Quoth a commenter on my article about whether double predestination makes God a moral monster:
The only part that I still struggle with is that the vast *majority* seem to be damned, or vessels prepared for destruction, all headed down the ‘broad, easy road that many find’. It seems so unbalanced somehow… as though God gets more glory from the number of damned than from the number of those graciously chosen. I understand that He can get glory from both; I just don’t understand why so very few find ‘the narrow way’. It’s like His plan for humanity is weighted to focus on the perfection of His wrath, and a lot less on the perfection of His grace. Does that make sense? I’d appreciate any thoughts you might have on that aspect specifically.
That’s a fair question. I don’t think the Bible provides enough information to even select a rough ratio of the saved to the damned; it simply tells us that the judge of all the earth will do what is just.
Some passages, like Matthew 7:13-14, seem to imply that most people will go to hell. But I think that interpretation is overstated:
(a) Jesus’ statement has a historical, cultural context. It would be a mistake to generalize from a statement about people’s “general direction” made in first century Israel to an assessment of people’s “general direction” universally. It’s true that in first century Israel few found the path to salvation. But in first century Israel, salvation was from the Jews—a miniscule people group among the nations.
(b) On the face of it, Jesus’ statement might not be intended as an observation about the raw number of saved versus unsaved, but rather as a statement of soteriological exclusivity: a statement about the number of ways people can be saved. The path to destruction is wide because there are so many false religions; the path to salvation is narrow because there is only one true religion. One name.
Apropos (1a), there’s a tension between statements in history about the number of the elect, and statements about that number at the end of history. Although at some times in history, the elect might be greatly outnumbered by the reprobate, Revelation 7:9 indicates that the number of the elect is nonetheless vast. And there is no directly commensurate comment about the number of the reprobate in Revelation. The numerousness of the elect is emphasized, yet the number of the reprobate goes essentially unremarked. That seems telling.
Apropos both (1) and (2), we need to keep in mind both scriptural and sociological data about the way God starts small, but builds toward something incomprehensibly huge. The birth of Israel is a prime example—a model in miniature of God’s plan for the world in general. Israel starts out as one man. Abraham. It takes a long time to get going. It enters Egypt (which is a miniature for the reprobate world) as only a handful of people. Yet after 430 years, when God is ready to bring Israel out of Egypt with great judgment (a miniature for the final day), they are such a vast multitude that Egypt has had to enslave them and kill their children for fear of their strength.
In the same vein, God does not promise Abraham that in him, his family will be blessed. He promises that in him, all the nations will be blessed. That promise is in the process of being fulfilled—who knows how it will look by the time Jesus returns?
Apropos (3), we naturally tend to superimpose our view of the world as it currently is back onto ancient history. So we tend to think of the ancient world as being highly populous. But of course, there are vastly more people living today than even a hundred years ago; the population has exploded only quite recently. With that in view, I believe if you check the sociological data you’ll find that there are more self-identifying Christians living right now than there were combined people living all the way from creation to the industrial revolution. Now, I say that with the caveat that I may be misremembering the data; but either way the number of Christians living now compared to people living throughout ancient times is not to be scoffed at.
Although Christianity is arguably declining in the West, it is certainly blossoming in the East. Who knows what God will do in the future? Perhaps post-millennialists are right and there will be a vast global revival before Jesus returns. Imagine if that happened in a century. If so, the elect of that time alone would astronomically outnumber the reprobrate of all history.
If infants are automatically saved, as many believe, that significantly swells the ranks of the elect. Throughout history, infant mortality has been as high as 50%. And although medical advances have reduced that number in the West, we’re counteracting it by institutionalizing the murder of preborn babies.
Of course, it may turn out that the reprobate actually do outnumber the elect. If so, there must be some good reason for this. It might not have anything to do with God being gloried more by wrath, per se. We might have no idea what it is until it is revealed to us. While it’s virtuous to love our enemies and care about the fate of the damned, we shouldn’t try to be more virtuous than God. Ultimately if we love God and our neighbors, we will have done our duty and be ready for either eventuality.