Seventh-Day Adventist Eschatology: Timeline
By Dr. David Reagan
The following is an analysis of how the Seventh-Day Adventists view key eschatalogical events on their timeline.
The Mark of the Beast - Ellen White was equally reckless in determining the meaning of the Mark of the Beast (Revelation 13:16-18). The book of Revelation clearly reveals that this is a mark the Antichrist's false prophet will require people to put on their right hand or forehead in order to buy or sell anything. It is also stated that the mark will be either the name of the beast or the number of his name. Yet, Ellen White declared that the true mark of the beast would be Sunday worship! This is an obvious twisting of Scripture to make it mean whatever you want it to mean. It is the problem you always get into when you start spiritualizing the Word of God.
The Rapture - The SDA scheme of end time events places the Rapture at the end of the Tribulation and mixes with it some of the events that the Bible says will occur at the time of the Second Coming - such as the pouring out of God's wrath and the devastation of the earth.
In contrast, the New Testament clearly separates these events. In 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18, Jesus is portrayed as appearing in the heavens for His Church. Revelation 19:11-16 portrays Him as returning to earth at a later time with His Church for the purpose of pouring out God's wrath and then establishing His worldwide reign.
The New Testament also indicates that the Rapture will occur at the beginning of the Tribulation, not at the end. When referring to the signs of the end times, Jesus said, "When these things begin to take place," we are to look up for the coming of our redemption (Luke 21:28). Paul wrote in 1 Thessalonians 1:10 that we are to anticipate the return of Jesus who will "deliver us from the wrath to come." And in Revelation 3:10 Jesus promises that He will keep the redeemed "from the hour of testing" - that hour which will "come upon the whole world to test those who dwell upon the earth." Doug Batchelor refers to the concept of a pre-Tribulation Rapture as "a Satanic delusion."7
The Millennium - Placing the Millennium in Heaven is almost as weird as what Amillennialists have done with it by equating it with the Church Age here on earth! The Bible clearly states that when Jesus returns, He will become king over all the earth (Zechariah 14:1-9) and that He will reign over all the nations from Mount Zion in Jerusalem (Isaiah 2:2-4 and Micah 4:1-7). The Bible also promises that He will redeem the earth, not leave it desolate. It will, in fact, be returned to its original beauty and glory, as it existed before the Fall (Isaiah 11:4-9).
Nor is there any indication that Satan will be bound on earth for 1,000 years. Rather, Revelation 20:3 says he will be bound "in the abyss." The abyss is pictured in Luke 16:26 as a great chasm located in Hades. Ellen White fancifully interpreted the abyss to be the earth returned to its original state of confusion and darkness.8 I can't help but believe that if God had meant the earth, He would have said earth and not abyss!
The concept that the sins of the redeemed will be placed upon Satan when he is exiled to the devastated earth is downright blasphemous! Yet it is clearly taught in the writings of Ellen White.9 This means that SDAs have two saviors. Christ is the sin-offering who dies for sin. The Devil is the one who plays the role of the scapegoat who bears our sins away! The Bible says Jesus was the one who bore our sins (Isaiah 43:1 and 1 Peter 2:24). The Bible also says there is no savior except the Lord (Isaiah 43:11).
Incredibly, in the SDA scheme, Satan is our final sin-bearer and therefore plays a vital role in our redemption. Jesus becomes simply a mediator between us and Satan. This is plainly "another gospel" that Paul so strongly condemned in Galatians 1:6-9.
During the Millennium, the saints are portrayed as spending their time in Heaven judging the wicked in order to determine their degrees of punishment. The scripture used to justify this concept, 1 Corinthians 6:2, refers to the saints reigning over people on earth during the Millennium. All judgment has been given to Jesus (John 5:22) and will be exercised by Him at the end of the Millennium at the Great White Throne Judgment (Revelation 20:11-15).
The Second Coming - At this point, the SDA scheme of end time events finally starts getting a few things right. They assert that Jesus will return to the Mount of Olives, and that is correct (Zechariah 14:1-9). The only problem is that the Bible says this glorious event will occur at the end of the Tribulation (Revelation 19:11-16), not at the end of the Millennium. The SDA also correctly asserts that at the end of the Millennium, Jesus will resurrect the unrighteous dead and pronounce their judgments (Revelation 20:11-15).
They are also right when they say that Satan will lead a revolt against Jesus and His Saints. But they are wrong when they contend that his rebel force will be made up of the unrighteous who have been resurrected. That's because the resurrection of the unrighteous does not occur until the rebellion is over and done with. The rebellion is described in Revelation 20:7-10; the resurrection of the unrighteous, described in verses 11-15, does not occur until after this rebellion is crushed. Those who rebel with Satan are people born during the Millennium who never receive Jesus as their Lord and Savior.
One final thing I believe the SDA gets right is the destiny of the unrighteous. They argue that after their judgment, they will be cast into Hell where they will suffer for a period of time in proportion to their sins, and then suffer destruction. Many have condemned the SDA for this teaching, arguing that they are Annihilationists. But that is incorrect. Annihilationists believe that the wicked cease to exist at death. The SDA has adopted the Conditionalist position that claims that immortality is conditional on accepting Jesus as Lord and Savior. Those who refuse to do so never become immortal, but they will be resurrected, judged, tormented, and then suffer 'the Second Death" (Revelation 20:14-15).10
The Eternal State - The SDA is also correct in its concept of the eternal state of the redeemed. The Bible clearly teaches that the saved will live eternally on a New Earth in a New Jerusalem in the presence of the Lord (Revelation 21). The traditional concept of mainline Christianity that Heaven will be an ethereal world of disembodied spirits is not scriptural.11
In the next part of this series on what the Seventh-Day Adventists believe concerning the end times, we'll discover why they despise Catholicism and Israel.