Chapter 5: Who Will Be There?
How many will be needed to fill the earth with the glory of God? We are not told, but every relevant statement indicates that the number will be very, very large.
God’s promise to Abraham concerning his descendants was, “In thee shall all families of the earth be blessed” (Gen. 12:3). Again, “…in blessing I will bless thee, and in multiplying I will multiply thy seed as the stars of the heaven, and as the sand which is upon the sea shore;…and in thy seed shall all the nations of the earth be blessed; because thou hast obeyed my voice” (Gen. 22:17-18). He repeated the promise to Jacob, “I will surely do thee good, and make thy seed as the sand of the sea, which cannot be numbered for multitude” (Gen. 32:12).
The prophets of God used many different similes to describe the burgeoning numbers of the new populace that will “multiply, and replenish the earth” (Gen. 1:28) during the Millennial age.
Isaiah foresaw the new nation springing up “as willows by the water courses” (Isa. 44:4). Again he described them as a family outgrowing their space. “The children born during your bereavement will yet say in your hearing, ‘This place is too small for us; give us more space to live in’” (Isa. 49:20, NIV). Again he wrote graphically of the rapidly multiplying nation: “Enlarge your house; build on additions; spread out your home! For you will soon be bursting at the seams!” (Isa. 54:1-3, TLB).
Borrowing the simile the angel used when revealing the plan to Abraham, Jeremiah wrote: “As the host of heaven cannot be numbered, neither the sand of the sea measured: so will I multiply the seed of David my servant, and the Levites that minister unto me” (Jer. 33:22). And they will be a happy people: “And out of them shall proceed thanksgiving and the voice of them that make merry: and I will multiply them, and they shall not be few; I will also glorify them, and they shall not be small” (Jer. 30:19).
Wrote Ezekiel of this people, “Moreover I will make a covenant of peace with them; it shall be an everlasting covenant with them: and I will place them, and multiply them, and will set my sanctuary in the midst of them for evermore” (Ezek. 37:26).
The prophet Hosea also wrote of them: “Yet the number of the children of Israel shall be as the sand of the sea, which cannot be measured nor numbered; and it shall come to pass, that in the place where it was said unto them, Ye are not my people, there it shall be said unto them, Ye are the sons of the living God” (Hos. 1:10).
How are we to understand these terms? Will there be room on this earth for the great number of people God has promised to bless? How large will the new family be that is said to be as “the dust of the earth” (Gen. 13:16), or “as the stars of heaven” (Gen. 22:17), or “as the sand which is upon the sea shore” (Gen. 22:17), or “as the host of heaven” which cannot be numbered (Jer. 33:22)?
If one were to take literally all these expressions, the population of the Kingdom would be infinite, without limit. This is unreasonable.
Like any literary figure of speech, these Scripture statements must be understood in a figurative sense. A statement in Cruden’s Concordance expresses this thought:
“The number of the stars was looked upon as infinite. When the Scripture would express a very extraordinary increase and multiplication, it uses the symbol of the stars of heaven or of the sand of the sea.”
A few texts in the Bible show that these expressions are used in a symbolic sense.
Deuteronomy 1:10 tells the number of the Israelites when they were in the plains of Moab: “The Lord your God hath multiplied you, and, behold, ye are this day as the stars of heaven for multitude.” If they were actually like the stars of heaven for number, they would never have had room in that small country!
Also written of the children of Israel in the plains of Moab are these words: “Thy fathers went down into Egypt with threescore and ten persons; and now the Lord thy God hath made thee as the stars of heaven for multitude” (Deut. 10:22)—another figurative expression. In fact, Numbers 26:51 tells just how many there were at this time: “These were the numbered of the children of Israel, six hundred thousand and a thousand seven hundred and thirty.” Here is the number revealed. They were said to be as the stars of heaven and as the sand of the sea, yet they were counted.
The children of Israel and of Judah at the time of Solomon’s kingdom were said to be for multitude as the sand by the sea (1Kings 4:20), yet they were only a small part of the population of the world. The populations of the Assyrian, Babylonian, Persian, Grecian and Roman Empires were all greater in their day. The expression “as the sand which is by the sea” is figurative.
In First Kings 4:29, we read that “God gave Solomon wisdom and understanding exceeding much, and largeness of heart, even as the sand that is on the sea shore.” Other translations read that God gave Solomon “great powers of mind” or “intellectual capacity.”
God wanted it known that the populace of the Kingdom would be a very large number, a very extraordinary increase. the number is not revealed, but God knows it.