Covenant Protestant Reformed Church
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Postmillennialism and the Remnant

  Rev. Angus Stewart


(I) Introduction

This paper is based upon the explicit assumption that amillennialism is true and other systems of eschatology, and more especially postmillennialism, are false. The amillennial position, however, was not adopted without serious thought.

First, amillennialism is the eschatology of the historical Christian Church. The majority of the early church fathers present a view of the last things consistent with amillennialism. With Augustine's great work, The City of God, chiliasm was relegated to a minority for the next millennium, being largely confined to the sects. At the Reformation, all the great men of God were amillennial. Thus we find all the great Reformed and Presbyterian creeds teaching amillennialism. It is true, however, that the Reformation creeds are not all explicit about the subject for the debate with the Roman Church did not include a system of general eschatology.1 Nevertheless we do have a very clear testimony to amillennialism and against postmillennialism in the Second Helvetic Confession of 1566, which in its day was amongst the most popular of the Reformed confessions.

And out of heaven the same Christ will return unto judgment, even then when wickedness shall chiefly reign in the world, and when Antichrist, having corrupted true religion, shall fill all things with superstition and impiety, and shall most cruelly waste the church with fire and bloodshed. Now Christ shall return to redeem his, and to abolish Antichrist by his coming, and to judge the quick and the dead (Acts 17:31) ... Moreover, we condemn the Jewish dreams, that before the day of judgment there shall be a golden age in the earth, and that the godly shall possess the kingdoms of the world, their wicked enemies being trodden under foot; for the evangelical truth (Matt. xxiv. and xxv., Luke xxi.), and the apostolic doctrine (in the Second Epistle to the Thessalonians ii., and in the Second Epistle to Timothy iii. and iv.) are found to teach far otherwise (XI).2

Second, amillennialism is the creedal basis of our churches, being found in the Three Forms of Unity, and therefore binding upon all members. Third, our creedal position and the faith of the historical Christian Church accurately reflect the clear teaching of the Word of God. Thus amillennialism is a position that can be taken lightly by none and can be introduced without apology as one's eschatological presupposition in judging postmillennialism.

At this point, we must acknowledge that postmillennialism has not been without its noted defenders. Men who held this view were found amongst the English Puritans (e.g., Thomas Brooks, Matthew Henry), the Dutch Reformed (e.g., Cocceius, Witsius, á Brakel) and the Scottish Presbyterians (e.g., John Brown, David Brown). In America, many worthies of the Princeton school (e.g., Charles Hodge, A. A. Hodge, J. A. Alexander, B. B. Warfield) and of the Southern Presbyterians (e.g., Thornwell, Dabney) espoused postmillennialism. Also Congregationalism, following the Savoy Declaration of 1658, is confessionally postmillennial:

As the Lord ... in care and love towards his Church, hath in his infinite wise providence exercised it with great variety in all ages, for the good of them that love him, and his own glory; so, according to his promise, we expect that in the latter days, Antichrist being destroyed, the Jews called, and the adversaries of his dear Son broken, the churches of Christ being enlarged and edified through a free and plentiful communication of light and grace, shall enjoy in this world a more quiet, peaceable, and glorious condition than they have enjoyed (XXVI:5).3

We ought not assume, though, that postmillennialism—nor amillennialism for that matter—is a completely uniform system of belief. Postmillenialists differ in various ways. More generally, with the phenomenon of Christian Reconstructionism in the last several decades, two brands of postmillennialism may be identified. First, there is the older postmillennial view that holds to a future period of greater spiritual blessings and more conversions through the preaching of the gospel. This is the view of the Savoy Declaration and it is presented, for example, by some within the Banner of Truth Trust. Second, there is the view of the Christian Reconstructionists. This brand of postmillennialism emphasizes the role of the Old Testament civil law and the duty of the church under Christ to exercise dominion over the world. Instead of the revivalism of the Banner of Truth postmillennialism, the Reconstructionists advocate Christian political and social activism. All of life, including culture, politics, technology and art, must be brought under the sway of the Lord Jesus.4

Though much in this article will deal with both "types" of postmillennialism, and both Reconstructionist and non-Reconstructionist writers will be quoted, Reconstructionist postmillennialism is viewed as the major threat to (Reformed) amillennialism. Several reasons may be offered for the identification of Reconstructionist postmillennialism as the greater enemy.

First, it is more aggressive. While the "pietistic" or "Puritan" or "older" postmillennialism (for want of better designations) did not engage in virulent attacks on amillennialism, the Reconstructionists berate amillennialists (with historic premillennialists and dispensationalists) as "pessimillennialists," "defeatists" and advocates of "impotent religion."5 For example, Kenneth Gentry introduces amillennialism, historic premillennialism and dispensationalism under the heading "Eschatological Pessimism."6 David Chilton, in the first chapter of his Paradise Restored, though without actually mentioning amillennialism, caricatures it as "an eschatology of defeat" advocated by Christians who are "good losers" and who hold that "the gospel of Jesus Christ will fail" in its worldwide task.7

Second, Reconstructionists assign to the church the duty of bringing the world under the law of God and they insist that failure to do so is sin. David Chilton writes, "If we trust and obey Him, there is no possibility of failure."8 Charles Hodge or Matthew Henry would not say such things.

Third, Christian Reconstructionism presents a more sopisticated theological system. The older postmillennialism offered an eschatology that was not a developed world and life view. Reconstructionism, on the other hand, presents a powerful vision that claims to honor the Triune God in all of life. Christian Reconstructionists are, according to Andrew Sandlin's "The Creed of Christian Reconstruction," first of all Calvinists. They believe in the sovereign God of heaven and earth. Second, Reconstructionists are Presuppositionalists. God's sovereign Word does not need to be proved by "Christian evidences" or supported by "natural theology." Third, Reconstructionists are Theonomists. The standard for all areas of life is the law of the sovereign God, including the Old Testament civil law. Since they hold that the Bible teaches that Christians are to dominate the world as the instruments of Jesus Christ, Reconstructionists are also, fourth, Dominionists. The fifth plank in Sandlin's "creed" is postmillennialism.9

Thus if the Reconstructionist gospel is Calvinism; and their apologetics is Presuppositionalism; and their blueprint for the new society is Theonomy and their mandate is Dominionism, their motivating hope is postmillennialism. It is postmillennialism that puts steel in the spine of the Reconstructionists. Without it they know that their goal of an earthly world-system, that is obedient to the law of Christ and dominated by Christians, is only wishful thinking. "Theonomic ethics," writes Ken Gentry, work "hand-in-glove with a Bible-based postmillennial eschatology."10 Similarly, David Chilton states, "The fact is that you will not work for the transformation of society if you don't believe society can be transformed."11 Gary North put it this way: "Paraphrasing the philosopher Immanuel Kant, 'Theonomy without postmillennialism is impotent; postmillennialism without theonomy is blind.' Theonomic postmillennialism is a unified system."12

With Reconstructism's avowal of Calvinism and Presuppositionalism, Reformed amillennialism has no quarrel. Their Theonomy and Dominionism are another matter. Neither of these, however, will be treated here. Postmillennialism only will be considered. Suffice to say, though, that these five together make a potent brew. Truth and error are mixed together in such a way that Reformed church members need to be very wary. When we add to this the phenomenal publishing rate of the Christian Reconstructionists, their evident literary and debating skills, and their confident, even brash, claims, the danger they pose is heightened.

Their errors in the field of eschatology may be summarized under three heads: (unwarranted) omissions, additions and distortions. Like all postmillennialists, they place the biblical teaching of the Great Apostasy,13 the Antichrist, the Abomination of Desolation and the Great Tribulation in the past. To Reconstructionists, all prophecies of persecution and apostasy, including those of Matthew 24, II Thessalonians 2, II Timothy 3 and 4, and the Book of Revelation, were fulfilled in the fall of Jerusalem in AD 70. They are, in short, Preterists.14 Suffering thus plays a small part in Reconstructionist eschatology. The whole subject of the signs of Christ's coming is another striking omission. Nor is Christ's return properly set forth as our one "blessed hope" (Titus 2:13) and the goal (telos) of all things. In keeping with the defective ecclesiology of Reconstructionism,15 the church institute is given short shrift as is the doctrine of God's sovereign election and reprobation.

The older postmillennialism, of course, errs by its inclusion of the millennial golden age with its large-scale conversion of the Jews. Notable "additions" in Reconstructionist postmillennialism to this older postmillennialism include the role of the law and Christian dominion. Some Reconstructionists, like Gary North, believed that the Christianization of culture would come about through massive societal collapse, namely the Y2K (year 2,000) computer bug. The present world system would collapse and then political leaders will reconstruct society according to the Bible, especially the Old Testament Mosaic law.16 Most, however, hold to a stricter "gradualist" model, with Christ's earthly kingdom being established progressively. Here Reconstructionists use the model of definitive, progressive and climactic extension of Christ's kingdom. Ken Gentry uses the sanctification of a Christian as an illustration. Sanctification is definitive at regeneration when there is a radical cleavage of the power and dominion of sin; progressive as the believer grows in grace; and definitive at the believer's death or Christ's parousia. Similarly, they point out that the Creation was not completed in one day but six, and that the Jews conquered the Promised Land "little by little" (Deut. 7:22).17 Thus believers inherit the earth progressively in this life. Allied with this gradual increase in the kingdom of Christ are the historical sanctions which God inflicts upon the ungodly.18 Christ's kingdom on earth increases as the kingdom of the ungodly decreases.

Reconstructionist postmillennial eschatology leaves out many things which it ought not to have left out and includes many things which it out not to have included. It then goes on to interpret those things which ought properly be considered in one's eschatology in the light of those things which ought not be included. Thus the Reconstructionist kingdom is realized in the earthly, political and cultural dominion of the godly in this present age.19 Thus Christ's mediatorial kingship is affected. Christ's kingdom in the future will be manifested in His ruling the world through converted men. The church also experiences earthly glorification in this world rather than the solely spiritual glory ascribed to her by amillennialism. The victory of the church is another area in which Reconstructionism goes astray.20 For Reconstructionism, a church that is not radically affecting culture and politics is failing in its God appointed tasks. Taking dominion of the world through godly legislation and rule is the greatest illustration of vital godliness and the ultimate calling of the church on earth.

Many critiques have been offered of Reconstructionism in general and attacks on its postmillennialism are not entirely wanting either.21 Nor have the Reconstructionists simply ignored all the attacks. Ken Gentry, for example, attempted to answer the objection to postmillennialism raised by Richard Gaffin and others based upon the Bible's teaching of the church as suffering for Christ (the church under the cross).22 This paper will focus on one specific angle of attack on postmillennialism (both Reconstructionist and non-Reconstructionist), the doctrine of the remnant.


(II) The Remnant

Essential to postmillennialism is a future age where the majority of the world are Christians. The Savoy Declaration is fairly moderate when it speaks of "the latter days" as a time when "the Jews [shall be] called" and "the churches of Christ [are] enlarged and edified through a free and plentiful communication of light and grace" (XXVI:5).23 Reconstructionist Ken Gentry states, "Evangelical postmillennialism teaches ... that 'the greater part' of men will have been saved at the outcome of history."24 According to Charles Hodge, "The number of the finally lost in comparison with the whole number saved will be very inconsiderable."25 J. Marcellus Kik writes, "We are of the opinion that those in the kingdom of light will be more numerous than those who will be in that terrible kingdom of darkness. History so far would not back us up in that opinion. But history is not finished."26

Loraine Boettner is of the same mind: "It seems that the number of the redeemed shall then be swelled until it far surpasses that of the lost."27 Later Boettner expresses himself more vividly:

It thus appears (if we may hazard a guess) that the number of those who are saved may eventually bear some such proportion to those who are lost as the number of free citizens in our commonwealth bears to those who are in the prisons and penitentiaries; or that the the company of the saved may be likened to the main stalk of the tree which grows and flourishes, while the lost are but as the small limbs and prunings which are cut off and which perish in the fires.28

Boettner implies that his view of the salvation of the majority of mankind is the consensus of Reformed thought:

There is, however, a very common practice among Arminian writers to represent Calvinists as tending to consign to everlasting misery a large portion of the human race whom they would admit to the enjoyment of heaven. It is a mere caricature of Calvinism to represent it as based on the principle that the saved will be a mere handful, or only a few brands plucked from the burning.29

Warfield, who holds, with Boettner, that "the number of the saved ... shall embrace the immensely greater part of the human race," knows better than to ascribe this view to the mainstream of the Reformed tradition.30 Instead, he writes, "The paucitas salvandorum [i.e., fewness of the saved] has long ranked among a wide circle of theologians as an established dogma."31 Gentry is correct when he states, "Amillennialism ... leaves the vast majority of men lost, and the remnant of the saved only a minority."32 Thus Amillennialists find themselves in the "wide circle of theologians" who hold to the paucitas salvandorum, like John Calvin himself. Commenting on Isaiah 53:1, the great Reformer of Geneva averred,

Isaiah declares that there will be few that submit to the Gospel of Christ; for, when he exclaims, "Who will believe the preaching?" he means that of those who hear the Gospel scarcely a hundredth person will be a believer. Nor does he merely speak of himself alone, but like one who represents all teachers. Although therefore God gives many ministers, few will hold by their doctrine; and what then will happen when there are no ministers? Do we wonder that the greatest blindness reigns there? If cultivated ground is unfruitful, what shall we look for from a soil that is uncultivated and barren? And yet it does not detract anything from the Gospel of Christ, that there are few disciples who receive it; nor does the small number of believers lessen its authority or obscure its infinite glory; but, on the contrary, the loftiness of the mystery is a reason why it scarcely obtains credit in the world. It is reckoned to be folly, because it exceeds all human capacities.

The subject of the remnant receives more treatment in the Old Testament than the New Testament where the subject only receives extended attention in Romans 9-11.33 The basic idea of a remnant is a simple one, both in the Bible and in English. A remnant is that which is left over or remains. The Hebrew usually uses four roots (and their derivatives) for the basic idea of "remnant" or "residue" or "that left over" or "that which is delivered or escapes": shaar, palat, sarad and yatar.34 V. Herntrich points out the various shades of meaning, "Along with the sense of rest or remnant [found in shaar and yatar, which are largely synonymous] palat carries the sense of escape or deliverance [and] sarad contains the element of fear and flight."35 Of these four roots shaar is used more than the other three put together and is also the most significant theologically, especially in its nouns shear and shayrit.36

With regards to its usage, the remnant may be spoken of in the arboreal realm. In Isaiah 10:17-19, Jehovah likens Assyria to a forest of trees which He will destroy. "And the rest [shaar] of the trees of his forest shall be few, that a child may write them" (v. 19).37 In Isaiah 44, we read of a foolish idolater who after cutting down a tree burns part to warm himself and part to cook his meal and then "the residue [shaar] thereof he maketh an idol" (v. 17; cf. yatar in v. 19). In Exodus 10:15 a remnant is used with respect to vegetation. The plague locusts devoured every green thing in the trees and in the fields so that nothing was left (yatar). References to a remnant are also found in the Old Testament sacrifices. The priest "shall sprinkle of the blood of the sin offering upon the side of the altar; and the rest [shaar] of the blood shall be wrung out at the bottom of the altar" (Lev. 5:9). Often the remnant group is employed in the military sphere. In the conquest of the Promised Land under Joshua, not all the heathen were destroyed, so Jehovah commanded "that ye come not among the nations, these that remain [shaar] among you" (Josh. 23:7).

The predominant use of the various Hebrew words for remnant is "secular." Herntrich points out that of these many refer to those who survive historical catastrophes such as war or famine. He also points out that, "There are a whole series of verses in which it is hard to say whether the remnant consists of those who are delivered from historical catastrophes or from eschatological judgment."38 His explanatory remarks bear repeating:

The reason for this lies in the distinctive nature of OT eschatology, which views historical and eschatological events together. Eschatology is concerned not only with the end of the time of this world, but also with the invasion of this time by God's reality. Thus the prophets proclaim the coming of God into the here and now, but they also understand all history as eschatological occurrence which takes its meaning from the "today" of prophetic preaching. The history of the past, too, speaks of the coming of God which the prophet now proclaims. If along these lines we consider that in the course of the history of God's people the thought of the remnant was constantly applied to those who survived the great catastrophes of God's judgment, it is obvious that the boundary between the secular and the theological use of the concept is a fluid one, e.g., Ezr. 9:8.39

Thus, broadly speaking, we may, with Gerhard F. Hasel, speak of the remnant in three groups. The first is simply a historical remnant made up of survivors of a catastrophe. The second consists of the faithful remnant, distinguished from the former ground by their genuine spirituality and true faith relationship with God; this remnant is the carrier of all divine election promises. The third is most appropriately designated the eschatological remnant, consisting of those of the faithful remnant who go through the cleansing judgments and apocalyptic woes of the end time, and emerge victoriously after the Day of the Lord as the recipients of the everlasting kingdom.40

The idea of the remnant arises, then, from great catastrophes.41 The prophet declares impending doom and the natural question arises, "Will any survive?" The remnant are those who escape the destruction. This is the historical remnant. Since these catastrophes are not mere natural disasters but judgments of God, the Scriptures, as Herntrich suggests, use these historical survivors to prefigure the eschatological remnant. Furthermore, since God is just and punishes the wicked and spares the righteous, we may also speak of the faithful remnant.

(1) The Remnant as a Minority

So what does the remnant have to say concerning postmillennialism's claim of a future conversion of the majority of the world? The church is spoken of as a remnant in the Bible. If the idea of fewness is involved in the remnant, then the Golden Age is a mere dream. However, right at the start, we must admit that it is possible to have a remnant which is the majority. A boy with ten marbles who has two taken from him is left with eight. Eight is more than two. Therefore the remnant is not necessarily the minority. Though this is true, the word remnant is, at the very least, suggestive of a minority.42

This is the unofficial understanding of the remnant held by the Protestant Reformed Churches. In connection with the elect of ethnic Israel being only a remnant in the New Testament era, Herman Hoeksema states, "They never constitute a majority of the [physical] decendants of Abraham."43 Arie denHartog writes, "The truth that God saves the remnant will give God's people the proper Biblical perspective on the position of the church in the world. The church in the world will almost always be small. She will never be made up of the majority of mankind."44 Similarly, Gise VanBaren states, "It remains true, even as in past ages, that there is but a remnant that is saved."45

Herman Bavinck also instinctively thinks of "remnant" as a minority.46 Similarly the Postmillennial J. Marcellus Kik, when he wants to convey the smallness of the church in the face of the powerful besieging enemy of Revelation 20, refers to those compassed as a "remnant."47 Evidently this is the way the inspired apostle Paul thought too. In the face of the glaring fact that the majority of first century Jews had rejected the crucified Messiah,48 he can do no other but quote Isaiah 10:22: "Though the number of the children of Israel be as the sand of the sea, a remnant shall be saved" (Rom. 9:27).49 The inspired understanding of this key theological term is definitive for us. Furthermore, the apostle was steeped in the Old Testament so we ought to expect the historical, and especially the theological, usage of the remnant in the Hebrew Scriptures to support him.

There are several lines of argument that can be made to further establish our position. First, the "fewness" of the remnant may be seen from the first use of the idea. Speaking of the destruction of the Flood, Genesis 7:23 says, "Noah only remained [shaar] alive, and they that were with him in the ark." This was the first remnant.50 Eight souls (I Pet. 3:20; II Pet. 2:5) alone were saved after 1656 years of man's populating the earth (cf. the genealogy of Genesis 5).

The next most significant historical reference to the idea of the remnant concerns Israel in the days of Elijah. Elijah's lament, "I, even I only, am left; and they seek my life, to take it away," was followed by Jehovah's response: "Yet I have left me seven thousand in Israel, all the knees which have not bowed unto Baal, and every mouth that hath not kissed him" (I Kings 19:10, 18).51 It is true that none of the key Hebrew words for remnant are used here.52 However, Paul in Romans 11, after quoting both these verses concludes, "Even so then (houtoos oun) at this present time also there is a remnant according to the election of grace" (v. 5).53 Thus the apostle identifies the seven thousand of Elijah's day as a remnant who were the godly minority.54

The remnant is often used of the survivors taken into captivity by the Babylonians when the Jewish nation was destroyed, both in the predictions of the prophets and in historical narratives. This remnant is defined in the great eschatological discourses of Moses. He speaks of the great judgments of God that would come upon Israel for the sins that they would commit in the Promised Land. The greatest of these judgments would be an awful destruction at the hands of a distant nation (Deut. 28:49). In this connection Moses writes, "Ye shall be left [shaar] few in number among the heathen" (Deut. 4:27). Again, he declares, "Ye shall be left [shaar] few in number, whereas ye were as the stars of heaven for multitude" (Deut. 28:62). Here the Bible clearly defines its own terms. Moses has told us that the remnant is a minority.

After the destruction of Judah by the Babylonians, only a remnant of Jews dwelt in the land (e.g., Jer. 42:15, 19; 43:5). This "remnant" (shaar) that was "left" is described as "a few of many" (Jer. 42:2).

Second, the paucity of the remnant may be seen from the imagery the Scripture uses in speaking of it. The city of Jerusalem (the remnant; sarad), besieged by hostile armies and situated in the midst of a desolate land, is described as a booth in a vineyard and as a lodge in a cucumber field (Isa. 1:7-9). In Isaiah 17, the prophet details the destruction of the Northern Kingdom and Syria. Yet a remnant (shaar; v. 3) will survive. Verse 6 describes the remnant as the last few fruits that remain on the highest branches after the gleaning and shaking of a tree at harvest time.55 Amos, also threatening destruction on the Northern Kingdom, speaks of the survivors as the remains of a sheep eaten by a lion, "two legs or a piece of an ear" (Amos 3:11-12). Thus when Scripture wants to indicate that the destruction is total it only has to say that no remnant escaped.56

A third argument in establishing the idea of fewness in the remnant may be made from Scripture's use of fractions. Isaiah 6:11-13 speaks of the great destruction of Judah. Only one tenth of the population will be spared and only a small proportion of that tenth are the "holy seed." Hasel is correct to see in this passage the idea of the remnant (though not the word itself).57 Amos also works in terms of a tenth. In God's judgment, if a thousand Israelites go out to battle, an hundred shall return; if a hundred go forth, only ten shall survive (Amos 5:3).58 Zechariah 13:8-9 gives a different fraction. This time two thirds will be cut off while one third will be left (yatar) and will be purified. These fractions are not to be understood in a crassly literal sense any more than the seven thousand godly in Elijah's day.59 They do, however, indicate a minority. Thus they support the position here advocated.

The fourth and longest argument for the fewness of the remnant is derived from the Book of Isaiah, "The Prophet of the Remnant."60 We shall not be exhaustive in our references to the remnant in Isaiah. We shall only mention several passages to help establish our thesis as well as to point out the importance of the remnant for the prophet. The very first portion in the book (1:2-9) reaches its climax in a treatment of Zion as a besieged city, which Isaiah refers to as "a very small remnant" (v. 9).61 Thus Isaiah introduces the key idea of the remnant at the start of his prophecy and presents it as a decided minority. This is built into his book at the very start and sets the tone for what is to follow.

The latter part of Isaiah 1 returns to the idea of the remnant, though again none of the specific Hebrew words for remnant occur.62 The nation has fallen into gross wickedness and the Lord is coming in judgment (vv. 21-24). Yet the fire of judgment will prove a cleansing fire to the godly (vv. 25-26). The dross will be removed and the righteous will be purged. This imagery of purifying metal (v. 25) again suggests that the remnant is a minority since dross is reflective of the majority of the people (vv. 21-23).

Isaiah 10:20-23 explains the significance of Shearjashub (7:3).63 "The Lord God of hosts shall make a consumption, even determined, in the midst of all the land" (10:23) yet "the remnant shall return" (v. 21). Thus the remnant are the few who escape the consumption. Verse 22 makes their proportion even smaller than we might at first think: "for though thy people Israel be as the sand of the sea, yet a remnant of them shall return."64

References to the remnant are not missing in Isaiah's "Oracles to the Nations" (chapters 13-23). We shall consider just two. In Isaiah 16:14, the "great multitude" of Moab is to be destroyed "and the remnant thereof shall be very small and feeble."65 Isaiah 21:17 expressly equates the remnant with a few: "And the residue of the number of the archers, the mighty men of the children of Kedar, shall be diminished [i.e., few]."66

In Isaiah 36-39, Isaiah's last narrative section, which deals with Assyria's desolation of Judah and besieging of Jerusalem, we have another clear reference to the remnant. During the siege, Isaiah prophesies that "the remnant [shaar] that is escaped [palat] of the house of Judah [from Assyria] shall again take root downward, and bear fruit upward" (Isa. 37:31).67

Nor is the presentation of the remnant as a minority different in Amos "the earliest writing prophet with a fully developed remnant theology." According to Hasel, "Rejecting the false security built on the popular identification of remnant hopes with Israel as a whole, Amos proclaimed that only a small historical remnant — meaningless for Israel's national existence — would remain from the Assyrian crisis (Am. 3:2; 12; 4:1-3; 5:3; 6:9f.; 9:1, 9f.)."68

(2) Objections Answered

There are two main ways in which a postmillennialist might try to dodge the force of the argument raised against his position from the biblical teaching of the remnant. First, he could argue that the remnant does not always refer to a minority. Does not Isaiah 1:9 speak of a "very small remnant" and Isaiah 16:14 say that the "remnant [of Moab] shall be very small"? If remnant suggests the idea of smallness are not these statements tautologous? Here we respond that there are degrees of smallness. For example, we could speak of something being small or very small or extremely small. This does not make "small" to mean "large." Nor do we wish to maintain that the proportion of true believers to unbelievers is always the same. At one time the remnant church can be small and at another time it can be "very small" as in Isaiah 1:9.

Perhaps a stronger argument would be to point to biblical texts where the remnant are in the majority, such as Revelation 19:21. There the remnant of the Antichristian army are slain after the Lord casts the Beast and the False Prophet into the Lake of Fire. We gladly agree that the remnant here is many times more numerous that the two wicked leaders but it is not our thesis that the remnant always and only refers to a minority, especially not where the wicked are spoken of rather than the righteous. The vast majority of texts present the remnant as a minority, including all those of theological and eschatological significance, and that is sufficient for our purposes. The point of Revelation 19:21 is that no one escapes the coming Christ not even the remnant of the ungodly. They are all totally destroyed by the Messiah (cf. Num. 24:19).

There is a second logical evasion of the argument here presented against postmillennialism. The postmillennialist may agree that while the church in the Old Testament was a remnant in respect to its being a tiny nation in relation to the rest of the world (cf. Deut. 7:7: "the fewest of all people") and that often, and quite possibly always, the godly were outnumbered by the wicked even in the nation itself, but then he may argue that this does not hold today or will not hold in the future.69 There are several ways of arguing this.

First, the postmillennialists could argue that, since the New Testament is the day of grace, we ought to expect the majority of mankind to believe on Jesus Christ. However, this view makes an unbiblical distinction between the Old Testament church and the New Testament church. When baptists argue that children are not in the God's church and covenant in this age, we take them to the Old Testament prophecies of the New Testament era and show them that God prophesied that He would continue to save families and children.70 Similarly the Hebrew prophets speak of the New Testament church in terms of the remnant. For example, Jeremiah 23 speaks of the coming Davidic king, the Branch (v. 5), who would justify His people (v. 6). The Messiah's people are the "remnant of [His] flock."71

Another postmillennial argument along these lines is based on the prophecy in Isaiah 2 of the mountain of the Lord's house being lifted up and all the nations flowing to it (vv. 2-4). This, they say, suggests such large numbers that the idea of the church as a remnant minority group must surely be superseded in New Testament days. Isaiah 2:2-4 has a parallel passage in Micah 4:1-3. Micah, however, goes on to develop the picture of the coming age of salvation: "In that day [i.e., in the time of the Messiah and of the exaltation of the Lord's house], saith the Lord, will I assemble her that halteth, and I will gather her that is driven out, and her that I have afflicted; and I will make her that halted a remnant, and her that was cast off a strong nation" (vv. 6-7).

Isaiah 2:2-4 is not teaching that the majority of the world will be converted. Rather, it is teaching the glorious truth of the catholicity of the church. The ascended Christ gathers His church from the north, east, south and west and out of every kindred and tribe and nation and tongue. The swaddling bands of Jewish nationalism have been laid aside with the maturing of the church on Pentecost and the coming of the catholic Spirit.

Here we need to add that not merely is the New Testament church portrayed in terms of the remnant but that the remnant is portrayed as God's church. The remnant is the object of God's salvation and love (Mic. 7:18-20). The remnant are called (Joel 2:32) and gathered (Isa. 11:11, 16; Eze. 11:17; cf. v. 13; Mic. 2:12; 4:6) and cared for and protected (Isa. 4:5-6; cf. vv. 2-3; 46:3-4). The remnant are the recipients of God's grace and spiritual blessings (Amos 5:15; Zech. 8:11-15) and thus the Spirit Himself (Eze. 11:19; cf. v. 13). They are forgiven (Jer. 50:20; Mic. 7:18-19) and holy (Isa. 4:2-4; Zeph. 3:13; Zech. 13:8-9). They are a converted people who turn to the Lord (Isa. 10:21-22) and call upon His name (Joel 2:32). The characteristics of those belonging to God's remnant are faith (Isa. 10:20; Zeph. 3:12) and humility and lowliness (Mic. 4:6-7; Zeph. 3:12-13). Thus spiritually they are a mighty force (Mic. 4:7-8, 13; 5:7-9).

The remnant is the one flock of Jehovah (Jer. 23:3; Mic. 2:12) that is united to Him in His covenant (Mic. 7:18-20; Zech. 13:8-9). They are gathered at Jerusalem or Zion (Ezra 9:8-9; Joel 2:32; Mic. 4:7) out of all the nations (Isa. 11:9-11; 45:20-25; Jer. 23:3; Mic. 4:1-7; Zeph. 2:7; Zech. 9:7) as the people of the Messiah (Jer. 23:3, 5-6; Mic. 5:1-8; Zech. 13:7-9) by the Word of God (Mic. 4:2; cf. v. 7).72 Finally, the apostle Paul points out that all these wonderful spiritual blessings come to the "remnant according to the election of grace" (Rom. 11:5).73

W. Gunther and H. Krienke make some excellent remarks concerning the relation between the Old Testament's teaching about the remnant and Paul's discussion of the New Testament church in Romans 9-11:

In setting a reference to the remnant of Israel alongside the prophecy of the Gentiles' acceptance as the children of God [Rom. 9:25-29], Paul is altering the status of the former. The remnant of OT prophecy merges into the new people of God, constituted on the basis of faith in Christ. The remnant of Israel is not eliminated; but it stands alongside those Gentiles who are called to be members of God's people. The remnant (Isa. 1:9 MT), or the descendants [seed] (Isa. 1:9 LXX), are those whom God has called, together with the Gentiles, into the church of Christ .... [Paul] is reinterpreting and developing [the concept of the remnant] further, to show that the Old Testament prophecy of the remnant is fulfilled in a community consisting of Jews and Gentiles.74

This continuation of the remnant from the Old Testament church (which consisted largely of Jews) to the New Testament church (which consists largely of Gentiles) is in keeping with the nature of God's dealings with His people. God is one in Being. Therefore, His church is one, both with respect to space (the church is catholic) and time (the church consists of one people from the beginning to the end of the world).75 Similarly, there is one way of salvation and God's dealings with His people both pre- and post-Christ are essentially one.76

Old Testament Israel is the typical representation of the New Testament church and kingdom of God. As Dirk H. Odendaal puts it,

The unknown things of the eschaton are portrayed [in Isaiah 40-66 and in the Old Testament in general] by the known realities of past and already experienced history. In this way the continuity of Yahweh's dealings with his people and the immutability of his purpose and will are uniquely expressed.77

If the principle of the remnant holds for the Old Testament church, then it will also hold for the New Testament church. That this underlies Paul's thinking in Romans 9-11, Gunther and Krienke (above) have shown.

In its article on the church, our Heidelberg Catechism reads,

Q. 54. What believest thou concerning the "holy catholic church" of Christ?
A. 54. That the Son of God from the beginning to the end of the world, gathers, defends and preserves to Himself by His Spirit and Word, out of the whole human race, a church chosen to everlasting life, agreeing in true faith; and that I am, and forever shall remain, a living member thereof.

The answer would be exactly the same if the question were changed to "What believest thou concerning the remnant?"78 To put it differently, the true church is a remnant and the remnant is the true church.

Thus when J. Marcellus Kik cites biblical texts to the effect that the saved are a multitude without number and as the stars of heaven and the sand on the seashore, we do not become postmillennialists. Rather, we understand these to speak of the vast number of the saints considered in themselves and absolutely.79 Truly, there will be a vast horde to fill the New Heavens and the New Earth. In comparison to the ungodly, the redeemed are a remnant. Ken Gentry's attempt to make the words "world" and "all" (e.g., Christ being the "Saviour of the world" [I John 4:14] "who gave himself a ransom for all" [I Tim. 2:6]) indicate that some time in the future the majority of men will be converted also fails miserably.80 One could just as easily twist these allegedly postmillennial texts into the service of Arminianism.81

Another postmillennial evasion remains though. If the believing remnant is indeed a small group comparatively and if the Christian church is indeed portrayed in terms of a remnant, could it not be the case that at the end of the New Testament this situation is to change? The main support for this position is found in Romans 11:25-26, to which postmillennialists often appeal.82

For I would not, brethren, that ye should be ignorant of this mystery, lest ye should be wise in your own conceits; that blindness in part is happened to Israel, until the fulness of the Gentiles be come in. And so all Israel shall be saved: as it is written, There shall come out of Sion the Deliverer, and shall turn away ungodliness from Jacob [quoting Isa. 59:20].

The postmillennialists are correct when they identify "Israel" here as an ethnic group over against Gentiles.83 There are wrong, however, in seeing this passage as teaching a future mass conversion of ethnic Israel before Christ's second coming.

First, Romans 11:26 does not say "and then all Israel shall be saved" (i.e., after the conversion of the fulness of the Gentiles). The word here is houtoos, which is an adverb not of time but of manner: "and in this way all Israel shall be saved."84 Whereas the national apostasy of the Jews in Paul's day meant that the gospel was preached to the Gentiles (vv. 11-12, 15, 17, 19, 30), Israel will be saved "in part" (v. 25) throughout the New Testament dispensation by being grafted as natural branches into the olive tree (v. 23) through the witness of the largely Gentile church (vv. 11, 13-14, 31). As Ridderbos says, "The mystery (v. 25) is thus situated in the manner in which the fullness of Israel is to be saved: in the strange interdependence of the salvation of Israel and that of the Gentiles.85

Second, "the fulness (pleerooma) of the Gentiles" is an eschatological term. When the fulness of the Gentiles are come in, this age will be finished. There will be no Gentiles left to be converted through the zealous preaching of the Jews. Just as no buses come after the last bus, there is nothing left to fill when "fulness" has been obtained.

Third, Romans 11:26 quotes Isaiah 59:20, but this prophecy is referring to the whole New Testament era (cf. Isa. 59:16ff.) not to a slice at the end of it. Similarly, Romans 11:27 echoes Jeremiah 31:33 and Isaiah 27:9 and these two passages also speak of the whole period of the Christian church and not just part of it.86


(III) Conclusion

This paper has identified postmillennialism as the main threat to Reformed amillennialism because of its claim to being a strand in the Reformed and Presbyterian tradition. Christian Reconstructionism, which expresses a more integrated theology and is more prolific and aggressive, presents a greater threat than the older, Puritan postmillennialism.

Of the many angles of attack on postmillennialism which could be explored this paper has focused on one not often chosen. We have shown that the remnant is a godly minority; that church is a remnant not only in the Old Testament but in the New Testament; that Gentile believers and not merely Jewish Christians are a remnant; and that the remnant principle holds throughout the New Testament period including those days immediately prior to the second coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.

More work, however, could be done on this subject, especially in the way of producing supporting evidence from the New Testament. In Matthew 7:13-14, Jesus speaks of a broad way that leads to destruction "and many which are that go in thereat" and a narrow way that leads to life "and few there are that find it."87 Again He said, "Many are called but few are chosen" (20:16: 22;14).88 Thus Christ referred to His "little flock" inheriting the Kingdom of God (Luke 12:32).89

It is no wonder that Hasel could write,

The constant emphasis on the "few" (oligoi, Mt. 7:14; 22:14: Lk. 13:23), the "chosen" (eklektoi, Mt. 20:16; 22:14; 24:22; etc.), the "poor" (ptochoi, Mt. 11:5; Lk. 4:18; 7:22), and the "little ones" (mikroi, Mt. 10:42; Mk. 9:42; Lk. 17:2) also shows that the idea of the remnant of faith was present in Jesus' preaching.90

Theologically, the doctrine of the remnant could be related more fully to election and to calling. After all, the church is not only one, holy, catholic and apostolic, as we confess in the Nicene-Constantinopolitan Creed, but it is that which is elected and called.91 With respect to God's eternal predestination, Calvin speaks of "the election of a small number of believers" and "that smaller number whom Paul elsewhere describes as foreknown of God (Rom. xi. 2)."92

Also the description of the majority of those chosen and called as "foolish," "weak," "base" and "despised" in I Corinthians 1 (vv. 27-28) accords with the Old Testament's description of the characteristics of the remnant (e.g., Isa. 11:4; 14:32; Mic. 4:6-7; Zeph. 3:12). This also has implications for postmillennialism, especially the Reconstructionist variety with its goal of political and cultural dominion by the righteous. We can only but wonder how Christians are going to rule the world if "not many wise men after the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble are called" and if the majority of the church consists of the "foolish," "weak," "base" and "despised," as Paul tells us in I Corinthians 1 (vv. 26-28).

The remnant concept would also need to be integrated into a Reformed eschatology regarding apostasy and persecution. Regarding the former, we note Jesus' rhetorical question, "When the Son of Man cometh shall he find faith on the earth?" (Luke 18:8). Concerning the latter—the remnant idea and persecution—Hasel has some fine remarks:

The remnant idea is significantly developed in Daniel. Chs. 7 and 12 describe the persecution of "the saints of the Most High" (7:25, 27; i.e., "the holy people," 12:7), and the final consummation of all things. The persecuting power, symbolized by the little horn (7:8), wages war against these "saints" (v. 21), wearing them out (v. 25) and shattering them (12:7), thus showing that only a decimated remnant will survive the period of persecution. All the "saints" whose names are written in the book (12:1) - including the faithful dead, who will be raised (12:2) - will receive the everlasting kingdom (7:18, 27) through the Son of Man (v. 14).93

Thus the concept of remnant though implying judgment also contains the ideas of salvation, hope and new life in Jesus Christ. But what is the reason for the salvation of only a remnant? Why does God choose a remnant and not the majority of men as postmillennialism desires? The apostle explains in I Corinthians 1:

For ye see your calling, brethren, how that not many wise men after the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble are called: but God hath chosen the foolish things of the world to confound the wise; and God hath chosen the weak things of the world to confound the things that are mighty; and base things of the world, and things which are despised, hath God chosen, yea, and things which are not, to bring to nought the things that are: that no flesh should glory in his presence. But of him are ye in Christ Jesus, who of God is made unto us wisdom, and righteousness, and sanctification, and redemption: that, according as it is written, He that glorieth, let him glory in the Lord (vv. 27-31).

1 Amillennialism, writes Louis Berkhof, "had at least as many advocates as Chiliasm among the Church Fathers in the second and third centuries, supposed to have been the heyday of Chiliasm. It has ever since been the view most widely accepted, is the only view that is either expressed or implied in the great historical Confessions of the Church, and has always been the prevalent view in Reformed circles" (Systematic Theology [Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, rev. 1996], p. 708).
2 Philip Schaff, The Creeds of Christendom, vol. 3 (New York: Harper & Brothers, 1877), pp. 852-853.
3 Ibid., p. 723. Cf. Loraine Boettner's definition of postmillennialism: "That view of the last things which holds that the kingdom of God is now being extended in the world through the preaching of the Gospel and the saving work of the Holy Spirit in the hearts of individuals, that the world eventually is to be Christianized, and that the return of Christ is to occur at the close of a long period of righteousness and peace called the 'Millennium'" (The Millennium [Grand Rapids, MI: Baker, 1958], p. 14; italics mine). Many modern postmillennialists, however, define the millennium as that period from Pentecost to the Christ's second coming in the body. Thus they believe, as does the amillennialist, that now is the period of the millennium of Revelation 20 (e.g., Kenneth L. Gentry Jr., He Shall Have Dominion: A Postmillennial Eschatology [Tyler, TX: Institute for Christian Economics, 1992], pp. 53-54).
4 Cf. Gentry: The postmillennial kingdom "is to have a radical, objective, transforming influence in human culture" before Christ's parousia (Ibid., p. 55). Later, Gentry speaks of the Reconstructionist vision as "the establishment of [Christ's] comprehensive, world wide kingdom: Christendom" (p. 121; italics Gentry's).
5 However, two of the later non-Reconstructionist postmillennialists, Loraine Boettner (Op. cit.) and J. Marcellus Kik (An Eschatology of Victory [USA: P&R, 1971]), also engage with amillennialism in a more polemical fashion.
6 Gentry, Op. cit., p. 17; cf. pp. 21f., 48, 64, 384, 421, 521.
7 David Chilton, Paradise Restored: A Biblical Theology of Dominion (Tyler, TX: Dominion Press, 1985), pp. 3-12.
8 Ibid., p. 219; italics Chilton's.
9 Andrew Sandlin's "The Creed of Christian Reconstruction" is included in the inside cover of many editions of the Chalcedon Report (e.g., No. 383 [June, 1997]).
10 Gentry, Op. cit., p. 125.
11 Chilton, Op. cit., p. 11; italics Chilton's.
12 In Gary North's "Foreword" to Gentry, Op. cit. (p. xxxvi).
13 Some older postmillennialists, like Charles and A. A. Hodge, and some Reconstructionists, like Gary North, place the Great Apostasy (apart from that of the Jews in the first century) at the very end of the Golden Age and immediately prior to Christ's bodily coming.
14 The older postmillennialists tended to see the persecution of Revelation as that under the Roman Empire up until the time of Constantine and/or that of the apostate Roman Church.
15 Cf. Ronald Hanko, "Kingdom and Church in 'Christian' Reconstruction," PRTJ, XXXII:1 (November, 1998), pp. 29-68; XXXII:2 (April, 1999), pp. 2-25.
16 Cf. Andrew Sandlin, "The Apocalyptic Faith," Chalcedon Report, 402 (January, 1999), pp. 3-4. Sandlin calls these people "Remnant Reconstructionists."
17 Gentry, Op. cit., pp. 249-252.
18 Cf. Gary North's "Foreword" in Gentry, Op. cit., pp. xxix-xxxvii.
19 Herman Hoeksema's criticism of the liberal postmillennialism kingdom of Walter Rauschenbusch would also apply to Christian Reconstructionism: "This conception of the kingdom of God as a social order in the present world ... is certainly in conflict with Holy Writ in many places" (Reformed Dogmatics [Grand Rapids, MI: RFPA, 1966], p. 835).
20 Cf. Dale Kuiper, "What Constitutes Victory," PRTJ, XI:2 (April, 1978), pp. 49-58.
21 An example of the latter is David J. Engelsma, Christ's Spiritual Kingdom: A Defense of Reformed Amillennialism (Redlands, CA: Reformed Witness, 2001).
22 Gentry, Op. cit., pp. 457-462, 526-539.
23 Schaff, Op. cit., p. 723.
24 Gentry, Op. cit., p. 253.
25 Charles Hodge, Systematic Theology, vol. 3 (London and Edinburgh: Thomas Nelson and Sons, 1873), pp. 879-880.
26 Kik, Op. cit., p. 266.
27 Loraine Boettner, The Reformed Doctrine of Predestination (Phillipsburg, NJ: P&R, 1932), p. 135.
28 Ibid., p. 139; italics mine.
29 Boettner, Op. cit., p. 131.
30 B. B. Warfield, "Are There Few That Be Saved?" in Biblical and Theological Studies (Philadelphia, PA: P&R, 1952), p. 349.
31 Ibid., p. 334. Warfield provides an quotation from the Reformed theologian, John Henry Heidegger, as an example (p. 335, n. 4). Interestingly, this also seems to be the consensus among the great Lutheran scholastics of the seventeenth century (pp. 334-335). John Calvin speaks of God's people as "a small and despised number, concealed in an immense crowd, like a few grains of wheat buried among a heap of chaff, [therefore] to God alone must be left the knowledge of his Church, of which his secret election forms the foundation" (Institutes of the Christian Religion, trans. Henry Beveridge, vol. 2 [Great Britain: James Clarke & Co., repr. 1949], p. 282 [IV:i:2]). See also Francis Turretin Institutes of Elenctic Theology, trans. George Musgrave Giger, vol. 3 (Phillipsburg, NJ: P&R, 1997), pp. 107-108.
32 Gentry, Op. cit., p. 253; italics mine.
33 We must point out, right at the start, that we are not concerned here with higher critical ideas of the remnant nor the development of the idea of the remnant as such (cf. Gerhard F. Hasel, The Remnant: the History and Theology of the Remnant Idea from Genesis to Isaiah [Berrien Springs, MI: Andrews University Press, 1972]).
34 Achar is also sometimes used for remnant (e.g., Amos 9:1), as is malat (e.g., Joel 2:32).
35 G. Schrenk and V. Herntrich, "leimma, hupoleimma, kataleipoo (kata-, peri-, dialeimma)," in Gerhard Kittel (ed.), Theological Dictionary of the New Testament,  trans. and ed. Geoffrey W. Bromiley, vol. 4 (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, repr. 1983), p. 196.
36 Cf. Hasel: "Derivatives of [shaar] represent the focal point of the terminological expression of the Hebrew remnant motif" (Op. cit., p. 386).
37 Cf. Hasel: "The destruction of the large majority and the survival of at least a few are here intricately [intimately?] connected" (Ibid., p. 325).
38 Herntrich cites several Old Testament passages in support: Amos 5:15; Micah 2:12; Jer. 6:9; 8:3; 11:23; Eze. 6:12; 9:8; 11:13 (Op. cit., p. 197).
39 Ibid., p. 197.
40 Gerhard F. Hasel, "Remnant," in Geoffrey W. Bromiley et al. (eds.), The International Standard Bible Encyclopedia, vol. 4 (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, rev. 1988), p. 130; italics Hasel's.
41 Cf. Hasel on "the origin of the idea" of the remnant: "Any mortal threat raises the immediate question of whether life will be wiped out or whether a remnant will survive to preserve human existence" (Ibid., p. 132). Gerhard Von Rad's analysis is similar: "the remnant concept as such belongs to the language of politics, and describes what remained over of a people who had survived a campaign whose aim was their total destruction" (Old Testament Theology, trans. D. M. G. Stalker, vol. 2 [New York, Hagerstown, San Francisco, London: Harper & Row, 1965], p. 165).
42 As do the words remainder, residue, leftovers, survivors and those who escape. Thus T. Kronholm writes, "This remainder is seen primarily from a negative perspective, that what is left is less in number or quantity" ("yatar," in G. Johannes Botterweck and Helmer Ringgren (eds.), Theological Dictionary of the Old Testament, trans. David E. Green, vol. 6 [Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1990], p. 486; italics mine).
43 Herman Hoeksema, God's Eternal Good Pleasure (Grand Rapids, MI: RFPA, 1979), p. 99.
44 Arie denHartog, "The Remnant Shall Be Saved," The Standard Bearer, 74:4 (Nov. 15, 1997), p. 85.
45 Gise VanBaren, "All Around Us," The Standard Bearer, 75:16 (May 15, 1999), p. 379.
46 Herman Bavinck, The Last Things: Hope for This World and the Next, ed. John Bolt, trans. John Vriend (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker, 1996), p. 85.
47 "The number of hostile enemies will be as the sand of the sea. Only a remnant will remain faithful to the cause of Christ ... The apostasy will be world-wide. It will be in America as well as Russia. It will be in England as well as in Japan. It will be in Europe as well as in Asia. Only a remnant represented by The Beloved City will remain faithful" (Kik, Op. cit., pp. 240-241; italics mine).
48 Cf. W. Gunther and H. Krienke: "In Romans 9-11 ... Paul is dealing with the fact that the majority of the Jews refuse to believe in Christ" ("Remnant," in Colin Brown (ed.), The New International Dictionary of New Testament Theology, vol. 3 [Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1978], p. 251; italics mine).
49 Calvin's thinking here is in accordance with the Holy Scriptures: "It is not without cause Paul observes, that these are called a remnant (Rom. 9:27; 11:5); because experience shows that of the general body many fall away and are lost, so that often a small portion only remains" (Op. cit., p. 210 [III:xxi:7]; italics mine).
50 Cf. Hasel, "The earliest explicit reference [to the remnant] appears in the Flood Story ... (Gen. 7:23)" (Op. cit., p. 132; italics Hasel's).
51 Thus J. Barton Payne writes that the remnant in Old Testament history speaks of "the salvation of a small faithful group out of a larger original group to whom the revelation of election had been extended" (The Theology of the Older Testament [Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1962], p.185).
52 However, in I Kings 18:22 Elijah says "I, even I only, remain [yatar] a prophet of the Lord."
53 Cf. Herman Ridderbos: "There is indeed in 'remnant' the idea that Israel has not been entirely abandoned by God, but at the same time that by far the greater part of Israel is now excluded" (Paul: An Outline of His Theology, trans. John Richard De Witt [Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, repr. 1992], p. 357; italics mine).
54 This is also the understanding of Belgic Confession 27.
55 Cf. Hasel: "The remnant motif is here employed to emphasize that almost nothing will remain of Syria (Aram) or of Ephraim (North Israel)." Hasel also speaks of the remnant as "negligible" and "few" (Op. cit., pp. 350-351).
56 Cf., e.g., Isa. 14:22-23; Amos 1:8; 9:1-4.
57 Hasel, Op. cit., pp. 238-240. One simple proof of this, besides the general truth that Isaiah always presents a residue of God's people as escaping the judgment, is that a few verses later we read of Isaiah's son, Shearjashub, "a remnant shall return" (7:3).
58 Cf. Hasel: "A remnant of ten percent was to be left over from the military catastrophe" (Ibid., pp. 188-189). Amos speaks of the deliverance of only a tenth later in his prophecy (6:9).
59 Also Isaiah 4:1 speaks of seven women to a man and hence the destruction of six-sevenths of the men, rather than the ninety percent of 6:13. On the former text, Hasel writes, "the 'one man' is a representative of the survived remnant which will return from the many men who will go forth in battle against the army" (Ibid., p. 262).
60 We have already had occasion to refer to the remnant in Isaiah 1, 4, 6, 7, 10, 14, 17 and 44. Hasel speaks of "the remnant motif as a key element of Isaiah's theology" and avers that "the remnant motif is for Isaiah from the first to the last intensely theological" (Ibid., p. 401; cf. p. 255). Similarly, J. Barton Payne says, "Isaiah became God's preeminent voice for the revelation of the remnant doctrine" (Op. cit., p. 186).
61 Hasel speaks of the people in Jerusalem as "a small historical remnant" (Op. cit., p. 317).
62 Cf. Hasel: Isaiah 1:21-26 develops "the message of the remnant ... in a most convincing way without the employment of any remnant terminology" (Ibid., p. 250).
63 Hasel correctly understands Isaiah 7:2-9: "Faith, as a matter of fact, is the criterium distinctionis between the masses that will perish and the remnant that will survive" (Ibid., p. 396; italics mine).
64 Cf. Hasel: "No matter how many there will be in number not more than a mere remnant of them will be left, because the multitude is unwilling to return to Yahweh" (Ibid., p. 330; italics mine).
65 Hasel is correct to note the emphasis "on the smallness and powerlessness of the remnant." He also writes, "Since only a remnant [shaar] will survive, the great multitude will disappear in battle or through deportation" (Ibid., p. 372; italics mine).
66 Cf. Hasel: "Only a small remnant of the warriors of Kedar will remain" (Ibid., p. 359).
67 Hasel speaks of "those few escaped survivors of the house of Judah that are left in the old Davidic city" (Ibid., p. 339; italics mine).
68 Hasel, Op. cit., p. 133.
69 DenHartog and Hoeksema seem to hold that even in Old Testament days the majority of the professing church were unbelievers (Op. cit., 83-86; Op. cit., p. 233).
70 E.g., Isa. 59:21; Jer. 32:39; Eze. 37:25.
71 Cf. also Isa. 4:2-3 and Zeph. 3:13 in their contexts.
72 Cf. also Isa. 10:21 ("the mighty God" is Christ; cf. 9:6); 11:1-16 (the remnant are referred to in vv. 11, 16). The Messiah is a gift to the remnant (cf. Herntrich, Op. cit., pp. 205, 208-209).
73 Isaiah 65:8-9 describes the remnant (God "does not destroy ... all [of Israel]' [v. 8]) as "mine elect" (v. 9). Hasel notes that Isaiah's remnant "will inherit the election promises and form the nucleus of a new faith community (10:20f.; 28:5f.; 30:15-17)" (Op. cit., p. 133; italics mine).
74 Gunther and Krienke, Op. cit., pp. 251-252; italics mine. Cf. J. Barton Payne: "When the Messiah came ... many of the descendants of Israel (the patriarch Jacob) proved that they were not really of Israel (the true church [Rom.] 9:6). Micah, however, had predicted that there would then arise another remnant, not previously a part of Israel, to take their place - 'Then the residue of His brethren shall return unto the children of Israel' (Mic. 5:3). The residue must be the elect Christians from among the Gentiles" (Op. cit., p. 188).
75 Cf. Heidelberg Catechism, Q. & A. 54.
76 This is, of course, not to deny the discontinuities of the Old and New Testaments. It merely emphasizes the essential continuity.
77 Dirk H. Odendaal, The Eschatological Expectation of Isaiah 40-66 with Special Reference to Israel and the Nations (USA: P&R, 1970), pp. 178-179; italics Odendaal's.
78 Also Gunther and Krienke rightly note that the "remnant" is equated with the "seed" by the apostle in Romans 9:29 (Op. cit., p. 251; cf. John Murray, The Epistle to the Romans, vol. 2 [Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1965], p. 41). This suggests a further avenue of investigation: What light do the "remnant" and the "seed" shed upon each other?
79 Kik, Op. cit., p. 266. There are many biblical passages which speak of the large number (absolutely but not in comparison to the ungodly) that are saved in the New Testament Church, even in the "Prophet of the Remnant" (e.g., Isa. 2:2-4; 11:9-16; 49:18-23; 53:11-12 ["many"]; 54:1ff.; 55:5; 60:1-22).
80 Gentry, Op. cit., pp. 263-269. B. B. Warfield also argues from God's love of the world (John 3:16) that "the kingdoms of the earth become ever more and more the kingdom of our God and of His Christ" ("God's Immeasurable Love," in Op. cit., p. 518).
81 Gentry's argument from the Great Commission's call to "make disciples of all nations" (Matt. 28:18-20) is also inconclusive (Op. cit., pp. 233-237).
82 Cf. Steve Schlissel's "Foreword" in Steve Schlissel and David Brown, Hal Lindsey and the Restoration of the Jews (Edmonton, AB: Still Water Revival Books, 1990), pp. 48-59. Craig Blomberg notes that, of the "enormous amount of scholarly literature" on "Paul's treatment of Israel in Romans 9-11," 11:25-26 is "particularly controversial" ("Eschatology and the Church: Some New Testament Perspectives," Themelios, 23:3 [June 1998], p. 11).
83 Herman Hoeksema would also agree with them on this point (Op. cit., pp. 333-335).
84 Cf. Joseph Henry Thayer, A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament (New York, Cincinnati, Chicago: American Book Company, repr. 1889), pp. 468-469.
85 Ridderbos, Op. cit., p. 359.
86 Compare Jeremiah 31:33 with "the days come" (v. 31) and Isaiah 27:9 with "in that day" (vv. 12-13). For more on Romans 11:25-26, see Hoeksema, Op. cit., pp. 327-341 and Ridderbos, Op. cit., pp. 354-361 (esp. pp. 358-361).
87 Cf. Martin Luther: "The way to destruction is broad, and the gate is wide, and many enter by it. On the other hand, the gate to life is narrow, and the way is hard, and those who travel it are very few" (Ewald M. Plass, What Luther Says: A Practical In-Home Anthology for the Active Christian [St. Louis, MO: Concordia, 1959], p. 1208; italics mine).
88 Second Helvetic Confession 10 states, "Now and then [in the Scriptures] mention is made of the small number of the elect." The confession goes on to explain that this must not be made an excuse for sin or laziness (Schaff, Op. cit., pp. 848-849).
89 Cf. Hasel: "Jesus wished to gather all into the community of faith (Mt. 23:37-39; Lk. 13:34f.), but only a few responded and formed the faithful remnant" (Op. cit., p. 134; italics Hasel's). Hasel is grievously wrong in teaching a frustrated desire of the Lord Jesus Christ (cf. Angus Stewart, "Does Matthew 23:37 Teach the Well-Meant Offer?") and in the implication that we make ourselves into the remnant (cf. Isa. 1:9; 4:2-6; Mic. 2:12), but his observation about Jesus' followers being in the minority is entirely justified.
90 Ibid., p. 134.
91 Cf. Heidelberg Catechism, Q. & A. 54.
92 Calvin, Op. cit., pp. 210 (III:xxi:7), 218 (III:xxii:6).
93 Hasel, Op. cit., p. 133.