The idea that there would be a faithful remnant in Israel is firmly established in the Old Testament. The word is used over 80 times, almost exclusively referring to a remnant of Israel. Even the New Testament refers to the Israelite remnant: “…I have reserved for myself seven thousand men who have not bowed the knee to Baal.” Even so then, at this present time there is a remnant according to the election of grace.” (Romans 11:4-5). However, there is not a single reference in the New Testament that refers to a remnant of the church.
In spite of the fact that the Bible does not explicitly speak of a remnant of the church, the idea is clearly alluded to in Scriptures that speak of the Great Falling Away (2Thessalonians 2:3); a departure from the faith (1Timothy 4:1, 2Timothy 3:1, 2Timothy 4:4); and Jesus questioning whether He will (even) find faith when He returns (Luke 18:8). The parables of the broad and narrow way (Matthew 7:13,14) and of the wise and foolish virgins (Matthew 25:1-12) also teach that a few (a remnant) will be saved.
It has become fashionable for people and churches to refer to themselves as “the remnant” or “a remnant church”. What they appear to be saying is “we are it and you are not – we are the elite”. Even cults use the term of themselves. For example the Seventh Day Adventists refer to themselves as “the remnant church”, as do many other cultish groups. My suggestion is that if anyone calls themselves a remnant that they probably are not the remnant since this kind of pride is exactly the antithesis of true followers of the Lord Jesus. The fact is that even in those churches that could truly be called remnant churches, only a remnant will be saved (Matthew 13:30). The best we can do is to humbly pray that we will be among those who endure to the end (Matthew 24:13).
The concept of a remnant is displayed in the ministry of the Lord Jesus as many thousands followed Him, yet in the end a small number remained at the resurrection (1Corinthians 15:5-7). A study of the decline of Jesus’ followers at various points teaches us a few things about the hallmarks of the remnant. One such event is recorded in John 6:
Jesus had just used five small loaves and two fishes to feed His followers which amounted to 5,000 men (John 6:10). Including women and children the total could have been in excess of 15,000 people who all said the He was The Prophet (The Messiah) (John 6:14). The next day “many”, possibly all but the Twelve, turned their backs on Him (John 6:66-67). What had happened was Jesus tested them and a large number failed the test. Note that He did not test them to find out what was in their hearts, but simply to expose what was there since He already knew who were His and who were not. (John 6:64).
In the same way since the 60’s and 70’s, millions have followed Jesus and have packed churches and stadiums, but we have now entered a period of testing and many are falling away and are turning to dead formalism, the world, or heresy. Not many remain standing and those we thought were standing last year are no longer following Him. So what is the difference between the few that remained with Jesus and the vast majority that turned away from Him?
The first problem was that they were following Jesus for what He could do for them. He fed them, healed their sick and performed miracles that fascinated them. Others saw in Him a political savior that would make Israel great again. Others enjoyed His clear, interesting, and authoritative preaching. However, they did not want Him for Himself. That is one of the reasons behind His words “Whoever eats My flesh and drinks My blood has eternal life…” (John 6:54). He was saying that He alone is able to satisfy and give eternal life and the physical bread he made, just like the manna in the wilderness, could not save. But they did not want Him, they just wanted what He could do for them.
The same is true today and that is why many have perverted the Gospel by selling it based on the features, advantages and benefits of the Gospel. But, when persecution comes, or Satan offers something more exciting, or the empty promises of the evangelist and prophet don’t pan out, they forsake Him in droves, just as they did then. Only the Twelve understood that there is nothing outside of Jesus: “…Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life.” (John 6:68).
Thus the remnant consists of those who want Jesus for Himself and not for the blessings. They recognize the emptiness, futility and distraction of everything outside Jesus and cling to Him as the only answer to the hunger in their souls. They confess with Job that even though He slay them, they will continue to trust Him (Job 13:15). Are you one of the few?
were following Him because of His amazing teaching that was so much
more insightful and interesting than
that of the scribes (Luke 4:22; Luke 19:48; Matthew 7:28,29; etc.).
They liked it when He exposed the
immorality of the Roman leaders and they especially
when He exposed the spiritual leaders for
the frauds they were. But then in
John 6, the message became personal: He
told them they did not have eternal life because of their religion,
nationality, or even the fact that they, and their fathers, had
experienced God’s blessings in the past.
He told them that only if they partook of
Him, could they be saved. That was not what
they wanted to
hear and they all ran from
So too today, people will go to church to hear good motivational talks and others just relish it when the preacher points out the sins of society, or the false doctrine of the heretics but the moment the message becomes personal: “…you are the man” (2Samuel 12:7), they head for the door. For this reason preachers have been trained to never make the message personal (except when it is affirmative) because that is the only way to keep and grow a congregation. But, the remnant want to hear the truth and will stay even when the truth is personal and uncomfortable. They recognize that the Truth alone will set them free and so they cling to Jesus, who is the Truth, knowing that only in Him is freedom from sin and the flesh. Only the remnant surrender to the scalpel of the Holy Spirit that self may be mortified and that Christ may come forth in them. Just like Jesus, His true ministers have no interest in reinforcing the self-centeredness of the flesh, their only interest is to see the flesh die that Christ may be formed in their hearers (Galatians 4:19).
Preaching, sound doctrine, worship, fellowship and the church are all good things. But it is sadly with these things that the majority occupy themselves. The remnant have recognized that while these things are nice to have, if Christ is not the all in all, then it is all vanity and like the church of Ephesus, they have left their first love (Revelation 2: 4).
“Beware lest anyone cheat you through philosophy and empty deceit, according to the tradition of men, according to the basic principles of the world, and not according to Christ. For in Him dwells all the fullness of the Godhead bodily; and you are complete in Him, who is the head of all principality and power.” (Colossians 2:8-10)
Anton Bosch 1/22/20