Most everyone has a vague hope and trust that things will eventually turn out all right and that he will sooner or later get to heaven. Few and far between are the funeral services at which the preacher dares to suggest that the deceased may have departed in the other direction!
Nevertheless, people need to be aware that the Lord Jesus Christ clearly warned that it is easy to end up in hell.
“Enter ye in at the strait gate,” He said, “for wide is the gate, and broad is the way, that leadeth to destruction, and many there be which go in thereat: because strait is the gate, and narrow is the way which leadeth unto life, and few there be that find it” (Matthew 7:13-14).
This same Lord Jesus, who spoke so often and so fervently of God’s love, and who Himself perfectly manifested the love of God, was at the same time the one who spoke more often of hell than did anyone else in the Bible. He warned, for example, that the time would come when He would have to say to many people:
“Depart from me, ye cursed, into everlasting fire, prepared for the devil and his angels” (Matthew 25:41).
The doctrine of the “remnant” is found through all Scripture. In every age there has been only a small number of people who were approved of God. In the days before the great Flood, Noah was a “preacher of righteousness” for many years, but won no converts except his own family. The Bible says that “few, that is eight souls were saved” (I Peter 3:20) and that, for the other, “God spared not the old world, … bringing in the flood upon the world of the ungodly” (II Peter 2:5). Jesus Christ said: “The flood came and destroyed them all” (Luke 17:27).
The days of the early patriarchs were similar.
“They all died in faith, not having received the promises, but having seen them afar off, and were persuaded of them, and embraced them, and confessed that they were strangers and pilgrims on the earth” (Hebrews 11:13).
The Jews, alone among the nations, were then called and prepared as God’s chosen people. To them, God said:
“The Lord thy God hath chosen thee to be a special people unto Himself, above all people that are upon the face of the earth. The Lord did not set His love upon you, nor choose you because ye were more in number than any people; for ye were the fewest of all people” (Deuteronomy 7:6-7).
But even among the Jews there were only a few who really cared for God.
“Then they that feared the Lord spake often one to another; and the Lord hearkened, and heard it, and a book of remembrance was written before him for them that feared the Lord, and that thought upon His name” (Malachi 3:16).
This condition was not significantly changed by the coming of Christ. As far as the Jews were concerned, some, of course, believed on Him as Messiah and Savior, but the nation as a whole rejected Him. The Jewish “remnant” was to be recognized thereafter by their acceptance of Jesus as their long-awaited Redeemer. Paul said:
Beginning from Jerusalem, the gospel of Christ was commanded by Him to be preached to all nations. But there was never a promise that all who heard the good news would believe it and turn to Christ. To the contrary, Paul warned in his final letter that “all who will live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution” (II Timothy 3:12).
The very meaning of the word “church” (Greek: ekklesia, meaning “those who are called out”) indicates that the true Christian church would always be composed of a relatively small group of believers called out of the masses of humanity to be “separated unto God.” Emphasizing this, the Lord Jesus promised:
“Fear not, little flock; for it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom” (Luke 12:32).
Therefore, when Christian preachers and evangelists preach that most people are lost and warn them to “flee from the wrath to come,” it is not because they are unloving and self-righteous, but rather because they could not be truly Christian and do otherwise. They simply believe the words of Christ and try to obey His command.
Once, indeed, someone asked Jesus the direct question:
“Lord, are there few that be saved?” (Luke 13:23).
He answered simply:
“Strive to enter in at the strait gate: for many, I say unto you, will seek to enter in, and not be able.”
Now the remarkable thing about all this is that, although most people will die without ever being saved, any person can be saved simply by believing on Christ as his Lord and Savior! The “narrow way” which leads to eternal life is Christ Himself. Jesus said,
“I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me” (John 14:6).
Christ died on the cross to atone for all our sins and rose again to assure our full forgiveness and justification before God. Now, anyone who really desires to be saved can receive this great salvation merely by trusting in the Lord Jesus as his personal Savior. He says:
“And whosoever will, let him take the water of life freely” (Revelation 2:17).
But to the great numbers of people who will die in their sins, He says:
“Ye will not come to me that ye might have life” (John 5:40).