Adventists are various groups of Christians who since apostolic times have believed that the Second Coming of the Lord was imminent (see parousia). Adherents of montanism in the 2d century looked for an early end of the world, as did the anabaptists during the Reformation. Modern adventism began in the early 19th century in America with the biblical prophecies of William miller (1782–1849). Seeing signs of widespread moral deterioration, Adventists believe that the world is evil and must soon be destroyed. They foresee a final battle between the forces of good and evil, usually identified as the battle of Armageddon, and the victory of Jesus Christ, who will then establish a kingdom of righteousness that will last for 1,000 years. Miller set definite dates for the Second Coming in 1843 and 1844 but when these dates passed, his followers became disillusioned. Only a remnant continued to proclaim the imminent Second Coming and these adventists usually refused to specify a date.
Largest of the adventist bodies that stem from Miller's preaching is the seventh day adventist Church. Along with adventism it teaches the observance of the Jewish Sabbath, conditional immortality, and the prophethood of Mrs. Ellen G. White (1827–1915). The general conference of the church was organized in 1863 and since then Seventh Day Adventism has spread throughout the world. A much smaller adventist body, the Advent Christian Church, was organized in 1855 by Jonathan Cummings, who taught doctrines similar to those of the Seventh Day Adventists, but his followers observed Sunday instead of Saturday. jehovah's witnesses is an adventist body that denies the Trinity and the deity of Jesus Christ. The founder of this sect, Charles Taze russell, was influenced by adventist preachers early in his career. The Church of Jesus Christ of latterday saints originally stressed adventism, but this emphasis in Mormonism gradually diminished. Many of the pentecostal churches include a strong adventist position among their beliefs, as do the catholic apostolic church and the new apostolic church. Other small adventist bodies include the Life and Advent Union, the Church of God (Abrahamic Faith), the Primitive Advent Christian Church, and the United Seventh Day Brethren.
[w. j. whalen/eds.]
Adventists (ăd´vĕn´tĬsts) [advent, Lat.,=coming], members of a group of related religious denominations whose distinctive doctrine centers in their belief concerning the imminent second coming of Jesus (see Judgment Day). The name Adventism is specifically applied to the teachings of William Miller (1782–1849), who predicted the end of the world for 1843, then for 1844. When it did not occur, the Millerites, or Second Adventists, at a meeting at Albany, N.Y., in 1845 adopted a statement declaring their belief in the visible return of Jesus at an indefinite time, when the resurrection of the dead would take place and the millennium would have its beginning. Later this body took the name Evangelical Adventists. Another and larger branch of the original Adventist group became known in 1861 as the Advent Christian Church. This branch was formed as a result of a controversy over the question of the soul's immortality. The Advent Christian Church has a U.S. membership of about 26,800 (the Life and Advent Union, which was organized in 1863, merged with the Advent Christian Church in 1964). The largest Adventist body, the Seventh-day Adventists, under the leadership of Joseph Bates and James and Ellen White, adopted in 1844 the observance of Saturday as the Sabbath. Formally organized in 1863, they are fundamentally evangelical, taking the Bible as the sole rule of faith and practice. Fundamental to their doctrine is their belief in the imminent, premillennial, personal, and visible return of Jesus. The Seventh-day Adventists carry on worldwide missionary work; they number some 13.6 million. Another Adventist group is the Church of God, which was organized as Churches of God in Christ Jesus in 1888 and then permanently organized as the Church of God in 1921; its U.S. membership is around 75,000.
See M. E. Olsen, A History of the Origin and Progress of Seventh-day Adventists (1925, repr. 1972).