When Jesus didn’t come as expected on October 22, 1844, many left the Advent movement. However, a small remnant remained, determined to search the Scriptures for a better understanding. As they prayerfully studied, they saw the endpoint of the 2,300day prophecy of Daniel 8:14 did not culminate in the coming of Christ to this earth, but instead ushered in a new phase of His ministry in the heavenly sanctuary. As they continued their prayerful Bible study with open hearts and minds, further truths were revealed, such as the full meaning of the three angels’ messages of Revelation 14, including the importance of keeping holy God’s seventh-day Sabbath. Other Bible teachings also became clear, such as the non-immortality of the soul and the state of the dead, the second coming of Christ, and more.
The Bible and its teaching have always served as the foundation for what we as Seventh-day Adventists believe. The Advent movement began through the providential unfolding of Bible prophecy to prepare a people for Christ’s second advent. In the mid nineteenth century God raised up a former skeptic-turned-reluctant preacher by the name of William Miller to proclaim the message of the first angel of Revelation 14: “Fear God and give glory to Him, for the hour of His judgment has come” (verse 7). Thousands accepted this message, believing Christ’s coming was imminent. However, not all accepted the message, and its rejection by the professed Christian churches is described in the message of the second angel, “Babylon is fallen, is fallen” (verse 8).
Speaking of this period of intense study, Ellen White wrote: “Many of our people do not realize how firmly the foundation of our faith has been laid. My husband, Elder Joseph Bates, [Stephen] Pierce, Elder [Hiram] Edson, and others who were keen, noble, and true, were among those who, after the passing of the time in 1844, searched for the truth as for hidden treasure. I met with them, and we studied and prayed earnestly. Often we remained together until late at night, and sometimes through the entire night, praying for the light and studying the Word. Again and again these brethren came together to study the Bible, in order that they might know its meaning, and be prepared to teach it with power.”1
Nearly 10 years after the Great Disappointment, the small remnant had grown into about 1,000 believers. And although they did not yet have an official name, they did have an official paper called The Advent Review and Sabbath Herald. On the front page of the August 15, 1854, issue of that publication was printed a brief statement listing five “leading doctrines taught by the Review.” The list included:
“The Bible, and the Bible alone, the rule of faith and duty.”
“The Law of God, as taught in the Old and New Testaments, unchangeable.”
“The Personal Advent of Christ and the Resurrection of the Just, before the Millennium.”
“The Earth restored to its Eden perfection and glory, the final Inheritance of the Saints.”
“Immortality alone through Christ, to be given to the Saints at the Resurrection.”2
In 1863 the group officially organized and chose the name, “Seventh-day Adventist,” reflecting two prominent beliefs—the importance of the seventh-day Sabbath, and a looking forward to the second advent of Jesus Christ.
Formal Statements of Beliefs
The church’s first formal statement of beliefs was published in 1872, titled “A Declaration of the Fundamental Principles Taught and Practiced by the Seventh-day Adventists.” The document listed 25 points drawn from Bible study and begins with the statement: “In presenting to the public this synopsis of our faith, we wish to have it distinctly understood that we have no articles of faith, creed, or discipline, aside from the Bible,” explaining that it was “a brief statement of what is, and has been, with great unanimity, held by [Seventh-day Adventists].”3
The declaration of the fundamental principles was published again, this time in the first issue of the magazine Signs of the Times, on June 4, 1874. It was republished in 1875, and again in 1889, with some added footnotes.
The next statement of our beliefs came 42 years later. Some of the previous points were combined, making a total of 22, and were renamed “Fundamental Beliefs of Seventh-day Adventists.” These were published in the 1931 Seventh-day Adventist Yearbook and in the 1932 Church Manual.
Over the years some stylistic changes and minor revisions were made, along with further revisions. By 1980 the Fundamental Beliefs included 27 points and were adopted at the 1980 General Conference (GC) Session, held in Dallas, Texas.
Fundamental Beliefs Are Dynamic
These Fundamental Beliefs are dynamic, and as the church is led by the Holy Spirit to a fuller understanding of Bible truth, it may add to its list of beliefs. Sensing that a new Fundamental Belief was needed, delegates to the 2005 GC Session held in St. Louis, Missouri, voted the statement “Growing in Christ,” which was added to the Fundamental Beliefs, bringing the total to 28. While we still have 28 Fundamental Beliefs, the present form is the result of wording revisions made at the 2015 GC Session held in San Antonio, Texas.
I praise God for how the Lord has led this movement, step by step, into a more complete understanding of who He is, who we are, and what His wonderful plans for us are, as revealed in the Holy Scriptures. The Seventh-day Adventist Church does not have, nor has it ever had, a set creed. Instead, we have a collection of 28 Fundamental Beliefs that express what we believe the Bible teaches. Each of these beliefs has Christ at its center, for He is the Living Word, and He speaks to us today through His Word, the Holy Bible.
If you would like to learn more about our Bible-based Fundamental Beliefs, I encourage you to carefully peruse this issue of Adventist World. In addition, you may be interested in watching a short video series I filmed in 2022 on the Fundamental Beliefs. In each video we briefly explore one of our Fundamental Beliefs and point to resources to learn more. This video series is available on the Seventh-day Adventist Church’s official YouTube Channel at https://bit.ly/28Fundamentals withPastorWilson.
May God bless as you continue to study His Word and hold on to His precious, time-tested biblical truths as we proclaim Christ’s soon second coming.
1 Ellen G. White, Early Writings (Washington, D.C.: Review and Herald Pub. Assn., 1882, 1945), pp. xxii, xxiii.
2Advent Review and Sabbath Herald, Aug. 15, 1854, p. 1., https://bit. ly/AdventReviewSabbathHerald
3 “A Declaration of the Fundamental Principles Taught and Practiced by the Seventh-day Adventists” (Battle Creek, Mich.: Seventh-day Adventist Pub. Assn., 1872), p. 3, ellenwhite.org/ media/document/7963.
President of the Worldwide Seventh-day Adventist Church •
Ted N. C. Wilson is president of the worldwide Seventh-day Adventist Church. Additional articles and commentaries are available from the president’s office on Twitter: @pastortedwilson and on Facebook: @Pastor Ted Wilson.