Conviction in the Remnant and its Mission as an Inclusive Movement

February 15, 2024

In Revelation 12:17 (NKJV) we read, “And the dragon was enraged with the woman, and he went to make war with the rest of her offspring, who keep the commandments of God and have the testimony of Jesus Christ.”

I love this passage. It is a biblical text that brings about many thoughts, emotions and convictions in the heart of the Adventist believer such as myself. But Revelation 12:17 is significant to Seventh-day Adventist not only because of the eschatological marker it places on our message and movement, but also how it informs us of what comprises an end-time “remnant” people.

The classic Adventist approach to the term “remnant,” is that there will be a faithful minority of Christians who “keep the commandments of God” and hold to the “testimony of Jesus.” This remnant stands in contrast with an equally important apocalyptic apostate Christian movement given a different title, denoting its erred stance, known as “Babylon.” This juxtaposed relationship highlights the prominence of the idea of a faithful remnant in the end times. Based on the Historical Grammatical Method of prophetic interpretation, we can identify specific events, people, movements, etc. in our times. The “remnant” in Revelation 12:17 is understood to be a symbolic description of the Seventh-day Adventist movement.[1] There are three markers of the “remnant church” in the end times. The remnant church appears after the deadly wound that the first beast of Revelation 13 receives (which occurred in 1798), the Sabbath doctrine (“the commandments of God”) and the prophetic gift as seen in the ministry of Ellen G. White (“the testimony of Jesus”). These three elements are unique only to Seventh-day Adventists. These are three simple markers, but weighty in their eschatological significance, again, because they stand opposed to a counter-biblical movement known as “Babylon” and the “daughters of the Great Harlot.”

So, do these three markers make us a “remnant?” What is poignant is not our accumulation of “truth,” nor even our adherence to it. But rather, what we do with that “remnant truth.” Surely our role isn’t to merely create more Adventist adherents? Rather, I believe that a significant role of the “remnant church” is to contribute to the mission, and specifically, the unity of the church to Christ. “There is one body and one Spirit, just as you also were called in one hope of your calling; one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all who is over all and through all in all,” says Ephesians 4:4-6 (NKJV). 

Therefore, my conviction in being a Seventh-day Adventist, is in remaining faithful to Revelation 12:17’s two markers, but also in what the spreading of that message does, which is to prepare a people united in receiving Jesus when He returns. This conviction of preparing a people, is the directional north of the Three Angels’ Messages. In his book, God with Us: An Introduction to Adventist Theology, John C. Peckham says, “No organization, then, can claim to comprehensively be the body of Christ. Some think of church unity in terms of organizational structure or clergy leadership, but in Scripture, the unity of the Christians as the body of Christ is not found in externals, but in Christ, by the Holy Spirit.”

I’ll conclude by sharing a story that ties in the “remnant message” and the “remnant” as a broader picture. One day, I was on my way to the Texas Conference office from South Texas, and had a couple of extra hours to fill, so I went into the Mardel’s bookstore in Round Rock, Texas. As I was browsing the Bibles on the vast wall, a gentleman in his fifties approached me with what I can only describe as a face of contentment. He said, “It is so nice to find young men looking at Bibles!” He said, “People who follow God’s word fully to the end will be part of God’s ‘remnant.’” He proceeded to ask if I was familiar with the concept, to which I responded with “yes.” He then opened a Bible from off the wall, and opened to and read from Revelation 12:17, and said, “See God has a remnant in these end times!” What an exciting encounter! This gentleman, who was not a Seventh-day Adventist, nor knew of us, found this concept as a prominent movement in the last days.

Rolf J. Pöhler, Professor of Systematic Theology at Friedensau Adventist University in Germany highlights the inclusivity of this beautiful end times people of Revelation 12:17. Dr. Pöhler says, “…the term ‘remnant’, rather than having an exclusivist meaning by referring only to Seventh-day Adventist Christians, has strong inclusivist connotations inasmuch as it encompasses all faithful believers, which make up the entire body of Christ. Adventists would do well to broaden their view of the true "remnant" in the light of a careful study of the biblical text.”[2]  

The “remnant” again, receives divine designation, and as such cannot be altered or changed. Any remnant must abide nonetheless by what is described in Revelation 12:17’s markers. This is why I preach the Seventh-day Adventist message, but not only preaching and teaching the message as an end-time message, but also inviting people into baptism in the Seventh-day Adventist church, thereby also becoming part of the united global body of Christ. We are, after all, adherents and promulgators of that which God has called us to be and preach.

By Gabriel Perea, M.Div. Perea is an associate professor of theology and religion at Southwestern Adventist University in Keene, Texas.

[1] “The Adventist self-designation as God’s remnant people is based on a historicist reading of Revelation…” (Rodriguez, in Toward a Theology of the Remnant, 226; cf. 203-209).

[2] The “Remnant“ and “the others“ A Reappraisal of Adventist Remnant Theology, Rolf J. Pöhler. Friedensau, Germany (Paper presented at ASRS Meetings, 2011.)