How many will be saved, few or many?                                                          By Jack Kettler


It is readily admitted that this is somewhat of an impossible question. Nevertheless, believers should be prepared for the times in God’s providence when one meets a non-believing skeptic.


“Enter ye in at the strait gate: for wide is the gate, and broad is the way, that leadeth to destruction, and many there be which go in there at: Because strait is the gate, and narrow is the way, which leadeth unto life, and few there be that find it.” (Matthew 7:13-14)


Matthew Poole's Commentary on this text is fairly typical and orthodox: 


“Ver. 13,14. Our Saviour having in this sermon delivered many hard sayings to flesh and blood, here obviates a twofold temptation they might have to neglect of them:


1. From their difficulty.


2. From the paucity of them who live according to these rules.”


“He here compares heaven to a house, a stately house, into which a”


“strait gate leadeth to a city, the way to which is a narrow way. There is nothing more ordinary in holy writ, than to call a common course of men’s actions a way. It is also compared to a gate. The sum of what our Saviour here saith is this: There are but two ultimate ends of all men, eternal destruction and eternal life. The course that leadeth to destruction is like a broad way that is obvious to all, and many walk in that. That course of life and actions which will bring a man to heaven is strait, unpleasing to flesh and blood, not at all gratifying men’s sensitive appetites, and narrow, (the Greek is, afflicted), a way wherein men will meet with many crosses and temptations; and there are but a few will find it. You must not therefore wonder if my precepts be hard to your carnal apprehensions, nor be scandalized though you see but few going in the right road to the kingdom of heaven.” (1)


“For many are called, but few are chosen.” (Matthew 22:14)


“Then said one unto him, Lord, are there few that be saved? And he said unto them, strive to enter in at the strait gate: for many, I say unto you, will seek to enter in, and shall not be able.” (Luke 13:23-24)


The above passages indicate that the number saved will be “few.”


What about the passages that argue otherwise? For example:


“Another parable put he forth unto them, saying, the kingdom of heaven is like to a grain of mustard seed, which a man took, and sowed in his field: Which indeed is the least of all seeds: but when it is grown, it is the greatest among herbs, and becometh a tree, so that the birds of the air come and lodge in the branches thereof.” (Matthew 13:31–32)


“After this I beheld, and, lo, a great multitude, which no man could number, of all nations, and kindreds, and people, and tongues, stood before the throne, and before the Lamb, clothed with white robes, and palms in their hands.” (Revelation 7:9)


Consulting Matthew Poole's Commentary again:


“If we inquire who these were, we are told, Revelation 7:14, by the best Interpreter: These are they which came out of great tribulation, and have washed their robes, & c. So that they do not seem to be the one hundred and forty-four thousand mentioned for preservation in and from the evil, Revelation 7:4, but such as had escaped, or were not in or going into tribulation, but come out. The number of the former was determined; it is said of these, it could not be numbered. These were glorified ones, not militant; they”


“stood before the throne, and the Lamb, clothed with white robes; clothed in the habits of such as amongst the Romans had fought, and conquered, and triumphed; and to this end they are said to have carried palms, the ensigns of victory, in their hands.” (2)


In the above two passages, the number of those who obtain salvation is many or so large that they cannot be numbered.


How can one explain the apparent contradiction between Matthew 7:14, which says “few,” and Revelation 7:9, which says “a great multitude, which no man could number,” to a skeptic?


Not a contradiction at all, contrasting the two gates:


One way to explain this apparent contradiction to a skeptic is to point out that the use of the word “few” in Matthew 7:14 is likely referring to the number of people entering God's kingdom who are on the narrow path. In contrast, Revelation 7:9 is likely referring more broadly to all those who will be found in the kingdom of God one day, including those who will be saved through accepting Jesus' sacrifice and those who will be saved through good works. The Bible says in Matthew 25:41 that many people will be cast out into the abyss of darkness and judged accordingly. A skeptic could better understand the difference between the “few” and the “great multitude” in both passages by emphasizing the contrast between these two groups.


Said another way:


The apparent contradiction between Matthew 7:14 and Revelation 7:9 resolves around the fact that these two passages refer to two different groups of people. Matthew 7:14 speaks of the “few” that will find the narrow gate to Heaven, while Revelation refers to a great multitude, which no man could number, of people who will enter the gates of Heaven. In other words, while the number of those that will enter Heaven through the narrow gate is small compared to all of humanity, a great number will enter through the gates of Heaven once they have been saved.


Therefore, the gate to heaven is narrow. However, when human history is complete, and everyone has come through heaven’s gate, this side of heaven in totality, the number of saints from Adam to the 2nd Coming will be innumerable.  


In conclusion:


No need to doubt. The believer can be certain that all of God's elect will be saved since He is all-powerful and actively works for the best of those who love Him.


Romans 8:28-30 approves this:


“And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose. For whom he did foreknow, he also did predestinate to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brethren. Moreover, whom he did predestinate, them he also called: and whom he called, them he also justified: and whom he justified, them he also glorified.”


Therefore, the sanctified believer will be included in that innumerable multitude pictured in Revelation 7:9.


“Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.” (2 Timothy 2:15)




1.      Matthew Poole's Commentary on the Holy Bible, Matthew, Vol. 3, (Peabody, Massachusetts, Hendrickson Publishers, 1985) p. 31.

2.      Matthew Poole's Commentary on the Holy Bible, Revelation, Vol. 3, (Peabody, Massachusetts, Hendrickson Publishers, 1985) p. 968.


Mr. Kettler has previously published articles in the Chalcedon Report and Contra Mundum. He and his wife, Marea, attend the Westminster, CO, RPCNA Church. Mr. Kettler is the author of 15 books defending the Reformed Faith. Books can be ordered online at Amazon.