Well, Jesus is making it very clear to everyone if they will just stop and listen to what He is saying. Our Lord was an excellent evangelist or missionary as He spoke of two gates, two roads, two companies of people and two destinations.
Using an illustration of two pathways, Jesus clearly tells the crowds that gathered around (vs. 28) why there is a pressing need for missions. The fact that there are so many people entering through the wide gate and traveling on the broad road that leads to destruction or spiritual ruin in hell is the reason that we need missions today. This is the sole reason for missions today! True missions is not feeding people as the social gospel says, missions is seeing people saved. Missions is rescuing people from this broad road of destruction which Jesus speaks about in this illustration.
The first pathway that Jesus pictured in this illustration was a very narrow pathway, which was hard to walk upon. I call this the cow path of the Bible. I picture a little cow path winding through the meadow. It’s a path that has weeds growing over it and deep ruts or holes along the way. You can stub your big toe on one of the rocks as you are walking on this narrow pathway. You might step in burdock and get those sticky burs in your socks. Isn’t that a wonderful experience!
I remember walking down a cow path one day in order to get to a trout stream to do some fishing. As I was walking down the path I managed to get my fishing rod stuck in one of those hanging thorns growing along the path. Well, that was a real problem. I had myself all scratched and cut into pieces before I got my fishing rod free. This is part of the fun of fishing.
Well, this is the way I like to picture this small path that Jesus was talking about. But what is the interpretation of this path? What was Jesus referring to when He spoke about this narrow gate and path? The context will allow us to see that Jesus was referring to the gateway and pathway of salvation, which would lead into the kingdom. The entire Gospel of Matthew is set in the context of the earthly kingdom (Matt. 3:1-2). The surrounding verses such as Matthew 6:10; 6:33 and 7:21 speak about His earthly kingdom. Thus, Jesus is saying that those who are saved and who will one day enter the earthly kingdom (enter into life) are few in number. The concept of salvation to the Jews included entering the kingdom that the Messiah had prepared for them. Eternal life was viewed as a future glory to enter someday as the saved Jew inherits the blessing of the long awaited kingdom.
Matthew 19:29 brings out this concept of eternal life:
“And every one that hath forsaken houses, or brethren, or sisters, or father, or mother, or wife, or children, or lands, for my name’s sake, shall receive an hundredfold, and shall inherit everlasting life.”
Jesus is not talking about earning eternal life in these verses, but inheriting the future reward and privileges connected with eternal life in the kingdom because of our righteous living on earth. This eschatological aspect of eternal life deals with the blessings that will come upon our lives in the future when we will be rewarded for our love and commitment to Christ and righteous living down here upon the earth. Jesus spoke about the narrow gate and road after addressing the disciples to live a righteous life (Matt. 6:33; 5:6). This righteous life was completely opposite of the external hypocritical lives of the Pharisees. (Matt. 7:1-5). Thus, the narrow gate and narrow road would represent the road of righteous living for His disciples who would end in eternal reward and blessing in the future kingdom.
I want to tell you something today. You have eternal life today and will always have it. However, if you really want to inherit the full blessings and reward connected with this life, you will have to get busy down here on earth and become a disciple or follower of Christ. You will have to beef up your righteous and holy living down here if you want eternal rewards in the future Millennial Kingdom. I think some Christians are so caught up in their own little world that they forget about the world to come!
The future aspect of eternal life deals with our enriched experience of eternal life or when we receive reward and future blessing connected with this life. It means that believers will, in the future kingdom, enter into a deeper and richer experience of the eternal life, which they initially received at the time of regeneration. Think of this. The more we serve the Lord today, the more we can look forward to in the future when inheriting the reward and joy of eternal life!
“Then Peter began to say unto him, Lo, we have left all, and have followed thee. And Jesus answered and said, Verily I say unto you, There is no man that hath left house, or brethren, or sisters, or father, or mother, or wife, or children, or lands, for my sake, and the gospel’s, But he shall receive an hundredfold now in this time, houses, and brethren, and sisters, and mothers, and children, and lands, with persecutions; and in the world to come eternal life. But many that are first shall be last; and the last first.”
Once again we must understand that Jesus was speaking to the Jews about inheriting eternal life from the standpoint of entering into the future reward and blessings connecting with eternal life in the kingdom. When Jesus speaks about the “world to come eternal life,” he was talking about the future rewards and privilege to rule with Christ in the future kingdom. Eternal life deals with the privilege to rule and reign with Christ in view of the amount of the believer’s work done for Christ right now in this life. Eternal or everlasting life has a very clear future concept attached to it, which deals with the believer’s privilege to rule and reign with Christ. These disciples could not earn eternal life, but they surely would inherit the future blessings of eternal life when given the great privilege to rule with Christ upon this earth. This is the way the Jews of Jesus’ day viewed eternal life in the kingdom.
The disciples were pictured as traveling the narrow road. They began their travel on this road through faith in Christ. But their traveling upon the road also encountered many hardships and tests that would have to be overcome in order for them to receive great reward and blessing in their future reign with Christ in the kingdom. This is why Jesus also spoke about this narrow road as being a difficult path to walk. Remember the thorns, burs and rocks? In Matthew 7:14 the word “narrow” (thlibo) can be better rendered “difficult” or “hard.” It was used to convey the process of pressing grapes in order to extract their juice. Jesus was saying that the way to eternal reward in the kingdom would be hard. It would be pressing and have demands attached to it. You will not enter the kingdom life with much reward and blessing unless you suffer for Him and begin to sacrifice your life for Him. Paul talked about this same truth.
2 Timothy 2:12
“If we suffer, we shall also reign with him: if we deny him, he also will deny us (of reward, privilege and the authority to rule in the kingdom day).”