How can you tell the difference between the remnant, God’s true church, and those who profess to be God’s people, the nominal church? To differentiate is very confusing! If it is so confusing and there is a war being waged, with both sides claiming that they are the remnant church, how do you tell the difference between those who truly are the remnant and those who are just professing? Ellen White wrote numerous statements on the subject of the remnant—who they are and who they are not. The following statements come from the Spirit of Prophecy; some are summarized in my own words.
The Remnant Actually . . .
The remnant actually keep the Commandments of God, and they follow the testimony of Jesus.
“Although the law of God will be almost universally made void in the world, there will be a remnant of the righteous that will be obedient to God’s requirements. The wrath of the dragon will be directed against the loyal servants of Heaven. Says the prophet, ‘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 12:17.] We can see from this scripture that it is not the true church of God that makes war with those who keep the commandments of God and have the testimony of Jesus Christ. It is the people who make void the law, who place themselves on the side of the dragon, and persecute those who vindicate God’s precepts.” The Signs of the Times, April 22, 1889.
“A striking contrast is seen between those who practise [sic] the truth and those who have joined the ranks of the apostate. Meek and lowly will those be who follow the Lamb of God. Boastful, denunciatory, and lawless in word and deed will those be who war against the commandments of God. They are thus because they have the spirit and attributes of the dragon, who was wroth with the woman, and went to make war with the remnant of her seed, who keep the commandments of God, and have the testimony of Jesus.” Review and Herald, May 3, 1898.
The true remnant purify their souls by obeying the truth.
“The remnant that purify their souls by obeying the truth gather strength from the trying process, exhibiting the beauty of holiness amid the surrounding apostasy.” Selected Messages, Book 2, 380.
I was once in a meeting with a number of historic Seventh-day Adventist ministers. The discussion came up about who really is the remnant church, and there was a difference of opinion among the ministers. Some said, “This is the remnant church.” And some said, “No, that is not the remnant church.”
One of the ministers read a text, which he knew would be like an exploding bomb. He knew that if everybody was honest, it would drown the opposition. The text he read was in Zephaniah 3 where the remnant of God are described in the last days, and it says, “The remnant do not do any iniquity and in their mouth there is no lie, no deceit, and they do not have a tongue that will tell a lie or deceive anyone.” Verse 13.
When my friend read this verse, he looked straight at a couple of the ministers, and he asked, “Does the church that you believe to be the remnant church meet these qualifications?”
These ministers had to say, “No.”
The real remnant church will meet the qualifications in Zephaniah 3:13. The nominal church will not be able to meet those qualifications.
“In this our day, some whose tongues are deceitful have been presenting as truth many things that they themselves have originated,—as if the law of truth were in their heart and coming from their lips. But the Lord will surely punish every deceitful, lying tongue that has caused his people to err and to turn from the righteousness of Christ.” Review and Herald, October 11, 1906.
Valley of Achor
The remnant church is represented by a woman. (See Revelation 12.) Concerning this remnant, the prophets say that they are going to have to go through the valley of Achor. The valley of Achor, which means, “the valley of trouble” or “the valley of grief,” was where Achan was stoned. (Joshua 7:24–26.)
This woman of Revelation 12 has to go through the valley of Achor—the valley of trouble or grief, where the Achans get stoned. It is not going to be a pleasant experience. (See Prophets and Kings, 298–300.)
Source of Enmity
Speaking about the remnant people, Ellen White says, “There must be open and avowed enmity between the church and the serpent, between her seed and his seed.” The Signs of the Times, August 26, 1889.
From where does the enmity come? Well, from where did the enmity come in heaven? One side wanted to adjust the Law of God. From where did the enmity come in David’s time? One side did not want to listen to the Spirit of Prophecy. That is where the enmity comes from at the end. The people do not want to abide by the Law of God; they do not want to listen to the Spirit of Prophecy; they want to do their own thing. They arouse enmity. The remnant do not arouse enmity.
An Apostate Church
A church that is lessening the distance between itself and the papacy is an apostate church; it is not the remnant church.
“An apostate church will unite with the powers of earth and hell to place upon the forehead or in the hand, the mark of the beast, and prevail upon the children of God to worship the beast and his image. They will seek to compel them to renounce their allegiance to God’s law, and yield homage to the papacy.” Review and Herald, November 8, 1892.
No Worldly Policy
This is an amazing statement: “God has a remnant people in the world—a people who are not following worldly policy.” Manuscript Releases, vol. 5, 53. The remnant church does not follow worldly policy. Any church that is following worldly policy is not the remnant.
Gifts Shut Out
The nominal church, Ellen White says, shuts out the gifts that God has placed in the church. They shut out the gift of the Holy Spirit, especially the Spirit of Prophecy. “Don’t yield your sacred peculiarities which distinguish you from the world, from the nominal church and backslidden Adventists. . . . The nominal churches are in darkness and corrupt. They have shut out the gifts God has placed in the church.” Ibid., 290. The nominal church shuts out the gifts; they will not listen to the Spirit of Prophecy.
In the courts of the temple—the church (see Ephesians 2:19–22)—Ellen White says, “Under the cloak of Christianity and sanctification, far-spreading and manifest ungodliness will prevail to a terrible degree and will continue until Christ comes to be glorified in all them that believe. In the very courts of the temple [this is in the nominal church] scenes will be enacted that few realize.” Ibid., vol. 11, 85, 86.
Obedient to All God’s Word
The remnant is actually obedient to all of God’s Word and commands. Jesus said, “Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds out of the mouth of God.” Matthew 4:4. The remnant live by the Word of God. They actually do it.
“Although the law of God will be almost universally made void in the world, there will be a remnant of the righteous that will be obedient to God’s requirements.” The Signs of the Times, April 22, 1889.
On the Dragon’s Side
Some people have challenged this statement, even when it is read right out of the Spirit of Prophecy! They will not accept it.
“There will be a remnant of the righteous that will be obedient to God’s requirements. The wrath of the dragon will be directed against the loyal servants of Heaven. Says the prophet, ‘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 12:17.] We can see from this scripture that it is not the true church of God that makes war with those who keep the commandments of God and have the testimony of Jesus Christ. It is the people who make void the law, who place themselves on the side of the dragon, and persecute those who vindicate God’s precepts.” Ibid. [Emphasis supplied.]
Do you know that when you sue somebody you are waging legal war against him or her? Before life on this world is over, you are going to understand what the Judas kiss feels like. The Judas kiss comes from the one who claims to be your friend.
When I attended the lawsuit against Raphael Perez (General Conference of Seventh-day Adventists vs. Raphael Perez, United States District Court, Southern District of Florida, 2000), a person came up to greet me as I was leaving the federal court building one day. He acted very friendly as he proceeded to tell me about all of my family that he knows. As I looked into his face, I silently prayed, “Lord, help me. Help me not to say anything that I should not say.” He acted as though he was my friend, but he was on the opposing side that was working to put Raphael Perez in jail. I recognized the Judas kiss, and it chilled me.
The Judas kiss does not come from the remnant church. Judas was not a part of the remnant church; he was a part of the nominal church. The nominal church will give the Judas kiss to the true church at the end.
Peace and Safety
Remember, the majority was on Absalom’s side. By the providence of God, even though the servants of David, under the generalship of Joab, were vastly outnumbered, the time came when this great rebellion of the majority of God’s professed people was brought to an end. The rebellion among God’s professed people today is going to be brought to an end too.
When the rebellion was brought to an end, Joab needed somebody to take the message to King David, who was waiting at the city for news. There was a man with Joab, a runner by the name of Ahimaaz, who desperately wanted to tell the king the news, but Joab told him, “No, you can bear tidings another day. You are not to bear tidings today.” (11 Samuel 18:19, 20.)
Instead, Joab called Cushi and asked him to carry the tidings. However, Ahimaaz begged Joab, “Oh, please let me go and bear a message too.”
Finally, probably a little aggravated, Joab said, “Well, just go!”
Ahimaaz was a faster runner than Cushi was, and he got to the king first. David, of course, was in terrible consternation of mind, wondering what had happened. After all, his whole life was at stake. When Ahimaaz arrived, David asked for his message, and he reported, “Everything is fine.” He gave a peace and safety message! (Verses 21–28.)
Many people today, even in Adventism, are like Ahimaaz. If you ask them what is happening, they will tell you that everything is fine—the third angel’s message is going forward, and soon we are going to be in heaven; everything is going wonderfully.
David was not content with this message, so he pressed Ahimaaz, until Ahimaaz exclaimed, “I saw a great tumult. I did not know what it was.” (Verse 29.)
The final great tumult will come when, in the war between the remnant and the nominal church—both claiming to be the true remnant church—the leadership of the nominal church will finally receive a fatal and final defeat, and the rebellion will collapse and be crushed. There certainly is a great tumult developing!
How long will it be before this war is over, the great tumult occurs, and the rebellion is put down? Ellen White wrote: “God’s people will be proved and tested, that He may discern ‘between him that serveth God, and him that serveth Him not.’ [Malachi 3:18.]” Manuscript Releases, vol. 11, 86.
Right now, it is like it was in heaven with the angels. It is also, right now, like it was with David and Absalom. Before the great tumult, there was a time when you could not tell for sure on which side each person was. But the Lord says, “I am going to prove and test My people, and when I get done, everybody in the universe, not just on the earth, will be able to tell which person is serving Me and which person is not.”
You will be able to tell, one of these days, the difference between those of the remnant church and those who are the remnant church only by profession. This is what the great tumult will demonstrate.
Ellen White made several comments about this, including one in which she says that iniquity will reach a height never before attained. (Review and Herald, July 24, 1913.) Do you see that happening? She states that the Lord will give the Israelites who are captive in Babylon the opportunity to come out and be part of the remnant. (Ibid., January 23, 1908.) She also says that the remnant will receive the latter rain, give the loud cry, and be sealed. (Early Writings , 85, 86; Spiritual Gifts, vol. 1, 193, 194, 197.)
Do you see why it could be of fatal consequence for you if you do not understand the difference between the remnant and the nominal church? You could be part of those who claim to be the remnant, but if you do not actually have the characteristics of the remnant, you will not receive the latter rain. You will not be giving the loud cry. You will not be one of those who are sealed.
The remnant will have the heavenly credentials. Mrs. White says that it is through this remnant that God will carry out His eternal purpose. (Prophets and Kings, 108.) She also says that at the end of time, when the remnant are sentenced to be slain, God will intervene on their behalf. (Review and Herald, September 17, 1901.) He is not going to intervene on behalf of the nominal church. To find out what is going to happen to them, read Ezekiel 9.
Ahimaaz said, “I saw a great tumult, but I did not know what it was.”
What is this great tumult? A number of things are causing the tumult today. One of them is fanaticism. Ellen White wrote: “Every phase of fanaticism and erroneous theories, claiming to be the truth, will be brought in among the remnant people of God. These will fill minds with erroneous sentiments which have no part in the truth for this time. Any man who supposes that in the strength of his own devised resolutions, in his intellectual might united with science or supposed knowledge, he can start a work which will conquer the world, will find himself lying among the ruins of his own speculations, and will plainly understand why he is there. . . .” Selected Messages, Book 2, 14.
The time is coming when every single Seventh-day Adventist who is espoused to fanaticism is going to reap the consequences of that fanaticism and know why. Fanaticism is very, very dangerous. Many, many millions of people have lost their souls over fanaticism. I am not talking about heresy. I am not talking about Babylon. I am talking about fanaticism.
Ahimaaz was not an Achan. He was on the right side. He believed in the Spirit of Prophecy. He was a Sabbath keeper. He was a commandment keeper. But neither Joab nor David could depend on him as a messenger in God’s work because he did not know the issues. He did not understand what was really happening. He represents literally thousands of people in Adventism today.
He was not stoned to death, as was Achan. He was not punished at all. He was simply told by David to stand aside. (11 Samuel 18:30.) The story of Ahimaaz is not as sad as the story of Achan, but it is still very sad. Why? Because Ahimaaz was very talented. He was actually more talented as a runner than the man that God sent with the message. But he could not be used as a messenger in God’s work because he did not understand what the issues were.
Live It Over Again
In the Spirit of Prophecy, Ellen White tells about the experience of God’s people after they are taken to heaven and are gathered around the great white throne. She describes many of God’s people as weeping in heaven. This was very intriguing to me. People say, “You are not going to cry in heaven.” Do not deceive yourself. After God wipes the tears from people’s eyes at the close of the millennium, there will not be cry-ing, but during the millennium, there will be plenty of crying. Ellen White describes God’s people be-fore the great white throne crying, weeping. Why are they weeping? She explains: “They see what they might have done had they not debased their God-given powers.” Testimonies, vol. 5, 135. These people are not Achans. They are not stoned to death, and they are not in hellfire. They are saved, and yet they are weeping in heaven. They are weeping because when they understand the real issues with which they had dealt in this world, they wish that time could be turned back so they could come back to this world and live their lives over again. I expect that there will be many millions of people in heaven like Ahimaaz, but do you really want to be one of them?
True and Faithful
Remember, in heaven, both sides claimed to be the true and the faithful. In the time of David and Absalom, both sides claimed to be the true and the faithful. At the end, both sides will claim to be the true and the faithful. I hope you will study the different points given in this article from the Spirit of Prophecy so you can differentiate which side really is true and faithful and which side is not.
You need to ask yourself, Am I part of the remnant truly or am I part of the remnant by profession only? You cannot take a neutral position. A war is going on right now between the true remnant and those who are in name only. It has been going on for several years, and it is going to get worse. Unfortunately, there is a large number of people like Ahimaaz—“I saw a great tumult. I do not know what it was.”
Jesus said, “He that is not with me is against me.” [Matthew 12:30.] Even if you are on the right side, if you do not know what is going on, then the Lord cannot use you as one of His good and faithful soldiers in the battle.
Eyes of Understanding
In the final end, there will only be two sides. Both sides will claim to be the true people of God. Both sides will claim to keep the fourth commandment. Both sides will claim to have the Spirit of Prophecy. On which side are you going to be?
If the Holy Spirit is going to use you as a messenger, as one of the true and faithful soldiers in these last days, the Holy Spirit must then enable you to see the difference between the remnant in truth and the remnant by profession only.
God, through His messenger to the remnant church, provides a great deal of detail about what happened in heaven at the fall of Lucifer so that we may understand what was really involved. We have just studied the great controversy in miniature, as it developed and played out in the lives of David and Absalom. We know that this story was written to help us understand what is going to happen at the end of time. God has told us that the issues at the end, the strategy of the devil at the end, will be the same as at the beginning. We are all in danger of being deceived, unless the Holy Spirit opens the eyes of our understanding.
There are so many people like Ahimaaz who think all is well. They see that a great tumult is going on, but they do not know what it is. Pray that the Lord will open your eyes so you will understand what is really happening today, not just in the world, but in the church as well.
[Bible texts quoted are literal translation.]
Pastor John Grosboll is Director of Steps to Life and pastors the Prairie Meadows Church in Wichita, Kansas. He may be contacted by e-mail at: firstname.lastname@example.org, or by telephone at: 316-788-5559.