Chapter 12: THE REMNANT AND ITS MISSION


Seventh-day Adventists Believe...

The universal church is composed of all who truly believe

in Christ, but in the last days, a time of widespread

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 worldwide witness.--Fundamental Beliefs,12

 

THE REMNANT AND ITS MISSION

The great red dragon crouches, ready. Already it has

brought about the downfall of one third of heaven's angels

(Rev. 12:4,7-9). Now, if it can devour the infant about to

be born, it will have won the war.

The woman standing before it is garbed with the sun and

has the moon under her feet and wears a crown of twelve

stars. The male Child to whom she gives birth is destined to

"rule all nations with a rod of iron."

The dragon pounces, but its efforts to kill the Child are

in vain. Instead, the Child is "caught up to God and to His

throne." Enraged, the dragon turns its wrath against the

mother, who is miraculously given wings and is taken to a

remote place specially prepared by God, where He nourishes

her for a time and times and half a time--3 1/2 years, or

1260 prophetic days (Rev. 12:1-6,13,14).

In Biblical prophecy, a pure woman represents God's

faithful church.(*1) A woman depicted as a fornicator or

adulteress represents God's people who have apostatized

(Ezekiel 16; Isa. 57:8; Jer. 31:4,5; Hosea 1-3; Rev. 17:1-5)

The dragon, the "serpent of old, called the Devil and

Satan," was waiting to devour the male Child, the

long-expected Messiah, Jesus Christ. Satan, warring against

his arch-enemy Jesus, used as his instrument the Roman

empire. Nothing, not even death on the cross, could deter

Jesus from His mission as Saviour of humanity.

At the cross, Christ defeated Satan. Speaking of the

crucifixion, Christ said, "`Now is the judgment of this

world; now the ruler of this world will be cast out'" (John

12:31). Revelation describes heaven's hymn of victory: "`Now

salvation, and strength, and the kingdom of our God, and the

power of His Christ have come, for the accuser of our

brethren, who accused them before our God day and night, has

been cast down....Therefore rejoice, O heavens, and you who

dwell in them!'" (Rev. 12:10-12). Satan's expulsion from

heaven restricted his works. No longer could Satan accuse

God's people before the heavenly beings.

But while heaven rejoices, earth must take warning: "`Woe

to the inhabitants of the earth and the sea! For the devil

has come down to you, having great wrath, because he knows

that he has a short time'" (Rev. 12:12).

To vent his anger Satan began persecuting the woman--the

church (Rev. 12:13), which, though it suffered greatly,

nevertheless survived. Sparsely populated areas of the

earth--"the wilderness"--provided refuge for God's faithful

during the 1260 prophetic days or 1260 literal years (Rev.

12:14-16; see chapter 4, p. 41, on the year-day principle).

(*2)

At the end of this wilderness experience God's people

emerge in response to signs of the soon return of Christ.

John identifies this faithful group as "the remnant...which

keep the commandments of God, and have the testimony of

Jesus Christ" (Rev. 12:7, KJV). The devil particularly hates

this remnant (Rev. 12:17).

When and where did this persecution take place? How did

it come about? When did the remnant begin to appear? What is

its mission? The answer to these questions requires a review

of both Scripture and history.

The Great Apostasy

The persecution of the Christian church was brought about

at first by pagan Rome, then by apostasy within its own

ranks. This apostasy was no surprise--John, Paul, and Christ

predicted it.

During His last major discourse, Jesus warned His

disciples of the coming deception. "`Take heed that no one

deceives you,'" He said, "`for false Christs and false

prophets will arise and show great signs and wonders, so as

to deceive, if possible, even the elect'" (Matt. 24:4,24).

His followers would experience a period of "great

tribulation," but they would survive (Matt. 24:21,22).

Impressive signs in nature would mark the end of this

persecution and would reveal the nearness of Christ's return

(Matt. 24: 29,32,33).

Paul too warned: "`After my departure, savage wolves will

come in among you, not sparing the flock. Also from among

yourselves men will rise up, speaking perverse things, to

draw away the disciples after themselves'" (Acts 20:29,30).

These "wolves" would lead the church to "the apostasy," or

"falling away."

This apostasy must occur before Christ's return, Paul

said. It was such a certainty that the fact that it had not

yet taken place was a sure sign that Christ's coming was not

yet imminent. "Let no one deceive you by any means," he

said, "for that Day will not come unless the falling away

[apostasy] comes first, and the man of sin [lawlessness] is

revealed, the son of perdition, who opposes and exalts

himself above all that is called God or that is worshiped,

so that he sits as God in the temple [church] of God,

showing himself that He is God" (2 Thess. 2:3,4).

Even during Paul's time this apostasy was already at work

in a limited way. His method of operation was satanic, "with

all power, signs and lying wonders, and with all unrighteous

deception" (2 Thess. 2:9,10). Before the end of the first

century John stated that "many false prophets have gone out

into the world." Indeed, he said, "the spirit of the

Antichrist" is "already in the world" (1 John 4:1,3).

How did this apostate system come about?

The Ascendancy of the "Man of Sin."

"As the church left its `first love' (Rev. 2:4), it

forfeited its purity of doctrine, its high standards of

personal conduct, and the invisible bond of unity provided

by the Holy Spirit. In worship, formalism replaced

simplicity. Popularity and personal power came more and more

to determine the choice of leaders who first assumed

increasing authority within the local church, then sought to

extend their authority over neighboring churches.

"Administration of the local church under the guidance of

the Holy Spirit eventually gave way to ecclesiastical

authoritarianism at the hands of a single official, the

bishop, to whom every church member was personally subject

and through whom alone he had access to salvation.

Henceforth leadership thought only of ruling the church

instead of serving it, and the `greatest' was no longer one

who considered himself `servant of all.' Thus, gradually,

developed the concept of a priestly hierarchy that

interposed between the individual and his Lord."(*3)

As the importance of the individual and the local church

eroded, the bishop of Rome emerged as the supreme power in

Christianity. With the assistance of the emperor this

highest bishop, or pope,(*4) was recognized as the visible

head of the universal church, invested with supreme

authority over all church leaders throughout the world.

Under the leadership of the papacy,(*5) the Christian

church plunged into yet-deeper apostasy. The increasing

popularity of the church accelerated its decline. Lowered

standards caused the unconverted to feel comfortable in the

church. Multitudes knowing very little of genuine

Christianity joined the church in name only, bringing their

pagan doctrines, images, modes of worship, celebrations,

feasts, and symbolism with them.

These compromises between paganism and Christianity led

to the formation of the "man of sin"--a gigantic system of

false religion, a mixture of truth and error. The prophecy

of 2 Thessalonians 2 does not condemn individuals, but

exposes the religious system responsible for the great

apostasy. Many believers within this system, however, belong

to God's universal church because they live according to all

the light that they have.

The Suffering Church

With the decline of spirituality, the church of Rome

developed a more secular profile with closer ties to the

imperial government. Church and state were united in an

unholy alliance.

In his classic The City of God, Augustine, one of the

most influential church Fathers, set forth the Catholic

ideal of a universal church in control of a universal state.

Augustine's thinking laid the foundation of medieval papal

theology.

In A.D. 533, in a letter incorporated in the Code of

Justinian, the emperor Justinian declared the bishop of Rome

head over all the churches.(*6) He also recognized the

pope's influence in eliminating heretics.(*7)

When Justinian's general Belisarius liberated Rome in

A.D. 538, the bishop of Rome was freed from the control of

the Ostrogoths, whose Arianism had resulted in their

restricting the developing Catholic Church. Now the bishop

could exercise the prerogatives Justinian's decree of A.D.

533 had granted him; he could increase the authority of the

"Holy See." Thus began the 1260 years of persecution as

Bible prophecy foretold (Dan. 7:25; Rev. 12:6,14; 13:5-7).

Tragically, the church, with the assistance of the state,

tried to force its decrees and teachings on all Christians.

Many surrendered their beliefs out of fear of persecution,

while those faithful to the scriptural teachings experienced

severe persecution. The Christian world became a

battlefield. Many were imprisoned 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.(*8)

Every drop of blood spilled put a stain on the name of

God and Jesus Christ. Nothing has done more harm to the

cause of Christianity than this ruthless persecution. The

grossly distorted view of the character of God given by

these actions of the church, and the doctrines of purgatory

and eternal torment, led many to reject Christianity

altogether.

Long before the Reformation, voices within the Catholic

Church protested against its merciless killing of opponents,

its arrogant claims and demoralizing corruption. The

church's unwillingness to reform gave birth to the

Protestant Reformation in the sixteenth century. Its success

was a great blow to the authority and prestige of the church

of Rome. Through the Counter Reformation the papacy carried

on a bloody struggle to crush the Reformation, but it

gradually lost the battle against the forces striving for

civil and religious freedom.

Finally, in 1798, 1260 years after A.D. 538, the Roman

Catholic Church received a deadly blow (cf. Rev. 13:3).(*9)

The spectacular victories of Napoleon's armies in Italy

placed the pope at the mercy of the French revolutionary

government, which saw the Roman religion as the

irreconcilable enemy of the Republic. The French government

directed Napoleon to take the pope prisoner. At his orders

General Berthier entered Rome and proclaimed the political

rule of the papacy at an end. Taking the pope captive,

Berthier carried him off to France, where he died in

exile.(*10)

The overthrow of the papacy was the culmination of a long

series of events associated with its progressive decline.

That event marks the end of the prophetic period of 1260

years. Many Protestants interpreted this event as a

fulfillment of prophecy.(*11)

The Reformation

Unscriptural doctrines based on tradition, relentless

persecution of dissenters, corruption, and the spiritual

declension of many of the clergy were among the major

factors that caused people to cry out for reforms within the

established church.

The Doctrinal Issues

The following are examples of the un-Biblical doctrines

that helped foster the Protestant Reformation and still

separate Protestants and Roman Catholics.

1. The head of the church on earth is the vicar of Christ.

This doctrine claims that only the bishop of Rome is the

vicar or representative of Christ on earth and the visible

head of the church. In contrast to the Biblical view of

church leadership (see chapter 11 of this book), this

doctrine was based on the assumptions that Christ made Peter

the visible head of the church and that the pope is Peter's

successor.(*12)

2. The infallibility of the church and its head.

The doctrine that contributed most strongly to the

prestige and influence of the church of Rome was that of its

infallibility. The church claimed it had never erred, and

never would. It based this teaching on the following

reasoning, which finds no Biblical support: Because the

church is divine, one of its inherent attributes is

infallibility. In addition, since God intended, through this

divine church, to lead all people of good will to heaven,

she must be infallible in teaching faith and morals.(*13)

Christ, then, will preserve her from all error through the

power of the Holy Spirit.

The logical corollary, which denies the basic corruptness

of humans (see chapter 7 of this book), is that the church's

leader must also be infallible.(*14) Accordingly Catholic

literature claimed divine prerogatives for its leader.(*15)

3. The eclipse of Christ's high-priestly mediatorial

ministry.

As the influence of the church of Rome increased, the

attention of believers was shifted away from Christ's

continual mediatorial work as High Priest in heaven--the

antitype of the continual daily sacrifices of the Old

Testament sanctuary services (see chapters 4 and 23 of this

book)--to an earthly priesthood with its leader in Rome.

Instead of trusting in Christ for forgiveness of sins and

eternal salvation (see chapters 9 and 10 of this book),

believers placed their faith in popes, priests, and

prelates. Contradicting the New Testament teaching of the

priesthood of all believers, the clergy's ministry of

absolution was now believed to be vital for salvation.

Christ's priestly ministry in heaven, where He constantly

applies the benefits of His atoning sacrifice to repentant

believers, was effectually negated when the church

substituted the mass for the Lord's Supper. Unlike the

Lord's Supper--a service that Jesus instituted to

commemorate His death and to foreshadow His coming kingdom

(see chapter 15 of this book)--the Catholic Church claims

the mass to be a human priest's unbloody sacrifice of Christ

to God. Because Christ is offered again, as He was at

Calvary, the mass was considered to bring special grace to

believers and the deceased.(*16)

Ignorant of the Scriptures, knowing only the mass

conducted by a human priesthood, multitudes lost the

blessing of direct access to our Mediator Jesus Christ. Thus

the promise and invitation, "Let us therefore come boldly to

the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy and find grace

to help in time of need" (Heb. 4:16), was obliterated.

4. The meritorious nature of good works.

The prevalent view that by doing good works a person

could obtain the merit vital for salvation, that faith could

not save, contradicted the New Testament's teaching (see

chapters 9 and 10 of this book). The Catholic Church taught

that the good works that were the result of grace infused

into the sinner's heart were meritorious, which meant that

they gave an individual a just claim to salvation. In fact,

one could perform more good works than were necessary for

salvation--as was the case with the saints--and thus

accumulate extra merits. This extra merit could be used for

the benefit of others. Because the church held that sinners

were justified on the basis of the righteousness infused

into their hearts, good works played an important role in a

person's justification.

Meritorious works also played an important role in the

doctrine of purgatory, which asserts that those who are not

perfectly pure must bear a cleansing, temporal punishment

for their sins in purgatory before they enter into the joys

of heaven. By their prayers and good works, living believers

could shorten the duration and the intensity of the

suffering of those in purgatory.

5. The doctrine of penance and indulgences.

Penance is the sacrament by which Christians may obtain

forgiveness for sins committed after baptism. This

forgiveness of sins is accomplished through the absolution

of a priest, but before it can be obtained, Christians must

examine their consciences, repent for their sins, and

resolve to nevermore offend God. Then they must confess

their sins to the priest and perform the penance--some task

assigned by the priest.

Penance, however, did not completely release sinners.

They still had to bear the temporal punishment either in

this life or in purgatory. To take care of this punishment

the church instituted indulgences, which provided the

remission of the temporal punishment that remained due on

account of sin after the guilt had been absolved.

Indulgences, which could benefit both the living and those

in purgatory, were granted on condition of penitence and the

performance of prescribed good works, often in the form of

payment of money to the church.

It was the extra merits of the martyrs, saints, apostles,

and especially Jesus Christ and Mary, that made indulgences

possible. Their merits were deposited in a "treasury of

merit" and were transferable to those believers whose

accounts were deficient. The pope, as the alleged successor

of Peter, was in control of the keys of this treasury and

could release people from temporal punishment by assigning

them credit from the treasury.(*17)

6. Ultimate authority resides in the church.

Throughout the centuries the established church adopted

many pagan beliefs, holy days, and symbols. When voices

cried out against these abominations, the church of Rome

assumed the sole right to interpret the Bible. The church,

not the Bible, became the final authority (see chapter 1 of

this book). The church argued that two sources of divine

truth existed: (1) The sacred Scriptures and (2) the

Catholic tradition, which consisted of the writings of the

Church Fathers, the decrees of church councils, approved

creeds, and ceremonies of the church. Whenever church

doctrines were supported by tradition but not by Scripture,

tradition took precedence. Common believers had no authority

to interpret the doctrines God had revealed in Scripture.

That authority resided only in the Catholic Church.(*18)

The Dawn of a New Day

In the fourteenth century John Wycliffe called for a

reformation of the church, not only in England but in all

Christendom. During a time when few copies of the Bible

existed, he provided the first translation of the whole

Bible into English. His teachings of salvation through faith

in Christ alone and that only the Scriptures were infallible

laid the foundation of the Protestant Reformation. As the

morning star of the Reformation, he tried to free Christ's

church from the bonds of paganism that chained it in

ignorance. He inaugurated a movement that was to liberate

individual minds and to free whole nations from the clutches

of religious error. Wycliffe's writings touched the souls of

Huss, Jerome, Luther, and many others.

Martin Luther--fiery, impulsive, uncompromising--was

perhaps the most powerful personality of the Reformation.

More than any other man, he led the people back to the

Scriptures and the great gospel truth of justification by

faith, while he railed against salvation by works.

Declaring that believers should receive no authority

other than the Scriptures, Luther turned people's eyes

upward, from human works, priests, and penance, to Christ as

their only Mediator and Saviour. It was impossible, he said,

by human works to lessen the guilt of sinning or to avoid

its punishment. Only repentance toward God and faith in

Christ can save sinners. Because it is a gift, freely given,

His grace cannot be purchased. Humans can have hope,

therefore, not because of indulgences, but because of the

shed blood of a crucified Redeemer.

Like an archeological expedition finding treasures buried

beneath the accumulated discards of the centuries, the

Reformation uncovered long-forgotten truths. Justification

by faith, the great principle of the gospel, was

rediscovered, as was a new appreciation for the once-for-all

atoning sacrifice of Jesus Christ and His all-sufficient

mediatorial priesthood. Many un-Biblical teachings, such as

prayers for the dead, veneration of saints and relics,

celebration of the mass, worship of Mary, purgatory,

penance, holy water, celibacy of the priesthood, the rosary,

the inquisition, transubstantiation, extreme unction, and

dependence upon tradition, were repudiated and abandoned.

The Protestant Reformers were nearly unanimous in

identifying the papal system as the "man of sin," the

"mystery of iniquity," and the "little horn" of Daniel, the

entity that was to persecute God's true people during the

1260 years of Revelation 12:6,14, and 13:5, before the

Second Coming.(*19)

The doctrine of the Bible and the Bible only as the norm

of faith and morals became basic to Protestantism. The

Reformers considered all human traditions subject to the

final and higher authority of the Scriptures. In matters of

religious faith no authority--pope, councils, church

Fathers, kings, or scholars--was to rule the conscience.

Indeed, the Christian world was beginning to awake from its

slumber, and eventually, in many lands, religious liberty

was proclaimed.

The Stagnated Reformation

The reformation of the Christian church should not have

ended in the sixteenth century. The Reformers had

accomplished much, but had not rediscovered all the light

lost during the apostasy. They had taken Christianity out of

utter darkness, but it still stood in the shadows. While

they had broken the iron hand of the medieval church, given

the Bible to the world, and restored the basic gospel, they

had failed to discover other important truths. Baptism by

immersion, immortality as a gift bestowed by Christ at the

resurrection of the just, the seventh-day as the Bible

Sabbath, and other truths (see chapters 7,14,19, and 25 of

this book) were still lost in the shadows.

But instead of advancing the Reformation, their

successors consolidated its achievements. They focused their

attention on the Reformers' words and opinions instead of on

Scripture. A few discovered new truths, but the majority

refused to advance beyond what the early Reformers believed.

Consequently the Protestant faith degenerated into formalism

and scholasticism, and errors that should have been

discarded were enshrined. The flame of the Reformation

gradually died out, and Protestant churches themselves

became cold, formal, and in need of reform.

The post-Reformation era buzzed with theological

activity, but little spiritual progress was made. Frederic

W. Farrar wrote that in this period "liberty was exchanged

for bondage; universal principles for beggarly elements;

truth for dogmatism; independence for tradition; religion

for system. A living reverence for Scripture was superseded

by a dead theory of inspiration. Genial orthodoxy gave place

to iron uniformity and living thought to controversial

dialectics."(*20) And although the "Reformation had broken

the leaden sceptre of the old Scholasticism," the Protestant

churches introduced "a new Scholasticism whose rod was of

iron."(*21) Robert M. Grant called this new scholasticism

"as rigid as any medieval theological construction."(*22)

The Protestants "practically bound themselves by the limits

of their current confessions."(*23)

Controversies erupted. "There never was an epoch in which

men were so much occupied in discovering each other's

errors, or in which they called each other by so many

opprobrious names."(*24) Thus the good news became a war of

words. "Scripture no longer speaks to the heart but to the

critical intellect."(*25) "Dogmas were orthodox, but

spirituality was extinguished. Theology was triumphant, but

love was quenched."(*26)

The Remnant

In spite of the apostasy and tribulation of the 1260

years, some believers continued to reflect the purity of the

apostolic church. When the 1260 years of oppression ended in

A.D. 1798, the dragon had failed to eradicate entirely God's

faithful people. Against these Satan continued to direct his

destructive efforts. Said John, "And the dragon was enraged

with the woman, and went to make war with the rest of her

offspring, who keep the commandments of God and have the

testimony of Jesus Christ" (Rev. 12:17).

What Is the Remnant?

In John's description of the dragon's battle with the

woman and her descendants, he used the expression "the rest

of her offspring" (Rev. 12:17). That expression means the

"remaining ones" or "remnant" (Rev. 12:17,KJV). The Bible

portrays the remnant as a small group of God's people who,

through calamities, wars, and apostasy, remain loyal to God.

This faithful remnant were the rootstock God used to

propagate His visible church on earth (2 Chron. 30:6; Ezra

9:14,15; Isa. 10:20-22; Jer. 42:2; Eze. 6:8; 14:22).

God commissioned the remnant to declare His glory and

lead His scattered people throughout the world to His "holy

mountain Jerusalem," "Mount Zion" (Isa. 37:31,32; 66:20; cf.

Rev. 14:1). Of those thus gathered together Scripture

states, "These are the ones who follow the Lamb wherever He

goes" (Rev. 14:4).

Revelation 12:17 contains a description of the last

remnant in God's chosen line of loyal believers--His loyal

witnesses in the last days before Christ's second coming.

What are the remnant's characteristics?

The Characteristics of the Remnant

The remnant at the time of the end cannot be easily

mistaken. John describes this group in specific terms.

Appearing after the 1260 years of persecution, they are made

up of those "who keep the commandments of God and have the

testimony of Jesus Christ" (Rev. 12:17).

They have the responsibility of proclaiming, just before

Christ's return, God's final warning to all the world, the

three angels' messages of Revelation 14 (Rev. 14:6-12).

These messages themselves contain a description of the

remnant, they are "those who keep the commandments of God

and the faith of Jesus" (Rev. 14:12). Let us consider more

closely each of these characteristics.

1. The faith of Jesus.

God's remnant people are characterized by a faith similar

to that which Jesus had. They reflect Jesus' unshakable

confidence in God and the authority of Scripture. They

believe Jesus Christ is the Messiah of prophecy, the Son of

God, who came as the world's Saviour. Their faith

encompasses all the truths of the Bible--those which Christ

believed and taught.

God's remnant, then, will proclaim the everlasting gospel

of salvation by faith in Christ. They will warn the world

that the hour of God's judgment has arrived and they will

prepare others to meet their soon-coming Lord. They will be

engaged in a worldwide mission to complete the divine

witness to humanity (Rev. 14:6,7; 10:11; Matt. 24:14).

2. The commandments of God.

Genuine faith in Jesus commits the remnant to follow His

example. "He who says he abides in Him," John said, "ought

himself also to walk just as He walked" (1 John 2:6). Since

Jesus kept His Father's commandments, they too will obey

God's commandments (John 15:10).

Particularly since they are the remnant, their actions

must harmonize with their profession--otherwise, it is

worthless. Jesus said, "`Not everyone who says to Me, "Lord,

Lord'" shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does

the will of My Father in heaven'" (Matt. 7:21). Through the

strength Christ gives them, they obey God's requirements,

including all ten of the commandments, God's unchanging

moral law (Ex. 20:1-17; Matt. 5:17-19; 19:17; Phil. 4:13).

3. The testimony of Jesus.

John defines "the testimony of Jesus" as "the spirit of

prophecy" (Rev. 19:10). The remnant will be guided by the

testimony of Jesus conveyed through the gift of prophecy.

This gift of the Spirit was to function continuously

throughout the history of the church, until "all come to the

unity of the faith and the knowledge of the Son of God, to a

perfect man, to the measure of the stature of the fullness

of Christ" (Eph. 4:13). It is, therefore, one of the major

characteristics of the remnant.

Such prophetic guidance makes the remnant a people of

prophecy who proclaim a prophetic message. They will

understand prophecy and teach it. The revelation of truth

that comes to the remnant helps them accomplish their

mission of preparing the world for Christ's return (see

chapter 17 of this book).

The Emergence of the Remnant of the Last Days

The Bible indicates that the remnant appears on the

world's stage after the time of great persecution (Rev.

12:14-17). The earthshaking events of the French Revolution,

which led to the captivity of the pope at the end of the

1260-year period (A.D. 1798), and the fulfillment of the

three great cosmic signs--in which earth, sun, moon, and

stars testified of the nearness of Christ's return (see

chapter 24 of this book)--led to a major revival of the

study of prophecy. A widespread expectation of the imminent

coming of Jesus arose. Throughout the world many Christians

recognized that "the time of the end" had arrived

(Dan. 12:4).(*27)

The fulfillment of Bible prophecies during the second

half of the eighteenth and the first half of the nineteenth

century brought about a powerful interconfessional movement

centered on the Second Advent hope. In every church

believers in the imminent return of Christ could be found,

all praying, working, and anticipating the climax of the

ages.

The Advent hope brought a deep spirit of unity among its

adherents, and many joined together to warn the world about

Christ's soon return. The Advent movement was a truly

Biblical interconfessional movement centered in the Word of

God and the Advent hope.

The more they studied the Bible, the more convinced they

became that God was calling a remnant to continue the

stagnated Reformation of the Christian church. They had

themselves experienced the absence of the true spirit of the

Reformation in their respective churches and a lack of

interest in the study of and preparation for the Second

Advent. Their Bible study revealed that the trials and

disappointments God had led them through constituted a

deeply spiritual, purifying experience that brought them

together as God's remnant. God had commissioned them to

continue the Reformation that had brought so much joy and

power to the church. With gratitude and humility they

accepted their mission, realizing that God's commission had

not come to them because of any inherent superiority, and

that only through Christ's mercy and power could they in any

way be successful.

The Mission of the Remnant

The prophecies of the book of Revelation clearly outline

the mission of the remnant. The three angels' messages of

Revelation 14:6-12 reveal the proclamation of the remnant

that will bring a full and final restoration of the gospel

truth.(*28) These three messages comprise God's answers to

the overwhelming satanic deception that sweeps the world

just before Christ's return (Rev. 13:3,8,14-16). Immediately

following God's last appeal to the world Christ returns to

reap the harvest (Rev. 14:14-20).

The First Angel's Message

Then I saw another angel flying in the midst of heaven,

having the everlasting gospel to preach to those who dwell

on the earth-to every nation, tribe, tongue, and

people-saying with a loud voice, "Fear God and give glory to

Him, for the hour of His judgment has come; and worship Him

who made heaven and earth, the sea and springs of water"

(Rev. 14:6,7).

The first angel symbolizes God's remnant carrying an

everlasting gospel to the world. This gospel is the same

good news of God's infinite love that the ancient prophets

and apostles proclaimed (Heb. 4:2). The remnant do not

present a different gospel--in view of the judgment they

reaffirm that everlasting gospel that sinners can be

justified by faith and receive Christ's righteousness.

This message calls the world to repentance. It summons

all to "fear," or reverence, God and to give "glory," or

honor, to Him. We were created for this purpose, and we can

give honor or glory to God in our words and actions:

"By this My Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit"

(John 15:8).

John predicts that the movement preparing the world for

Christ's return will give a renewed emphasis to the Biblical

concern for glorifying God. As never before it will present

the New Testament appeal for the sacred stewardship of our

lives: "Your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit." We do

not have exclusive rights to our physical, moral, and

spiritual powers; Christ bought these with His blood at

Calvary. "Therefore glorify God in your body and in your

spirit, which are God's" (1 Cor. 6:19,20). "Therefore,

whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the

glory of God" (1 Cor. 10:31).

The fact that "the hour of His judgment" has arrived adds

urgency to the call to repent (see chapter 23 of this book).

In Revelation 14:7, the word judgment translates the Greek

krisis, the act of judging, not the sentence of judgment

(krima). It refers to the entire process of judgment,

including the arraignment of people before the divine

judgment bar, the investigation of life records, the verdict

of acquittal or conviction, and the bestowal of eternal life

or the sentence of death (see Matt. 16:27; Rom. 6:23;

Rev. 22:12). The judgment-hour message also proclaims God's

judgment on all apostasy (Dan. 7:9-11,26; Revelation 17,18).

The judgment-hour message points particularly to the time

when, as the last phase of His high-priestly ministry in the

heavenly sanctuary, Christ entered upon His work of judgment

(see chapter 23 of this book).

This message also calls on all to worship the Creator.

God's call to worship must be seen in contrast to the

summons to worship the beast and his image (Rev. 13:3,8,15).

Soon everyone will have to make a choice between true and

false worship--between worshiping God on His terms

(righteousness by faith) or on our terms (righteousness by

works). By commanding us "`to worship Him who made heaven

and earth, the sea and springs of water'" (Rev. 14:7; cf.

Ex. 20:11), this message calls attention to the fourth

commandment. It leads people into true worship of the

Creator, an experience that involves honoring His memorial

of Creation--the seventh-day Sabbath of the Lord, which He

instituted at Creation and affirmed in the Ten Commandments

(see chapter 19 of this book). The first angel's message,

therefore, calls for the restoration of true worship by

presenting before the world Christ the Creator and Lord of

the Bible Sabbath. This is the sign of God's Creation--a

sign neglected by the vast majority of His created beings.

Providentially, the proclamation of this message calling

attention to the Creator-God began at the stage of history

when the evolutionary philosophy received a major boost from

the publication of Charles Darwin's Origin of Species

(1859). The preaching of the first angel's message

constitutes the greatest bulwark against the progress of the

theory of evolution.

Finally, this call implies the restoration of the honor

of God's holy law, which has been trampled upon by the "man

of lawlessness" (2 Thess. 2:3, RSV). Only when true worship

is restored and believers live the principles of God's

kingdom can God be glorified.

The Second Angel's Message

Babylon is fallen, is fallen, that great city, because

she has made all nations drink of the wine of the wrath of

her fornication (Rev. 14:8).

From early history, the city of Babylon symbolized

defiance of God. Its tower was a monument to apostasy and a

center of rebellion (Gen. 11:1-9). Lucifer (Satan) was its

invisible king (Isa. 14:4,12-14) and it appears that he

wanted to make Babylon the agency of his master plan for

ruling the human race. Throughout the Bible the struggle

between God's city, Jerusalem, and Satan's city, Babylon,

illustrates the conflict between good and evil.

During the early Christian centuries, when the Romans

were oppressing both Jews and Christians, Jewish and

Christian literature referred to the city of Rome as

Babylon.(*29) Many believe that Peter used Babylon as a

pseudonym for Rome (1 Peter 5:13). Because of its apostasy

and persecution, most Protestants of the Reformation and

Post-Reformation era referred to the church of Rome as

spiritual Babylon (Revelation 17), the enemy of God's

people.(*30)

In Revelation, Babylon refers to the wicked woman, the

mother of harlots, and her impure daughters (Rev. 17:5). It

symbolizes all apostate religious organizations and their

leadership, though it refers especially to the great

apostate religious alliance between the beast and his image

that will bring about the final crisis described in

Revelation 13:15-17.

The second angel's message brings out the universal

nature of the Babylonian apostasy and her coercive power,

saying that "she has made all nations drink of the wine of

the wrath of her fornication." The "wine" of Babylon

represents her heretical teachings. Babylon will pressure

the powers of state to enforce universally her false

religious teachings and decrees.

The "fornication" mentioned represents the illicit

relationship between Babylon and the nations--between the

apostate church and civil powers. The church is supposed to

be married to her Lord; in seeking instead the support of

the state, she leaves her spouse and commits spiritual

fornication (cf. Eze. 16:15; James 4:4).

This illicit relationship results in tragedy. John sees

the inhabitants of the earth "drunk" with false teachings,

and Babylon herself "drunk with the blood of the saints and

the blood of the martyrs of Jesus," who refuse to accept her

unscriptural doctrines and submit to her authority

(Rev. 17:2,6).

Babylon falls because she rejects the first angel's

message--the gospel of righteousness by faith in the

Creator. As during the first few centuries the church of

Rome apostatized, many Protestants of today have departed

from the great Bible truths of the Reformation. This

prophecy of Babylon's fall especially finds its fulfillment

in the departure of Protestantism at large from the purity

and simplicity of the everlasting gospel of righteousness by

faith that once so powerfully impelled the Reformation.

The second angel's message will have increasing relevance

as the end draws near. It will meet its complete fulfillment

with the alliance of the various religious organizations

that have rejected the first angel's message. The message of

the fall of Babylon is repeated in Revelation 18:2-4, which

announces the complete downfall of Babylon and calls on

those of God's people who are still in the various religious

bodies comprising Babylon to separate from them. Says the

angel, "`Come out of her, my people, lest you share in her

sins, and lest you receive of her plagues'"

(Rev. 18:4).(*31)

The Third Angel's Message

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. And he

shall be tormented with fire and brimstone in the presence

of the holy angels and in the presence of the Lamb. And the

smoke of their torment ascends forever and ever; and they

have no rest day or night, who worship the beast and his

image, and whoever receives the mark of his name. Here is

the patience of the saints; here are those who keep the

commandments of God and the faith of Jesus (Rev. 14:9-12).

The first angel's message proclaims the everlasting

gospel and calls for the restoration of the true worship of

God as Creator because the judgment hour has arrived. The

second angel warns against all humanly originated forms of

worship. Finally, the third angel proclaims God's most

solemn warning against worshiping the beast and his

image--which all who reject the gospel of righteousness by

faith ultimately will do.

The beast described in Revelation 13:1-10 is the

church-state union that dominated the Christian world for

many centuries and was described by Paul as the "man of sin"

(2 Thess. 2:2-4) and by Daniel as the "little horn" (Dan.

7:8,20-25; 8:9-12, KJV). The image of the beast represents

that form of apostate religion that will be developed when

churches, having lost the true spirit of the Reformation,

shall unite with the state to enforce their teachings on

others. In uniting church and state they will have become a

perfect image to the beast--the apostate church that

persecuted for 1260 years. Hence the name image of the

beast.

The third angel's message proclaims the most solemn and

fearful warning in the Bible. It reveals that those who

submit to human authority in earth's final crisis will

worship the beast and his image rather than God. During this

final conflict two distinct classes will develop. One class

will advocate a gospel of human devisings and will worship

the beast and his image, bringing upon themselves the most

grievous judgments. The other class, in marked contrast,

will live by the true gospel and "keep the commandments of

God and the faith of Jesus" (Rev. 14:9,12). The final issue

involves true and false worship, the true and the false

gospel. When this issue is clearly brought before the world,

those who reject God's memorial of creatorship--the Bible

Sabbath--choosing to worship and honor Sunday in the full

knowledge that it is not God's appointed day of worship,

will receive the "mark of the beast." This mark is a mark of

rebellion; the beast claims its change of the day of worship

shows its authority even over God's law.(*32)

The third message directs the world's attention to the

consequence of refusing to accept the everlasting gospel and

God's message of the restoration of true worship. It

pictures vividly the final result of people's choices

regarding worship. The choice is not an easy one, for

whatever one chooses will involve suffering. Those who obey

God will experience the wrath of the dragon (Rev. 12:17) and

eventually be threatened with death (Rev. 13:15), while

those who choose to worship the beast and his image will

incur the seven last plagues and finally "the lake of fire"

(Rev. 15, 16; 20:14,15).

But while both choices involve suffering, their outcomes

differ. The worshipers of the Creator will escape the deadly

wrath of the dragon and stand together with the Lamb on

Mount Zion (Rev. 14:1; 7:2,4). The worshipers of the beast

and his image, on the other hand, receive the full wrath of

God and die in the presence of the holy angels and the Lamb

(Rev. 14:9,10; 20:14).

Every person will have to choose whom to worship. Either

one's choice of righteousness by faith will be revealed as

one participates in a form of worship God has endorsed, or

one's effectual choice of righteousness by works will be

revealed as one participates in a form of worship God has

forbidden but which the beast and his image command, a

man-made worship. God cannot accept this latter form of

worship, because it gives priorities to the commandments of

men and not to those of God. It seeks justification through

the works of man and not by faith that comes through a total

surrender to God as Creator, Redeemer, and Re-creator. In

this sense, then, the message of the third angel is the

message of justification by faith.

God has His children in all churches; but through the

remnant church He proclaims a message that is to restore His

true worship by calling His people out of the apostasy and

preparing them for Christ's return. Recognizing that many of

God's people have yet to join them, the remnant sense their

inadequacies and weaknesses when they try to fulfill this

solemn mission. They realize that it is only through God's

grace that they can accomplish their momentous task.

In the light of the soon coming of Christ and the need to

prepare to meet Him, God's urgent, compassionate call comes

home to each of us: "`Come out of her, my people, lest you

share in her sins, and lest you receive of her plagues. For

her sins have reached to heaven, and God has remembered her

iniquities'" (Rev. 18:4,5).

References

1. The dazzling brilliance of the sun surrounding the pure

woman (Rev. 12:1) represents, according to various

commentators, the light of the New Testament gospel, which

empowered and gave unction to the early church. The moon,

mirroring the light of the sun, fitly symbolizes the Old

Testament's reflection of the light of the gospel through

the predictions and rites that pointed forward to the cross

and the One to come. The crown of twelve stars represents

the church's roots, arising in the Old Testament in the

fathers of the twelve tribes and extending in the New

through the twelve apostles.

2. The use of year-day principle to calculate prophetic

time was mentioned earlier in reference to the Messianic

prophecy of Daniel 9. See chapter 4 of this book.

3. SDA Bible Commentary, vol. 4, p. 835.

4. The name pope literally comes from the Low Latin papa,

Low Greek, papas, "father," "bishop"; Greek pappas,

"father." The pope is "the bishop of Rome; the head of the

Roman Catholic Church." (Webster's New Universal Unabridged

Dictionary, 2nd ed. [New York, NY:Simon && Schuster, 1979]).

5. The papacy can be defined as the system of

ecclesiastical government in which supreme authority is

vested in the pope.

6. Letter, Justinian to Pope John, quoted in Letter, Pope

John to Justinian, in Codex Justinianus (Code of Justinian),

Book I, title 1,8, Corpus Juris Civilis, comp., Paulus

Krueger, 12th ed. (Berlin: Weidmannsche

Verlaglsbuchhandlung, l959), vol. 2, p. 11, in The Civil

Law, ed. and trans. S.P. Scott, (Cincinnati, OH: Central

Trust Comp., l932), vol. 12, pp. 11-13, Cf. Justiniani

Novellae (Justinian's New Constitutions), 131 st New

Constitution, Chap. 2, Corpus Juris Civilis, comps. Rudolfus

Schoell and Guilelmus Kroll, 7th ed., vol. 3, p.665, in

Civil Law, vol. 17, p. 125. See also Don Neufeld and Julia

Neuffer, eds., Seventh-day Adventist Bible Student's Source

Book (Washington, D.C.: Review and Herald, l962), pp.

684,685.

7. Letter, Justinian to Archbishop Epiphanius of

Constantinople, March 26, 533, in Codex Justinians, Book i,

title 1,7, Corpus Juris Civilis, Krueger's ed., vol. 2, p. 8

as quoted in Source Book, p. 685.

8. See e.g. "Persecution," Encyclopaedia of Religion and

Ethics, ed. James Hastings (New York, NY: Charles Scribner's

Sons, 1917), vol. 9, pp. 749-57; John Dowling, The History

of Romanism: From the Earliest Corruptions of Christianity

to the Present Time, 10th ed. (New York, NY: Edward Walker,

1846), pp. 237-616.

9. This blow severely damaged the prestige of the papacy

but did not end its influence. Revelation 13:3 speaks of a

healing of the "deadly wound," indicating a revival of the

papal influence. In the last days it becomes the most

powerful religious influence in the world.

10.George Trevor, Rome: From the Fall of the Western Empire

(London: The Religious Tract Society, 1868), pp. 439, 440;

John Adolphus, The History of France From the Year 1790 to

the Peace Concluded at Amiens in 1802 (London: George

Kearsey, 1803), vol. 2, pp. 364-369. See also Source Book,

pp. 701,702.

11.Leroy E. Froom, The Prophetic Faith of Our Fathers

(Washington, D.C.: Review and Herald, 1948), vol. 2 pp.

765-782.

12.Peter Geiermann, The Convert's Catechism of Catholic

Doctrine (St. Louis, MO: B. Herder Book Co., 1957), pp.

27,28.

13.Ibid., p. 27.

14.Later, the doctrine of papal infallibility was based on

the assumption that (1) "infallibility as an attribute of a

divine church is necessarily found in its fullness in her

headship"; (2) Peter was infallible in teaching faith and

morals, and (3) the pope has inherited from Peter the

attributes of the divine church. It was concluded that when

speaking ex cathedra "the Pope is an infallible Teacher in

Faith and Morals" (Geiermann, p. 29). Ex cathedra in Latin

literally means "from the chair." In reference to the pope

it refers to his official pronouncements addressed to the

Catholic Church.

15.For claims made for the papacy, see e.g. Lucius

Ferraris, "Papa," art. 2, in Prompta Bibliotheca (Venice;

Gaspar Storti, 1772), vol. 6, pp. 25-29 as quoted in Source

Book, p. 680. For the claims of the papacy itself, see e.g.

Pope Leo XIII, Encyclical Letter, Jan. 10, 1890 and June 20,

1894 in The Great Encyclical Letters of Pope Leo XIII (New

York, NY: Benziger Brothers, 1903), pp. 193,304. See also

Source Book, pp. 683,684.

16.Catechism of the Council of Trent for Paris Priests,

trans. by John A. McHugh and Charles J. Callan (New York,

NY: Joseph F. Wagner, Inc., 1958 reprint), pp. 258,259. See

also Source Book, p. 614.

17.SDA Bible Commentary, vol. 7, pp. 47,48.

18.See Council of Trent, Session IV (April 8, 1546) as

quoted in The Creeds of Christendom. ed., Philip Schaff, 6th

ed., rev. (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker, 1983), vol. 2, pp.

79-83. See also Source Book, pp. 1041-1043.

19.Froom, Prophetic Faith of Our Fathers, vol. 2, pp.

528-531.

20.Frederic W. Farrar, History of Interpretation (Grand

Rapids, MI: Baker, 1979), p. 358.

2l.Ibid.

22.Robert M. Grant, A Short History of Interpretation of

the Bible (Philadelphia, PA: Fortress Press, 1984), p. 97.

23.Farrar, p. 361.

24.Ibid., 363.

25.Grant, p. 97.

26.Farrar, p. 365.

27.For the origin of the remnant, see Froom, Prophetic

Faith Of Our Fathers, vol. 4; P. Gerard Damsteegt,

Foundations of the Seventh-day Adventist Message and Mission

(Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans, 1977).

28.Cf. Damsteegt, "A Theology of Restoration" (paper

presented at the Centennial Conference of Evangelism,

Andrews University, May 4, 1974).

29.See Midrash Rabbah on Canticles I. 6,4; Tertullian,

Against Marcion, III, 13; Tertullian, Answer to the Jews, 9.

30.Froom, Prophetic Faith of Our Fathers, vol. 2, pp. 531,

787.

31.SDA Bible Commentary, vol. 7, pp. 828-31.

32.The Catholic Church claims the authority to change the

day of worship. "Q. Which is the Sabbath Day? A. Saturday is

the Sabbath Day. Q. Why do we observe Sunday instead of

Saturday? A. We observe Sunday instead of Saturday because

the Catholic Church transferred the solemnity from Saturday

to Sunday" (Geiermann, p. 50). See also Source Book, p. 886.

This catechism received the "apostolic blessing" of Pope

Pius X, Jan. 25, 1910 (ibid.)