(John Willson serves as one of the Bible Correspondence Instructors for Prison Mission Association, and is a good friend to Berean Bible Society. He has been a welcome contributor to the pages of the Berean Searchlight for many years.)
There has been much debate about the security of believers during this dispensation of Grace, but what about believers in the Old Testament, and during the Kingdom Age? By following the references found in the Scofield Study Bible, we can trace the believing remnant of Israel, and draw some conclusions about the security of believers in other dispensations.
There has always been a remnant since the nation began with Abraham in Genesis 12. We refer to these people as the believing remnant because Romans 9:6-7 says, “…for they are not all Israel, which are of Israel, neither, because they are the seed of Abraham, are they all children: but in Isaac shall Thy seed be called.” Throughout Israel’s history we see that the majority of this nation was unbelieving, or as God said of them in Romans 10:21, “…a disobedient and gainsaying people.” However, there was always the believing few, as Paul states in Romans 11:5: “Even so at this present time also there is a remnant according to the election of grace.”
Elijah thought he was the only faithful one left in Israel, yet God said to him, “I have reserved to myself seven thousand men, who have not bowed the knee to the image of Baal.” In Isaiah’s day the number may have been smaller, because Isaiah 1:9 says, “Except the Lord of hosts had left unto us a very small remnant, we should have been as Sodom, and…Gomorrah.” Isaiah also prophesied the return of the future remnant during the seven-year tribulation (Isaiah 10:20-22). There are many references to the believing remnant throughout Isaiah and Jeremiah, as there are in the other prophetical books. In the four Gospels we see the believing remnant in those who “…looked for redemption in Jerusalem” (Luke 2:36-38). These would be those like Simeon, Anna, Zacharias and Elizabeth, Mary, John the Baptist and all those who believed God’s promises. The Lord referred to them as the little flock, for in Luke 12:32 He said, “Fear not, little flock, for it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the Kingdom.”
Matthew 24 is a lengthy prophecy of the seven-year tribulation. It is addressed primarily to the believers who will be on earth at that time. Verses 3-12 speak of sorrows and persecutions, wars and famines. Then verse 13 says, “But he that shall endure unto the end, the same shall be saved.” This will be the fulfillment of Zechariah 13:8-9, because they will be that third part of the nation brought through the fire of the tribulation. These verses read, “And it shall come to pass, that in all the land, saith the LORD, two parts therein shall be cut off and die, but the third shall be left therein. And I will bring the third part through the fire, and will refine them as silver is refined, and will try them as gold is tried; they shall call on my name, and I will hear them: I will say, It is my people, and they shall say, The LORD is my God.”
This verse in Matthew 24:13 does not mean that a person must “endure to the end” or lose his salvation as some teach. This verse is saying that he that lasts or lives through that period will be saved through it and enter into the Kingdom. As God said, “And I will bring the third part through the fire….”
It is very possible that the prophecy of the 144,000 in Revelation 7:4 is referring to this remnant. It reads, “…there were sealed an hundred and forty and four thousand of all the tribes of the children of Israel.” If they were sealed, they were secure, and it did not depend on their endurance. This is similar to the truth for us in Ephesians 4:30, “…ye are sealed unto the day of redemption.”
We know the believing remnant during Jesus’ ministry was secure as John 10:28 states: “…they shall never perish, neither shall any man pluck them out of my hand” (see also verse 29). If these kingdom believers were safe and secure, those whom God will bring through the tribulation will be also.
This brings up the question of the security of all the Old Testament saints. There is no example of a true believer losing his salvation or fearing that he would lose it. Also there is no verse that indicates that these Old Testament saints had to maintain good works to remain saved. The word preserve as used in several Old Testament verses indicates the safety and security of God’s people:
Psalm 97:10—”…He preserveth the souls of His saints….”
Psalm 37:28—”For the LORD…forsaketh not His saints, they are preserved forever….”
Psalm 145:20—”The LORD preserveth all them that love Him.”
Those whom the Lord knows are often called saints, meaning those HE has sanctified and set apart for Himself. Those kingdom saints were promised eternal life in the future Kingdom, and they knew that God would keep His promise. David’s confidence is expressed in Psalm 23:6, “Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life, and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.” Job was confident when he said, “I know that my Redeemer liveth, and that He shall stand at the latter day upon the earth…yet in my flesh shall I see God” (Job 19:25-26).
Tracing the remnant through the Bible is an interesting study, not only in the Old Testament and in the four gospels, but also through Acts. Also they are addressed in the Jewish-Christian epistles of James, Peter, and John. James writes to the twelve tribes scattered abroad (James 1:1) and Peter addresses them as the strangers scattered (I Peter 1:1). Then John writes of them often in the great prophecy of Revelation. The remnant was always a minority, even as true believers today are a small minority, yet God gives to all His people the assurance of eternal life, regardless of the dispensation they are under.