Many or Few?

A salvation question

 

Will those that are saved be, “Many” or “Few”?

*   (John 3:16 KJV)  For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life. Many or few?

*   (John 15:10 KJV)  If ye keep my commandments, ye shall abide in my love; even as I have kept my Father's commandments, and abide in his love. Many or few?

*   (Rom 3:23 KJV)  For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God; Many or few?

*   (2 Pet 3:9 NIV)  The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. He is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance. Many or few?

 

Come, let us reason together!

 

Do we even know what is “a few” and what is “many”? If I want a few jellybeans perhaps we could agree that 5 to 15 might be a few. An entire bag would be many. However if I am a jellybean manufacturer 5 to 15 bags might be a few. Perhaps 5 to 15 cases might be a few. A truckload on the other hand might be many.

 

But, you might ask, what difference does this make to me? Well for openers it’s always nice to understand what you are reading. Especially if what you are reading is the Bible. Understanding the answer to this question might also help you with your own walk with God. If the answer to the question as to how many will make it to the kingdom is, “many” perhaps you will feel overly confident. If the answer is, “few” perhaps you will be overly concerned. Let’s look at a few more verses.

*   (Mat 7:13-14 NIV)  "Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it. {14} But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it.

Perhaps this answers the question and then again maybe it doesn’t. What number of people constitutes a few? We know of at least 144,000 that make it into the kingdom. And some that seem destined for the kingdom will not be in the kingdom

*   (Mat 7:20-23 NIV)  Thus, by their fruit you will recognize them. {21} "Not everyone who says to me, 'Lord, Lord,' will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only he who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. {22} Many will say to me on that day, 'Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and in your name drive out demons and perform many miracles?' {23} Then I will tell them plainly, 'I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!'

What about this verse?

*   (Mat 8:11-12 NIV)  I say to you that many will come from the east and the west, and will take their places at the feast with Abraham, Isaac and Jacob in the kingdom of heaven. {12} But the subjects of the kingdom will be thrown outside, into the darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth."

 

Here it sounds like there will be many in the kingdom. And those that thought they belonged and were secure are thrown out.

*   (Mat 9:37-38 NIV)  Then he said to his disciples, "The harvest is plentiful but the workers are few. {38} Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field."

*   (Mat 19:28-30 NIV)  Jesus said to them, "I tell you the truth, at the renewal of all things, when the Son of Man sits on his glorious throne, you who have followed me will also sit on twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel. {29} And everyone who has left houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or children or fields for my sake will receive a hundred times as much and will inherit eternal life. {30} But many who are first will be last, and many who are last will be first.

How are you feeling now? Do you think you can answer the question definitively? Can you answer it about yourself, are you one of many or few? Let’s look some more.

*   (Mat 20:25-28 NIV)  Jesus called them together and said, "You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their high officials exercise authority over them. {26} Not so with you. Instead, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, {27} and whoever wants to be first must be your slave-- {28} just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many."

*   (Mat 22:9-14 NIV)  Go to the street corners and invite to the banquet anyone you find.' {10} So the servants went out into the streets and gathered all the people they could find, both good and bad, and the wedding hall was filled with guests. {11} "But when the king came in to see the guests, he noticed a man there who was not wearing wedding clothes. {12} 'Friend,' he asked, 'how did you get in here without wedding clothes?' The man was speechless. {13} "Then the king told the attendants, 'Tie him hand and foot, and throw him outside, into the darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.' {14} "For many are invited, but few are chosen."

*   (Mat 26:27-28 NIV)  Then he took the cup, gave thanks and offered it to them, saying, "Drink from it, all of you. {28} This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins.

What part does our knowledge and honesty play in our being a part of the few or many?

*   (Luke 12:47-49 NIV)  "That servant who knows his master's will and does not get ready or does not do what his master wants will be beaten with many blows. {48} But the one who does not know and does things deserving punishment will be beaten with few blows. From everyone who has been given much, much will be demanded; and from the one who has been entrusted with much, much more will be asked. {49} "I have come to bring fire on the earth, and how I wish it were already kindled!

*   (Luke 13:23-24 NIV)  Someone asked him, "Lord, are only a few people going to be saved?" He said to them, {24} "Make every effort to enter through the narrow door, because many, I tell you, will try to enter and will not be able to.

What part does our willingness to accept our calling, whole-heartedly, play?

*   (Luke 14:16-24 NIV)  Jesus replied: "A certain man was preparing a great banquet and invited many guests. {17} At the time of the banquet he sent his servant to tell those who had been invited, 'Come, for everything is now ready.' {18} "But they all alike began to make excuses. The first said, 'I have just bought a field, and I must go and see it. Please excuse me.' {19} "Another said, 'I have just bought five yoke of oxen, and I'm on my way to try them out. Please excuse me.' {20} "Still another said, 'I just got married, so I can't come.' {21} "The servant came back and reported this to his master. Then the owner of the house became angry and ordered his servant, 'Go out quickly into the streets and alleys of the town and bring in the poor, the crippled, the blind and the lame.' {22} "'Sir,' the servant said, 'what you ordered has been done, but there is still room.' {23} "Then the master told his servant, 'Go out to the roads and country lanes and make them come in, so that my house will be full. {24} I tell you, not one of those men who were invited will get a taste of my banquet.'"

So it appears that, “Church people” need to be particularly careful! Although there are many things we need to judge there are also many things we should not judge. Knowing the difference can be crucial.

*   (Rom 2:1-16 NIV)  You, therefore, have no excuse, you who pass judgment on someone else, for at whatever point you judge the other, you are condemning yourself, because you who pass judgment do the same things. {2} Now we know that God's judgment against those who do such things is based on truth. {3} So when you, a mere man, pass judgment on them and yet do the same things, do you think you will escape God's judgment? {4} Or do you show contempt for the riches of his kindness, tolerance and patience, not realizing that God's kindness leads you toward repentance? {5} But because of your stubbornness and your unrepentant heart, you are storing up wrath against yourself for the day of God's wrath, when his righteous judgment will be revealed. {6} God "will give to each person according to what he has done." {7} To those who by persistence in doing good seek glory, honor and immortality, he will give eternal life. {8} But for those who are self-seeking and who reject the truth and follow evil, there will be wrath and anger. {9} There will be trouble and distress for every human being who does evil: first for the Jew, then for the Gentile; {10} but glory, honor and peace for everyone who does good: first for the Jew, then for the Gentile. {11} For God does not show favoritism. {12} All who sin apart from the law will also perish apart from the law, and all who sin under the law will be judged by the law. {13} For it is not those who hear the law who are righteous in God's sight, but it is those who obey the law who will be declared righteous. {14} (Indeed, when Gentiles, who do not have the law, do by nature things required by the law, they are a law for themselves, even though they do not have the law, {15} since they show that the requirements of the law are written on their hearts, their consciences also bearing witness, and their thoughts now accusing, now even defending them.) {16} This will take place on the day when God will judge men's secrets through Jesus Christ, as my gospel declares.

Compare the two “Manys” in the following verse. Is the first many a larger number than the second many?

(Rom 5:15-19 NIV)  But the gift is not like the trespass. For if the many died by the trespass of the one man, how much more did God's grace and the gift that came by the grace of the one man, Jesus Christ, overflow to the many! {16} Again, the gift of God is not like the result of the one man's sin: The judgment followed one sin and brought condemnation, but the gift followed many trespasses and brought justification. {17} For if, by the trespass of the one man, death reigned through that one man, how much more will those who receive God's abundant provision of grace and of the gift of righteousness reign in life through the one man, Jesus Christ. {18} Consequently, just as the result of one trespass was condemnation for all men, so also the result of one act of righteousness was justification that brings life for all men. {19} For just as through the disobedience of the one man the many were made sinners, so also through the obedience of the one man the many will be made righteous.

We can find verse on either side of the many versus few question. So, is there an answer? I think there is. But the answer depends upon how the question is asked.

*   (Heb 2:9-10 NIV)  But we see Jesus, who was made a little lower than the angels, now crowned with glory and honor because he suffered death, so that by the grace of God he might taste death for everyone. {10} In bringing many sons to glory, it was fitting that God, for whom and through whom everything exists, should make the author of their salvation perfect through suffering.

*   (2 Pet 2:1-3 NIV)  But there were also false prophets among the people, just as there will be false teachers among you. They will secretly introduce destructive heresies, even denying the sovereign Lord who bought them--bringing swift destruction on themselves. {2} Many will follow their shameful ways and will bring the way of truth into disrepute. {3} In their greed these teachers will exploit you with stories they have made up. Their condemnation has long been hanging over them, and their destruction has not been sleeping.

The question should be made more personal. Will I be among those that will be in the kingdom?

*   (Rev 7:9-10 NIV)  After this I looked and there before me was a great multitude that no one could count, from every nation, tribe, people and language, standing before the throne and in front of the Lamb. They were wearing white robes and were holding palm branches in their hands. {10} And they cried out in a loud voice: "Salvation belongs to our God, who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb."

Whether you consider a great multitude as a few or as many won’t matter if you are not with the Lord in His kingdom. Answer the few or many question any way you want but make sure that your answer motivates you to examine yourself and renew your commitment to hear the words, “Well done, good and faithful servant!”