The Characteristics of the Remnant

The remnant spoken of in the Bible is the last group of people living on the earth that God claims as His own. A remnant is exactly the same as the first piece; just so, God’s remnant, His last church, must have the same characteristics as His first church.

To be part of God’s remnant means far more than just making a profession of keeping the commandments and believing the Spirit of Prophecy. It is represented by a sanctified life and character. Those who make up the remnant will be faithful, as was their spiritual father, Abraham, and be part of God’s people, not just by profession and baptism by water but in heart and character by the baptism of the Holy Spirit.

Those consisting of the remnant are part of His flock, listening to His voice and following wherever He leads. Jesus said, “My sheep hear My voice” (John 10:27). They are part of the wheat harvest. In other words, they bring forth spiritual fruit in their lives. They have a vital connection with the True Vine and have become a dwelling place for the Holy Spirit. They are faithful, love God and keep His commandments from their hearts, obtaining residence in the city of refuge and being saved from the second death. They become part of God’s fortress which He holds control of in this evil world.

Ellen White wrote,

“I was shown the necessity of those who believe that we are having the last message of mercy, being separate from those who are daily imbibing new errors.” Early Writings, 124.

Those imbibing new errors include many of the different Adventist groups after 1844. She continues, “I saw that neither young nor old should attend their meetings; for it is wrong to thus encourage them while they teach error that is a deadly poison to the soul and teach for doctrines the commandments of men. The influence of such gatherings is not good. If God has delivered us from such darkness and error, we should stand fast in the liberty wherewith He has set us free and rejoice in the truth. God is displeased with us when we go to listen to error, without being obliged to go; for unless He sends us to those meetings where error is forced home to the people by the power of the will, He will not keep us. The angels cease their watchful care over us, and we are left to the buffetings of the enemy, to be darkened and weakened by him and the power of his evil angels; and the light around us becomes contaminated with the darkness.” Ibid., 124, 125.

History repeats itself and the same will happen as in the days of John the Baptist when there was a shaking, a purging, a separating of the tares from the wheat and almost the whole Jewish church was shaken out, but their church organization still carried right on.

To be shaken out means to be shaken out of the truth. According to prophecy, something very similar to this is going to happen in Adventism before the end. “Oh, how many I saw in the time of trouble without a shelter! They had neglected the needful preparation; therefore they could not receive the refreshing that all must have to fit them to live in the sight of a holy God. Those who refused to be hewed by the prophets and fail to purify their souls in obeying the whole truth, and who are willing to believe that their condition is far better than it really is, will come up to the time of the falling of the plagues, and then see that they needed to be hewed and squared for the building. But there will be no time then to do it.” Ibid., 71.

“To the marriage supper of the Lamb will come many who have not on the wedding garment—the robe [Christ] purchased for them with His lifeblood. From lips that never make a mistake come the words, ‘Friend, how camest thou in hither not having a wedding garment?’ (Matthew 22:12). Those [thus] addressed are speechless. They know that words would be useless. The truth, with its sanctifying power, has not been brought into the soul, and the tongue that once spoke so readily of the truth is now silent. The words are then spoken, ‘Take them out of My presence. They are not worthy to taste of My supper’ (cf. Luke 14:24).

“As they are separated from the loyal ones, Christ looks upon them with deep sorrow. They occupied high positions of trust in God’s work, but they have not the life insurance policy that would have entitled them to eternal life. From the quivering lips of Christ come the mournful words of regret, ‘I loved them; I gave My life for them; but they persisted in rejecting My pleadings, and continued in sin.’ ” The Upward Look, 301.

Now is the time to ask, Am I joined to Christ and one with Him in spirit, learning to think, feel, talk, and act like my Saviour? If you are really joined to Christ, you are one spirit with Him. If you are not one spirit with Him, you are not His at all.

Have you asked yourself these questions: Do I have His word abiding in me, and do I have that vital connection with the True Vine? Do I really love God and keep His commandments from the heart and love my neighbor as myself? Am I faithful enough for God to depend on me to do His bidding and refrain from those things He says not to do? Have I entered into God’s covenant and put away all known sin?

As we approach the end times, the issues of contention will be the same as when the Waldenses had to answer to the Inquisition and the Protestant reformers had to answer to the courts of their time. God’s people will also need to know and be able to explain their beliefs in the courts one day.

Jesus asked His disciples, “Who do men say that I am?” And they said, “Well, some say you are John the Baptist, some say that you are Jeremiah, Elijah, or one of the prophets.” And then He said, “Who do you say that I am?” Peter right away came up with an answer because he had believed ever since he met Jesus that He was the Messiah: “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” Jesus then said something interesting to Peter. In the Greek Bible it says, “I say to you that you are Petros,” Latin for Peter. The Greek translation is the masculine word Petras. In other languages, every word has either a masculine, feminine or neuter gender with most words being masculine or feminine. Jesus said, “I say to you that you are Petros [like a stone], and on this Petra [a large boulder] I will build My church.” (See Matthew 16:13–18.)

The apostles understood what Jesus was talking about. Peter told us the identity of the Rock upon which the church is built in I Peter 2:4–10. Paul was every bit as clear as this in Ephesians 2:20: “It is built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ Himself being the chief cornerstone.” The Rock upon which the church is built is Jesus Christ.

Jesus told them, “Whoever falls on this Rock will be all broken up, but on whomsoever it will fall, he will be crushed to powder.” Matthew 21:44. He spoke of Himself as the Rock. Peter spoke of Him as the Rock. And Jesus said to Peter, “You’re a stone, but on this Rock I’m going to build My church, and the gates of Hades will not prevail against her.” Matthew 15:18. It is in verse 19 where the trouble really comes, because it says, “I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth will have been bound in heaven, and whatsoever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven.” The authority given here is tremendous. It has to do not only with this life but also eternal life.

One of the reasons this text of scripture has been so difficult for many to understand is because we have not paid careful enough attention to whom and what is the church. This authority was here given to Peter, but later it was given to the whole church. In solving church difficulties, Jesus said, “Where two or three are gathered together in My name, there am I in the midst of them.” Matthew 18:20. That is His church. Ellen White confirms that in The Upward Look, 315, “Where Christ is even among the humble few, this is Christ’s church, for the presence of the High and Holy One who inhabiteth eternity can alone constitute a church.” And in that context He says, “Whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven.” Verse 19. This authority is given not just to Peter, but it is given to the church.

Jesus, speaking to His disciples, said, “If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven, and if you retain the sins of any, they are retained.” John 20:23. That is unbelievable authority. Jesus, speaking to the leaders of the Christian church, said, “If you forgive somebody’s sins, they are forgiven. If you retain somebody’s sins, they are retained.” It was these scriptures that were used by the bishops of Rome obtaining authority over the entire then known world during the Dark Ages. They claimed to have received this apostolic authority from Peter and could send dissenters to either heaven or hell.

The accused heretics were dressed in robes and had miters painted with demons, snakes, and devils. They were put to torture or burned at the stake and consigned to hell where they were told they would burn forever.

The people were kept in ignorance, and before the printing presses were invented, there were very few copies of the Bible in existence for a time. Because of this, the church could twist the meaning and context of this authority and bring kings and nations and entire continents under their control. Protestants were continually challenged with the authority of the church that claimed to be the successor of the apostle Peter with the keys to the kingdom of heaven. All who did not submit to the authority of the church would go to hell. Those who did not believe it were killed, resulting in most of Europe eventually submitting to the church.

We read that there are three prerequisites before receiving that authority. “He breathed on them and said, ‘Receive the Holy Spirit.’ ” John 20:22. Only those who are filled with the Holy Spirit have divine authority in the church.

All must be taught by God. Jesus said to Peter, “Flesh and blood has not revealed it to you, but My Father in heaven.” Matthew 16:17.

Instructions are given in Matthew 18:15 on how to deal with a disagreement or when wronged by another member of the church. Gospel order must be followed before you can have authority.

Millions of people have been enslaved or killed because of a misunderstanding of who has apostolic authority. Recent pronouncements by the papacy reveal that this theory is not dead. It is still proclaimed that Protestants cannot give eternal life because only the Catholic Church has authority on the basis of these scriptures and the way they are understood.

The apostles understood the meaning of how to bind and loose. When the gospel was preached, some people accepted it in repentance and were loosed from the chains of guilt and from the power of their sins and bound by an indissolvable union to Jesus Christ through the Holy Spirit. In that way they were both bound and loosed.

Paul spoke very clearly about those refusing to accept the gospel. (See Acts 13:40–50; 28.) He said, “You decided yourself that you are not worthy of eternal life, and we are going to the Gentiles.” These people ended up bound to both the guilt and the power of their sins and were held in slavery.

Jesus said, in John 8:34, that the one who commits sin is a slave of sin. The word dulos means bondservant, slave. When the gospel is preached, everybody who hears it will be bound and loosed. Some will be bound to Jesus Christ through the Holy Spirit, and they will be loosed from their sins, from the guilt and power of sins. Those who reject will be bound to their sins and receive the mark of the beast and be loosed from any certain hope of eternal life.

“The power of binding and loosing was, moreover, given to the Church, and not to any individual man, or body of men. Ministers exercise, he argued, their office for the Church, and in the name of the Church; and without the Church’s consent and approval, expressed or implied, they have no power of loosing or binding anyone. Much less, he maintained, was this power of excommunication secular; it was simply a power of doing, by the Church and for the Church, the necessary work of purging out notorious offenders from the body of the faithful.” Reverand James Aitken Wylie, LLD, History of Protestantism, Volume Second, ch 4, “Conference at Upsaler,” 1808-1890, Cassell& Company, Limited: London.

The Catholic Church claims that only those seated in continuous succession from the apostle Peter have apostolic authority. “This principle bears with equal weight upon a question that has long agitated the Christian world—the question of apostolic succession. Descent from Abraham was proved, not by name and lineage, but by likeness of character. So the apostolic succession rests not upon the transmission of ecclesiastical authority, but upon spiritual relationship. A life actuated by the apostles’ spirit, the belief and teaching of the truth they taught, this is the true evidence of apostolic succession. This is what constitutes men the successors of the first teachers of the gospel.” The Desire of Ages, 467.

The question of apostolic succession has agitated the minds in the Christian world for hundreds of years. And even today, if you read Roman Catholic literature, they can show you a diagram showing that the Catholic Church history goes all the way back to Jesus Christ, but the Protestant church only goes back to the sixteenth century, or the Adventist church only goes back to the nineteenth century.

So who is the true church and who are Abraham’s seed? Jesus acknowledged that the Jews were Abraham’s seed according to the flesh, but denied that they were Abraham’s spiritual children. To that they strongly objected, saying, “Abraham is our father.” Jesus said, “If you were Abraham’s children, you would do the works of Abraham. But now you want to kill Me, a Man who has told you the truth. … You do the works of your father.” Then they said to Him, “We have one Father, we’re not born of fornication; we have one Father: even God.” And Jesus said to them, “If God was your Father, you would love Me, because I proceeded forth and came from God; neither did I come of Myself, but He sent Me. Why do you not understand My speech? Why can’t you understand what I’m saying? Because you are of your father the devil.” John 8:37–44.

It was to the leaders of the Jewish church of God’s chosen people that Jesus said, “You are of your father the devil.” It is impossible to be a member of the church that God has called out, His chosen special ones, if you are a son of the devil.

In the Day of Judgment, profession must be backed up by character. The remnant people at the end of time will keep the commandments of God. The new theology says, “Just try to do it; do the best you can.” The Bible does not say that. It says, “They keep the commandments.” Only those who have received the Holy Spirit can keep the commandments; without the Spirit it is impossible.

Apostolic succession means the people who are successors of the apostles, those who teach and preach the same things that the apostles taught and have the same character that they demonstrated. A mere profession is worthless.

“From the beginning, faithful souls have constituted the church [of God] on earth.” The Acts of the Apostles, 11.

Nowhere in the Spirit of Prophecy does Ellen White say the church is both the faithful and the unfaithful. You may get your name on the church books and are professedly part of the church, but if you are not joined to Christ with one Spirit, you are not part of Him. (See Romans 8:9.)

Jesus called the Jews, who only made a profession, children of the devil. It is the character of a person that reveals to whom they belong. There are so many preachers, both in self-supporting work and in the conferences, publishing articles that say you just have to believe the truth and you are part of the remnant. But the Bible teaches that the remnant will be of a character in keeping with the commandments of God. Salvation is an inheritance, and it is a gift, but it is conditional on obedience to God.

The Waldenses understood this, as did the reformers who stood true to God and His commandments as they suffered terrible persecution. They knew that the church of that time had no power to commit them to either heaven or hell. The authority of the Bible is above the authority of the church. (See James 1:18.)

The reformers and the Waldenses had a correct understanding of who and what the church was. They believed that the true church consisted of only those who were righteous, just and holy. But today, people have decided that the church consists of both the faithful and the unfaithful, trying to prove this by the parable of the wheat and the tares. Incidentally, the Catholics do the same and have done so with their church for hundreds of years. Throughout the Spirit of Prophecy the word church is used to refer to all who make a profession of Christianity, all the Christian churches, and sometimes in regard to certain denominations, including the Adventist denomination. Sometimes it refers to the Catholic Church, and at other times it refers to the true church. Often these quotations are used out of context causing confusion, just as many other churches become confused about the law in the Bible, which refers to different things.

The common false conception of who the church is has caused Adventists to be confused about who make up the remnant. It is not whether your names are on the church books, but whether you have fully submitted and allowed the Holy Spirit to work in your life, making you a new creation.

“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 12:17. “The remnant of Israel shall not do iniquity, nor speak lies; neither shall a deceitful tongue be found in their mouth: for they shall feed and lie down, and none shall make them afraid.” Zephaniah 3:13. This is the description of those who have washed their robes in the blood of the Lamb—the true remnant.

(Bible texts quoted are literal translation.)

Pastor John J. Grosboll is Director of Steps to Life and pastors the Prairie Meadows Free Seventh-day Adventist Church in Wichita, Kansas. He may be contacted by email at:, or by telephone at: 316-788-5559.