A Modern Woman's Perspective On The Kingdom of God on Earth

November 14, 2019

"Go In By The Narrow Gate"

     Ask a group of Christians the meaning of the Bible passage that speaks of the narrow gate and the wide gate, and you will probably get varying answers as to their meanings. I've heard it explained as pertaining to Salvation ... "the wide gate has a broad road that leads to disaster [or destruction], while the narrow gate is the harder path, but leads to eternal life". Surely, that is talking about Believers and Non-Believers -- those who refuse Christ's invitation and choose the world, and those who profess faith in Christ and receive Salvation and eternal life ... right? Or is there a different meaning?
     Could there be a deeper connotation to the juxtaposition of these gates? Taken in context of the entire Chapter 7 in the Book of Matthew, Jesus is speaking about more than salvation from death and the evils of this temporal life. Yes, He offers eternal life, but it is in the context of the Kingdom of God and how we are to live our lives while on earth.
     Sometimes I get frustrated by the English translations of our Bibles. Just the difference in a few word choices can alter the understanding of an entire passage. Let's look at Matthew 7:13, for instance. A more modern version, the J.B. Phillips New Testament, reads this way: "Go in by the narrow gate".  Yet another new version, the Passion Translation, reads, "Come to God through the narrow gate...". The 1599 Geneva Bible [along with the 1611 King James Bible] refer to this gate as "straight and narrow", and commentaries state that "The way is straight and narrow, and we must pass through this rough way, and suffer and endure, and be thronged, and to enter into life.".  Can you see how difficult it is for Christians to come to any kind of consensus as to the meaning of this passage?
     It is so important for us modern-day Christians to do a thorough word study when we read the Bible. We cannot rely on the contemporary meaning of words to explain what God is trying to tell us. Our Bible is written from the context of a Middle Eastern culture over 2000 years ago. And the first thing we need to determine is what is meant by the word "gate".
     Here is what I want you to see ... in Biblical times, the judicial system of the day was carried out at the gates of a city. They served multiple purposes: a combination of town hall, ad hoc law court, gathering place for free speech, marketplace and park bench. When Abraham negotiated the purchase of the Cave of Machpelah as a tomb for his wife Sarah, “it passed to Abraham as a possession in the presence of all who went in at the gate of his city” (Genesis 23). The agreement was witnessed; the deal was done.
     The gate of the city was also a podium for the Israelite prophets of old, the feisty social reformers of their day. “Hate evil and love good,” declaimed Amos, and establish justice in the gate".  King David's royal presence was re-established at the city gates after his army defeated the revolt fomented by his son Abasalom. Justice, peace, and allegiance were restored to the nation.
     So, as you can see, this mention of the "narrow gate" and "the wide gate" is important to discern. So what is the true implication? From the research I've done in connecting the Biblical dots, I find that the New Living Translation gives the most accurate translation of Matthew 7:13. In this version, it is rendered, "You can enter God’s Kingdom only through the narrow gate". Now, you may recall other posts in which I've pointed out Jesus's conversation with the religious leader Nicodemus, in which the Lord says, "unless a man is born from water and from spirit he cannot enter the kingdom of God." Can you see that the narrow gate is synonymous with "being born again" or "being Saved"? Then the rest of verse 13 in the New Living Translation says "The highway to hell is broad, and its gate is wide for the many who choose that way." 
     Here we see that the narrow gate leads to the Kingdom of God and its way of living. The wide gate is the easier path because one spends it in the kingdom of darkness, pledging allegiance to the "ruler of this dark world" and the "god of this world"... Satan. But we must not think that being Saved leads to the Kingdom life. It certainly leads to eternal life in Heaven, but there is more to the Kingdom life than Salvation. 
     Jesus goes on in Chapter 7 to teach about the importance of bearing fruit for the Kingdom of God, stating "every tree that does not produce good fruit is chopped down and thrown into the fire." And the verses that strike fear in every Christian's heart are found in Matthew 7:21-23, "Not everyone who calls out to me, ‘Lord! Lord!’ will enter the Kingdom of Heaven. Only those who actually do the will of my Father in heaven will enter. 22 On judgment day many will say to me, ‘Lord! Lord! We prophesied in your name and cast out demons in your name and performed many miracles in your name.’ 23 But I will reply, ‘I never knew you. Get away from me, you who break God’s laws.
     This is a difficult passage to navigate and I've heard it misused to suggest a variety of reasons why these people "were never saved in the first place". But I would ask that you consider it in the context of people who hear the Word, receive it unto Salvation, but never progress to Kingdom Living, which is God's government on earth. {Note the reference to God's laws in verse 23 above]. For that, we need to juxtapose Matthew 7:21-23 with the Parable of the Sower in Matthew 13: "When a man hears the message of the kingdom and does not grasp it, the evil one comes and snatches away what was sown in his heart. This is like the seed sown by the road-side. The seed sown on the stony patches represents the man who hears the message and eagerly accepts it. But it has not taken root in him and does not last long—the moment trouble or persecution arises through the message he gives up his faith at once. The seed sown among the thorns represents the man who hears the message, and then the worries of this life and the illusions of wealth choke it to death and so it produces no ‘crop’ in his life. But the seed sown on good soil is the man who both hears and understands the message. His life shows a good crop, a hundred, sixty or thirty times what was sown.”
     Can you see the parallel between a man who enters the gates to the Kingdom through Salvation but never produces fruit for the Kingdom, and ultimately never truly knows the One who saved him? Yes, Salvation is the narrow gate and the entry point into the Kingdom. But unless one journeys beyond the gate into the righteousness and justice and government of Kingdom living -- which is opposite of living by this world's standards -- and produces fruit for the Kingdom, the message Jesus came to bring about the Kingdom will be wasted on him. 
     I know this is a sobering passage and one that takes much time to contemplate. I am still receiving revelation; and am not satisfied that I have discerned the depth of my Lord's teaching on the matter. I'm pretty sure there are more dots to connect. And that's the beauty and the majesty of the Bible. The Lord is drawing us ever nearer to His heart and mind. Don't ever stop searching for deeper meaning! 

Matthew 13:35    ‘I will open my mouth in parables; I will utter things which have been kept secret from the foundation of the world’.

Thank you to Mike Rogoff of the Israeli Haaretz website for providing the historical context of gates in the Ancient Middle East and their Biblical significance.

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