In spite of the apostasy and tribulation of the 1260 years, some believers continued to reflect the purity of the apostolic church. When the 1260 years of oppression ended in A.D. 1798, the dragon had failed to eradicate entirely God’s faithful people. Against these Satan continued to direct his destructive efforts. Said John, “And the dragon was enraged with the woman, and went to make war with the rest of her offspring, who keep the commandments of God and have the testimony of Jesus Christ” (Rev. 12:17).
What Is the Remnant? In John’s description of the dragon’s battle with the woman and her descendants, he used the expression “the rest of her offspring” (Rev. 12:17). That expression means the “remaining ones” or “remnant” (Rev. 12:17, KJV). The Bible portrays the remnant as a small group of God’s people who, through calamities, wars, and apostasy, remain loyal to God. This faithful remnant were the rootstock God used to propagate His visible church on earth (2 Chron. 30:6; Ezra 9:14, 15; Isa. 10:20-22; Jer. 42:2; Eze. 6:8; 14:22).
God commissioned the remnant to declare His glory and lead His scattered people throughout the world to His “holy mountain Jerusalem,” “Mount Zion” (Isa. 37:31, 32; 66:20; cf. Rev. 14:1). Of those thus gathered together Scripture states, “These are the ones who follow the Lamb wherever He goes” (Rev. 14:4).
Revelation 12:17 contains a description of the last remnant in God’s chosen line of loyal believers—His loyal witnesses in the last days before Christ’s second coming. What are the remnant’s characteristics?
The Characteristics of the Remnant. The remnant at the time of the end cannot be easily mistaken. John describes this group in specific terms. Appearing after the 1260 years of persecution, they are made up of those “who keep the commandments of God and have the testimony of Jesus Christ” (Rev. 12:17).
They have the responsibility of proclaiming, just before Christ’s return, God’s final warning to all the world, the three angels’ messages of Revelation 14 (Rev. 14:6-12). These messages themselves contain a description of the remnant, they are “those who keep the commandments of God and the faith of Jesus” (Rev. 14:12). Let us consider more closely each of these characteristics.
1. The faith of Jesus. God’s remnant people are characterized by a faith similar to that which Jesus had. They reflect Jesus’ unshakable confidence in God and the authority of Scripture. They believe Jesus Christ is the Messiah of prophecy, the Son of God, who came as the world’s Saviour. Their faith encompasses all the truths of the Bible—those which Christ believed and taught.
God’s remnant, then, will proclaim the everlasting gospel of salvation by faith in Christ. They will warn the world that the hour of God’s judgment has arrived and they will prepare others to meet their soon-coming Lord. They will be engaged in a worldwide mission to complete the divine witness to humanity (Rev. 14:6, 7; 10:11; Matt. 24:14).
2. The commandments of God. Genuine faith in Jesus commits the remnant to follow His example. “He who says he abides in Him,” John said, “ought himself also to walk just as He walked” (1 John 2:6). Since Jesus kept His Father’s commandments, they too will obey God’s commandments (John 15:10).
Particularly since they are the remnant, their actions must harmonize with their profession—otherwise, it is worthless. Jesus said, “‘Not everyone who says to Me, “Lord, Lord'” shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father in heaven'” (Matt. 7:21). Through the strength Christ gives them, they obey God’s requirements, including all ten of the commandments, God’s unchanging moral law (Ex. 20:1-17; Matt. 5:17-19; 19:17; Phil. 4:13).
3. The testimony of Jesus. John defines “the testimony of Jesus” as “the spirit of prophecy” (Rev. 19:10). The remnant will be guided by the testimony of Jesus conveyed through the gift of prophecy.
This gift of the Spirit was to function continuously throughout the history of the church, until “all come to the unity of the faith and the knowledge of the Son of God, to a perfect man, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ” (Eph. 4:13). It is, therefore, one of the major characteristics of the remnant.
Such prophetic guidance makes the remnant a people of prophecy who proclaim a prophetic message. They will understand prophecy and teach it. The revelation of truth that comes to the remnant helps them accomplish their mission of preparing the world for Christ’s return