Have you ever considered the question as to how many shall spend eternity in Heaven with the Father and the Son and fellow believers?
A look to answer this question might justifiably begin with what is required of one who shall receive heaven. And so here we shall begin.
“For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.” John 3:16 NIV. One must believe in Jesus Christ in order to have eternal life.
So, what does it mean to believe in Jesus Christ? First, one must believe that Jesus Christ is God incarnate. The Father sent His only Son to be a messenger to mankind on His behalf, and to die as an atonement for our sins. Through Jesus Christ we are forgiven our sins and will be able to stand blameless in the sight of the Father, with the Lamb by our side, interceding on our behalf. Furthermore, we must believe that Christ rose from the dead on the third day, and after spending a few days with His disciples and other believers, He ascended into Heaven and sits at the right hand of the Father. We must believe that Jesus will come again in glory to receive all those who believe in Him, both the living and the dead. We must live our lives according to God’s will, and not for our own selfish desires. Each day we must follow in the ways of our Lord, who died for our salvation and eternal well-being.
Jesus also tells us in Matthew 19:29 NIV, “And everyone who has left houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or wife or children or fields for my sake will receive a hundred times as much and will inherit eternal life.” Certainly, this would include Gentiles (not of the 12 tribes of Israel).
In Matthew 22:14 we read “For many are invited, but few are chosen.” So, in some scriptures Jesus speaks of many entering heaven and in others He says few shall enter. Are His comments contradictory? Not at all. For example, consider the figure 10 million. Of itself the figure would seem to indicate many, as it would be too numerous to count. But compared to the amount of 100 billion (total humans who have lived) the 10 million would be only one in every 10,000. Does that not seem like few to you?
Now, to move on to the question at hand as to how many shall attain eternal life and live in heaven.
“Then I saw another angel coming up from the east, having the seal of the living God. He called out in a loud voice to the four angels who had been given power to harm the land and the sea: “Do not harm the land or the sea or the trees until we put a seal on the foreheads of the servants of our God.” Then I heard the number of those who were sealed: 144,000 from all the tribes of Israel.” Revelation 7:2-4 NIV.
Many believe that this 144,000 are the total of all who shall attain heaven. I do not believe this to be the case though. First, note that these 144,000 are all from the tribes of Israel. Nowhere within these verses is there any mention of Gentiles.
Bear with me through some mathematics here. It is estimated that about 100 billion humans have existed during the life span of our planet. If 144,000 is the total of souls saved that shall attain heaven, that would mean on average that only one in every 694.4k humans would attain heaven (assuming all saved are now accounted for with no more to come). On average the aggregate of those who shall see heaven who now reside in the three largest cities within the United States (New York, Los Angeles and Chicago) would amount to 21. The total on average who live within the United States now who would see heaven would amount to less than 450. I know that Christ said that many would come but few would be chosen, but is it really that infinitesimal?
“I say to you that many will come from the east and the west, and will take their places at the feast with Abraham, Isaac and Jacob in the kingdom of heaven.” Matthew 8:11 NIV. Here Christ tells us that many will join Abraham, Isaac and Jacob at table in heaven, and that they will come from the east and the west. This includes Gentiles. Further note that none of the three followers of God mentioned in this verse were from the twelve tribes of Israel.
“After this I looked and saw a multitude too large to count, from every nation and tribe and people and tongue, standing before the throne and before the Lamb. They were wearing white robes and were holding palm branches in their hands.” Revelation 7:9 NIV Later within verse 14 we read “These are the ones who have come out of the great tribulation; they have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb.” So, the number who will come out of the great tribulation as saved is too many to count. This does not even count those through the centuries prior to the great tribulation.
I therefore conclude by stating that the number of those who shall be saved through Jesus Christ and shall spend eternity in heaven are too numerous to be counted.