THE BATTLE OVER THE NAME "Seventh-day Adventist"
(First of four)
In the late 1970’s, God began in earnest to awaken Seventh-day Adventists to the growing apostasy and corruption within their denomination. As a result many SDA’s started holding meetings outside of church control where these issues were presented and discussed. Some began to hold their own, independent church services.
As more SDA’s became aware of their church’s failings, they started spreading the Three Angels’ Messages on their own. This independent work of evangelism concerned the denominational leaders because most of these independent groups declared themselves to be Seventh-day Adventists. Why would this be such a big problem?
Starting in the 1950’s, the SDA church began to set aside those peculiar Bible truths which were out of harmony with the teachings of the Sunday-keeping churches. They did this in order to stand with them upon a common platform of belief.1 This apostasy allowed the SDA church to join in unity with these churches as well as to be part of the National Council and World Council of Churches.1 In doing this, the SDA church had to agree not to proselytize from the membership of their fellow united churches but would only seek converts from non-Christians. So, when the independent groups began to evangelize by preaching the particular truths which the SDA church had given up, and then identified themselves as being Seventh-day Adventists, the church came under angry protests from their Council of Churches partners. This placed the SDA church in a real predicament.
To reassure their Council of Churches brethren that they had not changed, that they still did not believe the Three Angels’ Messages anymore, and that these independent groups were not speaking for the SDA church, they promised that they would work to prevent these groups from presenting these unpopular truths.
To achieve this the SDA church decided to trademark the names "Adventist" and "Seventh-day Adventist" in 1981.2 This was done so they could legally control the usage of these names, as well as to prosecute through the civil courts any and all who continue to use these trademarks without permission.
The SDA church hired the services of a trademark attorney named Vincent L. Ramik, who is a faithful practicing Roman Catholic lawyer.3 They tried to stop others from using these trademarked names without permission. Scores of different independent Adventist individuals were threatened with civil court action.
One of the first court cases to receive public notice occurred in the State of Hawaii. A small, 12 member, independent group, shepherded by John Merik, were publicly calling their home church by the name "The Seventh-day Adventist Congregational Church." The SDA church contacted Merik and threatened a lawsuit if his group did not change their name. Merik refused.
On December 8, 1987, a federal court order was made in favor of the SDA Church, "prohibiting the defendants from using the name ‘Seventh-day Adventist,’ and enjoining them to remove the sign, and hand over to federal agents all of their personal books, magazines, and other property that contained the name ‘Seventh-day Adventist’." 4
In 1991 a similar situation occurred in Australia in which the SDA church was suing an independent group for publishing and distributing "The Protestant" (a paper which contained the truths found in the Three Angels’ Messages). The reason why the SDA church became involved in this lawsuit was because the independent brethren used the name "Seventh-day Adventist" as being the group responsible for this paper, and they refused to change their name.
The SDA church stated that it "does have a duty to its members and must take all steps necessary to protect and maintain its good name and integrity within the community..." 5
In the year 2000 the Eternal Gospel Church of Seventh-day Adventists in Florida, which publicly preaches the Three Angels’ Messages, was sued by the SDA church over the right to use the name "Seventh-day Adventist".1
There are many more lawsuits which have been brought against those who publicly refer to themselves as "Seventh-day Adventist".
Most independent SDA’s do not believe that the SDA church has become Babylon fallen, and do not believe in totally separating themselves from the entire SDA system. They desire to remain independent from denominational control, but still to identify themselves by the denominational name of "Seventh-day Adventist".
What about those of us who do believe that the SDA church has become Babylon fallen and have totally separated ourselves from the entire SDA system? Should we continue to cling to, and identify ourselves by, the denominational name of "Seventh-day Adventist"? Let us first examine the Biblical principles in this name issue.
There is no church or group name, no matter how sacred or exalted it may be, which can bring any people into any favor with God if they choose to disobey HimSand this includes a name which was chosen by God Himself! This is because God is more concerned with character than with what name we call ourselves by.
"We are not saved as a sect; no denominational name has any virtue to bring us into favor with God. We are saved individually as believers in the Lord Jesus Christ."6
A tree is clearly known by what fruit it bears, regardless of what name it is call. A child is clearly known by what fruit or actions he produces, regardless of his family name. And any religious group will be known by what fruits they show in accordance with their beliefs, regardless of what exalted name they may identify themselves with. Thus it will be by what fruits we bear that we will be judged, and not by what name we may cling to!
"Ye shall know them by their fruits... every good tree bringeth forth good fruit; but a corrupt tree bringeth forth evil fruit. A good tree cannot bring forth evil fruit, neither can a corrupt tree bring forth good fruit. Every tree that bringeth not forth good fruit is hewn down, and cast into the fire. Wherefore by their fruits ye shall know them."7
"Not by its name, but by its fruit, is the value of a tree determined. If the fruit is worthless, the name cannot save the tree from destruction. John declared to the Jews that their standing before God was to be decided by their character and life. Profession was worthless. If their life and character were not in harmony with God’s law, they were not His people."8
A religious name is mainly given to distinguish one group from another, but it is really by the character and beliefs exemplified by that religious group that distinguishes it from every other. It is the same with the individual. Jesus Christ was an "Adventist", not because He called Himself one, but because He exemplified these truths in His life.9 The Apostle Paul was an "Adventist", not because he ever called himself one, but because he lived these truths in his life.10 So in turn we are "Adventist", not because we call ourselves one, but because we live the truth that makes us Adventist!11 Thus it is by following and living the truths contained in our "foundation" and "the whole construction of the faith" which makes us Seventh-day Adventist, and not the name itself!
If a name which God Himself has chosen is to be claimed as the only identifying name of His true people forever, then we should all call ourselves "Israelites"! God personally chose this name to distinguish His people from the heathen nations around them because it represented the truth that they had gained the victory over sin by wrestling with God as did Jacob!12 Yet even while they were disobeying God and exhibited fruits of wickedness and corruption, they still continued to identify themselves with this chosen name.
Why don’t we literally call ourselves Israelites today? For two main reasons. 1) The apostate church of Israel rejected the truths sent to them by God, and chose to unite themselves with the devil and the other heathen nations around them. Thus the name became identified with apostasy and corruption and, separated from its original meaning, became a reproach among the heathen peoples. 2) If we should literally call ourselves Israelites today, people would believe that we were part of that non-Christian system, even though we would not be, and thus our witness would have no effect.
It was to avoid these two main points that when the followers of Christ in the Christian Movement separated themselves from the apostate and corrupt Jewish Church of Israel, they chose to identify themselves by a completely different name. But what name did they choose to identify themselves by? Did they call themselves "The True Israelites, or "The Historic Church of Israel", or even "The Reformed Jews"? No. They called themselves "Christians" and made the line of distinction plain.
It was for this same reason that when the Reformers in the Protestant Movement separated themselves from the apostate and corrupt Christian church, which developed into the Roman Catholic Church, they did not call themselves "The True Catholics", or "The Historic Catholics", or even "the Reformed Catholics", but they chose a different name in order to distinguish themselves in the eyes of the peoples from the Roman Catholic church.
In like manner, when the followers of Jesus Christ in the Advent Movement separated themselves from the apostate and corrupt Protestant churches in 1844, they did not call themselves "The True Methodists", or "The Historic Lutherans", or even "The Reformed Baptists", but they chose a different name which showed themselves completely separate and distinct from the Protestant churches.
What about today? Should the followers of Christ in this Revelation 18 Movement, who have completely separated from the apostate and corrupt SDA church, continue to call themselves "Seventh-day Adventists"? Is this name beyond reproach—no matter how corrupt the church becomes? Is it really possible that the name "Seventh-day Adventist" can become stained and defiled because of its connection to an apostate church?
Since the SDA church has chosen to apostatize from God and has become a part of Babylon the Great, thereby bringing this exalted name down from its original meaning and making it a reproach in the eyes of other peoples, should the followers of Christ in this Revelation 18 Movement continue to identify themselves by this name? What has history shown us over and over again? That after all the followers of Christ separated from their corrupt churches of Judaism, Catholicism, and Protestantism, they all chose a completely different name to identify themselves by. These followers of God clearly saw the wisdom of avoiding needless confusion by making the distinction plain between themselves and the corrupt church they had separated from. So should we!
Christ’s followers must be found spending their time, effort, and money on spreading the Three Angels’ Messages, not in the courts of the land fighting for a name of a church which they have chosen to separate from! Brethren, let us be about our work for God in spreading His truth, and not be sidetracked by Satan into spending our time, effort, and money in trying to cling to an idol. There is no valid Biblical reason why God would desire any of His separated people to defend their right to call themselves "Seventh-day Adventist".
The name "Seventh-day Adventist" has become to many an idol in which they would be willing to go to jail for, or even to die for, just so they can call themselves "Adventist". Instead we should all be willing to go to jail for, and if necessary to die for, our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, as well as the right to believe and live the truth as it is in Jesus!
May we be found living up to the present truth, and expending all our time, energy, and money in spreading this precious message of the Loud Cry throughout the world so that the glory of God may fill this dark world as the waters cover the sea. Then Christ can come to take His ransomed home. Brethren, let us be wise and be doing our Master’s work while it is still day, for the night is coming on fast!
Those who choose to continue to call themselves Seventh-day Adventist are thereby showing that they do not desire to be separated from that apostate and corrupt church. They clearly reveal that they want to be identified as being connected with, and a part of, that system of Babylon. By the way, religious liberty deals with what doctrinal beliefs you hold as your faith and your right to practice these beliefs, not whether you are able to call yourself a "Seventh-day Adventist" as some claim.
Did you know that God clearly foresaw this rebellion and apostasy of the SDA church? Did you know that God clearly understood that the chosen name of "Seventh-day Adventist" would become stained and defiled, and therefore He prophesied that His last day people would be called by a different name?
"I have spread out my hands all the day unto a rebellious people, which walketh in a way that was not good, after their own thoughts... And ye shall leave your name for a curse unto my chosen: for the Lord God shall slay thee, and call his servants by another name." 13
"A fearful stain was brought upon the cause of God which would cleave to the name of Adventist like the leprosy." 14
Because of the rebellion and apostasy of the SDA church, God foresaw that the once chosen name of "Seventh-day Adventist" would become defiled, so He clearly revealed that all of His people would need to be called by another name.
Since the name "Seventh-day Adventist" has become defiled and all of God’s separated people are to call themselves by a different name, what name should we call ourselves by?
The name must uphold the Sabbath of the fourth commandment. It must bring before the people the subject of the end of all things. It must open the way for them to study and understand that God will have a people who will keep all of His commandments, who will follow the testimony of Jesus, who will have the faith of Jesus. It must avoid any confusion and negative drawbacks associated with the name "Seventh-day Adventist".
The name should also reveal that we are in the time of the last message of mercy, the time of the Great Last Day movement (see "Another Movement"), the Remnant Movement (see "Seven Churches, Four Movements").
Given the above requirements, what name could be more appropriate to use to identify ourselves than the name "Sabbath Remnant"?
By elder Robert Sessler
1. For documentation of this, please write the author.
2. Reg #1,176,153 and reg #1,777,185, see RH 11/24/1983.
3. See RH 09/17/1981.
4. Reported in Pilgrim’s Rest Tract, WM 194, 1988.
5. Letter to Chris Lewin, December 3, 1991 from McCarthy, Palethorpe & Blanch, the Law Firm representing the SDA church in Australia.
6. RH 02/10/1891.
7. Matthew 7:16-20.
8. DA 106-107.
9. See MM 49.
10. See 3SOP 389.
11. See 10MR 45, 351; 17MR 22; Series B#7, p 49; EV 121.
12. See Gen 32:24-30.
13. Isaiah 65:2, 15.
14. 8MR 238.