Will only a few go to heaven?
I read this passage this morning and was arrested by it.
Luke 13:23 Someone asked him, “Lord, will only a few be saved?” So he said to them, 13:24 “Exert every effort to enter through the narrow door, because many, I tell you, will try to enter and will not be able to. 13:25 Once the head of the house gets up and shuts the door, then you will stand outside and start to knock on the door and beg him, ‘Lord, let us in!’ But he will answer you, ‘I don’t know where you come from.’ 13:26 Then you will begin to say, ‘We ate and drank in your presence, and you taught in our streets.’ 13:27 But he will reply, ‘I don’t know where you come from! Go away from me, all you evildoers!’ 13:28 There will be weeping and gnashing of teeth when you see Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, and all the prophets in the kingdom of God but you yourselves thrown out. 13:29 Then people will come from east and west, and from north and south, and take their places at the banquet table in the kingdom of God. 13:30 But indeed, some are last who will be first, and some are first who will be last.”In the recent blogosphere conversation about hell, which I've read much of, but commented hardly at all on, I haven't noticed this passage in all the comments of others. I'm sure it's been referenced, but it is such a strong counter example to Bell's and Lewis's hell. Bell proposes in his book the opportunity for post-mortem salvation. Lewis's book, The Great Divorce, speaks of the doors in hell are locked from the inside. Hell's inmates, in Lewis's view, have no desire to cross over to heaven. Bell holds that the inmates will eventually realize the foolishness of their rejection of Jesus, repent is the technical word, and take the escalator up to heaven with their loving Father.
But here, in this passage, Jesus emphatically denies both options. Will only a few make it to heaven? Jesus affirms this indirectly by asserting the need to make effort to enter in because the door is narrow, and if you don't enter in, after the door is locked by the master, your knocking to enter will be rebuffed, spending time weeping and gnashing teeth. Mourning and anger seem to be the dominant emotions of the damned. Striving to enter into salvation apparently involves more than association with Jesus.
Paul speaks to this directly in his letter to the Roman believers.
Romans 10:1 Brothers and sisters, my heart’s desire and prayer to God on behalf of my fellow Israelites is for their salvation. 10:2 For I can testify that they are zealous for God, but their zeal is not in line with the truth. 10:3 For ignoring the righteousness that comes from God, and seeking instead to establish their own righteousness, they did not submit to God’s righteousness. 10:4 For Christ is the end of the law, with the result that there is righteousness for everyone who believes.How must we strive to be saved? We must strive in faith, to believe that Jesus really is God and follow that conclusion to its end. We must obey God. The narrow gate is a symbol of the resistance we face in living with that truth.
10:5 For Moses writes about the righteousness that is by the law: “The one who does these things will live by them.” 10:6 But the righteousness that is by faith says: “Do not say in your heart, ‘Who will ascend into heaven?’” (that is, to bring Christ down) 10:7 or “Who will descend into the abyss?” (that is, to bring Christ up from the dead). 10:8 But what does it say? “The word is near you, in your mouth and in your heart” (that is, the word of faith that we preach), 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. 10:10 For with the heart one believes and thus has righteousness and with the mouth one confesses and thus has salvation. 10:11 For the scripture says, “Everyone who believes in him will not be put to shame.” 10:12 For there is no distinction between the Jew and the Greek, for the same Lord is Lord of all, who richly blesses all who call on him. 10:13 For everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved. NET