Great Commission Church - Pastor Trevor Davis continues the verse-by-verse study in the Gospel of Luke - 13:22-30. In a section entitled, The Power and Threat of the Kingdom of God, Jesus explains the peril that the opportunity to be saved will come to an end.
The Power and Threat of the Kingdom
ENTER THROUGH THE NARROW GATE
Throughout this central section of Luke, Jesus emphasizes the difficulty of entering the kingdom.
Jesus’ teaching now turns to personal responsibility.
Christ makes it clear that there will be many surprises in the membership of the kingdom.
Who will be in the kingdom?
Luke 13:22 And He went through the cities and villages, teaching, and journeying toward Jerusalem.
Luke senses that it is time again to remind his readers that Jesus had a destination, and He was heading that way. Nothing that Luke was writing about Christ was random or fortuitous.
Luke 13:23 Then one said to Him, “Lord, are there few who are saved?” And He said to them,
Luke 13:24 “Strive to enter through the narrow gate, for many, I say to you, will seek to enter and will not be able.
Somewhere someone asked a very relevant question. There was evidence that it was widely discussed among the religious leaders of the day.
Like the question on divorce (Matt 19:3), this one about whether few or many will be saved had differing opinions among the rabbis.
It seems to have been firmly believed that all the Jewish people would be saved, except for a few repulsive sinners who excluded themselves (Sanhedrin 10:1).
Christ’s reply emphasizes not “how many will be saved?” but “who will be saved?”
John 10:9 I am the door. If anyone enters by Me, he will be saved, and will go in and out and find pasture.
Entrance to salvation is only through Christ who is Himself the gate/door.
Who are the saved? The saved are those who seize the opportunity now (“in the year of the Lord’s favor,” 4:19).
Jesus urges His hearers to make sure they are in the number of the saved, however large or small it proves to be.
Once the time decision has passed, any attempts to enter salvation afterward will be futile (note the future tense “you will seek…will not be able”)
The “many” who will be unable to enter are those who do not try to get in until it is too late.
Luke 13:25 When once the Master of the house has risen up and shut the door, and you begin to stand outside and knock at the door, saying, ‘Lord, Lord, open for us,’ and He will answer and say to you, ‘I do not know you, where you are from,’
Neither here nor elsewhere in the Bible are there any true seekers of God who find themselves excluded from the kingdom.
John 6:37 All that the Father gives Me will come to Me, and the one who comes to Me I will by no means cast out.
However, there is a time-limit on the offer of salvation.
When the door of opportunity is finally closed it will be too late. People must strive to enter now.
Does the narrow door limit: (a) the number of people who are admitted or (b) the opportunities a person has to enter?
Verse 24 with its emphasis on striving (to agonize/compete, to contort/stretch like a gymnast) suggests the number of people. Verse 25 with its reference to the closing of the door suggests the opportunities.
It is both.
THE TRAGEDY OF BLAZING YOUR OWN KINGDOM TRAIL
(a) Repeating the days of Noah
“and you begin to stand outside and knock at the door…”
Which is worse, a narrow door or a closed door?
Gen 6:3 And the Lord said, “My Spirit shall not strive with man forever, for he is indeed flesh; yet his days shall be one hundred and twenty years.”
2 Peter 2:5 and did not spare the ancient world, but saved Noah, one of eight people, a preacher of righteousness, bringing in the flood on the world of the ungodly
Gen 7:16 So those that entered, male and female of all flesh, went in as God had commanded him; and the Lord shut him in.
Luke 17:27 They ate, they drank, they married wives, they were given in marriage, until the day that Noah entered the ark, and the flood came and destroyed them all.
After Noah preached the righteousness of God and the coming judgment for many decades without a single convert, can you imagine the utter shock and abject horror when the rains finally came and the people nearest the ark could see that God had shut the door?
Can you hear the primal screams of doomed sinners as they pound on the wooden beams begging to be let in? Can you see the color-drained faces of the men as they hastily admit their own foolishness while their families cower next to them? Can you decipher the panicked expressions of repentance as the waters rise around the damned?
They had years and years to respond to Noah’s preaching of the gospel. But they mocked him instead. They chose their own paths and preferences. They squeezed as much as they possibly could out of this world but in the end…
Prov 14:12 There is a way that seems right to a man, but its end is the way of death.
A day is coming when God’s long-suffering patience toward sinners will cease. The door of mercy, which is has been open for so long, will finally be shut. The throne of grace will be replaced by the throne of judgment. The great reckoning of the world will begin.
Our Lord’s admonition here reveals the awful fact that many may see what is right when it is too late for them to be saved.
There comes a time when many will repent too late, believe too late, grieve for sin too late, pray too late, be anxious about salvation too late, and long for heaven to late.
Thousands, even millions, will wake up in another world and be convinced about truths which they refused to believe on earth.
Did you know that earth is the only place in God’s creation where people believe what is false? Hell itself is nothing but truth known too late.
(b) Defending your own decisions
Luke 13:26 then you will begin to say, ‘We ate and drank in Your presence, and You taught in our streets.’
The householder will rise and close the door when all his expected guests have arrived and are inside.
Those standing outside protest that there has been some mistake. They had gone to the “revival meetings” that Jesus has run. Surely they belonged on the guest list.
Jesus describes some of those rejected by God as pleading that they had known the Lord. They “ate and drank” where He was. They heard Him teach.
Incidentally, some rabbis forbade teaching in the open street, but not Jesus. He delivered His teaching to all people, wherever they were.
But these who are excluded plead nothing more than close proximity. They do not claim that they ever entered into any kind of sympathetic understanding of what He taught. There was no acceptance on their parts, no positive responses to His appeals.
People have comfortably affiliated with Jesus for a long time, and they presume to do so indefinitely.
Even though they could claim to be around the faithful, they never had saving faith of their own. All they had to offer was a faithless objection that came too late.
Likewise, Esau “afterward” sought his inheritance unsuccessfully.
Heb 12:17 For you know that afterward, when he wanted to inherit the blessing, he was rejected, for he found no place for repentance, though he sought it diligently with tears.
The closed door will certainly not be reopened for persons whose only claim is that Jesus once visited their town or preached in their streets or that they once saw Jesus in a crowd or even knew members of His family.
These appeals are not only futile, they are self-incriminating because their opportunities carried obligations (“to whom much is given”).
Luke 13:27 But He will say, ‘I tell you I do not know you, where you are from. Depart from Me, all you workers of iniquity.’
(c) Hearing the world’s most frightening words
This repetition of “I don’t know you, where you are from,” (vv.25, 27) serves to heighten the sense of utter rejection.
Being located near Jesus will be of no benefit on that Day.
There is a difference between being acquainted with Jesus and being related to Jesus.
The householder brands them as “workers of iniquity.”
No specific evil deed is mentioned, but in the end, there will be only two classes: those inside and those outside.
Since these people did not take the necessary steps to get inside, they are to be numbered with the evildoers outside.
Luke 13:28 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, and yourselves thrust out.
There is, here, a stark contrast between those inside the kingdom and those outside the kingdom.
Those inside are the usual suspects –the men of renown, the heroes of Israel’s faith – Abraham, Isaac & Jacob.
Every Jew expected to sit with the patriarchs at the Messiah’s banquet in the coming kingdom. The OT alluded to this heavenly feast over and over.
Those outside will weep (in grief) and gnash their teeth (in rage). This marks the ultimate in disappointment and frustration.
They are “thrust out.” This last phrase implies the use of some force. The end result of their attitude is bring upon them the active opposition of God!
The real tragedy would not only be that of looking at the patriarchs from the outside but also seeing Gentiles inside with them! They will arrive from all four points on the compass.
Luke 13:29 They will come from the east and the west, from the north and the south, and sit down in the kingdom of God.
Luke 13:30 And indeed there are last who will be first, and there are first who will be last.”
There will be many surprises in the final membership of the kingdom of God.
Isa 45:6 That they may know from the rising of the sun to its setting that there is none besides Me. I am the Lord, and there is no other
This verse describes a total reversal of positions. Here, it clearly means that those who were convinced that they were first in line for the future blessings of God will be excluded from them entirely.
Adding to the pain of sitting before a closed door will be the sight of large numbers who are admitted, not only the expected ones among Israel’s ancient faithful but also the unexpected Gentiles who heard and believed.
J.C. Ryle – Whatever others may do in religion, the Lord Jesus would have us know that our duty is clear. The door is narrow. The work is great. The enemies of our souls are many. We cannot sit still in sin and worldliness, waiting for the grace of God. We are not to carry on in our wickedness, saying that we can do nothing until Christ draws us to Himself. We are to draw near to Him as we use the means of grace. The command is crystal clear: “enter through the narrow gate.”