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).
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
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
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
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
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
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
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)
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
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
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
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
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
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
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)
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
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
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"
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 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
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
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
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'"
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
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).
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.
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,
11.Leroy E. Froom, The Prophetic Faith of Our Fathers
(Washington, D.C.: Review and Herald, 1948), vol. 2 pp.
12.Peter Geiermann, The Convert's Catechism of Catholic
Doctrine (St. Louis, MO: B. Herder Book Co., 1957), pp.
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
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.
20.Frederic W. Farrar, History of Interpretation (Grand
Rapids, MI: Baker, 1979), p. 358.
22.Robert M. Grant, A Short History of Interpretation of
the Bible (Philadelphia, PA: Fortress Press, 1984), p. 97.
23.Farrar, p. 361.
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,
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.)