When the accumulation of sin brings nations to the tipping point of judgment, who is there to stabilize them and bring them back from the precipice?
That might have been the most-asked question in ancient Amorite society when it reached that critical fourth generation when its sins became “full” and caused God to remove His shielding hand. (Genesis 15:16)
Now, millions every morning scan their news feeds for some sign of deliverance from a ravaging virus and a collapsing global economic system. It seems to an apocalyptic moment has come upon us when the global order is shattering before our eyes. Civilizations appear to be disintegrating as described in Revelation 18.
The haunting question underlying all our anxieties is this: What lies beyond the tipping point?
Genesis and Isaiah give the answer — tohu (formless chaos) and bohu (desolate emptiness). (Genesis 1:1-2) Apollyon — the destroyer — aims to weaken the nations, shake kingdoms, make the world a wilderness, overthrow its cities, and entrap people in dark addictions, suffocating sins, terror and hopelessness. (Isaiah 14:12-23)
In every future until the Ultimate Future of the coming of Christ and His Kingdom there will be an intensifying march toward the tipping point again and again.
When Sodom and Gomorrah came finally to the tipping point, God gave Abraham a key that could have also saved the Amorites in their day, and us in ours. “Lord… suppose there are only ten righteous people there,” asked Abraham. “Then I will not destroy it for the sake of ten,” God replied. (Genesis 18:32 NLT)
Suddenly we are face-to-face with the answer. When our nations are at the tipping point there is a strategic remnant that has the authority to pull whole societies back from the precipice and release the blessings of God upon suffering people.
Centuries after Sodom and Gomorrah the prophet Elijah was overwhelmed, and tried to run away from the threats of his day. Then God gave Elijah a wake-up call: “I have preserved 7,000 in Israel who have never bowed down to Baal or kissed him.” (1 Kings 19:18 NLT)
The strategic remnant principle is found in every historic season revealed in the Bible. Noah was a remnant man in his age, one we should study intensely. In Noah’s time God stopped the frenetic dash to the tipping point through the Flood. There is a sense in which we are again under a global deluge.
Jesus said that a time would come “as it was in the days of Noah” when the people “did not understand until the flood came and took them all away…” (Matthew 24:39). We seem to be in such a moment when the flood is upon us, and suddenly has taken much away.
The Lord said there would be “many tribulations” mounting to a great tribulation before His return to restore the world to its original mint condition, and establish the manifest rule of His kingdom of righteousness, peace, and Spirit-given joy in the earth. (Romans 14:17)
We are certainly living in one of the “many tribulations” periods. Jesus also gave a vital promise to nations living in such a time. Speaking of the ultimate tribulation, the Lord says that “unless those days were shortened, no flesh would be saved; but for the elect’s sake those days will be shortened.” (Matthew 24:22)
Jesus gave the “keys of the kingdom” to the church, not the White House, Whitehall, Kremlin, Beijing, or any other human institution of power. (Matthew 16:13-20)
But what is the real church?
The authentic church is Jesus-centered (carrying on His incarnational ministry in the world), Spirit-energized (producing the fruit of God rather than human imitations), Word-anchored (not tossed about by every “wind of doctrine”) and Kingdom-envisioning (not focused merely on its narrow interests and preferences).
Such churches are made up of remnant people. Jesus Himself, in His great prayer for His disciples in John 17, indirectly reveals their characteristics:
- Jesus has manifested the name of the Father to remnant men and women so they don’t know Him merely in a generic sense, but in personal relationship
- They are people to whom He entrusts the Word that the Father entrusted to Him
- Remnant people are hated by the world because of their identification with Christ and His message
- Remnant individuals are not “of” this world in the sense of their identification, nor do they belong to the world system that wants their allegiance
- The remnant is not taken out of the world because the world is the place for their ministry
- They are, however, pulled out of the “lump” that is the world to undergo transformation so they can be put back into the world to be catalysts of Christ’s transforming work
- Remnant men and women are commissioned by Christ to work under His authority in making disciples, baptizing people, and teaching them everything Christ teaches them, as they are going into the world
- Therefore, remnant people are set apart, dedicated for the continuation of the ministry of Jesus wherever they go in the world. So, as in the days of Noah there is a strategic remnant… with the authority (keys of the Kingdom) to yank us back from the edge. God gave a reset, a system reboot, in Noah’s day. The worldwide Flood was a great instrument of redefinition. Our current global “flood” is also. God has allowed a sweeping planet-encompassing pause. The Lord of history will bring a new world, a new order out of the tohu-bohu as He did in Noah’s time,
How does the “strategic remnant” help do that? We explore that question in Part III.
Wallace Henley is a former pastor, White House, and congressional aide. He served eighteen years as a teaching pastor at Houston's Second Baptist Church. Wallace, the author of more than twenty books, now does conferences on the church and culture, church growth and leadership. He is the founder of Belhaven University's Master of Ministry Leadership Degree.