A Question I Was Asked:

What About 'Narrow is the Gate'?

Will Most Finally Go To Hell?

The Question:

I was wondering about the 'narrow gate' in the Sermon on the Mount where it says few there be that find it? That doesn't suggest that most will be saved.

UK Apologetics Reply:

You are right: on the face of it, if we only had that one Scripture on this topic, it would suggest that most will finally be lost, just as the most hard-line form of Calvinism teaches.

However, we have many more Scriptures which must be taken into account and we can only approach scriptural truth on this matter by considering all of them. Since this website has gone into this subject exhaustively elsewhere, I will only touch on some basic points here.

Let us look at some Scriptures:

6. For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.
7. Of the greatness of his government and peace there will be no end. He will reign on David's throne and over his kingdom, establishing and upholding it with justice and righteousness from that time on and forever. The zeal of the Lord Almighty will accomplish this. (Isaiah 9:6-7).

This Scripture is hard to square with hard-line restrictive Calvinism in which God created a world but only ever intended saving a tiny minority (the elect), the rest being so-called "reprobates." The elect of God is certainly a clear teaching but we need to correctly understand it. For sure, God is calling some now whom He furnishes with much understanding of the Christian Gospel, and covers them with His grace, the rest (for the moment) God is substantially leaving to their own devices though, of course, a record of all sin is being kept. The sermon on the mount 'narrow is the gate' teaching is to warn those spreading the Gospel at the present time that most will not respond. The Christian finds himself/herself in a minority group. Most - at the present time - appear to be travelling in an opposite direction! Perhaps God can learn most about us when we are required to swim against the tide! Yet this indifference of the majority is not necessarily a final and eternal truth, in fact it can't be if certain other Scriptures are considered. We know, for instance, that the power of the Gospel will finally prove more transforming - not less - that Adam's sin. But frankly some believers see it the other way around. Why? They are looking too much at the present.

The Isaiah 9 text states that "of the greatness ['increase' in several translations] of His government and peace there will be no end." This strongly suggests that what might have initially appeared as a modest victory for Christ and His righteousness will keep spreading. To 'reign on David's throne and over his kingdom' is typical of His final complete reign over earth and Heaven (there is no need to restrict this to "millenialism" in which there is only a reign of 1,000 years; this is an Eternal Reign).

In addition to this we are promised that 'every knee' will finally bow to Christ (Philippians 2:9-11), but Romans 5 tells us a lot more:

15. But the gift is not like the trespass. For if the many died by the trespass of the one man, how much more did God's grace and the gift that came by the grace of the one man, Jesus Christ, overflow to the many!
16. Nor can the gift of God be compared with the result of one man's sin: The judgment followed one sin and brought condemnation, but the gift followed many trespasses and brought justification.
17. For if, by the trespass of the one man, death reigned through that one man, how much more will those who receive God's abundant provision of grace and of the gift of righteousness reign in life through the one man, Jesus Christ!
18. Consequently, just as one trespass resulted in condemnation for all people, so also one righteous act resulted in justification and life for all people.
19. For just as through the disobedience of the one man the many were made sinners, so also through the obedience of the one man the many will be made righteous. (Romans 5:15-19).

How many, I wonder, really comprehend what this is plainly stating? This is very plainly stating that the teaching of Christ, and the availability of His grace and mercy, will finally prove far more efficaceous than the fact of Adam's (original) sin spreading to all. So the victory of Christ will finally be complete, now that does that suggest universalism (all will be saved), no, but it does strongly suggest a substantive victory (few will finally be lost).

Christians are the 'firstfruits' of the crop (James 1:18) - but when was there ever a 'firstfruits' of the crop which was not followed by a later, wider harvest, even if possibly not of 'firstfruits' quality?

Again, while on this earth Jesus Himself was inclusive, ever prepared to embrace the rejected and the outcasts, it was the Pharisees who were exclusive and restrictive, happily narrowing the "saved" to a tiny group (substantially themselves!) I'm afraid that far too many Christian believers have tended to be more like the Pharisees in their rather narrow approach. While certainly warning the world of sin, we should be highly optimistic of Christ's final complete victory over the powers of darkness. It disturbs me that some believers are not.

John the Apostle gives us a sort of 'bottom line' on this:

1. My dear children, I write this to you so that you will not sin. But if anybody does sin, we have an advocate with the Father - Jesus Christ, the Righteous One.
2. He is the atoning sacrifice for our sins, and not only for ours but also for the sins of the whole world. (1 John 2:1-2).

Despite some saying that Christ's sacrifice has no role or significance for 'the world,' His propitiation only being for the present brotherhood of believers, John plainly states differently.

It is true that the New Testament records the following conversation between Jesus and the disciples:

23. Then Jesus said to his disciples, "I tell you the truth, it is hard for a rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven.
24. Again I tell you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God."
25. When the disciples heard this, they were greatly astonished and asked, "Who then can be saved?"
26. Jesus looked at them and said, "With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible." (Matthew 19:23-26. NIV throughout)

Jesus was effectively saying, 'Look this thing might look humanly hopeless but this thing is of God - not of men; despite everything, don't draw the conclusion that few can be saved.' He did not say, 'You are right, only a few can be saved, it's pretty much hopeless, but give it your best shot anyway, who knows?' Our God is not a defeatist and He will certainly not accept defeat by Satan in this vital matter.

Robin A. Brace. January 29th, 2013.

For those wanting to go deeper, it might be helpful to set aside some time to read:

An Evangelical Inclusivist Defends Evangelical Inclusivism

(This is quite long and my advice would be to study through it - a bit at a time - over a few hours/days)