The Refining of the Remnant

(Zechariah 13:8-9) “In the whole land,” declares the Lord, “two-thirds will be struck down and perish; yet one third will be left in it. This third I will bring into the fire, I will refine them like silver and test them like gold. They will call on My name and I will answer them; I will say, “They are My people,” and they will say, “the Lord is our God.”

(Romans 9:27) ‘Isaiah cries out concerning Israel: “Though the number of the Israelites be like the sand by the sea, only the Remnant will be saved.”

(Romans 11:5) “…So too, at the present time there is a remnant chosen by grace.”

He will be saved out of it!

 There is no doubt today that the restoration of the nation Israel and the return of the Jewish people to the Land is no accident but something that according to God’s Word the Bible would happen in the Last Days before Jesus comes back. In fact there are many and numerous references in the Old Testament clearly stated in the writings of the prophets that confirm this fact. However, the scriptures also clearly reveal that the Lord is bringing His people home to face a situation that they have never before faced in their entire history. Indeed, it will be, “The Time of Jacob’s Trouble” but “he (Israel) will be saved out of it.” (Jeremiah 30:7)  Yet it is also clear that even though multitudes of Jewish people return to the Land only a remnant will be saved, and that through the fire. God Himself has personally chosen and numbered this remnant. These He has chosen to embrace and accept their Messiah the Lord Jesus Christ.

The splintered reed of a staff

Today in Israel many Jewish people are coming to faith in Jesus and this is a wonderful thing to see. Yet many are yet to come who will not come until they experience the applied pressure of God. Israel today, by enlarge, is a secular nation that has embraced the philosophies and ways of the world. Its leaders are looking to the nations of the West, especially America, to support them in their struggle to survive against the incessant attacks from their enemies who surround them on every side. Ultimately the prophet Isaiah tells us that in the Last Days just before the return of Jesus they will enter into some kind of peace agreement with other nations but that it will be “a covenant of death” and not life as those with whom they have made that agreement will also turn on them in the end (Isaiah 28:15). Instead of looking to the Lord and their Messiah they will lean upon “Egypt”, “that splintered reed of a staff, which pierces a man’s hand and wounds him if he leans on it.” (Isaiah 36 5)  Of course in the context of the Last Days, “Egypt” does not mean literal Egypt. In the Bible Egypt is also used as a metaphor for the world and in the context of the Last Days Israel as a nation is doing this right now as they seek the solace and support of human governments. In this study we will look at what the Bible teaching about the refining of the remnant.

1. The Faithful Remnant Defined.

God has always had His faithful remnant, a specifically numbered group known only to Him in eternity to be His faithful people on earth. This faithful remnant really began with Abel and then certain individuals who came after him such as Enoch and Noah. However, according to the Bible, God wanted to have a nation of people that would be separate from the other nations and a people belonging to Him exclusively and free from idolatry. Abraham was chosen by the Lord to be the father of this believing remnant of people (Romans 4:1-17). He was the first of a faithful remnant that would succeed him. Of course the physical nation of Israel came from Abraham and was established through Isaac’s descendants and not Ishmael’s descendants (Genesis 17:21).

The circumcision of the heart

We also know that a true Jew has always been one who has been circumcised in the heart by the Spirit of God and has a living faith in God. Even though a Jewish person was required to be circumcised as an outward sign of belonging to God’s people the real issue was a matter of faith and not outward circumcision. Paul the Apostle makes this clear when he says, “A man is not a Jew if he is only one outwardly, nor is circumcision merely outward and physical. No, a man is a Jew if he is one inwardly; and circumcision is circumcision of the heart, by the Spirit, not by the written code. Such a man’s praise is not from men but from God.” (Romans 2:28-29)  Abraham walked in this kind of faith and this was to be the walk of his descendants the Israelites. God Himself has clearly shown in the New Testament that all who walk by faith just as Abraham did (whether Jew or Gentile) are declared to be righteous in God’s sight and his true descendants (Genesis 15:6) (Romans 4:4, 16, 22-25).

Like two sides of the same coin

Israel and the Church are like two sides of the same coin, separate yet one. When the Lord Jesus established His Church on the Day of Pentecost the believers were Jewish and not Gentile. The early Church established in Jerusalem was Jewish and of course God’s intention was to continue His faithful remnant in the earth but also include Gentile believers as well. His purpose was to make “One new man out of the two.” (Ephesians 1:15) God did not replace Israel with the Church as those who advocate replacement theology assert, neither did He intend to keep Israel and the Church as two separate and distinct peoples in the earth as advocated by the Dispensational school of Eschatology. While it is clear that God is dealing with Israel as a separate nation His goal is to bring the remnant within Ethnic Israel to faith in their Messiah and to ultimately make them one with the remnant of believers within the outward and visible Church we call Christendom.

Grafted in

The Biblical truth lies in the fact that the Church established on the Day of Pentecost was in fact the continuation of the faithful remnant in the Old Testament whose Father in the faith was also Abraham. Gentile believers were the “wild olive shoots” grafted into the olive tree that symbolizes true Israel. The natural branches broken off were only some of the branches i.e., those individual Jews who did not believe in the Messiah (Romans 11:17). The Church established on the Day of Pentecost did not replace Israel as the Apple of God’s eye, but continued to be the true “Israel of God” (Galatians 6:16). Even in the Old Testament Gentiles could become Jews through circumcision. In the New Testament, through the circumcision of the heart by the Spirit called the New Birth, Gentiles and Jews alike become one family.

The Commonwealth of Israel

Born again believers are no longer without Christ, or aliens from the commonwealth of Israel. Neither are they strangers from the covenants of promise given to Abraham and to his believing descendants. The believing remnant is one family! “One New Man!” with the middle wall of partition broken down through the finished work of our Lord and Messiah the Lord Jesus. As it is written of Gentile believers who are not ethnically Jewish by birth, “For through Him (Jesus and the work of the cross) we both (Jew and Gentile believers) have access to the Father by one Spirit. Consequently, you are no longer foreigners and aliens, but fellow citizens with God’s people and members of God’s household, built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus Himself as the chief cornerstone. In Him the whole building is joined together and rises to become a holy temple in the Lord. And in Him (the Lord Jesus) you too (Gentile and Jewish believers) are being built together to become a dwelling in which God lives by His Spirit.” (Ephesians 2:19-22)

Co-reigning with the Messiah

When Jesus returns to rapture the Church, rescue Israel and inaugurate His Millennial reign from Jerusalem His faithful remnant (Jewish and Gentile believers) will co-reign with Him on the earth over the nations that have survived the bowls of God’s Wrath. The Lord Jesus Himself said that there would be one flock and one shepherd. “I have other sheep (Gentiles who were to believe in the future) who are not of this sheep pen (Israel).I must bring them also. They too will listen to my voice, and there shall be one flock and one shepherd.”(John 10:16) Compare: (Psalm 2:8-9) (Luke 1:33) (2 Timothy 2:12) (Revelation 2:26-27) (Revelation 20:6) (Revelation 22:5)

Only the remnant will be saved!

So then according to God’s word the faithful remnant is all believers in the Old Testament and in the New Testament who through faith followed in the steps of faithful Abraham and received the righteousness that come by that same faith (Romans 4:16-24). In the Bible God clearly distinguishes between those who believe and between those who don’t. In fact scripture is clear when it says, “Isaiah cries out concerning Israel: “Though the number of the Israelites be like the sand by the sea, only the Remnant will be saved.” (Romans 9:27) This truth is equally seen in what we call Christendom today in that not all who call themselves Christian are really Christians.

2. The “Faithful Remnant Refined.”

(Zechariah 13:8-9) “In the whole land,” declares the Lord, “two-thirds will be struck down and perish; yet one third will be left in it. This third I will bring into the fire, I will refine them like silver and test them like gold. They will call on My name and I will answer them; I will say, “They are My people,” and they will say, “the Lord is our God.”

Since 1948 when Israel became a Nation God was fulfilling His promises to His people to restore them to the Land of Israel in the Last Days. There is no doubt that the return of the Jewish people to Israel is fulfilling Biblical Prophecy. There are numerous passages of scripture from Isaiah, Jeremiah, and from the Minor Prophets, clearly describing the restoration of the Jewish people to the Land of Israel in the Last Days. There is no room for trying to allegorize these Old Testament passages of scripture.

Back for a blessing?

Today there are many Christians who love Israel and support their restoration to the Land as I do myself. It is wonderful to see how accurate the Word of God is concerning the prophecies of the Bible especially where Israel is concerned. Their restoration to the Land is no accident of history but the direct will and set purpose of the Lord for His ancient people. Unfortunately there are also many sincere Christians, who, in their enthusiasm for Israel and all things Jewish do not see that God has not brought them back to the land for a “blessing” as it were, but to face a holocaust worse than the one perpetuated by Adolph Hitler as the prophet Zechariah says, “In the whole land,” declares the Lord, “two-thirds will be struck down and perish;” Now some would say that this does not apply to Israel but to the world at large, however, the context and the co-texts in the other passages of Zechariah clearly point to the fact that God is speaking about the Land of Israel and not the world at large. This tragedy is also spoken of in other passages of the Bible. While God’s ultimate plan is to bless Israel He has to firstly put them through the refining fire. As the text in Zechariah also says, “…yet one third will be left in it. This third I will bring into the fire, I will refine them like silver and test them like gold. They will call on My name and I will answer them; I will say, “They are My people,” and they will say, “the Lord is our God.”

God will do His refining work

Now God will do His refining work for the sake of the Remnant that He has chosen by His sovereign Grace. As it is written, “‘Isaiah cries out concerning Israel: “Though the number of the Israelites be like the sand by the sea, only the Remnant will be saved.” Notice it is “the Remnant,” a specifically numbered group of people. Paul also understood this when he said, “So too, at the present time there is a remnant chosen by grace.” This remnant is described in the book of revelation as the 144,000 sealed from the Tribes of Israel. Yet we also see that this remnant includes all those who have been redeemed, all those “who are of the faith of Abraham,” Abraham being, “the Father of all who believe” and this includes Gentile as well as Jewish believers. This remnant of 144,000 described in Revelation chapter fourteen includes every believer in Christ and this remnant is a fixed number in eternity. This remnant is also clearly defined as having “been redeemed from the earth… who follow the Lamb wherever He goes” and that “they had been purchased from among men and offered as firstfruits to God and to the Lamb… No lie was found in their mouths; they are blameless” (Revelation 14:3-5) This passage also mentions that this remnant had not defiled themselves with women and had kept themselves pure.

Spiritual virgins

Many believe that this statement “They had not defiled themselves with women” refers to the fact that the 144,000 were all virgins and physical Israelites, however, it would seem that the reference to their virginity is describing their faithfulness to the Lord and the fact that they were unspotted by the world and seen by God Himself “as a chaste virgin” pledged to Christ as His bride (2 Corinthians 11:2). In fact we are also told in Revelation that Jesus is coming back for His bride and that she will have made herself ready to meet Him at His coming (Revelation 19:6-8). In numerous other places in the Old Testament God likens Israel to “a virgin” and He is using the term metaphorically to speak of spiritual faithfulness and separation from the world and from idolatry. In both Testaments when you look at the way the Bible uses the term “virgin” when applying it to His faithful people as a whole He is speaking of spiritual fidelity.

A Parallel restoration

Israel and the Church are like parallel railway lines running side by side that somewhere up in the distant horizon meet as one. At present God is dealing with Israel and the Church separately. You could say it was “a parallel restoration” He is doing. However, His ultimate goal is to have one flock and one shepherd which will be fully realized and implemented in the Millennium when those who have believed will co-reign with their Messiah. In that day the faithful remnant will reign with Christ over the nations of the world. As it is written, “We will reign with Him.” And again it is written, “To him who overcomes and does My will to the end. I will give authority over the nations-‘He will rule them with as iron scepter; he will dash them to pieces like pottery.” This promise was given to a Church; however, it applies to all who follow the Lamb, to all, “who follow in the footsteps of faithful Abraham.”

The Overcomers

The Overcomers are all those who have overcome the world, the flesh and the devil. As it is written, “They overcame him (the Devil) by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony; they did not love their lives so much as to shrink from death.” Through the sovereign refining processes of God they were empowered to overcome, not through wealth, luxury and easy times but through great trial, difficulty, affliction and adversity from the Devil and his cohorts from hell! This is the way that God has chosen to separate the gold from the dross, to separate the wheat from the tares and to separate the sheep from the goats! The Lord Jesus obtained victory through suffering and persecution at the hands of wicked men and so it will be for those who follow Him in this world as He Himself clearly predicted on numerous occasions. In the end the beast empire of the Antichrist will persecute faithful Jews and Christians. Israel will be devastated, pride and confidence in the flesh will have gone, two thirds of the Jewish people will perish at the hands of the Antichrist and his beast empire yet a third will remain in the land, they will be known to God and yet their refining will be through the fire. Parallel to this the professing visible Church on earth will also be refined and the majority of those professing to follow Jesus will fall away and ultimately perish at the hands of the Antichrist’s empire because God “has put it in their hearts to burn the prostitute with fire.”

The faithful remnant

However, within the outward and visible Christendom there will be a faithful remnant, the true Church, who will also be refined with fire. These, like the remnant in Israel, are also specifically numbered and known to God in eternity. This faithful remnant is not separate from the remnant of Israel but is one with them being also those who are of the faith of Abraham. These also are true Jews who have been circumcised in their hearts by the Spirit. These Gentiles and Jews in Christ that make up the real Church also inherit the covenants of promise, become fellow heirs with the faithful Israelites and are no longer aliens and strangers to the covenants of promise. Indeed they are no longer excluded from citizenship in Israel. This is the faithful remnant both Jewish and Gentile that are destined to co-reign with Christ on the earth. Indeed the words of the Lord Jesus will be completely fulfilled when He said, “I have other sheep who are not of this sheep pen .I must bring them also. They too will listen to my voice, and there shall be one flock and one shepherd.” However it will be through the refining fire of the good acceptable and perfect will of God!

3. The Faithful Remnant Revealed.

In the book of Daniel chapter three we are told that the king of Babylon Nebuchadnezzar made an image of gold and commanded everyone to worship it. Of course the Jewish people then living in Babylon were also commanded to bow down to worship the image of this beast empire. There was to be no exceptions at all. In fact throughout his entire empire everyone was to bow down and worship the image of gold. Of course, by implication, the image was the image of Nebuchadnezzar himself. However, there was a faithful remnant who would not bow down. This was Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego. These men refused to bow down and to worship the image consequently the king had them thrown alive into the fiery furnace. However, in the furnace there appeared a fourth figure who is described as being “like the Son of God.” He was none other than their Messiah, the Pre-Incarnate Son of God Himself! He was with them in that fiery furnace of affliction and brought them out of the fire completely unscathed causing the Babylonian King to fall down and worship the true God. It was through the fire that they were purified, and delivered in that fire and not from it. They were kept in and through the hour of trial and ultimately brought into resurrected life! There is much that could be said about this incident in Daniel chapter three as it relates to what will happen to the faithful remnant in the last days just before Jesus comes back. (See the article on this website called, “Bow the Knee or Burn?”)

 To Sum up

According to God’s Word the Bible there is a faithful remnant chosen by God and foreknown to Him from all eternity. This remnant began with Abel, Enoch, Noah and continued with Abraham and his true descendants who are defined as having the same kind of faith Abraham himself had and heirs of the promises God made to Him and to all his descendants, his descendants being all who walk by faith whether they be Jew or Gentile. There was a faithful remnant within physical Israel as there is a faithful remnant today within outward Christendom. While God is dealing with Israel and with the Church separately His intention is to have the faithful remnant reign with Christ on the earth as one flock under one shepherd. His applied pressure to Israel today is to bring forth that faithful remnant chosen by grace. As it is written, “‘Isaiah cries out concerning Israel: “Though the number of the Israelites be like the sand by the sea, only the Remnant will be saved.” (Romans 9:27)… “So too, at the present time there is a remnant chosen by grace.” (Romans 11:5) However, we must always keep in mind the words of the Lord Jesus when he said, “I have other sheep (Gentiles who were to believe in the future) who are not of this sheep pen (Israel).I must bring them also. They too will listen to my voice, and there shall be one flock and one shepherd.” (John 10:16)

God’s Hall of Fame

In the book of Hebrews chapter eleven we have the Hall of Fame of all the faithful, those who were faithful to God in the Old Testament and by implication those who were faithful during the some 400 years between the Old and the New Testament periods. We are also told that they were commended for their faith, yet none of them received what had been promised. (The revelation of the Messiah) We are also told that God had planned something better for us so that only together with us would they become perfect. In other words they looked forward to the cross but were still under the Law of Moses with its rules and regulations; however as believers we look back to the cross where all of the law’s demands with its outward forms and ceremonies were fulfilled in Christ at the cross. Consequently, the joining ligament between the Old Testament and the New Testament saints is “the obedience that comes from faith” or “from the obedience of faith” or “faithfulness.” Through faith as New Testament believers we are made one with the Old Testament believers which will be fully realized when together we reign with Christ over the nations of the world, in that day when “The Kingdom of the world has become the kingdom of our Lord and of His Christ, and He will reign for ever and ever.” Amen!

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