Home > C. H. Spurgeon, heaven, S. Lewis Johnson > Will More People Be Saved Than Lost?

Will More People Be Saved Than Lost?


In the “About Me” comments section a while ago, a reader mentioned hearing a statement from S. Lewis Johnson that seemed odd to him (that more people will be in heaven than not).  I had not yet come across that particular comment from SLJ before, but referenced something from a Spurgeon sermon as a good answer, noting that SLJ often referenced Spurgeon.

Going through SLJ’s Romans series, I have now come across (at least one place) where S. Lewis Johnson expressed that idea: in the exposition of Romans 11:15.

Sometimes — because we preach the sovereign grace of God and the fact that He is not frustrated in accomplishing his purposes, He always does his will — people get the impression that what He is saying is, talking about the elect, that there are just going to be a few people in heaven.  We know all those stories that men talk about, the few people in heaven.  The apostle did not have such a doctrine.  He preached that the sovereign grace of God was directed toward a definite group of people; but that group of people shall be ultimately so numerous that you cannot number them.  Our great God of sovereign grace has included a multitude which no man can number of every kindred, tribe, tongue, and nation.  It may well be that there shall be far more people saved than are lost.  Even though in the present day, God’s company, as our Lord said in his day, was relatively a little flock.  But God’s great purposes encompass the reconciliation of the world, such a thing as life from the dead.

Spurgeon gives more detailed commentary, but as SLJ indicates, Romans 11:15 also suggests the  wonder of God’s great redemptive purposes: “For if their rejection means the reconciliation of the world, what will their acceptance mean but life from the dead?”

Here is Spurgeon’s observation  (“Law and Grace,” #37, delivered August 26, 1855):

Grace excels sin in the numbers it brings beneath its sway. It is my firm belief that the number of the saved will be far greater than that of the damned. It is written that in all things Jesus shall have the pre-eminence. And why is this to be left out? Can we think that Satan will have more followers than Jesus? Oh, no! For while it is written that the redeemed are a number that no man can number, it is not recorded that the lost are beyond numeration! True, we know that the visible elect are always a remnant, but then there are others to be added. Think for a moment of the army of infant souls who are now in Heaven. These all fell in Adam, but being all elect, were all redeemed and all regenerated and were privileged to fly straight from the mother’s breasts to Glory! Happy lot, which we who are spared, might well envy!  Nor let it be forgotten that the multitudes of converts in the millennial age will very much turn the scale. For then the world will be exceedingly populous and a thousand years of a reign of Grace might easily suffice to overcome the majority accumulated by sin during 6,000 years of its tyranny. In that peaceful period, when all shall know Him, from the least even unto the greatest, the sons of God shall fly as doves to their windows and the Redeemer’s family shall be exceedingly multiplied!

What though those who have been deluded by superstition and destroyed by lust must be counted by thousands—Grace has still the pre-eminence. Saul has slain his thousands, but David his ten thousands. We admit that the number of the damned will be immense, but we do think that the two states of infancy and millennial glory will furnish so great a reserve of saints that Christ shall win the day. The procession of the lost may be long—there must be thousands and thousands of thousands—of those who have perished. But the greater procession of the King of kings shall be composed of larger hosts than even these. “Where sin abounded, Grace did much more abound.” The trophies of Free Grace will be far more than the trophies of sin!

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  1. May 25, 2012 at 10:18 am

    Maybe it’s the pastor in Spurgeon that leads him to this conclusion, as you quoted:

    “Think for a moment of the army of infant souls who are now in Heaven. These all fell in Adam, but being all elect, were all redeemed and all regenerated and were privileged to fly straight from the mother’s breasts to Glory! Happy lot, which we who are spared, might well envy!”

    I’d like to know where in his Biblical understanding he arrived at this conclusion. In Calvin’s Institutes [4.16.17-20] he definitely agrees that some may be saved who are infants, whether baptized or not, but does not make room for all infants being among the elect, redeemed and regenerated; and neither should have Spurgeon. A comfort indeed to parents who have lost children, it none the less does not seem to be a Biblical notion. In fact, one wonders why there need be infant baptism at two-three days of age if indeed all infants are all categorically among the elect . I must say this seems to be one of the only areas in theology that I find Spurgeon lacking a Biblical premise.

    Also, many modern Calvinist’s would not agree with Spurgeon on this issue, because infant election necessarily takes place without faith. This is not to say however, that God cannot use a means other than what He has prescribed to save some. It would however seem odd that he would necessarily choose all unbelieving infants for salvation.

    “The elect are saved by believing the gospel. The Gospel is the seed that is to be sown to all, elect and non-elect alike. When it lands in the heart of an elect person, something absolutely marvelous begins to happen. When the Holy Spirit is pleased, He works a great miracle in the heart through the Gospel seed. He germinates the seed and causes it to break open. It then produces spiritual life in the dead sinner. The Gospel is the means that the Spirit uses to produce the new birth (James 1:18; 1 Pet. 1:23; Luke 8:11). The Spirit germinates the seed by working effectually on it by special saving grace that generates a person by God’s will, not his own. The Gospel is thus “the power of God unto salvation for everyone who believes (Rom. 1:16).” [Tabletalk, Aug. ’98/v.22/n.8/, Curt Daniel, 14ff.]

    • May 25, 2012 at 10:37 am

      I have blogged regarding that particular doctrine, the election/salvation of infants that die, previously. (That is not the topic of discussion for this post.) Also, though Calvin and some others thought differently, many who hold to the Doctrines of Grace/Calvinism, historically and in the present day, understand and affirm the election/salvation of all infants that die.

      As to Spurgeon’s teaching specifically on this subject, refer to this sermon from him, where he taught it in detail:
      http://www.spurgeongems.org/vols7-9/chs411.pdf

  2. May 25, 2012 at 12:16 pm

    “If we had a God whose name was Moloch, if God were an arbitrary tyrant, without benevolence or Grace, we could suppose some infants being cast into Hell! But our God, who hears the young ravens when they cry, certainly will find no delight in the shrieks and cries of infants cast away from His Presence… but He never has, and I think He never will require of us so desperate a stretch of faith as to see goodness in the eternal misery of an infant cast into Hell!”

    Are we to suppose then, that in Psalm 135:6, when “the Lord does whatever he pleases, in heaven and in earth,” that after “He destroyed the firstborn of Egypt (Ps. 135:8),” He found no delight in demonstrating His righteousness in their death, and afterward, saved them? I agree with Spurgeon that we are always left to consider the goodness of God in this matter, but we are not left to consider that He is always good in the way we think He should be. Surely His goodness does not default in the killing of the firstborn of Egypt. There simply is no evidence from Scripture that all infants are regenerated should they die as infants. Yes there are some special instances, which Calvin recognizes as well, but that does not necessarily imply that therefore all infants are saved when they perish, as difficult as that premise is for us to grasp. We simply do not know, and must trust in God to do whatever He sees fit.

    http://www.spurgeongems.org/vols7-9/chs411.pdf

    • May 25, 2012 at 4:13 pm

      As the father of two children who died as infants, despite the human yearning, I agree fully with “There simply is no evidence from Scripture that all infants are regenerated should they die as infants.” There is evidence, however, that God does all things well.

  3. May 25, 2012 at 3:06 pm

    Interesting that we just had this discussion in our Tuesday prison Bible study, among the teachers, that is. I have heard Alan Cairns make the same argument that Spurgeon does, and I love the thought. I am not sure how much direct scriptural support there is for it. Certainly it’s a vast number….but I always end up back at “straight is the gate and narrow the way and FEW there be who find it”…..How does that factor in?

  4. May 25, 2012 at 3:30 pm

    In Spurgeon’s time mid 19th century, the world population was 1.3 billion. Today it is 7 billion. The number of people who ever lived (including the present generations) is about 110 billion. In Spurgeon’s time and clime the child mortality rate was much higher than today. As the Bible is clear about “straight is the gate…few find it,” it seems that even if the child mortality rate (say birth to 12 years old) was much higher in Spurgeon’s day, we should not be distracted by the clear teaching of scripture.

    Of course, we all wish it were not so. The last few days I haven’t been able to get a sermon out of my mind in which it was said that three people die every second. Scores every hour “ascending” to eternal joy or to the horror of eternal damnation. Which way do most go? Narrow is the gate, n’est-ce pas? Terrible.

    • May 25, 2012 at 3:37 pm

      If I really wanted to go out on a limb, I would say “Terrible” ? In human terms, yes; but is it “terrible” from God’s perspective?

      “What shall we say then? Is there injustice on God’s part? By no means! For he says to Moses, ‘I will have mercy on whom I have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I have compassion.’ So then it depends not on human will or exertion, but on God, who has mercy. For the Scripture says to Pharaoh, ‘For this very purpose I have raised you up, that I might show my power in you, and that my name might be proclaimed in all the earth.’ So then he has mercy on whomever he wills, and he hardens whomever he wills. You will say to me then, ‘Why does he still find fault? For who can resist his will?’ But who are you, O man, to answer back to God? Will what is molded say to its molder, ‘Why have you made me like this?’ Has the potter no right over the clay, to make out of the same lump one vessel for honorable use and another for dishonorable use? What if God, desiring to show his wrath and to make known his power, has endured with much patience vessels of wrath prepared for destruction, in order to make known the riches of his glory for vessels of mercy, which he has prepared beforehand for glory–” (Romans 9:14-23)

      • May 25, 2012 at 3:41 pm

        Ed, you’re right. I meant terrorble, the original meaning of the word (in Spurgeon’s day).

  5. May 25, 2012 at 3:52 pm

    When Jesus says,in John 17, that he is not praying for the world but for those the Father has given Him, it is hard for me to see the “world” in a different light, namely as, say, 30% of mankind, and the other 70% given to Jesus by the Father. I can’t understand how that could be right. Need to be convinced (and from other scriptures). Can’t see it happening. Hope springs eternal.

    • May 25, 2012 at 4:04 pm

      For my part here, I am not ignoring your post, but your point/your quandary is not clear to me…sorry.

      • May 25, 2012 at 4:10 pm

        If Spurgeon were right, only then would i have a quandary that, say, 70% were saved, whereas Jesus in John 17 seems to be saying that most (= world) would be lost. I would, however, need to buttress my view with other scriptures.

      • May 25, 2012 at 4:17 pm

        Thanks for clarifying that. I think it’s impossible to “crunch the numbers” about population, infant mortality, etc, and make any sense in this matter. I agree there is a paucity of scripture which is directly on point. I’ve just about decided I’ll find out soon enough…:)

      • May 25, 2012 at 11:43 pm

        I think most of us would agree that even if we think Spurgeon and Lewis Johnson were wrong on this point, both are outstanding pillars of faith and learning. We can’t stop praising God for them. Innit?

      • May 26, 2012 at 4:36 am

        Even I don’t have the audacity to say “Spurgeon is wrong,” and I hope he’s right. I just can’t see it, and am perfectly willing to attribute that not-seeing to my own lack of understanding.

      • May 26, 2012 at 5:09 am

        John Bunyan
        “Therefore I come more particularly to show you, that but few will be saved. I say, but few of professors themselves will be saved; for that is the truth that the text doth more directly look at and defend. Give me therefore thy hand, good reader, and let us soberly walk through the rest of what shall be said; and let us compare as we go each particular with the Holy Scripture.”

        http://www.faithbiblechurchnh.org/bunyan_strait_gate7.htm

        Charles Spurgeon, Autobiography

        “[John Bunyan] had studied our Authorized Version . . . till his whole being was saturated with Scripture; and though his writings are charmingly full of poetry, yet he cannot give us his Pilgrim’s Progress—that sweetest of all prose poems—without continually making us feel and say, ‘Why, this man is a living Bible!’ Prick him anywhere; and you will find that his blood is Bibline, the very essence of the Bible flows from him. He cannot speak without quoting a text, for his soul is full of the Word of God.”

        http://www.symphonyofscripture.com/?p=2112

        Either Spurgeon’s mentor is right or Spurgeon is right.

        I don’t think it audacity to say that anyone can be wrong about what a Bible verse means.

      • May 26, 2012 at 2:17 pm

        Sorry that it seemed I was correcting you………what I meant was “as audacious as I am” I would not say that. What anyone else says is fine by me…..I do not mean to characterize your statement.

  6. Elaine
    May 26, 2012 at 3:26 pm

    Interesting topic.

    Spurgeon, in my opinion, is hardly convincing in his sermon, I am glad he says it’s his opinion, but I’d like for him to base that in Scripture.

    quoting SLJ from Lynda’s quote in the blog post:
    “[…]people get the impression that what He is saying is, talking about the elect, that there are just going to be a few people in heaven. ”

    I would like to have seen more Scriptural backup to his teaching (he might do that in his expositon of Rom 11:15, don’t know). Is it really an impression we get, or the Matt. 7:14 speaks clearly of this?
    “”For the gate is small and the way is narrow that leads to life, and there are few who find it.”

    Of course we remember Rev. 7:9, where John sees a “multitude” of people, the redeemed of all times, but that is compared to what exactly? It just says it’s a lot of people, people that we cannot count, but it doesn’t mean it’s more than the unsaved. Or less. Just a lot.

  7. May 26, 2012 at 4:20 pm

    Thanks for commenting, Elaine. As to SLJ’s comments, the context was Romans 11, and the contrast between this age (in which the Jews are largely in unbelief) with the age to come. Or, the firstfruits of the dough (this age), versus the whole dough and what will happen at the Second Coming. That, “if their rejection means the reconciliation of the world,” — this present age — “what will their acceptance mean but life from the dead?” — the suggestion of the great numbers brought to salvation during the Great Trib and afterward. Revelation 7 is of course a reference to that future time and the very large number of people brought to salvation.

    SLJ, and Spurgeon (as with many other good preachers), did speculate sometimes, just wondering about some things that of course he admitted he didn’t know for sure, nothing we can be absolutely dogmatic but it’s interesting to wonder and think about: “It may well be” as he said, not making it a definite, dogmatic statement, “that there shall be far more people saved than are lost.”

    • May 26, 2012 at 5:45 pm

      Good points, Lynda. Of course, this discussion has carried itself past my computer screen to the dinner table where my wife (a total non-computer person and serious Bible student) presents a similar argument. Holding a stricter view of dispensational divisions, she tends to restrict the “few there be” to this present age and like you, anticipates unimaginable numbers to come out of the Tribulation era. “It may well be….”

  8. May 26, 2012 at 10:43 pm

    There may indeed be unimaginable numbers coming out of the Tribulation era, either in the sense of more than expected or in the sense of the majority. However, the “narrow is the gate” verse is compatible with either of these scenarios, because if, say, many hundreds of millions or many more are converted in the Tribulation period, this would still be RELATIVELY few compared to the 160-180 billion that would have existed on the earth.

    Unless, you say, anyone who is sincere or good and kind will be redeemed – the modern Roman Catholic view.

  9. May 27, 2012 at 7:20 pm

    But that Christ, in his obedience, death, and sacrifice, was a public person, and stood in the room and stead of all and every one in the world, of all ages and times (that is, not only of his elect and those who were given unto him of God, but also of reprobate persons, hated of God from eternity; of those whom he never knew, concerning whom, in the days
    of his flesh, he thanked his Father that he had hid from them the mysteries of salvation; whom he refused to pray for; who were, THE GREATEST PART OF THEM, already damned in hell, and irrevocably gone beyond the limits of redemption, before he actually yielded any obedience), is to us such a monstrous assertion as cannot once be apprehended or thought on without horror or detestation.

    (John Owen’ s Death of Death, p. 189. The context is Owen’s repines to Thomas More’ s universalist arguments).

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