What’s in a name? A lot, when it comes to the name Seventh-day Adventist. Understanding our name leads us to a greater understanding of and involvement in the great controversy between good and evil. It demonstrates and challenges involvement in both God’s glory and His creation.
Here’s what it means to be focused on and driven by two elements—Seventh-day, Adventist—that identify the Seventh-day Adventist Church.
The first element, “Seventh-day,” reaches back.
For ancient Israel, Moses’ sermons on the Plains of Moab show the Sabbath as a distinct reminder of freedom from the oppression of Egypt: “Remember that you were a slave in the land of Egypt, and the Lord your God brought you out of there with a strong hand and an outstretched arm. That is why the Lord your God has commanded you to keep the Sabbath day” (Deut. 5:15).*
The Israelites were slaves in Egypt. Humanity is enslaved to sin. God rescued Israel from Egypt, and all of earth’s creation from sin. Through His death Jesus destroyed “the one holding the power of death—that is, the Devil—and [freed] those who were held in slavery all their lives by the fear of death” (Heb. 2:14, 15). Sabbath recognizes and remembers our freedom from sin, our salvation, our abandonment of all that characterizes the old life of enslavement. Sabbath says we no longer sigh and cry in Egypt (Ex. 3:7-10). We rest. We worship. We reconcile. We celebrate. On Sabbath we remember.
But “Seventh-day” reaches even further back than God’s rescue from Egypt. It reaches to a time before humanity needed saving from anything. A time of perfection, a time of beginnings. A time when God walked the earth with humankind. Sabbath is a reminder that our God is the Creator of all that is good. “By the seventh day God completed His work that He had done, and He rested on the seventh day from all His work that He had done. God blessed the seventh day and declared it holy, for on it He rested from His work of creation” (Gen. 2:2, 3).
We were created to live in cooperation with creation. We are to care for it, to work the ground, to rest the ground. “God created man in His own image; He created him in the image of God; He created them male and female” (Gen. 1:27). And the next day, He rested—as a memorial celebration of creation; an act that highlights creation’s value. Sabbath rest makes a conspicuous statement on caring about creation. We are not to overuse or abuse the earth or our own bodies. Each week the seventh day is a day to remember all this. Isaiah, speaking for God, promises that this special day of communion, memory, and promise will exist forever: “All mankind will come to worship Me from one New Moon to another and from one Sabbath to another” (Isa. 66:23). For earth’s inhabitants the worth and meaning of the seventh-day Sabbath embraces creation and endures through eternity.
But “Seventh-day” is only half of what the name Seventh-day Adventist represents.
The second element, “Adventist,” reaches forward.
The hope for humanity’s salvation is embedded in history, Scripture, and faith from the moment of God’s first prophecy, His promise to Satan: “I will put hostility between you and the woman, and between your seed and her seed. He will strike your head, and you will strike his heel” (Gen. 3:15). From day one, God had a plan to undo the devil—to conquer evil. The first couple, Adam and Eve, knew this promise would come through their “seed”: a Messiah would be born.
On Sabbath we rest. We worship. We reconcile. We celebrate. On Sabbath we remember.
Like David, he would rule as a powerful king. Like Moses, he would stand against evil oppressors and deliver God’s people from bondage. Like Abraham, he would follow God with conviction. Like Noah, he would build a safe place to protect people from death and destruction.
But when the Messiah came, He came like Adam, a new Adam, the first of his kind. Jesus was both God and man. One hundred percent God, 100 percent man. In this God-man state He showed the best of God and the best of humanity. But He looked like any other average man. Until he opened His mouth in parables, His hands in healing, and, ultimately, His heart in death. This first advent appearing of God, was expected, yet a surprise.
The Second Advent, the return of this God-man as king of the heavenly kingdom He talked so much about, is imminent. Just as Scripture spoke of the Messiah coming to save Israel, so it promises His return to save earth, to re-create creation, to end death, to destroy the devil—to make all things new (Rev. 21:5).
The prophets look forward to the Second Advent by reflecting back. Kingdoms have risen and fallen, Daniel said, from Babylon to Media-Persia to Greece to Rome to kingdoms that will fragment and fray at the edges until an eternal kingdom comes—represented by a Rock falling from the sky obliterating all other kingdoms and working like yeast in dough to envelop the whole earth (Dan. 2:44).
The book of Revelation, in parable and metaphor, reveals the fall of Satan, the return of Jesus, and the ultimate fulfilment of the Lord’s Prayer, “Thy kingdom come.” Jesus speaks. Churches remember. A dragon falls. Angels bring messages. Beastly powers rule. Bowls overflow with wrath. Trumpets blare. The New Jerusalem. Re-created earth. Eternal Emmanuel: God with us.
But for now we wait. Yet in patient angst with hopeful hearts we dare not sit by quietly. We call all humanity to Jesus: “Hear the three angels’ messages!” You can hear the death rattle in the throat of Satan even now. Wars. Rumors of wars. Hate. Murder. Money. All the thrashing of a desperate dragon who knows that his time is short. Signs are all around us: this is what it means to be an “Adventist”—eyes peeled for the return of Jesus and a megaphone to our lips, calling the world to ready itself for the kingdom of the Rock coming to replace this fragmented world of sand.
We need both parts of the name—law-abiding, climax-anticipating. And we need them to work together—perfect creation, total restoration; resting in God, going all out for God; looking backward, going forward in wait and work till kingdom come and Jesus’ prayer is answered: “Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven” (Matt. 6:10).
The title “Seventh-day Adventist” takes in the entirety of the great controversy, from Eden to eternity. The first part, Seventh-day, reflects back on human history—Creation: the moment of earth’s beginnings, a time before sin; and individual spiritual history—salvation: our moment of new beginnings when we received forgiveness for and freedom from our slavery to sin. Weekly we celebrate the Sabbath at the call of our Creator and in worship of our Redeemer. Weekly we look back.
As Adventists, we peer forward to a time to come when all prophecies will be fulfilled, all sin will be destroyed, and all righteousness will be revealed. With anticipation we prepare ourselves and whosoever wills, through word and action. We look forward to a time and place where “death will no longer exist; grief, crying, and pain will exist no longer, because the previous things have passed away” (Rev. 21:4).
“Our citizenship is in heaven” (Phil. 3:20), for which God the Spirit has us in constant training (Phil. 2:13). That heavenly orientation leads us to constantly make choices for the highest quality of life; more abundant living that begins, as Israel’s nationhood did, and as salvation does, with liberation. Hence our celebration of freedom from unhelpful lifestyle practices to the best in diet, nutrition, rest, or action; our investment in good medicine; our aggression for disaster relief and development. Hence our passion for good education and per
sonal intellectual growth; our zealous labors for freedom of conscience—our personal freedom and everyone else’s as well, to worship or not worship, to believe or not believe.
Our living transcends the now while demonstrating its relevance to the now: we live with a view to tomorrow that constantly makes for a better today. So that through us God may disclose to everyone everywhere that citizenship in His kingdom makes for the best citizenship in any current order than may precede His final restoration. Being Seventh-day Adventist makes for blessed heavenly mindedness that makes for the blessing the world needs right now, in whatever place we are.
*All biblical quotes are taken from the Holman Christian Standard Bible, copyright © 1999, 2000, 2002, 2003, 2009 by Holman Bible Publishers. Used by permission.
David Edgren is an author, pastor, parent, and believer in the power of stories.