What do Seventh-day Adventists Believe about the Remnant and its Mission?
Seventh-day Adventists believe God has faithful people in all churches, all around the world. They also see how God has always nurtured a group of faithful believers to proclaim His truth, love, and plan to save humanity.
This group is often called a “remnant.” This means they “remain” with God even amid persecution and also when it seems everyone else has rebelled against God, or compromised their beliefs.
Adventists believe this trend will remain true even to the last days, before the return of Christ.
Here are five things you’ll learn about the remnant in this post:
- Use of the remnant concept in the Old and New Testaments
- Characteristics of a remnant group, as described in the Bible
- The remnant in the last days
- The three angels’ messages
- The remnant’s goal–to persevere for God
Adventists consider this topic of the remnant and its mission as so important that they address it as one of their fundamental beliefs. It reads:
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 worldwide witness.”
Was there a remnant in the Old Testament?
Seventh-day Adventists believe that throughout sacred history, there has always been a remnant—a group of people who persevered as believers, armed with God’s Word to share with the nations around them.
Let’s look at some examples of the remnant in the Old Testament:
Noah and his family
They served as the first example by following God’s instructions, building an ark, and preaching to a corrupt world about the coming flood.
After the Flood, only a small group of Noah’s family remained alive, and it became their mission to spread out and proclaim God’s Word (Genesis 6).
This holds true to the dictionary definition of the word remnant as “a usually small part, member, or trace remaining.”
The 7000 believers in Elijah’s time are a remnant, which God Himself said that He “preserved”
Elijah was at a low point, hiding out because those in power wanted him killed for defying their gods. He was discouraged, thinking He was the only follower of God left. But God encouraged Him that he should return to the people and anoint leaders among them, saying He had preserved 7,000 others in Israel who had never bowed down to Baal (1 Kings 19:18).
The Israelites in Egypt are another powerful representation of the remnant
They were a small nation of people who were to be God’s representatives.
As His servants, they were also “a kingdom of priests and a holy nation” (Exodus 19:6, NKJV).
And they stood out as unique in a world filled with paganism, idolatry, child-sacrifice, and a host of other unthinkable practices and beliefs.
Israel had sacred truths that contrasted these primitive beliefs, such as:
- The Sabbath (Genesis 2: 2-3)
- The law of God (Exodus 20:1-17)
- The sanctuary (Exodus 15:17)
- The plan of salvation (Isaiah 53: 1-11)
- Creation (Genesis 1-2)
All these truths were all but lost to the pagan nations around them.
So they weren’t just meant to be “special” people to waltz around as “holier than thou,” but they were to witness to the world around them of the true God. They were meant to share and grow the kingdom of God on earth.
This explains why we find texts such as these addressed to the Jews:
“Therefore be careful to observe them; for this is your wisdom and your understanding in the sight of the peoples who will hear all these statutes, and say, ‘Surely this great nation is a wise and understanding people. For what great nation is there that has God so near to it, as the LORD our God is to us, for whatever reason we may call upon Him?”(Deuteronomy 4:6-7, NKJV).
“Therefore you are My witnesses, says the LORD, that I am God”(Isaiah 43:12, NKJV).
But don’t we see throughout the Bible that the Israelites were often unfaithful?
Unfortunately, yes. A great deal of the Old Testament is the story of God’s people failing over and over. The sad story climaxes with their rejection of Jesus (John 19:15).
But these failures didn’t change the crucial fact that they still had light and truth that others around them didn’t have. It was still their mission to share it.
In other words, the remnant isn’t defined so much by the holiness of the people but by the truths these people have been given, whether or not every single one of them are faithful to that truth 100% of the time.
For example, ancient Israel didn’t keep the seventh-day Sabbath as they should have (Exodus 16; Nehemiah 13:15-19; Jeremiah 17: 27; Ezekiel 20: 13). And since Sabbath-keeping was unique to them in the ancient world, this was a truth that identified them as God’s remnant.
But the fact that there were instances where they broke the Sabbath had nothing to do with the truth of that teaching in itself. Just like if a majority of people believed the earth were flat, that wouldn’t invalidate the truth that the earth is round.
Was there a remnant in the New Testament?
Adventists believe that the early Christian church of the first centuries was the remnant in the New Testament times. It was made of both Jews and Gentiles. Talking of the New Testament church, Seventh-day Adventist scholar Hans LaRondelle wrote:
“Since Pentecost, the Old Testament prophecies concerning the remnant of Israel had received their fulfillment in the formation of the apostolic church more than that, the faithful church of Christ down through the ages, especially in the fully restored apostolic faith in the time of the end, fulfills the remnant promises of the Old Testament.” (Handbook of Seventh-day Adventist Theology, Review and Herald, 2000, pp. 864-865).1
But in the New Testament, Paul predicted that there would be a time of great apostasy in the church, a falling away from the truth first delivered to the apostles.
“Let no one deceive you by any means; for that Day will not come unless the falling away comes first, and the man of sin is revealed, the son of perdition” (2 Thessalonians 2:3, NKJV).
In fact, the story of this apostasy and the rise of God’s final remnant is found in the book of Revelation.
What do Adventists believe about the remnant in the last days?
Adventists find that Revelation 12 provides a powerful depiction of God’s remnant people at the end of time.
The chapter depicts:
- The fall of Satan from heaven (Revelation 12:7-9).
- The beginnings of the Great Controversy, which then plays out on earth (Revelation 12: 3, 4, 12).
In this chapter, God’s church is presented as a woman.
A woman is a common symbol for the church in the Old Testament (Isaiah 49:15; Jeremiah 6:2; 31:22).
In Revelation 12, a woman symbolizing God’s people is about to give birth to a child.
This child is Jesus.
And then Satan, who is depicted as a dragon, seeks to destroy Him.
“And the dragon stood before the woman who was ready to give birth, to devour her Child as soon as it was born” (Revelation 12:4, NKJV).
This is not just symbolic of Satan using Herod to try and kill the infant Jesus (Matthew 2: 16-18). Instead, it refers to all of Satan’s attempts to destroy Jesus throughout His ministry.
But then Satan failed, and Jesus was “caught up to God and His throne” (Revelation 12:5, NKJV). And that’s where Jesus is today, ministering on our behalf in the heavenly sanctuary.
Enraged that He couldn’t stop Jesus, Satan then is depicted as going after the woman who “gave birth to the male child” (Revelation 12:13, NKJV).
This woman is the faithful church and the child is Jesus.
In verses 6 and 14 of Revelation 12, we’re given a prophetic time period of 1260 days (which according to the “a day for a year principle” equates to 1260 literal years).
It’s a time period during which Satan attacks the church in antiquity. But it turns out that despite the attacks, God still preserves the church.
Adventists believe that this was during the years of papal supremacy. A time of terrible persecution of those who remained faithful to the truth. They were persecuted by the Roman church.
It’s at this time that Paul’s prediction was fulfilled. The prediction of there being a great “falling away” of God’s people.
Talking about the persecution depicted in Revelation 12, Adventists teach:
“The Christian world became a battlefield. Many were imprisoned and/or executed in the name of God! During the 1260-year persecution, millions of faithful believers experienced great suffering, while many paid for their loyalty to Christ with death.” (Seventh-day Adventists Believe, Ministerial Association of the General Conference of Seventh-day Adventists, 2005, pgs. 184-185).2 It’s in this context, after the specified period of persecution, that the end-time remnant church appears.
What are the characteristics of the remnant church based on revelation 12?
After depicting Satan’s attacks on the church, the Bible then talks about his continued assault on a special group of people who arise in the end—the remnant.
“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” (Revelation 12:17, NKJV).
Here, we see a direct reference to the end-time remnant.
Who are they?
The woman is the faithful church.
And her “seed” is obviously those later generations whom she bore. They’re the faithful Christians that came after the early days of the church.
In this case though, the verses talk about “the remnant of her seed.” That is those who remain after the long centuries of suffering and persecution of the church.
Two distinct traits depict this remnant.
They keep the commandments of God.
Notice, it does not says they keep “most of the commandments of God.” Or that they “keep all the commandments of God but the fourth.” It says they keep the commandments of God, all of them, which includes the Seventh-day Sabbath (Exodus 20:1-11).
Scripture is explicit:
“For whoever shall keep the whole law, and yet stumble in one point, he is guilty of all. For He who said, ‘Do not commit adultery,’ also said, ‘Do not murder.’ Now if you do not commit adultery, but you do murder, you have become a transgressor of the law” (James 2:10-11, NKJV).
The first characteristic of this remnant is their obedience to the law of the Ten Commandments, and this includes the Seventh-day Sabbath.
This doesn’t mean they’ll be saved by keeping the law. That is impossible to any human on their own power.
Instead, they keep the law to express their love to God for what He has done for them through the death of Jesus.
They believe it when the Bible says:
“For this is the love of God, that we keep His commandments: and His commandments are not grievous” (1 John 5:3, NKJV).
That is, they show their love of God by keeping His commandments—all Ten of them. It’s really that simple.
They have the testimony of Jesus Christ
What is that?
Revelation 19:10 defines the testimony of Jesus for us.
“For the testimony of Jesus is the spirit of prophecy” (Revelation 19:10, NKJV).
In other words, the “testimony of Jesus” is revealed in the manifestation of the prophetic gift, something clearly taught in the New Testament.
Paul talked about the spiritual gifts given to the church, which includes apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors, and teachers (Ephesians 4:11).
The prophetic gift will be specifically made manifest among this end-time remnant. This gift—like all spiritual gifts the Holy Spirit gives humans—is still active and has been made manifest among believers.
As Adventist scholar Hans LaRondelle wrote:
Do Adventists believe that they alone are the remnant for the last days?
Absolutely not. Seventh-day Adventists have never taught that one has to be an Adventist to be saved.
And, as we have seen with ancient Israel, just being part of the remnant doesn’t guarantee salvation, either.
Historically, the remnant has often been defined by the distinct truths it had. Distinct truths that it needed to spread to others.
It was not defined by the holiness of its people because unfortunately, many of its people weren’t always all that holy!
And the same goes with the Seventh-day Adventist church.
Just like any church group that has ever existed on earth, it is filled with flawed people. But it also has a distinct message of truth and hope to proclaim to the world.
And this is found in the three angels’ messages in revelation.
What are the three angels’ messages?
Seventh-day Adventists believe that God has a “present truth” message in every age (2 Peter 1: 12).
And for these last days the three angels’ messages of Revelation 14: 1-12 constitute the distinct message for this specific time, just before the return of Jesus.
And the church also believes that it has been called by God to proclaim these truths to the world.
That means spreading the three angels’ messages is its mission.
What are these messages?
The first angel’s message:
“And I saw another angel fly in the midst of heaven, having the everlasting gospel to preach unto them that dwell on the earth, and to every nation, and kindred, and tongue, and people, saying with a loud voice,
‘Fear God, and give glory to Him; for the hour of His judgment is come: and worship Him that made heaven, and earth, and the sea, and the fountains of waters”‘ (Revelation 14:6-7, NKJV).
There’s so much in here.
But the essence of the message is that the time of judgment has come. And this is in the context of the “everlasting gospel.”
And because judgment time is here, the whole world is called to worship their Creator, the one who made and sustains them.
In many ways, this “present truth” message is just a restating of basic biblical truths that go back to the Garden of Eden after the Fall.
But this time, these Biblical truths are in the context of the last days of earth’s history, before the second coming of Christ.
The second angel’s message:
“And there followed another angel, saying, Babylon is fallen, is fallen, that great city, because she made all nations drink of the wine of the wrath of her fornication” (Revelation 14:8, NKJV).
In the Old Testament, the ancient city of Babylon had always been depicted as the enemy of God and His people (2 Kings 25:6; Daniel 1:1).
And now, that imagery is used to depict those who are against God and His people in the last days.
Fornication is a biblical symbol of false teachings and false doctrines, which are unfaithfulness to God (Ezekiel 16:15; Hosea 2:5).
“Babylon” represents the collective false religion/doctrines.
Therefore, this message is to let the world know just how widespread and serious the misleading doctrines and practices of Babylon’s false religion really are.
In fact, God’s people are later called to “come out of her” [Babylon] (Revelation 18:4, NKJV).
The third angel’s message reads in part:
“Then a third angel followed them, saying with a loud voice, “If anyone worships the beast and his image, and receives his mark on his forehead or on his hand, he himself shall also drink of the wine of the wrath of God, which is poured out full strength into the cup of His indignation” (Revelation 14: 9-10, NKJV).
This is the most fearsome warning in the Bible.
And it depicts a time of world-wide persecution, just before Christ returns (Revelation 13: 1-17).
Notice also just how central worship is here.
In the first angel’s message, people are called to worship God, with an emphasis on Him as creator (Revelation 14:6-7).
But in the third angel’s message, people are warned about worshiping the “beast and his image,” an end-time expression of the false religions of Babylon that was depicted in the second angel’s message.
Finally, we have been given another depiction of God’s end-time people, His remnant.
“Here is the patience of the saints; here are those who keep the commandments of God and the faith of Jesus” (Revelation 14:12, NKJV).
Again, as in the earlier depiction of end-time remnant, “the commandments of God” are one of the two main characteristics that identify it.
And, as already stated, this means all the commandments, including the Sabbath.
This second characteristic only talks about Jesus instead of the “testimony of Jesus.”
It says “the faith of Jesus”—an expression that reveals their faith in God, and their trust in Christ’s sacrificial death, which alone makes it possible for us to experience salvation and redemption.
In many ways, one could simply say that these people truly believe in the gospel.
Why do Adventists emphasize the concept of the remnant?
In preparation for Jesus’ second coming, Adventists have a “burden for souls,” wishing to share this hope with everyone and help people be prepared.
- Very few other churches fully keep “the commandments of God,” because not all groups keep the Seventh-day Sabbath.
- The manifestation of “the spirit of prophecy” has occurred among them.
- Adventists believe and proclaim the gospel, salvation by faith in Jesus Christ.
- They believe that these three identifying marks distinguish the end-times remnant, and it is a collective goal to be useful to God in this way.
Adventists believe that God has always had a remnant of people who remained faithful to God and His word. And that these remnant people upheld all of His commandments and were a witness to the world of the present truth they had for their time.
What does the concept of the remnant mean for us today?
The whole idea of a remnant group of people is that God is our refuge and strength (Psalm 46:1), and that He will always make sure His message and His people persevere, even when things seem impossible. He will never leave us or forsake us (Deuteronomy 31:6).
There is no special favor or reward for any of God’s remnant groups throughout history. Rather, just like any spiritual gift the Holy Spirit empowers individuals with, the end times remnant is a group of people that make use of the spiritual gift of prophecy and proclaim the three angels’ messages.
The real takeaway here is that God is the victor, and He loves humanity enough to do whatever it takes to save us (John 3:16, 17).
He will even bestow upon humans remarkable spiritual gifts to make sure His word is shared to those who want to hear it (1 Corinthians 12:4-11).
And everyone who claims Jesus as their Savior, recognizing His sacrifice to free us from the influence of “Babylon” (Joel 2:32), will be called to meet Jesus in the air when He returns for us (1 Thessalonians 4:17).
 Seventh-day Adventists Believe, Ministerial Association of the General Conference of Seventh-day Adventists, 2005. pgs. 184-185.
 Handbook of Seventh-day Adventist Theology, Review and Herald, 2000, p. 888.
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