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Jesus famously said in Matthew 7:13-14, “Enter through the narrow gate; for wide is the gate and broad is the way that leads to destruction, and those who enter through it are many. For narrow is the gate and constricted is the way that leads to life, and those who find it are few.” True believers have always comprised a small minority of the world’s total population. But how many people will spend eternity on the new earth that is described in Revelation 21:1–22:5? Will the new earth be filled with people, or will it be sparsely populated? Conversely, how many people will spend eternity in the lake of fire (Rev 20:15)?

The first step to finding the answer to these questions is to calculate how many people have ever lived. A frequently cited study by Toshiko Kaneda and Carl Haub claims that there were about 100 billion people born between 4000 BC and AD 1900. From 1900 to 2022, there have been about 12.5 billion live births. The study’s estimate of population in recent times is quite accurate, due to the availability of census figures and written records of births and deaths. The study’s estimate of population in ancient times is based more on archaeological studies than on written records. For very ancient history, the study is based on evolutionary assumptions. These assumptions create inaccuracies, but the study may nevertheless be used to reasonably approximate the number of births in the ancient world. The study doesn’t recognize that the human race began with the creation of Adam and Eve around 4174 BC. It doesn’t recognize that there was a huge population boom in the 1,656 years of antediluvian history, during which physical conditions were ideal and people had the genetic potential for extremely long lifespans, though this potential was somewhat offset by the violence which filled the earth (Gen 6:11). The study doesn’t recognize that global population was reduced to eight people in the Flood in 2518 BC, or that the population of the world boomed again after the Flood and the dispersion of the nations from Babel. Nevertheless, the study’s assumption of a sizable and gradually increasing world population from 4000 BC to 2000 BC might result in a similar overall birth count as actually occurred in the two cycles of population booms from a single initial family. For now, the study by Kaneda and Haub furnishes the best available estimate of live births from 4000 BC to AD 1900. If anything, its numbers are likely to be on the low side, since population estimates by archaeologists are consistently far lower than written records of population size, including the censuses recorded in the Bible. The study by Kaneda and Haub also excludes miscarriages, stillbirths, and abortions. If children are given a soul at conception, miscarriages alone would greatly increase the total human population in eternity, since some modern studies estimate that as many as 30 percent of pregnancies end in miscarriage. More will be said later in this article regarding the eternal destiny of persons who died as babies or as young children.

It is harder to estimate how many people will be born between 2022 and the second coming of Christ. There are currently 140 million births per year, and global population growth is slowing. On the other hand, advances in medical technology may significantly lower death rates. Revelation 9:13-21 describes how an alliance of Asian countries will deploy a 200-million man mechanized army at the midpoint of the tribulation period, which indicates that global population will expand significantly between 2022 and the tribulation period. There are good reasons to believe that we are currently living in the end times, but that some prophesied changes must occur in the world before the rapture will happen. If the second coming were to occur about 100 years from today, after a significant world population increase, perhaps there will be a total of 140 billion births from creation to the second coming.

Before we try to estimate the population of the world during the millennium (the 1,000 years between the second coming of Christ and the final judgment), let us try to calculate how many persons from the era of world history before the second coming will be saved. Although initially Adam and many of his descendants were believers, the people of the earth rebelled against God as their numbers began to multiply, and in the end only Noah and his family were spared the judgment of the world in the Flood (Genesis 6). The number of believers from the antediluvian era must therefore be numerically small, perhaps around 50,000. After the Flood, the entire world initially had knowledge of the true God, but when their population increased they rebelled against Him at Babel and were scattered to the points of the compass (Gen 11:1-9). Most of the world quickly fell into the darkness of paganism, with a minority of true believers remaining in the ancient Near East. God chose Abraham to be the progenitor of a people set apart unto Himself, who would preserve truth in a world of darkness and would be the people of the promised Messiah. Thus, from the time when Jacob and his family entered Egypt until the death of Christ the majority of believers in the world were likely Jewish, although at most times in the history of the nation of Israel only a minority of the Jews were truly saved. The population of believers in the world was thus very small during the Old Testament period—a minority of a nation which comprised only a small percentage of the earth’s total population. By the time of the New Testament, there were synagogues throughout the Mediterranean world and the Near East, and there were many Gentile proselytes, but they were still likely outnumbered by Jews. If there were an average of 20,000 new believers every year from 1900 BC to AD 33, this would result in about 40 million believers from this era. We could estimate the number of believers from the era from Adam to Christ as somewhere between 10 million and 50 million, the majority of these being Israelites.

Christianity started small, but spread quickly thanks to the work of Holy Spirit and the missionary zeal of the apostles who had seen the resurrected Christ. In spite of fierce persecution, Christians comprised around 10 percent of the Roman Empire—6 million persons—by the year AD 300. There were also millions of Christians outside of the Roman Empire, in places such as Armenia and Mesopotamia. By the mid-fourth century Christians were the majority in the Roman Empire, numbering more than 30 million, and their numbers continued to climb during the Byzantine Period, although these statistics may include large numbers of heretics, such as Arians. As Late Antiquity gave way to the Medieval Period, the number of professing Christians continued to grow, but the gospel preached by the church (both Western and Eastern) was corrupted, and an ever-decreasing percentage of those who professed Christianity were genuinely saved. Medieval Christians eventually evangelized all of Europe, though largely with a false gospel. Christian communities existed in parts of Asia and Africa, but these groups were generally small in number and some were heretical sects. Over time, the majority of historically Christian communities in the Middle East and North Africa became predominantly Muslim, and vast portions of the globe remained completely unevangelized. The number of true believers from the Middle Ages was likely quite small (cf. Rev 3:1), less than the number of true believers in the early church and the Byzantine church. From the day of Pentecost in Acts 2 until the Protestant Reformation, perhaps there were 100 million to 400 million true believers.

The age of discovery and colonization providentially coincided with the Protestant Reformation and the rediscovery of the gospel of salvation by grace through faith, apart from works. As it became possible for Westerners to travel to the farthest reaches and deepest interiors of the globe, Protestants launched great missionary endeavors. As a result, the number of evangelical Christians in the world greatly increased in the 18th, 19th, and 20th centuries, in spite of government persecution and opposition from false churches and cults. As of May 2023, Operation World estimates that 32.3 percent of the world’s population (2.6 billion) is nominally Christian and 7.9 percent of the world’s population (635 million) is evangelical, of whom Charismatics and Pentecostals comprise a large proportion. However, counting the number of people who will go to heaven is not as simple as adding up the number of evangelicals, since many people who identify as evangelical Christians are not truly saved, and there are some genuine believers who are not members of evangelical churches. Nevertheless, it may be said that there are more true believers alive in our day than in any previous era of world history, both because world population has grown exponentially, and because the true gospel has been preached to all the nations. Possibly there have been around 1 billion people saved from the Protestant Reformation to 2022.

It is obvious that hostility to Christianity, the Bible, and God is greatly increasing in the world today. This opposition is led by powerful forces centered in the United States, including America’s big tech companies, its financial corporations, its other global corporate powerhouses, and the United States government. The Bible foretells a great worldwide rebellion in the last days, like the rebellions which led to the Flood and the mixing up of human language at Babel (2 Thess 2:3; 2 Tim 3:1-9, 13; 2 Pet 3:3-6; Jude 17-19). The Bible also warns of a falling away within the church in the last days (Rom 11:19-22; 1 Tim 4:1-3; 2 Tim 4:3-4; Rev 3:14-22). The book of Revelation also prophesies a murderous worldwide campaign of persecution against Christians which is driven by Babylon the Great/the United States (Rev 17:6; 18:20, 24; 19:2). Thus, the percentage of true believers in the world is likely near its peak, and can be expected to decline in the future. Perhaps there will be another 500 million people saved between 2022 and the start of the tribulation period. Fortunately, the world will be reevangelized during the first half of the tribulation period (Matt 24:14; Mark 13:10; Rev 7:1-8; 14:6-11). While some of these new converts will survive the tribulation period, the number who are martyred just during the first part of the tribulation period is reported by John to be greater than any man could count (Rev 7:9)—and therefore greater in number than the army of 200 million that he later reports (Rev 9:16; cf. Rev 5:11). Possibly there will be 1-2 billion new converts during the tribulation period.

It is thus clear that the vast majority of believers from creation until the second coming of Christ will be saved near the end of this age of world history. The total number of believers from Adam to the second advent may be about 3-4 billion, comprising about 2-3 percent of the total human population. While 3-4 billion is a sizable number of people, it is a small proportion of the total human race.

The population of the world from creation to the second coming of Christ is not the entire human population, however—there will be an additional 1,000 years of world history, the millennium, in which Jesus Christ will rule the world from the throne of David. Believers who survived the tribulation period (cf. Zech 14:16; Matt 25:34) will bear abundant offspring, repopulating the earth. The earth’s population will grow exponentially during the millennium, as there will be very little death and high fertility rates (cf. Isa 65:20-22; Mic 2:12; Zech 2:1-4; 8:4-5). Infant mortality will likely be almost nonexistent during the millennium. By the end of the 1,000 years, the earth will likely be at its saturation point (cf. Gen 1:28; 9:1, 7; 22:17; Rev 20:8). The vast majority of the people in the nations of the world will follow Satan in a rebellion at the end of the millennium, revealing that they are unbelievers (Rev 20:7-10). However, all the Jews will remain loyal to God, since the New Covenant will guarantee the salvation of all the Jews during the millennium (Jer 31:31-34; 32:38-40; Ezek 11:19-20; 36:25-27; Zeph 3:13; Rom 11:26-27; Rev 20:8-9).

As for what the population of the millennial earth may be, we can only make an educated guess. According to Zechariah 13:8-9, one-third of the Jews will survive the tribulation period (and will accept Jesus as the Son of God and the promised Messiah). If there are around 12 million Jews in land of Israel at the start of the tribulation period, this means 4 million will survive. While the survival rate of Gentile Christians will presumably be lower (cf. Matt 24:22; Mark 13:20), there will also be a much greater number of Gentile converts in the tribulation period (Rev 7:9-17). Presumably there will be somewhere between 10 million and 50 million Gentile Christians who survive the tribulation period and enter the millennium in mortal bodies. This number may be higher if babies and young children who had unbelieving parents also enter the millennium. Calculating a 5 percent annual population growth rate over 1,000 years from an initial population of 20 million would result in a final population of 33 billion. This is calculated as 20,000,000 x (1 + 0.05)1000; see the Population Growth Calculator. This figure does not seem too high for a recreated earth in which virtually the entire planet is habitable and food is abundant; in fact the millennial population could be even higher than this.

The rebellion at the end of the millennium will show that only a small remnant of the Gentiles who are born in the millennium will be true believers; however, all the Jews will remain faithful to their God. If there are 30 billion people alive on the earth at the end of the millennium, perhaps 3 billion of these are Jews, leaving 27 billion Gentiles. If between 7 and 8 percent of the Gentiles are truly saved and refuse to join the final rebellion, this would add another 2 billion believers. According to this scenario, there would be about 5 billion believers and about 25 billion unbelievers alive on the earth at the end of the millennium. The number of people who die during the millennium will presumably be much lower than the number who are alive at the end.

There is, however, one more factor to consider when calculating the number of people from the total human population who will inhabit the new earth. There are various biblical indications that babies and children who die before reaching the age where they could understand the gospel clearly will be saved (2 Sam 12:23; Job 3:11-19; 10:18-22; Eccl 6:3-5; 1 John 2:2); nowhere does the Bible say that persons who die as babies will spend eternity in the lake of fire. The reason why the Bible never states directly that babies and young children who die will be saved is because the practical implications of such a statement would be disastrous. If the Bible had stated explicitly that infants who die will go to heaven, many people would justify infanticide on this basis. If people knew that children would go to heaven if they died before reaching the age of accountability, but would go to hell if they died without responding to the gospel after reaching the age of accountability, some professing Christians would kill babies and children as a means of saving their souls. Some Christian kings in the Middle Ages would have slaughtered pagan infants; some Christian soldiers in pagan lands would have no compunction about killing the children of unbelievers; some Christian social activists might advocate the abortion of atheists’ babies; and perhaps some Christian parents would even kill their own rebellious children to ensure they get to heaven.

Before modern times, about one-third of children died in infancy or in early childhood. It is unknown how God calculates the “age of accountability,” but it is noteworthy that before the twentieth century about half of all children died before reaching puberty. It is clear from these statistics that children who have died in the womb, in infancy, or before reaching the age of accountability are far more numerous than adult believers from creation until the second coming of Christ. (Infant mortality will presumably be very low in the millennium, and may also have been low in the antediluvian era.) There may be 50 billion persons who died as babies or children from creation until the second coming of Christ, and these will receive eternal life in the new earth. There will also likely be about 100-200 million babies and young children below the age of accountability at the end of the millennium. Because of these children, the population of the new earth will be impressively high and diverse—there will be tens of billions of glorified saints, including persons from every tribe, tongue, people, and nation and from every era of history. The number of people who will be thrown into the lake of fire for eternity is almost certainly higher, but probably only by a ratio of 2:1 or 3:1—not by the 20:1 or 50:1 ratio that might be the case if only adult believers were granted entrance into the new earth. Thus, a significant portion of the human race will live for eternity on the new earth, and children who died before reaching the age where they could reasonably be expected to comprehend and believe the gospel will comprise the bulk of the population of the new earth in eternity. However, adult believers will receive rewards which those who lacked the capacity to believe will not receive.

To answer the question posed at the beginning of this article, an estimate of the number of saved people who will inhabit the new earth for eternity is approximately 60 billion, calculated as follows: 40 million believers from the Old Testament era + 300 million believers from the day of Pentecost to the Protestant Reformation + 1 billion believers from the Protestant Reformation to 2022 + 500 million believers from 2022 to the start of the tribulation period + 1.5 billion believers from the tribulation period + 5 billion believers from the millennium + 50 billion who died before reaching the age of accountability. The number of people in the new earth may thus be about a third of the total number of people who will ever live, which I have estimated to be around 180 billion. If miscarried babies are to be included, both the number of inhabitants in the new earth and the number of people who have ever lived should be about 30-40 billion higher—about 100 billion persons in the new earth, out of a total human population of about 220 billion. A disproportionate number of the adult believers in the new earth will be Jews, who will likely number several billion by the end of the millennium, which explains why the New Jerusalem has such enormous dimensions (Rev 21:16). But these are only very rough estimates; we will learn the true numbers in the by-and-by.

Postscript: The material in this article is taken from my research for a commentary on Revelation that I am writing. I am currently looking for more monthly supporters or one-time donations to help further this work. Sample chapters: Revelation 16 and Revelation 20. I intend to make the entire commentary available for free download when it is finished.

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