he remnant concept has never been unfamiliar to me. I was the “remnant” of my mother’s childbearing years. She had borne three boys and a girl with her first husband, who died in an iron mining accident. Later, after marrying my father—who was a widower with three boys and a girl—my parents again had three boys and a girl. That final child was me, arriving in this world during the Great Depression, when Mom was 45 years of age. She loved the Lord, and prayed for each of her children while they were still in her womb.
I grew up with the remnant idea being more or less impressed upon me in a solidly conservative Lutheran home. Conservative, because my parents’ pietistic faith grew out of the revival movements of Finland, the land of their birth. Rather often during my childhood, Mother quoted Jesus’ words: “Nevertheless, when the Son
of Man comes, will He really find faith on the earth?” (Luke 18:8).* Another text she quoted often was the one that says: “Narrow is the gate and difficult is the way which leads to life, and there are few who find it” (Matt. 7:14).
Belonging to the majority, therefore, was not to be considered important. Mark Twain once said: “Whenever you find yourself on the side of the majority, it is time to pause and reflect.” In fact, I was innately suspicious of majorities because of the language of Scripture. “Apostasy” would come; “separateness” from the world was necessary; “forsaking all” (sometimes even kindred) was imperative for discipleship. Accepting truth could well mean standing alone, like Daniel.
In America freedom of religion was guaranteed and quite often taken for granted. Living out my faith among trusted hometown friends and good neighbors as a youth was relatively easy. Testing, “boot training,” came in high school. School dances of the late 1940s were no temptation, but when our class was to sponsor the annual junior prom, a teacher required me to join the rest attending the planning session. The class vote was a formality since it was a foregone conclusion that no objections were anticipated. I needn’t draw attention to myself, I reasoned, and it wouldn’t make any real difference if I didn’t raise my hand when the chair would ask if any opposed. My hand felt like lead, but I somehow got it up. I was a teenage remnant of one, and probably no one even noticed.
Several years later I was married to the man God chose as my life partner, my dear husband of more than 53 years. He was studying to become a Lutheran minister in one of the smaller Lutheran bodies of Finnish immigrant background. While still dating, we attended a huge ecumenical rally with 30,000 other Christians of many denominations at Chicago’s Soldier Field during the second Assembly of the World Council of Churches. It was a thrill to be there in that vast audience packing the stadium. It wasn’t until later that I began to detect the compromises that were gradually eroding the standards and Bible truths handed down to me by my parents, my Sunday school teachers, and our pastors.
Our church eventually merged with a larger, more liberal body. After the merger came another disquieting moment while attending a church-related committee meeting. Lunching in the hotel’s restaurant was one of our much-respected church leaders sipping beer with his meal—a first. Apparently it was now all right to consume alcoholic beverages. My sad heart felt quite disillusioned.
While serving in our second parish assignment, the Vacation Bible School (VBS) materials on creation arrived in the mail. Studying them in preparation for teaching, I noticed that the lessons were based largely on evolutionary theory. References to Christ were almost nonexistent. Consequently, our congregation canceled VBS that summer. Apparently, the familiar biblical six-day Creation story had gone by the board.
An Unexpected Future Unfolded
The remnant consciousness became up-front and personal, and stared me in the face with inescapable persistence as the future unfolded. The serious test came when I, as a pastor’s wife still in our second Lutheran parish, accepted the Sabbath truth at a Wisconsin camp meeting to which I’d been invited by a Seventh-day Adventist friend. (This friend, incidentally, became my spiritual mentor and friend for life.) With Bible in hand, seeing the fourth commandment and other Bible doctrines in their true light for the first time, I found no way to refute them. It all dawned on me with a power like the sun’s rising. Instinctively I knew that, as things then stood, I could no longer enjoy the security of the “majority,” with which I’d heretofore been comfortable. I had been deeply rooted and fully committed as a Lutheran, so when I took that lonely walk down the auditorium aisle to take a stand on this new scriptural light, the “great controversy” sprang to life. The heat was on.
Though I’ve loved my Savior since childhood, much of what once held great meaning could never have been relinquished without my being convinced of the remnant motif throughout Scripture, and especially inherent in the three angels’ messages of Revelation 14—God’s last call to the world.
After more Bible studies and fervent (often agonizing) prayer, the following year (1969) I was baptized, absolutely sure that I was making the right decision.
But it was bittersweet because of my pastor-husband’s strong opposition. God compensated with a discovery that seemed like a miracle. Immediately after my baptism my Adventist friend dug out her own baptismal certificate from 22 years earlier. It turned out to be the very same day! What a wonderful added reassurance that I was in God’s will. The Lord truly sustained me, along with the love, support, and prayers of many dear people.
Also, wedding vows and God’s promises stood the test! After intensive study at the Adventist seminary in Berrien Springs, Michigan, my husband was baptized at Pioneer Memorial Adventist Church in April 1971. Needless to say, it was absolutely thrilling for me—almost more so than our wedding day had been. Some months later, then General Conference president Robert Pierson conducted his ordination service at the same location.
Years passed, incredibly rich ones, as we labored for the Lord. Having fully accepted and loving the three angels’ messages, we served in Adventist parishes and in the mission field; then Ray was called to teach at the Andrews University seminary, which was like a dream job for him.
Not a Reason for Pride
To some it may be presumptuous and arrogant for any particular group to be designated as “the remnant.” As an Adventist I tended to avoid using the term for that reason, and I still use it discreetly. I have learned, however, that the remnant concept is clearly God’s, and not humans’. It is of biblical origin. When viewed correctly, it brings a great humility of heart as well as a weight of responsibility. When one becomes a member of the remnant (and God has many beautiful people of other persuasions who will yet be woven into His tapestry), it precludes any pride or exclusiveness. When stared in the face by truth, a choice has to be made and may well bring trauma and pain. But it involves one’s very destiny. The finished tapestry will ultimately reveal that the most exquisite weaving was done during the darkest days. Many have paid dearly, some even with their lives, for accepting the remnant message.
The positive side is that it is truly a thrill to belong to a growing end-time movement encircling the globe, people from “every nation, tribe, tongue, and people” (Rev. 14:6); to experience belonging and community, even while simultaneously studying the same Sabbath school lessons week by week with members worldwide; to have worked and worshipped at academic institutions comprising students from many different countries and cultures sharing the same precious faith—it has all been a prefiguration of heaven.
Faithful to the End
In Adventist circles there is once again the privilege and blessing to bask and revel in a genuine family feeling. The fellowship is wonderful. We, along with the many dear and honest-hearted still in Babylon, constitute the corpus Christi (the body of Christ), the true ecumenical movement based strictly on Bible truth. “Let no one attempt to tear down the foundation of our faith, or to spoil the pattern by bringing into the web threads of human devising.”1 The unity Christ prayed for in John 17 will never be based on compromise. The true heirs of the kingdom must be “legal,” i.e., no impostors accepted. By God’s grace, there’s no turning back. God will have His remnant (the minority?) who will be faithful to the end, right to the time of His second coming.
“To stand in defense of truth and righteousness when the majority forsake us, to fight the battles of the Lord when champions are few—this will be our test.”2
As darkness intensifies, the light will shine more brilliantly. The remnant will become increasingly more visible, as winter makes the evergreens more visible, in contrast to the other trees that are leafless and bare. Remnant people may indeed be rejected by many, but are “chosen by God and precious” (1 Peter 2:4).
The Adventist movement, I believe, is the recovery and culmination of reformation and prophetic doctrines that God has been fully unfolding in this judgment hour.
God has been weaving His remnant tapestry ever since the Fall. Each tried-and-true individual throughout sacred history is a single colorful thread that will ultimately be part of the glorious finished product, His beautiful workmanship. Looking back, everything is seen as part of the divine pattern, the divine tapestry. The tests, the keen disappointments, the choices (even wrong ones) are mercifully made radiantly beautiful by God’s redemptive artistry.
*All Scripture quotations are from the New King James Version. Copyright ” 1979, 1980, 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.
1Ellen G. White, This Day With God (Hagerstown, Md.: Review and Herald Publishing Association, 2008), p. 324.
2Ellen G. White, Testimonies for the Church, vol. 5, p. 136.
Shirley S. Holmes, with her husband, served as a missionary in Asia. She now lives in her hometown of Wakefield, Michigan.