Who Are the Remnant?
“Unless the Lord of hosts had left to us a very small remnant, we would have become like Sodom; we would have been made like Gomorrah” (Isaiah 1:9).
A remnant is a fragment, a small part of the original often considered of little value. It is a piece of cloth at the end of the bolt that is usually thrown into the bargain bin. The remnant designation is used by several Bible writers as a symbol of God’s church. But if you were to ask most non-Adventist Christians if they believe their church to be “the remnant,” the answer would likely be no; some because they find the designation elitist and offensive; others because they have no idea what you’re talking about.
Seventh-day Adventists have, throughout their history, considered themselves to be the fulfillment of the prophesied remnant in Revelation 12:17: “And the dragon was wroth with the woman, and went to make war with the remnant of her seed, which keep the commandments of God, and have the testimony of Jesus Christ.” In fact, in the 1860’s Adventists gave consideration to calling themselves “The Remnant.” Some might find it surprising, therefore, to learn that it was not until the General Conference session in 1980 that a statement dealing with the concept of the remnant was included in their Fundamental Beliefs. It is one of our newer doctrinal statements.
Here it is, Fundamental Belief Number 13: “The universal church is composed of all who truly believe in Christ, but in the last days, a time of wide spread apostasy, a remnant has been called out to keep the commandments of God and the faith of Jesus. This remnant announces the arrival of the judgment hour, proclaims salvation through Christ, and heralds the approach of His second advent. This proclamation is symbolized by the three angels of Revelation 14. It coincides with the work of judgment in heaven and results in a work of repentance and reform on earth. Every believer is called to have a personal part in this world-wide witness.”
God has always had a remnant who tried to represent Him in our sinful world. But when we talk about the end-time remnant church, what do we mean? We mean that somewhere in this world one can find the lamp of truth still burning, that somewhere a group exists whose Biblical teachings are in strict harmony with Scripture. If they are faithful to their calling, such a group, though small, should not be that hard to find. It should be as simple as finding the healthiest, happiest, holiest people in the world, right? But maybe we need something a bit more objective. Let’s turn to the Bible for a more precise definition.
1. The end-time remnant arises right on time in fulfillment of Bible prophecy.
The twelfth chapter of Revelation outlines the great controversy between Christ and Satan. According to this prophecy, the remnant make their appearance sometime after the end of the 1260 years of the great tribulation which ended in 1798 (Rev. 12:6, 14). They must come into being by the end of the 2300-day prophecy which ended in 1844 if they are to give the judgment-hour message of Revelation 14:6-8. That message and the two that accompany it are the most solemn warnings ever given to mortals. When God has a message to give, He raises up messengers. The prophesied remnant would appear on time.
2. The remnant keep all the commandments of God.
Revelation 14:12 places the remnant in sharp contrast to those who serve Satan and worship the beast. The remnant, through faith in Jesus, keep the commandments of God (John 15:10); the rest of the world rebel against His righteous laws and receive the mark of the beast (Rev. 13:16). Those searching for the remnant must find those who are putting the fourth commandment back in its rightful place among the Ten.
3. The remnant have the faith of Jesus.
Jesus had absolute confidence in the trustworthiness of the Bible. “The scripture cannot be broken,” He says in John 10:35. Just so, the faith of those who constitute the remnant will be more than mere profession; it will be a faith that works, a faith that leads to active, loving obedience. Here is a group whose model in all things pertaining to spiritual life is Jesus.
4. The remnant have the gift of prophecy.
“And the dragon was enraged with the woman and he went to make war with the rest of her offspring, who . . . have the testimony of Jesus Christ” (Rev. 12:17). “For the testimony of Jesus is the spirit of prophecy” (Rev. 19:10). The true remnant will have every spiritual gift including the gift of prophecy.
5. The remnant proclaims the three angels’ messages.
Arising in the period following the close of the great tribulation (1798), the remnant would be identified by their proclamation of the true gospel, the investigative judgment, the high-priestly ministry of Christ in heaven’ s sanctuary, the fall of Babylon, and the warning against receiving the mark of the beast (Rev. 14:6-12).
6. The end-time remnant are the special targets of the wrath of Satan.
The true remnant may or may not be seen as experiencing persecution, depending on the time and place of one’s search. But at any given moment since the beginning of their history, the remnant have been treated with contempt and abuse in some part of our world, and will be so treated throughout the whole world before Christ returns. “Yes, and all who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will suffer persecution” (2 Tim. 3:12).
7. The remnant are the special objects of God’s love and care.
God’s providential care for His people will be a witness to an unbelieving world. “The remnant of Israel shall . . . feed their flocks and lie down, and no one shall make them afraid” (Zeph. 3:13). The mission of the end-time remnant will advance with such rapidity that the world in general will recognize them as having the favor of God. “The earth was illuminated with his glory” (Rev. 18:1).
Who is it?
So, we ask: Does a church exist in our world today which meets these seven Bible characteristics that identify God’s true remnant?
What church arose at the very time that the anti-typical day of atonement began in 1844 in fulfillment of Daniel 8:14? The Methodists were a hundred years too early, the Jehovah’s Witnesses forty years too late. The Mormons were pretty much on time but had no understanding of Jesus’ high priestly ministry and did nothing to restore the Sabbath.
What church keeps all the commandments of God, including the fourth, which specifies the seventh day of the week as the true Sabbath according to Exodus 20:8-11? The Jews do but do not have faith in Jesus. The Seventh-day Baptists do but do not have the Spirit of Prophecy.
What church has the faith of Jesus, a faith that surrenders completely to the will of God as Jesus did in Gethsemane, and renders active, loving obedience to all that God asks? Many churches might make this claim, but they either do not accept the entire Bible or are selective in what they choose to obey.
What church has the gift of prophecy—not a part-time, hit-and-miss gift—but a prophet whose teachings align perfectly with those of Scripture? Some groups have made this claim, but when challenged by the Bible tests of a true prophet, they fail.
What church is proclaiming at this very hour in virtually every country on this planet the three angels’ messages of Revelation 14? Most churches have no understanding of these messages and therefore no interest in proclaiming them.
What church, according to the prophecies of Daniel and Revelation, will feel the special wrath of Satan? Many churches have been persecuted throughout history, but the remnant is a New Testament Christian church that is persecuted for keeping all the commandments of God (Rev. 12:14).
What church is the special object of God’s favor as evidenced by the fact that, though small in numbers, it has a medical, educational, evangelistic, and publishing work second to none among all the churches of the world?
To all of these questions we can answer without hesitation: the Seventh-day Adventists. Of the seven foregoing identifying marks, what other church in all the world can rightly claim that even one or two, much less six or seven, accurately defines them? We have found the remnant which the Bible foretold.
Perhaps the most unqualified endorsement of all we have been saying is this: “Seventh-day Adventists have been chosen by God as a peculiar people, separate from the world. By the great cleaver of truth, He has cut them out from the quarry of the world and brought them into connection with Himself. He has made them His representatives and has called them to be ambassadors for Him in the last work of salvation. The greatest wealth of truth ever entrusted to mortals, the most solemn and fearful warnings ever sent by God to man, have been committed to them to be given to the world” (Testimonies for the Church, vol. 7, 138).
We must hasten to add that each Seventh-day Adventist must qualify personally with respect to remnant identity. The foregoing qualifications can be used in a somewhat theoretical way to identify the remnant church; the crucial question is: Do they describe you and me?
This article is an excerpt from Lee Roy Holmes' book The Church That Will Not Fall. Lee Roy is a Retired SDA pastor, College Place, WA.