Entering the Kingdom – Matthew 7:13-23

13 “Enter through the narrow gate. For the gate is wide and the road is broad that leads to destruction, and there are many who go through it. 14 How narrow is the gate and difficult the road that leads to life, and few find it.

15 “Beware of false prophets who come to you in sheep’s clothing but inwardly are ravaging wolves. 16 You’ll recognize them by their fruit. Are grapes gathered from thornbushes or figs from thistles? 17 In the same way, every good tree produces good fruit, but a bad tree produces bad fruit. 18 A good tree can’t produce bad fruit; neither can a bad tree produce good fruit. 19 Every tree that doesn’t produce good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. 20 So you’ll recognize them by their fruit.

21 “Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord!’ will enter the kingdom of heaven,  but only the one who does the will of My Father in heaven. 22 On that day many will say to Me, ‘Lord, Lord, didn’t we prophesy in Your name, drive out demons in Your name, and do many miracles in Your name?’ 23 Then I will announce to them, ‘I never knew you! Depart from Me, you lawbreakers!’ (HCSB)

Now that the Sermon on the Mount is drawing to a conclusion, Jesus is encouraging His followers to make a decision. Remember, this message is addressed to believers and not unbelievers. However, how we live and the teaching we give and receive has a major impact on the path we follow. This passage contains one of the scariest passages in the entire Bible that every self-proclaimed follower of Christ should always remember. I’ll elaborate once we get to it.

Verses 13-14

13 “Enter through the narrow gate. For the gate is wide and the road is broad that leads to destruction, and there are many who go through it. 14 How narrow is the gate and difficult the road that leads to life, and few find it.

These first two verses require us to make a decision on what the terms gate and road are talking about.

  • Is the gate the beginning of the journey? Is it talking about the point of salvation and the road taken after that?
  • Or is the gate the end of the journey, the destination? Our physical death and eternal residence?

There is a great debate among theologians and scholars on this point. By the end of this, admittedly, abbreviated discussion on these two viewpoints, I hope you will conclude, as I have, that the first view is the correct one.

Let’s take a look at the original Greek words behind the two main concepts in verses 13-14

  • Narrow gate/road – Two different Greek words are used for narrow, one each in verses 13 and 14. The first simply means “narrow,” while the second means “tribulation” or “persecution.” Jesus is saying that the way of true discipleship is restricting, in the sense of a worldly view, and leads to opposition and persecution. We know from other passages in Scripture that Jesus faced persecution, and He told us that those who follow Him would also face persecution.
    • Matthew 5:10-11 Those who are persecuted for righteousness are blessed, for the kingdom of heaven is theirs. “You are blessed when they insult and persecute you and falsely say every kind of evil against you because of Me.”
    • 2 Timothy 3:12  In fact, all those who want to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted.
    • 1 Peter 4:13-14  Instead, rejoice as you share in the sufferings of the Messiah, so that you may also rejoice with great joy at the revelation of His glory. If you are ridiculed for the name of Christ, you are blessed, because the Spirit of glory and of God rests on you.
    • Acts 14:22  strengthening the disciples by encouraging them to continue in the faith and by telling them, “It is necessary to pass through many troubles on our way into the kingdom of God.”
  • Wide gate/broad road – In Greek, this means spacious, easy, or prosperous. However, prosperous is not viewed in a positive light in this passage. It relates more to greed and selfishness. Ultimately, it leads to eternal death.
    • Philippians 3:19  Their end is destruction; their god is their stomach; their glory is in their shame. They are focused on earthly things.
    • 1 Timothy 6:9  But those who want to be rich fall into temptation, a trap, and many foolish and harmful desires, which plunge people into ruin and destruction.
    • 2 Peter 2:1, 3   But there were also false prophets among the people, just as there will be false teachers among you. They will secretly bring in destructive heresies, even denying the Master who bought them, and will bring swift destruction on themselves…They will exploit you in their greed with deceptive words. Their condemnation, pronounced long ago, is not idle, and their destruction does not sleep.
    • 1 Peter 3:16  He speaks about these things in all his letters in which there are some matters that are hard to understand. The untaught and unstable twist them to their own destruction, as they also do with the rest of the Scriptures.

Jesus is exhorting His followers that true discipleship is a rigorous path, and not many will undertake and complete the journey. The narrow gate and narrow path is faith in Jesus. Earlier in the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus condemned the Pharisees for missing this point and choosing the wide gate and broad road that is characterized by self-dependence and self-righteousness.  A true servant of God’s Kingdom will always be in the minority camp when compared against the lost and false Christians.

Verses 15-20

15 “Beware of false prophets who come to you in sheep’s clothing but inwardly are ravaging wolves. 16 You’ll recognize them by their fruit. Are grapes gathered from thornbushes or figs from thistles? 17 In the same way, every good tree produces good fruit, but a bad tree produces bad fruit. 18 A good tree can’t produce bad fruit; neither can a bad tree produce good fruit. 19 Every tree that doesn’t produce good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. 20 So you’ll recognize them by their fruit.

Although these verses talk about false teachers or fake Christians, they tie in neatly with the preceding two verses. Some observations about this passage.

Jesus uses three metaphorical comparisons to illustrate false teachers or fake Christians.

  • The wolf in sheep’s clothing.
    • A wolf may deceive for a period of time, but sooner or later, their true nature will come out.
    • The illustration of the wolf indicates an active and malicious motive behind their actions.
    • A wolf is an enemy of sheep, and if not confronted and removed from the flock, they will destroy the sheep.
    • Acts 20:27-31 27 for I did not shrink back from declaring to you the whole plan of God. 28 Be on guard for yourselves and for all the flock that the Holy Spirit has appointed you to as overseers, to shepherd the church of God, which He purchased with His own blood. 29 I know that after my departure savage wolves will come in among you, not sparing the flock. 30 And men will rise up from your own number with deviant doctrines to lure the disciples into following them. 31 Therefore be on the alert, remembering that night and day for three years I did not stop warning each one of you with tears.
    • Matthew 24:11 Many false prophets will rise up and deceive many.
    • Matthew 24:24  False messiahs and false prophets will arise and perform great signs and wonders to lead astray, if possible, even the elect.
  • Grapes and figs.
    • The first thing to note here is that these false teachers or fake Christians are not as disruptive as the wolves. However, that does not change the fact that they do not produce lasting Kingdom work.
    • A grapevine or fig tree will eventually produce fruit, even if you have to wait for the proper season.
    • A thornbush or thistle will never produce grapes or figs, no matter how long you wait.
    • Matthew 3:8  Therefore produce fruit consistent with repentance.
    • James 3:9-12  We praise our Lord and Father with it, and we curse men who are made in God’s likeness with it. 10 Praising and cursing come out of the same mouth. My brothers, these things should not be this way. 11 Does a spring pour out sweet and bitter water from the same opening? 12 Can a fig tree produce olives, my brothers, or a grapevine produce figs? Neither can a saltwater spring yield fresh water.
    • Philippians 1:11 filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ to the glory and praise of God.
    • Colossians 1:10  so that you may walk worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing to Him, bearing fruit in every good work and growing in the knowledge of God.
  • Thrown into the fire.
    • This implies God’s judgment.
    • John 15:6  If anyone does not remain in Me, he is thrown aside like a branch and he withers. They gather them, throw them into the fire, and they are burned.
    • This applies to those who were never genuine believers in the first place.
    • It is also a warning against believers who have false or hypocritical obedience in our lives. True believers are destined for eternal life but can still experience the unhealthy fruit of disobedience along the way
      • 1 Cor 3:1-4   Brothers, I was not able to speak to you as spiritual people but as people of the flesh, as babies in Christ. I gave you milk to drink, not solid food, because you were not yet ready for it. In fact, you are still not ready, because you are still fleshly. For since there is envy and strife among you, are you not fleshly and living like unbelievers? For whenever someone says, “I’m with Paul,” and another, “I’m with Apollos,” are you not unspiritual people?
      • 1 Cor 11:30-32  30 This is why many are sick and ill among you, and many have fallen asleep. 31 If we were properly evaluating ourselves, we would not be judged, 32 but when we are judged, we are disciplined by the Lord, so that we may not be condemned with the world.

Verses 21-23

21 “Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord!’ will enter the kingdom of heaven,  but only the one who does the will of My Father in heaven. 22 On that day many will say to Me, ‘Lord, Lord, didn’t we prophesy in Your name, drive out demons in Your name, and do many miracles in Your name?’ 23 Then I will announce to them, ‘I never knew you! Depart from Me, you lawbreakers!’

This is one of the scariest passages in the entire Bible and should cause every self-proclaimed believer to stop and make an honest and in-depth assessment of where they stand regarding obedience to Jesus, what He teaches, and the entirety of the truth contained in Scripture.

We can draw several conclusions from this passage.

  • More people say they are Christians than those who actually follow Jesus.
  • True followers of Jesus can’t lose their salvation, “I never knew you” is a clear indication that they were never genuine disciples.
  • Acknowledging Jesus as Lord with our lips, but not demonstrating obedience to His teaching, doing God’s will, is an indication of a false Christian. However, don’t confuse this with the false doctrine of works-based salvation.
    • 2 Timothy 2:19  Nevertheless, God’s solid foundation stands firm, having this inscription: The Lord knows those who are His, and Everyone who names the name of the Lord must turn away from unrighteousness.
  • Jesus is talking about the final, eschatological judgment each of us will face.
    • Luke 13:25-28  once the homeowner gets up and shuts the door. Then you will stand outside and knock on the door, saying, ‘Lord, open up for us!’ He will answer you, ‘I don’t know you or where you’re from.’ 26 Then you will say, ‘We ate and drank in Your presence, and You taught in our streets!’ 27 But He will say, ‘I tell you, I don’t know you or where you’re from. Get away from Me, all you workers of unrighteousness!’ 28 There will be weeping and gnashing of teeth in that place, when you see Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, and all the prophets in the kingdom of God, but yourselves thrown out.
  • Jesus is identifying three ways in which false Christians will try and deceive others.
    • Lip service, claiming loyalty to Jesus as Lord and God.
    • Spectacular signs.
    • Performing signs in Jesus’ name, thus claiming them to be the work of God when they aren’t.
      • Acts 19:13-16 13 Then some of the itinerant Jewish exorcists attempted to pronounce the name of the Lord Jesus over those who had evil spirits, saying, “I command you by the Jesus that Paul preaches!” 14 Seven sons of Sceva, a Jewish chief priest, were doing this. 15 The evil spirit answered them, “I know Jesus, and I recognize Paul—but who are you?” 16 Then the man who had the evil spirit leaped on them, overpowered them all, and prevailed against them, so that they ran out of that house naked and wounded.
      • Revelation 13:13-14  13 He also performs great signs, even causing fire to come down from heaven to earth in front of people. 14 He deceives those who live on the earth because of the signs that he is permitted to perform on behalf of the beast, telling those who live on the earth to make an image of the beast who had the sword wound and yet lived.

Summarizing what Jesus is conveying in verses 21-23 highlights the following points.

  • A genuine Christian will have evidence of good works in their lives.
    • However, salvation is not by works.
    • Anyone who trusts in their works for salvation is not saved.
    • Salvation is trusting in the finished work of Jesus alone.
      • Ephesians 2:8-9  For you are saved by grace through faith, and this is not from yourselves; it is God’s gift— not from works, so that no one can boast.
  • An absence of good works is an indicator of a false Christian.
    • A true Christian has the Spirit of God living in them, which will manifest itself by doing good works.
    • A false Christian doesn’t have the Spirit of God living in them, resulting in no fruit or fruit which doesn’t last.
  • These three verses are a warning to false (knowingly or unknowingly) Christians.
    • There are many paths to hell; many of them seemingly “religious.”
    • There is only one path to heaven,…repenting, and trusting in Jesus.

Applications

  • The first application is to ask yourself is if you really believe that Scripture is inerrant and infallible. Unless you answer “yes” to this question, it is impossible to follow Jesus’ commands and then be in God’s will. If you struggle in trusting the absolute truth of Scripture, pray that God would remove that doubt. Doubting the infallibility of Scripture is a lie from the devil designed to undermine our obedience and reduce or eliminate fruit from our lives.
  • Make an honest assessment of the path you are currently traveling. Are you on the narrow path or the broad path? Many are living, either deliberately or unknowingly, a false Christianity.
  • The “Sinner’s Prayer,” found nowhere in the Bible, has led many to believe that they are on the road to salvation when they may actually be on the road to hell. Jesus calls us to repentance, turning from our sinful habits, and trusting and turning to Him in a life of obedience.
  • Evaluate the church you attend and the sermons they preach. They should be Jesus centered and not “me” centered. Always search Scripture and don’t blindly follow what your pastor says. Pastors who are offended by this may be giving false teaching. If your church is not teaching Scripture, Jesus, repentance, and hell as a real place, you need to find a new church that does. If they teach the prosperity gospel or an easy Christianity, you need to find a new church. Jesus never taught that message.
  • Does your life demonstrate producing lasting fruit in Kingdom service? If not, go back to application point #2 and reevaluate.

2 thoughts on “Sermon on the Mount Lesson Eighteen

    1. Thanks Maria,
      You pose a simple yet complicated question. There is the Heavenly Kingdom, the dwelling place of God, which exists outside of time and space. Then there is The Kingdom, which has an already/not yet characteristic. When Jesus came in the flesh, He began The (His) Kingdom on earth. His followers are sealed by the Holy Spirit and are members of The Kingdom here and now. However, it will not reach its fulfillment until He returns a second time and ushers in the new heaven, new earth, new Jerusalem with no more sickness, no more pain. It will be The Kingdom as it was meant to be in the Garden of Eden until the fall and sin entered into the world.
      Blessings, Ted

      Like

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