The Remnant and its Mission
The universal church is composed of all who truly believe in Christ, but in the last days, a time of widespread apostasy, a remnant has been called out to keep the commandments of God and the faith of Jesus. This remnant announces the arrival of the judgement hour, proclaims salvation through Christ and heralds the approach of His second advent. This proclamation is symbolised by the three angels of Revelation 14; it coincides with the work of judgement in heaven and results in a work of repentance and reform on earth. Every believer is called to have a personal part in this worldwide witness. (Daniel 7:9-14; Isaiah 1:9; 11:11; Jeremiah 23:3; Micah 2:12; 2 Corinthians 5:10; 1 Peter 1:16-19; 4:17; 2 Peter 3:10-14; Jude 3, 14; Revelation 12:17; 14:6-12; 18:1-4.)
When choosing a school to attend, academic reputation is often one of the most important things to consider. But growing up in Auckland, there was another factor to consider—rugby. Kelston Boys High School is known internationally as a top rugby school and I wanted to be one of the students wearing the KBHS jersey. After attending Kelston Primary School and then Kelston Intermediate, I finally got my chance to attend Kelston Boys High School. But before my dreams of being a rugby star could come true, I had to first try out with all the other 13-year-old boys for the 3rd form rugby team.
The results were posted on an A4 piece of paper outside the changing sheds. Young boys, myself included, scuffled each other to scan the list first, hoping our names would be there. As soon as I saw my name, I high-fived my other friends who’d also made it. This was my first taste of knowing what it felt like to be proud of my achievements. It confirmed in my mind that I was special, I was worth it and I was better than the boys who didn’t make it. As far as I was concerned, there was no team I would rather be on than that 3rd form rugby team. I was totally unaware at that particular time of my life that there was so much more to life than being part of that team.
Not only did I grow up as a well-seasoned “Kelstonian”, I also grew up in the Seventh-day Adventist Church. By the time I reached intermediate school, I knew enough about my church community to know they had a lot of good biblical answers to many of life’s big questions: What happens when we die? What will happen in the future? Where does evil come from?
I often heard the word “remnant” referred to when people spoke of Revelation 12:17. It was defined as, “those who keep the commandments of God and have the faith of Jesus”. Somewhere in the many Revelation seminar presentations I heard, I accepted this description to be synonymous with “those who are Seventh-day Adventists”. I was convinced in my early teens that the Seventh-day Adventist Church was the only way to be saved—but that wasn’t enough for a rugby-obsessed teenager to turn away from belonging to a high-class school rugby team.
It wasn’t until my early twenties that I completely committed my life to Jesus. I was teaching the earliteens Sabbath School class and had been reading The Desire of Ages as a supplement to the Bible story. The chapter “The Lord is Risen” broke me and I was overwhelmed by Jesus’ plan of salvation—His gift of eternal life, His patience over thousands of years, His willingness to serve, to die a cruel death and to exercise faith in the face of eternal death. Because of my own selfish desires, I had misunderstood that simply being part of the remnant church would save me. Whereas I’d once daydreamed of becoming a great rugby player, I now dreamed of a day when I could be a martyr like the Reformers.
"God has a remnant in every age who stand as a witness, and they reveal that keeping the commandments of God and the faith of Jesus overcomes the power of the dragon."
How many of us who are fathers or mothers would sacrifice their child because God told them to? How many of us would marry a prostitute with children who might not be our own? Who of us would tell a whole nation they are apostatising at the cost of being imprisoned or killed? The people who keep God’s commandments and have the faith of Jesus do not only exist in the eschatological time frame. We have seen examples of God’s remnant people throughout Scripture—they have existed since Genesis 3:15, and will exist right up to the time our Creator and Redeemer returns.
One of the most painful moments for Christ must have been in John 6:66, where the Bible says many disciples decided not to follow Jesus after hearing some hard teachings. Jesus turned to the Twelve and asked if they wanted to go away, too. But I believe the confession of Peter is an insight to the remnant faith: “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life.”
Another example is what we now refer to as the Great Disappointment. Many lost their faith in Jesus and the Christians proclaiming the advent of Jesus, but there were a few who remained faithful. Today, we are part of a mission-focused Church because of those faithful few.
Our Church has been gifted with incredible prophetic insights into the books of Daniel and Revelation. And I’m convinced that our understanding of the plan of salvation is incredibly solid. Because of this, we as a Church carry the responsibility of sharing this understanding of Jesus Christ, as we know and experience Him.
God spoken to Moses in Exodus 19:6, saying, “you shall be to Me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation.” In 1 Peter 2:9, Peter reiterates and expands the thought, “But you are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, His own special people, that you may proclaim the praises of Him who called you out of darkness into His marvellous light.” What an amazing responsibility! But some of us, like me in my teen years, may have interpreted this charge to be a right rather than a responsibility.
Life as we know it presents its own problems. The dragon is wrath and is on a warpath to decimate the name of our most high Lord and Saviour. Many of our friends and family live in fear because of the dragon’s empty threats. Many of us suffer because of death’s power over us. But God has a remnant in every age who stand as a witness, and they reveal that keeping the commandments of God and the faith of Jesus overcomes the power of the dragon.
We don’t need to live in anticipation to see whether we played hard enough to make the final team. It’s not our job to gather around the Book of Life and see if our names are written there. Our call, as the remnant, is to demonstrate and publicly declare that Jesus Christ died, rose and is coming again. I no longer dream of whether I will be part of the eschatological remnant who live during the “time of trouble”. Instead, I ask whether I am keeping the commandments of God and have the faith of Jesus right now.
David Leo is associate pastor at Glenorchy church and chaplain at Hilliard Christian School, Tasmania.