There is a change of scene; Jesus is no longer in the synagogue, but has been out preaching the Kingdom from town to town. Someone asks Him if only a few people will be saved. That’s an interesting question, isn’t it? Yet often when I have taught about Jesus’ teachings, I have had people, either in comments here or in class discussions in the past observe that the contrast Jesus continually draws between “citizens” of the Kingdom and “citizens” of this world is so stark, so hard, so seemingly impossible that nobody can live up to the standards He set. When I get this question, I find a little comfort in the fact that it wasn’t just my poor teaching of these things that has led to that concern.
What we must not forget in considering Jesus’ teachings is that God’s grace makes everything possible. To those who heard Him teach these things, there was Grace Incarnate there before them, but He had not yet completed the task of making grace available to everyone who will have it, but in our time, His grace is right there for the asking. I’d say that’s a fairly important fact to bear in mind.
Jesus tells a parable, although not everyone sees it that way, for reasons that elude me. It is the parable of the narrow door (13: 24 ff.) which contains some interesting apocalyptic elements. Notice first that the usual character (a man, a farmer etc.) has been replaced with “you”. This is probably what throws people off here; Jesus didn’t mean the specific person who asked the question, it’s the generic you. Then we meet the “owner of the house” which refers to God.; the house is the Kingdom. When the appointed time comes, He will “close the door”. Yes, it is true that this can refer to the Second Coming and final judgment, but for the overwhelming majority of people, it will happen for them when they die, for there will be no further opportunity to repent. After that, there are no appeals (13:27).
In verse 28 we have more apocalyptic elements: “weeping” and “gnashing of teeth” are nearly always indicative of God’s judgment. “Abraham, Isaac and Jacob and all of the prophets” is a reference to the faithful component from Old Testament Israel who will be in the Kingdom. “People from east and west and north and south” refers to the full number of the redeemed who will be present in the Kingdom, and the “banquet” is the consummation of the Kingdom, which is to say eternity with the Lord where the first will be last and the last will be first.
Notice that these elements reveal to us that millions, a vast number of the redeemed are involved here, so that the answer to the question that was asked would be that no, many many will be saved. Therefore put your faith and trust in God’s grace and you will be in their number. Yet, should you decide to put it off until another day, your time might run out; and we wouldn’t want that, would we?
I’m sure that you will agree with me that there have been a lot of warnings in this chapter, but don’t get the idea that Jesus is just fine with having to keep anyone out of the Kingdom. As we see in the next passage, this likelihood grieves Him greatly.