What Does “Adventist” Mean? 

Seventh-day Adventists are a Protestant Christian denomination who hold to the biblical seventh-day Sabbath. From this belief, they get the first part of their name.

But how about the second part—”Adventist”?

“Adventist” refers to a group of people who believe in the literal arrival of Christ to earth. Seventh-day Adventists adopted the name because it points to their roots as a movement and encapsulates their ultimate hope in this life—being reunited with Jesus Christ when He returns to take us to heaven.

We’ll give you some more details as we answer:

What is the root meaning of “Adventist”?

A manger with a crown to represent Jesus' first adventThe term “Adventist” comes from the Latin word adventus, which means “arrival” or “appearance.” It’s where we get the word advent, referring to the arrival of someone or something important. An Adventist is someone waiting for the arrival of Christ for the second time.

You may have heard Christians talk about the Advent season—the few weeks before Christmas when we celebrate the first coming of Christ. “It is intended as a season of devotion.” 1

Advent is not just about Jesus’ first coming. It also applies to His second coming, especially when the word second is placed in front of advent.

Where did the term “Adventist” come from?

The Bible book of Daniel, which led William Miller to conclude that Jesus would return in 1844The term “Adventist” originated in the early to mid-1800s from a religious awakening in the United States known as the Millerite Movement. Through studying the Word of God, people in this movement, including its founder William Miller, believed that Jesus was going to return soon in a literal manner prior to the millennium (the 1,000-year period mentioned in Revelation 20). This belief earned them the name Adventist.

The Millerites had concluded, based on a prophecy in Daniel 8:14, that Jesus would come in 1844. When He didn’t, some Millerites formed denominations that continued to study Scripture for more guidance.

The ones that still exist today include:

  • Seventh-day Adventists
  • Christadelphians
  • The Advent Christian Church
  • The Church of God (Seventh Day)

Today, other Christian denominations fall into the category of Adventist because they also anticipate the soon return of Jesus prior to the millennium 2 :

  • The Church of God and Saints of Christ
  • The Church of God General Conference
  • Grace Communion International
  • The Philadelphia Church of God
  • The United Church of God

But we want to zoom in on why Seventh-day Adventists chose to include “Adventist” in their name.

Why was “Adventist” chosen for the Seventh-day Adventist denomination’s name?

A rainbow arching over a field with sheep, illustrative of the new earth when Jesus comes againComing out of the Millerite Movement, those who formed the Seventh-day Adventist Church still held onto their belief in the soon coming of Christ. Thus, our name points back to our origins and forward to our continued hope. The Second Coming is the climax of our faith.

Sin separated humans from God and caused them to lose the beautiful Garden of Eden. It plunged us into a world where good and evil are at war with one another and the devil is wreaking havoc and causing suffering.

But when Jesus returns, He will put an end to sin and live with His people forever in an Eden-like paradise (2 Peter 3:10–13; Revelation 21:1–4).

The Bible helps us to see that this event is not far off in the future. Instead, Jesus gave signs to indicate that it is very near. We are living in the final days of earth’s history!

This belief was in mind when in 1860, 25 church leaders gathered in Battle Creek, Michigan, to decide on the church’s name. Before this point, other names had been suggested, such as “Church of God.” But the leaders wanted something that would express our beliefs without being a turn-off to others. 3

Credit for suggesting “Seventh-day Adventist” goes to David Hewitt, the first Seventh-day Adventist in Battle Creek and a leader in the church. 4

It was accepted nearly unanimously because it “set forth [their] faith in the near coming of Christ, but would also show that [they] were observers of the seventh-day Sabbath.”

Ellen White, one of the church’s co-founders, put it this way:

“The name, Seventh-day Adventist, carries the true features of our faith in front.” 5

But please note:

This name was never meant to create a sense of exclusivity. Adventists believe that there are true Christians in many different denominations. Our name simply expresses our belief that Jesus is coming soon to end the war between good and evil.A woman looking up with a white cross behind her as she remembers the blessed hope of Jesus' second advent

“Adventist” reminds us of our blessed hope.

The name “Adventist” identifies a group of people who love Jesus and expectantly wait for the Second Coming, as promised in the Word of God. Instead of keeping it to ourselves, we want to share the “blessed hope” with others and help them to be ready for this exciting event (Titus 2:13, ESV).

Thus, our name—instead of separating us from other people—drives our mission to reach out and bless others with the good news that Jesus is coming to redeem us.

 

  1. “Advent,” Webster’s 1828 Dictionary  []
  2. Listed in the Handbook of Denominations in the United States by Roger E. Olson. []
  3. Oliver, Barry, “Denominational Organization, 1860–1863,” Encyclopedia of Seventh-day Adventists, April 28, 2021.  []
  4. Gomide, Samuel, “Hewitt, David (1805–1878),” Encyclopedia of Seventh-day Adventists, April 28, 2021.  []
  5. White, Ellen, Spiritual Gifts, vol. 4b (Seventh-day Adventist Publishing Association, Battle Creek, MI, 1864), p. 54. []

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