we appear to others
When it comes to clothing choices, we encourage modesty and simplicity (1 Peter 3:3–4), so that the focus is on character and not just getting noticed by what we wear. But because we see clothing as a matter of conscience between each individual and God, we don’t wear any special clothing or religious jewelry.
Stewardship of time and money
We believe in being good stewards of what God has given us. Thus, we use our time and money in ways that honor God (1 Corinthians 10:31) and reveal Jesus.
We also desire to be good stewards of our bodies (1 Corinthians 6:19–20). Let’s look at that next.
You may have heard that Adventists live an average of seven to ten years longer than the general population because of their lifestyle.
What’s the secret?
We take a holistic approach to health, using nature’s simple means for optimal physical, mental, and spiritual health.
For one, we completely avoid alcohol, smoking, and unclean meats (Leviticus 11).
In fact, because of our health practices, researchers at Loma Linda University began the Adventist Health Study, which has become well-known in research circles.
But health benefits aside, the Adventist lifestyle flows from our desire to be close to Jesus and honor Him. It helps us fulfill our mission and experience a better life here on this earth.
Adventists are people who love to serve others. We do this on a local level through simple activities, such as helping someone in the community with yard work or delivering holiday meals to people in need. Some churches also run food and clothing banks.
On a global scale, Adventists operate an agency called ADRA (Adventist Development and Relief Agency) that assists people who have been in disasters both overseas and in the U.S.
Thus, on a small and large scale, we’re all about allowing God to use us to care for the people around us.
Adventists look to Jesus and His Word.
Started by a group of believers who prioritized the study of the Bible, the Adventist Church has upheld this legacy. Its members and church leaders continue to seek Jesus through His Word.
Yes, we struggle; but we’re always looking to be more like Him and help others know Him.
Because we are a global movement, the Adventist lifestyle doesn’t look the same for everyone. Instead, each member follows the Holy Spirit in applying the Bible’s principles.
But one thing is constant:
The importance of the Bible and God’s mission to restore us through Jesus Christ. This shapes each one of Adventism’s fundamental beliefs.
And it shapes our lives too.
- “Seventh-day Adventist World Church Statistics 2020,” Seventh-day Adventist Church, adventist.org. [↵]
- Maxwell, C. Mervyn, Tell It to the World, (Pacific Press, Nampa, ID, 1977), p 145. [↵]
- “Seventh-day Adventist World Church Statistics 2020,” Seventh-day Adventist Church, adventist.org. [↵]
- Genesis 1:5, 8, 13, 19, 23, 31 (ESV) [↵]
- Romans 6:23; John 17:3; Matthew 19:16-22, 29; John 3:16, 36; 6:40, 47; Romans 5:21; 1 John 3:15; 5:11; Jude 1:21 [↵]
Questions about Adventists? Ask here!
Find answers to your questions about Seventh-day Adventists
What Do Adventists Offer for Young Adults?In recent years, the age group often classified as “young adults” has been trickier to engage. It’s been a significant concern for Christian churches around the world. Though interestingly enough, similar observations...
Do I Need to be an Adventist to be Saved? The answer to this question is simply, “no.” When it comes to salvation in Jesus Christ, all that is required of a person is to acknowledge Jesus’ sacrifice for us, believe that He has saved us, and claim the free gift of...
Do You Have to be Vegetarian to be Adventist?Of course not. Membership in the Seventh-day Adventist Church has never included any dietary requirements. However, there might be some reasons people might think that. So many Adventists are vegetarians or even vegan, and...
All About Seventh-day Adventist ColporteursThe Seventh-day Adventist Church uses a variety of methods to spread the hope of the gospel to the world. One of these ways is through colporteuring, also called “canvassing” or “literature evangelism.” As you can probably...
What is an Adventist Book Center (ABC)? When you walk into any one of the many Adventist Book Center (ABC) locations, chances are you’ll be greeted by pleasant gospel music in the background, friendly employees, and row after row of Christian books, movies, Bibles,...
Do Seventh-day Adventists Celebrate Holidays? Wondering whether your Adventist classmate or coworker keeps the same holidays you do? Perhaps you want to include them in some festivities, but you also want to respect their beliefs. Thus, you’re unsure of how to...
The Adventist Haystack (It’s Not What You Think) + 4 Recipes If you’ve ever heard Seventh-day Adventists mention “haystacks,” they’re probably not talking about literal stacks of hay.Haystacks are basically a taco salad—with an Adventist spin on it! Most versions are...
Do Seventh-day Adventists Believe in Medical Care? Adventists talk a lot about health principles and disease prevention. But how do we handle sickness and medical needs when they inevitably come along? The Seventh-day Adventist Church believes in and supports...
Why do Adventists Emphasize Religious Liberty?Adventists see religious liberty as an essential human right. After all, God endowed humanity with freedom of choice from the very beginning. So we believe it’s best for governments to also support their citizens’ rights...
All about Adventist Elementary SchoolsThe Seventh-day Adventist Church operates the largest Protestant education system in the world. A big part of this system is our K-8 elementary schools, or primary schools, as they’re known in other parts of the world. Here you...
What are Pathfinder / Adventurer Clubs?Like the boy or girl scouts, Pathfinders and Adventurers learn about nature and life skills. But what makes these clubs special is their purpose to bring young people closer to Jesus. If you’ve wondered about Pathfinder or...
13th Sabbath Offering: What It Is and Why It MattersThe Seventh-day Adventist Church has emphasized service and mission work from its earliest days. That’s why there’s a collective “offering calendar” most Adventist congregations follow to support these efforts. Each...
A Look at Adventist Colleges and Universities On the outside, Seventh-day Adventist universities may not look much different than other college campuses. But the real differences are beneath the surface. Adventist Universities are all about helping each student have a...
What is ASI? (Adventist-laymen’s Services and Industries) ASI, which stands for Adventist-laymen’s Services and Industries, is a membership-based organization that provides support for Seventh-day Adventist laypeople (Adventist professionals who aren’t pastors). The...
What are Adventist Evangelistic Meetings? The Seventh-day Adventist Church puts a huge emphasis on sharing the gospel through evangelism, or sharing the gospel through preaching, teaching, and testimony. One of the ways we accomplish this is by organizing public...
Christian Summer Camps—A Cherished Adventist Ministry School’s out, the sun’s shining, and your kids are thrilled to have the summer ahead of them. Then three days in, you hear, “I’m bored…” What’s something kids can do that’s fun and active, but also wholesome and...
Do Adventists Have Their Own Bible? Adventists have some unique beliefs—you might be able to name some of them right now. The seventh-day Sabbath. Death as a sleep. Hell as nonexistence. Where do they get these teachings from? Do they use their own version of the...
What is Vespers? Friday rolls around, and you’re spending time with your Adventist friends or relatives when they mention they’re going to vespers tonight. They said the word so nonchalantly. Maybe that made you feel like you should know what it means. Maybe that’s...
Church Leaders: What is the Role of an Adventist Pastor? What is the role of a pastor in the Adventist Church? The position itself, at least as far as a local congregation is concerned, is not much different from that of pastors in other protestant denominations. An...
The Leadership Structure of the Adventist Church The Seventh-day Adventist Church has a representative form of structure that connects its 90,000-plus congregations across the globe and gives its members a part in decision-making. Though the Church was incorporated in...
Everything You Need to Know About Sabbath Meals For Seventh-day Adventists, sharing a Sabbath meal with friends and family is one of the most special and memorable parts of the Sabbath. That’s why we want to share with you all about Sabbath meals and why they’re such...
What to Expect When You Go to an Adventist Church If you’re attending an Adventist church for the first time, you may wonder what it’s really like. While each Adventist church is unique in its collective personality and local culture, Adventist church services are...
What is the Adventist Education System? Seventh-day Adventists have historically upheld the importance of a well-rounded, high-quality education. Instead of a one-size-fits-all approach to teaching and learning, the Adventist Education system operates on the...
All About Adventist Evangelism Evangelism is simply sharing the truths of the Bible with someone else. And Adventists are all into it.This post will show you why Adventists take evangelism so seriously. It also covers the role that evangelism played in the formation...
Adventist Potlucks: Where Food and Friendship Meet One of the best parts about getting together with a church family on Sabbath is the fellowship we can experience. The word “fellowship” may not be used very often in everyday conversation, but it has special meaning...
The Seventh-day Adventist Hymnal The Seventh-day Adventist Hymnal is a songbook used worldwide by many Adventist congregations during their worship services. Since its publication in 1985, it has helped foster praise to God while reminding church members of our...
Everything You Need to Know About Sabbath School Sabbath School is the Bible study component of the church program at most Seventh-day Adventist Churches. It’s a time of Bible study on a specific topic or lesson. Instead of listening to a preacher, people interact...
What Are Adventist Sermons Like? In nearly every Seventh-day Adventist Church, the sermon is the focal point of the main service—similar to many Protestant Christian denominations. It is a time of biblical instruction by the pastor, who shares what they’ve been...
How Do Adventists Choose What to Eat? Every day, parents go through the ritual of getting their kids to eat what is healthy and good while trying to steer them away from what can hinder the growth of their developing bodies. Nutritionists work with their clients to...
Didn’t find your answer? Ask us!
We understand your concern of having questions but not knowing who to ask—we’ve felt it ourselves. When you’re ready to learn more about Adventists, send us a question! We know a thing or two about Adventists.