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. 

But we find our hope in a personal relationship with Jesus. His strength helps us to live a life that honors God.

So let’s answer some questions you may have:

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.

Women praying and listening to speaker as we study how Seventh-day Adventist Church started after the Millerite movementBible 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:

  1. An announcement of the judgment and a call to glorify and worship the Creator (Revelation 14:6–7)
  2. A call to come out of religious confusion and unbiblical teaching (verse 8)
  3. 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 it mean to be an Adventist? 

Being Adventist, at its very core, is about loving Jesus and His Word, the Bible. This 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.

Man look up to the Cross as we learn from the mistakes of the judges and get a glimpse of God's incredible mercy towards us.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:

Let’s look at each one. 

Green-fields near seashore and sun rise at the horizon as we learn that Adventists believe in literal six-day creation.Literal six-day creation

Adventists look to Genesis 1 and 2 for the earth’s origin. We believe that God created the world in six literal days, an evening and a morning, instead of long expanses of time.4

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. 

The Sabbath 

Woman sitting at seashore as we discuss how Ellen White learnt about Sabbath and kept the Sabbath with her family and ChurchWhen 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. 

Free will

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. 

White pillars on either sides as light shines through them, and we learn about key Adventist beliefs like Heavenly Sanctuary.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

Biblical book of Daniel as learn how the study of the prophetic books of Daniel and Revelation is part of Adventism.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. 

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

But sin cannot exist in God’s presence. In order for Him to live with us face to face once again, He must put an end to it. 

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:

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

Group Bible study as we learn how personal spirituality and fostering a faith community is important to Adventists.A personal relationship with God is central to our lifestyle. We take time for personal devotion, which may look like Bible study, prayer, worship, or journaling. 

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.

And don’t forget food! Adventists love to gather for meals, especially after services on Sabbath. They call these gatherings “potlucks.” 

Speaking of Sabbath, how do Adventists keep Sabbath? 

Sabbath keeping

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. 

Adventist holding out tithe and offering money.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. 

Health decisions

You may have heard that Adventists live an average of seven to ten years longer than the general population because of their lifestyle.  

Grandparents with their grandchildren as we study how Adventists make their health decisions with a holistic approach.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). 

Second, we follow lifestyle principles that include eating a healthy diet (often vegetarian), exercising, drinking plenty of water, spending time outdoors, resting, and much more!  

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 look to Jesus and His Word. 

An open Bible showing path towards light as we learn how Ellen White commended the Bible in 1909 General Conference sessionStarted 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. 

  1. “Seventh-day Adventist World Church Statistics 2020,” Seventh-day Adventist Church, adventist.org. []
  2. Maxwell, C. Mervyn, Tell It to the World, (Pacific Press, Nampa, ID, 1977), p 145. []
  3. “Seventh-day Adventist World Church Statistics 2020,” Seventh-day Adventist Church, adventist.org. []
  4. Genesis 1:5, 8, 13, 19, 23, 31 (ESV) []
  5. 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

More Answers

Ellen White’s Writings and the Adventist Health Message

Ellen White’s Writings and the Adventist Health Message

How Ellen White Influenced the Adventist Health MessageSeventh-day Adventists are known for their emphasis on healthy living. And Ellen G. White was a significant influence in the development of this priority and practice among Adventists. She taught that caring for...

Health Clinics

Health Clinics

Ellen White and Adventist Healthcare—Ahead of Their Time Medical care in the mid-1800s was primitive, to say the least. Basic concepts we take for granted—such as proper handwashing or recognizing the dangers of bloodletting—were nonexistent. And doctors often had...

What Did Ellen White Teach about Vegetarianism?

What Did Ellen White Teach about Vegetarianism?

What Did Ellen White Teach about Vegetarianism?One thing you might have heard about Seventh-day Adventists is their emphasis on a vegetarian lifestyle. If you’re wondering why that is, it goes back to our church’s humble beginnings: As Adventists studied the Bible,...

How Ellen White’s Teachings Can Improve Your Health

How Ellen White’s Teachings Can Improve Your Health

 How Ellen White’s Teachings Can Improve Your Health Healthcare in the nineteenth century was said to leave “more disease than it took away” with its use of bloodletting and “medicines” like mercury and arsenic.1 As people questioned these methods, new approaches...

Change Your Perspective on Life with These 5 Mindsets

Change Your Perspective on Life with These 5 Mindsets

5 Biblical Mindsets to Change Your Life for the Better Sometimes, life is just plain hard. There’s no way around it. So would thinking about things differently really change anything? Our perspective on life, and everything it throws at us, affects more than we’re...

Bible Promises for When You’re Worried or Fearful

Bible Promises for When You’re Worried or Fearful

Bible Promises for When You’re Worried or Fearful The Bible is full of beautiful promises that can comfort us in a variety of situations. They can give us hope when we are hopeless, make us feel grateful for God’s love, and comfort us when we’re grieving or suffering....

12 Practical Ways to Overcome Worry

12 Practical Ways to Overcome Worry

12 Practical Ways to Overcome Worry DISCLAIMER: This content is for informational purposes only. It does not constitute any professional medical advice and is not intended as a substitute for professional mental health therapy. It’s easy to get stuck in a cycle of...

How the Bible Talks About Worry, Fear, and Anxiety

How the Bible Talks About Worry, Fear, and Anxiety

How the Bible Talks About Worry, Fear, and Anxiety Worry and fear are the ingredients of anxiety. It’s easy to see how the world isn’t perfect—and the anticipation of a bad event or experience (that may or may not even happen) can end up draining the peace and...

How to Calm Anxious Thoughts, Using the Bible

How to Calm Anxious Thoughts, Using the Bible

How to Calm Anxious Thoughts, Using the Bible You were expecting a phone call from your daughter half an hour ago, and she still hasn’t called. She’s also not answering your calls. You feel your heart thumping as your thoughts race: What if she’s been in a car...

What You Should Know About the Adventist Health Studies

What You Should Know About the Adventist Health Studies

What You Should Know About the Adventist Health StudiesYou may have heard that Seventh-day Adventists care about health. But what you may not know is that Adventists have been the subjects of long-term research into lifestyle and health. Since 1958, researchers from...

Benefits of Sunlight

Yes, There Are Health Benefits of SunlightDespite the bad reputation it’s gotten, sunlight is generally associated with positivity, as shown by songs like “You Are My Sunshine,” or phrases that refer to delightful people as having a “sunny disposition.” There’s a...

Why Your Body Needs Rest for Optimal Health

Why Your Body Needs Rest for Optimal HealthStruggling to think straight? Wondering why you can’t remember that important tidbit you heard earlier today? Feeling like your emotions are about to explode? These are just some of the symptoms that can reveal your need for...

The Seventh-day Adventist Diet: One of Our Key Longevity Secrets

The Seventh-day Adventist Diet: One of Our Key Longevity SecretsOats, avocados, lentils, tofu—probably not what you first think of in a standard American diet. But if you show up at the home of an Adventist, chances are you may be served one of these staples. Out of a...

Why You Need Fresh Air

Why You Need Fresh Air“When you can’t breathe, nothing else matters,” the American Lung Association tells us. We couldn’t agree more! Breathing in clean air is an essential part of caring for our bodies, which God has given us. Together with other health principles,...

Sabbath Meal

Everything You Need to Know About Sabbath MealsFor 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 a...

Adventists and Healthy Living

Adventists and Healthy LivingWhat’s the Adventist “Health Message” All About? One thing Seventh-day Adventists are known for is their emphasis on living healthy lives. Since our bodies are living temples of the Holy Spirit (1 Corinthians 6:19, 20), we strive to stay...

Water’s Importance—Physical Benefits and Spiritual Applications

Water’s Importance—Physical Benefits and Spiritual Applications We all know that water is a substance we can’t live without.   Not only does it quench our thirst and keep us hydrated from the inside, but it’s necessary for hygiene and cleansing on the outside as well....

How Important is a “Day of Rest?”

How Important is a “Day of Rest?”

How Important is a “Day of Rest?”  Why God Created a Day for Downtime by Martin Casper Do you ever experience the feeling of complete overload? Do you feel like the only way you can get ahead is by slamming it 24/7? I hear these types of comments more and more...

7 Reasons Why a Day of Rest is Important

7 Reasons Why a Day of Rest is Important

7 Reasons Why a Day of Rest is ImportantWe live in a fast-paced world. It seems as if success is measured in how much you can do in a short amount of time. (Extra points for the service or product that is available 24/7). The idea that we will be more successful if we...

How do Adventists choose what to eat?

How do Adventists choose what to eat?

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...

How do Adventists make movie and music choices?

How do Adventists make movie and music choices?

How do Adventists make movie and music choices?Cinema has come a long way since the first clips of motion pictures came to light in 1878. As the decades rolled on, film and music producers have created rivers of movies and albums for the masses. Today, watching movies...

Why are many Adventists Vegetarian?

Why are many Adventists Vegetarian?

Why are many Adventists Vegetarian?The diet intended for man is outlined in Genesis 1:29, “And God said, ‘See, I have given you every herb that yields seed which is on the face of all the earth, and every tree whose fruit yields seed; to you it shall be for food.’”...

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.

Contact Us