No matter our religious conviction we share a common destiny. By the Holy Spirit's inspiration Paul declared:
For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, that each one may receive the things done in the body, according to what he has done, whether good or bad. (2 Corinthians 5:10)
Whether we acknowledge Jesus in this life or not, we will stand before Him one day to answer for our life's activities. Jesus's evaluation will yield one of two responses: either He will say, “Come, you blessed of My Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world,” or, “Depart from Me, you cursed, into the everlasting fire prepared for the devil and his angels,”. Heaven or hell awaits us all.
In the minds of many people, hell is reserved for the “truly evil” among us: men like Hitler, Stalin, Hussein, and those of similar ilk are typically cast by man into eternal destruction. Such thinking is dangerous. It relegates a small minority of humanity to hell while sending the vast majority to a home in heaven. This teaching effectively broadens the road to heaven while tapering the road to hell. In other words, the way to heaven is broad while the road to hell is narrow. Is this not the popular, contemporary conception of eternity?
The teaching of Jesus Christ – who we must remember is the Judge – thoroughly opposes this thinking.
Enter by the narrow gate; for wide is the gate and broad is the way that leads to destruction, and there are many who go in by it. Because narrow is the gate and difficult is the way which leads to life, and there are few who find it. (Matthew 7:13-14)
Jesus's adjectives clearly articulate the truth on this matter: the road to hell is broad, its gate is wide, its inhabitants numerous. Yet the gate to heaven is narrow, the way is difficult, and few find it. Do Jesus's words match heaven and hell's popular conception?
In a parallel passage, the following exchange occurs:
Then one said to Him, 'Lord, are there few who are saved?' And He said to them, 'Strive to enter through the narrow gate, for many, I say to you, will seek to enter and will not be able.' (Luke 13:23-24)
Once again, salvation's gate is narrow. Jesus tells us to, “strive” – labor fervently, endeavor, contend, or struggle – for an entrance. To these similarities Jesus adds, “for many...will seek to enter and will not be able.” Jesus presents a cold, hard reality: even among those who seek an entrance into heaven, few will find it. Matthew 7:21-23 agrees,
Not everyone who says to Me, 'Lord, Lord,' shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father in heaven. Many will say to Me in that day, 'Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in Your name, cast out demons in Your name, and done many wonders in Your name?' And then I will declare to them, 'I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness!' ”
Luke 18:8 poses a sobering question, “Nevertheless, when the Son of Man comes, will He really find faith on the earth?” Jesus's return as the resurrected, glorified Son of God is a well- documented prophecy (e.g. I Thessalonians 4:13ff). Jesus foresaw His return in this capacity when, “all who are in the graves will hear His voice and come forth-- those who have done good, to the resurrection of life, and those who have done evil, to the resurrection of condemnation.” (John 5:28-29) Yet Jesus wonders aloud if any faithful will be on the earth when He returns? In light of the previously considered passages, His conjecture is well founded: if few are qualified to enter heaven, then the Lord would expect to find few faithful upon His return. Additional support is found in Luke 17:26-32 where Jesus compares the earth's condition upon His return with the days of Noah and Lot. Consider this: how many faithful were delivered from destruction in the days of these two men? In the case of Noah, eight; in the case of Lot, three. So few were delivered, so many were destroyed. “Nevertheless, when the Son of Man comes, will He really find faith on the earth?”
Our shared destiny looms ahead, our eternal destination hangs in the balance. Heaven or hell awaits us all. The words of Jesus, the Judge are plain: heaven's road is difficult, its gate is narrow, its inhabitants are few; hell's road is broad, its gate is wide, its inhabitants are numerous. According to Jesus, few among those who claim an association with Him are saved. He exhorts His followers to, “Strive to enter through the narrow gate,”. Like the days of Lot and Noah, few will be saved, many destroyed. Are you prepared to meet your God?