Kingdom Admission | Matthew 7:13-23 (Mville)
May 4, 2014 Series: The King Has Come | Matthew
Topic: New Testament Passage: Matthew 7:13–7:23
Good morning! If you would please, open your Bibles with me to Matthew chapter 7, verses 13-23.
This passage that we are looking at today is what is referred to as an “inclusio” or “inclusion.” This is just a fancy term meaning “bookends,” or “brackets.” An inclusion is a literary technique often used by ancient authors to highlight a specific point. The opening and ending sections of a certain passage offer important context for understanding the highlighted, or middle material. Think of it like a sandwich.
So if we look at this passage as 3 stories, 13-14…15-20 and 21-23 we can then see that sections 1 and 3, have the exact same message (entering the kingdom) while the 2nd story (the highlighted one) is interconnected to the other 2, which are characteristics of those who may or may not enter the kingdom.
It’s much like what we do with our bibles when we use a highlighter to emphasize a certain passage or verse that stands out to us. Ancient authors used techniques like an inclusion, since they didn’t have highlighters, to be able to draw the reader’s attention or focus, to the point the author wants to emphasize. The readers of Matthew’s day were used to seeing these inclusions so it was not something hidden or secretive, on the contrary, they were actually quite common. But they were used to really drive a point home.
So we’re going to go over this today in terms of how Matthew wanted to emphasize this teaching of Jesus. We will start by looking at sections 1 and 3 first and then we’ll go back over the middle, or the highlighted part, last.
So let’s read, starting off in Matthew, 7:13:
13 “Enter by the narrow gate. For the gate is wide and the way is easy[a] that leads to destruction, and those who enter by it are many. 14 For the gate is narrow and the way is hard that leads to life, and those who find it are few.
Skip down to verse 21…
21 “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. 22 On that day many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?’ 23 And then will I declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.’
This is God’s Word.
For some, this might be one of the most uncomfortable texts in all of scripture. One that makes most Christians squirm in their chairs. Some of you are squirming right now. We don’t like to talk about hell or destruction. We don’t like to discuss the ramifications of living a life away from God. Some of us won’t even acknowledge that Jesus is the only way to Heaven.
But most people in our day and age, when they think of Jesus, like to think of him not as someone who would deny a person entrance into his kingdom, but as someone who is nothing but pure love—which he is. But our society’s view of love is a little off I think. We tend to think of Jesus as someone who just wants to love on people and give them a big hug and have everyone in this world get along with each other…like he’s some kind of cosmic hippie. While those may be good things, that’s clearly not the only thing Jesus was about.
Jesus was about truth. And he was about speaking the truth in love. And sometimes speaking love to others means giving them the truth—even if it’s hard. Even if they don’t want to hear it. This is what makes most of us uncomfortable. We would rather be someone who speaks about hope and love and makes everyone feel good about themselves rather than someone who speaks hard truths and risk the possibility of offending someone with that same truth. Even if that truth means eventually saving their souls from Hell.
But Hell is one of those truths Jesus talks about. In fact, Hell is mentioned, depending on translation, anywhere from 46-54 times in scripture. Hell is something that Jesus himself talks about 15 times in the gospels and 9 times in Matthew alone.
It is also a concept talked about as early as Genesis. The first mention of Hell is in Genesis 37:35, it is the Hebrew word Sheol which is translated into English as Hades. It literally means the “pit” or the “grave,” or even “the world of the dead.” The thought of Sheol in OT times was a deep, dark cavernous abyss in the center of the earth, thus being the greatest distance away from Heaven.
Sheol is a place where both the righteous and unrighteous went to regardless of moral choices made in life. According to the Jewish Encyclopedia, it seemed to be divided into different compartments. One beneath the other, with the lowest parts of Sheol being what we tend to think of today as Hell being.
The idea of Sheol is not explicitly detailed or formulated within the OT. We have to put many different passages together to get a little clearer understanding of what ancient Jews in OT times believed it to be. One thing we do know for sure is that they believed it to be a place of weakness and joylessness.
And it’s not until Jesus and the NT that we get a clearer look into the afterlife.
But to be clear. Hell is a real place. It is a place where the presence of God is not at. Hell is being without God and not having God to protect you anymore. Hell is literally the absence of God.
But God’s ultimate goal for us was not to be sent to Hell, it was then and is today to be in a relationship with him. To walk with us, to talk with us and to love us. It’s why we see in Genesis 3 that God was actually walking in the Garden of Eden with man. That’s what he originally had in mind for us. But because of man’s sin, God’s presence had to leave—away from the ones he created because he is a holy God and he cannot be around sin.
God’s original intention was to be with us in community. The problem here is when we decide to reject God’s love and his personal relationship with us that the result of that decision of ours is that we will live for eternity apart from him. We all live for eternity—make no mistake. The only question is will it be with God or without God?
God’s love is eternal. Just as the righteous enjoy eternity of fellowship with God, the unrighteous have eternity without God.
Stanley Grenz, who is an author and professor of theology and ethics and Carey Theological College, puts it this way: “The tragic truth is that some creatures simply refuse to live in accordance with God’s intention. Those in hell suffer gnawing despair as they realize that they missed the purpose—the community—for which God created them.”
We were created to live in eternal community with our creator. Those who spurn God’s love will suffer the consequences of regret as they realize the gravity of their mistake. While we are created to live in community with God, Hell is the opposite of that relationship he desired for us. Hell is isolation, alienated from God. It is separation and seclusion from what we were originally created for.
This is the natural result of sin and man’s desire to sin, unrepentantly, and live apart from God. There is a penalty for that sin. God has a wrath for sin and God’s wrath must be satisfied. We therefore stand before a righteous God, guilty of our sin. He has no alternative than to view us as guilty.
The apostle John writes in 1 John 1:8: “If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us.”
We are sinners. We deserve punishment and we deserve to receive God’s total wrath for our disobedience. This is not open for debate. It is the truth. God has every right to destroy us right now for our continued defiance of him. But it is his grace that saves us. It’s nothing we did or anything we deserve. It’s God’s love for his creation that spares us. He gives us a stay of execution and does not condemn us for what we deserve. Praise God!
Rejoice, because although we deserve nothing less than hell, we won’t receive our due punishment because of Christ’s death on the cross.
But, for some reason, there are still some who think God is a vengeful God and enjoys condemnation and somehow takes pleasure in our destruction. We’ve all heard those people before right? For those, listen to the prophet Ezekiel. God says himself in Ezekiel 18:23: “Have I any pleasure in the death of the wicked, declares the Lord God, and not rather that he should turn from his way and live?”
God doesn’t take any pleasure in the death of the wicked and neither should we. Hell is tragic and for someone to end up there is nothing we should be joyful about. Even for the ones that we think deserve it.
How often do we really pray for those who are apart from God? Do we desire to see those souls saved from torment? Or do we just expect them to be given over to destruction? Since that seems to be the way they are going anyway.
But God’s desire is for us to be with him in eternity. To turn from our sinful ways and live. Not to send us to Hell.
But thankfully we don’t have to endure eternal torment. Eternal regret. Eternity away from community with God. We have the option of being forever in the presence of our creator. But even Jesus says the gate is narrow and the way is hard that leads to life—to eternity in the presence of God.
Salvation, itself, is easy. Paul writes in Romans 10:9: “because, if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.”
If Salvation is just confessing Jesus as Lord and believing that God raised him from the dead, why does Jesus say that gate to life is hard?
The Greek word for hard, that Matthew uses here in verse 14 is tethlimmenÄ“. Which literally means “afflicted,” which is sometimes translated into English as “hard” or “difficult,” as it is here. That doesn’t mean we have a lot of hard work to do—it means we will have a difficult journey there.
Similarly, Luke’s version of this exact same passage in 13:24 of his gospel says this: Strive to enter through the narrow door. For many, I tell you, will seek to enter and will not be able.
Luke uses the word Striveto describe the way of entering through the door. The Greek word for strive in this verse is agonizomai. It is where we get our English word for agonize. The suggestion here is that it will be agonizing and painful to enter the narrow door, much like an overly difficult obstacle course to reach the final prize.
But what Matthew and Luke are trying to convey here is that the Christian life is going to be filled with affliction and agony and with it comes many sufferings and many persecutions. Which, let’s be honest, I’m not so sure that we, as a 21st century American, can fully comprehend.
It’s hard to enter the narrow gate, not because of all the things we should do. But because of all the things that we are going to encounter throughout life. There will be roadblocks in our way to try to prevent us from entering into Heaven. Will we preserver? Or will we give up and take the easy way?
The easy path, or gate, is what most people will choose because they don’t want persecution and suffering. They want the easy way right now without even giving a second thought to eternity. They have a ‘me now’ mentality and, they’re right, it may give them an easy life now.
But one day they, as we all, will stand before God as judge. Some will plead their case for entering Heaven, only to be denied.
They will make the case that they are ‘good people,’ thus deserving of Heaven. While Jesus will say that he never knew them because they never bothered to try to know him.
You may be one of those people who think that God will accept everyone who does their best. Well, they tried at least…you may say. But that’s not what gains us entrance into the kingdom. There is only one way to eternal life.
In John 14:6, the Apostle John writes:Jesus answered, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.”
Some may not like the fact that the gate is narrow or may not see it as being “fair.”
Whether you like it or not, there is only one door, or one gate, that leads to Heaven. That is through Jesus Christ. There are not “many ways” that lead to God, or Heaven, as some in the world believe. To think that, at best, would be to contradict Jesus, or at worst make him out to be a liar.
The exclusiveness of Jesus Christ alone for salvation is one of the most offensive parts of the gospel, but also the most essential.
But for those who do find the road to life, it will be a magnificent celebration of epic proportions. While Jesus does not give us an exact picture of what Heaven will be like, we do have some ideas from scripture about it.
The apostle John also writes in Revelation 22:3: 3 No longer will there be anything accursed, but the throne of God and of the Lamb will be in it, and his servants[a] will worship him.
God says that Heaven is his throne. This is where he is presently reigning and a place that we will go to be with our Father. Which is why Jesus instructs us to pray: “Out Father, who is in Heaven.” Jesus, since the ascension in Acts chapter 1, is now at the right hand of the Father in Heaven.” Heaven is where we will now enjoy fellowship with and worship our creator for eternity.
The phrase “no longer will there be anything accursed,” means there will not be anything doomed, condemned, hateful or detestable. Nothing at all that will cause us to sin. All those things are notably absent from when we go to be with God. So Heaven is a perfect place where we enjoy community with our Father and our Lord Jesus Christ.
Also regarding Heaven, the prophet Isaiah writes in Isa. 66:17: “For behold, I create new heavens and a new earth, and the former things shall not be remembered or come into mind.”
John also writes in Rev. 21:14: “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.”
Notice that both verses mention the phrase “The former things?”
The former things that both Isaiah and John talk about in these verses is our life and time here on earth. Our sinful selves will not be remembered nor will they be talked about. No one will remind us how sinful we once were or all the evil and wicked things we once did with our time here on earth.
This should be very encouraging to us! If we draw close to Jesus and commit our life to him, those old ways will be thrown aside and remembered no more. They are forgiven and never to be brought up again! Praise God!
There will also be no pain. No crying or mourning for those we lost because there will be no more death. We will get to spend eternity worshipping God. We will recount all the many wonderful things God did for us while here on earth and taking pleasure in in the marvels of Heaven. We get to declare the mighty works of God and bask in his love.
But just as most of us here will probably be in Heaven, not everyone who thinks they are going there will end up there. In fact, Jesus says there are some that are gravely mistaken. Let’s pick this back up in verse 21.
21 “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. 22 On that day many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?’ 23 And then will I declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.”
So not everyone who simply calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.
First off, Jesus states that all this will take place on “that day.” So let’s be clear about what “that day” actually is. Thankfully, there are a lot of passages written in scripture about “that day” so there will be no confusion when it finally arrives.
The apostle Paul, writing to the Corinthian churches in 2 Corinthians 5:10 puts it this way: “For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each one may receive what is due for what he has done in the body, whether good or evil.”
We will have to give account for all our sins and all our actions. We will receive a reward in Heaven for what we did for Jesus’ name while here on earth. We heard a few weeks ago about laying up treasures in Heaven. That’s what Paul is talking about here—our reward that is awaiting for us for the things we did.
But there is a dark side to this day also. Not everyone will lay up treasures in Heaven. In fact, for some this day will be a day of gloominess and despair.
Isaiah 13:6 states: “Wail, for the day of the Lord is near; as destruction from the Almighty it will come!”
2 Peter 3:10 states: “But the day of the Lord will come like a thief, and then the heavens will pass away with a roar, and the heavenly bodies will be burned up and dissolved, and the earth and the works that are done on it will be exposed.”
As you can see, “that day” can be a very unhappy subject, depending on who you lived your life for while here on earth. This is the day of the end. When God will come and judge his people and devastation will abound. We don’t know exactly when this will be happening.
But we do know that day will soon be approaching. It is nothing we can avoid, so to give it anything less than our full attention would be very foolish. God wants us to be prepared for what is to come. And we do God a great disservice if we ignore the subject of “that day.”
But “that day” is not all frightening news. It’s not all death and destruction for those who believe in and follow Jesus Christ. In fact, Paul wrote in 2 Timothy 1:12 "…but I am not ashamed, for I know whom I have believed, and I am convinced that he is able to guard until that Day what has been entrusted to me.”
If we are truly committed to following Jesus and doing the will of our Father in Heaven, we will have nothing to worry about. That day will be a day when we get to be with our Lord in Heaven. What a glorious day that will be!
But on that day, when everyone will be judged, there will be some that will get quite a surprise. They feel like they deserve to get into the kingdom because of their works. Notice this passage is not saying these are bad things to do. But these people who are appealing to Jesus for entrance into Heaven believe they will get in because of works.
Jesus clearly says that entrance into Heaven is dependent on “those who do the will of my Father.” Not those who just do good works. There are still some today who are not completely sure on what the requirements are for entrance into his kingdom.
Entering into Heaven, as Jesus says, is centered on doing the will of God. This is not to be understood as flawless obedience to all he instructs for us to do. No mere man can accomplish that feat. But Jesus gives us instructions in John 6:40 about what the will of God exactly is when he says: 40 For this is the will of my Father, that everyone who looks on the Son and believes in him should have eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day.”
Look upon me, Jesus says. Believe in me with all your heart and what I did for you and then you will have eternal life. This concept is not a difficult one to grasp. And yet, there are many who will reject it.
But the people who are appealing to Jesus here in verse 21 think they have done enough to earn their way into Heaven by doing great things. Which is why they are pleading their case once they realized the outcome of their life lived apar