FEW OR MANY?
“Then one said to Him, ‘Lord, are there few who are saved?’…” -Luke 13:23
“After this I looked, and behold, a great multitude that no one could number, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed in white robes, with palm branches in their hands…” -Revelation 7:9
Statistics are strange things and not always able to tell you the exact truth of a matter, just like political polls trying to predict an election outcome and proving to be very wrong. This is either because people lie in a poll or the pollster isn’t interested in the truth as much as trying to manipulate voters toward his preferred result.
When you try to figure out the population of people who belong to each major and minor religion in the world, you also wonder how accurate those numbers are in exactly pin-pointing the character of peoples’ hearts. If you go by the latest guesstimated numbers of professions of belief, you still find Christianity to be the biggest world religion at something like 32% of the 7.7 billion world population, which is to say, on the other hand, 68% or 5.2 billion people are allegedly declared non-Christian, if indeed there really are 2.5 billion genuine Christians otherwise in the world today.
If these guesstimates are anywhere near accurate, you might be able to determine on these statistics alone the answer to the question, “Are there many or few who will be ultimately saved?” It is a question often asked, for the Bible has verses supporting both perspectives: many and few. While 2.5 billion is a great number, it is still only 32% of the total world population. Consequently, there are a lot fewer from the total population who are presumably on their way to heaven. Additionally, in order to arrive at a conclusion, you also need to figure in all those who once lived in history and have already died.
Is this a valid question to even ask? Will there be many saved or few? The answer, in any case, is in the hands of the sifter and determiner of everyone who enters the courts of heaven and the new heavens and new earth. We are reminded in this regard of the Old Testament prophet Elijah telling God there were no others besides himself who were obedient to Him in the entire nation of Old Testament Israel. God then told Elijah that there were actually “7,000 who had not bowed their knee to Baal.” God knew them, not Elijah.
There is report that there is a great evangelization to Christ in Muslim communities today, not through human evangelists or missionaries, but through dreams. If true among them, could it not be true in other areas and religions of the world? God is capable of bringing many to His Son through His own means, though He often enlists you and me to assist in that great task and joy.
A dear friend and pastor, now in heaven, conjectured often that God would further populate heaven with the millions of world-wide aborted babies, swelling heaven’s numbers. Again, you and I do not know what God is doing at any given time in the hearts of people all over the world. He is the drawer of hearts and the cultivator of the world’s vineyard. He, through His Holy Spirit, will persuade men and women to His Son through whatever path He desires. We will discover one day for certain who our brothers and sisters in Christ truly are. Will there be surprises? I do not doubt it. Elijah was very surprised. If him, why not you and me?
The words of Revelation 7:9 echo God’s ancient challenge to Abraham: “Look now toward heaven, and count the stars if you are able to number them…so shall your descendants be” (Genesis 15:5). Can you picture Abraham scanning the night sky, realizing he couldn’t even begin to number those stars? Not even astronomers can come close; the universe is so vast, so infinite! The Apostle John got to see Abraham’s believing seed gathered in. Like Abraham, his head spun. He too saw “a great multitude which no one could number.” So it shall be.
“Ten thousand times ten thousand
In sparkling raiment bright,
The armies of the ransomed saints
Throng up the steeps of light.
‘Tis finished, all is finished,
Their fight with death and sin;
Fling open wide the golden gates
And let the victors in.”
(First verse of Henry Alford’s hymn, “Ten Thousand Times Ten Thousand,” 1867)