Bible Truth Versus SDA Doctrine: The Remnant

SDA Doctrine about the Remnant

Seventh-day Adventists teach that the book of Revelation identifies their sect as the "remnant church" of Bible prophecy. The concept of a "remnant" 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.

One SDA author writes:

As Seventh-day Adventists, we believe that we are members of God's remnant church. (SDA Sabbath School Quarterly (adult), 2009, vol. 1, lesson 4)

The following points explain how SDAs identify themselves as the "remnant" of Revelation 12:17:

  1. The "woman" depicted in Revelation 12 represents the true church of God. The true church "fled into the wilderness" (Rev. 12:6) for a period of 1,260 years. This prophecy was fulfilled when the Waldenses and Albigenses of Europe hid in the mountains during the period of papal supremacy (from 538 AD to 1798 AD) and preserved the truth about the seventh day Sabbath and the Bible for 1,260 years.

  2. At the time of the end, Satan makes war with the "remnant." The "remnant" is identified as those who "keep the commandments of God" and have the "testimony of Jesus." The "commandments of God" are the Ten Commandments given to Israel in Sinai, and the "testimony of Jesus" is their prophet, Ellen G. White.

Ellen White explains:

The law of God and the Spirit of Prophecy go hand in hand to guide and counsel the church, and whenever the church has recognized this by obeying His law, the spirit of prophecy has been sent to guide her in the way of truth. Rev. 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." This prophecy points out clearly that the remnant church will acknowledge God in His law and will have the prophetic gift. Obedience to the law of God, and the spirit of prophecy has always distinguished the true people of God, and the test is usually given on present manifestations.1

In the same book that contains the above quote, Ellen White refers to herself or her writings as the "spirit of prophecy" more than 30 times. For example,

Brother B.... Study the messages that God has sent to His people for the last sixty years through the Spirit of Prophecy.2

SDAs use a unique formula to equate Ellen White with the Spirit of Prophecy. They do this by linking the "testimony of Jesus" in Rev. 12:17 to the same phrase found in Rev. 19:10. They claim that Revelation 19:10 unlocks the meaning of the testimony of Jesus. In Rev. 19:10 says: "for the testimony of Jesus is the spirit of prophecy." This provides the first half of the equation: Testimony of Jesus = Spirit of Prophecy. But the question remains, what is the Spirit of Prophecy?

Testimony of Jesus = Spirit of Prophecy = ?

According to SDA doctrine, the true remnant church must have a prophet. This argument was introduced as early as 1855. After its formation in 1863, the SDA Church recognized Ellen White as having the prophetic gift. For many years the SDA sect boasted that the prophetic gift must be active in the church—in other words, there must be a living prophet in the remnant church. Some of Ellen White's books (the forerunners to the Conflict of the Ages series) were actually entitled Spirit of Prophecy. As noted above, Mrs. White and other sect leaders frequently referred to her testimonies (written and verbal) as the "Spirit of Prophecy." Therefore, since Ellen White was recognized by the sect as having the gift of prophecy, the assumption was made that she was the Spirit of Prophecy.

Testimony of Jesus = Spirit of Prophecy = Ellen G. White

Note carefully from the quote at the top of this page that Ellen White said, "the test is usually given on present manifestations." After Mrs. White's death in 1915, the SDA sect was in a dilemma because they no longer had a living prophet. So, they redefined their previous teachings, and began teaching that Ellen White "lives on" through the writings of her books. Since the sect never had another prophet after Ellen White, that explanation has taken root in the sect, which now seems to be perfectly content without a living prophet.

Problems with the SDA Doctrine of the Remnant

There are multiple problems with identifying the SDA Church as the Remnant Church of Bible prophecy:

1. Did the Waldenses keep the truth alive for 1,260 years? First, there is no church group that kept the "truth" of the Sabbath alive during the Dark Ages. The Waldenses were not Sabbath-keepers, and they did not move to the mountains until after 1184 AD. Persecution ended by the middle of the 1600s, so this group was in the so-called "wilderness" less than 500 years. (For more facts about the Waldenses, click here)

2. Did the Albigenses keep the truth alive for 1,260 years? In her epic book Great Controversy, Mrs. White points to the Albigenses as a group that preserved the "truth" during the era of papal supremacy. However, the Albigenses were a heretical group of fanatics who believed the Old Testament was written by Satan, that Christ had no real body, and that marriage was evil. The group barely survived one century. (For more facts about the Albigenses, click here)

3. Is the 1,260 days of Revelation 12 a period of years? SDAs apply the year-for-a-day principal to turn the 1,260 days into 1,260 years, but that is an arbitrary and unwarranted application of the year-day principal. SDAs arbitrarily apply the year-day principle to some time periods in Revelation but not to others. Even if the days are indeed years, the dates of 538 AD to 1798 AD are questioned even by SDA scholars. (For more facts about these dates, click here)

4. Who has the Spirit of Prophecy? In 1 Corinthians 12:7-11, the Bible says the Holy Spirit is the source of spiritual gifts. One of those gifts is the gift of prophecy (1 Cor. 12:10). Therefore, the phrase "Spirit of Prophecy" would be a reference to the Holy Spirit—the One who gives the gifts—and not to the human recipient of the gift.4 Mrs. White claimed to be (or have) the "spirit of prophecy" but in order to make such a claim, one must first pass the Biblical tests of a prophet. There is significant evidence that Mrs. White failed six of the seven tests of a prophet.

Even if Mrs. White had passed the tests, the SDA Church has not had a living prophet in nearly a century. That puts the sect in the exact same position as all other commandment-keeping Christian churches who do not have a living prophet. Other Christian churches follow the writings of dead prophets, such as Isaiah, Jeremiah, and the Apostle John. In fact, the writings of at least 24 deceased prophets appear in the Bible. So, how is the SDA Church now any different from non-SDA denominations in this regard? Is it because SDAs follow the writings of 25 deceased prophets instead of 24?5 Does the fact that SDAs have one more prophet than most other churches prove that they are the only ones who have the Spirit of Prophecy?

Even Ellen White described her writings as a "lesser light" pointing to the writings of the 24 Biblical authors who had the real spirit of prophecy.6 In fact, she admitted that her writings were not even necessary:

If you had made God's word your study, with a desire to reach the Bible standard and attain to Christian perfection, you would not have needed the Testimonies.7

So then, how important is that 25th prophet? Mrs. White implies she is not even necessary so long as one follows the writings of the other 24 prophets. That being the case, how can the SDA Church claim to be the sole denomination having the Spirit of Prophecy? They only have 1 more deceased prophet than other churches, AND, that one prophet testified...

  1. Her writings merely pointed to the writings of the other 24 prophets
  2. She was not needed if believers would study the other 24 prophets

5. Is the "Testimony of Jesus" really Ellen White's writings? In Revelation 12:17, the word "Testimony" (Greek marturia) comes from a root word which, in its various Greek forms, means "testifying," "testimony," "witness," and "martyr."

The phrase "Of Jesus" could be understood in two ways:

  • The testimony came from Jesus. This stresses Jesus as the source of the testimony.
  • The testimony is about Jesus. This stresses Jesus as the subject of the testimony.

Notice how the apostle John understood the meaning of the word "testimony" (marturia):

This is the disciple which testifieth of these things, and wrote these things: and we know that his testimony [marturia] is true. (John 21:24)

What John is telling us in this verse is that his gospel is a testimony about Jesus. Therefore, John's gospel is the "testimony of Jesus."

Now, notice how John uses marturia to describe the testimony of the believer concerning Jesus:

...for this is the witness [marturia] of God which he hath testified of his Son. He that believeth on the Son of God hath the witness [marturia] in himself: he that believeth not God hath made him a liar; because he believeth not the record [marturia] that God gave of his Son. And this is the record [marturia], that God hath given to us eternal life, and this life is in his Son.
(1 John 5:9-11)

In these important verses we find that those who believe on Jesus have the marturia, the witness or testimony of Jesus, in them!

How is the "testimony of Jesus" used in Revelation?

[John] Who bare record of the word of God, and of the testimony [marturia] of Jesus Christ, and of all things that he saw. (Rev. 1:2)

In this verse John says he bore witness of three things:

  1. The Word of God
  2. The Testimony of Jesus Christ
  3. The things that he saw (in vision)

John goes on to say in verse 9:

I John, who also am your brother, and companion in tribulation, and in the kingdom and patience of Jesus Christ, was in the isle that is called Patmos, for the word of God, and for the testimony [marturia] of Jesus Christ.

Notice the two reasons that John gives for being imprisoned on the isle of Patmos:

  1. The Word of God
  2. The Testimony of Jesus

Clearly it was John's testimony about Jesus that resulted in his being imprisoned.

Notice something else: John had the "Testimony of Jesus" when he was on Patmos. That was somewhere between 65 AD and 100 AD. So, the "Testimony of Jesus" was manifested in the writings of John over 1,700 years before the birth of Ellen [Harmon] White.

Look at Revelation 6:9:

And when he had opened the fifth seal, I saw under the altar the souls of them that were slain for the word of God, and for the testimony [marturia] which they held.

Notice the martyrs were slain for two reasons:

  1. The Word of God
  2. Their testimony [marturia], presumably about Jesus.

The SDA sect teaches that among these martyrs were those who died in the 1,260-year reign of the papacy. SDAs claim this period started in 538 AD and ended in 1798 AD. If this is true, then these martyrs had the "testimony" long before Ellen Harmon was born.

From the context of Revelation chapter 12, the testimony of Jesus clearly refers to the word of testimony of those who "loved not their lives unto the death":

And they overcame him by the blood of the Lamb, and by the word of their testimony [marturia]; and they loved not their lives unto the death. ... 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 [marturia] of Jesus Christ. (Revelation 12:11, 17)

Notice that the "testimony" in Revelation 12 is "their testimony." This indicates that the "testimony" was their personal testimony about Jesus, not Ellen White's writings.

In Revelation 19:10 we find that John's "brethren" also had the marturia, or testimony of Jesus:

...I am thy fellowservant, and of thy brethren that have the testimony [marturia] of Jesus: worship God: for the testimony [marturia] of Jesus is the spirit of prophecy.

The marturia is here described as the gift of prophecy, which is given to testify about Jesus Christ. Here are some alternate readings of the last part of Revelation 19:10

The prophetic spirit proves itself by witnessing to Jesus. (New American Bible)
Testimony to Jesus is the spirit which underlies Prophecy. (Weymouth New Testament)
Those who bear testimony to Jesus are inspired like all the prophets. (New English Bible)
The purpose of all prophecy and of all I have shown you is to tell about Jesus. (Living Bible)
Worship God, because the testimony about Jesus is the spirit of prophecy. (Holman Christian Standard Bible)

The last reference to marturia is found in Revelation 20:4:

...I saw the souls of them that were beheaded for the witness [marturia] of Jesus, and for the word of God, and which had not worshipped the beast, neither his image, neither had received his mark upon their foreheads, or in their hands; and they lived and reigned with Christ a thousand years.

This verse parallels Rev. 6:9. Again, the two reasons for martyrdom are given:

  1. The Word of God
  2. The witness [marturia] of Jesus.

Throughout the New Testament can be found a pattern of the "testimony of Jesus" referring to the believer's personal witness about Jesus Christ. Rather than being the prophetic utterances received from Jesus, the testimony of Jesus is the believer's personal testimony about Jesus. The "testimony of Jesus" is found in the writings of the New Testament, whose writers personally knew Christ and bore witness to Him. Furthermore, John tells us that the testimony of Jesus is found in the heart of all those who accept and believe in Jesus as the Son of God:

He that believeth on the Son of God hath the witness [marturia] in himself (1 John 5:10)

Therefore, the "testimony of Jesus" cannot be used to uniquely identify the SDA Church as the remnant church of Bible prophecy. Revelation clearly teaches that John had the "testimony of Jesus" (Rev. 1:9), the martyrs had it (Rev. 6:9), and John's brethren had it (Rev. 19:10). None of these ever knew Ellen White, so it could not refer to her.

Bible Truth about the Remnant

Remnant is from the First Century, not the Nineteenth Century

In Revelation 12:13, Satan realizes he has been cast down to earth after the death of Christ on the Cross. Next, he begins to persecute "the woman which brought forth the man child" (Rev. 12:13). The woman represents the Church of God, the bride of Christ. Satan's persecution of the Church of God began shortly after Christ's ascension: Peter and John were arrested and flogged (Acts 4:3-22, 5:17-42). Therefore, the time period for this prophecy is identified as the first century.

In verse 14, the Church of God hides in the wilderness for a time (1 year), times (2 years) and half a time (half a year). This is 1260 literal days or three-and-half-years. Did such an event happen in the first century? Nero launched a massive campaign in the first century to destroy God's people. Nero regarded both the Jews and Christians as threats to his supreme godlike authority and he persecuted both. His siege of Jerusalem and persecution of Jews and Christians began in November, 64 AD, and ended with his death in June, 68 AD. This is a period of 1260 days. A remnant of God's people—the small group of Christians who heeded Christ's warning to flee Jerusalem and Judea—fled into the wilderness and were preserved from destruction. This group represents the remnant—the remainder of God's people after more than a million were killed in the destruction of Jerusalem. The remnant children of God have two identifying marks. First, they keep the commandments of God, which are to love the Lord God with all the heart, and to love one's neighbor as themselves (Matt. 22:38-40). Secondly, they have the "testimony of Jesus." They give witness to their faith by testifying about Jesus Christ. Thus, the remnant can be easily identified as the persecuted first century church that fled Jerusalem and Judea and hid in the wilderness until the persecution ceased.

The Spirit of Prophecy

The Spirit of Prophecy is the Holy Spirit who inspires true prophets. In the first century, the remnant Church of God that escaped from Nero to the wilderness had the Spirit of Prophecy as manifested in the Apostle John. After Nero's death, John was released from Patmos and shared with the church the prophetic Book of Revelation, which was inspired by the Holy Spirit. This inspired gift is now available to every Christian who has access to the New Testament.

The era of major prophets has ended. The ultimate revelation of the character of God was manifested in the Son of God and recorded in the gospels:

God, who at sundry times and in divers manners spake in time past unto the fathers by the prophets, hath in these last days spoken unto us by his Son." (Heb. 1:1,2)
The law and the prophets [were] until John: since that time the kingdom of God is preached, and every man presseth into it. (Luke 16:16; also Matt. 11:13)

"Christ is the head of the church" in the New Testament era (Eph. 5:23). Prophets are no longer the spiritual leaders of God's people as they were in the days of Samuel, Isaiah and Jeremiah. In the Christian era, prophets are no longer required for God to communicate a message to His people. Jesus taught that he would communicate directly with his followers:

My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me. (John 10:27)

There is not a single instance in the gospels where Jesus said that He was going to send prophets to His church to guide it. Instead, He warned about "false" prophets many times:

Beware of false prophets... (Matt. 7:15)
And many false prophets shall arise and deceive many... (Matt. 24:11)
For there shall arise false Christs, and false prophets, and shall shew great signs and wonders; insomuch that, if [it were] possible, they shall deceive the very elect. (Matt. 24:14)
For false Christs and false prophets shall rise... (Mk 13:22)

Jesus established a different order in the Christian church. Instead of speaking to His people indirectly through prophets, Jesus promised to speak to them directly through the Holy Spirit:

Howbeit when he, the Spirit of truth, is come, he will guide you into all truth...and he will shew you things to come. He shall glorify me: for he shall receive of mine, and shall shew [it] unto you. All things that the Father hath are mine: therefore said I, that he shall take of mine, and shall shew [it] unto you. (John 16:13-15)

The gift of prophecy is given to the Christian church for edification (1 Cor. 12:28; Eph. 4:11). However, in the New Testament, Apostles—not prophets—are the leaders of the church. In the New Testament church, Christians are instructed by the personal presence of God via the indwelling of the Spirit of God:

But the anointing which ye have received of him abideth in you, and ye need not that any man teach you: but as the same anointing teacheth you of all things, and is truth, and is no lie, and even as it hath taught you, ye shall abide in him. (1 John 2:27)


A number of churches claim to be the true "remnant of God." While it may be flattering to regard one's church as the true remnant, there is no denomination that has a "corner" on the truth. Denominations are the creation of man. They are useful because they establish a structure, and an organization to further the work of God. However, humans only dimly comprehend the truth of God. Because of man's imperfect understanding of God's ways, there are many different interpretations of "truth," resulting in the thousands of different denominations that exist today.

God has His true believers spread out in every Christian denomination. Jesus said, "I am the way, the truth" (John 14:6). A denomination can show a person the way, but it is not "the way." Jesus is the way. Likewise, a denomination can teach the truth, but it is not "the truth." Jesus is the truth. Therefore, any true believer who obeys the commandments of God and accepts Jesus as His Savior and Lord, and is baptized in His name for the remission of sins, is part of the remnant church of God.

Your Questions Answered

QUESTION: Joel 2:28 talks about the gift of prophecy being poured out in the last days. My Revelation Seminar said this prophecy was fulfilled in Ellen White. Is that true?

ANSWER: Let us take a look at the verse in question:

And it shall come to pass afterward, [that] I will pour out my spirit upon all flesh; and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, your old men shall dream dreams, your young men shall see visions. (Joel 2:28)

This verse describes a situation where both men and women would prophesy, and that old men would have dreams, while young men would have visions. This could hardly describe the Seventh-day Adventist Church, where in its 170-year history, only a single woman has ever been recognized by the sect as having the gift of prophecy.

As a matter of fact, Joel 2:28 has already been fulfilled. Notice what Peter said on the day of Pentecost:

...Peter...said unto them...this is that which was spoken by the prophet Joel; And it shall come to pass in the last days, saith God, I will pour out of my Spirit upon all flesh: and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, and your young men shall see visions, and your old men shall dream dreams: And on my servants and on my handmaidens I will pour out in those days of my Spirit; and they shall prophesy: And I will shew wonders in heaven above, and signs in the earth beneath; blood, and fire, and vapour of smoke: The sun shall be turned into darkness, and the moon into blood, before that great and notable day of the Lord come: And it shall come to pass, [that] whosoever shall call on the name of the Lord shall be saved. (Act 2:14-21)

The great out-pouring of the "Spirit upon all flesh" was fulfilled 2,000 years ago at Pentecost. There are many passages in the New Testament indicating the gift of prophecy was active among both men and women in the early church (Acts 11:27, 13:1, 15:32, 21:9; Rom. 12:6, 1 Cor. 11:4, 12:10, 12:28, 14:1-32; Eph. 2:20, 3:5, 4:11, 1 Tim. 4:14).

Furthermore, Joel's signs of the "dark day" and moon of "blood" were also already fulfilled prior to Pentecost. Matthew tells us the earth was darkened on the day that Christ died (Matt. 27:45). Astronomers have also discovered that there was a lunar eclipse over Jerusalem on the day of Christ's crucifixion in 33 AD (for more info on the date and events of Christ's death, click here). SDAs have claimed a "dark day" that occurred in 1780 was somehow a fulfillment of Joel's prophecy, but that was a natural event caused by smoke from raging forest fires, and it was local to the Northeastern United States. In fact, these types of dark days occur with some regularity throughout history, and should not be confused with the supernatural event described by Joel.

In conclusion, Joel's prophecy was already fulfilled precisely in 33 AD. There is no reason to believe the events in Joel 2 have any connection with Ellen White or the SDA sect.

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1. Ellen White, Loma Linda Messages, 33.

2. Ibid.

3. On October 2, 1904, in a public address, Mrs. White claimed she was not a prophet: "When I was last in Battle Creek, I said before a large congregation that I did not claim to be a prophetess. Twice I referred to this matter, intending each time to make the statement, 'I do not claim to be a prophetess.' If I spoke otherwise than this, let all now understand that what I had in mind to say was that I do not claim the title of prophet or prophetess." (The Review and Herald, July 26, 1906) However, she later clarified that what she actually meant was her work was much higher and loftier than that of a mere prophet: "I am instructed that I am the Lord's work includes much more than the word 'prophet' signifies." (Selected Messages, book 1, 32).

4. The Spirit of God is called by many names in the Bible. In all cases it would be blasphemy to ascribe these names to any human: Spirit of Wisdom - Isa. 11:2; Spirit of Understanding - Isa. 11:2; Spirit of Counsel - Isa. 11:2; Spirit of Power - Isa. 11:2; Spirit of Knowledge - Isa. 11:2; Spirit of the Fear of the Lord - Isa. 11:2; Spirit of Judgment - Isa. 28:6; Spirit of the Lord - Micah 2:7; Spirit of Grace - Zech. 12:10; Spirit of Supplications - Zech. 12:10; Spirit of God - Matt. 3:16; Spirit of Your Father - Matt. 10:20; Spirit of Truth - John 14:17; Spirit of Jesus - Acts 16:7; Spirit of Holiness - Rom. 1:4; Spirit of Life - Rom. 8:2; Spirit of Christ - Rom. 8:9; Spirit of Adoption - Rom. 8:15; Spirit of the Living God - 2 Cor. 3:3; Spirit of His Son - Gal. 4:6; Spirit of Promise - Eph. 1:13; Spirit of Wisdom - Eph. 1:17; Spirit of Revelation - Eph. 1:17; Spirit of Jesus Christ - Phil. 1:19; Spirit of Power - 2 Tim. 1:7; Spirit of Love - 2 Tim. 1:7; Spirit of Grace - Heb. 10:29; Spirit of Glory - 1 Pet. 4:14; Spirit of Prophecy - Rev. 19:10. A pattern can be seen here. The Bible uses "Spirit of ..." to describe the attributes of God and His Spirit. Thus, the "Spirit of Prophecy" refers to the Spirit of God, not to any human or any human's writings.

5. The prophecies of at least 24 individuals having the "gift of prophecy" appear in the Bible: Enoch, Jacob, Joseph, Moses, David, Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, Daniel, Hosea, Joel, Amos, Obadiah, Jonah, Micah, Nahum, Habakkuk, Zephaniah, Haggai, Zechariah, Malachi, John, Paul, and Jesus.

6. Ellen White, The Review and Herald, Jan. 20, 1903.

7. Ellen White, Testimonies for the Church vol. 2 (1868-1871), 605.

Category: Amazing Fiction - Revelation
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