The Gift of Prophecy and God’s Remnant Church

Lesson 4

January 24, 2009


Introductory Reflections

    In a recently published report of a survey published by George Barna[1], it was noted that it can no longer be assumed that if one is born in America that he or she will “affiliate with the Christian faith.”  One half of all adults now contend that Christianity is just one of many options from which Americans choose.  Furthermore, the findings suggest that a huge majority (71% to 26%) of adults pick and choose what they believe rather than adopt a church or denomination’s slate of beliefs. They accept what they deem to be helpful and accurate theological views while they discard the rest of the teachings of the Bible.  In so doing Americans are embracing an unpredictable and contradictory body of beliefs. For example, millions who label themselves as Christians believe that the Bible is totally accurate also believe that Jesus sinned.  They also believe they will experience eternal salvation because they have confessed their sins and accepted Christ while at the same time they also believe that a person can do enough good works to earn eternal life. Beliefs were once chosen from Christian options (Catholic, Methodist, etc) but now Christian beliefs are pitted against different world religions such as Buddhism, Judaism and Islam.  “Faith views are more often adopted on the basis of dialogue, self-reflection, and observation than teaching.  Feelings and emotions now play an even greater role in determining the content of one’s faith.  Does this challenge the way we conduct our Sabbath School classes?  Do we promote “dialogue” at the expense of “teaching”?  In our teaching do we incorporate emotion and feeling?

It is in this context that we enter into this week’s study of “The Gift of Prophecy and God’s Remnant Church.”  Few appreciate the biblical worldview.  To speak of a “remnant” seems exclusive and arrogant to many.  Yet these are deeply rooted concepts of Scripture.  It is a challenge that needs to be met with dialogue and reflection, to be sure, but central in all of this must be careful Bible study.  Truth is not determined by us nor nor is it something we produce through spiritual exercises such as meditation.  Truth comes as a revelation from God. If it is something generated by us then confusion and misdirection will result leading to “a form of godliness but denying its power.” (2 Timothy 3:5).  This quarter’s study couldn’t come at a more appropriate time.  How much of what God has given through the Spirit of Prophecy will we, living in this time of the world’s history, “choose to accept”?  Do we individually determine what is truth--what is acceptable and what is not? What role should the larger body of believers play? In our efforts to be relevant, how do we relate to Bible truth when our worldview clashes with what may be prevailing in different regions of the world? We are indeed living in challenging times but with these challenges also come opportunities. Many have a hunger for truth.  In the long term, only truth will satisfy.  Are there ways of making it more palatable and clear.  Let’s make sure our grasp and teachings of “truth” are biblical and not based on a sensational or culturally distorted version of God, His remnant movement and/or His plan for restoration. Then, and only then, will we have something to contribute to a culture in need of a confident, non-arrogant voice, calling out “Prepare the way for the Lord.”  (Matt 3:3)

Reflective Discovery Questions

 1.   “The remnant” is an obscure concept in Scripture but will be highlighted in the last days.    False [Acts15:12-18; Isa 37:31; Zeph 3:13] 

It is anything but obscure.  In the KJV the word is used 92 times and in the NIV 65 times.  However, the concept is used even more extensively throughout Scripture.

2.     The historical battle between Christ and Satan is described in the last book of the Bible.  True    [Rev 12] 

In Revelation 12 the conflict between Christ (Woman) and Satan (Dragon) is outlined.  This conflict began in heaven but localized on this earth where Satan attempted to destroy Christ.  Notice especially verse 9.

Rev 12:9

9 The great dragon was hurled down-that ancient serpent called the devil, or Satan, who leads the whole world astray. He was hurled to the earth, and his angels with him. (NIV)

The intent of Satan is to lead the whole world astray.  It is in this context that we find our subject for this week so relevant!  Part of God’s defense is the gift of prophecy given to His chosen people.  Included in this assertive plan is the preservation and development of a remnant who speak for Him. 

3.    Historically Satan has focused his wrath upon those whom God has chosen to enlighten the world regarding His plans for redemption.  True    [Rev. 12:17; 13:15; 1 Ki 18; Mal 4; Mt 14]

Rev 12:13-17

13 When the dragon saw that he had been hurled to the earth, he pursued the woman who had given birth to the male child. 14 The woman was given the two wings of a great eagle, so that she might fly to the place prepared for her in the desert, where she would be taken care of for a time, times and half a time, out of the serpent's reach. 15 Then from his mouth the serpent spewed water like a river, to overtake the woman and sweep her away with the torrent. 16 But the earth helped the woman by opening its mouth and swallowing the river that the dragon had spewed out of his mouth. 17 Then the dragon was enraged at the woman and went off to make war against the rest of her offspring-those who obey God's commandments and hold to the testimony of Jesus. (NIV)

So much could be said here but in brief we see the woman as the church, giving birth to Jesus, the male child,  As God symbolized the deliverance of Israel from Egypt by giving them the wings of an eagle (Ex 19:4) so he symbolizes the deliverance of the church.  What follows establishes the theme for this week’s lesson:  Satan becomes so angry with the male child and the fact that He escaped that as the Deceiver he now focuses his wrath upon the offspring/the remnant who resemble Christ.  Not only do they keep the commandments but they have the “testimony of Jesus” both seen as vital elements of their identification with Christ.  So intense is this hatred that the Devil sets about to destroy this remnant and under the guise that those who do so will be honoring God. (Jn 16:2; Rev 13:15)

4.    When the book of Revelation uses the term “the testimony of Jesus” it is referring to our witness for Christ.  True and False  [Rev 1:2, 9; 12:17]

It is significant that the book of Revelation links the concept of the remnant with the “testimony of Jesus”.  This is where we need to be careful and clear: 

We often speak of the “testimony of Jesus” as our witness (Rev.12:11 does speak of overcoming the assaults of Satan by “the blood of the Lamb and the word of their testimony”) 

While that may be true we must not confuse “our witness” with that of “the testimony of Jesus.” (Rev. 19:10 – “Worship God!  For the testimony of Jesus is the spirit of prophecy.”)

We must avoid anything that would suggest that the initiation or even the content comes from us, our meditation. The “testimony of Jesus –the Spirit of prophecy” is the clear, objective Word of God speaking to a generation that would like to say “I’m ok and you’re ok” and therefore I can mix what I like from your religion with my own.    In contrast the remnant are those who speak from and live by the clear revealed will of God.  It is not their truth it is God’s and when it is incorporated into their lives it becomes their truth but its origin, we must remember, is God.

5.    An identifying mark of the remnant church is the gift of prophecy.  True  [Rev. 19:10]

It is true and it becomes obvious why it is when we look back at the context of the conflict as portrayed in Revelation 12.  There is such an attempt by Satan to distort the truth about God and to destroy any element of that truth that it becomes imperative that God find a way of communicating his side of the story.  He has chosen to do that, at least in part, by a gift of prophecy called the “testimony of Jesus” as treasured by a people called the “remnant.”  It is God speaking.  It is the truth God wishes to communicate.  It is God’s intervention into the heart of Satan’s deception.

Rev 19:9-10

9 Then the angel said to me, "Write: 'Blessed are those who are invited to the wedding supper of the Lamb!'" And he added, "These are the true words of God."

10 At this I fell at his feet to worship him. But he said to me, "Do not do it! I am a fellow servant with you and with your brothers who hold to the testimony of Jesus. Worship God! For the testimony of Jesus is the spirit of prophecy." (NIV)

The outcome of the truth clearly results in “Worship!”  When truth is finally unveiled in the context of Satan’s deceptions the result is a deep adoration for God – a spontaneous worship: 

Rev 19:1-2

19:1 After this I heard what sounded like the roar of a great multitude in heaven shouting: "Hallelujah! Salvation and glory and power belong to our God,

2 for true and just are his judgments. (NIV)

6.    The idea of the remnant has more to do with a revelation of truth and of God’s character than with the holiness of those who had that knowledge.  True [Ezra 9:5-15]

This is such an important concept.  The natural tendency is for us to think first of ourselves when just the opposite should be the case. 

This brings us to the point we wish to make in question #9.  It is true that the primary idea of there being a remnant has more to do with a revelation of truth and of God’s character than with the holiness of a certain group of people.  The center from which the remnant exists is God, His wisdom, His graciousness and not in the good works of man. 

Having said that – the Bible makes it clear that throughout history there has always been and always will be a group of followers who are so identified with God that their own testimony parallels the very testimony of Jesus.  They have placed their confidence in Him, they know Him and they live for Him! They obey because they have placed their confidence in God.  Despite the circumstances they are able to stand firm because of their faith in Him.

7.   Those who are part of the “remnant” carry a great responsibility.  True or False?  [Acts 15:12-15; Rev 14:1-12]

Rev 14:6-10

6 Then I saw another angel flying in midair, and he had the eternal gospel to proclaim to those who live on the earth-to every nation, tribe, language and people. 7 He said in a loud voice, "Fear God and give him glory, because the hour of his judgment has come. Worship him who made the heavens, the earth, the sea and the springs of water."

8 A second angel followed and said, "Fallen! Fallen is Babylon the Great, which made all the nations drink the maddening wine of her adulteries."

9 A third angel followed them and said in a loud voice: "If anyone worships the beast and his image and receives his mark on the forehead or on the hand,

10 he, too, will drink of the wine of God's fury, which has been poured full strength into the cup of his wrath. (NIV)

Conclusion

As the world draws to a close confusion abounds.  Recent surveys confirm this.  Religious answers are found everywhere – they can be “Christian” answers or answers from anyone of scores/hundreds of world religions.  All can lead to confusion and ultimately disgust and disillusionment.   Each are vying for our attention and allegiance.  In the midst of this turmoil exacerbated by world conditions,  God has set aside a remnant who remain faithful to Him and who carry a banner high proclaiming that the only real answers are found in the God who made the heavens, the earth, the sea and the springs of water.” (Rev. 14:7) Scripture identifies Jesus as the Creator so in proclaiming God's final message the remnant focuses it attention on God.  In so doing comes the acknowledgment comes that He is using the remnant to bring calm and assurance in the midst of confusion and anxiety.  (Zech 8:23)  

 

My Father Is the Engineer

During the dark uncertain days of the Civil War a train was winding its way through the mountains in the eastern part of the United States. Although behind schedule, it was traveling slowly through the valleys, over bridges, or on narrow ledges high up on the mountainsides.

There was an uneasiness, a tenseness, among the passengers this spring morning, for it was wartime, and they feared that the Southern army might have traveled this far to the North. They might have torn up the track, or destroyed a bridge, or might even fire upon the train from ambush.

There was a troubled look on many faces. The conversation told of the seriousness of their thoughts. Something seemed to weigh heavily on their hearts. Things had not been going any too well with the Northern army. The outcome of the struggle was a bit doubtful. All was bright and cheerful outside, but the atmosphere inside the train was gloomy and tense.

On the train, however, there was one carefree, happy soul‑‑a girl not yet in her teens. On her happy, round face was a broad smile as she walked up and down the aisle, chatting with this passenger and that. There was no fear in her heart. She was not discouraged.

The passengers talked of her seeming lack of anxiety. They marveled at her poise and calmness. How could she be so serene and trusting when there were so many reasons for concern?

An elderly passenger asked the child if she did not know about the war. He told her of the possibility of the Southern army's pulling up the track, destroying the bridges, or attacking the train. But no change came in her countenance. "Aren't you afraid?" he asked her.

And she answered with a positive "No."

Then her questioner asked why she had no fears, when everyone else seemed so fearful.

"Because my father is the engineer," she answered. Up at the head of that train was her father. He had his eye on the track ahead. He was watching for obstacles. His trained eye looked far ahead for bad track or for a gap where a bridge had been. Why should she worry? Her father had never failed her. She had confidence in his ability as an engineer.

Yes, God still lives. We can trust His leadership.‑‑By C. L. Paddock, Signs of the Times, April 14, 1942


 

 

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