The Church Age

46 The Remnant Church

by Hubert F. Sturges,, December 2013

And the serpent cast out of his mouth water as a flood after the woman, that he might cause her to be carried away of the flood. And the earth helped the woman, and the earth opened her mouth, and swallowed up the flood which the dragon cast out of his mouth. And the dragon was wroth with the woman, and went to make war with the remnant of her seed, which keep the commandments of God, and have the testimony of Jesus Christ. Revelation 12:15-17

Throughout history, God’s people have always been a “remnant.” It was always a minority who had faith in God and understood who He was. In the early years of Christianity, many thousands of Jews accepted Christ and joined the church. To be sure, it was a Jewish church, yet it was also a distinct, persecuted minority in Jerusalem. As the Christian church grew and became popular, there was again a minority who had faith in God. When Protestantism took center stage, they were still a “remnant” within the church that truly believed and lived their faith.

The concept of the “remnant church” speaks well of any church. However, it is also a restrictive concept. The end-time remnant church has distinct qualities that are not always popular, though strongly biblical. The clearest designation of the end-time remnant church is that this church will “keep the commandments of God, and have the testimony of Jesus Christ” (Rev. 12:17).

The Hour of His Judgment Has Come

The new world of North America provided a refuge for the persecuted of all lands. Freedom of religion allowed churches to multiply and grow in strength. The growing churches sent missionaries to many countries, supported by generous offerings. A benevolent government “of the people, by the people, and for the people” did not favor any church. This allowed people to follow their conscience without interference.

The result was that the United States of America became the most religious Christian nation on earth. More people willingly attended church in this country than in any other. This was in the providence of God, and now He was ready to act again. The Advent awakening led by William Miller began in 1833 and reached a crescendo in 1844. Miller based his message on Daniel 8:14"-Unto two thousand and three hundred days; then shall the sanctuary be cleansed.” He understood the prophecy to signify the cleansing of the earth on October 22, 1844, when Jesus would return to earth to claim the redeemed. Thousands of followers believed that this referred to Jesus’ second coming.

The date passed, and Jesus did not come. This was the “Great Disappointment.” The Millerites were embarrassed and confused and became the object of ridicule. Reexamination of the calculations only served to confirm the date; the prophesied time did end October 22, 1844. The movement broke up into a number of Adventist bodies who held varying views on the meaning of their experience.

The Remnant Church

One group--one of the smallest--held that William Miller was correct about the date but that he misunderstood the event. The sanctuary to be cleansed was not the earth but rather the heavenly sanctuary. October 22, 1844 marked the beginning of the antitypical Day of Atonement and the Investigative Judgment. The Day of Atonement in ancient Israel (Lev. 16:1-34; 23:27-32) foreshadowed the true antitypical Day of Atonement in the end time (Dan. 7:9-14, 26, 27; 8:13, 14).1 The antitypical Day of Atonement will end with the close of probation, when the Holy Spirit will have sealed the righteous for eternity. The thousand years of the Millennium and the “executive judgment” will follow, when the lake of fire destroys sin and sinners.

Rachel Oaks Preston, a Seventh Day Baptist, challenged an Adventist pastor named Wheeler about his calling for observance of the Ten Commandments while not keeping the fourth commandment. After studying his Bible, Wheeler became convinced that the seventh day was still the Sabbath of the Lord. Later, Joseph Bates, a retired ship captain, promoted this belief until it became a fundamental doctrine of the church, and the church chose “Seventh-day Adventist” as its name.

At the same time, Ellen Harmon, a frail young girl of fifteen years of age, began to receive visions and messages from God for the church. Her messages were always practical and led to one success after another in the growth of the church. It is significant that the remnant church will “keep the commandments of God” and “have the testimony of Jesus,” “for the testimony of Jesus is the spirit of prophecy” (Rev. 12:17; 19:10). Adventists point to the messages of Ellen G. Harmon White as having the inspiration of the Spirit and therefore fulfilling the qualifications of the Biblical “spirit of prophecy.”

Other religionists have severely criticized Adventists for their belief that the written ministry of Ellen White qualifies as the spirit of prophecy. Critics claim that the canon of Scripture closed about AD 200 and that there will be no more prophets. However, prophecy is one of the gifts of the Spirit given to the church (1 Cor. 12:8-10; Eph. 4:11; Joel 2:28, 29). Critics assert that Adventists use Ellen White’s writings to interpret the Bible. This reveals their lack of awareness of the process by which Adventists came to establish their biblical doctrines. Though, in some cases, Ellen White did play a role in reaching a correct understanding of Scripture, her role never substituted for careful Bible study.2 Nonetheless, if there ever were a discrepancy between the Bible and her writings, the Bible would have to be accepted as the truth.

Adventists recommend that a person not read Ellen White’s writings in isolation from Scripture. Her writings are reasonable, easily understood and useful.3 In keeping with the “spirit of prophecy,” they point to Jesus Christ, our Redeemer and Lord.

Phases of Judgment

Some blame Adventists for teaching a “partial atonement” at the cross because of their belief in the Investigative Judgment. In reply, Adventists ask that a person look at the close connection between the sacrifice and the atonement.4

The everlasting covenant of God was not just to provide pardon for sin; it was also to restore the world to the perfection of Eden. Now we are in the “time of the end,” a time of judgment before Jesus’ return. God conducts this judgment with exceptional care, for all questions must be answered. All the intelligent beings in the universe must understand that God is merciful and just in His judgment, and they must be absolutely convinced that the eternal law of God brings only happiness and freedom.

The first phase of judgment is pardon and atonement. In Israel, the sinner brought a lamb before the door of the tabernacle. He put his hand on the head of the lamb to transfer his sin to the lamb. Then he slew the lamb, and the priest took some of its blood and put it on the horns of the altar. The priest then removed the fat and burned the body of the lamb on the altar. “The priest shall make an atonement for his sin that he hath committed, and it shall be forgiven him” (Lev. 4:35).

Depending on whether the sacrifice was for a common person, for the congregation, for a priest, or for a ruler, different animals would be used and the blood would be put on the horns of the altar of sacrifice or on the horns of the altar of incense, or it would be sprinkled before the veil inside the tabernacle. Confessed sin was symbolically transferred from the sinner into the sanctuary, requiring later removal through the scapegoat. Atonement could be made at the time and place of sacrifice, or inside the tabernacle. The result was the same-the priest made atonement and the sin was forgiven. There was always a direct connection between sacrifice, application of the blood, atonement, and pardon.

When a person chooses to obey God, an angel writes his name in the “Lamb’s book of life,” with pardon written opposite forgiven sins. This is the first phase of judgment.

In ancient Israel, the Day of Atonement came once a year with sacrifices to cleanse the sanctuary from the defilement of forgiven sins. Every member of the congregation was to “afflict his soul” that he might seek and receive pardon for all his sins.5 Those who did not afflict their soul must be “cut off from among his people” (Lev. 23:29; cf. Lev. 16:1-34; 23:26-32). It was the second phase of judgment.

At Calvary, the first and second phases of judgment moved from earth to heaven under the heavenly priesthood of Christ. It is Jesus Christ who pardons the sins of those written in the Lamb’s book of life. At the prophesied time, October 22, 1844 (Dan. 8:14), the antitypical Day of Atonement began in heaven. Forgiven sins are cleansed from the Lamb’s book of life, and, where sin is not pardoned, the name is blotted out. This is a serious matter, and it is frightening for some. Please consider how much God gave: “For God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life” (John 3:16). If God invests this much to save souls, there is no doubt that He will also make every effort to save those who trust in Him. Our assurance is in Jesus Christ.

The third phase of judgment is “executive judgment,” when God executes judgment by casting sin and sinners into the lake of fire (Rev. 20:9, 10, 14, 15). At the same time, God welcomes the righteous, the people of God, into the holy city, the New Jerusalem, to be with Christ for eternity in an Eden restored. All phases of judgment and all promises of the everlasting covenant are now accomplished.

God’s Last Message

God has a purpose for the remnant church. This is the last church before Jesus comes again (Rev. 3:14-22; 10:1-11; 12:17). This is also the last generation from whom those come who will live to see Jesus return. They will give God’s last message to a perishing world. To be alive to see Jesus come again is an exceptional privilege and requires a unique experience.

The end-time message of this church is also the Elijah message:

Behold, I will send you Elijah the prophet before the coming of the great and dreadful day of the Lord: And he shall turn the heart of the fathers to the children, and the heart of the children to their fathers, lest I come and smite the earth with a curse. (Mal. 4:5, 6)

What was the Elijah message originally? Elijah was the prophet of God in the time of Ahab and Jezebel. The northern kingdom of Israel was in deep apostasy with frank and open idolatry. Elijah confronted Ahab in his court with the judgment of God, “There shall not be dew nor rain these years, but according to my word” (1 Kings 17:1). His message was a call to repentance. This came to a climax on Mount Carmel when God demonstrated His power in answer to prayer. When the people chose to recognize the true God, the rain came and ended the drought.

John the Baptist came as the forerunner of Jesus the Messiah. In the spirit and power of Elijah, he gave his message to an unbelieving nation, “Repent ye: for the kingdom of heaven is at hand” (Matt. 3:2). Jesus confirmed John’s mission, “This is Elias, which was for to come” (Matt. 11:14). The end-time “Elijah message”-a message of repentance-will be given again just before Jesus comes the second time (Mal. 4:5, 6).

God’s end-time messages are described as the “three angels’ messages” (Rev. 14:6-12). The first is an announcement of judgment. In the earthly Day of Atonement, God called for His people to afflict their souls (Lev. 16:29, 30). As then, so now-we must examine our own soul. If there is a sin, we must confess it, ask forgiveness, and receive divine cleansing (1 John 1:9).

The first angel called people everywhere to worship God as the Creator. The original creation week concluded with the establishment of the seventh-day Sabbath rest. God enshrined the Sabbath within the ten-commandment law as a memorial to creation. All aspects of the everlasting covenant and the plan of salvation rest on the foundation of God as Creator.

The second angel’s message is a warning to avoid the confusion of the religious world. When churches ask the state for legislation to support their doctrines and money to support their institutions, the bride has sought another lover and is guilty of “fornication.”

The third is a warning against the mark of the beast. God judges those who receive the mark of the beast. Opposite those who receive the mark of the beast are the saints who “keep the commandments of God, and the faith of Jesus” (Rev. 14:12).

These three messages are the message of the remnant church and will continue to the end of time. Some have accused the Seventh-day Adventist church of exclusiveness in holding that these messages are God’s unique messages for the end time. One must consider, however, that these messages are in the Bible and that the Bible is available to all Christian churches. God will welcome and accept all who preach His message. Jesus said, “Forbid him not: for he that is not against us is for us” (Luke 9:50).

Satan has attacked these messages and those who bear them. He has blunted the effectiveness of these messages so that many have not heard them. Too many have closed their ears to the word of God and have chosen to follow human traditions. However, God is merciful and patient and will save every true child of His. Jesus says, “Other sheep I have, which are not of this fold: them also I must bring” (John 10:16).


1. The “antitypical day of atonement,” and the phases of judgment and atonement may be unique doctrines of the Seventhday Adventist Church. There is not space enough to present these here, but some statements can be made:

• The Day of Atonement was an important yearly event in Old Testament Israel. At that time, the sanctuary was cleansed of the accumulated sins of the past year, and the sins were completely removed from the camp (Lev. 16:1- 34; 23:26-28).
• This was the symbolic Day of Atonement pointing forward to the real end-time day of atonement and the judgment of the righteous. At that time the book of life will be examined and the forgiven sins of the righteous will be blotted out. Those righteous whose sins are not forgiven will have their names blotted out from the book of life.
• The typical Day of Atonement foreshadowed the true antitypical day of atonement in the end time (Dan. 7:9-14, 26, 27).
• The “cleansing of the sanctuary” is prophesied (Dan. 8:14; 9:25).
• The beginning date is given in Ezra 7:11-26 with the final date given in Daniel 9:25.
• The wicked are judged by the saints, and all questions will be answered during the thousand years (Rev. 20:4).

2. For a more detailed study of Ellen White’s role in the formation of the doctrines of the Seventh-day Adventist Church, see Messenger to the Remnant, pp. 34-37, available at, accessed 3/26/13;
Paul A. Gordon, “Doctrinal Development, Authority, and Ellen White,” pp. 4, 5, available at https://egwwritings. org/?ref=en_DDAEW.6.3, accessed 3/26/13; and
Arthur L. White, “Ellen White and Adventist Doctrine: How Basic Doctrines Came to Adventists,” Adventist Review, July 19, 1984, pp. 4-6, available at docs/RH/RH19840719-V161-29__B.pdf?q=docs/RH/RH19840719-V161-29__B.pdf, accessed 3/26/13, and
Arthur L. White, “The Certainty of Basic Doctrinal Positions,” Adventist Review, July 26, 1984, pp. 6-8.

3. Ellen White’s writings call attention to biblical teachings that, by and large, have been discovered by others in God’s Word apart from her aid. Her own standard is found in The Great Controversy, p. 595: “God will have a people upon the earth to maintain the Bible, and the Bible only, as the standard of all doctrines and the basis of all reforms.” Notice that she lists two categories of teaching-doctrines and reforms--one must all come from Scripture, the other must be based in Scripture.

4. Sacrifice, atonement, and mediation are all one extended event. The sinner brings the sacrificial animal to the door of the tabernacle, places his hands on the head of the animal and confesses his sin. Then he slays the animal. Notice that the sinner was responsible for killing the sacrifice; the priest gave atonement and mediation. The priest takes the blood and sprinkles it before the veil or places it on the horns of the altar of burnt offering and pours the rest at the base of the altar. The carcass is then burned on the altar of burnt offering. In doing this, “the priest shall make an atonement for him, and it [his sin] shall be forgiven him.” (Lev. 4:31). The blood of the sacrifice carries the forgiven sin into the sanctuary. Once a year, the sanctuary must be cleansed, on the Day of Atonement. Forgiven sins are removed from the sanctuary, placed on the head of the scapegoat, and taken to the wilderness by a fit man and lost forever (Lev. 16:1-34; 23:27-32). Atonement, to be complete, requires the total removal of sin from the camp. The “Lord’s goat” dies for the sins of the people-Jesus already did that. The goat that is not the Lord’s (Azazel, the scapegoat) is banished from the camp. In the biblical scenario, the banished goat tries to re-enter the “camp of the saints” at the close of the thousand years. Glory to God-he is not successful.

5. “For on that day shall the priest make an atonement for you, to cleanse [katharÃ-sai] you, that ye may be clean [katharisthêsesthe] from all your sins before the LORD.”| And he shall make an atonement for the holy sanctuary, and he shall make an atonement for the tabernacle of the congregation, and for the altar, and he shall make an atonement for the priests, and for all the people of the congregation. And this shall be an everlasting statute unto you, to make an atonement for the children of Israel for all their sins once a year. And he did as the LORD commanded Moses” (Lev. 16:30, 33, 34, emphasis supplied). “And he said unto me, Unto two thousand and three hundred days; then shall the sanctuary be cleansed [katharisthêsetai to hagion]” (Dan. 8:14). Greek taken from the Septuagint.