Randy Greenwald

Concerning Life as It Is Supposed to Be

Census Bureau: Heaven and Hell Division

Every discussion of Rob Bell’s book Love Wins seems to include the idea that the position of historic Christianity is that heaven will be enjoyed by a select few. (My previous posts here and here include quotes containing that language.)

I am not scholarly enough to know what the majority opinion of Christianity has been. I do know that some infer from this passage that heaven is populated like Yellowstone and hell like Manhattan:

“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.” (Matthew 7:13-14)

That is a rather questionable inference from a passage not intended to address that subject at all.

I draw my heavenly census data from two related but distant passages of scripture. The first is the promise to Abraham:

And he brought him outside and said, “Look toward heaven, and number the stars, if you are able to number them.” Then he said to him, “So shall your offspring be.” (Genesis 15:5)

God saw fit to second that motion:

“I will surely bless you, and I will surely multiply your offspring as the stars of heaven and as the sand that is on the seashore.” (Genesis 22:17)

Of course, the New Testament (e.g. Romans 4) shows that these promises are intended to apply to those sharing Abraham’s faith, not his blood.

I’m of the distinct opinion that we will find heaven crowded. Very crowded. I think Abraham would have believed so. And John the apostle as well. His vision was so vast that it staggared his mind.

Then I looked, and I heard around the throne and the living creatures and the elders the voice of many angels, numbering myriads of myriads and thousands of thousands, 12 saying with a loud voice, “Worthy is the Lamb who was slain, to receive power and wealth and wisdom and might and honor and glory and blessing!” (Revelation 5:11-12)

Against this backdrop, I think both John and Abraham would have scoffed at any who would have suggested that only “a select few Christians will spend forever in heaven”. Don’t you?

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1 Comment

  1. Good point Randy. Nice Redemptive-Historical approach to heaven’s population.

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