How Many Will Be Saved?

How many are going to make it? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

42.

Hey. We all knew the answer to the question had to be 42. Right? That’s the answer to every question.

But now to be serious. In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus tells us to make sure to enter through the narrow gate that leads to life instead of the wide gate that leads to destruction and few will find it. This relates to eschatology since some people think a more postmillennial idea of Revelation is untenable since who would say the world is going to get better and better. Have you seen the news?

Yes. I have. I also know the news only emphasizes the bad news. In a hypothetical situation, 100 planes take off in America in one day. One crashes. Nothing is said about the 99 safe flights. Only something is said about the one that crashed.

Of course, many of us would not watch the news if it was bland and boring. “Tonight, we report that there were no murders or rapes in our city.” Hardly breaking news. Bad news just sells.

But here we have Jesus. Is Jesus saying that most people aren’t going to make it? Not necessarily. I think it’s quite likely Jesus is speaking to His immediate audience. That would fit since few embraced Him as Messiah in His time. It’s also in line with what we see in Revelation, that a great multitude from all over the world is in front of the throne and the Lamb enjoying the presence of God.

That being said, many people are sharing a story about a problem in the church where 30% of evangelicals don’t think Jesus is God. That would actually be false. If they don’t think that, they don’t qualify as evangelicals. Let’s keep in mind though that this is in the Western Church. Go to the East where people actually have to be willing to die for their faith and they take it a bit more seriously.

When we get to Matthew 13, we’ll look a bit more at the idea that things will get better for the Kingdom based on the parables there, but for now, we need to comment on this. Jesus is speaking to a group of people at one time and there’s no indication that He means all people for all times. Of course, all people should seek and strive to enter into the Kingdom. Keep in mind also that when Jesus is asked in Luke how many will be saved, He refuses to answer. (Even though the answer would be 42)

Jesus is not interested in a numeric account, although we can easily say the number of people who replied positively to His immediate message were few. Still, even in Acts we see the number growing. Luke before too long describes the number as multiplying. In the end when Paul reaches Rome, there are already Christians there waiting for Him.

There are several cultish groups out there that want to have you think that only a few select people are going to make it. (Consider Darwin Fish as an example. Yes. That’s not a joke. That’s the actual name of the man.) There are plenty of discernment ministries out there convinced everyone is a heretic except the person running them.

However, I believe God’s grace is greater than we think. I am not advocating anything like universalism or something like that. I am saying though that God would rather save than condemn and would rather show mercy than to judge. This should give us all hope. This could extend to some who never hear the gospel at all through no fault of their own.

Yet as I have said many times, we have no guarantees and we are not given details. Matthew ends with the Great Commission. Those are the marching orders. God never gives a Plan B. He never tells us what happens if we fail at the Great Commission. He just assumes that we do it.

So let’s do it.

In Christ,
Nick Peters
(And I affirm the virgin birth)

Book Plunge: The Lost World of the Israelite Conquest

What do I think of John H. and J. Harvey Walton’s book published by IVP? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

Anytime I receive a book by John Walton from IVP, there is cause for much rejoicing. Ever since I read The Lost World of Genesis One I have been a major fan of Walton. That book answered so many questions I had had about Genesis 1 as it explored it from a perspective of the Ancient Near East. My rejoicing was apparent when I got this latest book.

There have been many books written on this topic and many of them I have enjoyed, but now I have to rethink them. The Waltons bring up problems with hypotheses that we have traditionally used. What if the conquest is not about punishment for sin? What if the wrong approach is to try to look at it from the perspective of if we would call it good or not? What if we’ve been wrong about all of this?

The Waltons want to start by saying that we don’t need to bring in our ideas of goodness to the text. For the ancients, much of what was good was that which was orderly. Something could be said to be good if it helped to establish order to the world. The conquest can be seen as a way of establishing order as YHWH prepares to take the land for the use that he had intended it for.

They also look at the texts that we use to say that God was doing this for the sins of the people. Sometimes, it is for sins, but these are sins usually committed against Israel, such as 1 Sam. 15. In these cases, it is specifically said that this is what it is for.

In all of this, this doesn’t mean that we should accept the Canaanites as just fine people that weren’t doing anything wrong. We cannot justify idolatry and child sacrifice for instance, but those aren’t the main focus of YHWH. It’s different in the NT where in Acts, Paul tells the people of Lystra that God overlooked such things in the past and tells the Greeks that God is now calling everyone to repent.

The problem with many of our approaches is that we act like the Canaanites were under the covenant when they were not. God was indeed calling the Israelites to right behavior, but he was not calling the Canaanites to. There was no conversion effort going on. Of course, had the Israelites managed to convince all the Canaanites to join YHWH, there would be no need of the conquest per se, but that is not what was going on. Israel welcomed people who wanted to convert, but they did not aim for that.

One area that there would be agreement on is that the term for utterly destroy does not mean in a literalistic sense. Instead, it often refers to an object set aside for a specific usage. This also gets into the concept of holiness. Holiness was not something that people earned. It was something that was conferred on to the people and it could be given to inanimate objects as well.

Also, there is relevance for us today with this. No. It doesn’t mean we go grab a sword and kill our unbelieving neighbor. Instead, it shows us how we are to really put something to death, our sinful natures. We are to be holy to the Lord and cut off all that keeps us from being holy. We are to be what God has set apart for His use. We are to identify with the new community.

I’m really still chewing on a lot of what the Waltons say, but it is a great read and one that really does leave you questioning. I would find the Waltons anticipated my questions many many times. Though some will no doubt disagree with what is found here, all wishing to speak on the conquest period should interact with it.

In Christ,
Nick Peters