The Number Saved, The God who Judges

Both items below are from the Think Theology blog:

From Will More People Be Saved Than Not?

I’ve had a sneaking suspicion, for some years, that the number of people who are saved will be smaller than the number of people who aren’t. That’s not what I would like to believe, obviously, but it is what I’ve often thought. That has had a lot to do with Matthew 7:13-14:

Enter by the narrow gate. For the gate is wide and the way is easy that leads to destruction, and those who enter by it are many. For the gate is narrow and the way is hard that leads to life, and those who find it are few.

Seems pretty straightforward to me. When Jesus says that “many” will blunder into destruction, and “few” will find life, then he clearly means that more people will be condemned than saved – so no amount of postmillennial optimism, historical analysis or charismatic triumphalism will persuade me otherwise.

Or does he?

[…refers to Luke 13:22-30…]

Interesting. The question is as direct as it could be – “will those who are saved be few?” – and the response starts off on a fairly negative note (“many will seek to enter and will not be able”). But by the time the pericope is finished, Jesus has affirmed not just the exclusion of many we’d expect to be in, but the inclusion of many we’d expect to be out: people from east and west, and north and south, reclining at table in the kingdom. This sounds very different to the apparently stark prediction of a small remnant in Matthew 7.

[…]

In a nutshell: many Jews in Jesus’ own generation will miss out on what God is doing, but their absence will be more than compensated for by the inclusion of the Gentiles. Matthew’s telling of the wicked tenants parable (especially 21:43), and Luke’s telling of the great banquet story (14:12-25), certainly point this way too.

[…]

So: is the gate wide or narrow? Maybe, although it was narrow for first century Jews, it is unthinkably wide for everyone else. Praise God!

That is exactly what it looks like to me. Few first-century Jews ever did enter the Kingdom of Heaven… but billions (I would argue trillions, if you include the future Church) will enter later. Even the majority of humanity will be saved in the end, just as 2/3rds of the angels stood with God, and refused Satan’s lies.

God wants dominance, in time and on earth, and He’s going to get it.


Next, Thank God He Judges

“Lord, you are my God; I will exalt you and praise your name, for … you have made the city a heap of rubble.” (Isaiah 25:1-2)
It is easy to tell whether or not you have grasped what it means for God to be the Holy One of Israel. When you read his stern words of judgment in Isaiah, instead of feeling offended, you feel like worshipping.

For some of us, rejoicing in the God who crushes the wicked is easy… its exalting the God who forgives that takes humility and self-discipline.

(It helps that all human beings – except Jesus Christ – are sinners (yes, even day-old babies, and even the unborn), and that therefore all mortal men need the forgiveness and grace that comes from Jesus alone.)

In 25:1-5, Isaiah therefore celebrates the fact that the Lord’s judgment demonstrates the beauty of his character. We may find it hard to stomach when Isaiah says that “I will exalt you and praise your name, for … you have made the city a heap of rubble,” but let’s hear him out. He points out that God’s judgment achieves at least four things. First, it proves his perfect faithfulness, since it means he wasn’t lying when he warned Adam in Genesis 2:17 that the wages of sin is death. Second, it proves his perfect control of world history, since this is precisely what he said he would do. Third, it proves his perfect love, because judging the wicked is the only way to ensure that their victims are protected in the future. Fourth, it proves his commitment to righteousness, since it acts as a deterrent, ensuring that “strong peoples will honour you; cities of ruthless nations will revere you.” When we object to God’s judgment, it is not a sign of our goodness and mercy. Quite the opposite. It means we are unwilling to pay the price for goodness and mercy to prevail.

This is indeed a great reason to exalt God above all the kings and the elites. Very few men, perhaps none – and certainly none when it comes to those with wealth and power – are willing to pay the price, especially a personal price, to insure the triumph of righteousness and the defeat of evil.

God is, as is definitely demonstrated by the crucifixion of His Son for our benefit and salvation. The destruction of Moab back then, and the West in the future, also testifies to the fact that God is serious about the victory of His holy will, and that He is serious about the uprooting and eternal burring of Satan and his followers.

In 25:6-9, Isaiah celebrates a further reason why God’s judgment is such good news. His commitment to rooting out every last vestige of sin is necessary for the re-founding of a new and better Mount Zion. This should be obvious to us but often it isn’t. We forget that paradise would not be paradise if it were just like our present world.

Not a fleck of evil will be tolerated in the coming Kingdom.

I would argue that such absolute intolerance is simply the entry fee to the future:the power to reshape worlds and enliven the cosmos is a huge responsibility, and can be far too easily be used for destruction. For example, the power to cross from one star to another means, by definition, the power to kill worlds (and probably kill stars, as well). A mighty man may spend vast power to terraform Mars – but why not use that kind of power to enslave all of mankind for a millennium? “Far more pleasurable and enjoyable, to enjoy life NOW, to enjoy power NOW, and let the future worry about itself.”

That I believe is why God told us to fill this world – with people and with righteousness – and to gain dominion over this world, and, after we have fulfilled this commandment, Jesus will return to reign directly.

I would argue thus:

The Jews were expected to cleanse and build up Canaan, driving out/slaughtering the wicked and refusing to follow in their ways, before turning to redeem the world. In a similar war – with the accent on preaching and discipling, rather than killing – the Church is to gain this entire world for Christ, before turning to the Heavens.

But even if I am wrong, we should certainly obey the clear and explicit commandments of Jesus Christ – to disciple the world and bring it all under His Kingship, to obey His laws – and then, empowered by His Holy Spirit and obedient to His Law-World, we place the world at His feet, and listen to His Word, in obedience and love, forever…

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