LESSON 4 *January 17 - 23
The Gift of Prophecy
and God's Remnant Church
Lesson graphic

Read for This Week's Study:

Rev. 12; 14:1–12.

Memory Text:

“And the dragon was enraged with the woman, and he went to make war with the rest of her offspring, who keep the commandments of God and have the testimony of Jesus Christ” (Revelation 12:17, NKJV).

      The remnant theme first appears with Noah and his family (Gen. 7:23), and resurfaces in the history of Israel. The apostle Paul refers to a remnant (Rom. 11:5) that was then constituted of Jews who had accepted Jesus and who later became the nucleus of the Christian church. In the book of Revelation a remnant appears in the churches of Thyatira (Rev. 2:24) and Sardis (Rev. 3:4), and also in chapter 12—the subject of our study this week.

God’s faithful remnant was not always a visible remnant; that is, from the early days up to the last days, God has His faithful ones in different faiths, which is why the call is made: “ ‘Come out of her [Babylon], my people’ ” (Rev. 18:4). Nevertheless, there is a specific depiction of God’s remnant in the last days.

The Week at a Glance:

What do the symbols in Revelation 12 represent? What events in history can be seen as a fulfillment of this chapter? What is the meaning of the phrases “the testimony of Jesus" and "the spirit of prophecy"?  

*Study this week's lesson to prepare for Sabbath, January 24.

SUNDAY January 18

Good Versus Evil:  Act 1

Read Revelation 12:1–6. What’s happening here?  

Revelation 12 introduces the great controversy between Christ and Satan in symbolic form, and describes its progress from the time of Christ to the time of the end. In verse 1 John sees a dazzling sight—a pregnant woman, “clothed with the sun, with the moon under her feet” (NKJV), and wearing a crown of 12 stars. He calls the appearance a “great sign” (NKJV), indicating that the woman is more than a mere woman. She is a symbol for the church, or for God’s faithful people (see Isa. 54:5, 6; 2 Cor. 11:2). The woman's dazzling appearance links her to Jesus, the Sun of righteousness (Mal. 4:2, Rev. 1:16).

According to Revelation 12:6, the woman flees from the dragon into the wilderness, where she is taken care of by God for 1,260 days. What is this talking about, and what do the 1,260 days symbolize? Dan. 7:25, Rev. 12:14, 13:5. 

Until the nineteenth century, most students of prophecy used the year-day principle here, and so they understood the 1,260 days to refer to the time of persecution of the church during the Middle Ages, a period of 1,260 years.

And with good reason, too. First, the whole section is filled with symbols that aren’t taken literally, so why should the time element be taken literally, as well? Second, the various time phrases used in Daniel and Revelation—“time and times and half a time” (Dan. 7:25, 12:7, Rev. 12:14, NKJV), “forty-two months” (Rev. 11:2, 13:5, NKJV), and “one thousand two hundred and sixty days” (Rev. 11:3, 12:6, NKJV)—are not the natural way of expressing a literal three and a half years (see Luke 4:25 and James 5:17). For these reasons and others, Seventh-day Adventists (in contrast to most other Christians today) interpret the 1,260 days as 1,260 years, and see it as a reference to the period of papal supremacy from the sixth to the end of the eighteenth century.
What are some of the common symbols prevalent in your own society and culture? What purpose do they serve? What’s the advantage (and disadvantage) of them? How do you use symbols in your everyday life? How does the way symbols are used around you help you better understand the way the Bible uses symbols?  

MONDAY January 19

Good Versus Evil:  Act 2

Revelation 12:7-12 is an interlude in the story; it focuses on the fall of Satan in heaven and his being cast down to the earth. Hence, we are given a glimpse into the origins of the great controversy as it began in another part of the universe. The back-and-forth between heaven and earth should tell us how closely tied events in one impact events in the other. Truly, we are in the midst of a cosmic battle!

Revelation 12:13–17 picks up the story from verse 6 and describes in symbolic terms the persecution of the Christian Church, first by the Roman Empire and later by the apostate Roman Church. What do the symbols here represent?  

In these verses, a flood of water is sent against God’s people, a symbol of persecuting armies (Jer. 46:7, 8; 47:2; Dan. 9:26). In contrast, in Revelation 12:16 the earth is described as helping the persecuted church. In 1620, the first pilgrims, fleeing the religious persecution in Europe, arrived on the American continent. On this newly discovered continent they found a safe haven where the persecuting armies of the European powers could not reach them. Thus, symbolically, the new continent America swallowed up the persecuting armies.

In Revelation 12:17, we are now in the time after the 1,260-day period (which ended at the close of the eighteenth century). Satan, seeing that he was unable to wipe out God's faithful people, is angry with a particular group called “the rest of her offspring” (NKJV) or “the remnant of her seed” (KJV).

Read carefully Revelation 12:17. What is the first identifying mark of this special remnant? How do these following texts help us understand what “the commandments of God” mean? Matt. 24:20, Rom. 3:31, Eph. 6:1, James 2:9–11, 1 John 3:4.  

How much simpler could God have made it? This end-time remnant will be distinguished, first of all, by the fact that it keeps the commandments of God, all of them, which of course includes the seventh-day Sabbath.
How firm are you in your own mind regarding God’s call that we keep His commandments? How can you be sure that the Lord commands us to keep them? How do you respond to arguments against keeping the commandments, especially the Sabbath?  

TUESDAY January 20

The Testimony of Jesus

The second identifying mark of the remnant church is “the testimony of Jesus” (marturia Iesou). This expression occurs six times in the book of Revelation (Rev. 1:2, 9; 12:17; 19:10; 20:4, NIV).

What is the meaning of the phrase “the testimony of Jesus” in the following texts? Rev. 1:2, 9; 19:10; 20:4, NIV.  

Two grammatically possible explanations concerning its meaning have been put forward. The first view interprets “the testimony of Jesus” as man’s witness for Christ (NEB, RSV). The second view understands “the testimony of Jesus” as the self-revelation of Jesus—His own testimony (NIV, NKJV).

A study of the word testimony in John’s writings indicates that each time it appears in the same grammatical construction as in Revelation, it always refers to Jesus’ own testimony (John 1:19; 3:11, 32, 33; 5:31). In contrast, the idea of witnessing about somebody in John's writings consistently is expressed by a different grammatical construction.

In the book of Revelation, therefore, the expression “testimony of Jesus” also should be understood as Jesus’ testimony about Himself, and not the remnant’s testimony about Him. This is borne out by a study of the texts in Revelation themselves. Revelation 1:2 says that John bore witness to “the word of God” and to “the testimony of Jesus.” Thus, “the word of God” refers to what God says and is parallel to “the testimony of Jesus.” Thus, “the word of God” is simply what Jesus says; it is the testimony that Jesus gives about Himself.

The same is true in Revelation 1:9. John introduces himself and states his credentials and says that he is on the island of Patmos because of “the word of God” and “the testimony of Jesus.” The parallelism between the “word of God” and “the testimony of Jesus” is again clearly discernible. Thus, according to the principle of “interpreting scripture with scripture,” every text in the book of Revelation where the phrase “testimony of Jesus” appears always refers to Jesus’ own testimony.
How has Jesus revealed Himself to you? Would you like to know Him better? What’s the only way you can?  

WEDNESDAY January 21

The Spirit of Prophecy

Revelation 19:10 says, “ ‘ For the testimony of Jesus is the spirit of prophecy.’ ” In all of Scripture the phrase “spirit of prophecy” appears only in this text. What does it mean? 1 Cor. 12:8–10, 28; Eph. 4:11.  

The closest parallel to the phrase “spirit of prophecy” in the Bible is found in 1 Corinthians 12:8-10. There Paul refers to the Holy Spirit, Who gives the gift of prophecy among other gifts (charismata); and the person who receives this gift is called a prophet.

Now, just as in 1 Corinthians 12:28, those who have the gift of prophecy (verse 10 of the same chapter) are called prophets—in Revelation 22:8, 9, those who have the spirit of prophecy (Rev. 19:10) are also called “prophets.”

“And I fell at his feet to worship him. But he said to me, ‘See that you do not do that! I am your fellow servant, and of your brethren who have the testimony of Jesus. Worship God! For the testimony of Jesus is the spirit of prophecy’” (Rev. 19:10, NKJV).

“I fell down to worship before the feet of the angel who showed me these things. Then he said to me, ‘See that you do not do that. For I am your fellow servant, and of your brethren the prophets, and of those who keep the words of this book. Worship God’ ” (Rev. 22:8, 9, NKJV).

The situation in both passages is the same. John falls at the feet of the angel to worship. The words of the angel’s response are almost identical, yet the difference is significant. In Revelation 19:10, the brethren are identified by the phrase “who hold to [have] the testimony of Jesus” (NIV). In Revelation 22:9, the brethren are called simply “prophets.”

If the Protestant principle of interpreting scripture by scripture means anything, this comparison must lead to the conclusion that “the spirit of prophecy” in Revelation 19:10 is the prophetic gift, which is given not to church members in general, but only to those who have been called by God to be prophets.

This is not purely an Adventist interpretation. Lutheran scholar Hermann Strathmann says about “brothers who have the testimony of Jesus” (NJKV) in 19:10: “According to the parallel 22:9 the brothers referred to are not believers in general, but the prophets. . . . If they have the marturia Iesou [the testimony of Jesus], they have the spirit of prophecy, i.e., they are prophets.”—Theological Dictionary of the New Testament, vol. 4, p. 501.

THURSDAY January 22

The Remnant Church

From our study thus far, we understand that in Revelation 12:17 “the rest of her offspring” (NKJV) refers to God’s visible remnant church that can be recognized by two specific characteristics: (1) they “keep the commandments of God” as God has given them on Mount Sinai, including the Sabbath commandment; and (2) they “have the testimony of Jesus Christ,” which is the Spirit of prophecy, or the prophetic gift.

The Sabbath-keeping Adventist movement, from even before its organization in 1863, always has claimed these identifying signs for itself. As Adventists we proclaim the Ten Commandments, including the seventh-day Sabbath; and we believe that as a church we have the testimony of Jesus; that is, that God manifested Himself in the life and work of Ellen G. White.

Thus, the Seventh-day Adventist Church is not just one church among many. It is a church prophetically foreseen. God has called this church into existence for a very specific purpose—to proclaim the three angels’ messages to a dying world.

Read Revelation 14:6–12. What is happening there that helps us understand some of the characteristics of God’s end-time people? What elements come into play, and in what ways are we justified in seeing ourselves and our calling there?  

As Seventh-day Adventists, we believe that we are members of God's remnant church. However, this identification with the remnant church does not accord us an exclusive status with God. You can be part of this corporate remnant and still be lost. Salvation is not guaranteed through membership in any church. We are saved as individuals, not as a church. It’s a great privilege and responsibility, being part of this church, because we have a sacred calling; but being a member of this church no more guarantees salvation than being a Hebrew in ancient Israel did (Jer. 8:20).

What is your only guarantee of salvation, and how can you have it as your own?  

FRIDAY January 23

Further Study:  
  Read Ellen G. White, “Introductory—The Spirit of Prophecy,” pp. 7-16 in The Spirit of Prophecy, vol. 1; “Historical Prologue,” pp. vii-xxxii in Early Writings.

“One of the gifts of the Holy Spirit is prophecy. This gift is an identifying mark of the remnant church and was manifested in the ministry of Ellen G. White—the Lord's messenger. Her writings are a continuing and authoritative source of truth which provide for the church comfort, guidance, instruction, and correction. They also make clear that the Bible is the standard by which all teaching and experience must be tested.”—Seventh-day Adventists Believe . . . (2nd ed.) (Nampa, Idaho: Pacific Press® Publishing Association, 2005), p. 247.

A study of the idea of the remnant in the Old Testament reveals a few interesting characteristics. Perhaps the most important one is that all through the Bible, the remnant were those who were living with more light than others. Noah had the light about the coming flood. Abraham had the light about the true God. The nation of Israel was worshiping the Lord in the sanctuary, while their pagan neighbors were sacrificing children on their altars or bowing down to statues of cats and bulls and other animals. In short, the idea of the remnant had more to do with a revelation of truth and of God’s character than with the holiness of those who had that knowledge. The point? As expressed in Thursday’s lesson, being part of the remnant means only that you have great light, and with that light comes important responsibilities. It does not mean you automatically have salvation; nor does it mean that those who aren’t part of the remnant are lost. It’s an unfortunate fact of sacred history that many of those who were part of God’s remnant not only failed to live up to the light they were given but oftentimes rebelled against it.  

Discussion Questions:
     What important message is found in Luke 12:48 for those who believe that they are part of the remnant church?  

   The claim that we are the “remnant church” can sound very arrogant and exclusive. And yet, why does it make sense that God would have a special people with a special message in the last days? Or does it? Discuss.  

   If being in the remnant does not guarantee salvation, then what’s the advantage of being part of it?  

I N S I D E Story    
I Love to Preach!


I didn't grow up in the Adventist Church. But God led me to this church in a wonderful way.

A Protestant pastor in town knew a little about Adventists, but he refused to acknowledge their teachings. Then he had a dream in which God told him to preach the fourth commandment or risk being lost forever. The pastor preached the Sabbath truth in his church, and I accepted the message.

Several months later I was baptized and started preaching. Preaching, for me, was my gift to God, and He blessed my efforts. An Adventist leader in the area urged me to study theology at the Adventist university. So I enrolled.

During school breaks, I returned home and preached and gave Bible studies. During one of my home visits, I studied with a young woman who was baptized. We were friends, but neither of us had any idea that it would go beyond that. Then God spoke to her and showed her that we were to be married. She resisted, but God persisted, and in time we married.

We now work in an exciting area. Our town is a political hot spot in Haiti. Sometimes things get so tense that people fear to leave their homes. But even during these tense times, people come to our evangelistic meet­ings. We preach and pray, and hundreds come. After one meeting 72 peo­ple were baptized! This difficult area has yielded more baptisms in a given year than anywhere else in Haiti.

I love evangelism! I want to preach and evangelize so that everyone in our area will know that Jesus is coming again.

I have eight congregations; the largest has 400 members. But there are still places where we have no Adventist believers. My wife and I have a burden to reach those areas, to bring God's light to the dark corners of Haiti.

In Haiti we have one Seventh-day Adventist for every 28 people! Yet there are places where not one Adventist lives. Haitian people love the gospel, and many Adventist laypeople want to reach out and preach to those who do not know that Jesus is coming again. But the political and economic situations here make it difficult to reach these people. We want Jesus to come soon, and we ask that you pray for the people of Haiti and continue to help us reach them for Christ through your mission offerings. Then we will be ready for Jesus to come. Hallelujah!

PASTOR ARNEL and JUQUELANDE BLANC share their faith in southern Haiti.
Produced by the General Conference Office of Mission Awareness.
email:   info@adventistmission.org   website:  www.adventistmission.org

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