by Eugene Clingman (Nordskog Publishing)
Thank you for asking hard questions last night when I was sharing with you the Postmillennial vision and understanding of the Bible. Let me first say that in order to embrace a doctrine as a faithful Christian all the Bible verses must work together. Secondly, whatever system of eschatology one embraces as a faithful Christian (and there are faithful Christians in all the millennial camps) there are hard questions to be answered. Each system must deal with verses that do not seem to fit their millennial view. Theology is no child’s game and yet the Bible is understandable to children. Augustine said that the Bible was shallow enough for a child to wade in and at the same time deep enough for an elephant to drown in.
So then I must answer as best I can the question of how the verse in Matthew fits in the Postmillennial view of things.
The verse you brought to our attention is Matthew 7:13–14, which reads: “Enter by the narrow gate; for wide is the gate and broad is the way that leads to destruction, and there are many who go in by it. Because narrow is the gate and difficult is the way which leads to life, and there are few who find it.”
I will mention several points:
On the surface it must be admitted that this verse looks like it is saying only a few will be saved by comparison with those lost.
But in the not too distant context (other verses surrounding the verses in question) we hear the same Jesus say this: “And I say to you that many will come from east and west, and sit down with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob in the kingdom of heaven” (Matt 8:11).
This is in keeping with God’s promise to Abraham regarding his descendants. For in
Genesis 22:17 we read God promising: “blessing I will bless you, and multiplying I will multiply your descendants as the stars of the heaven and as the sand which is on the seashore; and your descendants shall possess the gate of their enemies.”
By the way, the last phrase of this verse is in keeping with the Postmillennial understanding – “your descendants shall possess the gate of their enemies.” Jesus wins in history. The devil does not take over, but Jesus, through the preaching of the Gospel to all nations, wins the nations so that the nations, along with their kings come bowing before Him (Isa. ch. 60 and ch. 2; see also Hab. 2:13, 14).
Abraham is to have not a few descendants but so many that they cannot be counted, so many that they must be compared, not to the grains of wheat in a massively large wheat field, but with something truly innumerable, the sand and the stars.
The book of Revelation displays God’s promise to Abraham as fulfilled: “After these things I looked, and behold, a great multitude which no one could number, of all nations, tribes, peoples, and tongues, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed with white robes, with palm branches in their hands, 10 and crying out with a loud voice, saying, “Salvation belongs to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb!” (Rev 7:9–10).
Since we know that the Bible does not contradict itself we must attempt to discover how the verse you presented fits into the overwhelming biblical evidence that there are not a few who will be saved, but an innumerable company.
At this point I want to quote from a book which I highly recommend if you would like to do further study in Postmillennialism, He Shall Have Dominion by Kenneth Gentry. Dr. Gentry writes:
“The resolution to the matter is to realize “our Lord’s purpose is rather ethical impression than prophetic disclosure.” That is, He is urging His disciples to consider the present situation they witness round about them. They are to look around them and see that so many souls are presently perishing, so few men are seeking righteousness and salvation. What will they do about this sad predicament? Do they love Him enough to seek its reversal? Christ’s challenge to them is ethical.
In John 4:35, He urges the dim-eyed disciples to see that there was much work to be done: “Do you not say, ‘There are still four months and then comes the harvest’? Behold, I say to you, lift up your eyes and look at the fields, for they are already white for harvest!” In Matthew 7, He warns against false prophets that will arise among the people (Matt. 7:15-20). Then, He warns that a man must hear and act upon His words (Matt. 7:21-27). His disciples must feel the horror of the present vastness of the multitude entering the broad way to destruction.
Certainly the gate is narrow: only He is the Way, the Truth, and the Life (John 14:6). But His statement in Matthew 7:13-14 does not imply that it will always and forever be the case that few will be saved in every era of history…”
I hope these things are helpful to you. There is certainly more that can be said, and I am happy to answer questions you might have.