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Who Constitute the Remnant Church

Who Constitute the Remnant Church

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Published by: czemu on Feb 17, 2013
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08/07/2013

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At Issue Index
 
Table of Contents
 
Previous
 
Next
Questions On Doctrine
 
Who Constitute the "Remnant Church"?
 
QUESTION 20
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 theScriptures 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 theseventh-day Sabbath is one of the major marks that identify them as God's remnant church? 
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The answer to this threefold question will depend quite largely on the definition given to the word "remnant." If, as is implied inthe 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 faithfulto the Scriptures." If the word "remnant" is used in terms of its definition in Revelation 12:17, a proper answer will call for thepresentation of certain background material.
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We believe that the prophecy of Revelation 12:17 points to the experience and work of the Seventh-day Adventist Church, butwe do not believe that we alone constitute the true children of God—that we are the only true Christians—on earth today. Webelieve that God has a multitude of earnest, faithful, sincere followers in all Christian communions, who are, in the words of thequestion, "true witnesses of the living God in our age." Ellen G. White has expressed our view plainly: "In what religious bodiesare the greater part of the followers of Christ now to be found? Without doubt, in the various churches professing the Protestantfaith."—
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 apostasiesthat needed protesting, reforms that needed to be effected. And God has laid the burden on the hearts of some to proclaimthese truths.The Protestant Reformation broke away from the papal church proclaiming the abandoned or forgotten fundamentals of thegospel, and repudiating the gross Apostasies of that time. Separation became inevitable because of the attitude of theestablished church. But before long, serious differences arose among the Reformed bodies as conscientious men in thevarious communions emphasized different aspects of truth. And various national and state churches soon came into being.These held varying degrees of truth.
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Thus, out of the Reformed group in England, the Anglican Church developed. But because so much of Catholic ritual, form, andceremony 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 thepurer gospel, but emphasizing baptism by immersion, soul liberty, and separation of church and state. Theirs was another stepaway 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 intime were forced to form a separate body. In the next century, in America, Alexander Campbell and his followers, believing thatreform 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—withdenial of the full inspiration of the Word; the deity of Christ; His virgin birth, sinless life, and vicarious atoning death; His literalresurrection. and ascension; the heavenly ministry of Christ; and His second, personal, premillennial advent—God raised upmany courageous leaders to proclaim the faith once delivered to the saints. In time this upsurge called for a break, and a
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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.
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Seventh-day Adventists believe there are special truths for today that we have been called of God to give. We definitely feelthat we must emphasize certain neglected truths, must restore others that most Protestant bodies no longer stress, and mustcontinue 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 theSeventh Day Baptists; and so on. The particular emphasis on the nearness of the return of Christ was stressed during theworldwide Advent awakening within the Christian churches in the early decades of the nineteenth century. This we havecontinued to proclaim.We recognize that God has been leading in all these revivals and reformations, but Seventh-day Adventists have the profoundconviction that not only must the world now be warned concerning the imminence of earth's transcendent event—the secondcoming of Christ—but a people must be prepared to meet their Lord. Therefore we feel that an emphasis on certain specialtruths 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 isrunning out. We believe (in common with most historic creeds) that the Ten Commandments are the standard of all Christianliving, and by that same law God will judge the world (James 2:12). Moreover, it is our belief that the seventh-day sabbath isenjoined by the fourth precept of the Decalogue.
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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 giftof grace, and grace alone. Our Lord's sacrifice on Calvary is mankind's only hope. But having been saved, we rejoice that therighteous requirements of the law are fulfilled in the experience of the Christian "who walks not after the flesh but after thespirit," 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 eventsportrayed in Revelation 14 to 17 are in process of fulfillment, or are about to meet their fulfillment. And to prepare meneverywhere for what is coming on the earth, God is sending a special message couched in the terms of the "everlastinggospel . . . to every nation, and kindred, and tongue, and people" (Rev. 14:6). That message urges men to turn from every falseway of life and to worship the true God who created the heavens and the earth. Furthermore, we believe that God has broughtthe 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 thegreat 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
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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 finalstruggle, saying: "And the dragon was wroth with the woman [the Christian church], and went to make war with the remnant [thelast segment] of her seed, which keep the commandments of God, and have the testimony of Jesus Christ" (verse 17). Godwill have His loyal and faithful children down to the end of earth's history. In harmony with our understanding of prophecy, wesee in verse 17 a graphic description of the final warfare between Satan and those who keep the commandments of God, andhave 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 thetremendous 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 propheticinterpretation.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 theworld, or that we are the only
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ones who will be saved. While we believe that the Seventh-day Adventist Church is the visible organization through which Godis 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 toall the light God has given them. The great Shepherd of the sheep recognizes them as His own, and He is calling them intoone great fold and one great fellowship in preparation for His return. Our position on this point is clearly stated by Ellen G.White:
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 Among earth's inhabitants, scattered in every land, there are those who have not bowed the knee to Baal. Like thestars of heaven, which appear only at night, these faithful ones will shine forth when darkness covers the earth andgross darkness the people. In heathen Africa, in the Catholic lands of Europe and of South America, in China, inIndia, in the islands of the sea, and in all the dark corners of the earth, God has in reserve a firmament of chosenones 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 callingfor a reformation in this matter. But we respect and love those of our fellow Christians who do not interpret God's Word just aswe do.
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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 thatevery soul on earth will be tested as to his loyalty to God. In accordance with the teaching of Christ we believe that many whotoday 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 thesymbols of a ten-horned beast from the sea, and a two-horned beast from the earth. These dominating powers are seen tounite in a single purpose, that of opposing God and persecuting His people. Their combined opposition will be universal, andso influential that they will succeed in getting a decree passed, possibly through some world court legislature, that those whowithstand 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 resultin 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 thattremendous issue. Therefore, He is
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sending a special message to all the peoples of earth. This message first calls men to accept salvation through His grace, andthen it sets the issues clearly before them by unmasking the man of sin and revealing the subtlety of his attacks, so that whenthe test comes, each individual will be able to make intelligent choice. In harmony with that interpretation of prophecy we feelthat 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 inthis coming hour of test we believe that He will have a loyal "remnant." We believe that finally the "remnant" people will includeevery 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 Sabbathwas changed by man, is to be repaired. God's remnant people, standing before the world as reformers, are toshow that the law of God is the foundation of all enduring reform, and that the Sabbath of the fourth commandmentis to stand as a memorial of creation, a constant reminder of the power of God. In clear, distinct lines they are topresent the necessity of obedience to all the precepts of the Decalogue. Constrained by the love of Christ, they areto cooperate with Him in building up the waste places. They are to be repairers of the breach, restorers of paths todwell in.—
Prophets and Kings
, p. 678.
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To sum up the matter: We believe that through all the ages God has had His elect, distinguished by their sincere obedience toHim in terms of all the light revealed to them. These constitute what may be described as the church invisible. We also believethat at various periods of earth's history God has called out a company of people, making them uniquely the depositories andexponents of His truth. This is strikingly illustrated by the history of Israel, and as already mentioned, by certain reformatorymovements 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 thedeceptions 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 andexponent 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.
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