Proof-texts in Context, Part 7: The Remnant

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Proof-texts in Context, Part 7: The Remnant

The seventh installment of our Proof-texts in Context series will focus on SDA Fundamental #13—The Remnant and Its Mission. For those who would like a more detailed synopsis of why we are publishing this series, please refer to the introduction to the first installment. Without further ado, let’s proceed to our study.

Ezra 9:15—“O Lord God of Israel, You are righteous, for we have been left an escaped remnant, as it is this day; behold, we are before You in our guilt, for no one can stand before You because of this.” King Artaxerxes commissioned Ezra, whom we could call a Torah scholar, to lead another wave of exiles back to Jerusalem. Ezra yearned to promote spiritual and social revival.

 

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However, upon learning that scores of Jews intermarried with those from pagan nations, he went into full-blown lament mode. He was grateful for the kindness God showed in recovering them from bondage and the mercy He showed in not levying equitable punishment against their sins, but he recognized that their repeated disobedience would not be swept under the rug, for mixing with the nations contributed to their time in Babylon in the first place.

Isaiah 11:11—“Then it will happen on that day that the Lord will again recover the second time with His hand The remnant of His people, who will remain, From Assyria, Egypt ….” The chapter begins with a Messianic prophecy. Jesus would be a righteous judge, helping the downtrodden and giving the wicked what they deserve. The next passage depicts a paradisiacal scene of peace and tranquility. Though Isaiah was pre-Babylon and the promise of restoration applies to that particular rescue, verse 11 and the rest of chapter allude to prior rescues and include parallelisms to the Exodus.

 

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Ezekiel 6:8—“However, I will leave a remnant, for you will have those who escaped the sword among the nations when you are scattered among the countries.” God pronounced an unambiguous judgment upon Israel for their rampant, defiant, systematic idolatry. The remnant in verse 8 aren’t necessarily wearing halos, so to speak. They would survive the slaughter, yet it looks like they participated in this national treachery against the Lord. It seems that the differentiating factor is their sorrowful contrition for what they did.

Micah 2:12—“I will surely assemble all of you, Jacob, I will surely gather the remnant of Israel. I will put them together like sheep in the fold; Like a flock in the midst of its pasture They will be noisy with men.” Micah called out some of the Israelites’ wicked offenses. One of them was business-related exploitation. They would face dire consequences for this. Another offense was false prophecy. Messengers with ulterior motives voiced pleasing missives that contradicted the word of God. This book reflects a general pattern of warnings and hope, and chapter 2 is an example. The Lord would bring together a group of faithful people from among the Jewish nation.

 

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Matthew 7:21—“Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father who is in heaven will enter.” Jesus was close to concluding His Sermon on the Mount. He warned His hearers against false prophets and alerted them to the need to recognize their fruits. Doing so appears to be tricky, as Christ listed some fruits in verse 22 that we would consider to be good—prophesying in His name, casting out demons, and performing miracles. For what it’s worth, the word “knew” in verse 23 connotes intimacy in the Greek. Truly good fruits result from a close bond with the Savior.

2 Thessalonians 2:3—“Let no one in any way deceive you, for it will not come unless the apostasy comes first, and the man of lawlessness is revealed, the son of destruction.” It’s a strange phenomenon, but “remnant” and “apostasy” go hand-in-hand. The concept of having a smaller, left-over number of people who remain dedicated disciples is spurred by the wayward wandering of the larger group. In Greek linguistics, “apostasy” here means “divorce.” As a church, we have determined that Paul pointed forward to the Dark Ages. His larger intention was to protect his readers from deceptions that were already circulating. Though the apostle was centuries away from the stark fulfillment of the antichrist power, the groundwork was already being laid.

 

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2 Peter 3:11–13—“Since all these things are to be destroyed in this way, what sort of people ought you to be in holy conduct and godliness, looking for and hastening the coming of the day of God, … But according to His promise we are looking for new heavens and a new earth, in which righteousness dwells.” Peter mentioned several themes pertaining to the apocalypse. He predicted that there would be selfish scoffers questioning the legitimacy of Christ’s return, drawing a clear connection to Noah and the flood. He indicated that God’s perspective of time is very different from ours, yet He is always a promise keeper. The apostle identified the importance of living lives that please the Lord and reveal a hopeful anticipation of the advent.

Revelation 12:17—“So the dragon was enraged with the woman, and went off to make war with the rest of her children, who keep the commandments of God and hold to the testimony of Jesus.” A virtuous woman was on the verge of giving birth to a son. A dragon entered the scene and attempted to kill the newborn, but God brought him to His throne, then provided protection for the woman in the wilderness. John then transitioned to a depiction of war in heaven, and Michael and His angels defeated the dragon and his angels.

 

Revelation 14:12—“Here is the perseverance of the saints who keep the commandments of God and their faith in Jesus.” The apostle again beheld the 144,000 (see chapter 7), standing with the Lamb on Mount Zion, with the Father’s name written on their foreheads. They sang a song that pertained to their redemption. Three angels delivered distinct messages: fear God, for His judgment has come, Babylon is fallen, and avoid the mark of the beast. Chapter 14 ends with two harvests, one likely positive and one definitively negative.

 

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The word “remnant” seems to elicit a mixed response. People outside Adventism and even some within have concluded that its utterance is categorically elitist. I won’t deny that some of our brethren have infused their verbiage with at least traces of pomposity, whether subconsciously, which, though relatively tolerable, must still be nipped in the bud, or purposely, in which case, those brethren better swiftly repent.

The word “remnant” belongs in our lexicon, but let’s delineate between appropriate and unfitting uses. In salvific parameters, abundant caution is paramount. The Lord is not just taking Adventists to heaven. Did everyone hear me? He has genuine believers in a variety of folds (see John 10:16; Rev. 18:4).

 

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However, the longer these believers remain in their divergent folds, the more their relationships with Christ, the foundation for their eternal destinies, face grave danger. He has given us the privilege and responsibility to call anyone and everyone to worship Him, acknowledge His judgment, and escape Babylon and its image and mark. No other body of faith is sounding this trumpet, so in these missional parameters, we are a remnant, and there is nothing wrong with admitting it.

Because God has placed upon us a level of involvement in closing earth’s history, thus culminating His victory and Satan’s irrevocable demise, that blasted dragon is exhausting every desperate, despicable trick in the book to derail our efforts. As far as I’m concerned, causing confusion and dissension among our ranks is the ace up his sleeve. This makes unity, the subject of the next installment in our series, of immense significance.

Click here to read the rest of this series on the Fundamental Beliefs!

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About the author

John Simon

John Simon, an almost lifelong Michigander, is a freelance editor and writer. He previously spent a decade working with Adventist Frontier Missions in an accounting role. Though finance wasn't exactly a hand-in-glove fit—more of a hand-in-toaster fit, frankly—it was a privilege to help advance the cause of reaching the unreached. John enjoys spectating and participating in various sports (hockey being on top of both lists), driving/road tripping, visiting his feisty yet loving and supportive family on the other side of the Mitten, and spending time with friends.