One of the oft debated questions about the remnant of Israel described in God’s word is how many it will include. Much of the conjecture revolves around the 144,000 in Revelation1. However, when that verse is added to few others, the answer to how many are in God’s remnant is quite clear…

How Scripture answers "How many are in God’s remnant?"

God’s remnant isn’t a literal 144,0001 or 7,0003, nor is it a third2 or even a tenth4 of the whole. With all of these passages together and the accompanying New Testament writers’ inspired applications2,3,4, we can know that all of these numeric representations of God’s remnant are figurative.

These metaphorical representations demonstrate the sureness of God’s promise to redeem (seal) all that are His1,3. They also demonstrate the relative few2,4 that will find entrance into the kingdom, which is just as Jesus taught when concluding His sermon on the mount5

Answer built on scripture-blocks below

Do not harm the earth or the sea or the trees, until we have sealed the servants of our God on their foreheads. And I heard the number of the sealed, 144,000, sealed from every tribe of the sons of Israel:
Don’t harm the earth, sea or trees until we ave sealed the servants of God on their foreheads. And I heard the 144,000 that were sealed from every tribe of Israel.
In this portion of John’s vision, he sees God instructing (vs 3) four angels that had been given power to harm the earth.  They are made up of equal numbers (12,000) from each of the twelve tribes of Israel (vss 5-8) and appear to be the same “great multitude that no one could number, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed in white robes, with palm branches in their hands, and crying out with a loud voice, Salvation belongs to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb!” (vss 9-10).  John sees the same 144,000 later on, “Then I looked, and behold, on Mount Zion stood the Lamb, and with him 144,000 who had his name and his Father’s name written on their foreheads. And I heard a voice from heaven like the roar of many waters and like the sound of loud thunder. The voice I heard was like the sound of harpists playing on their harps, and they were singing a new song before the throne and before the four living creatures and before the elders. No one could learn that song except the 144,000 who had been redeemed from the earth” (14:1-3).
Scripture-block application to this question

A sealed are numbered but also shown as a “great multitude” from “every nation” and “from all tribes and peoples.” Furthermore, the broader context describes the same 144,000 as the “redeemed from the earth.”

!! scripture-block context extra important here !!

Awake, O sword, against my shepherd, against the man who stands next to me, declares the Lord of hosts. Strike the shepherd, and the sheep will be scattered; I will turn my hand against the little ones. In the whole land, declares the Lord, two thirds shall be cut off and perish, and one third shall be left alive. And I will put this third into the fire, and refine them as one refines silver, and test them as gold is tested. They will call upon my name, and I will answer them. I will say, They are my people; and they will say, The Lord is my God.

God declares for the sword to strike my shepherd – the man standing next to me – and His sheep will be scattered, and I, God, will be against the little ones. In the whole land, two thirds shall be cut off and perish, while a third will be left alive.  I will put the third into the fire and refine them as one refines silver and test them as gold is tested.  They will call upon my name and I will answer them.  I will be their God, and they will be My people.

This is in the midst of a long series of “on that day” prophecies (chapters 8-14). This section contains several New Testament, inspired-writer-confirmed Messianic passages including 11:13 (“thirty pieces of silver”), 12:10 (“him whom they have pierced”), and 13:7 (“Strike the shepherd, and the sheep will be scattered”).

Additionally, when we collect the descriptors and characteristics of these successive “that day” references, we see what appear to be additional metaphorical descriptions of both the New Covenant period (beginning on the day of Pentecost) and of final judgment day:

  • God “will not deal with the remnant of this people as in the former days” (8:11) – new covenant
  • a “sowing of peace” (8:12) – new covenant
  • “many peoples and strong nations…seek the Lord” (8:22) – Gentiles added
  • king coming with “salvation…humble and mounted on a donkey” (9:9) – Jesus
  • God will “save them, as the flock of his people” (9:16) – Jesus
  • “From him shall come the cornerstone” (10:10) – Jesus
  • God “became the shepherd of the flock doomed” (11:4) – Jesus
  • annul the covenant with wages of “thirty pieces of silver” (11:13) – Jesus
  • “every prophet will be ashamed of his vision when he prophesies” (12:4) – prophecy ceases
  • “feeblest…shall be like David, and the house of David shall be like God” (12:8) – joint heirs with Jesus
  • pour out a “spirit of grace” (12:10)
  • mourning when “they look on me, on him whom they have pierced” (12:10) – Jesus
  • a fountain opened “to cleanse them from sin” (13:1) – redemption
  • “They will call upon my name, and I will answer them.” (13:9) – Joel 2/Acts 2
  • Lord “king over all the earth” (14:9) – Jesus risen, at right hand of God
  • Not just the High Priest, but even the horses (unclean animals) have “Holy to the Lord.” inscribed on them. (14:20)
Scripture-block application to this question

Not a specific number, but an accounting in relative terms. One-third are left alive [saved] and a very strong correlation to New Testament church times given the surrounding verbiage (e.g. “strike the shepherd [Jesus] and “call upon my name“).

!! scripture-block context extra important here !!

We would not force its application here given the limits we have with interpreting prophetic writings, but it would appear to apply since it is within this section of Zechariah of repeated “on that day” statements listed in the scripture-block context.

Yet I will leave seven thousand in Israel, all the knees that have not bowed to Baal, and every mouth that has not kissed him.
I will leave 7,000 in Israel – all those that have not bowed to Baal and worshipped him.
Elijah the prophet is being pursued by Queen Jezebel after God, through Elijah, defeated all the prophets of Baal (supported by Jezebel) at Mount Carmel.  Elijah is “afraid” and “ran for his life” (vs 3) and is complaining to God as he feels that “I, even only I, am left” (vs 10) among those that have not forsaken God.

Scripture-block application to this question

Thanks again to an inspired writers interpretation and application of this (Romans 11:4-5), we can be certain that God here is referring to the remnant of believers under the New Covenant.

And though a tenth remain in it, it will be burned again, like a terebinth or an oak, whose stump remains when it is felled. The holy seed is its stump.

Even though a tenth remain, it will be burned again like a tree whose stump remains when it is felled.  The holy seed is its stump.

The final words from God to Isaiah in His commission as a prophet.  Isaiah is taken in a vision into the “council of God.” While these are the final words spoken, God’s statement at the beginning of His commission (vss 9-10) are interpreted by inspired writers to have been fulfilled during the time of Christ (Matthew 13:14-15, Acts 28:26-27, John 12:40).

Scripture-block application to this question

Thanks to inspired writers interpreting other portions of God’s statement, we can be fairly certain that this portion also refers to the first century Christians (the redeemed, the church universal) as the stump (the “holy seed”). It’s another relative enumeration (1/10) of the remnant.

!! scripture-block context extra important here !!

Enter by the narrow gate. For the gate is wide and the way is easy that leads to destruction, and those who enter by it are many. For the gate is narrow and the way is hard that leads to life, and those who find it are few.
Entrance is through the narrow gate versus the wide gate. The narrow gate is hard which few find, but it leads to life. Unlike the wide gate, which is easy and leads many to destruction.
Jesus’ conclusion of his sermon on the mount (chapters 5-7). He goes on to give the illustration of the wise man – the one that does the things he hears from Jesus – versus the foolish man – the one that hears but does nothing.
Scripture-block application to this question

Jesus illustrates entrance into the kingdom as a “narrow gate” that “few” will find (vs. the “many”).

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Dr. Bernard A Jones

A Remnant is a small group of Saints that are faithful to God though the main body of believers are fallen away from God.