“Many think this a hard saying: Deny yourself, take up your cross and follow Jesus; but it will be much harder to hear those final words: Depart from me, you cursed one, into everlasting fire. Those who now gladly listen to the word of the cross and follow it will not be in terror when they later hear that sentence of eternal damnation.” Thomas A Kempis – The Imitation of Christ, p. 65
Because for the last 3 or 4 years I have tried to meditate in a chapter in one of the four gospels per day, and because I just finished reading through the gospel of Luke, I discovered that when I did the study entitled, “Hell, Hades, Destruction and Eternal Punishment Part III”, which was supposed to cover the gospels of Mark and Luke, I somehow left out Luke 13:22-30, Luke 17:26-30 & Luke 19:11-27. I will deal with the first one in this post.
Luke 13:22f is a crucial passage to our discussion wherein Jesus responds to “someone’s” question: “Lord, are there just a few who are being saved?” (vs. 23). Let’s take a look at Jesus’s response in vs. 24-30.
“Strive to enter through the narrow door; for many, I tell you, will seek to enter and will not be able.” Vs. 24 Comment: Because “many” people will try to enter heaven or gain God’s favor and not be able to do so, we need to find the narrow door that they missed, and enter through that. Because our sinful deceived flesh causes us to follow the crowd and go with the flow, most people swallow the lie that they can somehow work their way into heaven, or that at the end of time if and when they have to give an account, their account will somehow be more positive than negative, and thus will suffice. Please note that these folks “will not be able” to enter heaven or obtain eternal life. Jesus does not specifically answer how many will be saved in His reply. He is more concerned that the listener and reader understand the urgency of their own spiritual need.
The word “strive” has to do with sincere fervent action. Entering the narrow door to heaven is not something to put on the back burner. And if most of your neighbors or co-workers or fellow students are putting it on the back burner, and are more consumed with the things of this world, then we should quickly conclude that their way or door is not the correct one.
“Once the head of the house gets up and shuts the door, and you begin to stand outside and knock on the door, saying, ‘Lord, open up to us!’ then He will answer and say to you, ‘I do not know where you are from.’ vs. 25 Comment: Jesus makes very clear here that once He shuts the door, the door is shut. There will come a point of no return for the lost. And like the story of Lazarus and the rich man in Luke 16, this “seeking to enter” appears to be after their death, or perhaps when the Lord returns and they realize they have been condemned to hell.
Jesus knows those who are His like the back of His hand. He has pursued and called them from the womb. And they know Him and love Him. When He says “I do not know where you are from” that has to be the scariest statement ever heard from His mouth. The narrow door is a door of relationship. It is the door of learning to hear His voice and follow Him daily as Lord and Master. And it of course is the door of being “saved by grace through faith” in what Christ has done for us on the cross.
“Then you will begin to say, ‘We ate and drank in Your presence, and You taught in our streets’; vs. 26 Comment: The many who ignored the narrow door and went along with mob rule try to bargain with Jesus out of desperation because of the awfulness of their sentence or punishment. They had bought into the entitlement of the age. Specifically the Jews in Jesus’s day thought surely all Jews will be saved because Jesus was one of them and came to them first. They make many claims in their desperate defense, but none having to do with relationship because they had no relationship with Him.
“and He will say, ‘I tell you, I do not know where you are from; Depart From Me, All You Evildoers.’ Vs. 27 Comment: Jesus knows them not, and thus repeats this dreadful reality. Many of these people would have never thought of themselves as “evildoers”. Primarily because they have bought the prevailing party line among the lost in their culture or society, which always finds someone whose evil deeds are obvious and blatant and worse than theirs (according to the party line in their society), and thus compared to them they feel they come out on top.
People who refused to bow the knee to Jesus and enter into a daily relationship with Him in their time on earth, at the end of time will hear Jesus’s refusal to ignore their decision.
Part of the “striving” to enter the narrow door is finding out everything Jesus ever taught about evil doing (and thinking), knowing that our society has greatly ignored or at least minimized what He has taught on this subject. Unless your parents and university professors and any other authorities in your life have given their lives to enter this narrow door, do not listen to them when it comes to who the real evil doers in society are.
When Jesus says, “Depart from Me” – this discussion has ended for all eternity. There will be no clever one liners or last minute negotiations to this spine shivering command. As Moses said in Psalm 90, “Who understands the power of Your anger, And Your fury, according to the fear that is due you?” Psalm 90:11
“In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth when you see Abraham and Isaac and Jacob and all the prophets in the kingdom of God, but yourselves being thrown out.” Vs. 28 Comment: That “place” is the very real place called hell. And those consigned to it, will be able to see all those not consigned or sentenced to it. “weeping and gnashing of teeth” speaks to the utter agony and torment that the “many” will experience for the rest of eternity.
“And they will come from east and west and from north and south, and will recline at the table in the kingdom of God.” vs. 29 Comment: Jesus in this verse speaks to the inclusion of the Gentiles (“every tribe, tongue, people and nation”), and to the glorious and joyous banquet we who have entered through the narrow door will enjoy with our Savior, Lord and Master Jesus. He still does not give us a number of how many will be saved, but He does speak to how wide the inclusion will be.
“And behold, some are last who will be first and some are first who will be last.” Vs. 30 Comment: So much of what the “many” have grown to believe in society about who is what and what is what will be turned on its head when Jesus returns, or when we face the final judgment. His ways and thoughts are higher than the heavens above the earth than ours. And we best not wait until then to get in line with His thoughts and ways. Things often are not what they seem. Please do not rely on the party line (prevalent thought in society) to draw your conclusions about life and especially about eternal life. Jesus never left these things to chance. He is too good and righteous and just to do that.