The History of the Seventh-day Adventist Church

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Modern Seventh-day Adventism traces its origins back to the early 1800's to Mr. William Miller (1782-1849) of Low Hampton, New York.  Mr. Miller had converted from deism to Christianity in 1816 and became a Baptist.  He was an avid reader, dedicated to God's word, and sought to reconcile apparent biblical difficulties raised by deists.  He relied heavily on the Cruden's Concordance in his studies and developed a focus on the imminent return of Jesus.  He began preaching at the age of 50.

The time was right.  America was hot with discussions on the return of Christ.  As a result, many thousands (called Millerites) accepted his idea that Jesus would return in the year covering 1843-1844.  He had arrived at this date based upon a study of Daniel 8:14 which says, "And he said to me, "For 2,300 evenings and mornings; then the holy place will be properly restored."  He interpreted the 2300 evenings and mornings to be years and counted forward from 457 BC when the commandment to rebuild Jerusalem was given (Dan. 9:24-25).1 When his initial predictions failed, he adjusted his findings to conclude that Jesus would return on March 21, 1844, and then later on October 22, 1844.  After these too failed, Miller quit promoting his ideas on Jesus' return and the "Millerites" broke up.

On the morning following the "Great Disappointment" of October 22, 1844, a Mr. Hiram Edson claimed to have seen a vision.  He said that he saw Jesus standing at the altar of heaven and concluded that Miller had been right about the time, but wrong about the place.  In other words, Jesus' return was not to earth, but a move into the heavenly sanctuary as is referenced in Heb. 8:1-2.

Mr. Joseph Bates (1792-1872), a retired sea captain and a convert to "Millerism" then began to promote the idea of Jesus moving into the heavenly sanctuary.  He published a pamphlet which greatly influenced James (1821-1881) and Ellen White (1827-1915).  It is these three who were the driving force behind the SDA movement.

Numerous reports state that Ellen G. White (1827-1915) saw visions from an early age.  Such was the case shortly after the Great Disappointment.  Mrs. White claimed to see in a vision of a narrow path where an angel was guiding Adventists.  Subsequent visions resulted in interpretations of the three angels in Rev. 14:6-11 as being 1843-1844 as the hour of God's judgment; the fall of Babylon signified by Adventists leaving various churches, and admonitions against Sunday worship.

  • 1849 - First paper, the Present Truth, was printed in Middletown, Conn.
  • 1850 - First issue of the Second Advent Review and Sabbath Herald, printed in
    Paris, Maine.
  • 1860 - Name of Seventh-day Adventist adopted by the church.
  • 1863 - First General Conference and formation of the SDA church on May 21, 1863.
  • 1871 - First college opened which became Andrews University.
  • 1871 - J. N. Andrews sent to Switzerland as a missionary.
  • 1885 - Missionary work begun in Australia.
  • 1915 - Ellen G. White dies on July 16, at St. Helena, CA.
  • 1941 - Opening of Theological Seminary at Takoma Park.
  • 1942 - Voice of Prophecy radio show begins broadcasting coast to coast.
  • 1950 - Faith for Today TV show begins.
  • 1955 - SDA membership hits 1 million.
  • 1986 - SDA membership hits 5 million.2

Today, the SDA church is very evangelical with mission efforts worldwide, numerous publications, and many educational facilities.  It claims over 8 million members worldwide and is growing rapidly with its educational, TV, Radio, and publication based outreaches.3




  • 1. Martin, Walter, Kingdom of the Cults, Minneapolis: Bethany House Publishers, 1977.
  • 2. Mayer, F.E., Religious Bodies in America, 4th ed., St. Louis: Concordia Publishing House, 1961, p. 439.
  • 3. Jordan, Anne Devereaux, The Seventh Day Adventists: A History, New York: Hippocrene Books, 1988.

About The Author

Matt Slick is the President and Founder of the Christian Apologetics and Research Ministry.