I just read an article entitled Few Americans Believe the Bible Is The Literal Word Of God that states 24% of Americans believe in the Bible. That number is based on a Gallup poll, and the results are summarized in this graphic. Just 47% believe the Bible is even inspired by God, and there are more that believe it is a book of fables than there are that believe it is God’s literal word.
I can state this with absolute certainty, the majority of the poll participants in that Gallup poll are not people that study the Bible. And, being an analyst for most of my life, and making bold assertions about what stock markets might do over a window of time, or what we might see in the way of economic growth, and having gotten those market and economic calls wrong a lot of the time, I am well aware of the risks involved in making an absolute call on anything. Notwithstanding that caveat, I stand by that assertion – they base their views, not on well informed research, but rather on the fact that parts of the Bible don’t line up with what they believe God should be like.
There are people in the world who are a lot better informed on the matter than these poll participants in the aggregate that disagree with their view, and I am one of them. And, I base my view on researching the matter, and I do that for one single reason – I don’t want to be wrong in terms of my beliefs as the Bible – if it is God’s inerrant Word – tells me that my belief in His Word is what will reserve for me my place in heaven.
What I find so interesting about this poll is that it provides one more empirical piece of evidence that what the Bible says is true. What the Bible tells us is that the gate into Heaven is the narrow gate and few will get through it. One example of that proclamation is found in Matthew 7:13-14:
Entering the Kingdom
Enter through the narrow gate. For the gate is wide and the road broad that leads to destruction, and there are many who go through it. 14 How narrow is the gate and difficult the road that leads to life, and few find it.
Is that statement one that we should take literally? Let’s see what the Bible says about heaven.
Are there really gates into Heaven?
Revelation is one place in the Bible where we learn what heaven really is like, and it probably isn’t what you think it’s like. Here it is described in Revelation 21:1-4:
The New Creation
Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth; for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more. 2 I also saw the holy city, the New Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared like a bride adorned for her husband.
3 Then I heard a loud voice from the throne: Look, God’s dwelling is with humanity, and he will live with them. They will be his peoples, and God himself will be with them and will be their God. 4 He will wipe away every tear from their eyes. Death will be no more; grief, crying, and pain will be no more, because the previous things have passed away.
Description of New Jerusalem
15 The angel who spoke to me had a gold measuring rod with which to measure the city, its gates, and its wall. 16 Now the city was laid out as a square. Its length was the same as its width. He measured the city with the rod, and it was fifteen hundred miles. Its length and width and height were equal. 17 He also measured the thickness of its wall. It was two hundred sixteen feet thick, as a person—or rather, an angel—measures things. 18 The wall was built of jasper, and the city was pure gold, like pure glass. 19 The city wall’s foundations were decorated with every kind of jewel. The first foundation was jasper, the second was sapphire, the third was chalcedony, and the fourth was emerald. 20 The fifth was sardonyx, the sixth was carnelian, the seventh was chrysolite, and the eighth was beryl. The ninth was topaz, the tenth was chrysoprase, the eleventh was jacinth, and the twelfth was amethyst.21 The twelve gates were twelve pearls; each one of the gates was made from a single pearl. And the city’s main street was pure gold, as transparent as glass.
22 I didn’t see a temple in the city, because its temple is the Lord God Almighty and the Lamb. 23 The city doesn’t need the sun or the moon to shine on it, because God’s glory is its light, and its lamp is the Lamb.24 The nations will walk by its light, and the kings of the earth will bring their glory into it. 25 Its gates will never be shut by day, and there will be no night there. 26 They will bring the glory and honor of the nations into it. 27 Nothing unclean will ever enter it, nor anyone who does what is vile and deceitful, but only those who are registered in the Lamb’s scroll of life.
A 1,500 mile square city on earth is where the heaven you’ve heard about all your life will be. I suppose you thought it was in the clouds somewhere, or in an alternate dimension maybe. And, maybe that is why you choose not to believe in the literal interpretation of the Bible. To better understand the size of New Jerusalem we can look at this photo with a square box laid over the top of the United States:
As far as cities go, New Jerusalem will be really big. And, it will be where all those who are found in the “Lamb’s Scroll of Life” will reside. Somewhere outside the gates of that city is hell.
So, let’s do a little math. We can start by estimating how many people over time have ever lived. The number is roughly 108 billion. That figure comes with help from Carl Haub, a senior demographer at the Population Reference Bureau, a nonprofit organization that studies population trends. I need to credit Mona Chalabi for this information. I found it in her article – What Are The Demographics Of Heaven?
So, now we have 108 billion people that have been born throughout history, and per the Bible, none of them are in heaven or hell right now – they are just dead. That is, except those of us who are currently still living. And you thought your mother was watching over you from heaven I suppose! I don’t know how many times I’ve heard that stated, and there is just no biblical support for that position. Unfortunately, mom is just dead if you believe the words of the Bible, and I do, as they make more sense than any other version of life, death, and the hereafter that I can find.
However, at the time of the Second Coming of Christ mom will be resurrected along with everybody else who has ever lived, so hope is not lost. You may get to see her again. But, if the Bible is right, you won’t live in the same neighborhood with her unless you both end up receiving the same judgment at the time of our resurrection when Jesus will set in judgement over all of us. We learn of that in Matthew 25:31-46:
Judgment of the nations
31 “Now when the Human One comes in his majesty and all his angels are with him, he will sit on his majestic throne. 32 All the nations will be gathered in front of him. He will separate them from each other, just as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. 33 He will put the sheep on his right side. But the goats he will put on his left.
34 “Then the king will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who will receive good things from my Father. Inherit the kingdom that was prepared for you before the world began. 35 I was hungry and you gave me food to eat. I was thirsty and you gave me a drink. I was a stranger and you welcomed me. 36 I was naked and you gave me clothes to wear. I was sick and you took care of me. I was in prison and you visited me.’
37 “Then those who are righteous will reply to him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you a drink? 38 When did we see you as a stranger and welcome you, or naked and give you clothes to wear? 39 When did we see you sick or in prison and visit you?’
40 “Then the king will reply to them, ‘I assure you that when you have done it for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you have done it for me.’
41 “Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Get away from me, you who will receive terrible things. Go into the unending fire that has been prepared for the devil and his angels. 42 I was hungry and you didn’t give me food to eat. I was thirsty and you didn’t give me anything to drink. 43 I was a stranger and you didn’t welcome me. I was naked and you didn’t give me clothes to wear. I was sick and in prison, and you didn’t visit me.’
44 “Then they will reply, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison and didn’t do anything to help you?’ 45 Then he will answer, ‘I assure you that when you haven’t done it for one of the least of these, you haven’t done it for me.’ 46 And they will go away into eternal punishment. But the righteous ones will go into eternal life.”
So, Jesus has his work cut out – he has to pass judgement on 108 billion people. How long will that take I wonder? Well, assuming good records are being kept, the decision will already be made at the time of judgment, so it shouldn’t take too long to decide on a single person – maybe 5 minutes. Well, when you multiply 5 minutes by 108 billion you still end up with a lot of time don’t you? Let’s do the math:
108 billion X 5 minutes = 540 billion / 60 minutes = 9 billion hours / 8,760 hours per year
= 1,027,397 years.
Now, let’s do one more thing – let’s give a little thought to Einstein’s Theory of Relativity. He proved that time is not what we think it is. I won’t offer an explanation for why that is, but you can do your own research on the matter if you want. What I do want to point out though is that God is consistently described as “light” in the Bible, and light travels at the speed of 186,000 miles per second. On the other hand, our perception of time is based on the rotation of the earth on its axis, and that number is 1,040 miles per hour – pretty fast, but not nearly as fast as 186,000 miles per second.
A few quick calculations and we see that God’s time means he is moving at 696,600,000 miles per hour, or 643,846 times faster than we are. So, if it really did take Jesus 5 minutes, and after adjusting for the speed differential I am assuming here, it would take Him 1,659 years to judge everyone, not 1,027,397 years.
Obviously I don’t know how this judgment process takes place, so I am being highly speculative when playing with these numbers, but I do find the thought exercise intriguing. I suspect the judgment will be, at least from our perspective, almost instant, so we would have to play with the numbers a little more to get that to occur. However you choose to look at it, if the universe is 14 billion years old, and God created it, then he too is at least 14 billion years old, so even 1,659 years is a pittance relatively speaking. I did the calculation for you – it is 0.00001%. Just something to ponder.
I got sidetracked there as what I really want to do is calculate the numbers of people that can comfortably reside inside the borders of the New Jerusalem.
How many people will fit inside the borders of Heaven?
A lot of math going on here, but math and science are things I have confidence in – they are the things I use to build my confidence in the idea that the Bible really is God’s inerrant Word. So, with that let’s keep going. How many square feet will be inside the walls of New Jerusalem – or, to put it another way, how many square feet are in heaven?
(1,500 x 5,280)2 = 62,726,400,000,000 square feet
Now, if everybody made the cut, on average how many square feet would each person have?
62,726,400,000,000 / 108,000,000,000 = 580.8 square feet
Let’s compare that number to what, on average, every person today has in the way of square feet of space. The total area of earth is approximately 197 million square miles. And, our current population is approximately 7,515,284,153. Let’s see how many square miles each of us would have on average as the first step.
197,000,000 / 7,515,284,153 = 0.026213247 square miles
So each of us has an average of .026213347 square miles of space. Let’s convert that to square feet.
5,280 2 = 27,878,400 square feet in a square mile
27,878,400 x .026213347 = 730,783 square feet
So, that means each of us has a pro-rata share of the total surface of the earth of about 730,783 square feet. That does include the oceans in the number, and I left it that way for a reason, and it will become clearer to you why I did that as we proceed.
Let’s summarize for those who didn’t follow the math
The earth has an area of 197 million square miles, and a population of about 7.5 billion people. That means, on average, each of us has a pro-rate square foot allocation of 730,783 of space. That works out to be about 3.7 square city blocks of space for each of us to create a better perspective.
But, if everybody who ever lived was suddenly brought back to life to live on earth, how much space would we have then? The answer is that we would have just 7% of those 3.7 blocks, or about 1/4th of a city block of space.
How many people will there be in Heaven?
So, it seems reasonable to assume that those who reside inside the gates of heaven would have at least as much space as those outside the gates. Well, heaven is the New Jerusalem according to the Bible, and it is 1,500 square miles. And, earth is 197 million square miles.
I do need to clarify a point here by the way. When we speak of the earth’s surface being 197 million square miles, we need to make note of the fact that the number does include the oceans as I mentioned above, as well as the land masses. We are told in Revelation 21:1 that the “sea was no more.” So, when doing the math I am taking into account the entirety of the earth’s surface, not just the land masses.
Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the former heaven and the former earth had passed away, and the sea was no more.
There is one mention of water though, and that is the water that flows through the main street of New Jerusalem. We find that in Revelation 22:1-2:
Then the angel showed me the river of life-giving water, shining like crystal, flowing from the throne of God and the Lamb 2 through the middle of the city’s main street. On each side of the river is the tree of life, which produces twelve crops of fruit, bearing its fruit each month. The tree’s leaves are for the healing of the nations. 3 There will no longer be any curse. The throne of God and the Lamb will be in it, and his servants will worship him. 4 They will see his face, and his name will be on their foreheads. 5 Night will be no more. They won’t need the light of a lamp or the light of the sun, for the Lord God will shine on them, and they will rule forever and always.
We have covered a lot of territory here, and much of it I am sure you’ve never given the slightest consideration to. And, although we can’t know for sure how many of the 108 billion people will reside in heaven, I think it is safe to say that most won’t, and for the simple reason that heaven will, relatively speaking, occupy a small part of the earth’s surface assuming the new earth is roughly the same size as our current earth.
We know that the New Jerusalem will be 1,500 square miles, just .001% of the total surface of the earth when considering the water masses in that number. We can look at the land masses only for comparison purposes. Total land mass on earth is 57 million square miles. So, 1,500 square miles as a percent of 57 million square miles is still relatively small, about .003%.
If we use the .003% number, and assume that space is rationed equally between the saved and the unsaved, then just .003% of us will reside inside the walls of New Jerusalem. That is about 324 million people – roughly the population of the United States.
The land mass of the continental United States is 3,119,884 square miles, and New Jerusalem will be 2,250,000 square miles, so if the population density of heaven is about the same as the United States then somewhere in the neighborhood of 300 million people would be the number of those who will live inside the walls of heaven.
I wrote a book called Betting on Jesus. It was a shock to most of those who know me that I would write a book of that nature. They just don’t see me as a particularly devout person. Suffice it to say they don’t really know me, but that isn’t the point. I think most everyone I know does accept that I have always claimed to be a Christian – they just didn’t know how much time I spend studying the Bible, or pondering on the words of the Bible. I have been a student of the Bible for over 40 years.
Well, when I started the book I didn’t realize where I would be taken. I just let the thoughts that surfaced in my mind give me the problems I needed to solve, and then I went about doing what I always do – searching for answers by doing research on the questions I was trying to get answers to. That is something that I am really pretty good at – that is, doing research, and also applying some out-of-the-box logic to my analysis.
This weekend I decided to start a website – as crude as it is at this point – and use the website to continue to offer those who are interested in my analysis easy access to some of my research. My goal is very one dimensional – save the souls of my friends and family. But, I can’t really say such a thing to them as they may well take offense at my words. And, in many ways they would be right to take offense. After all, it is highly presumptuous of me to think that they won’t be saved.
And, the truth is this – I don’t know who will be admitted into heaven, and who will be refused admittance. The Bible clearly says we will be saved by grace, but it also says that few will enter through the narrow gate that leads to eternal life with God. To my way of thinking, that means that a lot of people who think they are Christians and will be saved really don’t know that much about it, at least in terms of what the Bible says. And, the Bible is a very difficult book to understand. Even the most devoted Bible scholars struggle with it.
So, with that said, my goal is to seek out different ways to “prove” the Bible, to take it out of that esoteric realm that most of us see, and bring it down to a level we can better comprehend. Now, I don’t know that I have everything right when I draw conclusions from my analysis, but after reading this short essay you can surely see that I do add a unique perspective to the matter.
Here’s the point – I am a macro economist in the sense that I have approached my economic and market research from a macro perspective for all of my working life. The best way I can explain the word macro as I use the word is to explain that I look at every metric I can think of that might have a bearing on outcome, but I look at it holistically – that is, I try to connect the dots to give me sort of a big picture global view of things.
Well, that sort of analysis is exceptionally well suited for studying the Bible. One thing leads to another, and with each step through the process we begin to build an integrated whole. Not everybody thinks that way, so it seems useful for those of us who do to share our research with those who don’t, and that is what I am doing with the book, and with the website. I really am interested in saving souls, and that includes my own, and to do that I personally need proof – not just some trite phrase like “you just have to have faith.”
That never worked for me. My interest in the Bible in the first place was the result of Hal Lindsey’s work on biblical prophecy that he articulated in his book The Late Great Planet Earth. Those prophecies, and there are lots and lots of them, were made hundreds and even thousands of years before the events actually happened.
Whether we want to call it empirical proof or not, it is in fact empirical proof of divine inspiration in that the probability of someone getting even one of these predictions right is extremely low, and in the case of the Bible, there are hundreds of these predictions that were proven correct over time. The Gallup poll that I mentioned at the start of this essay is a very serious problem. The problem is this – the people polled on the subject simply have no basis to reject the Bible, at least no basis that is grounded in objectivity. And, the result, if I am correct, is that a lot of people will indeed be left outside the gate looking in, and perhaps they will be thirsting for a little water. Coincidentally, that is exactly what we see in Luke 16.
“The poor man died and was carried by angels to Abraham’s side. The rich man also died and was buried. 23 While being tormented in the place of the dead, he looked up and saw Abraham at a distance with Lazarus at his side. 24 He shouted, ‘Father Abraham, have mercy on me. Send Lazarus to dip the tip of his finger in water and cool my tongue, because I’m suffering in this flame.’ 25 But Abraham said, ‘Child, remember that during your lifetime you received good things, whereas Lazarus received terrible things. Now Lazarus is being comforted and you are in great pain. 26 Moreover, a great crevasse has been fixed between us and you. Those who wish to cross over from here to you cannot. Neither can anyone cross from there to us.’
Amazing isn’t it, that the stories we read about in the Bible, stories that were authored by a very diverse group of people, and over a very wide span of time, come together in a way that is so incredibly congruent. We read that the only water on the new earth is inside the gates of New Jerusalem, and then we read the story of the rich man asking for water from outside the gate. Doesn’t that lead one to ask a question – is the literal hell spoken of in the Bible all that space on earth that is a barren wasteland, and sits outside the gates. I don’t know, but my mind tells me I should investigate the matter further.