Remnant Church or Remnant Message?

Posted on March 1, 2013

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Gods PeopleAuthor: Andrew Kerbs

Is the Seventh-day Adventist church a remnant people or is it a people with a remnant message? Read that question twice if you need to.

I’ll begin by addressing the well-known fact that many Adventists have viewed our church as the remnant church mentioned in Revelation 12—the one that keeps the commandments of God and has the testimony of Jesus Christ. Now I think, as George Knight has called it, a little “sanctified arrogance” is a powerful and useful thing. Paul the apostle had it. Martin Luther had it. Ellen White had it.

But when we allow our sanctified arrogance to morph into social club exclusivism, akin to that of 1st century Judaism, we tread on thin ice. In reading the gospels, we see time and again that Christ had no desire to conform to the social expectations of the religious subculture He was in. Instead of trying to fall in line with the Sanhedrin’s agenda, Christ, after his 40 days in the wilderness, began preaching “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.”

Christ had a message. That message became His identity and driving force in His mission—not His religion (i.e. church affiliation).

Now, before someone sighs with dreaded expectancy, I am not building a case to declare Jesus a radical. Proclaiming radicalism as a principle, I think, is a mistake. However, Christ’s message was radical. In a culture that fervently hoped for a Savior from the Roman yoke, that sincerely believed Christ was this Savior, the cross of Calvary was hard to swallow. The cross is nothing but radical!

Here we find the principle at the heart of Christ’s ministry that ought to be at the heart of every ministry. The Message is always greater than the messenger! John the Baptist said it right when he acknowledged in referring to Christ that “He must increase, but I must decrease.” The Jewish religion of the day had become so bogged down in the political aspect that when the Message they proclaimed to espouse stood in their own synagogues, they were blind to it!

Think about what a sad testimony that truly is! The messenger had so forgotten the Message, and subsequently his own purpose, that he didn’t even recognize it when it was right in his face! And what good is a messenger who has no message? What usefulness does he have? None!

In regard to the Jews, were they a remnant people or were they a people with a remnant message?

Certainly, they were a chosen people. They also had a unique message that the greater world of the day desperately needed to hear. The Jewish nation was absolutely a chosen people, but their identity came not in their bloodlines, but in the message they carried and the God who ordained it. It’s all about the message and the message is all about the One who sent it!

Now here’s the point of all this. As Seventh-day Adventists, we might keep the Sabbath and we might have all the Bible support to back it up. But why bother? Why does it matter? Well, one might say, the Ten Commandments instruct us to remember the Sabbath day. Why are the Ten Commandments important? Well, the “hour of His judgment has come” and the remnant people will be a commandment-keeping people. Well, how do you know there’s a judgment going on? Back in 1844, William Miller…

All the while forgetting that the ultimate point is this: Jesus is coming soon! Very soon! Sooner than anyone in this world seems to think and at an hour we don’t expect it.

I knew a man once who made it his mission in life to “defend Adventism.” Like a knight in a citadel, he was determined to prevent any arrows of evangelical heresy from penetrating his defenses and deceiving the elect (those who agreed with him). And I should add that he was very good at what he did. When it came to battles regarding Ellen White, the state of the dead, 1844, he was lethal in his arguments. But was he missing the point?

Though this brother is an extreme example, the principle is applicable. If the Adventist faith is built firmly upon a sure foundation, Christ and His Word, then Adventism does not need defending. It will take care of itself. Meanwhile, the message that ought to be going forth, that we have been commissioned by Christ to give, is that He’s returning very soon!

I get a little uncomfortable when I hear fellow Adventists put too much emphasis on our being the remnant church of Revelation. Yes, I believe we have the remnant message as depicted in Revelation 14. We are also the closest of any churches out there in proclaiming it. But when we think of ourselves in terms of a remnant church as opposed to a remnant message, we are in danger of missing the point as the Jews did in Christ’s day.

Here is where I and many others part ways. There is a growing number of Adventists in the church today, disgruntled with the way our church has handled the whole prophecy and judgment bit in the past. As a result they have decided the answer is to stop talking about it altogether. This is perhaps the single-greatest error Adventism today could make.

Indeed, if a church finds its identity in its message, the Seventh-day Adventist church is in grave danger of willfully leaving its identity at the door. The Adventist church is the only church I know of who has a complete biblical understanding of Revelation, particularly the 14th chapter. We are the only church I know of who has a correct understanding of the heavenly sanctuary, what Christ is doing there and why.

And why is any of this relevant? Because Christ is coming soon—sooner than so many sleeping Christians think.

The Adventist church possesses a remnant message for a dying world, yet we would prefer focus on the politically correct doctrines of love, grace, and forgiveness at the expense of the judgment, the sanctuary, and the second coming.

Admittedly, Adventists in the past have not always shared the prophetic vision in a Christ-like manner. So when I hear Adventists today lamenting how we have made mistakes in the past with our handling of the judgment, these concerns resonate with me. They’re right! Our message in the past has been called apocalyptic fear-mongering, beastly preaching, and legalistic scare-tactics (among other things). At times, that is exactly what it was. Take Christ out of the equation and apocalyptic fear-mongering is an apt description indeed!

However, I don’t agree with abandoning the message because some mishandled it. The message is perfectly clear as one reads Revelation 14. The issue was we might’ve been so caught up in who we were as messengers that we lost sight of who the message was ultimately about—Jesus Christ!

Christ is the crux of the issue here. He should be the message, the motivation, and the urgency behind everything. “Surely I am coming quickly!” are the last words of Christ in the Bible, and surely this is the underlying theme that Seventh-day Adventism was built upon.

Posted in: End Times, Ministry