A man asked Jesus the question in the title. We do not know anything about the man, and neither do we know what he meant by his use of the word “saved.” The use of the word “save” in the Christian Greek Scriptures is discussed.
In order to show that the words “save” and “salvation” were used among contemporary Jews, I show that the Mishnah speaks about “this world” (system of things) and “the world to come.” I also show that the concepts “judgment day,” “salvation,” and “everlasting life” are mentioned in the Dead Sea Scrolls. So, the man could have had some of this in mind when he asked his question.
The answer of Jesus dealt with how the Jewish nation (the first) was offered membership in the Kingdom of the heavens, but they did not accept the offer. Therefore, the offer was given to the nations of the world (the last). It is important to realize that the answer of Jesus is a symbolic drama and all its parts symbolize particular things, including Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.
The answer to the man’s question is both Yes and No. Only a few Jews would be saved into the Kingdom of the heavens which was what Jesus spoke about. But several billion people will be saved by a resurrection during the Thousand Year Reign of Jesus.
The different meanings of the words “save” and “salvation” in the Christian Greek Scriptures are discussed, as well as the requirements for those that will be saved. Peter says that baptism “is saving you,” and the parallel between the great flood in Noah’s days is discussed in detail.
At the end of the article, it is shown that the vast majority of Adam’s descendants will be saved by resurrection on Judgment Day.
The word sōzō (“save; rescue; heal”) occurs 51 times in the Christian Greek Scriptures, and sōtēria (“salvation”) occurs 45 times. The context shows that the words are used in many different ways. The article considers this issue.
THE USE OF “SAVE” AND “SALVATION” IN THE CHRISTIAN GREEK SCRIPTURES AND IN THE DEAD SEA SCROLLS
Luke says that a man asked Jesus: “Lord, are those being saved few?” There is no context showing why the man asked this question, and there is no explanation of what the man meant by using the word “saved.” The account is found in Luke 13:23-30:
23 Now a man said to him: “Lord, are those being saved few?” He said to them: 24 “Exert yourselves vigorously to get in through the narrow door, because many, I tell you, will seek to get in but will not be able. 25 When the householder gets up and locks the door, you will stand outside knocking at the door, saying, ‘Lord, open to us.’ But in answer he will say to you: ‘I do not know where you are from.’ 26 Then you will start saying, ‘We ate and drank in your presence, and you taught in our main streets.’ 27 But he will say to you, ‘I do not know where you are from. Get away from me, all you workers of unrighteousness!’28 There is where your weeping and the gnashing of your teeth will be, when you see Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, and all the prophets in the Kingdom of God, but you yourselves thrown outside. 29 Furthermore, people will come from east and west and from north and south, and will recline at the table in the Kingdom of God. 30 And look! there are those last who will be first, and there are those first who will be last.”
The man spoke Hebrew, and the word he used must have been yāsha; the corresponding Greek verb is sōzō. Both verbs have the meaning “rescue; deliver; save,” and this indicates that there must be an object or a complement, clearly expressed or implied — a person must be rescued or saved from something or into something. There are two problems with the question of the man, 1) We do not know the background for the question, and 2) and there is no expressed object or complement.
THE USE OF “SAVE” WITH EXPLICIT OR IMPLICIT OBJECT OR COMPLEMENT
Let us now look at the way the word is used in the gospels. Often the verb is used with the meaning “heal” or “save from sickness.” This is seen in Matthew 9:21, 22:
21 for she kept saying to herself: “If I only touch his outer garment, I will get well (sōzō).” 22 Jesus turned around and, noticing her, said: “Take courage, daughter! Your faith has made you well.” And from that hour the woman was made well (sōzō). 21 for she kept saying to herself: “If I only touch his outer garment, I will get well.” 22 Jesus turned around and, noticing her, said: “Take courage, daughter! Your faith has made you well.” And from that hour the woman was made well (sōzō).
There are several examples in the Gospels where the object or complement of sōzō is a sickness — to save from a sickness. The object that most often is used is “life” — to save the life. Two examples are Luke 6:9 (above) and Mark 8:35 (below):
9 Then Jesus said to them: “I ask you men, Is it lawful on the Sabbath to do good or to do harm, to save (sōzō) a life or to destroy it?”
35 For whoever wants to save (sōzō) his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake and for the sake of the good news will save (sōzō) it.
The object “life” can also be implied, as is the case in Matthew 24:13 (above) and 24:22 (below):
13 But the one who has endured to the end will be saved (sōzō).
22 In fact, unless those days were cut short, no flesh would be saved (sōzō); but on account of the chosen ones those days will be cut short.
In 24:13, “the end” (telos) refers to the coming of Jesus as the judge at the end of his presence. At that time, the life of those who have endured will be saved in the way God decides. The second example refers to the tribulation when people would be killed if God had not cut short those days.
There is also one example that the object is “what is lost,” in Luke 19:10:
10 For the Son of man came to seek and to save (sōzō) what was lost.”
Adam lost the right to live forever on this earth for himself and his offspring. Because Jesus bought all Adam’s descendants when he died, he came to save what Adam lost.
THE USE OF “SAVE” WITH “GOD’S KINGDOM” AS OBJECT OR COMPLEMENT
In Matthew 19:24, the word “save” is used with the meaning “enter into God’s Kingdom.”
24 Jesus looked at him and said: “How difficult it will be for those having money to make their way into the Kingdom of God! 25 It is easier, in fact, for a camel to get through the eye of a sewing needle than for a rich man to enter the Kingdom of God.” 26 Those who heard this said: “Who possibly can be saved (sōzō)?” 27 He said: “The things impossible with men are possible with God.”
The setting here is God’s Kingdom, and the words of those who were present, “Who possibly can be saved?”, must refer to being saved into God’s Kingdom. There are also four other sayings by Jesus where he used the word “saved,” and this naturally would refer to being saved into God’s Kingdom:
10 He said: “To you it is granted to understand the sacred secrets of the Kingdom of God, but for the rest it is in illustrations so that, though looking, they may look in vain, and though hearing, they may not get the sense. 11Now the illustration means this: The seed is the word of God. 12Those alongside the road are the ones who have heard, and then the Devil comes and takes the word away from their hearts so that they may not believe and be saved (sōzō).
34 However, I do not accept the witness from man, but I say these things so that you may be saved (sōzō).
9 I am the door; whoever enters through me will be saved (sōzō), and that one will go in and out and find pasturage.
I have now used passages where Jesus used the verb “save” (sōzō), and we see that in all instances there is an object or complement explicit or implicit. However, the question in Luke 13:23, “Are those being saved few?” does not have a clear object or complement. So, we cannot know what was behind the question of the man.
THE VIEW OF SALVATION AMONG THE JEWS
There are two sources that can be used to learn about Jewish beliefs regarding salvation, namely the Dead Sea Scrolls and the Mishnah. The Mishnah was compiled around 250 CE. But it contains many traditions that were written in BCE and in the first and second centuries CE. The book Avot 4:16 in the Mishnah says “A.R. Jacob says, ‘This world (hā ‘ōlām hazzæ) is like a vestibule before the world to come’(hā ‘ōlām habbā).” There are different viewpoints in the Jewish literature as to what “this world to come” is. But it is agreed that it is a world with blessings from God.
The community at Qumran used the Hebrew Scriptures extensively, and on this basis, they had viewpoints regarding judgment day, salvation, and everlasting life. The Day of Judgment is mentioned in four different manuscripts. The commentary of Habakkuk (1QpHab) 12:12 -14 refers to idols mentioned in Habakkuk 2:18 and says:
This refers to all 13 idols of the Gentiles that they made to worship and bow down to, 14 though they will not save them on the day of judgment.
The manuscript 1Q14 8f 10:8, 9, says:
8 [God, the ones who observe the law] in the party of the Yahad who will be saved (nātsal, take away, deliver) on the Day of 9 [Judgment …]
The text in brackets is reconstructed. The word “Yahad” refers to the community at Qumran, and the members of this community will be saved on Judgment Day. The phrase “day of judgment” is not found in the Hebrew scriptures. But the word “judgment” with reference to the time God will judge people is found in Ecclesiastes 11:9 and 12:14. That God will judge people is mentioned in many places in the Hebrew Scriptures.
The words “everlasting life (hayyim netsach) are found in five Qumran manuscripts:
9 [… lif ]e everlasting. For thus is it written in the divisions of 10 [the times (?)
The Damascus Document (CD) 3:20, says:
19 So He built for them a faithful house in Israel, like none that had ever appeared before; and even 20 at this day, those who hold firm to it shall receive everlasting life, and all human honor is rightly theirs
The Community Rule (1QS) IV:7, 8, says:
To these ends is the earthly counsel of the spirit to those whose nature yearns for truth. Through a gracious visitation all who walk in this spirit will know healing, 7 bountiful peace, long life, and multiple progeny, followed by eternal (‘ōlamim) blessings and perpetual joy through life everlasting (nētsach). They will receive a crown of glory 8 with a robe of honor, resplendent forever and ever.
The last word of interest in this discussion is “to save” or “salvation.” The noun occurs 49 times and the verb occurs 52 times in the Qumran manuscripts. I have already quoted The Habbakuk commentary 12:12-14 in connection with Judgment Day. I quote it again because it also has the word “salvation” in a negative context:
This refers to all 13 idols of the Gentiles that they made to worship and bow down to, 14 though they will not save them on the day of judgment.
The Thanksgiving Psalms (1QHa) 7:29 has the word “salvation” in a positive context.
28 the righteous one, and from the womb You established him to give heed to Your covenant at the appointed time of grace and to walk in all things, nourishing himself 29 in the abundance of Your compassion, and relieving all the distress of his soul for an eternal salvation (lishūat ‘ōlam) and everlasting peace without want. Thus You raise 30 his glory above the mortal. But the wicked You created for [the time of] Your [w]rath, and from the womb You set them apart for the day of slaughter.
The Damascus Document (CD) 20:34 also speaks of “salvation” in a positive context:
All the inhabitants of the earth. Then God will make atonement for them and they will experience His salvation (yeshūah) because they have trusted in His holy name.
The War Scroll (1QM) 1:5 also speaks of the “salvation” of the people of God:
I[srael. Then the]re shall be a time of salvation for the People of God, and time of dominion for all the men of His forces, and eternal annihilation for all the forces of Belial.
The picture we get by comparing the quotations above is that there will be a day of judgment, and the people of God will be saved on that day. The reward of those that are saved will be everlasting life. This is what both the Hebrew Scriptures and the Christian Greek Scriptures say as well. The contrast is seen in the last quotation. Those who are in the army of Belial, i.e., those who do not belong to Yahad, the Qumran community, will be eternally annihilated.
We now have a background from which we can look at the question, “Are those being saved few?” The man could have heard the preaching of Jesus about the Kingdom of God directly or indirectly, and that could have been the background for his question. Or, he could have had the Jewish view of salvation in mind. The view of the Jews as seen in the Dead Sea Scrolls and in the Mishna was that salvation was connected with the world to come and with the Day of Judgment. Those who were saved would get everlasting life in the world to come. If this was the background of the man, he could have wondered if salvation was for the few or for the many. The War Scroll from Qumran could also have been his background. It describes the war between the Sons of Light and the Sons of Darkness. And because the Sons of Light were the small community at Qumran, he could have wondered whether only this small group would be saved into the world to come.
THE ANSWER OF JESUS TO THE QUESTION OF THE MAN
I will again quote the words of Jesus in Luke 13:23:
23 Now a man said to him: “Lord, are those being saved (sōzō) few?” He said to them: 24 “Exert yourselves vigorously to get in through the narrow door, because many, I tell you, will seek to get in but will not be able. 25 When the householder gets up and locks the door, you will stand outside knocking at the door, saying, ‘Lord, open to us.’ But in answer he will say to you: ‘I do not know where you are from.’ 26 Then you will start saying, ‘We ate and drank in your presence, and you taught in our main streets.’ 27 But he will say to you, ‘I do not know where you are from. Get away from me, all you workers of unrighteousness!’28 There is where your weeping and the gnashing of your teeth will be, when you see Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, and all the prophets in the Kingdom of God, but you yourselves thrown outside. 29 Furthermore, people will come from east and west and from north and south, and will recline at the table in the Kingdom of God. 30 And look! there are those last who will be first, and there are those first who will be last.”
There is a parallel account in Matthew 8:10-12
10 When Jesus heard that, he was amazed and said to those following him: “I tell you the truth, with no one in Israel have I found so great a faith. 11 But I tell you that many from east and west will come and recline at the table with Abraham and Isaac and Jacob in the Kingdom of the heavens; 12 whereas the sons of the Kingdom will be thrown into the darkness outside. There is where their weeping and the gnashing of their teeth will be.”
I have already pointed out that the words of Jesus represent a symbolic drama (allēgoreō), so let us try to find the allegorical meaning of the parts of the account.
ABRAHAM, ISAAC, AND JACOB USED AS SYMBOLS
It is important to remember that there are several requirements for those who will be a part of the heavenly government of 144 000 kings. These requirements could not be met by persons who lived before Jesus Christ came to the earth. One reason for this is that one requirement is the application of the ransom sacrifice of Jesus, and this sacrifice could not be applied to persons who lived before the death and resurrection of Jesus.
Another requirement is expressed by Jesus when he spoke with Nicodemus, and by Peter. We read in John 3:1-8 (above) and 1 Peter 1:3, 4 (below)
1 There was a man of the Pharisees named Nic·o·deʹmus, a ruler of the Jews. 2 This one came to him in the night and said to him: “Rabbi, we know that you have come from God as a teacher, for no one can perform these signs that you perform unless God is with him.” 3 In response Jesus said to him: “Most truly I say to you, unless anyone is born again, he cannot see the Kingdom of God.” 4 Nic·o·deʹmus said to him: “How can a man be born when he is old? He cannot enter into the womb of his mother a second time and be born, can he?” 5 Jesus answered: “Most truly I say to you, unless anyone is born from water and spirit, he cannot enter into the Kingdom of God. 6 What has been born from the flesh is flesh, and what has been born from the spirit is spirit. 7 Do not be amazed because I told you: You people must be born again. 8 The wind blows where it wants to, and you hear the sound of it, but you do not know where it comes from and where it is going. So it is with everyone who has been born from the spirit.”
3 Praised be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, for according to his great mercy he gave us a new birth to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, 4 to an incorruptible and undefiled and unfading inheritance. It is reserved in the heavens for you.
Jesus shows that to become a part of the kingdom of God, a person must be born again, which means to be born from water and spirit. Peter shows that the new birth leads to an unfading inheritance that is reserved in the heavens. He also shows that the basis for the new birth is the resurrection of Jesus. In his conversation with Nicodemus, Jesus also shows that Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, who were not born again, were dead and had not ascended to heaven. John 3:13 says:
13 Moreover, no man has ascended into heaven but the one who descended from heaven, the Son of man.
In his speech on the day of Pentecost in the year 33 CE, Peter confirmed that the righteous persons of old had not ascended to heaven. We read in Acts 2:34:
34 For David did not ascend to the heavens, but he himself says, ‘Jehovah said to my Lord: “Sit at my right hand 35 until I place your enemies as a stool for your feet.”’
I do not want to tamper with the Scriptures, and therefore I take a text in its literal meaning if the context does not clearly show that the text has an allegorical meaning or is part of a symbolic drama. When I use the word “context,” I refer to the text around the text under consideration, and I refer to other texts that have a bearing on the text under consideration. Let us now look at the words of Jesus in Luke 11:28, 29, and Matthew 8:11-12. I take the words of Matthew as the point of departure.
But I tell you that many from east and west will come and recline at the table with Abraham and Isaac and Jacob in the Kingdom of the heavens; 12 whereas the sons of the Kingdom will be thrown into the darkness outside.
The Kingdom of the heavens is a literal entity. It is the heavenly government of 144 000 members and Jesus Christ. But apart from that, the words of Jesus cannot be understood in a literal way because they are used as an illustration. Jesus compared the Kingdom of the heavens with a building on the earth where there was a feast. People would be traveling from east, west, north, and south, and they would have a meal at the table in the house together with Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, and all the prophets.
The important point with the illustration is that “the sons of the Kingdom will be thrown into the darkness outside” of the house where the feast is. Who are “the sons of the Kingdom”? They are the nation of Jews who first were invited to be members of the Kingdom of the heavens. But as Paul shows in Romans chapter 11, most of the Jews refused to accept that invitation. In Luke 11:30, Jesus describes the Jews as “the first who will be last.” Those of the nations who will come from all directions are “the last who will be first.” They were not a part of the Jewish people who first got the invitation to become members of the Kingdom of the heavens, but they would be invited, and many of them will accept the invitation.
The only thing that must be understood literally in the account of Jesus is “the Kingdom of the heavens.” The following points are a part of the symbolic drama.
- The house of the feast.
- The table in the house.
- The meal that is served on the table.
- The traveling of people from all directions.
- Being thrown outside of the house.
- The darkness outside.
- Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, and all the prophets.
We should note that each of the points above does not symbolize one particular thing. But they are there in order to show the totality of the symbolic drama — the Kingdom of the heavens portrayed as a feast in a house. However, the persons mentioned have a particular symbolic reference. Those who come traveling from all directions symbolize those people of the nations that will become members of the heavenly Kingdom. Let us then look at the patriarchs and the prophet and their symbolic references. The reasons why I say that the patriarchs and the prophets cannot be understood literally are the points I already have discussed, showing that none of these will be a part of the heavenly Kingdom.
One example where a historical person is used as part of a symbolic drama (allēgoreō) is Melchizedek who pictured God’s Son, Jesus Christ, as we read in Hebrews 7:1-3:
1 For this Mel·chizʹe·dek, king of Saʹlem, priest of the Most High God, met Abraham returning from the slaughter of the kings and blessed him, 2 and Abraham gave him a tenth of everything. First, his name is translated “King of Righteousness,” and then also king of Saʹlem, that is, “King of Peace.”3In being fatherless, motherless, without genealogy, having neither a beginning of days nor an end of life, but being made like the Son of God, he remains a priest for all time.
In his letter to the Galatians, Paul explains a symbolic drama in the same way as the symbolic drama in connection with Melchizedek. We read in Galatians 4:22-31:
21 Tell me, you who want to be under law, Do you not hear the Law? 22 For example, it is written that Abraham had two sons, one by the servant girl and one by the free woman; 23 but the one by the servant girl was actually born through natural descent and the other by the free woman through a promise. 24 These things may be taken as a symbolic drama (allēgoreō); for these women mean two covenants, the one from Mount Siʹnai, which bears children for slavery and which is Haʹgar. 25 Now Haʹgar means Siʹnai, a mountain in Arabia, and she corresponds with the Jerusalem today, for she is in slavery with her children. 26 But the Jerusalem above is free, and she is our mother.27 For it is written: “Be glad, you barren woman who does not give birth; break into joyful shouting, you woman who does not have birth pains; for the children of the desolate woman are more numerous than those of her who has the husband.” 28 Now you, brothers, are children of the promise the same as Isaac was. 29 But just as then the one born through natural descent began persecuting the one born through spirit, so also now. 30 Nevertheless, what does the scripture say? “Drive out the servant girl and her son, for the son of the servant girl will by no means be an heir with the son of the free woman.” 31 So, brothers, we are children, not of a servant girl, but of the free woman.
The word in verse 24 that is translated as “a symbolic drama” is allēgoreō. The meaning of this word according to Louw and Nida is; “To employ an analogy or likeness in communication; speak allegorically,” and Mounce has the definition: “to say what is either designed or fitted to convey a meaning other than the literal one, to allegorize.” This Greek word is not used in other passages in the Christian Greek Scriptures.
In the drama, the symbolic meaning of the wives of Abraham is described, and if we would ask for the symbolic meaning of Abraham, that must be Jehovah God. God was the husband of “Jerusalem above,” the heavenly creatures, and he was also the husband of Israel, according to Isaiah 54:1-5. When Abraham attempted to sacrifice Isaac, Abraham pictured Jehovah who would sacrifice his Son, Jesus Christ.
I have already pointed out that the words of Jesus in Luke 13:23-30 and Matthew 8:11, 12 describe a symbolic drama. And on the basis of Paul’s symbolic drama, we can draw the conclusion that Abraham pictures Jehovah God, Isaac pictures Jesus Christ, and Jacob pictures spiritual Israel, and the same do all the prophets. Those persons who come from all directions will participate in a feast in the heavens together with Jehovah, Jesus, and the other heavenly kings.
IS IT DIFFICULT TO BE SAVED?
The answer of Jesus to the man’s question could at first glance mean that there are few people who will be saved. Jesus said according to Luke 13:23, 24:
24 “Exert yourselves vigorously to get in through the narrow door, because many, I tell you, will seek to get in but will not be able. 25 When the householder gets up and locks the door, you will stand outside knocking at the door, saying, ‘Lord, open to us.’
We should always consider the context in order to understand a text. First, we must keep in mind that the salvation Jesus speaks about is to be one of the kings in the Kingdom of the heavens. And to achieve that there are several requirements that must be fulfilled that accord with the words “Exert yourselves vigorously.” This means that “salvation” in this context means to be saved into the Kingdom of the heavens. Second, the context shows that “the first,” which refers to the Jews, will be “the last” and not be saved into the Kingdom of the heavens. But individuals from among the Jews could be saved into the Kingdom of the heavens if they “exerted themselves vigorously.”
But the words of Jesus in Matthew 12:41, 42 show that a great number of people will be saved by getting a resurrection on Judgment Day. But this is a different “salvation” compared to the one Jesus is speaking about in Luke chapter 13.
41 Men of Ninʹe·veh will rise up in the judgment with this generation and will condemn it, because they repented at what Joʹnah preached. But look! something more than Joʹnah is here. 42 The queen of the south will be raised up in the judgment with this generation and will condemn it, for she came from the ends of the earth to hear the wisdom of Solʹo·mon. But look! something more than Solʹo·mon is here.
Jesus says that the inhabitants of Nineveh and the queen of the south will get a resurrection on Judgment Day. We also note that “this generation,” which is called “this wicked and adulterous generation” in verse 39, will get a resurrection as well and will be saved into the Thousand Year Reign of Jesus by this resurrection. And in order to get this resurrection there is no requirement to “exert oneself vigorously.” The basis for this resurrection is the ransom sacrifice of Jesus Christ.
The application of this sacrifice means that the vast majority of all those who have lived on the earth will be saved by a resurrection. Only the few that have sinned against the holy spirit will not get a resurrection. Therefore, we can say that only a few persons will be saved into the Kingdom of the heavens, but several billion people will be saved by resurrection on the 1000-year-long Judgment Day.
THE WORDS “SAVE” AND “SALVATION” USED IN A RELIGIOUS SENSE
When we study the words “save” and “salvation” used in the religious sense of the words, we need to distinguish between the two hopes that we find in the Holy Scriptures. The hope that is expressed in the Hebrew Scriptures is to live in the future paradise on the earth. The hope that is expressed in the Christian Greek Scriptures is to become a member of the 144 000 kings that will rule together with Jesus Christ. Most of the requirements are the same for both groups, but baptism with holy spirit, i.e., being born again and being declared righteous are only for those with the heavenly hope. The three following scriptures indicate that there are two different hopes, 2 Timothy 4:18 (above), Luke 19:10 (middle), and John 3:16, 17 (below):
18 The Lord will rescue (ruomai, “deliver”) me from every wicked work and will save (sōzō, “save”) me for his heavenly Kingdom. To him be the glory forever and ever. Amen.
10 For the Son of man came to seek and to save (sōzō, “save”) what was lost.” 16
16 “For God loved the world so much that he gave his only-begotten Son, so that everyone exercising faith in him might not be destroyed but have everlasting life.17 For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save (sōzō, “save”) the world through him.
Paul had the heavenly hope, and he would be saved into “his heavenly kingdom.” Adam sold the human race under sin, and each descendant of Adam lost his or her possibility to live forever on the earth. By his death, Jesus bought all Adam’s descendants, and because of this, each one will get a chance to accept or reject the ransom sacrifice with the possibility of living forever on the paradise earth. In this way, Jesus saved what was lost — everlasting life on the paradise earth. And in his conversation with Nicodemus, Jesus said that he had come to save the world, which refers to all Adam’s descendants.
The words “save” and “salvation” are used with reference to the Christians in their present life, and they are used with reference to their future life.
BEING SAVED IN THE PRESENT LIFE AND FOR FUTURE LIFE
Paul is the one who shows that “salvation” is used with reference to the Christians in their present life, and it is used with reference to their future life. In Galatians 1:4 we read:
4 He gave himself for our sins so that he might rescue us (exaireō, “take out; deliver”) from the present wicked system of things (aiōn) according to the will of our God and Father, 5 to whom be the glory forever and ever. Amen.
Some translations have the words “from the evil age,” others have “from the evil world” for the Greek word aiōn. The problem with both renderings is that the Christians were still a part of the evil world or the evil age. Therefore, it does not make sense to say that they are rescued from “the world” or “the age.” The Greek word aiōn can refer to time, and express a time period whose end we cannot see. But it can also refer to a time period with certain characteristics. Therefore, the rendering of NWT13 as “system of things” is excellent. So, the Christians, who still were in the world, were rescued from the wicked system that surrounded them — their way of living, their faith, and their hope were different from the people around them. Acts 2:47 (above) and 11:21 (below) support the words of Galatians:
47praising God and finding favor with all the people. At the same time Jehovah continued to add to them daily those being saved (sōzō).
21Furthermore, the hand of Jehovah was with them, and a great number became believers and turned to the Lord.
The three scriptures quoted above show that Christians are at present saved from this wicked system of things. However, the future salvation of the servants of God both with a heavenly and an earthly hope is based on their continual faithfulness to God, as shown in Matthew 10:22 (above) and 1 Corinthians 15:2 (below):
And you will be hated by all people on account of my name, but the one who has endured to the end will be saved (sōzō).
Through it you are also being saved (sōzō) if you hold firmly to the good news I declared to you, unless you became believers for nothing.
James 5:20 shows that people can be saved from death, and getting a resurrection from the dead is also salvation. In an article about resurrection in The Watchtower of March 15, 1965, pages 178 and 179, we read:
6 Consequently, it is Scripturally wrong to think that there is salvation through ignorance. There will indeed be a resurrection of many ignorant people, the vast majority of dead mankind; but their ignorance is not what makes them worthy of a resurrection and of eternal life.
It is true that “the vast majority of dead mankind” will be saved from death by a resurrection. Only those who have sinned against the holy spirit will not be saved from death. From this point of view, the man’s question to Jesus, “Are those being saved few?” must be answered by No. But those who will be saved into the heavenly Kingdom are few. The Watchtower of April 1, 1982, page 20, has calculated that between 20 and 27 billion of Adam’s descendants have lived on the earth, and most of these will be saved from death by a resurrection. How many of these that will continue to serve Jehovah after the Thousand Year Reign of Jesus Christ we do not know. But we have no reason to believe that a huge number of perfect humans will follow Satan against Jehovah in connection with the test after the 1000 years. I will now look at the requirements for salvation.
THE REQUIREMENTS OF SALVATION
The following discussion relates both to the salvation of the 144000 heirs of the heavenly Kingdom and the earthly salvation. Reigning with Jesus in heaven was the only hope that was preached in the first century CE. However, the preaching with the focus on life in the earthly paradise that started in 1935 CE pointed to the same requirements for salvation of those with an earthly hope as those with a heavenly hope. In addition to these same requirements, those with a heavenly hope must be born again, i.e., baptized in holy spirit, and declared righteous. Salvation is connected with Jesus Christ, as John 4:22 NV96 (above) and Acts 4:12 (below) show:
You worship what you do not know; we worship what we know, because salvation (sōtēria) begins with the Jews (literally: “salvation out of the Jews is” = “salvation is from the Jews”.
Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to men by which we must be saved.”
One purpose with the separation of the Jews from other people was that the Messiah should come from this people, and that he could be identified through this people. In this way, it is true that “salvation is from the Jews.” Only through the Messiah, Jesus Christ is there salvation. One requirement for salvation is accurate knowledge of the Holy Scriptures and faith in Jesus Christ, as is seen in 2 Timothy 3:15 (above) and Acts 16:30, 31 (below):
15 and that from infancy you have known the holy writings, which are able to make you wise for salvation (sōtēria) through faith in Christ Jesus.
30 He brought them outside and said: “Sirs, what must I do to get saved (sōzō)?”31 They said: “Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will get saved (sōzō), you and your household.”
The Hebrew Scriptures have prophecies about the Messiah and how Jehovah will save his people. Jesus fulfilled many of these prophecies and a good knowledge of the Hebrew Scriptures will be of great help to understand this. However, a long study of the Scriptures was not necessary, because the jailer could be saved just by believing in Jesus Christ. On Pentecost in 33 CE, there were also many people who were saved by believing in Jesus Christ. However, these were proselytes and had already a good knowledge of the Hebrew Scriptures.
One requirement showing that persons who lived before the death and resurrection of Jesus could not be saved into the heavenly Kingdom is baptism. The Greek word baptismos means “dipping in water, or being immersed in water,” according to Mounce. In other words, a person who is baptized is immersed in water and then taken out of water. There are two symbolic dramas where baptism is the antitype, the crossing of the Red Sea by the Israelites and the great flood in the days of Noah.
Paul discussed how the crossing of the Red Sea was a type of baptism in 1 Corinthians 10:1, 2:
2 Now I want you to know, brothers, that our forefathers were all under the cloud and all passed through the sea 2 and all got baptized into Moses by means of the cloud and of the sea, 3 and all ate the same spiritual food 4 and all drank the same spiritual drink. For they used to drink from the spiritual rock that followed them, and that rock meant the Christ.
On this occasion, the water formed a wall to their right and a wall to their left, as we read in Exodus 14:21, 22. And a pillar of cloud was above them, according to Exodus 13:21. Because of this, all the people in a way were immersed in water, and when they entered the other side of the Red Sea, they were taken out of the water.
Peter speaks about the great flood as a prophetic type of baptism in 1 Peter 3:20, 21, and he uses the Greek word antitypos (“antitype”):
20 who had formerly been disobedient when God was patiently waiting in Noah’s day, while the ark was being constructed, in which a few people, that is, eight souls, were carried safely through the water. 21 Baptism, which corresponds to this (antitypos) , is also now saving you (not by the removing of the filth of the flesh, but by the request to God for a good conscience), through the resurrection of Jesus Christ.
In order to understand how the flood was the type we need to look at the grammar of the verse. Based on this grammar, I translate parts of verses 20 and 21 this way:
20 when the ark was constructed, by which a few, eight souls, were saved by means of water; 21 that which now is an antitype, baptism, is saving you.
At the end of verse 20, NWT13 has the rendering “were carried safely through the water.” This is a possible rendering, and the preposition “through” is a translation of the Greek preposition dia. Instead of “through” I use the rendering “by means of,” which also is a legitimate rendering of dia. In 1 Corinthians 10:2, NWT13 uses the words “baptized into Moses by means of the cloud and the sea.” The words “by means of” in this case are translated from the preposition en. The meaning of the preposition must be construed from the context because each preposition can have numerous meanings. In this case, en has the meaning “by means of,” just as dia has in 1 Peter 3:20.
Verse 21 starts with the pronoun ho (“who, that, which”). This pronoun is neuter singular, so its antecedent must also be neuter singular. And last word in verse 20 is hydatos (“water”), which is neuter singular. This must be the antecedent.
Expressed in English, verse 21 says “that which. . . is saving you” and the grammar shows that “that which” refers to the last word “water” in verse 20. The water in the flood saved Noah and his family, and they were baptized by this water that saved them. Peter then uses the Greek word antitypos, (“antitype, copy”), and the antitype is baptism. The point of Peter, as I understand him, is that Noah and his family were saved by means of water in the flood, and Christians will correspondingly be saved from this system of things (Galatians 1:4) by means of the baptismal water.
Table 1.1 Being saved by baptism
|Baptism||Immersed in water||Taken through the water||Saved from the water|
|1 Corinthians 10:2||Immersed in the water and the cloud in the Red Sea||Taken through the water of the Red Sea by crossing it||Saved from the water in the Red Sea|
|1 Peter 3:20||Immersed in the water of the flood||Taken through the water of the flood by the ark||Saved from the water of the flood|
The parallells are clear. Those being baptized, the nation of Israel in the Red Sea, and Noah and his family in the flood, were all “immersed” in water. But none of them drowned in the water because they were carried through the water and up from the water. And by being taken up, the nation of Israel and Noah and his family were saved from death by means of the water. And in a similar way, the one being immersed in water by baptism and taken up from the water is being saved from the wicked system of things by means of the water.
The Greek word “request” in the expression “request for a good conscience” in 1 Peter 3:21 is eperōtēma, and the meaning of the word can be both “request; appeal” and “pledge.” Regardless of whether we translate “a pledge for a good conscience” or “request for a good conscience,” the words show that baptism is the person’s dedication to God.
The conclusion of this section is that to be saved, either as one of the 144,000 heavenly kings, or as one of the great crowd that will survive the great tribulation, a person has to “exert himself vigorously,” as Jesus said in Luke 13:24. This means to repent one’s sins, dedicate oneself to Jehovah, and symbolize this by baptism. In order to reach the goal, one has to endure to the end. (Mathew 24:13)
PERSONS WHO ARE NOT “EXCERING THEMSELVES VIGOROUSLY” WILL ALSO BE SAVED
But what can we say regarding all those who are not a part of the Kingdom heirs or the great crowd? They can be saved even if they are not fulfilling the requirements mentioned. How so? Because Jesus bought all Adam’s descendants when he died, all Adam’s descendants that has not sinned against the holy spirit, will be saved from death by a resurrection during the Thousand Year Reign of Jesus. Then each one will get the chance to accept or reject the ransom sacrifice.
But what can we say regarding those who have dedicated themselves to Jehovah but who do not endure to the end? There can be many reasons for this that do not make the person an enemy of God. For example, a young woman is sexually abused by a man in the congregation, and the elders do not handle the situation in the correct way. She feels that they take sides with the abuser, and this breaks her down to the point that she starts hating the congregation. She leaves the congregation, and for years to come, she is not able to open a Bible because that reminds her of the bad situation that she experienced. What will be her destiny if she dies or if she lives when the great tribulation comes?
The situation in the first century CE can throw some light on this question. In the article, “The members of the Governing Body do not believe in the full inspiration of the Bible” I analyze in detail the words of Jesus about who will get a resurrection. Of particular importance are his words about the inhabitants of Chorazin, Capernaum, and Bethsaida. Jesus preached to these inhabitants, and they saw his miracles, but nevertheless, they did not put faith in Jesus. In spite of this, Jesus said that “this adulterous and wicked generation” which includes the inhabitants of the three mentioned cities, will get a resurrection on Judgment Day. (Matthew 12:39-42).
What can we say about the mentioned woman who left her congregation? Is she more guilty than the members of the mentioned “adulterous and wicked generation”? Or what can we say about persons who have been Christians but have left the congregation for various reasons? Have they had a better chance than the inhabitants of Chorasin, Capernaum, and Bethsaida to choose or reject the truth of God? There are two verses that will cut through this issue, so we can see the issue in its right perspective, and that is Matthew 12:31-32:
31 “For this reason I say to you, every sort of sin and blasphemy will be forgiven men, but the blasphemy against the spirit will not be forgiven. 32 For example, whoever speaks a word against the Son of man, it will be forgiven him; but whoever speaks against the holy spirit, it will not be forgiven him, no, not in this system of things nor in that to come.
There is a simple answer to the questions that I have asked, and this answer is posed as another question: Has the person sinned against the holy spirit? If the answer is no, this person will get a resurrection on Judgment Day. And only God knows whether a person has sinned against the holy spirit. But sad to say, the members of the Governing Body behave as if they were authorized by God to be judges. They say that not only persons who have left the Christian congregation will be eternally annihilated. But they say that all persons who are not Jehovah’s Witnesses when the great tribulation comes will be eternally annihilated. This goes against the love and righteousness of God and the purpose of the ransom sacrifice. And most important, they have completely misunderstood the verses in the Christian Greek Scriptures that they use to show that so many will be eternally annihilated. I show this in the article, “The members of the Governing Body have devalued and restricted the ransom sacrifice of Jesus Christ.”
Instead of accepting the words of the present members of the Governing Body, we should believe in the wise words of the leaders of Jehovah’s Witnesses that were published in The Watchtower in 1965, six years before the Governing Body was established. They wrote that “the vast majority” of the dead will get a resurrection. And all these people will be saved from death by their resurrection. So the question of the man to Jesus: “Are those being saved few”? must be answered with a clear No. Most of the persons who have lived on the earth will be saved by their resurrection on Judgment Day.
|The heirs of the heavenly Kingdom and the members of the great crowd must “exert themselves vigorously” and by this fulfill the requirements in order to be saved.
All other of Adam’s descendants were bought when Jesus died. All of these, except the few who have sinned against the holy spirit, will be saved from death by resurrection. They must not fulfill any requirements while they are living on the earth; it is the ransom sacrifice that saves them.
. What sin against the holy spirit means is discussed in several articles. You can find these articles in “A list of articles on this website” in the category “Table of contents.”
In order to answer the question: “Are those being saved few?”, we need to look at the context. The words “save” and “salvation” are used in many different ways. Therefore we must always look at the context.
The members of the Jewish nation were invited to become members of the heavenly Kingdom. But most of them refused. The people of the nations were now invited, and they accepted the invitation to fill the number of 144,000. Few Jews will be saved into the heavenly Kingdom, and there are also rather few people of the nations.
However, because Jesus bought all Adam’s descendants when he died, the vast majority of Adam’s descendants will be saved by resurrection on Judgment Day. This means that depending on which group we are referring to, we can both say that “few will be saved” and “a great number will be saved.”