I do not know the population of the world in Noah’s day. The Bible says men had multiplied on the face of the land (Genesis 6:1). It also says, “Then the Lord saw that the wickedness of man was great on the earth, and that every intent of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually” (v. 5). God was sorry that He made man and determined to blot him out (vv. 6-7).
Not everyone was so wicked, and so not everyone was exterminated. How many were saved? “. . . A few, that is eight persons, were brought safely through the water” (1 Peter 3:20). Genesis identifies them as Noah and his wife, and Noah’s three sons and their wives.
God directed Moses to take a census of the Israelites when he led them out of bondage in Egypt (Numbers 1). The men who were eligible for war (twenty years old and upward [v. 3]), numbered 603,550 (v. 46). That total did not include the Levites (v. 47).
When the time came to conquer Canaan, the Israelites balked. They were unbelieving and disobedient (Hebrews 3:18-19). They sided with the majority of the spies, who said the Canaanite peoples were too strong (Numbers 13-14). Two spies, Joshua and Caleb, argued that God would give the victory, but the congregation rejected their plea. God then announced His verdict: “Your corpses will fall in this wilderness, even all your numbered men, according to your complete number from twenty years old and upward, who have grumbled against Me” (Numbers 14:29). Of the 603,550 who left Egypt, only two, Joshua and Caleb, entered Canaan. That is a few by anyone’s definition!
Jesus, through John, wrote a letter to the church at Sardis. Again, I do not know how large that congre-gation was. The Lord said that they were dead, despite their reputation of being alive. He challenged them to wake up or else He would come against them. He then added, “But you have a few people in Sardis who have not soiled their garments; and they will walk with Me, for they are worthy” (Revelation 3:4).
What should we learn from this brief study?
For one thing, we had better take the Lord at His word when He says few will be saved (Matthew 7:13-14). While the book of Revelation pictures a great multitude in heaven (7:9-17), they are nonetheless but few overall. The popular notion that most folks will be in heaven is just not so!
The main point for each of us, however, is not how many “a few” is; it is whether I am part of that number. Someone once asked Jesus if just a few would be saved. He responded, “Strive to enter through the narrow door; for many, I tell you, will seek to enter and will not be able” (Luke 13:24).