The Church vs The Overcoming Remnant
Hi beloveds, many loves and holy kisses.
Did you know there is a smaller subset--a victorious core, an overcoming remnant--within the born-again community? Jesus refers to this group as "those who overcome" in Revelation 2 and 3.
Who is this small minority of victorious ones among God's people? Where else does Scripture refer to them, explicitly and implicitly? Are you a part of the overcoming remnant, or simply a part of the redeemed community, the church? What challenges might the overcoming core face with the church, i.e., those who are born-again but not overcoming, or those who are not even determined to overcome?
All of Scripture--from Seth's prayer movement (Gen 4:26) to the 144,000 Hebrew evangelists preaching during Antichrist's reign of terror (Rev 7)--presents the idea of an overcoming remnant within the general community of God's people. In other words, Scripture shows us (1) God's people, and within it, (2) a smaller core that truly carries forward the nature, purposes, and truths of God on earth. This layering appears from the very beginning.
The Overcoming Remnant
The Adamic Period
Adam's family was the redeemed community of that time (which is why Cain was expelled from it). Within that community, however, emerged a smaller subset, an overcoming remnant, that carried forward God's highest desires. After Seth was born to Adam and Eve, and after Seth gave birth to Enosh, Genesis 4:26 says (NASB), ...Then people began to call upon the name of the LORD. Young's Literal Translation words the same phrase like this: ...then a beginning was made of preaching in the name of Jehovah.
Adam's family = the redeemed community. Seth and his followers = the smaller overcoming remnant who spearheaded the very first prayer and preaching movement.
The Overcoming Remnant
The Patriarchal Period
A similar layering emerges. Abraham's tri-generational family was the redeemed community, however, within that family was a smaller subset who carried forward God's immediate purposes and highest desires.
In Abraham's time it was he, not Lot, who led the overcoming remnant. Lot was still a redeemed individual (2Pet 2:7-9), still a part of the larger redeemed community of that time. His longterm compromise with Sodom, however, pushed him out of that smaller group of rare overcomers.
In Isaac's time it was he, not Ishmael, who led the overcoming remnant. Even though Ishmael and Hagar were expelled from the vicinity of Isaac, Scripture is clear both Ishmael and his mother were still in relationship with God, i.e., still in the larger redeemed community (Gen 21:17-20). Regardless, the victorious core continued through Isaac, not Ishmael.
In Jacob's time it was he, not Esau, who led the overcoming remnant. While Scripture tells us Lot and Ishmael had a relationship with God (were in the larger redeemed community), Scripture tells us explicitly that Esau was not (Heb 12:16,17). During Jacob's time, the victorious core continued through him.
In the time of the twelve sons of Jacob, Joseph emerged as the face and voice of the overcoming core. The larger redeemed community existed (Jacob's family), however, it was through Joseph and his family that God's arrowhead initiatives continued in the earth.
See the pattern? There was a redeemed community, however, within that community there was a smaller subset who carried forward God's nature, purposes, and truths. Also, do not forget Job. He existed sometime during the patriarchal period, and no doubt he, too, was part of the overcoming core. More on Job below.
The Overcoming Remnant
The Mosaic (Old Covenant) Era
Throughout the Mosaic or Old Covenant era we see the same layering of (1) the redeemed community and (2) a smaller subset of high-level overcomers within that community. God Himself uses a simple metaphor to describe this reality.
Israel, God's Arrow
The Lord uses an arrow to illustrate His people Israel (Isa 49:2,3, Zec 9:13). This is profoundly creative and helpful: an arrow has a sharp tip (the arrowhead) which leads the way for the rest of the arrow (the shaft). Do you perceive the illustration? The arrowhead is the overcoming remnant, those closest to God and at the highest levels of spiritual development. The shaft is the larger redeemed community, containing individuals at a variety of lesser levels in their spiritual development.
Other verses and concepts reveal more about the overcoming core.
God's Secrets...Who Has Them?
Do you have an inner circle of trusted confidants? People you share sensitive secrets with? Scripture tells us God, too, has an inner circle: His overcoming remnant.
Psalm 25:14 says (NKJV), The secret of the LORD is with those who fear Him, and He will show them His covenant. The Hebrew word here for "secret" is sod. Remember that.
Proverbs 3:32 says (NKJV), ...His secret counsel is with the upright. The Hebrew sod is used again here for "secret counsel".
Job 29:4 says (NKJV), Just as I was in the days of my prime, when the friendly counsel of God was over my tent. Again, the phrase "friendly counsel" is the Hebrew sod. Job is literally saying, "...when the secret of God was over my tent." (NOTE: Job lived sometime during the patriarchal period, however, I am using his words in this section because the word sod in his writing predates and equates with Psalm 25:14 and Proverbs 3:32.)
These scriptures are telling us that God does not share sensitive information, He does not have sensitive revelatory dialogue, with just anyone in the redeemed community. He does so "with those who fear Him" (Ps 25:14), "with the upright" (Pr 3:32), with those that have an unusually well-developed life in Him. Job 29:4 gives us an astounding insight about this unusually well-developed spiritual life.
Maturity & God's Secrets
The NKJV words Job 29:4 this way (underline mine): Just as I was in the days of my prime, when the friendly counsel of God was over my tent. Job is saying the secrets of God came to him and hovered over his life "in the days of my prime". Any thoughtful, spiritual reader can sniff out that the word "prime" seems odd and possibly mistranslated. It is. The Hebrew word beneath "prime" is far deeper and richer.
The Hebrew word here for "prime" is horep, and it literally means "harvesttime, autumn, or winter" (as in Proverbs 20:4 or Genesis 8:22). Metaphorically, horep can be used to illustrate maturity, as in an autumn crop being mature enough to harvest, like olives. Recognizing this metaphoric sense of horep, the YLT translators translated Job 29:4 like this: As I have been in days of my maturity, and the counsel of God upon my tent.
Ah church, do you see this dazzling insight?! Job is saying his days of spiritual maturity and the secrets of God come together and exist together. You cannot have the secrets of God without spiritual maturity, and you cannot have spiritual maturity without God rewarding you with His secrets. The days of our maturity come with the secrets of God over our tent. Psalm 25:14 and Proverbs 3:32 are saying the same thing with different wording.
Old Testament Israel was God's arrow. The arrowhead was the overcoming remnant, while the shaft was the larger redeemed community. Two distinct features of this remnant is that they were spiritually mature, like fully ripe olives at cold weather harvesttime (Hebrew horep), and, they experienced the secret of the Lord regularly (Hebrew sod). God could trust their maturity and their hearing to carry forward His nature, purposes, and truths in the earth no matter what. Think Naomi, Ruth, Ezra, Nehemiah, Micaiah, Jeremiah, Anna, Simeon...a smaller core within Israel that reached the days of maturity, and therefore, reached divine secrets.
The Overcoming Remnant
The New Testament Era
And finally we enter the New Testament era--our time. In the clearest two-tiered language perhaps in all the Bible, Jesus contrasts, seven times, "the churches" versus "those who overcome": see Revelation 2:7,11,17,26-29, 3:5,6,12,13,21,22. The church is the entire redeemed, born-again community, but those who overcome are the victorious core in God's inner circle. This is why they are promised incredible rewards for overcoming, while those who do not overcome are barely saved with little or no rewards (1Co 3:14,15).
Maturity, Once Again
Job's equating of spiritual maturity, divine secrets, and sharing in the overcoming remnant continues in the New Testament era. Paul says it like this in Galatian 4:1,2 (ESV): I mean that the heir, as long as he is a child, is no different from a slave, though he is the owner of everything, but he is under guardians and managers until the date set by his father.
Paul is saying, using inheritance vocabulary, that as long as we are not-yet-mature spiritually ("a child"), we cannot experience the fullest inheritance benefits the Father has planned for us. Overcoming and maturing hastens the set time of the Father, awakens the dawn in our life, ushers us into that victorious inner circle, and dispenses our inheritance in Him. Notice, though, Paul's emphasis on the heir being "a child". We have to mature to gain the inheritance.
Hebrews 5:12-14 says something identical (ESV, underline mine): For though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you again the basic principles of the oracles of God. You need milk, not solid food, for everyone who lives on milk is unskilled in the word of righteousness, since he is a child. But solid food is for the mature, for those who have their powers of discernment trained by constant practice to distinguish good from evil.
Same concepts, slightly different wording. Notice the underlined. Those who overcome and mature qualify to be teachers. They also qualify for "solid food"--more substantive and substantial experiences in the kingdom.
We could look at dozens of scriptures across the New Testament and see Jesus' two-tiered construct in operation. However, the simplest and most salient ones tell us we need to overcome ourselves, our sin issues, our overwhelming emotions, our family dysfunctions, our oppressors, our demons, and mature spiritually. Those who do this--with the help of the Holy Spirit and Christians who are ahead of us--gain their inheritance, enjoy solid food, and are listed in God's plans as "those who overcome".
The Church vs The Overcoming Remnant
You who are insightful can already see challenges emerging between the church and those who overcome. What happens in a relationship, or a marriage, or a ministry, or a church, when the overcomer perceives the true will of God in a situation, whereas the non-overcomer does not (but thinks they do)? This is precisely the conflict we see in incidents like Acts 15:36-40, 1Corinthians 11:19, 1Corinthians 8:4-10, and others. So what do we do?
When to Separate
Read Acts 15:36-40. In the disagreement between Paul and Barnabas, Paul was right. The incident was serious enough for Paul to separate from Barnabas and John Mark. Sometimes you will have to do the same. Not every Christian seeks God at the same level, and not every Christian understands Biblical truth and perceives God's voice at the same level. The problem is, the ones with less Biblical understanding and revelatory insight often believe they are right, and stubbornly so. Sometimes, like Paul, you have to separate yourself and move on.
When to Stay in the Situation & Wait on God's Verdict
1Corinthians 11:19 is a fascinating verse that is almost never mentioned in Christian groups. It says (NIV), No doubt there have to be differences among you to show which of you have God’s approval.
Paul is saying there must be occasional conflicts within the church to show which individuals have God's approval and which do not! Absolutely remarkable. Conflicts among Christians give God the opportunity to reveal who is an overcomer and who is hearing and following correctly, versus who is not quite there yet. In these situations, the course of action is not to separate and move on, rather, it is to sit still in the very middle of that conflict and wait for God to give His verdict. At the right time He will spotlight who is right and who is wrong, who is approved and overcoming versus who needs more development in their hearing and following.
When to Temporarily Capitulate
Read 1Corinthians 8. Paul is saying an overcomer (a believer with a knowledgeable, strong, updated conscience) will occasionally have challenges with less mature, legalistic believers (those with a less knowledgeable, weaker, outdated conscience). Romans 14 addresses the same issue.
In these situations, Paul says, the course of action is to temporarily capitulate to the scruples and weaker conscience of the less mature believer. Paul is not saying the less mature believer is right, rather, he says that believer is actually wrong (1Co 8:4-8). But, Paul says, to not sabotage the maturation and transformation of the weaker believer, we should temporarily capitulate and not fully exercise our gray-area freedoms in front of that believer (v9-13). In fact, Paul says to keep your gray-area convictions private and practice them privately (Ro 14:22 NIV), but around weaker-conscience believers, temporarily capitulate for the greater good (v19-21).
Are You in the Overcoming Remnant?
This October will be thirty years in ministry for me. In these last three decades of in-depth ministry in all the major denominations, I can tell you that almost every Christian I know or have known thinks they are spiritually mature. When I teach about the overcoming remnant, they seem to quickly assume they are in it. You know and I know, deep in our hearts, that most western Christians are not among "those who overcome", most western Christians have not earned a place as one of God's confidants.
And so we need to be brutally humble and brutally honest and ask ourselves surgical questions. Are you Barnabas, disagreeing stubbornly with Paul, when Paul is the one hearing and following correctly? Are you approved and overcoming, or the one creating or perpetuating conflict with ones who are approved and overcoming? Are you the Christian with a knowledgeable, strong, updated conscience, or the Christian with a hypersensitive, legalistic, outdated conscience? Have you confronted and overcome your top three greatest fears? Is your understanding of God's Word instant and comprehensive, in season and out of season? Is your revelatory accuracy inconsistent? Be honest...no selective memory. Are there still compulsive behaviors or habits in your life? Yes, talking too much and overeating included. How much do your emotions control your thoughts, words, and actions, really? Do you overspend money or oversave money? Do you have more peace or more restlessness?
These and related questions are what we need to be asking in the Presence.
As Jesus said seven times in Revelation 2 and 3, so He says again today: He who has an ear hear what the Spirit is saying to the church. To the one who overcomes, I will give...