The Seventh-day Adventist Church is a denomination. It’s a culture, a community, a commonality that brings people together. It’s an employer, a hierarchy and a heritage that is deeply rooted in many people’s identities. It’s part of the wider Christian church, and it’s my church.
But it’s not the remnant.
On its official website, the Seventh-day Adventist Church states that the scriptural basis of remnant church theology is found in Revelation 12:17: “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.”
The website explains that the dragon represents Satan, the woman represents the Christian church and the woman’s seed represents a small quantity of Christians who remain faithful to God’s Word throughout the ages and who will face the wrath of Satan. The defining characteristics of the remnant are that they keep the commandments of God and have the testimony of Jesus.
Keeping the commandments of God seems straight-forward. As Jesus says in Mark 12, there are no commandments greater than these two: “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, mind and strength” and “love your neighbor as yourself.” Since the word “love” can be abstract, we can refer to 1 Corinthians 13 and Exodus 20 for examples of what love looks like.
The testimony of Jesus is both the general proclamation of the teachings of Jesus and the specific proclamation of the book of Revelation. It’s the spirit of prophecy—both a foretelling of future events and Holy Spirit-inspired teaching.
There are many Adventists who have these characteristics. There are also baptized, certificate-holding, active members who don’t.
Claiming the title “Seventh-day Adventist” guarantees me nothing except a place inside a denomination. It doesn’t guarantee salvation. It doesn’t guarantee remnant status. It doesn’t even guarantee that I will theologically agree with another Seventh-day Adventist sitting in the pew in front of me.
The danger of claiming the Adventist church as the remnant church is that it draws deceiving boundaries. It “others” everyone who does not claim the title of Seventh-day Adventist and it creates a false sense of security in those who do.
Many people who claim Adventism as the remnant do so because they believe our denomination is the most based on the Bible, because we keep Saturday as the Sabbath and accept the guidance of Ellen White.
There are, however, Adventists who don’t keep the Sabbath, and there are non-Adventists who do. There are Adventists who believe in and study the writings of Ellen White, and there are Adventists who don’t.
And there are absolutely no Adventists who base their theology on the Bible. Adventist theology is informed by the Bible, to be sure, but it’s not based on the Bible. If it was, all Adventist women would cover their heads in church and all Adventist parents would stone their rebellious children. Adventist theology is informed by the Bible, just as it is also informed by tradition, experience and reason.
In truth, there are remnant people inside of the Adventist church, and there are remnant people who have left the Adventist church or who have never even heard of it.
The remnant is made up of people. It’s not a denomination. And this is good news.
It’s good news because it cuts away at some of our Adventist arrogance and cleaves us together with other humans, blurring the lines between “us” and “them.” It’s good news because it urges us to examine our beliefs and our lives, to follow the Spirit of Scripture and allow ourselves to be led into present truth.
The Seventh-day Adventist Church isn't the remnant church, but maybe you and I can be.
Sarah is a senior studying english.