A remnant is a remainder or part left over from the whole. Though different words are used from translation to translation and often within the same translation to convey the concept of the faithful remnant within Israel, "remnant" is the word most often used in the King James, the American Standard, the New American Standard, and perhaps other translations, and that is the word we will use here.
"Remnant" is used in Scripture in various contexts. For example, it is used in reference to:
inanimate objects: The remnant that remains of the curtains of the tent. . . .(Exodus 26:12, NKJV);
families: And death will be chosen rather than life by all the remnant that remains of this evil family. . . . (Jeremiah 8:3, NAS);
Gentile nations: They destroyed the remnant of the Amalekites who escaped. . . . (1 Chronicles 4:43, NAS);
Israel: They said to me, "The remnant there in the province who survived the captivity are in great distress and reproach. . . . (Nehemiah 1:3, NAS).
When it is used in reference to Israel, it is not always used in reference to the faithful remnant. It is also be used in contexts of faithlessness and judgment and in neutral contexts. Its use in Nehemiah 1:3, just referenced, simply refers to the descendants of those left in Judea after the rest had been taken captive. This study will focus on the faithful remnant of believers within Israel.
Before we proceed, one aspect of the Statement needs to be addressed. It declares that Jewish believers, who are the spiritual remnant of physical Israel, are members of the body of Messiah, or Christ. The Statement was written with today's Jewish believers in mind; and in that frame of reference it is absolutely true. However, one cannot apply the Statement to all Jews of all times because whereas the body of Christ began to form at Pentecost and will cease to form at the Rapture, Jewish believers span the ages from Abraham until the end of the Millennium. Therefore, the Statement does not apply to the great number of pre-Pentecost and post-Rapture believers who are also part of the remnant. All Jewish believers from Abraham until the end of the Millennium are members of the faithful remnant of Israel, but not all members of the remnant are or will be members of the body.
Revelation 5:9 informs us that every nation will eventually have its remnant of believers:
And they sang a new song, saying, "Worthy are You to take the book and to break its seals; for You were slain, and purchased for God with Your blood men from every tribe and tongue and people and nation.
Yet, God has ordained that the faithful remnant within His chosen nation be unique. Believers within Israel share much common ground with believers of every nation; but because of the uniqueness of Israel's remnant it warrants special focus. In fact, "the remnant of Israel" is the exact designation for God's faithful Israelites in Isaiah 10:20, Jeremiah 31:7, Micah 2:12 and Zephaniah 3:13. There were Gentile believers in ancient times, such as Melchisedec, Rahab and Ruth (Genesis 14:18; Ruth 1:16; Hebrews 11:31), yet God specifically speaks of the faithful remnant within Israel. The big picture is this: God has ordained that the faithful remnant of Israel take center stage in the outworking of His purposes for Israel's chosenness - which are not only for the blessing of Israel, but of the world.
Much has been covered concerning the faithful remnant within Israel (though it has not always been named as such in our discussions), particularly
in our Salvation series, the Church series, and in various studies to date in our Israel series. We will list key points already covered, and then move on to new territory. Discussions relative
to the following points may be found via links to the aforementioned series in The Salvation Series and The Church Series.
Key points already covered:
The faithful remnant within Israel is composed solely of bloodline Israelites.
Entry into the remnant was never guaranteed to any Israelite. It always came by faith in Messiah, and always will. (John 1:11-13; 3:3-7; Romans 10:11-15)
Since there has been an Israel, it has always been the remnant whom God has first used to bring
forth His Word and the knowledge of Christ to Israel and the world:
* It was a member of the remnant whom God sent to preach His Word to Nineveh. (Jonah 1:1-2; 3:2-4)
* It was members of the remnant who wrote the sixty-six books of the Scriptures. (Romans 3:1-2)
* It was a member of the remnant whom God used to give birth to the baby Jesus. (Luke 1:28-30)
* It was members of the remnant whom Jesus commissioned to make disciples of all the nations (Matthew 28:19).
* It was members of the remnant whom God used to call people to faith and to organize the church on the Day of Pentecost (Acts 2) and in the decades following.
The present existence of the faithful remnant is testimony to the entire body that God is faithful to His promises. Romans 9-11 is a tour de force by Paul to prove that the entire church can count on the categorical promises of Romans 8 by virtue of the fact that God had not rejected Israel, but remains faithful to fulfill all the promises He made with her.
As is declared in our Statement, during our present Church Age the members of the remnant are also members of the body of Christ. (1 Corinthians 12:13)
Though the remnant is composed of people of faith, and all in the body are people of faith, the church and the remnant of Israel are distinct. The remnant is composed solely of Israelites, whereas the church is composed of both Jews and Gentiles. (1 Corinthians 12:13. See also our examination of Replacement Theology.)
Membership in the body does not obliterate the remnant's identity as Jews. (Romans 11:13; Philippians 3:5)
Members of the remnant are accorded no priority for positions of leadership in the body. Neither 1 Timothy 3 nor Titus 1 make any reference to race in their detailed lists of qualifications for deaconship or eldership, or for headship within those groups.
The remnant of Israel will be Messiah's central wave of ministers during the Millennium. (Zechariah 8:23)
We will now move on to new material.
Then the LORD said to Isaiah, "Go out now to meet Ahaz, you and your son Shear-jashub. . .
Isaiah 10:20-23 speaks of the final return of Israel to the Lord, and verse 21 reads, A remnant will return, the remnant of Jacob, to the mighty God. That final return was of such significance to Isaiah that he named his son She'ar Yashuv, A Remnant Will Return.
These passages inform us that:
6. "Behold, it is written before Me, I will not keep silent, but I will repay; I will even repay into their bosom, 7. Both their own iniquities and the iniquities of their fathers together," says the LORD. "Because they have burned incense on the mountains and scorned Me on the hills, therefore I will measure their former work into their bosom." 8. Thus says the LORD, "As the new wine is found in the cluster, and one says, 'Do not destroy it, for there is benefit in it,' so I will act on behalf of My servants in order not to destroy all of them. 9. I will bring forth offspring from Jacob, and an heir of My mountains from Judah; even My chosen ones shall inherit it, and My servants will dwell there.
This passage likewise refers to the period of the final return of Israel to the Lord. Although Israel as a whole will be filled with iniquity,
both their own iniquities and the iniquities of their
fathers together, and the nation will be judged during the Great Tribulation (I will repay),
nevertheless, just as one does not destroy a bad vine if there are good grapes on it from which new wine can be derived, God
It is the existence of believers within the nation, though they be but a remnant, even a minority, that keeps God from destroying the nation and causes Him to preserve it even unto the day of the national salvation of Israel, the coming of Christ to take rightful possession of the Land, and the future blessing of Israel's faithful remnant in the Land.
We see in the case of Sodom that the existence of believers may, at times, be a factor in the survival of a people (Genesis 18:23-32); but there is no nation besides the covenant nation Israel for which God has declared that He will not destroy it so long as He finds a faithful remnant within it. That He will not destroy Israel because of the presence of a faithful remnant is corroborated by other passages, such as Roman 9:27-29, which make other points, as well.
27. Isaiah cries out concerning Israel, "THOUGH THE NUMBER OF THE SONS OF ISRAEL BE LIKE THE SAND OF THE SEA, IT IS THE REMNANT THAT WILL BE SAVED; 28. for the Lord will execute his word upon the earth, finishing it and cutting it short. 29. And just as Isaiah foretold, "UNLESS THE LORD OF SABAOTH HAD LEFT TO US A POSTERITY, WE WOULD HAVE BECOME LIKE SODOM, AND WOULD HAVE RESEMBLED GOMORRAH."
This passage is in the general context of the salvation of Israel (Romans 9:1 - 10:1), and verse 28 places verse 27 in the time of her future national salvation. Paul says here that the remnant of Israelites alive at that time will be spiritually saved. This is corroborated by Ezekiel 20:37-38 and Zechariah 13:8-9, which show that the remnant at that time will constitute one-third of the nation, whereas the other two-thirds, the rebels, will be slain. In verse 29, he applies Isaiah 1:9 to show that if God ever allowed there to be a period in which there were no believing remnant, then the entire nation would be destroyed. At that time in the future, those saved spiritually will also be those who are saved physically, and so the nation will be preserved. THE LORD OF SABAOTH Himself will see to it; and it is implied, of course, that He always has and always will preserve a remnant of believers until that time so that He might carry out the prophesied spiritual and physical salvation of Israel.
To list the points,
It should also be noted both here and in Isaiah 65:6-9 that, just as Israel is the only nation which God promised not to destroy if He found a remnant of believers in it, she is also the only nation for which He has promised to preserve a remnant. So what we see is that God will not only preserve a remnant, but will also preserve Israel's existence because of that remnant! God leaves no base uncovered!
1. I say then, God has not rejected His people, has He? May it never be! For I too am an Israelite, a descendant of Abraham, of the tribe of Benjamin. 2. God has not rejected His people whom He foreknew. Or do you not know what the Scripture says in the passage about Elijah, how he pleads with God against Israel? 3. "Lord, THEY HAVE KILLED YOUR PROPHETS, THEY HAVE TORN DOWN YOUR ALTARS, AND I ALONE AM LEFT, AND THEY ARE SEEKING MY LIFE." 4. But what is the divine response to him? "I HAVE KEPT for Myself SEVEN THOUSAND MEN WHO HAVE NOT BOWED THE KNEE TO BAAL." 5. In the same way then, there has also come to be at the present time a remnant according to God's gracious choice.
Paul is comparing the situation of his day with that of Elijah's (1 Kings 19:1-18) to prove that God had not rejected Israel in his day. Just as God had reserved to Himself a remnant of seven thousand faithful men in Elijah's day, so He reserved for Himself at the present time a remnant according to God's gracious choice (verse 5), for which point Paul presents himself as Exhibit A: a saved Israelite (verse 1). Paul's logic is thus: If Israel was not rejected in Elijah's day though believers among them were but a small minority, so she is not rejected in his day though believers among them were a small minority. Paul's conclusion that God had not rejected Israel applies today, for there are hundreds of thousands of Exhibit A's alive today.
To sum up,
2. And I saw another angel ascend from the sunrising, having the seal of the living God: and he cried with a great voice to the four angels to whom it was given to hurt the earth and the sea, 3. saying, Hurt not the earth, neither the sea, nor the trees, till we shall have sealed the servants of our God on their foreheads. 4. And I heard the number of them that were sealed, a hundred and forty and four thousand, sealed out of every tribe of the children of Israel: 5. Of the tribe of Judah were sealed twelve thousand: Of the tribe of Reuben twelve thousand; Of the tribe of Gad twelve thousand; 6. Of the tribe of Asher twelve thousand; Of the tribe of Naphtali twelve thousand; Of the tribe of Manasseh twelve thousand; 7. Of the tribe of Simeon twelve thousand; Of the tribe of Levi twelve thousand; Of the tribe of Issachar twelve thousand; 8. Of the tribe of Zebulun twelve thousand; Of the tribe of Joseph twelve thousand; Of the tribe of Benjamin were sealed twelve thousand.
The believing remnant of Israel in the Church Age will be removed from the Earth at the Rapture of the church; but here we see that God preserves a remnant of Israelite believers for Himself on Earth even during the Great Tribulation. They are sealed for service, which means that their lives will be preserved so that they can evangelize throughout the first half of the Tribulation, as is brought out in verses 9-14 and Matthew 24:14.
Also ministering during the first half of the Tribulation are the Two Witnesses (Revelation 11:3). Verses 11:7-13 describes the killing of the Two Witnesses by Antichrist in Jerusalem, their resurrection after three and a half days, their ascension, the subsequent killing of seven thousand Jerusalemites in an earthquake, and the giving of glory to God by the rest (verse 13). The rest must certainly have received salvation in order to give glory to God, and will be from around the world as the Two Witnesses' message and the entire spectacle will be known throughout the world (verse 10). The rest will therefore likely contain a good number of saved Jews from around the world; and since the Two Witnesses ministered in Jerusalem, it is likely that a good number of Jews from within Israel itself will be among the rest. This worldwide group of saved Jews should constitute a sizeable faithful remnant who will live into the second half of the Great Tribulation.
What we've seen thus far is that plain declarations of Scripture corroborated by examples from various periods of history past and future show that from the time of Israel's inception until the very end of the Tribulation when all Israel will come to know the Lord, Israel has always had, and always will have, a faithful remnant, no matter how faithless and idolatrous the nation as a whole might be at any given time.
This is shown piecemeal in Scripture. All Old Testament and deceased Tribulation saints, containing a great Israeli remnant in their midst, will be resurrected immediately or very shortly after the Great Tribulation and dwell in the Kingdom (Isaiah 26:19; Daniel 12:2; Revelation 20:4). The remnant within the church, having been Raptured before the Tribulation with the rest of the church, will return, as will the entire church, with Christ, who will then set up His Kingdom (Jude 1:14). The surviving Jewish remnant at the end of the Tribulation will remain on Earth and watch the Kingdom being established and the Earth being restored right around them (Isaiah 65:17-18). These groups of believing Israelites make up the sum of the entire remnant of Israel from the time of Abraham until the beginning of the Kingdom, and they will all enjoy the blessings of the Kingdom as will all Gentile saints of all previous ages.
The Israelites in the Kingdom will all know [the LORD], from the least of them to the greatest of them (Jeremiah 31:34) whether they enter the Kingdom from previous ages or are born into it, and will constitute the entire nation at that time. Nevertheless, God still views them as His faithful remnant because they are still only a remnant of the nation since Abraham. That God views them as His remnant even in the Kingdom is revealed by the following passages:
|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.|
|And there will be a highway from Assyria for the remnant of His people who will be left, just as there was for Israel in the day that they came up out of the land of Egypt.|
Then the remnant of Jacob will be among many peoples like dew from the LORD, like showers on vegetation which do not wait for man or delay for the sons of men.
|And the coast will be for the remnant of the house of Judah, they will pasture on it. In the houses of Ashkelon they will lie down at evening; for the LORD their God will care for them and restore their fortune.|
The remnant of Israel will do no wrong and tell no lies, nor will a deceitful tongue be found in their mouths; for they will feed and lie down with no one to make them tremble.
11. "But now I will not treat the remnant of this people as in the former days," declares the LORD of hosts. 12. "For there will be peace for the seed: the vine will yield its fruit, the land will yield its produce and the heavens will give their dew; and I will cause the remnant of this people to inherit all these things."
Let us summarize the main points of this study:
The believing remnant of Jews today are a minority in Israel, and believers in general are a minority in the world. Nevertheless, no matter how misunderstood or isolated a believer may feel or persecuted he or she may be, in light of the encouragement that God gave to Elijah and the blessings that He has promised and will surely fulfill for all of His believing children, let him or her take heart. Consider Him who has endured such hostility by sinners against Himself, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart (Hebrews 12:3).
We who believe are a minority, but our Savior was a superminority, a minority of one: Only He would hang before the world and bear our sins. He was despised and forsaken of men, a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief; and like one from whom men hide their face He was despised (Isaiah 53:3); yet, for the joy set before Him (He) endured the cross (Hebrews 12:2).
1. Therefore, since we have so great a cloud of witnesses surrounding us, let us also lay aside every
encumbrance and the sin which so easily entangles us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, 2. fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith,
who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.
~ Hebrews 12:1-2 ~
13. So, let us go out to Him outside the camp, bearing His reproach. 14. For here we do not have a lasting city, but we are seeking the city which is to come.
~ Hebrews 13:13-14 ~