Wednesday, July 20, 2016

He May Be Right, But ...

A great multitude I can’t number
I have trouble with this statement for a couple of reasons:

“Great as the harvest of sin has been, we believe that the saved shall vastly outnumber the lost. Nothing less will satisfy Christ. Remember that in the first age, before mention is made of the latter triumphs of the Gospel, John beheld in heaven a multitude which no man could number. This was but the first-fruit sheaf; let who will compute the full measure of the harvest!”
— F.B. Meyer, Christ in Isaiah

I’ve heard this one before, and Meyer may well be correct. Who can say? Perhaps in the end more human beings will be saved than lost. Love certainly likes to hope so.

But mere numbers do not provide much satisfaction. Going 3 for 5 may be a good day at the plate in baseball, but try telling the sole Christian in a large lost family that “vastly more” of his relatives will ultimately repent and believe than won’t. Will that satisfy him? I think it unlikely. Rather, his first concern will be to find out which of his relations is in danger of the fires of hell, so he can take another crack at them.

I see two flaws in Meyer’s thinking:

 He lacks terms of comparison.  A “multitude no man could number” is very large indeed, but we must always remember it is a figure of speech. Moses told Israel, “Jehovah your God has multiplied you, and behold, you are today as numerous as the stars of heaven”. He was likely speaking to between 2.5 and 3.5 million Israelites at the time, a pretty spectacular number: I could no more count them than he could. But we are provided nothing against which that great multitude may be contrasted. Moses’ vast multitude would have been a hair under five one-hundredths of a percent of the present world population.

Without something with which to compare it, even a “multitude no man could number” tells us nothing at all about relative numbers of lost and saved.

 Christ’s satisfaction in his work cannot be related to the numbers he saves.  If it is, once we concede that even one person in all of human history might be eternally lost, then we must imagine our Lord’s satisfaction in his work diminished by that one “failure”; we must conceive it as less than it might otherwise have been. Surely that cannot be right. Yet he conceded a “loss” right out of the gate, though the loss was not his:
“I have guarded them, and not one of them has been lost except the son of destruction, that the Scripture might be fulfilled.”
Judas was lost all right, but it was not the Son of God who lost him.

Are we really to picture our Lord (who would have relented from destroying Sodom for a mere ten righteous men) as a little disappointed with ten million truly saved, reasonably pleased with twenty, thrilled with thirty and ecstatic with forty?

The very idea is self-refuting.

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