Are You One of the Few?
Do you believe most will go to heaven—or hell?
What does God tell us about who will be saved?
What examples in history illustrate the fewness of the saved?
Learn how most people are religiously deceived about this utterly important matter!
Are you one of the few? Jesus said that only a “few” will enter eternal life, thus I ask you, “Are you one of these few?”
The United States Army has a promotional slogan that says they need “a few good men.” Perhaps they mean by this that “a few good men” can do the job that needs to be done in the military. Maybe they mean that they are able to train young men so well that only a “few” are needed, since they are so well-prepared and capable of meeting and overcoming any international crisis.
Whatever the Army means, we are reminded that God has chosen a “few” men and women to be His children in the midst of a world in chaos, a world in rebellion, a world that has turned its back on the Creator. God has always worked with the few—the small number, in contrast to the many. He has always been concerned with the “remnant”—the few who belong to Him.
Are you going to heaven? Do you think that most of your friends and family will go this beautiful place of peace and bliss—this place where all pain and tears will vanish? In fact, do you believe that nearly everyone will eventually go to be with God in heaven? While some may think that this is a useless topic, unworthy of consideration, I assure you that it is dreadfully serious! If one is wrong on many issues, there is no major consequence; but if one is wrong on this fundamental truth, he will face the results of this for all eternity!
Theological universalism is a belief in “the ultimate salvation of every man. Some universalists have held that at death all are perfectly restored to God, while others have held that such restoration follows a period of future purgatorial punishment” (Cairns, Dictionary of Theological Terms, p. 424). Most people don’t hold to this extreme form of universalism, but it seems that most do hold to what might be called a practical universalism.
By this I mean that most people in America and other Western nations appear to think that all is well, that nearly everyone will die and go to heaven, and that hell is only reserved for the especially wicked people—perhaps people like Hitler, Stalin, Mussolini, Idi Amin, and Ho Chi Min. It is often held that this place of horror and anguish may exist (although some even question its existence) for the murderers, rapists, and atheists—like Ted Bundy, Jeffrey Lionel Dahmer, Carl Sagan, Vladimir Lenin, and others—but not for the friendly neighbor next door, or the cheerful fellow-worker, or the elderly lady in the nursing home, or dear old Uncle Bill who is so funny and kind, or the Rock entertainer, or the crooked politician.
What does God Himself say about this important subject? We know that He is our Creator, thus He knows what He has planned and prepared for His creation—the men and women whom He has made. We can debate endlessly about what Buddha taught about the Noble Eightfold Path, what Hinduism teaches about reincarnation, what liberal Catholics and Protestants believe, and what cultists like the Watchtower Witnesses and Mormons believe and teach. While this may be interesting, this is not authoritative. Only God can give us the answer about who will go to heaven and who will go to hell. Only He can tell us how many will go to be with Him in a place of ultimate fulfillment and how many will be separated from Him for all eternity.
Most Think They are Going to Heaven
A recent survey of 35,000 Americans by the Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life indicated that some 74% of the population believe in heaven, while 59% of people believe in hell. If you are like most people in America, you think that you will go to heaven, but only a very few expect to be sent to hell. Some time ago, another national poll found that 62% of people claim to have made a personal commitment to Christ. Of these, seven percent do not know what will happen when they die. Only one percent of such people believe they will go to hell! (Barna, pp. 198-199). A Gallup Poll revealed that 60% of the American public believe in hell but only four percent thought they had “a good chance of ending up there” (Rutland, p. 21).
Apparently more believe in hell in recent years. One U.S. News poll indicated that 64% believe in hell, yet the same poll suggested as many as 88% believed in some form of hell (Sheler, pp. 46-47). However, not only did this survey indicate that “the majority of Americans professed to believe in hell’s existence,” it also revealed that “almost no one thought he would go there” (Ibid., p. 47). Astonishingly, some 91% of those who did not adhere to any religion thought that they would not be sent to hell! (Rutland, p. 47). Another survey found that 82% believe in heaven and hell. Some 46% expect to go to heaven but only 4% think they will go to hell (Patterson and Kim, p. 204).
Time magazine asked people what would happen to them immediately after death. The results: 61% believe they will go directly to heaven; 15% believe they will be sent to purgatory (then heaven); five percent believe they will be reincarnated; four percent believe it will be the end of their existence. Only one percent believe that they will go to hell! (Van Biema, p. 73). Therefore, three-fourths of Americans believe that heaven is their eternal destiny. Very, very few expect to spend eternity in the anguish of hell.
What Does God Reveal in His Word?
We might add a short note here for the benefit of some of our readers. There are various understandings of the Bible that give rise to different views on the afterlife. Some think that a Christian dies, remains unconscious or non-existent, and then rises with a recreated body at the resurrection. Others believe that at the resurrection, one will enter a spiritual realm of some kind in heaven. Still others believe that there will be a new heaven and a new earth, and the redeemed will dwell on this new earth for all eternity. While the Bible speaks to all of this and many other variations, our purpose in this booklet leads in a different direction. We are simply dealing with the question of who will be saved and who will be lost, and what we can do to make sure we will be among the number whom God saves. The other issue of the exact nature of the future life may be important but is not our present concern.
Most people don’t want to hear bad news. Some people even refuse to go to a doctor to check on a serious condition—so they will not hear a bad diagnosis and prognosis. They would rather avoid knowing the truth for they don’t want to have their mind troubled or their life disturbed. Health authorities continually warn the public of the dangers of certain foods, the dangers of certain injurious habits, and the dangers of certain harmful practices—yet vast numbers continue their own course, seemingly unconcerned about their lifestyle.
This is the way most people are regarding the truth of God. They would rather continue their usual beliefs, remain in their traditional church affiliation or ancestral religion, and not be disturbed by any other information. They have the attitude which says, “Don’t confuse me with the facts! My mind is made up!”
I hope that you don’t have this attitude. You see, now is the only time you and I have to learn God’s will and discover whether we are right or wrong, whether we have heaven as our destiny or whether we will be forever separated from God in a place called Hell. God warns us, “Now is ‘the acceptable time,’ behold, now is ‘the day of salvation’” (2 Corinthians 6:2). The Lord says, “It is appointed for men to die once and after this comes judgment” (Hebrews 9:27). Jesus declared, “Be on the alert, for you do not know which day your Lord is coming” (Matthew 24:42). This means that we must make sure of our relationship with God now—while we still have the time to make major corrections, if we need to do so.
First, A Few Fundamentals
- Sin is disobedience to God—1 John 3:4
- Sin is not doing good—James 4:17
- Sin is doing the wrong—1 John 5:17
- Sin can be in thought—Acts 8:22
- Sin can be in words—Matthew 12:37-38
- Sin can be in behavior—Galatians 5:19-21
- Sin is a master over our life—Romans 6:16
It is important that we establish a few simple facts from the Bible—the written Word of God—so we can understand the answer to our original question, “Are you one of the few?” We can’t answer that until we see what God says about our spiritual need—as well as what God requires to go to heaven.
Maybe we can picture it like this: Suppose a person went to his doctor and asked, “Doctor, do I really have cancer? If so, do you think I will die of this disease?” How can he answer this question without doing a careful study and extensive testing? Or suppose a woman went to an auto garage, and asked, “Sir, is there something wrong with my car? Do you think it is the engine, the transmission, or the water pump?” How can this be answered apart from an examination of her car?
Likewise, you can’t really know whether you will go to heaven unless you are willing to examine both God’s Word and your own life and experience. Only then will you know whether you belong to God and will be with Him forever. Otherwise, all is speculation. And this is the way most people believe. They assume they are right with God, they trust that their religious leaders and religion haven’t deceived them, they think they are going to heaven or some better place when they die, they hope they are not going to hell, and they are content to go through life with all of this spiritual ignorance. Please, my friend, don’t jeopardize your eternal welfare with all of this wishful thinking! Be willing to examine what God says—and then come to your conclusion!
Let’s try to keep this very simple. First, God says that all of us have sinned: “All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23). This is a basic affirmation of Scripture. “There is not a righteous man on earth who continually does good and who never sins” (Ecclesiastes 7:20). “There is none righteous, not even one” (Romans 3:10). We can see that you and I and every other responsible person who has ever lived are sinners—for we have sinned.
What is sin? Sin is not doing right. Sin is doing wrong. It is doing what we should not do and failing to do the good that we should do. Sin may be in thought, word, attitude, and deed. What is the origin of what we call Sin? Jesus said, “From within, out of the heart of men, proceed the evil thoughts, fornicatons, thefts, murders, adulteries, deeds of coveting and wickedness, as well as deceit, sensuality, envy, slander, pride and foolishness. All these evil things proceed from within and defile the man” (Mark 7:21-23). Therefore, sin is found in the heart and then expressed in words or deeds. (See also 1 John 3:4; 5:17; James 1:14-16; 4:17.)
Second, because of our personal sin, all of us become separated from God who is absolutely holy, pure, righteous, and sinless. “Your iniquities have made a separation between you and your God” (Isaiah 59:2). The Bible says that we become “alienated and hostile in mind, engaged in evil deeds” (Colossians 1:21). Further, God says, “The wages of sin is death” (Romans 6:23). This fact is one of the most difficult for us to believe and accept—especially if we have lived a relatively good, moral, and religious life. But even religious people have sinned—thus even religious people come to a place where they are alienated from God and need to be delivered.
Third, this fact above is something that self-righteous humans have a hard time admitting. Yes, they will acknowledge that they sin once in a while, or sin “small” sins, but they have a hard time really seeing the truth that all sin results in a huge gulf between an absolutely holy God and sinful man. Can we see the implications of this truth? This means that people around the world—including Hindus in India, Muslims in Pakistan and Egypt, Buddhists in Thailand and Vietnam, atheists in China and Russia, as well as atheists and even good churchgoers in Italy, Columbia, Germany, and Kenya—all are cut off from God because of sin. This also means that good, religious, church people in Los Angeles, Saint Louis, Minneapolis, Dallas, Boston, and Nashville—all are separated from a perfectly righteous God and Creator.
Are we beginning to see that all of us deserve death (Romans 6:23), hell (Matthew 5:29-30), and eternal destruction (Matthew 25:41, 46)? Can we see that because of sin, we will not enter God’s wondrous kingdom (Galatians 5:19-21; 1 Corinthians 6:9-10)? Note this very carefully: Although many people deny hell and very few people think they will go to hell when they die, the truth is that every single responsible person on earth will be consigned to eternal punishment—unless some remedy can be found! Friend, this plain but shocking truth should pierce us to the core of our soul, convict our conscience of the weight of our disobedience, and impel us to find the answers of this human predicament!
Imagine this: A mysterious, lethal disease begins to spread around the world. Soon, every single person is infected with the deadly virus and will inevitably die. But someone discovers a remedy that can completely cure this insidious illness. The cure is simple and accessible. However, most people simply will not believe the simple medicine will work. They refuse to take it, and they thereby seal their end. All will die, not because there is no cure, but because most of the world’s population will not take the cure.
Similarly, the world’s population is under the sentence of death—spiritual death, and the eternal second death. The remedy of Jesus Christ is available to all, but only a few will consume it. Therefore, nearly everyone will die…..
Fourth, before the creation of the world, God not only knew that his creatures would fall into sin and deserve death, but He also planned to make the way of reconciliation available to them through Jesus Christ. The Bible says, “[Christ] was foreknown before the foundation of the world, but has appeared in these last times for the sake of you” (1 Peter 1:20).
In dozens of ways, God revealed that at the proper time, He would give His only Son, Jesus Christ, so that He might die on the cross and bear our sins. Jesus “Himself bore our sins in His body on the cross, so that we might die to sin and live to righteousness” (2:24). “Christ also died for sins once for all, the just for the unjust, so that He might bring us to God” (3:18). After Jesus died, God raised Him to new life, so that He now dwells in heaven at the place of all authority and glory! We have a living, loving Savior who is Lord of all! The Bible says that this is “good news”—known as the “gospel”!
Fifth, although Christ died for us—by dying for our sins—most of mankind remains separated from God. Suppose that a great benefactor learned of a thousand people who were in desperate means, dying of starvation, and his love motivated him to purchase sufficient food to feed these people for a year. The food was bought and paid for. The food was available. Would these people be rescued from their tragic, deadly starvation? No, they would all die—unless they were told that the food was available and unless they were willing to accept the food that was freely offered. Likewise, although God offers free forgiveness and full reconciliation with Him through the death and resurrection of His dear Son—Jesus Christ—this will do people no good unless they come to God.
The Bible says that being “saved” from the guilt of our sins is a “gift” of God (Ephesians 2:8-9). The same is true of eternal life with God: “The free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 6:23). Even the Holy Spirit is a gift that is graciously given to one who turns to God with sincerity (Acts 2:38).
Sixth, how do we leave our condition of guilt and death, and enter a life-giving relationship with God? Paul the apostle wrote, “We also exult in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received the reconciliation” (Romans 5:11). We must “receive” the reconciliation that is freely available to us through Jesus Christ, the Son of God. If we don’t receive this gift, we cannot have the benefits that God graciously offers! Paul wrote, “We are ambassadors for Christ, as though God were making an appeal through us; we beg you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God” (2 Corinthians 5:20).
Why did Paul and his companions “beg” or plead with people to be reconciled to God? Because He knew that if people remained alienated through their sin, there would be no hope! They would remain under the wrath of God until they would personally accept the reconciliation through faith in Christ. Jesus declared, “He who believes in the Son has eternal life; but he who does not obey the Son will not see life, but the wrath of God abides on him” (John 3:36). You see, the dreadful, burning, condemning “wrath” or holy anger of God will remain on those who sin (Romans 1:18)—unless or until they personally humble themselves and turn to Him in repentance.
Seventh, let’s very briefly but carefully state how one can escape our universal condemnation and alienation from God. Paul says, “Because of your stubbornness and unrepentant heart you are storing up wrath for yourself in the day of wrath and revelation of the righteous judgment of God” (Romans 2:5). We must humble ourselves, leave our stubbornness, and repent of our sin against God so that we may escape “the day of wrath and revelation of the righteous judgment of God”! The Lord Jesus said that “repentance for forgiveness of sins” must be proclaimed throughout the world so that people may be forgiven and received by a gracious God.
Since sin is what separates us from a perfect and holy God, we can see why you and I would need to repent of sin and turn from it with a sincere heart. Make no mistake—unless we repent (have a change of mind regarding our orientation, our sinful state, our direction in life) we will forever remain separated from God (Luke 13:3; 4:8; Acts 20:21). “God is now declaring to men that all people everywhere should repent” (Acts 17:30). There is no exception—all people must repent! We are speaking of all people—from the most religious and church-going person, to the cruelest, immoral, blasphemous person! All must repent!
Further, we must be willing to place all of our faith and reliance on Jesus Christ for our salvation. “Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved” (Acts 16:31). “Whoever believes in Him [Jesus Christ] shall not perish, but have eternal life” (John 3:16). God says that we must humble ourselves before God, turning away from our own ways, and looking in faith for God to rescue us through the means of Jesus Christ as Lord. Paul explains, “If you confess with your mouth Jesus as Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved” (Romans 10:9).
Why is it so important that we acknowledge that Jesus Christ is Lord (Ruler, Owner), the One with absolute authority? We all have failed to submit to Jesus’ Lordship in all ways, thus we must humbly recognize that He is the sovereign Ruler of the universe, as well as the rightful authority over our own lives.
This inner attitude of submission, of repentance, and of faith must be expressed in the meaningful act of baptism in water. Peter tells us how important it is that we submit to this requirement: “Repent, and each of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins; and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit” (Acts 2:38). This passage says that we are to repent and express this repentance by being baptized in Christ’s name. Why? For the forgiveness of our sins so that we may receive God’s gift—the Holy Spirit.
Paul asks this question: “Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus have been baptized into His death?” He then explains, “Therefore we have been buried with Him through baptism into death, so that as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, so we too might walk in newness of life” (Romans 6:3-4; cf. Colossians 2:11-13; Galatians 3:26-27).
What is baptism? This is a term that comes from the Greek baptisma and it means an immersion or dipping in water. The Greek scholar, W.E.Vine, defines baptisma as an act “consisting of the processes of immersion, submersion and emergence (from bapto, ‘to dip’)” (Expository Dictionary). God wants us to “die” to sin in all of its forms, to be “buried” in baptism when we are immersed in the water, and then “rise” from the water of baptism to “walk in newness of life.” We demonstrate our own repentance toward God and faith in the Lord Jesus when we are baptized. Ananias told Paul, “Now why do you delay? Get up and be baptized, and wash away your sins, calling on His [Christ’s] name” (Acts 22:16). The Bible says, “Baptism now saves you”—not through any power in water or through any merit in our action, or through an inherent magic in a ritual. No, baptism “saves us” by the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ our Savior (1 Peter 3:20-21)!
What Does All of This Mean?
Let’s summarize our discussion so far. We have seen that more than half of Americans believe in a place called hell, however very few people think that they, themselves, will be sent to this eternal place of punishment. If we were to look at this across the world, we would discover that the vast majority of people on the earth deny the truth of eternal punishment and those who do recognize such a place would reject the idea that they will be sent there.
Hopefully we have seen that the reverse of this is actually the truth. Every responsible person on earth is cut off from the eternal God because of personal sin and disobedience. The sure destiny of every person guilty of unforgiven sin will be the eternal wrath of God in the lake of fire (cf. Matthew 25:41, 46; Rev. 14:9-11; 20:11-15; 21:8).
However, as we have seen, God does not capriciously reject every person and consign him or her to hell. On the contrary, He has taken the initiative to deal with sin by giving His own dear Son—Jesus Christ—that through His sacrificial, redemptive death, the problem of sin and alienation can be overcome. God now calls on us to repent of our sins and believe on His Son so that we may receive the benefits of Christ’s death for sins. In this way, we can be accepted by our God and the problem of our alienation is solved! As Paul says, “He [Christ] has now reconciled you in His fleshly body through death, in order to present you before Him holy and blameless and beyond reproach” (Colossians 1:22). This indeed is good news—the greatest message that guilty and condemned people can hear!
This means that the contemporary idea of religious pluralism is absolutely false. Many people irrationally say, “Your religion is good for you, and my religion is good for me, and we just need to practice religious tolerance!” Others may put it this way, “We are all heading for the same place but we have simply chosen different ways. Your way will take you to heaven, my way will take me to heaven, and everyone’s separate ways will take them to heaven!”
This irrational view makes no sense in other areas of life. Suppose that there are two people who live in Dallas, Texas, and they want to visit Chicago. If one person gets on a highway and drives west, while the other gets on another highway that heads east, both of the mistaken souls will miss Chicago, which is to the north! Different roads do not take people to the same destination—if they are going in opposite directions.
In a similar way, one cannot reach the Home of God and enter the Kingdom of God by means of Krishna, and Confucius, and Mohammad, and Buddha, and Baha’u’llah. These are mutually exclusive “ways” and will take one nowhere! Some, who claim to be Christians, may think that Joseph Smith is the way to Heaven, others think that the Virgin Mary and the Roman Pope are the way, and still others claim that the Watchtower organization is the exclusive way to God. They all can’t be correct. In fact, they all are wrong.
Jesus is the one and only way to God in Heaven! Jesus Christ plainly said, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father but through Me” (John 14:6). He didn’t say that He is one among many ways to God the Father, or that He taught one among many truths that may merely show life. Although many people rebel against the thought, Jesus Christ was utterly exclusive. He is the only way to God and eternal life! If Jesus was who He claimed He was, His statement was the truth and we need to accept it as such. To try to find some other way to eternal life is spiritual suicide!
The words of Peter are decisive: “There is salvation in no one else; for there is no other name under heaven that has been given among men by which we must be saved” (Acts 4:12). Instead of there being many ways to heaven, “there is one God, and one mediator also between God and men, the man Christ Jesus” (1 Timothy 2:5). God “has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ”—not in Buddha, Muhammad, Krishna, Vishnu, the Virgin Mary, the Pope, or anyone else.
Only Those who Believe, Love, Obey, and Serve Jesus Christ will be Saved!
Since Jesus is the only way, the only truth, and the only life by whom one can go to God in heaven (John 14:6), we can see that only people who are willing to come to Christ can be forgiven of their sins, delivered from death and God’s wrath, and be given eternal life in God’s kingdom! Jesus was and is very exclusive—and this causes many people to hate Him. If Jesus is who He said He was—and He definitely is—we can see that He must be accepted as our sole means of escape from the judgment that rests on this world.
In summary, only a few will be saved, delivered, or rescued from eternal punishment in hell and find the gift of eternal life in Christ. Let’s notice how the Word of God describes those who will escape God’s coming wrath and be given eternal life in His wondrous Kingdom. We may think of these statements as evidences of salvation. This is the way they are described in the Scriptures. Or we may think of these as the conditions of salvation and the way that followers of Christ are described in God’s Word. We are surely saved by a faith in God through Jesus Christ, but we must discover how this saving faith is manifested. If these manifestations are absent, the “faith” we profess is an empty, dead, and ineffectual belief.
Obedience to God
(Scripture says that we must obey God and His Word in order to enter the Kingdom of God.)
“If you Keep My commandments, you will abide in My love” (John 15:10). “If anyone keeps My word he will never see death” (John 8:51). “You are My friends, if you do what I command you” (John 15:14). “Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father who is in heaven” (Matthew 7:21). “The one who does the will of God lives forever” (1 John 2:17).
Faith in Jesus Christ and God the Father
(Only those who truly believe in God and place their faith in Jesus Christ can be saved from sin and receive eternal life.)
“He who believes in Him is not judged; he who does not believe has been judged already” (John 3:17). “. . . having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ” (Romans 5:1). “. . . so that you will not be sluggish, but imitators of those who through faith and patience inherit the promises” (Hebrews 6:12).
Suffering for our Faith in Christ
(A true Christian will be willing to endure suffering for the sake of following Christ Jesus.)
“Through many tribulations we must enter the kingdom of God” (Acts 14:22). “. . . if indeed we suffer with Him so that we may also be glorified with Him” (Romans 8:17).
Putting sinful desires to death and living in holiness
(A truly saved person will hate sin with all of his heart and will earnestly strive to live a separated life of true devotion.)
“If by the Spirit you are putting to death the deeds of the body, you will live” (Romans 8:13). “Pursue peace with all men, and the holiness without which no one will see the Lord” (Hebrews 12:14).
Faithful Endurance to the end
(It is not those who begin the race, but those who continue and finish the race with a faith in Christ who will receive the crown of life.)
“Be faithful until death, and I will give you the crown of life” (Revelation 2:10). “The one who endures to the end, he will be saved” (Matthew 24:13). “To those who by perseverance in doing good seek for glory and honor and immorality, eternal life” (Romans 2:7).
Overcoming the world, the flesh, and the devil
(Only those who overcome all enemies of God—the world, the flesh, and Satan—will escape the wrath of God and receive entrance into the City of God.)
“To him who overcomes, I will grant to eat of the tree of life which is in the Paradise of God” (Revelation 2:7). “He who overcomes will inherit these things, and I will be his God and he will be My son” (Revelation 21:7).
Confessing Christ before others—and not denying Him
(We must be willing to courageously confess our faith in the Lord and never deny or be ashamed of Him.)
“Everyone who confesses Me before men, I will also confess him before My Father who is in heaven” (Matthew 10:32). “Whoever denies Me before men, I will also deny him before My Father who is in heaven” (Matthew 10:33). “If we deny Him, he also will deny us” (2 Timothy 2:12).
Not walking after the flesh
(Instead of living according to the flesh, we must live by the Holy Spirit.)
“If you are living according to the flesh, you must die” (Romans 8:13). “Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh, with its passions and desires” (Galatians 5:24).
Renouncing the world
(Instead of loving the world, the true believer must turn from the world and the deceitful ways of the world.)
“You adulteresses, do you not know that friendship with the world is hostility toward God? Therefore whoever wishes to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God” (James 4:4).
Not walking in sin and unrighteousness
(The true disciple of Christ will not deliberately commit sin, but will strive for holiness, righteousness, and entire commitment to God’s holy standards.)
“The unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God” (1 Corinthians 6:9). “Those who practice such things [sins and deeds of the flesh] will not inherit the kingdom of God” (Galatians 5:21). “Let no one deceive you with empty words, for because of these things the wrath of God comes upon the sons of disobedience” (Ephesians 5:6).
Not living in known, deliberate, unrepentant sin
(While we may fall into unintentional or unknown sin, it is spiritual suicide to deliberately, knowingly live in sin, without repentance.)
“If we go on sinning willfully after receiving the knowledge of the truth, there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins, but a terrifying expectation of judgment and the fury of a fire which will consume the adversaries” (Hebrews 10:26-27).
Many other conditions or descriptions could be listed, but this should be sufficient to show that only people who are willing to repent of their sins, renounce the world, submit to God, trust in Jesus and His shed blood, live for the Lord, and live a holy and righteous life—only these will be saved now from sin and death, and also saved from God’s coming righteous wrath and eternal punishment in the lake of fire.
Those who have genuinely believed in Jesus Christ as Lord, Savior, and the Son of God, must beware of falling back into sin and unbelief. We are warned, “If, after they have escaped the defilements of the world by the knowledge of the Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, they are again entangled in them and are overcome, the last state has become worse for them than the first. For it would be better for them not to have known the way of righteousness, than having known it, to turn away from the holy commandment handed on to them” (2 Peter 2:20-21).
There is a false teaching in the religious world of our day that says that after one comes to Christ, he may live in known, deliberate, unrepentant sin—and still be saved and go to heaven! A hundred statements in God’s Word say that one must believe, obey, continue, persevere, put to death sin, overcome Satan, live fully for Jesus, live a holy live, and pursue righteousness—so this doctrine of allowing deliberate sin in one’s life must surely be false.
As Jesus also warned, “If anyone does not abide in Me, he is thrown away as a branch and dries up; and they gather then, and cast them into the fire and they are burned” (John 15:6). This shows the importance of not only beginning one’s relationship with God, but also continuing to believe in Christ, abide in Him, and follow His commands. God will preserve and protect His people from falling—if only they will believe and obey (Philippians 1:6; Romans 8:35-39).
Are Only a Few Saved?
Since we have seen that all people are lost because of their sins, that the only way to be saved is through Jesus Christ, and that very few are willing to humble themselves to repent of their sin and place their faith in God through Christ, we are better prepared to realize the fewness of those who are forgiven, saved, and have eternal life.
If God had not given us these foundational truths, revealed in His Word, we would still be lost in a quagmire of speculation, misunderstanding, and deception regarding how many are presently saved and how many will enter eternal life in God’s Kingdom. But now we can proceed with new understanding and spiritual enlightenment!
Someone came to Jesus and asked, “Lord, are there just a few who are being saved?” (Luke 13:23). This is the question we want to answer: Are there many or few who are saved? Jesus answered this direct question with these words: “Strive to enter through the narrow door; for many, I tell you, will seek to enter and will not be able” (v. 24). The word strive is from agonizomai and means “exert every effort” (Net Bible), to “strive” (NASB), to “struggle,” to “strain every nerve to enter” “because of the supreme importance of attaining entry into the kingdom of God” (Net Bible footnotes). This reveals that only a few will take the interest needed to enter the kingdom of God! If we were to leave this issue at this point, it should be clear that only a few will be saved—in comparison to the number who are lost and will be eternally punished.
However, let’s proceed to other truths from God’s Word. The Lord Jesus said these sobering words in Matthew 7:13-14:
Enter through the narrow gate; for the gate is wide and the way is broad that leads to destruction, and there are many who enter through it. For the gate is small and the way is narrow that leads to life, and there are few who find it.
Our Lord said that “many” will enter the wide gate and walk the broad way that leads to eternal destruction! Only the “few” will enter the small gate and walk the narrow way that leads to eternal life. We must not expect Jesus to give us a precise number of how many are saved, but He did plainly say that many are on the broad way and few are on the narrow way! Jesus plainly declared, “Many are called, but few are chosen” (Matthew 22:14). Few people are chosen to eternal life!
The current humanistic and pluralistic public view is that most of the world’s population are on their way to bliss after death—whether that means nirvana, or reincarnation, or heaven. In stark contrast, God says that “few”—very few people—will enter eternal life after death. Most people—the vast majority—will go away into destruction and eternal punishment!
The Way of History
When Jesus said that very few will be accepted by Him on that great Day of Judgment, we know that this is not a new teaching. This has been the story of earth ever since creation. Notice this theme in Scripture.
Few were saved at the time of the worldwide flood.
We know that Adam sinned in the beginning and this brought death into the world (Genesis 2:17; 3:19; Romans 5:12). After this tragic event, society fell into deeper and deeper sin until “the wickedness of man was great on the earth, and that every intent of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually” (Genesis 6:5). Scholars say that there may have been as many as one to eleven billion of people on earth at the time that God chose to destroy earth with a worldwide, cataclysmic flood! This is an exceedingly large number!
How many were saved from destruction at this time? “The patience of God kept waiting in the days of Noah, during the construction of the ark, in which a few, that is, eight persons, were brought safely through the water” (1 Peter 3:20; cf. Hebrews 11:7; 2 Peter 2:5). The entire population of the world was destroyed by God because of their sin—except for eight righteous people. This is far less than 1% of the world’s population! Will God’s coming judgment of the world by fire be any different?
Few were saved at the time of Abraham.
Years after the flood, the great civilizations of Egypt and China arose. Apparently almost all of the world population fell into sin, immorality and idolatry (worshiping false gods or idols) just like at the time of the great flood of Noah’s day. God chose a man by the name of Abraham to bring a Savior into the world—the Lord Jesus Christ (see Genesis 12:1-3). There is no indication that there were very many other believing, God-fearing, righteous people on earth. Again, very few were saved at the time of this chosen man of God!
Few were saved at the time of Israel’s deliverance from Egypt.
The descendants of Abraham lived for several centuries in northern Egypt and eventually were placed in slavery to the Egyptian pharaoh. The number may have been two to three million people! After God delivered these people from Egypt, there were about 603,550 able-bodied men (Numbers 1:46; Exodus 38:26). Because of Israel’s sin and unbelief (Hebrews 3:12-4:11), God required them to spend 40 years in the wilderness. Paul explains, “With most of them God was not well-pleased; for they were laid low in the wilderness” (1 Corinthians 10:5).
That’s right—God punished “most” of those who departed from Egyptian slavery. After this time, the Lord brought them into Canaan. Of the 603,550 men, only two men—Joshua and Caleb—remained faithful and were permitted to enter the Promised Land (Numbers 32:10-12; Deuteronomy 1:34-38; Joshua 14:8, 9, 14, 20-24). God gives the reason why He spared these two men: “. . . for they have followed the LORD fully” (Numbers 32:12). Again we can see that only the few remain faithful and are accepted by God!
Few were saved at the time of Christ’s earthly life.
During the time that Jesus lived on earth and, after this–the time that the apostles proclaimed the good news of Christ Jesus—the same fact can be observed. Only the few—the very minority—were willing to follow Jesus and accept Him as Savior and Lord—the majority were content to stay in their own self-chosen life of sin, religion, deception, and personal fulfillment. Jesus told His disciples, “Do not be afraid, little flock, for your Father has chosen gladly to give you the kingdom” (Luke 12:32). The minority of people have always been the “little flock” of Christ’s disciples who inherit eternal life.
John tells us that on one occasion, after Jesus gave a very strong message to His followers, “Many of His disciples withdrew and were not walking with Him anymore” (John 6:66). Most were not willing to accept Jesus as He really was; they insisted on having their own preconceived views of what the Messiah should be. When the Lord did not fit the Jewish religious views, they were willing to cry, “Away with Him, away with Him, crucify Him!” (John 19:15; cf. Matthew 27:22-23).
We could look at other examples of how only the few are accepted by God in the midst of thousand and millions of people. This is the reality from the time of creation to the present time. Only the few are saved. Only the few please God and will receive eternal life! Only the few repent and turn to God in faith.
The Reality of Being Lost
Sometimes we are shocked and dismayed to realize that many people assume they are saved, but they live just like the world around them. Their lifestyle is compromised. They may go through religious activities—Bible reading, church services, prayer—but their heart is dead, their activities are mechanical, their spirit has not been transformed. Furthermore, they knowingly commit acts of sin and take this rebellion lightly. Sadly, many of them continue to assume they are going to be received into Heaven one day. Notice these truths:
- Those who curse another will go to “the fiery hell” (Matthew 5:22).
- Those who allow their eyes to make them stumble (into sin) will be “thrown into hell” (Matthew 5:29).
- Those who do not forgive others will not be forgiven by God (Matthew 6:15).
- Those who do all kinds of religious activities but who do not do the will of God will not enter the kingdom of heaven (Matthew 7:21-23).
- Those who deny Jesus before men, will be denied by Jesus before the Father (Matthew 10:33).
- Those who speak a careless word will give account in the day of judgment (Matthew 12:36).
- Those whose hand, foot or eye causes them to stumble (into sin) will “be cast into eternal fire” or “the fiery hell” (Matthew 18:8-9).
- Those who commit fornication, adultery, homosexuality, thievery, covetousness, drunkenness, reviling, or swindling, will not inherit the kingdom of God (1 Corinthians 6:9-10).
- Those who eat the bread and drink the cup of the Lord’s supper in an unworthy manner, “shall be guilty of the body and the blood of the Lord” (1 Corinthians 11:27).
- Those who do not love the Lord will be “accursed” (1 Corinthians 16:22).
- Those who commit idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, anger, disputes, dissensions, factions, envy, or drunkenness “will not inherit the kingdom of God” (Galatians 5:19-21).
- Those who are immoral, impure, or covetous do not have “an inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and God but will receive “the wrath of God” (Ephesians 5:5-6).
- Those who are guilty of immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, or greed will receive “the wrath of God” (Colossians 3:5-6).
- Those who have shown no mercy will receive a judgment of God without mercy (James 2:13).
We can see from these representative samples of teachings that vast numbers of people around us are guilty of this kind of behavior. Instead of their entering the kingdom of God and receiving eternal life, they will receive the wrath of God and will not enter God’s glorious kingdom. We must awaken these unsaved people to the danger of their condition and the jeopardy they are in every day—until they are willing to repent and turn to God through Christ.
Present Day Reality
As we noticed before, the vast majority of people on earth don’t understand how tragic their situation is. Most people are content to live from day to day with very little thought about the eternal future. They assume that “all will work out” and somehow a merciful God will pass over their sin and allow them to inherit everlasting life. How sad is this deception!
We’ve seen that only the “few” are presently saved and only the “few” are on the narrow way that leads to eternal life. Probably this includes many of you who are reading these words. This is why you and I need to ponder these truths very carefully.
How few are the few? We have no way of knowing, infallibly. But we can look at some statistics and make some suggestions. Consider this. Presently, the world population is approaching seven (7) billion souls. From what we have observed thus far, we know that only those who come to God through Jesus Christ can be saved from sin and enter heaven. There are now about 2.1 billion people in the world who make a claim to be Christians (www.adherents.com/Religions_By-Adherents.html). This would be three out of ten people (30%) on earth. On the other hand, this would mean that at least 70% of the earth’s population do not know Christ, who is the only way to heaven (John 14:6)!
Continue with me. Generally, those who take the Bible more seriously, who believe that Jesus is the only way to God, who teach that one is saved by grace through faith, who accept the miracles and truths of the Bible, and who accept no extra-biblical revelation are much fewer than all of those who profess some form of Christianity. Suppose that there are about 200 million people in the world who may be categorized in this way (according to www.adherents/com/adh_branches.html). This would make the number of “true” Christians to be about 2.9% of the world population. Remember that it doesn’t matter if one calls himself a “Christian”—for what matters is that he has been genuinely saved from sin and is living in holiness before the Lord.
Let us speculate and reason a little further here. We must remember that this 200 million would include many who are merely part of professing Christian churches but are not practicing, or are hypocritical and not sincere, or are merely nominal in their profession. Suppose that one in ten (i.e., 10 percent) are truly genuine; this would mean that about 20 million remain, or about 0.29 percent of the world population.
Of this number, suppose that half of them assume that they were “born again” as babies with no genuine personal decision to come to Christ as responsible persons. This would drop the number to 10 million, about 0.145 percent of the world population. Don’t stop there. We know that many—perhaps the majority—of those who think they were saved and think that they had some kind of “conversion” experience or “born again” event when they reached maturity were dreadfully deceived. Suppose that 90% of this number fits this description. This would lower the total even further—to about one million people, or 0.0145 percent of the population of the world!
Let’s not stop yet. We’ve seen that to be truly saved, one must repent of all known sin and forsake every known sinful act and relationship. We know that very, very few are willing to do this. Very few take up the cross of genuine discipleship and choose to follow Jesus and His commands. Suppose that 80 percent of the number above actually fail to do this. This would decrease the number to 200,000 souls—which would be 0.0029 percent of earth’s population! Let’s take this one more step. Of these 200,000 people, suppose that one half of them fall into known, deliberate, unrepentant sin and turn away from the Lord Jesus. This would give the remaining number of those eternally saved as 100,000 souls, or 0.00145 percent of earth population!
Incredible—you may think! Let’s just stop and think for a moment. We are not God and we don’t really know the answer to this important question. Only “the Lord knows those who are His” (2 Timothy 2:19). Only He knows infallibly those who have genuinely repented, truly placed their faith in Christ, been immersed into Jesus Christ, and begun to walk the narrow path of discipleship and obedience to God. Only He knows those whom He has granted salvation, the Holy Spirit, and eternal life.
We must remember that most professing Christians in the United States are merely nominal, far from Christian in belief and practice. The Barna Group, the well-known research organization cites statistics “showing just 9% of all born again adults and just 7% of Protestants posses a biblical worldview.” The Barna Group found that only 26% of Catholics and 34% of liberal mainline Protestants believe that the Bible is totally accurate. Our commitment can be measured in many ways; for example, in financial giving. The “Generous Giving” organization, that studies trends in giving, says: “In 2001, 5 percent of non-born-again U.S. adults tithed regularly to their churches.” “In 2002, 6 percent of born-again U.S. adults tithed regularly to their churches, falling from 14 percent in 2001 and 12 percent in 2000.” “Overall, only 3 to 5 percent of those who donate money to a church tithe (give 10 percent of) their incomes.” This is merely one indication of the lack of commitment among both liberal and evangelical Protestants, for surely all would want to contribute at least a tithe (10%), and many could give 20%, 30% or even 50% to the Lord. Numerous other statistics could be profitably cited to reveal the fewness of those who are serious in their religious commitment.
Only God knows whether the true number of those who are presently saved and will be eternally saved is lower than the one above or much greater than that number. The reasoning above may be far from accurate. We do not wish to give a number for we are entirely incapable of this. We will leave it with the Almighty God, “the living God, who is the Savior of all men” (1 Timothy 4:10).
Interestingly, Scripture reveals that many will be saved and dwell in heaven. How do we understand this seeming contradiction? How can “many” be saved when we have seen that only a “few” will be saved? John testifies to this: “A great multitude which no one could count, from every nation and all tribes and peoples and tongues, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed in white robes, and palm branches were in their hands; and they cry out with a loud voice, saying, ‘Salvation to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb’” (Revelation 7:9). However, the many other scriptures we have examined suggest that even this “great multitude” in heaven would be “few” in comparison with the “many” lost.
The bottom line in all of this is that the way to eternal life is a narrow way and only a few are walking it. The many—the great majority—are walking the broad way that leads to destruction (Matthew 7:13-14). This shows the fallacy of the view that nearly everyone on earth will go to heaven. It also shows the falsity of the belief that most professing Christians, or most Americans, or most of other religious, political, cultural, or ethnic backgrounds will enter the Kingdom of God. We have seen that the number is very small.
Now is the Time to Make Sure of Your Salvation
God is not only our Creator; He also is our Savior. Paul reminds us that “God our Savior . . . desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth” (1 Timothy 2:4). God wants our salvation—but He will not save those who remain in deception and falsehood. As Jesus said, only “the truth will make you free” (John 8:32). We must know the truth of God’s Word (John 17:17) and Jesus who is Truth personified (John 14:6; 1:17) in order to be saved. Further, we read that God “is patient toward you, not wishing for any to perish but for all to come to repentance” (2 Peter 3:9). He calls on all to repent—and those who heed that call will be saved and escape His coming Judgment.
Vast numbers of people assume that they are Christians, assume that they are saved, and assume that they will escape hell. Many different ways and means have been devised to assure people of eternal life after death. Have you tried any of these?
Sadly, the Word of God shows us that every human means of reaching heaven will fail. None can succeed. Some may claim to have reached “enlightenment,” others may profess that they have found a religious answer, still others may assure you that they have some esoteric wisdom that will guide them to God, and some may even claim that they will “merge with the divine essence” at death! All of this is false. All of this is the way of deception and death! “There is a way which seems right to a man, but its end is the way of death” (Proverbs 14:12).
The message of the Bible warns us: “There is a way which seems right to a man, but its end is the way of death” (Proverbs 14:12). Many think they are right, they assume they know the Lord, they surmise that they are a member of the right church or denomination, and the way they walk “seems” right to them. But they are tragically mistaken.
Jesus warns, “Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father who is in heaven will enter” (Matthew 7:21). He then says that “many” people who will come to the Great Judgment will plead, “Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in Your name, and in Your name cast out demons, and in Your name perform many miracles?” (v. 22). The Lord Jesus will then reply to these religious people, “I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness” (v. 23). Do you see this? Many will say to Christ Jesus, “the righteous Judge” (2 Timothy 4:8), that they have been good people, they have been fine church people, they have been generous and moral and regular Bible readers, and they have been religious leaders! But Jesus will regretfully, sorrowfully, but decisively say, “Depart from Me!”
The apostle Paul says that we should not assume that we are saved and right with God. He challenges us with these words: “Test yourselves to see if you are in the faith; examine yourselves!” (2 Corinthians 13:5). You and I both need to examine our past, our present, our life, and our heart to determine were we are with God. As Peter says, you need to “make certain about His [God’s] calling and choosing you” (2 Peter 1:10). Now is the time to do this!
What Can You Do?
You may wonder what you can do to make sure you are one of the “few” persons who are truly saved and are actually on the way to heaven. Here are some of the Scriptural directives to you, along with suggested supplemental reading:
- Make sure that you have a true and accurate faith in Jesus Christ (John 1:1-14; 3:14-18, 36; 14:6; 17:3; 20:30-31).
- Make sure that you have sincerely repented and turned from all known sin and are not harboring any secret sin (Acts 2:38; 3:19; 17:30-31; 20:21; 26:18-20).
- Make sure that you have acknowledged that Jesus is Lord and King of your life and Ruler of the entire heaven and earth (Luke 2:11; Acts 2:36; 10:36; Romans 10:9-13).
- Make sure that you have been willing to deny yourself and take up the cross of discipleship that will entail total, humble submission to Jesus and His will (Mark 8:34-38; Matthew 10:34-38; Matthew 28:18-20).
- Make sure that you have personally died to sin, submitted to the act of baptism (immersion) into Jesus Christ the Lord and into His death, and that you have risen to walk in newness of life with new intents and purposes (Mark 16:15-16; Matthew 28:18-20; Acts 2:38-41; 22:16; Romans 6:3-11; Colossians 2:11-13; Galatians 3:26-27; 1 Peter 3:21).
- Make sure that you have saving relationship with God through Jesus Christ, that you truly “know” the Lord, and that you maintain a living relationship with God (John 17:17; 2 Peter 1:3, 8-11; 2:20).
- Make sure that you are filled with the Holy Spirit and by the strength of the Spirit are living a holy life of overcoming power that defeats sin in your life (Acts 2:38-39; Ephesians 5:18; Romans 8:6-17, 26).
- Make sure that there is no unrepentant and unconfessed sin in your life (1 John 1:9; 2:1-2; Hebrews 10:26-31).
- Make sure that you have a consuming love for God, for Christ Jesus, and that you have a loving relationship with any fellow-believers you know, along with all others (Matthew 22:36-40; Mark 12:28-31; John 13:34-35; 1 Peter 1:22; 4:8; 1 John 3:14-18; 4:7-5:3).
- Make sure that your faith is active in good deeds and full obedience to the commands of Christ and of God (Matthew 5:13-15; 25:31-46; Acts 10:35; Romans 2:7-10; Hebrews 5:9; James 2:14-26; Revelation 22:12).
- Pray to God daily, read the written Word of God, confess your sins to the Lord regularly, live before others in truth and love, be pure in all of your thoughts and actions, and gather in fellowship with other true Christians (Luke 18:1; Acts 17:11; Galatians 5:22-26; Hebrews 10:24-25).
We must not think that we can deserve or merit salvation in any way. Our entire salvation comes from the grace of God and we respond to this with a truth faith in Jesus Christ and His saving death on the cross (Ephesians 2:8-10; Philippians 3:9; 2 Timothy 1:8-9; Titus 3:5). But our obedience, deeds, or lifestyle do demonstrate that our faith in the Lord and love for Him are genuine! We are not saved on the basis of our deeds, but our good deeds are expressive of a genuine faith in God through Christ!
Accept God’s Gracious Offer of Salvation Now!
We have attempted to open your eyes to the fact that most people are not right with God. Most of the world’s population may deny the existence of hell and eternal punishment—but, ironically, most people will experience the very thing that they deny! Most people think that they are right with God (as they conceive of Him) through Buddha, or Muhammad, or Krishna, or the Virgin Mary, or through certain preachers or religious leaders. In contrast, most people are deceived. The Bible says that “Satan . . . deceives the whole world” and “the whole world lies in the power of the evil one” (Revelation 12:9; 1 John 5:19). God repeatedly warns us: “Do not be deceived” (Galatians 6:7).
We know that most people can’t be saved for they are following different paths, believing different things, and doing a vast amount of different religious practices. God is not the author of this kind of confusion (1 Corinthians 14:33). There is only one way—and that one way is Jesus Christ, and Him alone. He is the exclusive, indispensable way to God in heaven.
Please seek the Lord with all of your heart. Be like the psalmist who prayed, “With all my heart I have sought You” (Psalm 119:10). Open your own Bible and begin to search for answers. If we may help you in some way, please let us know immediately.
Barna, George. What Americans Believe.
Hollerman, Richard. The Narrow Way (This is a rather large book that is no longer available.)
Hollerman, Richard. Walking the Narrow Way (This is a smaller booklet of 84 pages, temporarily unavailable.)
Patterson, James, and Peter Kim, The Day America Told the Truth.
Rutland, Mark. “What Can We Know About Hell?,” Charisma, June 1993.
Sheler, Jeffrey L. “Hell Hath No Fury,” U.S. News and World Report. 31 January 2002.
Van Biema, David. “Does Heaven Exist?” Time. March 24, 1997.
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