One of the oft debated questions about the remnant of Israel described in God’s word is how many it will include. There are different ideas, but one of the most prominent beliefs about the number in God’s remnant comes from Revelation. That’s the first passage1 we will look at but there are others.

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’ applications2,3,4, we can know that all of these numeric representations of God’s remnant are figurative. They show us on one hand the sureness of God’s promise to redeem (seal) all that are His1,3 and, on the other, the relative few2,4 that will be sealed as Jesus taught in concluding His sermon on the mount (Matthew 7:13-14).

the answer above is based on and footnoted with the following Scripture Blocks
1
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 (

Revelation 14:1-3
).

How does it inform?

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.”

!! study note: context is extra important here !!

Does it apply? Yes

2
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 (broader context) that spans from chapter 8 through 14.  This particular “on that day” grouping starts in vs 4 and continues through our focus vss 7-9.

When we collect the descriptors and characteristics of these successive “that day” references across the entire context in Zechariah, we see what appears to be metaphorical descriptions consistent with other “last days” statements and the time of the first century Christian church.  Consider some of these:

  • 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
  • “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
  • “every prophet will be ashamed of his vision when he prophesies” (12:4) – prophecy ceases
  • Lord “king over all the earth” (14:9) – Jesus risen, at right hand of God
How does it inform?

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“).

!! study note: context is extra important here !!

Does it apply? Probably

3
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.

How does it inform?

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.

Does it apply? Yes

4
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).

How does it inform?

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.

!! study note: context is extra important here !!

Does it apply? Probably

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