The Remnant Will Return
Issue No. 325
One of the notable themes in the book of Isaiah is his prophecy about the remnant returning. Isaiah 10:20-23 says,
20 Now it will come about in that day that the remnant of Israel, and those of the house of Jacob who have escaped, will never again rely on the one who struck them, but will rely on the Lord, the Holy One of Israel. 21 A remnant will return, the remnant of Jacob, to the mighty God. 22 For though your people, O Israel, may be like the sand of the sea, only a remnant within them will return; a destruction is determined, overflowing with righteousness. 23 For a complete destruction, one that is decreed, the Lord God of hosts will execute in the midst of the whole land.
Isaiah lived to see the captivity of the house of Israel, when the Assyrians destroyed Samaria and carried the ten tribes into exile up near the Caspian Sea. This was the most important historical event in his time, and so the prophecy of the remnant gave hope to Israel. It spoke of a future time when the return of Israel would occur, and the prophet tells us specifically that only a remnant would return.
Only the Remnant is Chosen
Isaiah tells us that the nation will be destroyed with “complete destruction, one that is decreed.” Yet he reminds us that the promise of God that Israel would “be like the sand of the sea” will not fail (Gen. 32:12). In other words, though Israel’s identity as a nation will be completely destroyed, the people themselves will continue to exist and be like the sand of the sea.
In spite of the large population of those Israelites, “only a remnant within them will return.” The remnant is a tiny minority of them, Isaiah says. These are the ones who will receive the promise of God. The Apostle Paul understood this when he wrote in Rom. 11:5-7,
5 In the same way then, there has also come to be at the present time a remnant according to God’s gracious choice… 7 What then? That which Israel is seeking for, it has not obtained, but those who were chosen obtained it, and the rest were hardened [or blinded].
Paul reminded his readers that during the days of Elijah only 7,000 constituted the remnant out of many millions of Israelites. He refers to this remnant as those who were “chosen” (i.e., the elect). Conversely, the rest of the Israelites were not “chosen” but rather blinded.
In other words, there is no justification to say that all Israelites are chosen. Neither are all Israelites part of the remnant. Only the remnant is chosen according to God’s election. An unbelieving Israelite has no right to call himself one of God’s chosen people. His genealogy has nothing to do with it. His faith is the evidence that he is chosen.
Christian Zionism today is based on the faulty belief that Jews who have no faith in Jesus Christ are yet “God’s chosen people.” Some contend that as long as they have faith in God, it is sufficient, even if they reject Jesus Christ. Nothing can be farther from the truth, for Jesus is the God of the Old Testament. Furthermore, 1 John 2:23 tells us,
23 Whoever denies the Son does not have the Father; the one who confesses the Son has the Father also.
No Jew who denies Jesus as the Christ “has the Father.” This was not written by an anti-Semite. It was written by the apostle John by inspiration of the Holy Spirit. The idea that Jews can be saved apart from faith in Jesus Christ is one of the more recent heresies being popularized by some popular Christian Zionists.
Isaiah’s Two Sons
Isaiah had children whose names prophesied of things to come. In Isaiah 8:18 the prophet says,
18 Behold, I and the children whom the Lord has given me are for signs and wonders in Israel from the Lord of hosts, who dwells on Mount Zion.
The prophet had two sons that are mentioned. The first (Isaiah 7:3) was Shear-jashub, “the remnant will return,” and a second son (8:3) was named Maher-shalal-hash-baz, “swift is the booty, speedy is the prey.”
The second son prophesied of Israel’s captivity and exile to the land of Assyria. The first son prophesied of the remnant that was to return.
Many years ago, when our first son was born, I suggested that we name him Maher-shalal-hash-baz, but I immediately lost all naming rights. Too bad. His name would have been outstanding on a business card today. No one would be able to pronounce his name, but everyone would remember him.
As I wrote earlier, Isaiah lived during the time that the House of Israel went into captivity. These were not Jews, but Israelites, who became known later as “the ten lost tribes.” They held the birthright, which had been given to Joseph (1 Chron. 5:1, 2) and to his son, Ephraim, along with the name Israel (Gen. 48:16).
The birthright was the fruitfulness mandate, and so Ephraim, whose name means “double fruitfulness,” was given the promise of having an abundance of children “as the sand of the sea.”
This promise will be fulfilled in the end when all men are saved according to the promise of God (1 Tim. 2:4). However, in the short term, only a remnant will be saved during their life time on earth. The rest will have to await the Great White Throne, where every knee will bow and every tongue will confess Jesus Christ as Lord (Isaiah 45:23-25; Phil. 2:10, 11).
Isaiah’s son, Maher, prophesied of Israel’s captivity as the Assyrians took the Israelites as a prey, i.e., “spoils of war.” The nation was destroyed politically. Spiritually speaking, the nation was divorced from God (Jer. 3:8; Isaiah 50:1; Hosea 2:2) and sent out of the house (i.e., “put away”).
Syria and Assyria
The captivity of Israel was foreshadowed by Jacob’s bondage when he left Canaan to escape from the wrath of his brother Esau. He went to work for Laban the Syrian (Gen. 25:20) and found himself in bondage. Jacob went to Syria, but twenty years later he returned as Israel. His name was changed to Israel just before arriving in Canaan.
This time in Jacob’s life set a prophetic pattern that his descendants would follow many centuries later as a nation. But by that time, Syria had been swallowed up by a greater entity known as Assyria.
Isaiah looks back at Jacob-Israel’s bondage and relates it to the captivity of Jacob and the returning remnant of Israel. Jacob was a carnal believer during his captivity, but after wrestling with the angel, the revelation of the sovereignty of God changed his entire outlook in life and brought him true faith.
While he was Jacob, he tried to use his flesh to help God fulfill His prophecies. He lied to get the blessing from his father, on the grounds that the word of the Lord had said, “the older shall serve the younger” (Gen. 25:23). He did not have faith to believe that God could fulfill His word by His own power and in His own way.
But after Jacob’s wrestling match, he came to see that while he thought he was fighting Esau, he was really fighting God Himself. That revelation brought him into a whole new level of faith, which resulted in his name change from Jacob, “the deceiver,” to Israel, “God rules.”
This is where Jacob became an overcomer. Israel was his overcomer name. When he then set foot back in the land of Canaan, he did so as an Israelite, not as a Jacobite. This pattern was then to be repeated on a large scale in the nation of Israel. As carnal people known as Israelites, they were really just Jacobites when they were taken to Assyria. And the only way to “return” is to become an Israelite, because only the remnant will return in the prophetic sense.
Isaiah then prophesies that the remnant comes not only from Israel but also from Judah. Hence, there are two sides to the remnant prophecy, as we will see shortly.
The Third Son
In order to be “chosen,” one must have faith in Jesus Christ. So it is not surprising that Isaiah would receive revelation about the Messiah as well. In fact, the prophecy of Immanuel being born of a virgin in Isaiah 7:14 introduces a third Son through which all the prophecies might be fulfilled.
14 therefore the Lord Himself will give you a sign: Behold, a virgin [almah] will be with child and bear a son, and she will call His name Immanuel.
What son is this? The sign was given to King Ahaz, whose wife was Hephzibah. She was the mother of Hezekiah (2 Kings 21:1), whose birth Isaiah prophesied. Hezekiah was thus a type of Christ, i.e., “Immanuel.”
Hezekiah was the sign given to Ahaz, and for this reason the Hebrew text says he would be born of almah, a general word meaning either a virgin or a young woman. The word was broad enough to prophesy of both Hezekiah and Jesus. Hezekiah was born of a young woman, but Jesus was born of a virgin. Hezekiah, the type of Christ, eventually gave way to the antitype, Jesus, born of a virgin.
Hezekiah Begets a Remnant from Judah
Hezekiah grew up to become king of Judah after his father died. He came to the throne at the age of 25 and reigned 29 years in Jerusalem. During his fourth year as king in Judah, the Assyrians laid siege to Samaria, the capital of Israel, and captured it in his sixth year (2 Kings 18:9, 10).
Then in Hezekiah’s 14th year, the Assyrians came to lay siege to Jerusalem, trying to capture Judah as well (2 Kings 18:13). This was the occasion of another “remnant” prophecy, for Hezekiah sent word to Isaiah saying in 2 Kings 19:3,
3 And they said to him, “Thus says Hezekiah, ‘This is a day of distress, rebuke, and rejection; for children have come to birth, and there is no strength to deliver’.”
This was an appeal for divine intervention that was based on the meaning of Hezekiah’s name, “strength of Yah.” Hezekiah had no children at the time, and with the city surrounded by a huge Assyrian army, it looked as if the line of David would perish.
Hezekiah confessed his own weakness, being yet unable to beget a son who would continue the line to the Messiah. Isaiah then gave him a messianic promise. The story is told in both Isaiah 19 and in Isaiah 37. Isaiah 37:30-32 says,
30 Then this shall be the sign for you; you shall eat this year what grows of itself, in the second year what springs from the same, and in the third year sow, reap, plant vineyards, and eat their fruit. 31 And the surviving remnant of the house of Judah shall again take root downward and shall bear fruit upward. 32 For out of Jerusalem shall go forth a remnant, and out of Mount Zion survivors. The zeal of the Lord of hosts shall perform this.
This “remnant” does not come from Israel but from Judah and Jerusalem. In that sense, it is the other side of the coin. That son was Manasseh, who was of Judah but named for the son of Joseph. In that way he is not only a picture of the remnant, but he is also the repairer of the breach between Joseph (or Israel) and Judah.
In the prophecy, Hezekiah represents “Immanuel,” or Jesus Christ. He, in turn, prays for the strength to bring forth the remnant, and his prayer is answered when Manasseh is born three years after Isaiah gave this promise to Hezekiah. The prophecy calls him “the surviving remnant of the house of Judah.” This prophecy found its real fulfillment through Jesus Christ, the One born of the Virgin Mary. Jesus was the “Immanuel,” but His spiritual children (“seed”) are pictured by Manasseh and are “the remnant of Judah.”
The Offspring of Christ
Isaiah 53 is the great chapter of the Suffering Messiah. On account of His suffering, Isaiah says “He will see His offspring” (53:10). Jesus was not married, and He had no physical children. So what offspring are these that He was to see? The New Testament reveals that His children are the Sons of God.
In other words, to be part of the remnant of Judah, one has to be begotten by the Spirit and ultimately to be born from above. John 1:12, 13 speaks of this:
12 But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right [exousia, “authority”] to become children of God, even to those who believe in His name, 13 who were born [begotten] not of blood(line), nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God.
In other words, those who believe in Christ are begotten of God, not by physical impregnation of a particular bloodline, nor by the will of the flesh, but by God. They experience, as it were, a begetting within their hearts by a spiritual process. It is based on the pattern by which Jesus Himself was begotten by the Spirit so that He could be born of a virgin nine months later.
Paul understood this principle well, for every time he preached the word, he was sending forth the “seed” which might impregnate others by the Holy Spirit. 1 Cor. 4:15 says (NASB), “for in Christ Jesus I became your father through the gospel.”
A more literal rendering is found in The Emphatic Diaglott, which says, “for in Christ I begot you through the Glad Tidings.”
To beget is to impregnate. This is the role of a man. The role of a woman is to give birth. The Greek word gennao can be translated either way, depending on the context. Dr. Bullinger tells us in his notes on Matt. 1:2,
When used of the father = to beget or engender; and when used of the mother, it means to bring forth into the world.
Peter, too, understood this principle. 1 Peter 1:23-25 says,
23 for you have been born again [begotten from above] not of seed which is perishable but imperishable, that is, through the living and abiding word of God. 24 For, “all flesh is like grass, and all its glory like the flower of grass. The grass withers, and the flower falls off, 25 but the word of the Lord abides forever.” And this is the word which was preached to you.
The NASB translators, like so many, do not understand the idea of Sonship, nor did they really comprehend the difference between begetting and birthing. Thus, they give us the impression that we are already “born again,” when in fact, the seed of the word has only begotten us from above. We are not born again until the manifestation of the Sons of God, when we are changed fully into the image of Christ.
Peter was clearly talking about spiritual impregnation by the seed of the word, which we (like prospective mothers) receive by faith into our spiritual womb. This imperishable seed, being immortal and incorruptible, begets Christ in you, the hope of glory (Col. 1:27).
When the appointed time comes to be birthed, that holy seed within believers has reached the level of maturity necessary for a full birth, and then these Sons of God are manifested for all to see.
When we experience Passover, we are begotten by the Spirit. Pentecost is our growth period prior to birth. The feast of Tabernacles is the time for Christ in you to be brought to full birth. The eighth day of Tabernacles is the time when this new “baby” is presented to the Father. Then the “remnant” Sons of God are manifested to the people, and their work begins of bringing all things under the feet of Christ.
Judah and Joseph: The Two-Step Program
Judah and Joseph (Israel) had two distinct callings, but they are also closely related to each other. Judah had a claim to the throne, but Israel had a claim on the Birthright (1 Chron. 5:1, 2). Judah received the Dominion Mandate (Gen. 1:26), while Joseph received the Fruitfulness Mandate (Gen. 1:28).
Together, these represent the King and the Kingdom, and also male and female. The King begets, while His bride (Israel) gives birth.
These callings are seen in the two comings of Christ, where He came of Judah the first time to claim His throne rights and the Dominion Mandate, but He must come of Joseph the second time to claim His birthright and the Fruitfulness Mandate (or the remnant Sons of God).
Another way of viewing this is to see that through Christ’s role as King of Judah, He has begotten the remnant, but at His second coming, Christ’s role as Joseph will bring the remnant to full birth as manifested Sons of God.
When we see how Judah and Joseph each have distinct roles and callings, we can understand how these callings relate to each other. Judah begets the Christ embryo in us through faith in the blood of the Lamb (Passover). The seed is the gospel which begets Christ in us by faith. Then this embryo grows to some level of spiritual maturity as we are led by the Spirit (Pentecost). Finally, the baby is born through the manifestation of the Sons of God (Tabernacles).
How does one become part of this remnant? Does a person have to achieve some level of sainthood, or holiness? Is there a sin that disqualifies a person from ever being a part of the remnant?
Here is where we must turn to the Scriptural pattern to see the answer. Recall that Hezekiah was a type of Christ, the “Immanuel” that was to be born of almah. Hezekiah was a godly king, and Isaiah prophesied that he would bring forth “the remnant of Judah.” This turned out to be Manasseh, the most wicked king in all of Israel! The record of his sin is found in 2 Kings 21 and in 2 Chron. 33.
God then judged him by raising up the Assyrian king, who captured Manasseh and brought him in chains to a prison in Babylon (2 Chron. 33:11). The next verses say, however,
12 And when he was in distress, he entreated the Lord his God and humbled himself greatly before the God of his fathers. 13 When he prayed to Him, He was moved by his entreaty and hears his suppli-cation, and brought him again to Jerusalem to his kingdom. Then Manasseh knew that the Lord was God.
We learn from this that the remnant is not perfect, but they do repent when God judges them. God used Manasseh as an example of the remnant to show us that even the worst of sinners can become part of the remnant through repentance.
The Preserving Remnant
Isaiah also shows that the remnant is the reason that Israel was not destroyed. Even when Israel became like Sodom and Gomorrah (Isaiah 1:9), the remnant preserved the nation. The story of Lot shows that the angel could not destroy the city until Lot first left the city (Gen. 19:22).
So also is it today. America now qualifies as Sodom. So says the Supreme Court. It is now only the presence of the remnant that prevents total destruction. The coming fire will not destroy us, but pour out the Holy Spirit’s baptism of fire, which will purge the nation of its iniquity (Isaiah 1:25, 26).