Jesus taught about the narrow gate in both Matthew 7:13-14 and Luke 13:23-24. In both places, entrance through the narrow gate is limited to only a small group of people. This has caused concern among modern readers, many of whom wonder how narrow is the narrow gate?
What is the narrow gate? How narrow is the narrow gate?
To better understand the answer, it is important to define the symbolism involved in this particular teaching by Jesus. He is the gate or door through which every person must enter for eternal life. John 14:6, for example, explicitly notes that Jesus is "the way, and the truth, and the life." The limiting factor is whether a person will believe in Jesus, entering through Him as the gate.
In comparison with Jesus as the gate, "many" will choose the wide gate. The reasons people choose this wide gate are made clear. Matthew 7:13 says, "For the gate is wide and the way is easy that leads to destruction, and those who enter by it are many." Because the wide gate is easy, many choose it. Unfortunately, the wide gate leads to destruction.
In contrast, because the narrow gate (Jesus) is narrow, comparatively few will find it. By narrow, Jesus means exclusive. He claimed to be the one way to know God. Many choose to reject a teaching that says there is only one way to know God and therefore miss this narrow gate.
Does this mean salvation is difficult or hard to obtain? In one sense, the answer is no. Salvation is not based on our works, but on faith in Jesus Christ (Ephesians 2:8-9). However, because salvation in Jesus requires choosing Him as Lord, there is a commitment involved that requires repentance of sin and a turn toward holy living. Many will refuse to accept this free gift of eternal life as a result, choosing the "wide gate" that seems easier at the time yet leads to destruction.
Does this mean there will not be many people in heaven? Not at all! In fact, the final book of the Bible makes it clear there will be many people from all parts of the world in God's presence in eternity. Revelation 7:9-10 notes, "After this I looked, and behold, a great multitude that no one could number, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed in white robes, with palm branches in their hands, and crying out with a loud voice, 'Salvation belongs to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb!'"
Jesus is the narrow gate. Though not all will enter through Him, many will, and will receive eternal life. Scripture is clear that many came to faith in Jesus in the earliest days of the church's history and have continued to do so throughout history, resulting in an eternity filled with people from every place and background who have come to faith in Jesus as the narrow gate.
Is it true that Jesus is the only way to heaven?
How does God judge people raised in non-Christian cultures?
How does God judge people raised in other religions or non-Christian cultures?
What is the eternal destiny of those who have never heard of Christ?
Is there an age of accountability in the Bible? What happens to babies that die?
Truth about Salvation