Many Are Lost, Few Are Saved
The Mystery of God’s Infinite Goodness
How can an infinitely good God create a world with hell populated more densely than Heaven? The author comments on the cogency of the pertinent Bible quotes, and argues that the opposite scenario (hell is populated less densely than Heaven) makes no sense, from a theological point of view.
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The hardest words spoken by God do not appear in the Old Testament, but they came from the lips of Jesus Himself. Of Judas, Jesus said, that it were better for him had he not been born. Of those who scandalize young children and cause them to sin, He said that they had better be drowned in the depths of the sea, with a millstone tied to their neck. He rebuked Peter, the elected rock upon which He would build His Church, for impersonating Satan, even though He must have appreciated that Peter merely attempted to dissuade his beloved Master from falling in the hands of the Sadducees. And how many of Jesus’ parables do not end with the description of that horrible place, hell or Gehenna, “where their worm does not die, and the fire is not quenched”?
The Old Testament has its challenges, too. There can be little doubt that God ordered King Saul to exterminate the Amalekite population, for He later rejected Saul for not having obeyed His mandate.
Most Christians shrug their shoulders when asked about hell and extermination. Many theologians try to minimize the scandal, suggesting that the inspired biographers of King Saul were unable to appreciate the difference between God’s mandate and the ancient-Jewish anthropomorphic interpretation of it. Abaelardus believes one cannot have it both ways: on one hand, consider the Bible as a divine revelation, and on the other, consider that the inspired writers simply miss the point, even with respect to the core of the message they try to convey. The intellectual challenge is how to reconcile the inconceivable depth of eternal damnation with the just as inconceivable love Jesus showed for His executioners. As long as it has not been proven that these two cannot be reconciled, why not give it a try?
SOME DISTURBING QUOTES FROM THE OLD TESTAMENT
“Then came the word of the Lord unto Samuel, saying, “I repent that I have set up Saul to be king, for he has turned back from following Me and hath not performed My commandments.” And it grieved Samuel, and he cried unto the Lord all night. And when Samuel rose early to meet Saul in the morning, it was told Samuel, saying, “Saul came to Carmel, and behold, he set him up a place, and has gone about and passed on and gone down to Gilgal.” And Samuel came to Saul; and Saul said unto him, “Blessed be thou of the Lord. I have performed the commandment of the Lord.” And Samuel said, “What meaneth then this bleating of the sheep in mine ears and the lowing of the oxen which I hear?” And Saul said, “They have brought them from the Amalekites; for the people spared the best of the sheep and of the oxen to sacrifice unto the Lord thy God, and the rest we have utterly destroyed.” Then Samuel said unto Saul, “Stay, and I will tell thee what the Lord hath said to me this night.” And he said unto him, “Say on.” And Samuel said, “When thou wast little in thine own sight, wast thou not made the head of the tribes of Israel, and the Lord anointed thee king over Israel? And the Lord sent thee on a journey and said, ‘Go, and utterly destroy the sinners, the Amalekites, and fight against them until they be consumed.’ Why then didst thou not obey the voice of the Lord, but didst leap upon the spoil and didst evil in the sight of the Lord?” And Saul said unto Samuel, “Yea, I have obeyed the voice of the Lord and have gone the way which the Lord sent me, and have brought Agag the king of Amalek, and have utterly destroyed the Amalekites. But the people took of the spoil, sheep and oxen, the chief of the things which should have been utterly destroyed, to sacrifice unto the Lord thy God in Gilgal.” And Samuel said, “Hath the Lord as great delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices as in obeying the voice of the Lord? Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice, and to hearken than the fat of rams. For rebellion is as the sin of witchcraft, and stubbornness is as iniquity and idolatry. Because thou hast rejected the word of the Lord, He hath also rejected thee from being king.” (1 Sam 15:10-23)
“On the next day, as had now become necessary, Judas and his men went to take up the bodies of the fallen and to bring them back to lie with their kindred in the sepulchres of their ancestors. Then under the tunic of each one of the dead they found sacred tokens of the idols of Jamnia, which the law forbids the Jews to wear. And it became clear to all that this was the reason these men had fallen. So they all blessed the ways of the Lord, the righteous judge, who reveals the things that are hidden; and they turned to supplication, praying that the sin that had been committed might be wholly blotted out. The noble Judas exhorted the people to keep themselves free from sin, for they had seen with their own eyes what had happened as the result of the sin of those who had fallen. He also took up a collection, man by man, to the amount of two thousand drachmas of silver, and sent it to Jerusalem to provide for a sin offering. In doing this he acted very well and honorably, taking account of the resurrection.” (2 Macc 12:39-34).
SOME RELEVANT QUOTES FROM THE NEW TESTAMENT
“Enter ye in at the strait gate, for wide is the gate and broad is the way that leadeth to destruction, and many there be who go in thereat. Because strait is the gate, and narrow is the way which leadeth unto life, and few there be that find it.” (Mt 7:13-14)
“And from the days of John the Baptist until now, the Kingdom of Heaven suffereth violence, and the violent take it by force” (Mt 11:12)
“What man of you, having a hundred sheep, if he lose one of them, doth not leave the ninety and nine in the wilderness, and go after that which is lost until he find it? And when he hath found it, he layeth it on his shoulders, rejoicing. And when he cometh home, he calleth together his friends and neighbors, saying unto them, ‘Rejoice with me, for I have found my sheep which was lost!’ I say unto you that likewise more joy shall be in Heaven over one sinner that repenteth, than over ninety and nine just persons who need no repentance. Or what woman, having ten pieces of silver, if she lose one piece, doth not light a candle and sweep the house and seek diligently until she find it? And when she hath found it, she calleth her friends and her neighbors together, saying, ‘Rejoice with me, for I have found the piece which I had lost!’ Likewise I say unto you, there is joy in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner that repenteth.” (Lk 15:4-10)
“Mortify therefore your members which are upon the earth: fornication, uncleanness, inordinate affection, evil concupiscence, and covetousness which is idolatry” (Col 3:5)
“But woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you lock people out of the kingdom of heaven. For you do not go in yourselves, and when others are going in, you stop them.” (Mt 23:13)
“Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you cross sea and land to make a single convert, and you make the new convert twice as much a child of hell as yourselves.” (Mt 23:15)
“Woe to you, blind guides, who say, ‘Whoever swears by the sanctuary is bound by nothing, but whoever swears by the gold of the sanctuary is bound by the oath.’” (Mt 23:16)
“Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you tithe mint, dill, and cummin, and have neglected the weightier matters of the law: justice and mercy and faith. It is these you ought to have practiced without neglecting the others.” (Mt 23:23, Lk 11:42)
“Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you clean the outside of the cup and of the plate, but inside they are full of greed and self-indulgence.” (Mt 23:25)
“Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you are like whitewashed tombs, which on the outside look beautiful, but inside they are full of the bones of the dead and of all kinds of filth.” (Mt 23:27)
“Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you build the tombs of the prophets and decorate the graves of the righteous” (Mt 23:29)
“The Son of Man goes as it is written of him, but woe to that one by whom the Son of Man is betrayed! It would have been better for that one not to have been born.” (Mt 24:19, Mk 14:21)
“But woe to you who are rich, for you have received your consolation.” (Lk 6:24)
“Woe to you who are full now, for you will be hungry. Woe to you who are laughing now, for you will mourn and weep.” (Lk 6:25)
“Woe to you when all speak well of you, for that is what their ancestors did to the false prophets.” (Lk 6:26)
“Woe to you Pharisees! For you love to have the seat of honor in the synagogues and to be greeted with respect in the marketplaces.” (Lk 11:43)
“Woe to you! For you are like unmarked graves, and people walk over them without realizing it.” (Lk 11:44)
“Woe also to you scribes! For you load people with burdens hard to bear, and you yourselves do not lift a finger to ease them.” (Lk 11:46)
“Woe to you! For you build the tombs of the prophets whom your ancestors killed.” (Lk 11:47)
“Woe to you scribes! For you have taken away the key of knowledge; you did not enter yourselves, and you hindered those who were entering.” (Lk 11:52)
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