According to a Hadith in Musnad Ahmad, the prophet (pbuh) said that there will be a group of people after him who will have 40 times the Iman of that of the Sahabah and if one of them dies Shahid it is as if 40 of the Sahaba die Shahid. How is this possible if in Sahih Muslim no 6167 it says “Allah’s messenger (saw) said “Do not abuse my Companions, for if any of you were to spend gold equal to (mountain of) Uhud in charity, it would not equal a handful of one of them or even half of that”. Also in Sahih Bukhari (5:7) Ibn Umar narrated that “We used to compare the people as to who was better during the lifetime of Allah’s Apostle. We used to regard Abu Bakr as the best, then ‘Umar and then ‘Uthman.”
Also can you please explain the Hadith “The Prophet said, ‘Some of my companions will come to me at my Lake Fount, and after I recognize them, they will then be taken away from me, whereupon I will say, ‘My companions!’ Then it will be said, ‘You do not know what they innovated (new things) in the religion after you.’ (Translation of Sahih Bukhari, Volume 8, Book 76, Number 584)”.
As for the narrative purportedly reported by Ahmad Ibn Hanbal, I could not find it in the said compilation. Nevertheless, you have correctly pointed out that the said implication of the alleged narrative is contrary to the implication of many other narratives ascribed to the Prophet (pbuh). In fact, the purported implication is not only contrary to a number of other narratives ascribed to the Prophet (pbuh), but is also clearly against the distinctive position in which the Qur’an holds the companions of the Prophet (pbuh). In view of this fact, the said implication of the narrative can, obviously, not be accepted.
As for the narrative of Bukhariy, one of the narrators of the Hadith has himself explained it in the words:
Those, who [are mentioned to have] reverted from Islam are those, who became apostates during the time of Abu Bakr (ra) with whom Abu Bakr (ra) fought a war.
I hope this helps.
November 20, 2001