We cannot put a percentage on how many will be saved, but the Bible is clear: some will be saved and receive eternal life and others will perish. It is a sobering truth that does not sit well with those that want to believe a loving God surely must save everyone. For those who deny God altogether it is ridiculous to believe there is life for anyone beyond this world. The truth of the Bible: Some will live forever with the Lord and others won’t. As we work through this scripture, I am not going to put a percentage on it. I am hoping to flesh out words of encouragement and guidance for how Jesus teaches us to approach the question. We will discover only God knows the ultimate answer. We are called to take stock of our own relationship with Jesus Christ. We are to live with hope, and expectation and share the most amazing message with the world that in Jesus Christ there is life. Ultimate hope is found in Christ Jesus. Amen!
~~ I think it is because the message of salvation is that we are sinners, everyone of us, and nobody deserves salvation. On face value, who can possibly be saved? The grace of Christ is beyond our minds. Perhaps the person who asks this question is asking out of fear: How can anyone make it?
~~ The person asking the question may even have in mind himself or herself: what about me? Years ago when I was in Nooksack a woman came into my office, sat down, and said, “Carl, if I were to die today I think I’d go to hell.” She then went on to confess bad decisions she had been making for some time…. It is common for people to question their faith and their own worthiness of salvation.
~~ The question of how many will be saved could sadly be asked with a tinge of arrogance, like the religious leaders in Jesus’ day, “Thank God I am better than that person…I am good, I am obedient, I follow the law, I deserve salvation….”
Jesus answers the question two parts. “The door to heaven is narrow…” he says in Luke 13:24. But then in Luke 13:29-30 Jesus indicates people will come from all over the world, and there will be surprises...I have no special insight into who will be saved and who will not…. I only hope I am on that list of eternal life with Christ. If there are 75 people in this room, it is enough for me if I am the 75th on the list and I barely sneak in… because I know in my heart, better than anyone else, how little I deserve the reward of heaven…
Allow me to reflect on the question, “Lord, will only a few be saved?” I’ve learned a tremendous amount these past 8 years serving in Sumas as a pastor. I’ve seen a lot of messy people: drugs, abuse, vulgarity, alcohol, confusion, broken relationships, people in and out of jail, people in and out of relationships, mental illness, hate, spite, death, guilt. I have listened, counseled, helped pick up pieces, been patient, yelled at many, been criticized by many, comforted many, buried too many, been disappointed, celebrated victories…. I am convinced that many people who are very messy on this earth will make it to heaven! To become a Christian and give your heart to the Lord Jesus Christ does not mean people will get their act together on this earth and suddenly live productive responsible lives.
Some people will die in their addictions, some will never figure out how to live decently in relationships. I buried one man about 15 years ago, a man I never met, but I heard his story on the beach where his ashes were scattered. A crowd of 100 people of bikers and street people and folks in and out of jail gathered. One man in a three piece suit, dressed like nobody else there, a professional man, told me before the service started he was a cocaine addict in a small group with the man that died. Unquestionably, he said, the man that died gave his life to Jesus Christ and he’d been clean for 30 days but then that 30 day temptation came that comes to most cocaine addicts trying to stay clean and he could not overcome his addiction and he ended up with tainted cocaine that his system could not tolerate and he died. That man will likely be forgotten by the world, and forgotten by society, a nobody on this earth that some people might say good riddance, but I am fully convinced NOT FORGOTTEN by God and an inspiration to me and a man that I will be honored to stand beside if and when I am honored to enter into the presence of Jesus Christ.
Will only a few be saved? Is the question of the hour. When that question is asked of Jesus, this is a complete guess ~~ I imagine Jesus answers the question with a great big smile as he thinks about coming surprises!
Another simple story: A young woman from the Czech Republic married a man from the U.S. The couple served as missionaries in a hard to reach country. Somebody asked her if she came from a Christian family. She replied no, but her mother has now accepted Christ. Then speaking of her brother, she said, “He is not saved yet.”
I love the word, YET. Tack that word onto the way you think of the messy people in your life, those that are searching, the people whom you serve and love and who frustrate you, the people you know deep in your heart that need Jesus Christ. I cannot tell you how many people I know that I want to strangle! But I can’t. That would not be a good witness! When you pray for their salvation, say “You alone know their heart Lord, but they have not confessed Christ YET.” This is not an ultimate judgment, only God knows the heart, but we do listen, and pray and care. YET is a word of hope and expectation, a future joy, declaring you will not give up on them. YET expresses an attitude that keeps you going, keeps believing, keeps loving others. YET. Woe to me if I am ever passive about the wonderful people God has placed in my life and I strike an attitude that if they are Christian that is fine but if they aren’t that is between them and God. The better attitude: “They are not Christians YET.” Maybe you need to add the word “YET” when you pray for your children, family members, neighbors, friends… maybe it is leaders, teachers, peers, co-workers. For whatever reason God has placed them in your life and you are honored to love them and pray for them: tack on the word YET, they are not Christians yet. God alone has the ultimate judgment, but he has invited us to share the good news…
Lord, will only a few be saved…. Is the question that started this discussion. Jesus Part 1 answer: READ Luke 13:24-28. Sobering words. What are the lessons? Don’t take salvation for granted. Salvation is not based on our good works, salvation is not based on our good looks, how nice we are… these words seem to me to be directed to those that are a bit arrogant, people who assume they will make it to heaven. The lesson: Don’t even take your own salvation for granted. Approach the throne of mercy in humility and amazement rather than assumptions and arrogance. May humility be the hallmark of the Christian community. Be amazed God would choose me and give eternal life. I don’t deserve heaven! Eternity is a gift.
You’ve heard the saying about the three surprises waiting for those who make it to heaven. Surprise #1 is to look around and see people that you never thought would be there that are there. Surprise #2 is to not see some folks that you thought for sure would be there that aren’t. And the biggest surprise: you made it. May we never take our own salvation for granted, but be amazed that if God chooses to give me salvation it is beyond anything I deserve.
An old children’s chorus sums up the question to pray for our own salvation:
One door and only one
And yet its sides are two
Inside and outside
On which side are you?
If we were to stop the scripture here perhaps we’d get the idea very few are going to heaven. But that does not seem to be Jesus’ point at all. The door is narrow, but as Jesus continues, clearly, there are many who find the door. READ Luke 13:29-30.
I cannot put a number or percentage on who will make it to heaven, but this I know: there are going to be a whole lot of people that are nothing like me! Thank goodness for that! People from everywhere… God intends to let in people from every point on the compass. Every group. No part of the globe will be excluded.
In 1908 William Dunkerley wrote these words:
In Christ there is no East or West,
In Him no South or North;
But one great fellowship of love
Throughout the whole wide earth.
In Christ now meet both East and West,
n Him meet North and South;
All Christly souls are one in Him
Throughout the whole wide earth.
Unexpected people will be in the Kingdom of heaven. Surprising people unlike you and me. People from everywhere on the globe. I’m even glad in Luke 13:28 Jesus specifically mentions Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. I’m reading through Genesis where the stories of these guys is told and they are often not very saintly. They are sinners saved by grace. They are skunks that are de-skunked only by God. The door is narrow to heaven but we’re going to be amazed by the multitudes. Perhaps God will find room for even a skunk like you and me.
Revelation 7:9-10 says in heaven there will be a great uncountable multitude in heaven: “After this I looked, and there was a vast multitude from every nation, tribe, people, and language, which no one could number, standing before the throne and before the Lamb.” Heaven will be filled with people of every language and culture and skin color and background gathered to praise the Lord. People who lived messy lives. Multitudes will be saved but not everyone. Jesus is even warning us “religious” types not to think that our “religion” will get us into heaven. We must know him personally. Since God’s plan is to save people from every corner of the globe, let’s pray for a heart like his that embraces God’s global vision. Do not give up on anybody. In confidence and expectation include the word YET in your prayers for the people you love: they are not Christian’s YET.
I love the words from the Fanny Crosby hymn: “The vilest offender who truly believes, That moment from Jesus a pardon receives” Corrie Ten Boom loved to say that there is no pit so deep that the love of God is not deeper still. Anyone, anywhere, anytime can be saved, without regard to what they have done in the past. Nobody is beyond the reach of salvation. God alone makes the decision of who is saved, but he gives us the capacity to love and care about the people around us. Do not take your own salvation for granted, and never give up on others. Amen.