Articles ECF Article The Early Church

The Remnant

Scripture is clear that at the end of the age God will work through a remnant. Why does God only use a remnant, and how do you know if you’re part of it?

Large crowds, big-name speakers, popular churches, and the like, tend to be the most referenced and revered in Christian culture today. The majority tends to follow the lead of these organizations, because human nature instinctively believes ‘popular is good’ (1). We have long looked to these popular churches as the standard, in terms of ‘Godliness’. Research has shown that “people appear to be subconsciously swayed by the opinion of others” and that a 5% minority can influence the remaining 95% without them even realizing it. (2) We see this cultural bias in all aspects of life: the school playground, fashion trends, politics, etc, and unfortunately, often we see the same mentality in the Church today. But what does scripture say about the large, popular crowd? Jesus said “Enter by the narrow gate; for wide is the gate and broad is the way that leads to destruction, and there are many who go in by it. Because narrow is the gate and difficult is the way which leads to life, and there are few who find it.” (Matthew 7:13-14) and “If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me” (Matthew 16:24). How many people in the body of Christ are we seeing deny themselves and forsaking all today? Jesus was not looking for a large number of converts, He was seeking disciples; those who were willing to seek and understand the spiritual depth of what He taught, even if that meant departing from all (Luke 14:33). 

We have the Word to guide us as to the way the Lord works, which is evidently always in patterns as it says in Ecclesiastes 1:9 “what has been will be again…. [and] there is nothing new under the sun”.  All throughout scripture we see God use a minority, a remnant, even just one person, to bring His message of the time, and pave the way for change. Noah and seven members of his family were prepared by God and built the ark before the flood; Moses led the Israelites out of slavery in Egypt and received the Torah (law) on Mt Sinai; Joseph was used to save the entire nation of Egypt and surrounding regions from perishing in famine; Gideon’s army was reduced from 32,000 to a mere 300 men who defeated the entire Midianite army; Jesus’ disciples were narrowed down from thousands of followers to only twelve men, and the list goes on. God has never used large numbers to do His Will, He has always used a remnant of obedient men and women, who often felt incapable of the task at hand, however were equipped by the Lord to complete their calling. 

So why a remnant? Why doesn’t God prefer the large, popular crowds? In the Parable of the Wedding Feast (Matthew 22:1-14) the scripture tells us “For many are called, but few are chosen.” (Matthew 22:14). Taking a deeper look into the Greek definitions of this scripture, we discover that ‘many’ is pertaining to the vast majority of people. (3) The word ‘called’ relates to the Greek word ‘ecclesia‘, ‘the whole body of Christians scattered throughout the earth’ (4); meaning the Church. The word ‘few’ means a small number, and the word ‘chosen’ is the Greek word ‘eklektos‘ meaning the ‘elect’ (5). Therefore, the ‘few chosen’, or the remnant, are those chosen from within the Church, and drawn out. We see these same terms ‘many’ and ‘few’ used in Matthew 7:13-14, as previously cited. In another translation, verse 14 reads “narrow is the way which leads to life” (KJV). The word ‘narrow’ in Greek means to ‘suffer tribulation‘. (6) This scripture alone explains why there will only be a remnant come out of the church- because it is a difficult road to walk. The Early Church (first 300 years of the Church) understood that at the end of the age there would be a remnant drawn from the body of Christ. Origen, in his commentary on the Gospel of Matthew, explains that the ‘many’ are those who live contrary to the Word of God:

But when we have understood how each of the sins through which there is a way to Hades is a gate of Hades, we shall apprehend that the soul, which has “spot or wrinkle or any such thing,” (Eph_5:27) and because of wickedness is neither holy nor blameless, is neither a rock upon which Christ builds, nor a church, nor part of a church which Christ builds upon the rock. But if any one wishes to put us to shame in regard to these things because of the great majority of those of the church who are thought to believe, it must be said to him not only “Many are called, but few chosen;” (Mat_22:14) but also that which was said by the Saviour to those who come to Him, as it is recorded in Luke in these words, “Strive to enter in by the narrow door, for many, I say unto you, shall seek to enter in through the narrow door and shall not be able;” (Luk_13:24) and also that which is written in the Gospel of Matthew thus, “For narrow is the gate, and strait is the way that leadeth unto life, and few be they that find it.” (Mat_7:14) Now, if you attend to the saying, “Many, I say unto you, shall seek to enter in and shall not be able,” (Luk_13:24) you will understand that this refers to those who boast that they are of the church, but live weakly and contrary to the word. Of those, then, who seek to enter in, those who are not able to enter will not be able to do so, because the gates of Hades prevail against them; but in the case of those against whom the gates of Hades will not prevail, those seeking to enter in will be strong, being able to do all things, in Christ Jesus, who strengtheneth them. (7)

Origen states that the vast majority (or the ‘many’) are those within the church who are still blemished and defiled. Scripture tells us “But as the days of Noah were, so also will the coming of the Son of Man be.” (Matthew 24:37). Noah and his family remained in the earth, but the wicked were swept away in the flood. This is hugely insightful for us at the end of the age. The story of Noah is a parable revealing that at the second coming, there will be a remnant who remains, as the wicked are removed from the earth; quite contrary to the rapture theology commonly taught today. According to the Early Church, the ‘wicked’ are those within the church who are not living according to God’s Word. Paul writes “that He might sanctify and cleanse her with the washing of water by the word,  that He might present her to Himself a glorious church, not having spot or wrinkle or any such thing, but that she should be holy and without blemish.” (Ephesians 5:26-27). The term ‘without blemish’ translates to ‘faultless and unblameable’ (8), in other words, perfect. We are taught today that we cannot be perfect, however Jesus said to His disciples “Therefore you shall be perfect, just as your father in heaven is perfect.” (Matthew 5:48) and the apostle Paul said, “we speak wisdom among the mature” (1 Corinthians 2:6). The words ‘perfect’ and ‘mature’ are synonymous in Greek (teleios G5046), so the biblical meaning of perfection is to be mature, or fully grown, in our understanding of the Word. (9) The Lord is looking for His righteous remnant, who are cleansed from all iniquity, walking in the perfected understanding of His Word. Irenaeus, disciple of Polycarp (who was a fellow pupil of John the Revelator), said, 

“…the saved man is a complete man as well as a spiritual man; saying thus in the first Epistle to the Thessalonians, “Now the God of peace sanctify you perfect (perfectos); and may your spirit, and soul, and body be preserved whole without complaint to the coming of the Lord Jesus Christ.” (10)

According to the Early Church, the term ‘spiritual’ means to understand the mysteries of scripture. The  Early Church was in alignment with the apostle Paul, who wrote “But we speak the wisdom of God in a mystery, the hidden wisdom which God ordained before the ages for our glory” (1 Corinthians 2:7). Unlike in western culture, where a ‘mystery’ is something unknown, in biblical understanding a mystery is something hidden, needing to be revealed (unveiled) to us through the holy spirit, who teaches the deep (or hidden) things of God (1 Corinthians 2:10).  So, the remnant, without spot or wrinkle, are those who are perfect in their understanding of God’s revealed Word and will be preserved (or remain) at the second coming. John said it is the truth that will set us free (John 8:32), and Jesus said, “I am the way, the truth, and the life” (John 14:6). John wasn’t saying simply knowing the name of Jesus and what He did for us on the cross would set us free, rather he was stating that it’s the revelation of who Jesus is in His Word, manifesting through us, that sets us free. 

However, this truth is not for all. Paul writes in 2 Thessalonians that before the second coming of our Lord there will be a ‘falling away’, and explains that the ‘fallen’ are those who have not received a love for the truth (2 Thessalonians 2:1-12). Clement said,

“But from the fact that truth appertains not to all, it is veiled in manifold ways, causing the light to arise only on those who are initiated into knowledge, who seek the truth through love.” (11).

Therefore, as scripture and the Early Church have established, those who “refused the love of the truth that would have saved them” (2 Thessalonians 2:10) are the ‘many’ who are within the church, unwilling to enter through the narrow gate (suffer tribulation) and endure until the end (Matthew 24:13). 

The Lord has always been searching for a people who are willing to pick up their cross and follow Him (Matthew 16:24); His chosen, holy people (1 Peter 2:9). In the Book of Revelation, John the Revelator writes ‘And I heard another voice from heaven saying, “Come out of her, my people, lest you share in her sins, and lest you receive of her plagues.”’ (Revelation 18:4). God is calling His chosen people, His remnant, out of the lukewarm church, into the fullness of His revelation, to be a part of His glorious coming. 

Let us press on for holiness and righteousness, to become the unblemished Bride of Christ. 


  1. Henderson, Rob, PhD. “The Science Behind Why People Follow the Crowd.” Psychology Today, n.d.
  2. Nauert, Rick, PhD. “Herd Mentality Explained.” Psych Central, 2008. 
  3. Thayer’s bible dictionary: ‘many’ (G4183)
  4. Thayer’s bible dictionary: ‘called’ (G1577)
  5. Strong’s bible dictionary: ‘chosen’ (G1588)
  6. Strongs bible dictionary: ‘narrow’ (G2346)
  7. Origen- Commentary on the Gospel of Matthew Bk XII, Ch. 12
  8. Strongs bible dictionary: ‘without blemish’ (G299)
  9. Thayer’s bible dictionary: ‘perfect’ (G5046)
  10. Irenaeus- Against Heresies Bk V, Ch. VI
  11. Clement- The Stromata Bk VI, Ch. XV
  12. Scripture references from NKJV, unless states otherwise