III: The End-Time Remnant
At the beginning each Kingdom dispensation the remnant-branch principle operates at a grand scale. For example, when God inaugurated the Dispensation of the Law, we saw how the remnant-branch principle operated in the life of Moses. We noted how God made a new branch out of the shepherd Moses to anoint and commission him to liberate the people and usher in the covenant of the Law. Similarly, at the beginning of the Church Dispensation we noted how God used the death-resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ to liberate mankind from the power of sin and to usher in the age of Grace. Reflecting the remnant principle, we have seen why Jesus is called the root (i.e. stump) and branch of David (Rom. 15:12; Rev. 22:16) in His role as the mediator of the New Covenant between man and God (Heb. 7: 22).
In all this discussion, however, the matter of interest is to answer the following question: If each Kingdom dispensation is ushered in by the remnant-branch principle, then is it true that a similar process usher in, at the end of the ages, the fullness of the Kingdom of God? The answer to this important question lies through careful investigation of the Scripture. However, it is also equally important to listen to the voice of revelation as being given by the Holy Spirit in our day as the Holy Spirit reveals the Scriptures through the prophetic ministry operating in the Church (1 Cor. 2:10; 1 Pet. 1:10-12; Rev. 2:7, 11, 17, 28, 3:6, 13, 22).
3.2 The Branch Idea
In both the Old and New Testament there is ample evidence that the reign of Christ and the saints in the Millennial Kingdom of God that the remnant-branch principle will be in full play. For example, St. Paul quotes the prophet Isaiah (Is. 11: 1-10) to associate the future kingship of Jesus Christ with the remnant-branch concept,
“There shall be a root of Jesse, and he that shall rise to reign over the gentiles. In him the gentiles trust” (Rom.15: 12).
Jeremiah on his part uses the same remnant-branch metaphor to describe the future king,
“Behold, the days come, says the Lord, that I will raise unto David a righteous Branch, and a king shall reign and prosper, and shall execute judgment and justice in the earth” (Jer. 23:5).
Jesus in the Book of Revelation declares Himself as the promised Root and Branch of David, thereby identifying Himself as the promised Messianic King (Rev.22: 16, 5:5).
3.3 The Overcomer Idea
As we read in the Book of Revelation, Jesus has promised to share His glory and power with the overcomer (see Revelation chapters 2 & 3). In one of such promises, Jesus said,
“He who overcomes and keeps My works until the end - as I also have received from my father, to him I will give power over the nations. He shall rule them with a rod of iron; as the potters’ vessels they shall be broken to pieces. I will give him the morning star” (Rev. 3: 27-28).
Promises made to the overcomer in the 2nd and 3rd chapters the book of Revelation alludes to the major Messianic prophecies of Daniel (Dan. 7:13), David (Ps. 89, 110), and Isaiah (Isa. 9 & 11). The implication of Jesus’ words in these promises to the overcomer, is therefore, that those who endure the end-time tribulation to end will get a glory and authority like the one the Lord Himself had obtained after His victory over the cross and death (Rev. 3:21, Eph. 1: 20-22).
The idea of the believer being conformed to the suffering and glory of Jesus is not new to Scripture, rather it is found in several places in the Scriptures (Rom. 8: 18--30; Phil. 3: 10-11, 21; Col. 3: 3-4; 2 Thes. 2: 14; 2 Tim. 2: 11-13; 1 Pet. 4: 12-14; 1 Jn. 3:2). For example, St. Paul writes (Rom. 8:29-30) that the goal of God’s plan is to conform the believer to the image of Christ.
“For those whom He foreknew, He also predestined to become conformed to the image of His Son, so that He would be the firstborn among many brethren; and these whom He predestined, He also called; and these whom He called, He also justified; and these whom He justified, He also glorified.”
As the above passage shows, the justification (i.e. sanctification) process implies a pruning and purging process. It is through the crucible of suffering that the dross of the carnal nature is consumed, and the image of Christ formed in the saint. The aim of the end-time tribulation is to prepare the saint to the glory to come. In short, the path to the Kingdom throne passes through the passion of the cross. When St. Paul expresses desire in participating in the passion of Christ and in attaining to the resurrection of the dead (Phil. 3:10-11), he is more than likely referring to a ‘remnant-branch’ or ‘death-to-glory’ experience, which is the ultimate goal of the call of a Christian (Col. 3: 3-4; 2 Tim. 2: 11-13; Rev. 3:21, 11: 1-19).
3.4 The Process and the Branch
As Scripture teaches, as we enter the end-time, we shall encounter the great tribulation, which among many other things, the Lord will use it shape and mold His people into His own image. First by allowing them to pass through a fiery trail, He will make sure that they are purged of carnality. Afterwards, by restoring and glorifying them, He allows them to obtain His holiness and righteousness, which are His Divine essence. As the saints endure the deep work of the cross through the tribulation, they mature and grow into the full stature of the image of Jesus Christ.
The end-time suffering and glory of the saints can be then be understood in terms of the remnant-branch principle. The end-time suffering-persecution can be compared to the state of a tree stump, what the saints look like as they pass a fiery pruning process. The glory that follows their tribulation, on the other hand, can be compared to new branch emerging from a lowly stump. The idea that God will lift the humble to the throne is found in several places in the Scriptures. When Scripture says the meek shall inherit the earth, it is promise made to the saints, because they submit to the sanctifying (pruning) work of the Holy Spirit (cf. 1 Sam. 2: 8; Ps. 37: 11, 113: 6-8, 147:6, 149: 4; Isa. 60:22; Matt 5:5; Lk. 12:32).
3.5 The Wherewithal of the Branch
In the history of the church, the fixing of the identities of the overcomer of Revelation chapter 2 and 3, or the two witnesses of chapter 11, or the man-child of chapter 12 have not been an easy task.
The prevailing consensus among Evangelical scholars is that, at least the overcomers refer to all the saints who will be taken up in the Rapture and who will then come back with Jesus in His Second Coming to rule and reign with Him. According to this viewpoint, none of the ruling-judging overcomer saints will pass through the Tribulation. However, In the other end-time prevailing viewpoint, that of the Post-Tribulation teaching, saints will be present on earth during the Tribulation period, but they will be much protected from it. Accordingly, there is little mention of the need for the saints to be shaped and transformed by the Tribulation into the image of Jesus Christ. In recent years, there is another emerging viewpoint which teaches that the overcomers or the man-child company will be a few last-days saints who are accorded special revelation about the end-times. According to this teaching, it will acquisition of revealed knowledge that will qualify the chosen ones to sit on the throne with Jesus and allow them to rule the nations with a rod of iron. Again, in this viewpoint, there is little mention of the Tribulation, or its role in the shaping of the future reigning saints.
Besides the above-discussed thoughts on the end-time, there is also another viewpoint worth considering. It can be argued from the Scriptures that the end-time saints will not only pass through the Tribulation period, but also that God will use it to shape the saints into the image of Jesus Christ. This viewpoint can be defended from Scripture on the following grounds,
- The saint to be called an overcomer, one has first to pass through a fiery trial, endure the testing without fainting, and then emerge victorious at the end (Rev. 3:21; 1 Pet. 1:5-9; 4: 12-13; 5:10).
- The two witnesses of Revelation chapter 11 have first to pass through death before they entered resurrection glory.
- The man-child and his mother must face of the great dragon, Satan, himself who tried to destroy them (Rev. 12).
- The two witnesses and the woman who gave birth to the man-child have first to endure the mystical 42 months period of suffering before they emerged victorious. The great tribulation and the glory to follow it can then be understood in terms of remnant-branch (cross-resurrection) principle.
- Jesus said His followers will suffer much during the Tribulation, and He warned that only one who endures (the Tribulation) to the end would be saved (Matt. 24: 9-13).
- The Old Testament figures like Joseph, Moses or Esther-Mordecai, first they had endured their fiery trial before they emerged victorious and entered their glory. In this case, their lives are a type and shadow of end-time saints.
Secondly, based on this alternative viewpoint, the identity of the overcomer can be shown to be more than a company of saints inheriting the promise, but also that it has a very crucial individual dimension to it. For example, some Bible scholars about the promise have been able to discern an individual in certain passages of Scripture. For example, the great Bible commentator A. R. Fausset (*) reads in the very emphatic of the Greek original wording of Revelation 21: 7, an intended reference to an individual person. He observed,
“He shall be my son--"He" is emphatic: He and in a peculiar sense, above others: Greek, "shall be to me a son," in fullest realization of the promise made in type to Solomon, son of David, and anti-typically to the divine Son of David.”
-There have been also a few other Bible students who have said the person referred to in places such as Ezekiel 37:24 and 44:2-3 is a human being. They understand this person as a future viceroy king who will rule on earth as Jesus rules from Heaven. Unfortunately, such viewpoints are the exceptions rather than the rule.
Therefore, it can be said that the personal dimension of the overcomer promise in Revelation has be one of those Scriptural truths, which has been hid from past generations (Rev. 2:17, 3:10-12, 21-22). However, insight into the Word of God is now been given that many among the people of God are getting the understanding that someone bearing the image of Christ will appear on the world stage as priest-king-prophet. Undoubtedly, there shall be such a personage who will be at the head of the company of overcomers. As Revelation 2: 17 says, he is promised a new name, which carries the name of Jesus Christ, of God and of the New Jerusalem (Rev. 3: 12). If so, then He will bear the names given to Jesus in the Old Testament. Hence, he will be known as, ‘The glorious branch,’ (Isa. 4:2), and ‘The root of Jesse,’ (Isa. 11:1,10). To Zechariah he is known as, ‘The branch which will rise from his own place,’ (Zech. 6:12). Jeremiah calls him, ‘The righteous branch of David,’ and, ‘The prince,’ (Jer. 23:5, 30:21). Ezekiel knows him as, ‘The Prince,’ (Ezek. 44:3), and ‘king David’ (Ezek. 37: 24). In Daniel he is represented as the son of man who comes to receive kingdom authority on behalf of God’ s saints (Dan. 7:13-14, 27).
3.6 The Narrow Path to Glory
Such a manner of a saint will be a Moses-like figure for the ways God will deal with him and later glorify him. Such a person, the Spirit of the Lord will shape and mold following the above discussed pattern of the remnant-branch.
In the beginning the believer will be one enjoying the glories of the natural man.
Then the believer will be reduced to a very lowly state. He will be a humiliated and despised person. [The stump/remnant of the saint, as being conformed to the suffering of Jesus, is assigned different naming by the prophets: ‘the fallen tabernacle of David’ (Am 9), ‘the worm’ (Ps. 22, Isaiah 41), ‘the lame’ and ‘the exile’ (Jer. 31:7-13; Mic. 4:6-7), ‘the feeble’ (Zech. 12), etc.]
Lastly, to the lowly stump will come resurrection glory. When the Holy Spirit visits this lowly person, and as the result, the stump will shoot forth a new and glorious branch. This amounts to the opening of the grave and calling him out of his death-like experience (cf. Col. 3: 3-4). When the Holy Spirit from the travail of his soul delivers the lowly and obscure servant, he shall see the joy of resurrection, and become a very powerful world-changing prophet. Such a branch will be called ‘the glorious branch’ (Isa. 4: 2-6, 11: 1-10), ‘the victorious lion of Judah’ (Rev. 4), ‘the overcomer’ (Rev. 2), the man-child (Rev 12), ‘the servant of God’ (Isa. 42), ‘David’ (Jer. 23, Ezek. 37), etc.
The following words of the prophet Isaiah (Isa. 49: 7) can be used to best describe the death-resurrection (or stump-branch) experience this prophetic person will undergo.
“Thus says the Lord, the Redeemer of Israel, the Holy One,
To him whom man despises,
To him whom the nation abhors,
To the servant of rulers,
Kings shall see (you) and arise,
Princes also shall worship,
Because of the Lord who is faithful,
The Holy One of Israel,
And He has chosen you.”
This transition from a humiliated stump to a glorious Branch is also expressed in Isaiah 52: 11- 15 passage. Or as St. Paul has put it (Eph. 4:9),
“Now this, ‘He ascended’ – what does it mean but that He also first descended into the lower parts of the earth?”
I believe that when God is speaking through the prophet Zechariah (6: 12-15) about the Branch, that He is saying to us to watch for priest-king-prophet overcomers to be revealed in the last days bearing the image and glory of Jesus.
Then say to him, 'Thus says the LORD of hosts, "Behold, a man whose name is Branch, for He will branch out from where He is; and He will build the temple of the LORD. "Yes, it is He who will build the temple of the LORD, and He who will bear the honor and sit and rule on His throne. Thus, He will be a priest on His throne, and the counsel of peace will be between the two offices.'" Those who are far off will come and build the temple of the LORD." Then you will know that the LORD of hosts has sent me to you. And it will take place if you completely obey the LORD your God.
* Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible
This one volume commentary was prepared by Robert Jamieson, A. R. Fausset and David Brown and published in 1871.
Glory be to God!
(Revised: July 19/03)
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