The Narrow Door
In the name of the Father and of the † Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,
A Frequent Question
Pastors are often asked questions about heaven – What will it be like, what will we look like, what will we do? I try to be very careful in answering these questions because God himself has not given us many details we would like to have..
I often quote the Book of Revelation from chapter seven and then from chapter twenty-one. God showed Saint John a vision of heaven. John said that he saw “a great multitude that no one could number, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed in white robes.”
“Who are these clothed in white robes?” The answer came, “These are the ones coming out of the great tribulation.” We live in a time of great tribulation. There are wars and rumors of wars. There is sorrow and illness of every kind. There is sin and evil all around us in this great tribulation.
Heaven is where there will be no more tribulation. Saint John heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God. He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.”
According to God’s Word, heaven is where he will dwell with his people. They will be free from the tribulations of this world. As curious as we may be about heaven, I believe that the best answer to our questions is to trust that God who is gracious, merciful, and abounding in steadfast love, will provide a paradise beyond all human understanding.
I mention our curiosity because Saint Luke tells us that Jesus was approached by someone who also was curious about heaven. On his journey to Jerusalem, someone asked Jesus, “Lord, will those who are saved be few?” Perhaps we might ask the question this way, “Who will be in heaven?”
We are not told why the person asked this question. We don’t know his motives. Was it more than a matter of curiosity? Was it a disciple who was discouraged that more people weren’t positively responding to Jesus? Was this person proud of following Jesus and wanting recognition?
Jesus responded with these words, “Strive to enter through the narrow door. For many, I tell you, will seek to enter and will not be able.” Jesus shifted the focus for all of us. We need to know how the great multitude that Saint John saw at the throne of God entered his the kingdom. Jesus wants us to know how we receive salvation.
Jesus said, “The door is narrow.” What is the door? Who has the answer to that question? Many think that they know the answer and that they have found the doorway into heaven. For them it is living a good life. They believe that the narrow door is following the law to the letter, attending church, giving a generous offering.
You may remember the parable that Jesus told about the Pharisee and the tax collector who went to the temple to pray. The Pharisee prayed, “God, I thank you that I am not like other men, extortions, unjust, adulterers, or even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week; I give tithes of all that I get.”
Somewhere in all of us is a little voice telling us that the only way to enter into heaven is through our own good works. That is why we judge others like the Pharisee judged the tax collector. That is why we look for reasons to justify ourselves when we lie, cheat, or gossip. That is why we don’t count our thoughts as sins unless we act on them.
Many will seek to enter heaven through the door of their own good works. When Jesus said, “Many who seek to enter will not be able,” they are afraid. For their comfort, they must also think that God will not turn anyone away who tries hard to live a good life. The door of good works does not know the word “repent.”
Jesus Is The Door
God’s Word tells us about the true door, the narrow door. The only true door is the One who was conceived by the Holy Spirit and born of the virgin Mary. “He was tempted in every way yet without sin.” The One who is the door was despised and rejected, betrayed and denied. He was mocked and beaten. A crown of thorns was placed on his head and nails were driven into his body.
The door to heaven is the One who suffered and died on a cross outside of Jerusalem. The One through whom we enter into the kingdom of God is the One who on the third day rose from the dead and said to his disciples “peace be with you.”
Jesus came into the world for all those who are burdened with their sins, all those who are heavy laden with trying to earn their forgiveness. Jesus said, “Repent for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.” He came to take the baggage of your sins upon himself, to carry them to the cross.
When you repent of your sins you are not just saying you are sorry. When you repent you are trusting in God’s mercy that through Jesus Christ your sins have been removed and your debt paid in full.
Jesus said, “I am the door. If anyone enters by me, he will be saved.” Through him you enter heaven. He is the narrow door. Jesus said, “No one comes to the Father except through me.”
Only through faith in Jesus can you be saved. Only as a result of his agonizing, suffering and death on the cross does God open to you the door that leads into his kingdom. Only through him are you given the gift of eternal life.
Jesus is always looking for repentance. If you do not come from a place of repentance and a place where you trust only in God’s mercy then Jesus will always say to you “I do not know you.”
We hear these harsh words because Jesus wants to protect us from the devil, the world, and our own sinful flesh. They want us to try other doors. Jesus is telling us that our life as a Christian is always going to be a life of striving and struggling. Striving and struggling against those who want to take us away from going to God through the narrow door.
Our life will always be one of agonizing that even our own sinful nature wants to take us away from faith in Jesus Christ. We agonize that the devil seems to have so much power in this world and in our lives.
Striving, struggling, agonizing are part of the life of a Christian. Christ struggled and agonized over his enemies. He strived to defeat them. His enemies were your enemies, sin and death. They were defeated on the cross. You are free from your sin, it is forgiven. You are free from death, it has been conquered, its sting is gone.
Striving, struggling, agonizing are part of your life as a Christian, but Christ is also part of your life. He is your life; in him you have life and salvation. Through him you enter into the kingdom of God.
Back To Revelation
I want to end by going back to the Book of Revelation. I read about those who were wearing white robes. They were described as “These are they who have come out of the great tribulation.” To give you great comfort and strength for these days here on earth the Word of God in Revelation continues.
“They have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb. Therefore, they are before the throne of God, . . . and he who sits on the throne will shelter them with his presence. They shall hunger no more, neither thirst anymore; the sun shall not strike them, nor any scorching heat. For the Lamb in the midst of the throne will be their shepherd, and he will guide them to springs of living water, and God will wipe away every tear from their eyes.”
In the name of Jesus Christ the Lamb of God. Amen.
Soli Deo Gloria