Postmillennialism and the Remnant
Rev. Angus Stewart
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
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.
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).
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.
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:
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).
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
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
political and social
activism. All of life, including culture, politics,
technology and art, must be brought under the sway of the
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."
For example, Kenneth Gentry introduces amillennialism,
historic premillennialism and dispensationalism under the
heading "Eschatological Pessimism."
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
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."
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.
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
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."
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
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,
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.
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
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.
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).
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
Christ's kingdom on earth increases as the kingdom of the
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.
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.
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.
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).
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
Reconstructionist Ken Gentry states, "Evangelical
postmillennialism teaches ... that 'the greater part' of
men will have been saved at the outcome of history."
According to Charles Hodge, "The number of the finally lost
in comparison with the whole number saved will be very
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."
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."
Later Boettner expresses himself more vividly:
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
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.
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.
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."
Gentry is correct when he states, "Amillennialism ... leaves the vast majority of men lost, and the remnant of the saved only a minority."
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.
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.
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."
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.
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
of the trees of his forest shall be few, that a child may
write them" (v. 19).
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
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."
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.
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
The idea of the remnant arises, then, from great
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
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.
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
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
Similarly, Gise VanBaren states, "It remains true, even as
in past ages, that there is but a remnant that is saved."
Herman Bavinck also instinctively thinks of "remnant" as a
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."
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,
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).
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
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).
It is true that none of the key Hebrew words for remnant are
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).
Thus the apostle identifies the seven thousand of Elijah's
day as a remnant who were the godly minority.
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
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.
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.
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).
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
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.
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
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).
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
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
"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."
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
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]."
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).
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.;
(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
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.
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.
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."
Another postmillennial argument along these lines
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).
apostle Paul points out that all these wonderful spiritual
blessings come to the "remnant according to the election
of grace" (Rom. 11:5).
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:
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
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).
Similarly, there is one way of salvation and God's dealings
with His people both pre- and post-Christ are essentially
Old Testament Israel is the typical representation of the
New Testament church and kingdom of God. As Dirk H. Odendaal
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
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.
its article on the church, our Heidelberg Catechism
54. What believest thou concerning the "holy catholic
church" of Christ?
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?"
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.
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.
One could just as easily twist these allegedly
postmillennial texts into the service of Arminianism.
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.
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.
The postmillennialists are correct when they identify
"Israel" here as an ethnic group over against Gentiles.
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."
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.
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.
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
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
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."
Again He said, "Many are called but few are
chosen" (20:16: 22;14).
Thus Christ referred to His "little flock" inheriting
the Kingdom of God (Luke 12:32).
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.
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.
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)."
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.
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).
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).
Schaff, The Creeds of Christendom, vol. 3 (New
York: Harper & Brothers, 1877), pp. 852-853.
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).
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
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.
Op. cit., p. 17; cf. pp. 21f., 48, 64, 384, 421,
Chilton, Paradise Restored: A Biblical Theology of
Dominion (Tyler, TX: Dominion Press, 1985), pp.
p. 219; italics Chilton's.
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]).
Op. cit., p. 125.
Op. cit., p. 11; italics Chilton's.
Gary North's "Foreword" to Gentry, Op. cit. (p.
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.
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
Ronald Hanko, "Kingdom and Church in 'Christian'
Reconstruction," PRTJ, XXXII:1 (November,
1998), pp. 29-68; XXXII:2 (April, 1999), pp. 2-25.
Andrew Sandlin, "The Apocalyptic Faith," Chalcedon
Report, 402 (January, 1999), pp. 3-4. Sandlin calls
these people "Remnant Reconstructionists."
Op. cit., pp. 249-252.
Cf. Gary North's "Foreword" in Gentry, Op. cit., pp.
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).
Dale Kuiper, "What Constitutes Victory," PRTJ,
XI:2 (April, 1978), pp. 49-58.
Op. cit., pp. 457-462, 526-539.
Op. cit., p. 723.
Op. cit., p. 253.
Hodge, Systematic Theology, vol. 3 (London and
Edinburgh: Thomas Nelson and Sons, 1873), pp. 879-880.
Op. cit., p. 266.
Boettner, The Reformed Doctrine of Predestination
(Phillipsburg, NJ: P&R, 1932), p. 135.
p. 139; italics mine.
Op. cit., p. 131.
B. Warfield, "Are There Few That Be Saved?" in Biblical
and Theological Studies (Philadelphia,
PA: P&R, 1952), p. 349.
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.
Op. cit., p. 253; italics mine.
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]).
Achar is also sometimes used for remnant
(e.g., Amos 9:1), as is malat (e.g., Joel 2:32).
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.
Hasel: "Derivatives of [shaar]
represent the focal point of the terminological
expression of the Hebrew remnant motif" (Op. cit.,
Hasel: "The destruction of the large majority and the
survival of at least a few are here intricately
[intimately?] connected" (Ibid., p. 325).
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).
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;
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).
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
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).
Herman Hoeksema, God's Eternal Good Pleasure
(Grand Rapids, MI: RFPA, 1979), p. 99.
denHartog, "The Remnant Shall Be Saved," The Standard
Bearer, 74:4 (Nov. 15, 1997), p. 85.
VanBaren, "All Around Us," The Standard Bearer,
75:16 (May 15, 1999), p. 379.
Bavinck, The Last Things: Hope for This World and the
Next, ed. John Bolt, trans. John Vriend (Grand
Rapids, MI: Baker, 1996), p. 85.
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).
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).
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];
Hasel, "The earliest explicit reference [to the
remnant] appears in the Flood Story ... (Gen. 7:23)"
(Op. cit., p. 132; italics Hasel's).
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).
in I Kings 18:22 Elijah says "I, even I only, remain [yatar]
a prophet of the Lord."
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).
is also the understanding of Belgic Confession 27.
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.
e.g., Isa. 14:22-23; Amos 1:8; 9:1-4.
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).
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).
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.
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.,
speaks of the people in Jerusalem as "a small historical
remnant" (Op. cit., p. 317).
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.
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
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).
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;
Hasel: "Only a small remnant of the warriors of Kedar
will remain" (Ibid., p. 359).
speaks of "those few escaped survivors of the
house of Judah that are left in the old Davidic city" (Ibid.,
p. 339; italics mine).
Op. cit., p. 133.
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).
Isa. 59:21; Jer. 32:39; Eze. 37:25.
also Isa. 4:2-3 and Zeph. 3:13 in their contexts.
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).
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).
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).
Heidelberg Catechism, Q. & A. 54.
is, of course, not to deny the discontinuities of the
Old and New Testaments. It merely emphasizes the
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.
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
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).
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).
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).
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).
Hoeksema would also agree with them on this point (Op.
cit., pp. 333-335).
Joseph Henry Thayer, A Greek-English Lexicon of the
New Testament (New York, Cincinnati, Chicago:
American Book Company, repr. 1889), pp. 468-469.
Op. cit., p. 359.
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).
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
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).
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.
Heidelberg Catechism, Q. & A. 54.
Op. cit., pp. 210 (III:xxi:7), 218 (III:xxii:6).
Op. cit., p. 133.