How many will be saved? (Lk 13:23-13:23)

“Someone asked him.

‘Lord!

‘Will only a few

Be saved?’”

 

Εἶπεν δέ τις αὐτῷ Κύριε, εἰ ὀλίγοι οἱ σῳζόμενοι;

 

Luke uniquely indicated that someone along the way asked Jesus (Εἶπεν δέ τις αὐτῷ), as he traveled, addressing him as the “Lord (Κύριε).”  They wanted to know if only a few people would be saved (εἰ ὀλίγοι οἱ σῳζόμενοι)?  This was a main concern among apocalyptic people who were concerned about the end times.  Will they be left behind?  Was salvation for many or just a few?  This has been a continuing question among Christians since the very beginning, but emphasized with John Calvin (1509-1564) and around millennium moments.  Do you think that many or few people will be saved?

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Salvation (Lk 2:30-2:32)

“My eyes

Have seen

Your salvation

That you have prepared

In the presence

Of all people.

He is a light

For revelation

To the Gentiles,

And for glory

To your people

Israel.”

 

ὅτι εἶδον οἱ ὀφθαλμοί μου τὸ σωτήριόν σου,

ὃ ἡτοίμασας κατὰ πρόσωπον πάντων τῶν λαῶν,

φῶς εἰς ἀποκάλυψιν ἐθνῶν καὶ δόξαν λαοῦ σου Ἰσραήλ.

 

Luke indicated the words of the canticle of Simeon said that his eyes had seen the salvation (ὅτι εἶδον οἱ ὀφθαλμοί μου τὸ σωτήριόν σου) that was prepared in the presence of all the people (ὃ ἡτοίμασας κατὰ πρόσωπον πάντων τῶν λαῶν).  This child was to be a light of revelation to the gentile nations (φῶς εἰς ἀποκάλυψιν ἐθνῶν).  He would bring glory to the people of Israel (καὶ δόξαν λαοῦ σου Ἰσραήλ).  This child was going to be the source of revelation and salvation to the gentiles and the Israelites.  He would fulfill the prophecies of Deutero-Isaiah, chapters 40:5, 46:13, and 56:10, about the glory of God and the salvation of Israel.  Deutero-Isaiah, chapters 42:6 and 49:6, also spoke about how Israel would be a light to all the gentile nations.  There was a slight shift in the original prophecies where Israel was the source of the light for the other countries to that of the child here, as the light to all the non-Jewish countries.

Forgive sins (Lk 1:77-1:77)

“You will give

Knowledge

Of salvation

To his people,

By the forgiveness

Of their sins.”

 

τοῦ δοῦναι γνῶσιν σωτηρίας τῷ λαῷ αὐτοῦ ἐν ἀφέσει ἁμαρτιῶν αὐτῶν

 

Luke continued Zechariah’s canticle about the future of John.  Zechariah said that his new born son, John, would give knowledge of salvation (τοῦ δοῦναι γνῶσιν σωτηρίας) to his people (τῷ λαῷ αὐτοῦ) by the forgiveness of their sins (ἐν ἀφέσει ἁμαρτιῶν αὐτῶν).  Zechariah predicted the kind of preaching that John would later give about salvation coming from repentance and the forgiveness of sins.

Saved from enemies (Lk 1:71-1:71)

“We would be saved

From our enemies.

We would be saved

From the hand

Of all who hate us.”

 

σωτηρίαν ἐξ ἐχθρῶν ἡμῶν καὶ ἐκ χειρὸς πάντων τῶν μισούντων ἡμᾶς,

 

Luke continued Zechariah’s canticle with an instance on being saved from enemies, another common theme of the Davidic psalms.  Zechariah said that they would be saved or have salvation (σωτηρίαν) from their enemies (ἐξ ἐχθρῶν ἡμῶν), from the hand (καὶ ἐκ χειρὸς) of all those who hated them (πάντων τῶν μισούντων ἡμᾶς).  This was not about his newly born son, but the Israelites, the sons of David being safe from all their enemies.

Martin Luther (1483-1546)

Over a thousand years later, Martin Luther, a German Augustinian religious monk and Roman Catholic priest at Wittenberg appeared.  He was a bible scholar, so that biblical influences dominated him and his followers.  The epistles of Paul showed that righteousness was a gift that was not earned.  Faith alone, not works or even indulgences to be used in purgatory, was necessary for salvation.  In 1517, he posted his printed objections, since half a century earlier the printing press had been invented.  He translated and published the New Testament in German, so that people could read the Bible themselves.  This led to the Protestant Reformation, which actually maintained many of the medieval Catholic practices.  The Counter Reformation resulted in the Roman Catholic Council of Trent.  Instead of just accepting being excommunicated, these protesters formed their own community in northern Germany and Scandinavia.  Other groups also broke off from the Roman Catholic Church.

Inclusive Model of Salvation

The inclusive model holds that Jesus Christ is the normative expression of God’s will for all people.  The problem is that many people have never known Christ.  What role has the God of love for them?  Is Christian faith offered to everyone?  Some Christians believe in predestination so that only a few are chosen.  Christianity has always been missionary, sometimes overly zealous, as in the Crusades and the Inquisition.  What about those who have never heard of Jesus Christ?  The Catholic Council of Trent (1545-1563) in the 16th century talked about a baptism of desire.  You will be saved by Jesus without knowing him.  Salvation is fully found in Jesus, but offered to everyone in all genuine religions who live the good life, who sincerely seek God, moved by grace, and strive by their deeds to do his will as they know it.  Sometimes we call them like Karl Rahner (1904-1984) “anonymous Christians.”

The need for courage (Bar 4:27-4:29)

“Take courage!

My children!

Cry to God!

You will be remembered

By the one

Who brought this

Upon you.     

Just as you purposed

To go astray

From God,

Return

With tenfold zeal

To seek him!

The one who brought

These calamities

Upon you

Will bring you

Everlasting joy

With your salvation.”

This is almost a repeat of what was said earlier in this chapter about courage. These exiled children of Jerusalem should have courage. They should cry to God. Then God would remember them, since he brought these calamites on them because they went astray from him. Thus they should return to God with a tenfold zeal, so that he would bring them everlasting joy and salvation.