"The Lord is not slack concerning His promise, as some count slackness, but is longsuffering toward us, not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance." (2 Peter 3:9)
Sound familiar? Many of this generation have heard the phrases "the remnant of God" or "to be a part of the remnant" put forth by certain teachers and preachers as a title of honor. Though their intention may be honorable, what does Scripture state about it?
First, we need to ask ourselves: What is the definition of the word, "remnant"? The most common definition for remnant is "what remains after all else has been taken away".
Consider this example: A factory makes and sells a product in three sizes: a 12-ounce, 16 ounce, and 20 ounce bottle. If you were to go into one of these factories and ask for the "remnant", what would they give you? The answer is obviously the smallest size; that which remains after all else has been taken away.
It is also interesting to note that when the Bible speaks of "the remnant", it never refers to something good, but always in reference to something bad; and usually very bad! The law was only a "remnant" or "copy of the real thing". ( Deut 4:1 ) It was a "remnant" of what God had originally given at Mt. Sinai to Moses. ( Deut 4:49 ) The rulers of Israel were a "remnant" that the Lord would use to punish, rebuke and judge His people. ( Isa 10:15; Jer 23:1-8 )
Why is that? According to the Bible, the "remnant" is a people or entity that remain after punishment (discipline) has taken place. In Scripture, we can see this clearly in the following examples:
Judges 20:18-28 The majority of Israel refused to submit to God's government and were therefore judged by being conquered by their wicked neighbors. Because of their sin, God "left them" and gave them over to fear the enemy. In Judges 20:28 , we see that after this happened, there were 600 men still left from Israel who had not bowed a knee to Baal. These men became known as "the remnant", and they fought bravely against their enemies (verse 29).
Just as the "remnant" in Judges 20 were six hundred after God punished Israel for their sin, so too, there will be a remnant on earth during the Great Tribulation. The Bible teaches that when Christ returns and gathers His church to heaven, it will be at a time when most people are worshipping an antichrist world leader and the mark of the beast is in full force. ( Rev 13:8; 14:9-11; Zechariah chapters 2 & 3 ) At this time, a small remnant will be on earth who have not worshipped the antichrist nor taken his mark.
"Let no one deceive you by any means; for that Day will not come unless the falling away comes first, and the man of sin is revealed, the son of perdition, who opposes and exalts himself above all that is called God or that is worshiped, so that he sits as God in the temple of God, showing himself that he is God." ( 2 Thess 2:3-4 )
"And it was given to him to make war with the saints and to overcome them. And authority was given him over every tribe, tongue, and nation. And all who dwell on the earth will worship him, whose names have not been written in the Book of Life of the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world." ( Rev 13:7-8 )
"Then I heard a loud voice saying in heaven, 'Now salvation, and strength, and the kingdom of our God, and the power of His Christ have come, for the accuser of our brethren, who accused them before our God day and night , has been cast down. And they overcame him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony, and they did not love their lives to the death. Therefore rejoice, O heavens, and you who dwell in them!' " ( Rev 12:10-12 )
"And I saw another angel flying in midheaven, having an eternal gospel to preach to those who dwell on the earth, and to every nation and tribe and tongue and people; saying with a loud voice, "Fear God, and give glory to Him, for the hour of His judgment has come; worship Him who made heaven and earth , the sea and springs of water." ( Rev 14:6-7 )
In other words, when "the man of sin" or the antichrist has been revealed before Christ gathers His church to heaven, then a small, unknown number will be left on earth who have not bowed a knee to the antichrist. These people will worship God instead of the antichrist. They will refuse to take his mark, and for this reason they will endure the great tribulation.
Besides those on earth during the Great Tribulation, we also see another example of a remnant in Scripture when God gave Israel their land after they had been judged by 40 years of wandering in the wilderness:
Numbers 26:64-65 "The descendants of Kohath from age to age were eighty-three [men] (those who were registered from age to age), and a total of eighty-three [sons]. These were the ones counted from Kohath's son Amram, by their generations; all the males from the age of thirty years and upward numbered twenty-two thousand one hundred. For Moses had taken in marriage besides Jochebed his father-in-law's sister, in addition to his wives that he had; and she bore him Aaron and Moses. But among the descendants of Levi who were registered by their families, there were twenty-three thousand male heads." ( NKJV )
"These are they whose names are Registry of The House Of Israel age d from thirty years upward, every one that enter ed into the camp, whom Moses and Aaron registered in the wilderness of Sinai." ( KJV )
"These were they that were numbered of the families of the sons of Gilead: The sons of Jeezer, the son of Manasseh, heads of the house of their fathers, chief men; those that were numbered of them, according to the number of all the males, from thirty years old and upward, all that were able to go forth to war in Israel; even those that were numbered of them by their families were forty and two thousand and four hundred." ( KJV )
"These are they which were numbered of the children of Gilead, throughout their genealogy, heads of the house of their fathers, by the number of all males; from twenty years old and upward even until fifty years old, every one that entered into the host, for Israel in the wilderness. According to the commandment of the LORD they were numbered by the hand of Moses" ( KJV )
" And Moses and Eleazar the priest numbered the sons of Levi by their families: all those who were from a month old to fifty years old, every one that entered into the camp, were numbered from the plague." ( NKJV )
As you can see in all three examples given in Scripture, there is always a remnant of God's people that resists the enemy and endures.
The question is, who are these people during the Great Tribulation? Is it a few scattered believers or will we see entire nations converted to Christianity in Jerusalem? Or both? I believe when Christ gathers His church to heaven at the rapture and the man of sin (antichrist) is revealed, there will be a small remnant still left on earth who have refused to take the mark of the beast. These people will endure the Great Tribulation and spend their lives testifying for God and Christ during this time of great persecution by an antichrist that demands worship. In many ways it will be a repeat of Elijah's day on earth, but much worse because the antichrist will be a religious and political leader of immense power.
As believers on earth, we should have a similar mindset to that of those who left Egypt:
Exodus 14:11-12 "Then the LORD said to Moses, 'Why are you crying out to Me? Tell the children of Israel to go forward. But lift up your rod and stretch out your hand over the sea and divide it, so that the children of Israel can go through the sea on dry ground. But I will harden the hearts of the Egyptians so that they will go in after them; and I will be glorified through Pharaoh and all his army, through his chariots and his horsemen.' " ( NKJV )
Exodus 14:13-14 "The Egyptians shall know that I am the LORD when I stretch out My hand against Egypt and bring the Israelites out of it. At the same time I will reach out My hand and strike the Egyptians with all the wonders which I will do in the midst of them." ( NKJV )
The remnant that remains on earth will go through the same tribulation as those that have been raptured, only they will be more prepared for it and endure.
I believe we can learn from this...
We understand the Christ is coming soon and there's only a few short years left until complete apostasy of faith will overtake Christian nations. We know that the devil has already inflicted terrible damage to the church, even causing many believers to fall into heresy and sin, leaving false churches to follow a gospel of lies and deception. What will it be like during the Great Tribulation on earth?
Jesus told us in Matthew 5:10-12 " Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness' sake, For theirs is the kingdom of heaven." ( NKJV ) " But if you suffer for righteousness' sake, happy are you. "
" Blessed are you when people revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account ." ( NKJV )
The phrase " on my account " refers to what Jesus came to earth for, which was the redemption of sinful man. Therefore, those who have resisted sin and stood firm in their faith will be rewarded greatly during this time. In fact, our reward for enduring is so great that it cannot even be measured in this life:
" Truly I say to you, there is no one who has left house or brothers or sisters or father or mother or wife or children or lands, for my sake and for the gospel, but that he shall receive a hundredfold now in this time and in the age to come eternal life." ( NIV )
" And do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. But rather fear Him who is able to destroy both soul and body in hell." ( NKJV )
The Great Tribulation will be a time of great persecution, when it may not seem like our reward for enduring is worth it. However, we must remember that those who endure during this terrible time will receive God's greatest reward: Eternal Life.
We must not fear persecution or death, as Paul said in 2 Timothy 1:12-13 " For I am already being poured out as a drink offering , and the time of my departure is at hand. I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith." ( NKJV )
" Now I am coming to you, and these things I speak in the world, that they may have My joy fulfilled in themselves. " ( NKJV )
Paul was an example of a believer who fought the good fight and finished his race. Even though he had been imprisoned many times by those who wanted him dead, even though he had endured many persecutions, and even though he knew that people hated him... Paul was filled with joy because of his faith in Christ and the knowledge that he would receive Eternal Life.
Even Jesus Himself explained in John 16:2-4 " Therefore, I said to you that you will die in your sins; for unless you believe that I AM [Jesus Christ], you will die in your sins. " ( NASB )
Now this is the main point of what I am saying: We should be glad, not discouraged, because we are going to turn away from sin and toward God. There is no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus , because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit who gives life has set you free from the law of sin and death . ( NASB )
The Great Tribulation will be a time when many believers are killed for their faith. It will also be a time when other Christians are discouraged because they lack faith, or have fallen away into sin, or have been deceived by false doctrine. However, we have to remember that the Great Tribulation is only temporary. We need not fear it and we can't let it shake our faith in God.
When Jesus returns for His church , those who endure will be rewarded greatly with a place in heaven forever:
" And I heard a voice from heaven saying, "Write this: Blessed are the dead who die in the Lord from now on." " ( NKJV )
I'd like to close this article with a prayer by Paul, which he prayed for himself and his fellow Christians. He is also praying that we will endure suffering because of our faith in Jesus during the Great Tribulation.
" The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the communion of the Holy Spirit be with you all." ( NIV )