By Charles H. Welch
The Hebrew and Greek words which are translated ‘remnant’ that have a bearing upon Dispensational Truth, are the Hebrew words shear and its derivatives, and sarid, and the Greek leipo and its derivatives. These words are translated ‘left’, and the primary idea is a residue, the portion left after trial or sifting. The two words shear and sarid differ in that the former looks at the ‘remnant’ as a company that ensures or pledges ultimate establishment whereas sarid looks at the same company as one which has wondrously escaped destruction. The purpose and place of a ‘remnant’ may be gathered from the way in which it is spoken of by the prophet Isaiah. In the first chapter, Israel are spoken of as a sinful nation, so corrupt that no treatment seems of any avail, and in verse 9 the prophet says:
The word here is the Hebrew sarid, derived according to Gesenius from a word that means to flee, or escape, and is found in Joshua 10:20. It is this same word that we find in Joel 2:32, a passage that was partly fulfilled at Pentecost, and quoted by Peter in Acts 2. This association of the remnant with Pentecost illuminates the basic intention of the Prophets -- for Pentecost was a ‘first-fruits’ harvest, an early anticipation of the greater ingathering at the end of the age. This anticipatory character of the remnant is found in Romans 9 to 11, to which we will turn presently. The other word shear is found both as a verb and a noun in Isaiah, ‘He that is left in Zion’ (Isa. 4:3), being its first occurrence. The prophet not only saw visions, but his children bore prophetic names. One, ‘shear-jashub’ (Isa. 7:3) means ‘The remnant shall return’, a sign and a promise that will be as surely fulfilled as was the greater sign and greater prophecy of the same chapter, namely, that of ‘Immanuel’ (Isa. 7:14).
The subject matter of Isaiah 7 to 12 falls into three sections:
For our present purpose, we must pass by a great deal of detail, but we believe the accompanying structures will be of service in drawing attention to the outstanding features of each section.
In the first of these sections (Isa. 7:1 to 9:7) we are struck by the recurrence of the children who are said to be given for ‘signs’, and with the importance of the typical meaning of their names.
In addition we have the words of the prophet concerning himself and his children:
And then finally, in chapter 9, we have the glorious prophecy that sums up all these signs:
Intertwined with these wonderful signs, we have references to the
political atmosphere of the times, driving the people, because of unbelief, into confederacies, and so bringing upon them the invasion of the Assyrian,
which occupies the centre of the book (Isa. 36 to 39).
Shear-Jashub, the name of the child, is actually translated ‘the remnant shall return’ in Isaiah 10:21:
This remnant find their goal in the future millennial kingdom:
Turning now to the New Testament, leipo means primarily ‘to lack’, and in its occurrences in the New Testament it is translated ‘lack’, ‘want’, and ‘be destitute’. Loipos which is translated ‘remnant’ four times (Matt. 22:6; Rev. 11:13; 12:17 and 19:21) has no bearing on the subject before us, the word meaning simply ‘the rest’ as in Matthew 22:6, ‘the remnant took his servants’.
Leimma is found in Romans 11:5, ‘There is a remnant according to the election of grace’. Kataleimma is found in Romans 9:27 ‘A remnant shall be saved’, and kataloipos in Acts 15:17, ‘The residue of men’. The two passages of the New Testament that refer to the remnant of Israel are Acts 2 and Romans 9 to 11. The reader may look for the word ‘remnant’ in Acts 2, and not finding it may think this reference an error. It will be observed that Peter quotes Joel 2:28-32 down to the words ‘whosoever shall call on the name of the Lord shall be saved’; the second half of the verse however is not quoted, which reads:
Peter seems to have reserved any reference to this remnant until he saw some sign of repentance, and then he said:
We have exhibited the structure of Acts 2 in the article entitled
PENTECOST and shown that what happened on that day was a foreshadowing, a
pledge of a future and greater ingathering. Something of this same teaching
will be found in the dispensational section of Romans, namely Romans 9 to 11.
The structure which is given in fuller detail in the article on Romans (p.
126), has the two references to the remnant in correspondence as follows:
Paul quotes from the prophet Isaiah (Isa. 1:9 and 10:22,23); in his application of the truth in Romans 9:27-29. In Romans 11:5 he says ‘Even so then at this present time also there is a remnant according to the election of grace’, and in verse 7 he contrasts ‘the election’ with the ‘rest’ who were blinded. It appears from the argument of 1 Kings 19, and the apostle’s deduction, that God has never left Himself without a ‘remnant’. Elijah felt that he was left alone, but it was revealed to him, that God had reserved unto Himself seven thousand men who had not bowed a knee to the image of Baal. At the time of the Flood, when all that lived had been destroyed, we read ‘And Noah only remained alive, and they that were with him in the ark’ (Gen. 7:23). The word ‘remained’ is shaar, the word that gives us ‘remnant’. At the time of the captivity, Ezra could pray ‘For we remain yet escaped, as it is this day’ (Ezra 9:15), and Nehemiah inquired concerning the Jews that had escaped, and ‘the remnant that are left’ (Neh. 1:2,3). Yet by means of the feeble few, the continuity of the purpose was preserved. In the days of Athaliah, the faithfulness of the Lord to His word hung on a slender thread, the life of the babe, rescued by Jehosheba, and hidden for six years (2 Kings 11:1-3). Six, the number of man, marks the hidden waiting period, the period of the remnant; seven, the number of the Lord, indicates the day of triumph and manifestation (verse 4).
When we turn from the Scriptures to church history, we leave the solid ground of inspired truth for the shifting sands of human speculation -- yet from time to time evidence comes to hand that in the darkened periods of the church’s history, a little remnant has held the truth and stood firm. So may it be until the day dawn, and may the things written in this Analysis be blessed to enlighten and encourage those who stand fast in the days of evil that are fast gathering around us, a remnant indeed according to the election of grace.