Aren’t we supposed to look at Jesus and not at people?
Unfortunately, as early as the 3rd century church has adopted many traditions that grossly misrepresented the Gospel truth and the teaching of Jesus. The list of examples includes:
•praying to God through icons or statues forbidden by the second commandment of Decalogue;
•believing in the healing power of dead relics and worshipping at the holy sites and shrines condemned by the Old Testament prophets as acts of idolatry;
•treating every church or cathedral as a temple with its own altar and sacrificial ordinance of mass, which is contrary to the unique status of the sanctuary outlined in the laws do Deuteronomy;
•turning church into a grave side, which is against the law found in the book of Numbers chapter 19.
Jews saw all these customs as nothing less than mere idolatry. Jewish tradition strictly forbade Jews to enter Christian church, monastery or cathedral because all these places were full of relics images and statues to such a degree that just being there would amount to participating in idol worship. However, the medieval church presented all these customs as a holy tradition given by Jesus to His disciples and passed down through the generations of priests and bishops. The church unequivocally taught that all laws of the Old Testament were evil and Jesus nullified them.
Despite Paul’s statement about the people of Israel “from whom is the Christ according to the flesh, who is over all, God blessed forever” (Rom. 9:5), the church would punish anyone who dared to teach that Jesus was Jewish.
It is true that, looking from the hind side, some Christians may assert that everyone has to be responsible for their own salvation and if Jews wished to be saved they had to read the New Testament on their own and not look for excuses and blame the church. On the other hand, Jesus gave his great Gospel commission to the church through His apostles telling them to go around the word and “make disciples of all the nations” (Matt. 28:19). The book of Revelation clearly speaks about the failure of the church in the Middle Ages to adequately carry Biblical truth. In chapter 6 of his apocalyptic vision John describes the church in the Middle ages with the symbols of red and pale horses that instead of redemption bring deceit and destruction. While the Church continued to claim its allegiance to Christ, the one whom they presented as Jesus wasn't real Jesus at all. Under duress of inquisition and zealous Christian rulers of Europe many Jews chose to die rather than accept such Jesus.
While we are the ones responsible for our choices toward salvation, it is not up to us to determine who will be saved. Our Lord is just, long patient and merciful. He will decide everyone’s eternal salvation.
Doesn't the Scripture teach about salvation of the remnant?
The theme of remnant constitutes the vital part of Biblical Theology. Remnant, Hebrew she’ar are the people who remain faithful to God and follow His way till the end. Prophet Isaiah was one of the first biblical authors who gave systematic presentation of the concept of remnant.
Now in that day the remnant of Israel, and those of the house of Jacob who have escaped, will never again rely on the one who struck them, but will truly rely on the LORD, the Holy One of Israel. A remnant will return, the remnant of Jacob, to the mighty God. For though your people, O Israel, may be like the sand of the sea, only a remnant within them will return; a destruction is determined, overflowing with righteousness. (Isa 10:20-22)
Remnant existed since the very beginning of human history starting with Noah and his family who listened to God’s warning and found safety in the ark they built in accordance with divine instructions. However, soon after the flood only certain descendants from the lineage of Shem whose genealogy is given in Genesis 10:10-26 chose not to participate in the construction of the tower of Babel.
Terah was the last of that generation of the sons of Shem. He was supposed to go from Ur the Chaldean to Canaan but he chose to stay in Harrah and fell away from God. As it is written in the book of Joshua “From ancient times your fathers lived beyond the River, namely, Terah, the father of Abraham and the father of Nahor, and they served other gods” (Jos 24:2). Only Abraham and his servants who chose to follow divine leading left their families for the land promised by God.
Throughout the entire history of the descendants of Abraham remnant player vital role. Out of 8 sons born to Abraham only Isaac followed footsteps of his father. The same happened in the case of Jacob and Esau. Out of Jacob the 12 tribes of Israel were formed and they received the Promised Land. Few centuries later most Israelites who belonged to the 9 tribes from the north split off from the kingdom of Solomon and fell into idolatry. Nevertheless, God tells the prophet Elijah that he wasn't alone faithful in Israel, “Yet I will leave 7,000 in Israel, all the knees that have not bowed to Baal and every mouth that has not kissed him” (I Kings 19:18).
Because of their idolatry northern 9 tribes of Israel were taken into Assyrian captivity and eventually “none was left except the tribe of Judah” (2 Kings 17:18). However, the remnant of Israel and Judah persevered not only throughout the Old Testament times but also in the New Testament period. Isaiah predicted that battered remnant of Israel would meet their Messiah and Savior. “On that day the Branch of the LORD will be beautiful and glorious, and the fruit of the earth will be the pride and the adornment of the survivors of Israel” (Isa. 4:2).
Prophetess Anna the daughter of Phanuel, who greeted child Jesus at His circumcision in the Temple, was from the tribe of Asher. Asher was one of the tribes taken to the Assyrian captivity, but the remnant of those tribes who have not bower to Baal came as refugees to Jerusalem and lived there since. The remnant of Israel was present among Jews who lived in Galilee many of whom took heed to the message of John the Forerunner, son of priest Zachariah. Many disciples of John the Baptist eagerly waited for the Messiah of Israel and became close followers Jesus. Such was Nathaniel whom Jesus himself called “an Israelite indeed, in whom there is no deceit” (John 1:46).
Even though Jesus was rejected by High Priests and by the leaders of Pharisees, during His earthly ministry there had been no single disciple of His who was not a Jew. The three thousand baptized in the day of Pentecost and the five thousand baptized by John and Peter at the temple were the remnant of Judah and Israel. They were the founders of the movement of followers of Jesus who were later called Christians. To this remnant of Israel gentiles were grafted in replacing some natural branches which were broken off.
“If the first piece of dough is holy, the lump is also; and if the root is holy, the branches are too. But if some of the branches were broken off, and you, being a wild olive, were grafted in among them and became partaker with them of the rich root of the olive tree, do not be arrogant toward the branches; but if you are arrogant, remember that it is not you who supports the root, but the root supports you” (Rom. 11:17-18).
Wasn't there a remnant of faithful Christians during all these years of the apostasy?
Despite multiple apostasies that took place after the New Testament period throughout the entire history of Christendom there were always faithful Bible believers who sincerely sought God’s will and followed it. Many of them died for their faith from the hands of their fellow Christians just because they wished to be faithful to Scripture.
These are the few examples of the those who represent faithful Christian remnant:
•Christians of Ireland and British islands who did not wish to recognize pope as the supreme pontiff of the church;
•John Wickliffe and his followers who attempted to translate Bible into vernacular English and were persecuted for their desire to read and understand Scriptures;
•Jan Huss who boldly questioned the authority of the church priesthood in being mediators between man and God;
•Moravian brethren who, in spite of anti-Semitic Luther’s ridicules discovered and observed Biblical Sabbath;
•Anabaptists, who were murdered by Ulrich Zwingli for their stance against infant baptism and church’s involvement in wars;
•British Nonconformists, who refused to obey the Act of Uniformity enacted by the Parliament itself;
At their emergence Seventh-day Adventists made their best efforts to absorb the best traits of different remnant movements and strife to keep their faithfulness of the Word of God.
Seventh-day Adventists are the largest representative of the family of modern-day Christians who are called the saints in the book of Revelation 14:12 because they “keep the commandments of God and their faith in Jesus”. Therefore, it is incumbent upon Seventh-day Adventists to be the light to those different Sabbath keeping Christian group by presenting to them the uniqueness of the Three-angels’ message in the context of Christs’ present ministry in heavenly Sanctuary and historicists’ interpretation of apocalyptic prophecies. This important Biblical perspective represents a hallmark of Adventist beliefs that must be shared specially with those who fits the Scriptural definition of Christian remnant.
Was there ever a remnant of Jewish people?
While the concept of Christian Remnant is well known in Christian circles, many Christians are oblivious regarding the existence of Jewish people who sincerely sought the Lord and followed Him. Because of the misrepresentation of the true character of Christ by the Church many sincere Jews who lived in the middle ages did not have opportunity to see who Jesus really was and accept Him as their Messiah. Nevertheless, they followed God to the best of their knowledge not wishing to compromise their beliefs in the divine Law presented in the Torah (Five Books of Moses).
During the Age of Enlightenment which began in Europe in the 18th century Jews of Western Europe received equal rights and became loyal citizens of their respected countries. They were allowed to come out of ghettos and received privilege to get university education. For some of them these circumstances opened the opportunity to consider the Gospels and find more about Jesus. Of those who decided to explore the New Testament many accepted Him as their Savior and became members of different Christian denominations. In the early 20th century these Jews decided to call themselves Hebrew Christians, formed separate congregations and later adopted the designation Messianic Jews. Initially these congregations adhered to the traditional Protestant theology and did not really follow God’s commandments. However, in the last 50 years this began to change.
During the 60s at the height of hippy movement many young American Jews broke away from the Orthodox traditions held by their families for generations and began to explore some new opportunities. Some of them found Jesus and accepted him and joined Messianic congregations. These latest trends also impacted gentile Christians who in big numbers began to abandon their Sunday keeping churches and join Messianic congregations. Today many Messianic Jews observe Sabbath, respect divine laws found in the Torah and at the same time believe in Jesus at their Lord. Thus, they too fit under the definition of remnant found in Revelation 14:12. These Jewish believers definitely need to be blessed through hearing of Three Angels’ Message in its fullness.
On the other hand, besides Messianic Jews who already believe in Jesus there are many those who sincerely seek the truth. Some of them are knowledgeable in the Torah sincere believers in God who need to see real Jesus. Jesus, the son of God born of Jewish mother who was raised Jewish and remained Jew all His life. The need to know Jesus who did not abolish the principles of the Torah but fulfilled them (Matthey 5:17). They need to see Jesus as their Rabbi, Messiah and the Lord. There is still remnant among Jewish people whom God is seeking out to save.
How can remnant help remnant?
It is vitally important at the conclusion of the proclamation of the Gospel for two remnants to begin to talk to each other and learn from each other. This is the only way the remnant can carry out its mission to the remnant. Unlike the mission to the farthest corners of the earth, which Christians are used to doing by bringing the word of God and the Gospels to those who did not know it before, mission to the Jews is different. We are going to those people from whom our Lord Jesus was born. We are going to those people whom God has commissioned to preserve the Law of God and His divine oracles. Without Jews successfully accomplishing this divine commission Christian remnant could not have survived.
We are also going to the people who were at the very start of the movement, which was called Christian. Therefore, the mission of remnant to remnant cannot be accomplished without true reexamination of Christian beliefs, spiritual reformation and return to the original sources. Christian remnant must retain the values which were held by the first-century Judeo-Christians who learned the truth from Jesus and His apostles. Judeo-Christianity had the best of both worlds by holding on to the commandments of God and having the saving faith of Jesus.
There is much both remnants can and must learn from each other.
•The true Christian remnant yearns for the soon coming of Jesus. It possesses unique knowledge and understanding of the prophecies, which explain the world and the time we live in today. These prophecies present an important perspective of God’s plan of salvation, which is to be completed through the ministry of Jesus as a High Priest of Heavenly sanctuary.
•The true Christian remnant also teaches a unique biblical view on anthropology (nature of man) and soteriology (salvation), which places the bodily resurrection at the second coming of Jesus at the pinnacle of the divine plan for salvation of the human race from the consequences of the fall.
Scripture clearly teaches that our Lord created us holistic human beings, living souls inseparable from the body and the spirit—God's given breath of life. Therefore, the full victory over death that was caused by sin can be achieved only through resurrection. It is only then that our Creator will restore us to His image and will give us a new earth where we will enjoy life with Him for eternity.
Neither main stream Christianity not Judaism have a consistent, holistic biblical perspective that provides assurance for our future. This is the heart and the essence of the Three Angels’ Message, which Seventh-day Adventists are commissioned by God to bring to the world.
On the other hand through the many centuries of its existence, Judaism developed unique knowledge and experience in the application of the divine Law. Remnant Christians who strive to keep the commandments of God can and should benefit from this experience and use it in building modern ethical principles. There is much wisdom in Judaism for living in harmony with God's principles in our everyday lives and walk with God.
Judaism preserved Scripture and the languages of the Scripture—Hebrew and Aramaic. This remains invaluable for the study of the Bible. In addition, ancient Judaism and its history provides remnant Christians with important knowledge of Jewish life in the times of Jesus. This, in turn, helps us better understand who He really was and what He taught.
Our congregation, Beit Shalom Balevav, strives to synthesize these both concepts. We work on bringing the hope of the second coming and the light of the Torah to Jews and to Christians, through the process of mutual learning and the exchange of essential views.
The perspective of HEREAFTER, the hallmark of Adventism, and the perspective of HERE NOW, which is the hallmark of Judaism, are both important perspectives. The first brings hope for the future, while the second helps us to live today. Come and learn with us.