How many will enter into the joy of the Lord? For years; decades, really — okay then, a LOT of decades (satisfied?) I’ve held this question in abeyance. In part 3, I mentioned this conflict. Jesus repeatedly warns that a lot of people who think they’re in God’s Kingdom will find themselves out in the dark during the big party, where there will be “weeping and gnashing of teeth.” He even says that if you call someone a fool, you’re in danger of hell fire! (Keep that in mind next time you drive in traffic!)
And yet God promised to Abraham, descendents like the stars of the heavens and the sand of the seashore. But here is Jesus saying, “Narrow is the gate and difficult the way that leads to life, and few find it.” How can both of these be true? There’s always a dynamic tension in scripture, but this goes beyond tension and into contradiction. Both simply can’t be true — at least not as commonly understood. There’s something missing here; some bit of information we’re not seeing.
What if the “few who find it” aren’t the only ones who ultimately end up walking in the right way? What if the Shepherd who searches for his lost sheep then brings that sheep back and sets it in the right way, and then goes out and finds the next lost sheep? What if every prodigal son at last decides to return to our Father? What if every elder brother eventually gets tired of sitting out in the cold and comes in to have some of that fattened calf? What if the woman searching for her lost coin doesn’t give up sweeping the house until she has found every single coin that was lost?
But we have an obstacle here, and that obstacle is death. We’ve been taught that once a person breathes his last, it’s all over but the weeping and wailing and gnashing of teeth — and licking of flames, of course. Where do we get that, exactly?
“. . . and as it is laid up to men once to die, and after this — judgment,” (Hebrews 9:27 YLT) would be the first verse cited. Actually, it’s the verse ALWAYS cited, because it is just about the only verse available to cite. It’s addressing Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross, not the mechanics of eternal judgment, but even if it were addressing our subject, it’s rather ambiguous. First off, what might not happen between death and judgment? Second, what is the outcome of judgment? What if the person threw himself on the mercy of the court, seeing (in many cases for the first time) the beauty of the Son and loving Him? As I mentioned in part 3, what if a person suffering his judgment should truly repent? What then? Will God sorrowfully turn away; “There’s nothing I can do for you now — you’re too late”? Nothing God can do? But nothing is impossible for Him. No, this particular scripture doesn’t tell us that there is no chance of repentance once we stop breathing. It would work as a supporting scripture for a more definite statement elsewhere in the word, but it can’t stand on its own.
The other scripture supporting this doctrine is even less definitive: “. . . and if a tree doth fall in the south or to the north, The place where the tree falleth, there it is.” (Ecclesiastes 11:3 YLT) Solomon appears in this chapter to be talking about the random and unpredictable nature of life, and how we must just get on with things and do what is our duty to do. But you could take this as saying that once your physical body dies, it’s too late. Considering it has to stand nearly alone, it’s pretty weak. And that’s all I can find. Maybe there’s something else out there. If you can find it, please show it to me, but keep in mind, it needs to be foundational; not just some ambiguous proverb that might be taken a certain way.