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Questions On Doctrine


Who Constitute the "Remnant Church"?



It is alleged that Seventh-day Adventists teach that they alone constitute the finally completed "remnant church" mentioned in the book of Revelation. Is this true, or do Seventh-day Adventists recognize by the "remnant" those in every denomination who remain faithful to the Scriptures and the faith once delivered unto the saints? Do Adventists maintain that they alone are the only true witnesses of the living God in our age and that their observance of the seventh-day Sabbath is one of the major marks that identify them as God's remnant church?


The answer to this threefold question will depend quite largely on the definition given to the word "remnant." If, as is implied in the second part, "remnant" is taken to mean the church invisible, our answer to the first part is an unqualified No. Seventh-day Adventists have never sought to equate their church with the church invisible—"those in every denomination who remain faithful to the Scriptures." If the word "remnant" is used in terms of its definition in Revelation 12:17, a proper answer will call for the presentation of certain background material.


We believe that the prophecy of Revelation 12:17 points to the experience and work of the Seventh-day Adventist Church, but we do not believe that we alone constitute the true children of God—that we are the only true Christians—on earth today. We believe that God has a multitude of earnest, faithful, sincere followers in all Christian communions, who are, in the words of the question, "true witnesses of the living God in our age." Ellen G. White has expressed our view plainly: "In what religious bodies are the greater part of the followers of Christ now to be found? Without doubt, in the various churches professing the Protestant faith."—The Great Controversy, p. 383.

There is a historical background for our understanding of Revelation 12:17.

All through the centuries there have been neglected or forgotten truths that needed reemphasizing, departures and apostasies that needed protesting, reforms that needed to be effected. And God has laid the burden on the hearts of some to proclaim these truths.

The Protestant Reformation broke away from the papal church proclaiming the abandoned or forgotten fundamentals of the gospel, and repudiating the gross Apostasies of that time. Separation became inevitable because of the attitude of the established church. But before long, serious differences arose among the Reformed bodies as conscientious men in the various communions emphasized different aspects of truth. And various national and state churches soon came into being. These held varying degrees of truth.


Thus, out of the Reformed group in England, the Anglican Church developed. But because so much of Catholic ritual, form, and ceremony were retained, various Separatist and Independent groups came into being. Because of opposition and rejection of their spiritual contributions, the Baptists and other Independents arose in England and the Continent, not only stressing the purer gospel, but emphasizing baptism by immersion, soul liberty, and separation of church and state. Theirs was another step away from certain aspects of medieval theology retained in the Reformed faiths.

John Wesley and his associates also, seeking holiness of life and stressing free grace, were ridiculed and ostracized, and in time were forced to form a separate body. In the next century, in America, Alexander Campbell and his followers, believing that reform was needed, organized their own group. Many denominations were thus founded.

At the beginning of the twentieth century, when rationalism and higher criticism had honeycombed many of the churches—with denial of the full inspiration of the Word; the deity of Christ; His virgin birth, sinless life, and vicarious atoning death; His literal resurrection. and ascension; the heavenly ministry of Christ; and His second, personal, premillennial advent—God raised up many courageous leaders to proclaim the faith once delivered to the saints. In time this upsurge called for a break, and a separation took place in the ranks of Protestantism. This is reflected in such Antithetical groups as the National Council of Churches and the National Association of Evangelicals. 


Seventh-day Adventists believe there are special truths for today that we have been called of God to give. We definitely feel that we must emphasize certain neglected truths, must restore others that most Protestant bodies no longer stress, and must continue the work of the Reformation. We hold the basic evangelical truths in common with conservative Christians generally. Baptism by immersion and soul freedom, or separation of church and state, we share with the Baptists, and some others; emphasis on godliness of life and free grace we share with the Methodists; the seventh-day Sabbath we share with the Seventh Day Baptists; and so on. The particular emphasis on the nearness of the return of Christ was stressed during the worldwide Advent awakening within the Christian churches in the early decades of the nineteenth century. This we have continued to proclaim.

We recognize that God has been leading in all these revivals and reformations, but Seventh-day Adventists have the profound conviction that not only must the world now be warned concerning the imminence of earth's transcendent event—the second coming of Christ—but a people must be prepared to meet their Lord. Therefore we feel that an emphasis on certain special truths is due the world at this time. We believe we are living in the hour of God's judgment (Rev. 14:6, 7), and that time is running out. We believe (in common with most historic creeds) that the Ten Commandments are the standard of all Christian living, and by that same law God will judge the world (James 2:12). Moreover, it is our belief that the seventh-day sabbath is enjoined by the fourth precept of the Decalogue.


But on this point we would re-emphasize what we have already stated on Question 11, that one's effort to obey the law of God, however strict, can never be a ground of salvation. We are saved through the righteousness of Jesus Christ received as a gift of grace, and grace alone. Our Lord's sacrifice on Calvary is mankind's only hope. But having been saved, we rejoice that the righteous requirements of the law are fulfilled in the experience of the Christian "who walks not after the flesh but after the spirit," and who by the grace of God lives in harmony with the revealed will of God.

Following as we do the principles of the historical school of prophetic interpretation, it is our conviction that the events portrayed in Revelation 14 to 17 are in process of fulfillment, or are about to meet their fulfillment. And to prepare men everywhere for what is coming on the earth, God is sending a special message couched in the terms of the "everlasting gospel . . . to every nation, and kindred, and tongue, and people" (Rev. 14:6). That message urges men to turn from every false way of life and to worship the true God who created the heavens and the earth. Furthermore, we believe that God has brought the Seventh-day Adventist movement into being to carry His special message to the world at this time.

Consistent with our understanding of prophetic interpretation, we believe the book of Revelation pictures the final scenes in the great drama of redemption. John, looking down through the centuries, beheld the warfare of the dragon against the church. This contest between the forces of good and of evil is graphically portrayed in the twelfth chapter. A "woe" is pronounced on "the inhabiters of the earth and of the


sea! for the devil is come down unto you, having great wrath, because he knoweth that he hath but a short "time" (verse 12).

Through the centuries the Lord protected His church, often opening areas of refuge where the persecuted peoples could be "nourished . . . from the face of the serpent" (verse 14). Coming to the end of the chapter the prophet describes the final struggle, saying: "And the dragon was wroth with the woman [the Christian church], and went to make war with the remnant [the last segment] of her seed, which keep the commandments of God, and have the testimony of Jesus Christ" (verse 17). God will have His loyal and faithful children down to the end of earth's history. In harmony with our understanding of prophecy, we see in verse 17 a graphic description of the final warfare between Satan and those who keep the commandments of God, and have the testimony of Jesus Christ." Those who will feel the full fury of the dragon's wrath are spoken of as the remnant of her seed," or in Adventist language, the remnant church."

It is in a spirit of deep humility that we apply this scripture to the Advent Movement and its work, for we recognize the tremendous implications of such an interpretation. While we believe that Revelation 12:17 points to us as a people of prophecy, it is in no spirit of pride that we thus apply the scripture. To us it is the logical conclusion of our system of prophetic interpretation.

But the fact that we thus apply this scripture does not imply in any way that we believe we are the only true Christians in the world, or that we are the only


ones who will be saved. While we believe that the Seventh-day Adventist Church is the visible organization through which God is proclaiming this last special message to the world, we remember the principle that Christ enunciated when He said, "Other sheep I have, which are not of this fold" (John 10:16). Seventh-day Adventists firmly believe that God has a precious remnant, a multitude of earnest, sincere believers, in every church, not excepting the Roman Catholic communion, who are living up to all the light God has given them. The great Shepherd of the sheep recognizes them as His own, and He is calling them into one great fold and one great fellowship in preparation for His return. Our position on this point is clearly stated by Ellen G. White:

Among earth's inhabitants, scattered in every land, there are those who have not bowed the knee to Baal. Like the stars of heaven, which appear only at night, these faithful ones will shine forth when darkness covers the earth and gross darkness the people. In heathen Africa, in the Catholic lands of Europe and of South America, in China, in India, in the islands of the sea, and in all the dark corners of the earth, God has in reserve a firmament of chosen ones that will yet shine forth amidst the darkness, revealing clearly to an apostate world the transforming power of obedience to His law.— Prophets and Kings, pp. 188, 189.

Every jewel will be brought out and gathered, for the hand of the Lord is set to recover the remnant of His people.—Early Writings, p. 70.

We believe the majority of God's children are still scattered in this way throughout the world. And of course, the majority of those in Christian churches still conscientiously observe Sunday. We ourselves cannot do so, for we believe that God is calling for a reformation in this matter. But we respect and love those of our fellow Christians who do not interpret God's Word just as we do.


Our study of prophecy, according to the historical school of interpretation, convinces us that just before the appearing of our Lord and Saviour, great issues will challenge both the church and the world. Circumstances will so shape themselves that every soul on earth will be tested as to his loyalty to God. In accordance with the teaching of Christ we believe that many who today profess His name and claim to be followers of His truth will at that time compromise their faith and actually deny their Lord.

That which leads up to this crisis is outlined, we believe, in Revelation 13. In this prophecy two great powers appear under the symbols of a ten-horned beast from the sea, and a two-horned beast from the earth. These dominating powers are seen to unite in a single purpose, that of opposing God and persecuting His people. Their combined opposition will be universal, and so influential that they will succeed in getting a decree passed, possibly through some world court legislature, that those who withstand their edict will be prohibited from doing any business whatsoever; even food will be denied them.

The effect of this decree will be upon all, "both small and great, rich and poor, free and bond." No one will escape. It will result in worldwide boycott of those who serve God. In that crisis many will compromise their principles and deny their faith.

And it is our belief that God wants the whole world, especially those who love and serve Him, to be prepared for that tremendous issue. Therefore, He is


sending a special message to all the peoples of earth. This message first calls men to accept salvation through His grace, and then it sets the issues clearly before them by unmasking the man of sin and revealing the subtlety of his attacks, so that when the test comes, each individual will be able to make intelligent choice. In harmony with that interpretation of prophecy we feel that God is giving tests of loyalty today, so that when the final issue comes and the whole world will divide itself on the matter of loyalty to God or compliance with the satanic edict of the world, men will be ready for the test.

In every great crisis God has had loyal, faithful ones whose allegiance to Him has been more precious than life itself. And in this coming hour of test we believe that He will have a loyal "remnant." We believe that finally the "remnant" people will include every true and faithful follower of Christ. We believe God has given us a solemn responsibility to carry His final message of entreaty to the. world—"the everlasting gospel" (Rev. 14:6).

Our understanding of our place in preparation for these events is outlined in the following statement from Ellen G. White:

In the time of the end, every divine institution is to be restored. The breach made in the law at the time the Sabbath was changed by man, is to be repaired. God's remnant people, standing before the world as reformers, are to show that the law of God is the foundation of all enduring reform, and that the Sabbath of the fourth commandment is to stand as a memorial of creation, a constant reminder of the power of God. In clear, distinct lines they are to present the necessity of obedience to all the precepts of the Decalogue. Constrained by the love of Christ, they are to cooperate with Him in building up the waste places. They are to be repairers of the breach, restorers of paths to dwell in.—Prophets and Kings, p. 678.


To sum up the matter: We believe that through all the ages God has had His elect, distinguished by their sincere obedience to Him in terms of all the light revealed to them. These constitute what may be described as the church invisible. We also believe that at various periods of earth's history God has called out a company of people, making them uniquely the depositories and exponents of His truth. This is strikingly illustrated by the history of Israel, and as already mentioned, by certain reformatory movements in the history of the Christian church.

We believe that in earth's last hour God has a special message for the world, to prepare all who will heed it to withstand the deceptions of the last days and to make ready for the second advent of Christ. We believe that He has raised up a movement—known as the Seventh-day Adventist church—for the express purpose of making it, in a special way, the depository and exponent of this message. While this company of God's children may be described as a church, we believe the term "movement" more accurately conveys the essential nature and purpose of this distinctive group with its distinctive message.

We conceive our task to be that of persuading men to make ready for the day of God, by calling on them to accept Heaven's special message and thus to join with us in proclaiming God's great truth for these days. Holding, as we do, that God raised up this movement and gave to it its message, we believe that before the final hour of crisis and testing all God's true children—now so widely scattered—will join with us in giving obedience to this message, of which the seventh-day Sabbath is a basic part.


Finally, we would say with all the earnestness and directness we can command, that we repudiate any implication that we alone are beloved of God and have a claim upon heaven. We believe that all who serve God in full sincerity, in terms of all the revealed will of God that they now understand, are presently potential members of that final "remnant" company as defined in Revelation 12:17. We believe it to be the solemn task and joyous privilege of the advent movement to make God's last testing truths so clear and so persuasive as to draw all of God's children into that prophetically foretold company making ready for the day of God.

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