As the persecution of the Bible-believing church becomes more intense, there will be a greater manifestation of what I am referring to in this article as the "remnant church." By remnant church, I am referring to the surviving vestige of the body of Christ that remains true to biblical principles in spite of cultural opposition.
There is always a true remnant left during times of apostasy and persecution. Elijah the prophet found out that God always preserved a remnant, by His grace, that held true to the faith (read 1 Kings 19 and Romans 11:2-5).
By remnant church, I am not merely referring to so-called "cultural warrior" churches who seem to always be battling for a cause (which can be part of it, although the gospel is always much bigger than one social cause). I am also not referring to so-called Christian churches that do idiotic things (like burning the Quran) or exhibit intentionally hostile (and un-Christ-like) behavior by so-called churches (like the Westboro Baptist Church). (I cringe even calling this group of hate-mongers a church.)
I am, however, referring to those of plain and simple faith and obedience to the Word of God, which is practiced by humble, people-loving, community-serving, compassionate churches who do not compromise the Word of God.
The following are characteristics of the modern-day remnant church:
1. They will become more entrenched in the Word of God the more the world opposes them. The more resistance they face, the remnant church will become more resolute in their faith (sort of like the way the muscles in our body get harder with resistance training). Instead of compromising the message of the Word, they may change their method of presenting the gospel but will never even consider watering down biblical ethics, values and the message of the cross of Jesus Christ.
2. They will become the vilified in society. The remnant church used to be merely unpopular in the past but has now gotten to the point where they are hated. It is very apparent that Christian values are constantly mocked, such as by shows like The View, Steven Colbert, Bill Maher, Rachel Maddow and the like. This can give you an idea on how popular it is to hate biblical Christianity.
3. They will preach countercultural biblical messages. The remnant pastors will continue to preach the gospel of Christ, which always has vast implications related to human sexuality, the sanctity of human life, the definition of marriage and family and such; albeit, they should apply the gospel to cultural issues in a wiser, more winsome way. The remnant church will remain faithful in preaching the gospel in spite of the possible backlash they can receive from church attendees and or the public.
4. They will produce the most committed Christians and make disciples. It is a known fact that liberal, progressive, compromising churches are shrinking, while conservative evangelical churches, specifically, are the ones growing in numbers. Also, when a church is on the tip of the spear in regards to biblical truth, it is able to produce disciples because it takes great sacrifice to believe in Jesus in the midst of hostile environments (consider the Christians still living in Iraq, Syria, Iran, Northern Nigeria, Sudan, and similar persecutory regions.) Compromising churches produce wimpy believers and the remnant church produces committed disciples.
5. They will experience a greater presence and power of God than other churches. The first century church was a hated minority, yet the great power and presence of God that accompanied its ministry! (Read Acts chapters 3-5.) I have found the more difficult it is to confess the truth of the gospel, the more God shows off His glory! Where sin abounds grace does more abound (Romans 5:20).
6. They will become more visible and distinct as the culture becomes more decadent. I believe that in any entity, secular or religious, about 25 percent of its members are the most committed to its vision and mission. They are the ones willing to endure the most pain for the cause. (That means that most of the people in any entity detach when the going gets tough.) From this we can expect that the harder it becomes for the church to practice biblical Christianity, the more evident it will become who the remnant church is.
7. They will be more excluded and separated from mainstream secular evangelical churches and denominations. The more uncool it becomes to be a biblical church, the more the so-called "cool" (or, as I call them, compromising) churches will distance themselves from the remnant church. Presently, it is still not as easy for the average person to discern between remnant and compromising churches. (Most folks still lump us all together.) However, as the heat gets turned up more and more, compromising pastors and churches will choose to accommodate culture and compromise Scripture, thus making a clearer distinction between the remnant and mainstream church.
Not only that, these (compromising) pastors and churches will continue to do their best to distance themselves in public from remnant pastors and churches. (This is what happened in Nazi Germany when the nationalistic churches separated from the confessing churches to avoid persecution and death.)
8. The remnant church will change the world. Sometimes God allows difficult circumstances to weed out the uncommitted followers from the committed followers (Read the story of Gideon's army of 300 in Judges 7.) As it was during the days of Elijah, the early church period, and the time of the Confessing Remnant Church in Nazi Germany, only the remnant has what it takes to change the world! Only the remnant church has the conviction, the sacrifice, the devotion, the endurance, the message, and the power to change the world. The compromising church will enjoy their temporary popularity in the present time, but those who are wise and turn many people unto righteousness will shine as the stars forever and ever (Daniel 12:3).
9. The remnant church will endure while the compromising church will fade away. In Malachi 3:16-18 God promises that He has written a book of remembrance for those who speak of Him and fear His Name. The reward for them (the remnant) is that He will spare them as a man spares his son. The implications of this are vast. While the spiritual children of the compromising church will probably become agnostic, the children of the remnant will carry the torch of Christ to the next generation, which will increase in strength and do greater works (John 14:12). The remnant church goes from strength to strength and faith to faith (Romans 1:17). Meanwhile, the compromising church goes from strength to weakness and from faith to apostasy and eventually into oblivion.
May God help us all remain faithful to the end and participate in the remnant church.
Joseph Mattera has been in full-time church ministry since 1980 and is currently the presiding bishop of Christ Covenant Coalition and overseeing bishop of Resurrection Church in New York. He is also serving as the United States ambassador for the International Coalition of Apostles and as one of the founding presiding bishops of the International Communion of Evangelical Churches.
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