Seventh-Day Adventists/PILLARS OF OUR FAITH



Thank you for your question about the Fundamentals, and why the SDA's no longer promote them.  

All SDA theology is based on the history and theology of the Three Angels Messages in Rev 14.  These prophetic passages, also known as the "Adventist Apocalyptic" is what defines, guides, and empowers this Protestant based religious Movement.  Without this eschatology, the SDA's make no sense nor is there any reason for them to exist.

William Miller developed the first message in 1818 while the Millerite Movement, without the support of Miller, later developed the 2nd Message.  Miller never wanted to start a new denomination, nor did he support the preaching of a specific date for the Second Coming, which was articulated by others.  But the Advent Movement had taken on a life of its own and so too the unfolding prophetic paradigm that he started.

As the first two messages closed, a 3rd message was discovered and launched in 1847 and it is this phase that represents the SDA denomination. They annexed the first two Millerite messages (that were in the past) to their present proclamation of the doctrines located in the 3rd Angels Message.  Thus they claimed the eschatology of the Three Angels Messages as their fundamental guide to prepare the church for the Second Coming.  This is what they were all about--the Three Angels Messages and the end of the world.  

Below are the Three Angels from Revelation 14.

The 1st Angels Message:

Rev. 14:6  And I saw another angel flying in midheaven, having an eternal gospel to preach to those who live on the earth, and to every nation and tribe and tongue and people;

Rev. 14:7 and he said with a loud voice, “Fear God, and give Him glory, because the hour of His judgment has come; worship Him who made the heaven and the earth and sea and springs of waters.”

The 2nd Angels Message:

Rev. 14:8  And another angel, a second one, followed, saying, “Fallen, fallen is Babylon the great, she who has made all the nations drink of the wine of the passion of her immorality.”

The 3rd Angels Message:

Rev. 14:9  Then another angel, a third one, followed them, saying with a loud voice, “If anyone worships the beast and his image, and receives a mark on his forehead or on his hand,

Rev. 14:10 he also will drink of the wine of the wrath of God, which is mixed in full strength in the cup of His anger; and he will be tormented with fire and brimstone in the presence of the holy angels and in the presence of the Lamb.

Rev. 14:11 “And the smoke of their torment goes up forever and ever; they have no rest day and night, those who worship the beast and his image, and whoever receives the mark of his name.”

Rev. 14:12 Here is the perseverance of the saints who keep the commandments of God and their faith in Jesus.

Ellen White and the Three Angels Messages:

Listen to Ellen White, one of the SDA founders, speak about the importance of the Three Angels Messages for SDA's.

"I saw a company who stood well guarded and firm, giving no countenance to those who would unsettle the established faith of the body. God looked upon them with approbation. I was shown three steps-- the first, second, and third angels' messages. Said my accompanying angel, "Woe to him who shall move a block or stir a pin of these messages. The true understanding of these messages is of vital importance."

(Early Writings of Ellen G. White, page 258, paragraph 3, Chapter Title: Spiritual Gifts A Firm Platform.)

"The proclamation of the first, second, and third angels' messages has been located by the Word of Inspiration. Not a peg or pin is to be removed. No human authority has any more right to change the location of these messages than to substitute the New Testament for the Old. " {2SM 104.2}

"The first and second messages were given in 1843 and 1844, and we are now under the proclamation of the third; but all three of the messages are still to be proclaimed. It is just as essential now as ever before that they shall be repeated to those who are seeking for the truth. By pen and voice we are to sound the proclamation, showing their order, and the application of the prophecies that bring us to the third angel's message. There cannot be a third without the first and second. These messages we are to give to the world in publications, in discourses, showing in the line of prophetic history the things that have been and the things that will be." {2SM 104.3}

The Doctrines of the Three Angels Messages:

In addition to holding many standard Protestant positions, the SDA's have embraced the Three Angels messages, which are associated with a number of doctrinal Pillars.  This remarkable paradigm has changed the eschatological platform for the modern Protestant church.   Which is why all denominations today embrace the pre-millennial and literal Second Coming of Christ instead of a thousand years of peace and prosperity that was taught back in the early 19th century.  

This major revision about how the world will end is the result of William Miler's discovery, (in 1818), and proclamation, (1839-44), of the 1st Angels Message.  Although Miller's theology was incorrectly repudiated by every denomination in the 1840's, things have changed dramatically because now all denominations embrace what they once condemned.  

So the Advent Movement has had a major impact on Protestant theology, even though few know or acknowledge this fact today.  Thus Miller's fundamental teaching is normative for the entire church today.

No other modern denomination has anything like this living prophetic history that contains seven fundamental doctrines, including the Gospel as the # 1 pillar and the Second Coming as the Day of Judgment, the # 2 pillar.  These twin doctrinal pillars represent the 1st Angels message. They are normative Christian doctrines, even as they form the foundation of the Advent Movement.

Those two great truths in the 1st Angels Message are followed by the 2nd Angels Message, which features the doctrine of separation from the world in order to escape the direct impact of the last Judgment. This is the #3 pillar within the Adventist Apocalyptic.  This too is standard Christian doctrine, which is why the church was formed, to separate from the world. So this is not really new, but a re-emphasis of New Testament teaching.

The truth about the non-immortality of the soul, pillar # 4, is also part of the early teaching from Historic Adventism. And while this may seem at odds with the majority of Protestants, it nonetheless represents the truth that immortality is only possible through Christ.  This doctrine supports the teaching of the resurrection and thus it is a very important part of the Adventist eschatological model.

After the close of the 2nd Message, on October 23, 1844, there was a new doctrinal pillar immediately added to the unfolding paradigm.  This 5th Pillar was focused on the Heavenly Sanctuary.   It corrected Miller's obvious error about Dan 8:14 where he taught that the earth was the sanctuary to be burned with fire at the Second Coming.

This major correction allowed the SDA Pioneers to go forward within the paradigm and discover the 3rd Angels Message, (in 1847), which featured the Seventh-day Sabbath and the 10 Commandment Law of God.   Thus the Sabbath was the 6th Pillar within the Adventist Apocalyptic.  

Unfortunately, this 5th pillar about the heavenly Sanctuary was soon revised by the Battle Creek SDA's, and then changed again by the 20th century SDA's without any permission from their founders.  And it is this major error that has confused and disoriented the contemporary Advent Movement, causing Millions to leave the SDA church in the late 20th century.  

While the original 5th Pillar is normative NT doctrine, except for the date of 1844, which is wrong, other revisions occurred later that changed this early sanctuary doctrine into something very different from its original meaning and intent.  And this became a major factor for the 20th century SDA's that is yet to be resolved.

However, in the 19th century, the SDA's proclaimed the Sabbath as their primary doctrine.  This was the 6th Pillar within the Three Angels Messages.  This is what the SDA's promoted more than any other doctrine.  In fact, it was viewed as their passion and their mission.  They called it Sabbath Reform.   They taught that this was the final doctrinal correction for the church prior to the Second Coming.

Although the vast majority of Christians believe that Sunday is the New Covenant Sabbath, the SDA's have correctly insisted that this is a theological error from the post apostolic Fathers and the Roman Catholic Church.   They viewed it as their duty to correct this error about the Sabbath and Law of God, and they took it very seriously.

However, many think that the Seventh-day Sabbath represents legalism, and the SDA's are indeed guilty of presenting it as such.  Like the Jews, who were the first Sabbatarians and legalists, the SDA's also became obsessed with the Law, and thus they misunderstood the Gospel and the Judgment, which is part of this chief doctrine of the church.

The 7th and last Pillar is Health Reform. This doctrine is about healing, which played a large part of Jesus ministry on earth.   The SDA founders went to a great deal of trouble to set up a holistic formula for the preservation of health.  They were so successful with their health institutions that the Battle Creek Sanitarium, run by John Harvey Kellogg, the inventor of Kellogg's Corn Flakes, became world famous.  

However, the SDA's no longer have credible Health Message, nor do they follow the principles of health as they previously did.  They have no natural health institutions of any consequence nor do they play any credible role in the Health Movement today.

So while the modern SDA's can look back with some pride about their 19th century accomplishments, which includes changing the eschatological platform for all denominations, and the invention of the Cereal Industry, they have no such accomplishments today.  Instead, they are confused, disoriented, and angry, which is why MILLIONS have left the church and why many continue to leave.

Confusion About the 1st Angels Message:

Today, many SDA's have lost sight of their own history, having been confused and misled by generations of tradition and propaganda from their incompetent leaders.  Consequently, they no longer understand the Protestant Gospel or the correct Judgment that resides in the 1st Angels Message.

These points about the 1st Angels Message were debated in 1980 at Glacier View.  This is where the SDA leaders made the tragic mistake of insisting that the Investigative Judgment is part of the 1st Angels Message, even as sanctification is part of the Gospel.   But none of this was true.   Dr. Ford was correctly standing up for the original version of the Three Angels.  But it did not matter.   He was exiled by the leaders who had misunderstood the Adventist Apocalyptic, even as they rejected the Gospel and the correct Judgment from Historic Adventism.

Listen to Ellen White correctly define the correct Judgment in the 1st Angels Message.  Note that the IJ is not even mentioned:

"To William Miller and his colaborers it was given to preach the warning in America. This country became the center of the great advent movement. It was here that the prophecy of the first angel's message had its most direct fulfillment."

"The writings of Miller and his associates were carried to distant lands. Wherever missionaries had penetrated in all the world, were sent the glad tidings of Christ's speedy return. Far and wide spread the message of the everlasting gospel: "Fear God, and give glory to Him; for the hour of His judgment is come."

(The Great Controversy, page 368, par. 1, Chapter Title: A Great Religious Awakening.  1888)

Although the White Estate and the Review claimed that the Investigative Judgment was a part of the # 2 Pillar (that is located in the 1st Angels message), they were not telling the truth. She never said that, and neither did any other 19th century SDA.  But yet this is what the SDA's still teach today.

In fact, all the SDA's had to do to understand this fact is listen to Uriah Smith, the man most responsible for all the legalism that has cursed the SDA's. He was the most published on the topic of the IJ, and no one knew it better than him. Where did he place the IJ and with what Message did he "synchronize" it?   The 1st, 2nd, or the 3rd?

"That the time of the cleansing of the sanctuary, synchronizing with the time of the proclamation of the third message (Rev. 14: 9, 10), is a time of investigative judgment, first, with reference to the dead, and secondly, at the close of probation, with reference to the living, to determine who of the myriads now sleeping in the dust of the earth are worthy of a part in the first resurrection, and who of its living multitudes are worthy of translation, - points which must be determined before the Lord appears."

(Battle Creek Fundamentals # 21).

Uriah Smith never claimed that the IJ was located in the 1st Angels Message, and neither did Ellen White, but yet this is what Traditional Adventism teaches and what Glacier View made official in 1980.   But not one 19th century SDA ever taught such a thing. It was the invention of the legalistic and deceptive Takoma Park leaders.  And the Denomination has yet to repent and set the record straight.

The IJ was never WHAT the modern leaders said it was, nor WHERE the leaders said it was. They have deceived the entire Adventist Community for generations about the doctrinal contents of the 1st Angels Message as well as Ellen Whites view of eschatology.  Thus the SDA church in the late 20th century was sent into a great schism to protect myth and false doctrine.  

The modern SDA leaders scrambled the Three Angels Messages into such useless confusion and legalism that unity was impossible, and so too any credibility.   The promotion of so much false doctrine and dubious church history caused so much debate that few within the church wanted to promote the Adventist Apocalyptic.  It only caused problems.

So after Glacier View, the leaders invented a policy called "pluralism," which essentially allowed many different versions of the Three Angels Messages to circulate within the church.  More than that, in an attempt to stop all debate about the fundamentals, the leaders cleverly developed their own version of the Three Angels Messages by inventing a new and less controversial paradigm called the "Three Core Values."  

By this sleight of hand the leaders were trying to shift modern Adventism away from its original theology, which had become too controversial, and reposition it with a public relations gimmick that was designed to unite the church about its modern mission and purpose.  

Listen to this new theological emphasis that was meant to guide the 21st century SDA church.  The Pioneers would have been outraged at such a stunt that essentially represents the subordination and repudiation of the very fundamentals that brought the SDA's into existence.  

"Growth, Unity and Quality of Life have been identified as three core values of the Seventh-day Adventist Church. These values represent the essence of Adventist mission, and they shape the way this rapidly growing world church community makes decisions, uses its resources, and sets priorities."

As the leaders backed further away from the Three Angels Messages, the Conservatives pushed hard for the IJ and their false version of the Adventist Apocalyptic.  This resulted in the Conservatives being marginalized by the hierarchy, even as the denomination backed even further away from promoting the Three Angels Messages.

Thus the 20th century ended for SDA's with no agreement about the definition of the Three Angels Messages.  There is no consensus about either theology or church history, and thus the Adventist Community is still horribly confused and divided about most every issue possible, especially the Gospel and the Judgment.   

The Three Core Values did not work, and the church has once again entered into a public discussion about the meaning and purpose of the Three Angels Messages, even though the leaders forbid such activity.  Consequently, the SDA's are the most confused and disoriented Protestant church in the world.  They do not understand the Bible or their own history, even as their leaders have been exposed as being most dishonest and incompetent.

This is where things stand today.   And this is why the SDA's no longer promote or feature the Three Angels Messages.   They no longer know what this paradigm means or why the Advent Movement exists.

It has been a great mistake for the SDA's to misunderstand and then repudiate the Three Angels Messages.  This eschatology is what defines and empowers them.  But this is no longer the case; the SDA church is self-destructing for all to see.   Little makes sense and most all their doctrines are wrong.

But even so, the logo on the outside of most all SDA churches still show the Three Angels in flight.  In fact, even the flames on the new Denominational logo have three components on each flame, which are meant to represent the Three Angels Messages.  So perhaps there is still hope for this unique Protestant denomination?  If only they will be honest about Historic Adventism, the Three Angels Messages, and the Scriptures.

If only the SDA's would correctly understand their own eschatology, they could do great things.   But so far their leaders are content to ignore the very doctrines that gave them life.  Which explains why the SDA's no longer have anything credible to say to anyone about doctrine or eschatology.  They are too confused, dishonest, and full of tradition to help others.

But the record is clear. The IJ does NOT "synchronize" with the 1st Angels Message, as the SDA church claims.   Therefore, the SDA's have been caught pretending that the IJ is a fundamental Adventist doctrine in the 1st Message when it was never there.  The IJ is not a fundamental Pillar from Historic Adventism as claimed. Rather it is a Fundamental error that has led the modern Adventist Movement into great schism and self-destruction.

Ellen White only endorsed the 5th Pillar from 1844, known as the "Cleansing of the Heavenly Sanctuary. " This is a very different doctrine, in a different location from the IJ.  The IJ would not be invented until the late 1850's, after all Three Angels Messages had been established.  Even then, it was not fully developed until the late 19th century, (1877) when Smith wrote the book about it. And in this largest book in the world about the IJ, he connected and "synchronized" the IJ with the 3rd Angels Message, not with the 1st as Glacier View claimed.

Such are the irrefutable facts of history.

Because Ellen White has so many people that accept what she says as authoritative, the Adventist Community deserves to know the truth about her eschatological views.   Ellen White never said, or thought, that the correct Sanctuary Doctrine (the 5th pillar) was supposed to be revised into the IJ and then relocated back to the # 2 location within the Adventist Apocalyptic. In order for this to work, Miller's # 2 Judgment Pillar about the Second Coming would have to be displaced. But this is not possible, nor did the Pioneers ever take such a position.

So it would be unthinkable for Ellen White or Smith, or any of the Pioneers to support Traditional Adventism.   Arthur White and others have so confused and misled this church about the Three Angels Messages that it is virtually impossible for anyone to properly comprehend Ellen White's true definition of the Fundamentals without much study. This is an outrageous situation that must be openly and honestly addressed by the Adventist Community.  It will require a massive re-education about Ellen White to correct this crisis.

All need to understand that when corrections were made about Miller's sanctuary error after Oct 22, 1844, they were NOT made to the former Pillars that reside in the previous two messages; rather the post disappointment correction about the earthly sanctuary BECAME the # 5 Pillar about the Heavenly Sanctuary. And it was this # 5 Pillar that allowed for more eschatological development to continue.  

What resulted was the discovery of the THIRD ANGELS MESSAGE, with its two primary doctrines about the Sabbath and Health Reform.  But even so, there is no pillar called the IJ.  This is nothing more than an SDA myth and propaganda.

The Three Angels Messages Not to be Changed:

When Ellen White says that no one is to change these messages, including their doctrinal contents and location within prophecy, she means EXACTLY what she says.  Every SDA in Battle Creek knew what these messages meant and what doctrinal pillars they contained. The record is crystal clear on this point.  But this is not the case today.  This eschatology has been dramatically changed, which explains why the SDA's are so confused and disoriented.  

Listen to Ellen White on this point:

"I saw a company who stood well guarded and firm, giving no countenance to those who would unsettle the established faith of the body. God looked upon them with approbation. I was shown three steps-- the first, second, and third angels' messages. Said my accompanying angel, "Woe to him who shall move a block or stir a pin of these messages. The true understanding of these messages is of vital importance."

(Early Writings of Ellen G. White, page 258, paragraph 3, Chapter Title: Spiritual Gifts A Firm Platform.)

"The proclamation of the first, second, and third angels' messages has been located by the Word of Inspiration. Not a peg or pin is to be removed. No human authority has any more right to change the location of these messages than to substitute the New Testament for the Old. " {2SM 104.2}

But the 20th century leaders ignored these clear words of warning from Ellen White and allowed Arthur White and others to teach blatant fraud about Adventist history and theology. Subsequently, at Glacier View, the leaders officially replaced Miller's # 2 Judgment Pillar, (which was only the Second Coming), with the IJ, which was a derivative doctrine from the # 5 Pillar.

Then the modern SDA's discarded the Protestant Gospel that Dr. Ford was proclaiming so that they could adopt Uriah Smiths false Gospel, and officially place it in the #1 position within the paradigm.   The net effect is a totally false version of the 1st Angels Message.  Both of the original Pillars were replaced with counterfeits that neither the Apostles, Reformers, nor the Adventist Pioneers would ever endorse.

In other words, the confused and dishonest 20th century leaders dramatically CHANGED the Three Angels Messages. They changed both the 1st and 2nd Pillars into false doctrines and thus scrambled the Adventist Apocalyptic into confusion and false prophecy.  And they are still doing it today.  

Listen to Ellen White refute what has taken place:

"The proclamation of the first, second, and third angels' messages has been located by the Word of Inspiration. Not a peg or pin is to be removed. No human authority has any more right to change the location of these messages than to substitute the New Testament for the Old. The Old Testament is the gospel in figures and symbols. The New Testament is the substance. One is as essential as the other. " Ms 32, 1896, p. 1. ("Testimony Concerning the Views of Prophecy Held by Brother John Bell, 1896.)

This willful and dishonest revision of the Three Angels Messages violates everything that Ellen White and the Pioneers believed and taught. They would be livid at this outrageous SDA apostasy that has destroyed the Advent Movement. They would demand REPENTANCE and REFORM, as well as a return to the genuine version of the Three Angels Messages.

The IJ Must Be Repudiated:

The IJ is an incorrect component of the Three Angels Messages. In fact, it is a false derivative of the # 5 Heavenly Sanctuary Pillar that is associated with the 3rd Angels Message.  It has been incorrectly moved backwards and placed at the #2 doctrinal position where the Second Coming resides.   Which explains why the SDA's promote the IJ much more than they do the Second Coming.  In fact, they are now known for the former instead of the latter, which makes no sense considering that they are named after the Second Advent, even as this is the doctrine that made them famous and gave them life.

There is no such Pillar as the IJ in the 1st Angels Message.   Nor is there any hermeneutic that would allow for such a prophetic and historical revision. The IJ is not a part of any of the 7 specific doctrines that comprise the Adventist Apocalyptic.   It is absolutely and positively NOT, NOT, NOT, a part of the foundational Pillars # 1 or # 2 that define the 1st Angels Message.  And the sooner the SDA's admit this fact and repent the better things will go for them.

"The first, second, and third angels' messages are all linked together. The evidences of the abiding, ever-living truth of these grand messages, that mean so much to us, that have awakened such intense opposition from the religious world, cannot be extinguish ed. Satan is constantly seeking to cast his hellish shadow about these messages, so that the remnant people of God shall not clearly discern their import, their time, and place; but they live, and are to exert their power upon our religious experience while time shall last." (The Ellen G. White 1888 Materials, page 926, paragraph 3.)

The fact of the matter is that the IJ is NOT a Fundamental part of Historic Adventism or a Pillar in the 1st Angels Messages.  So it MUST be repudiated so that this church can return to the original version of the Three Angels Messages and to the seven primary doctrines that they contain.

Thus when Ellen White says: "We have many lessons to learn, and many, many to unlearn." She is saying that SDA's need to UNLEARN this false version of the Three Angels messages that the Takoma Park leaders developed, and LEARN how all the Pioneers defined the original paradigm.

It is time for all SDA's to better understand their own history and theology, so that they can repent and save the self-destructing Adventist Movement.

I hope this helps explain the importance and the contents of the Three Angels Messages.  I also hope it is clear where the SDA's have gone wrong.  

Their present understanding of the 1st Angels Message is wrong and so too is this attempt to replace the Three Angels Messages with Three Core Values.   The leaders should be ashamed for trying to invent new doctrines that are meant to marginalize the original Adventist Apocalyptic and change the mission of the church.  The Pioneers would never approve of this stunt.

The Advent Movement must be based on something far more substantial and prophetic then such Public Relations gimmicks.  And it is; it is called the Three Angels Messages.  This is how the SDA's must always be defined and understood, even as they move forward to develop the 4th and final Message that will prepare the way for the Second Coming and complete their mission.

Today, the SDA's have the wrong Gospel and the wrong Judgment as well as the wrong version of the Adventist Apocalyptic.  This explains why they are self-destructing, and why they no long want to preach or teach about the Three Angels Messages.   It is an awful situation that must be resolved if the SDA church is to survive.

Tom Norris for All  

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Tom Norris


I can answer most any question about church history and theology, starting from 1818 when William Miller articulated the 1st Angels Message that became the foundation of the Adventist Movement. While this first prophetic message terminated in the spring of 1844, it was followed by what Adventists refer to as the 2nd Angels Message, which dates from the spring of 1844 until the great disappointment of October 22, 1844. By 1847, the 3rd Angels Message had been developed and this Sabbatarian theology represents the Seventh-day Adventist Church. Moreover, I can explain the historical and theological development of the SDA denomination from its beginning and on through the great Battle Creek schism that forced the SDA's to retreat to Takoma Park. Here the 20th century church recovered from their internal battles that had erupted at the 1888 General Conference in Minneapolis over the definition of the law and the Gospel. Fearing another repeat of this disaster, President Daniels, determined to hide this debate. However, this policy led to more conflict, especially over the role and authority of Ellen White, a unique and accomplished religious writer that had remarkable spiritual gifts. However, by the decade of the 1970`s, the church once again erupted into debate. The hierarchy settled the turmoil in 1980 with the trial of Dr. Desmond Ford at Glacier View. Here Dr. Ford was exiled because he supposedly disagreed with Ellen White over the Fundamentals. But this controversial action resulted in another major schism that is still in progress today.


Tom Norris was raised as a Seventh-day Adventist in Takoma Park, Md. He attended SDA grade and High schools, moving on to study Adventist theology at Columbia Union College. He also spent significant time conducting independent research in the General Conference Archives and the Ellen G. White Estate. Over the years he has also interviewed a number of prominent Adventist scholars, theologians, and Pastors ranging from the late Arthur White to the exiled Dr. Desmond Ford. In addition, he has amassed a large private library, which includes numerous rare books and manuscripts about Adventist theology and history. He is presently the online editor of Adventist Reform, and can be found at Adventist for Tomorrow answering questions online about SDA theology and history as well as promoting Adventist Reform.

Tom Norris attended SDA grade and High schools, moving on to study Adventist theology at Columbia Union College. He also spent significant time conducting independent research in the General Conference Archives and the Ellen G. White Estate.

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