Main article: The Prophetic Week
Related: The Great Tribulation
"And the dragon was angry with the woman, and went to make war with the remnant of her seed, who keep the commandments of God, and have the testimony of Jesus." (Revelation 12:17).
The Jewish remnant is one of the most important people-groups in prophecy. Much of Old Testament prophecy was written for them to read and understand, that they might learn God's ways in judgment, and have hope of deliverance. For instance, the Psalms are the prayers and feelings of the remnant, pre-recorded for them to sing as they pass through the experiences of the Prophetic week. Even the teaching of our Lord to His twelve disciples was directed to them as a faithful Jewish remnant, and they have their complete fulfillment in a future day. For example, when the Lord sent out the twelve to the lost sheep of the house of Israel in Matt. 10, He said "Ye shall not have completed the cities of Israel until the Son of man be come" (Matt. 10:23). The coming of the Son of Man (the Appearing) was what this remnant was to labor toward. Clearly this passage cannot be limited to the twelve apostles in the first century! The twelve apostles are representative of the faithful remnant of Jews, and their mission was interrupted at the cross, terminated at the destruction of Jerusalem (70 A.D.) and will be resumed after the Rapture. The whole Church period is passed over in silence. One of the great mistakes made with students of prophecy is to fail to see the place and portion of the Jewish remnant on the prophetic scriptures. Here are some key verses about the remnant: Isa. 10:21-22; 11:11,16; 28:5; 37:31; Dan. 7:21-22; Zech. 12:10-14; Matt. 24:3-31; Rom. 11:5; Rev. 7:4-7; 12:17; 14:1-5.
How can there be a remnant given Mark 16:16 and 2 Thess 2:11-12? We know that the gospel is preached in our day "to all nations for the obedience of faith" (Rom. 16:26), and that "God... now commandeth all men every where to repent" (Acts 17:30). In the beginning of Acts, Peter preached that God was going to judge the nation of Israel very grievously, and they needed to believe the word and be baptized in order to "Save yourselves from this untoward generation" (Acts 2:40-41). Mark 16:16 refers to the seriousness of rejecting the gospel; "he that believeth not shall be damned". We further read that those who reject Christ and do "not receive the love of the truth" will not have a second chance to believe the gospel, because "God sends to them a working of error, that they should believe what is false, that all might be judged who have not believed the truth, but have found pleasure in unrighteousness" (2 Thess 2:11-12). The "working of error" is defined in 2 Thess. 2 as a deception of Antichrist, the "man of sin". Those who reject the gospel now will be deceived later by Antichrist. How then can there be a remnant of Israel after the rapture? How do they get a "second chance"? Understanding prophecy is not easy, but it comes through the illumination of the Spirit of God, who enables us to see the way various passages fit together. We must fit together the passages about the remnant with those about rejecting the gospel. Those of the remnant will be individuals who never rejected the gospel. They either never heard it, or else didn't understand it. Remember also that there could be some gap of time between the rapture and the start of Daniel's seventieth week. After the true Church is gone to heaven, the Spirit of God will continue to work to accomplish the purposes of God on the earth. One of the things the Spirit will do is raise up a remnant to be a witness for Jehovah, and who eventually will come to know Him as Jesus, their own Messiah!
Why does there need to be a remnant? If we were to read the Old Testament prophecies concerning Israel, including the promises made to Abraham Isaac, Jacob, David, etc. we would see that God purposed to bring Israel into a period of prolonged prosperity and blessing, under the reign of Messiah. This is God’s sovereign purpose for Israel. But then, if we were to read the law (particularly Deuteronomy) we would find that God made Israel‘s blessing in the land of Canaan conditional on their obedience. And then through the Old Testament we find the sad history of Israel’s disobedience to the word of God, and their eventual expulsion from the land of Canaan. After God graciously allowed a return from Babylon and Persia, the Jews committed the crowning sin of the nation of Israel in rejecting their own Messiah, our Lord Jesus Christ, at His first coming. This sealed the doom of the nation of Israel. The question naturally arises in our minds, how will God fulfill His purpose and still maintain His righteousness? Prophecy gives us the answer to this question. According to His righteousness, God will judge the nation of Israel; i.e. the apostate majority. But according to His grace, God will preserve a remnant of Israel, and bring them through the judgment, and make them the nucleus of a restored nation in the Millennium.
Who are the remnant? The remnant of Israel are the descendants of Jacob who have faith, in contrast with the majority of the nation of Israel, which has rejected God. Paul speaks of the remnant in Rom. 11:1-5, showing that there was a remnant in Elijah's day, and even in his own day. Zechariah, Elisabeth, Mary, Anna, Simeon, John the Baptist and his disciples, etc. were the remnant of Israel in their day. After the cross, the Jews who believed the gospel (Paul included) were a remnant of Israel, and a proof that God is not finished with Israel, and that one day “all Israel shall be saved” (Rom. 11:26). Even today, believers from among the Jews are the remnant of Israel, although they are part of something totally different - the Church of the Living God - and far higher, which replaces their otherwise earthly hopes with heavenly ones! See Eph. 1:12 which shows that believers from among the Jews have "pre-trusted"; i.e. ahead of time, when all Israel shall be saved. When the rapture takes place, God will raise up a remnant of the Jews according to His grace, to fulfill His purposes. God will work by His Spirit to form this remnant. They will be “born again”, and no doubt will begin to understand some of the significance of the scriptures. It is impossible for us to know exactly how much the remnant will understand about the Lord. It would appear from chapters such as Isaiah 53 that the remnant will not grasp the full significance of the cross until the Lord appears. On the other hand, verses like Rev. 13:18 were clearly intended for the remnant to read and understand during the prophetic week. It would seem that there is a gradual progression of understanding with the remnant, culminating in the appearance of their Messiah. We also read of the Mascillim, "they that are wise" (Dan. 12:3), who may be a certain class within the remnant that has a greater understanding, and can teach the remnant. For instance, note the expression in Matt. 24:15; "whoso readeth, let him understand". This indicates that there will be some who read even the gospels and understand to a degree the words of Christ.
Martyred and Preserved. The remnant will be especially targeted by Satan in the Great Tribulation (Rev. 12:17). Many of the remnant will be killed throughout the prophetic week. Nevertheless, those that God has "sealed" will be preserved through the judgment, much like Noah and his family who were preserved from the flood in the ark. Some will be martyred in the first half of the prophetic week, most likely by the great whore of Rev. 17 (see Rev. 6:9-11; 17:6). Some will be martyred in the last half of the week, most likely by Antichrist and his followers (Rev. 14:13; 15:2). Those who are martyred will receive a heavenly portion, and will reign with Christ for 1000 years (Rev. 20:4)! Those who are preserved will enter the kingdom and be consoled and blessed by Christ Himself (Rev. 7:17).
The Two Tribes and the Ten Tribes. It is helpful to see that God will have a remnant from all twelve tribes. We see this in Rev. 7, where there are twelve-thousand "sealed" from every tribe. This means that God will preserve some from each tribe, such that the restored nation of Israel in the Millennium will be a nation of twelve tribes! In fact, Ezekiel 48 describes the division of greater Palestine into parcels of land for all twelve tribes. In the tribulation period, God will have a different program for the remnant of the two tribes (the Jews) versus the ten tribes (Israel). The Jews historically were in the land in the time of Jesus, and they are morally responsible (in a national sense) for crucifying their Messiah. The ten tribes were not in the land at that time, but they are still morally responsible for the same issues that caused them to be carried away in the Assyrian captivity; i.e. idolatry and the sin of Jeroboam. Of the two parts, the Jews are more responsible, and the judgments that fall on the apostate Jews will be the most severe. Much of prophecy has to do with the Jewish remnant, their persecution, and deliverance. But in the end, when Christ returns, the old division between the ten tribes and the two will be healed, and the two remnants will become one nation; "Thus saith the Lord Jehovah: Behold, I will take the children of Israel from among the nations, whither they are gone, and will gather them from every side, and bring them into their own land: and I will make them one nation in the land upon the mountains of Israel; and one king shall be king to them all: and they shall be no more two nations, neither shall they be divided into two kingdoms any more at all" (Ezek 37:16-17; 21-22).
Growing closer. The Lord will use the trials of Daniel's seventieth week - especially the persecution of Antichrist - to bring about a beautiful spirit in the Jewish remnant. The Song of Solomon describes this process in a poetic way, where the Jewish remnant is pictured as the Shulamite bride, drawn closer and deeper in love with Solomon, a type of Christ. The Psalms also describe the progression of growing affection and intelligence that the remnant will experience through those same events.
The Jewish Remnant in Prophecy. What will happen to the Jewish remnant during the Prophetic Week?
- Evangelists to Israel. Some will go out and preach the gospel of the kingdom to the nation of Israel; "Ye shall not have completed the cities of Israel until the Son of man be come" (Matt. 10:23).
- Evangelists to the World. Some will take the gospel of the kingdom to the farthest reaches of the world! "And this gospel of the kingdom shall be preached in all the world for a witness unto all nations" (Mat 24:14).
- Early Martyrs. Some will be martyred by the False Church in the first 3 1/2 years of the tribulation. “Killed for the testimony of Jesus.” Rev. 20:4.
- Sheltered in the Mountains. The majority will flee to the mountains across the Jordan in the middle of the week –at the Lord’s directions: “When ye therefore shall see the abomination of desolation, spoken of by Daniel the prophet, stand in the holy place, (whoso readeth, let him understand:) Then let them which be in Judea flee into the mountains: Let him which is on the housetop not come down to take any thing out of his house, etc.” (Matt. 24:15-17). They will be sheltered by faithful ones from the neighboring countries; e.g. Moab (Isa. 16:3-4).
- Later Martyrs. Many will be martyred by the Antichrist and the apostate Jews in the last 3 1/2 years of the tribulation, for refusing to take the mark of the Beast. They will be hunted like dogs. Family members will betray one another: “Trust ye not in a friend, put ye not confidence in a guide: keep the doors of thy mouth from her that lieth in thy bosom. For the son dishonoreth the father, the daughter riseth up against her mother, the daughter in law against her mother in law; a man's enemies are the men of his own house.” (Micah 7:5-6)
- Two Witnesses. Some will remain in Jerusalem witnessing against Antichrist (the “two witnesses” of Rev. 11:1-14). "And I will give power unto my two witnesses, and they shall prophesy a thousand two hundred and threescore days, clothed in sackcloth" (Rev. 11:3). They will be invincible until their testimony is complete, then they will be killed. Their bodies will lie in the streets of Jerusalem for 3 1/2 days, then they will be raised in the last installment of the first resurrection! These will be the last believers to die… ever! See Rev. 14:14.
- Rescued by the Lord. A final group will remain in the city until the 1290 days. The King of the North will return from Egypt, and the remnant will leave the city going towards the mount of olives. The Lord’s feet will touch down on the mountain. "And his feet shall stand in that day upon the mount of Olives, which is before Jerusalem on the east, and the mount of Olives shall cleave in the midst thereof toward the east and toward the west..." (Zech. 14:4). The mountain will split in two… one half moving North, and the other south. They will run into that valley for safety while the Lord consumes their enemies with fire!
Old Testament Types. There are many Old Testament types of the Jewish remnant.
- Seth. Cain represents the nation of Israel in unbelief, carrying on with sacrifices that were not pleasing to God. When Christ came (Abel) to offer an acceptable sacrifice to God, the Jews slew Him in the field (the world). Since that time the Jews have been dispersed, like Cain, to wander among the nations as fugitives and vagabonds. Like Cain, the Jews have tried to get comfortable down here. Like Cain, God has placed a mark on them so that those who harmed them were revenged seven-fold. Meanwhile the Jews justify their crucifixion of the Messiah like Lamech who said it in self-defense, “I have slain a man”. But God has appointed a remnant of the Jews, pictured by Seth, who will be raised up in the Tribulation period and will begin to “call upon the name of the Lord”. God will take that faithful remnant and restore the Nation of Israel in the Millennium.
- Noah. Noah is a type of the Jewish remnant who will pass through the flood of God’s judgments in the tribulation. This is a contrast to Enoch who was taken out (caught up) before the judgment fell. Enoch is a type of the Church, Noah is a type of the faithful Jews.
- Keturah. In Genesis 22-25 there is a remarkable progression. Sarah's death is a type of Israel set aside (ch.23) which follows after the death of Christ, pictured by Abraham offering Isaac (ch.22). Rebecca is a type of the church as the bride of the risen Christ (ch.24). After this Abraham marries again, and Keturah is a picture of the remnant of Israel restored in a future day, blessed with the Gentiles in the Millennium (ch.25).
- Ruth. Naomi is a type of Israel, having forfeited her right to the inheritance. Faithful Ruth in contrast with Orpah is a type of the Jewish remnant, who comes to trust under the shadow of the wings of the God of Israel. Boaz is a type of Christ, who undertakes to redeem the inheritance of Naomi, and also marries Ruth. This is a type of the earthly bride of Jehovah.
- The Shulamite
- Daniel's friends