The Evangelical Universalist Forum

JRP's Exegetical Compilation: Matt 7:13-23, Luke 13:22-30

This is part of my Exegetical Compilation project that I’m verrrrrryyyyy slowwwllly posting up, links to which can be found collected here.

Matt 7:13-23; sometimes non-universalists will reference 7:13-14 (enter by the narrow way, the wide way leads to destruction), or 7:19-23 (every tree that does not bear good fruit is chopped down and thrown into the fire, and Jesus will tell those who are false servants to depart from Him as lawbreakers), or even 7:15 (beware the false prophets who come in sheep’s clothing but inside are ravening wolves), as though these count not only against Christian universalism but personally against Christian universalists.

Any preacher or teacher might of course be a ravening wolf inside, even a Christian universalist. But as a matter of principle, are universalists the ones who are saying that God’s tree will ultimately produce bad figs? (Matt 7:16-18) Are universalists the ones who are acting in such a way that ultimately some sinners will never come to do the will of the Father in the heavens? (Matt 7:21) Are universalists the ones who claim our Father in the heavens gives worse gifts than evil fathers on earth ever would? (Matt 7:9-11) Are universalists the ones who teach against the idea of all people coming to do unto others as they would have people do unto them? (Matt 7:12) Is it the universalists who deny that those outside who keep on asking and keep on knocking will eventually be given entrance, and so who teach that those thrown outside might as well not even bother knocking in the first place because they will never be let in? (Matt 7:7-8, 23)

Those who are ravening wolves inside are certainly merciless to others, and admittedly a Christian universalist might be this way inside; but does this describe Christian universalism in principle, and so all Christian universalists necessarily?

Granted, not everyone who is empowered by Christ to work miracles and even exorcisms will be acknowledged by Christ as His followers, even if they know to give Him the double-Lord title reserved only for God in the Old Testament. But when Jesus withered the tree going into the city during His last week of earthly ministry, was He denouncing those who trust in God and try to cooperate with Him in bringing all the beasts of the field and of the forest into the Temple to eat? – or those who, considering themselves the elite chosen of God, had taken over the Court of the Gentiles, preventing any fruit from growing there? (See further comments on Mark 11:11-26.)

Admittedly, the gate is small and the way is narrow that leads to life, and few are those who find it; and “many shall enter by the broad path and the wide gate that leads to destruction” instead. But does the good shepherd only act as the Way and the Gate, waiting for those to enter? – or does He go out after the final sheep of His flock, sweeping up vigorously after the final coin stamped with His image, until He finds and brings the lost (destroyed) one home? Are universalists the ones who deny one teaching instead of affirming both?

This saying has strong relations to GosLuke 13:22-30, where Luke reports a man approaching Jesus on the road, during His final journey up to Jerusalem, asking the question (v.24), “Are there only a few who are being saved?” and Jesus answered Him with very similar words, “Strive to enter by the narrow door, for many I tell you will seek to enter and will not be able once the head of the house gets up and shuts the door”.

Who is the “you” whom the lord of the house is talking to outside, wailing and gnashing their teeth? The ones who fully expect many unexpected people from all the compass reclining at the table of God with the patriarchs and the prophets (as in 13:28 and elsewhere)? – or the ones who expected God to only save a few? Who are the ones who would be the first, outside wailing and gnashing their teeth? Are they the ones who refused to judge lest they be judged? – or are they the ones who expected this kind of judgment for others?

Apparently there are many more entering into life than that man was expecting who only expected a few to be saved! He himself is going down the broad path to the broad gate, not the narrow path to the narrow door, and he himself shall be wailing and gnashing his teeth on being thrown outside when he sees people coming from all quarters of the compass to eat in the kingdom with the patriarchs and the prophets.

Jesus does talk to “you-plural” when answering the man, so is addressing multiple people in the nearby traveling crowd generally; but His reply only makes sense so far as they agree with the man in wanting Jesus to affirm that only a few are being saved. Expecting (or at least wanting) only a few to be saved, is itself the broad path to destruction, not the narrow path which only a few find! (A rather normal paradox teaching of Jesus in the Synoptic accounts, notice: those who think they are the first will turn out to be the last and those they think are the last will turn out to be the first. Which, not coincidentally, is also how Jesus ends His rebuke to the man there at verse 30!)

Again, back at Matthew’s report of a similar saying during the healing of the centurion’s servant boy (Matt 8:5-13), Jesus’ whole rebuke is that “the sons of the kingdom” themselves are the ones who will be shocked to find far more people coming into the kingdom than they were expecting, while they themselves are being thrown outside where the wailing is and the gnashing of the teeth! That phrase, “sons of the kingdom”, is the same phrase Jesus uses in Matthew’s report of other teaching a few chapters later (Matt 13) to talk about people who will certainly be saved – but the contexts there continue to warn against people expecting other people not to be finally saved.

Relatedly again, back at Luke’s semi-parallel in chapter 13, he also reports the parable of the mustard seed immediately before the story of the man who came to ask if only a few are being saved; in GosMatt and GosMark that parable is directly connected with warnings against expecting hopeless punishment and being unmerciful. (Whether Jesus repeated the teaching at this incident, or Luke ported the teaching over here for topical purposes, is irrelevant.)

Who, then, being thrown outside, are the ones being judged by the standard of their judgment (Matt 7:1-2)? Who are the ones being judged by the standard that they themselves were judging? Those who are merciful even to those who are thrown outside? Or those who are unmerciful?

“Love your enemies,” Jesus says in Luke’s report of the same incident (Luke 6:35-38) “and do good, and lend, not despairing at all of receiving nothing in return, and your reward will be great and you will be sons of the Most High! – for He Himself is kind to the ungrateful and to the evil ones. Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful. Now do not judge, and you will not be judged; and do not condemn, and you will not be condemned; release and you will be released. Give and it will be given to you, a good measure, pressed down, shaken together, running over, they will pour into your lap! For by your standard of measure, will it be measured to you in return!”

It may make more sense not to regard the warnings of Matthew’s 7th chapter to be against Christian universalists after all. :wink:

See extensive comments on Matthew 13 for further connections to Luke 13.

As always, members are invited to add further (possibly alternate) commentary and discussion below, including links to discussion of these verses on and off site.

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Not sure if this is a place for questions, but I am not following the line of reasoning, especially the part where he asks ‘Will few be saved?’ It seems that Jesus is affirming this with his response…

I remember Jason saying to me when I first came here and asked my very first question (which was in part about this passage – or a similar one), that while few FIND the way, that doesn’t mean that Jesus won’t be proactive in finding THEM, nor that just because they don’t find it now that doesn’t mean they won’t find it later. And though the broad road leads to destruction, that isn’t necessarily final. (Also I believe the word used there for destruction is apollumi, and also used of the lost sheep, lost coin, and prodigal son.) I’ll leave it to him though to tell you his views more thoroughly.

For me, I do think that there’s probably a group who go in first – not because they’re given special treatment, but rather so that they (we?) can bless the nations in the ministry of reconciliation – not only in this life, but in the age to come as well. It’s a responsibility and a privilege, but not just for the benefit of this “elect” group – rather to bless others who maybe don’t find their own way through the strait gate and up the difficult path. I see this in a number of places, one being the three harvest periods. Barley, wheat, and grapes. It’s interesting now that I think of it . . . Barley is just ground and used, since it can’t be leavened as it has no gluten. Wheat is ground and fermented (in the yeast leavening process) for maybe several days, depending on the strength of the yeast. Grapes are crushed and fermented over a period of a year or more before their juice becomes palatable. I wonder if I’m taking that symbolism too far . . . but it’s interesting to think about.

All true. :slight_smile:


If Jesus was affirming with His response that only a few are being saved, He wouldn’t have gone on to emphasize JUST HOW UNEXPECTEDLY MANY ARE BEING SAVED AFTER ALL!

The people in trouble in His responses are the people who are like the guy who asked if only a few are being saved; they’re the ones who haven’t found the narrow way. Then the typical Synoptic riddle-test comes into play: only a few find the narrow way of believing just how extensive salvation is, but that doesn’t mean only those few will be saved.

This does leave over the warning about many being unable to enter by the narrow door once the master of the house gets up and shuts it. Given that the rest of Jesus’ reply aims against the people who regard themselves as the first-elite and the few who are being saved, but who turn out to be doers of rebellion and thrown outside where they expected the many to be thrown (the first will be last and the last will be first), whatever the shutting of the narrow door means it can’t mean something opposite to the actual warning thrown back at the man who asked the question! – i.e. it cannot be affirming that yes, just like he thought, only a few are being saved after all, like himself for example. :wink:

If the narrow door/gate/way, however, is the belief that God will save everyone, that would fit the idea that few in history have found it; and it was certainly better to come into Christianity while that narrow door was still open – because eventually it was shut for a long time, despite many people longing to come into the kingdom by that door!

That may seem weird, but Jesus gave curiously similar warnings about signing up with Him before His death. Certainly those warnings could not mean no one, or even only a few, would be saved after He died! – yet still it was better to come in while the light was shining because the darkness was coming, even a darkness when no one would be able to work (by comparison). And one way or another we have to acknowledge that God didn’t see fit to keep the belief of universal salvation open throughout all Christian history. People have largely entered Jerusalem through the wide gate and the broad way until now! – the way that leads to destruction.

It’s oddly flippyfloppy, but typical of the Synoptic Jesus sayings. :slight_smile:

HI Jason,

I should have clarified. I understand your logic, but I don’t see how it is any more credible than the traditional reading. That isn’t an attack, I am merely just saying “it seems plausible, but not probable” from a neutral reading. But, being I am already slant towards UR, I’d side with you on it, but that is my bias talking.

That’s okay, in many cases there only has to be a plausible option. Not every piece of evidence is an airtight case, and a cumulative argument accumulates its own weight of likelihood.

I’m pretty sure my analysis of Luke 13:22-30 would not in itself count against a hopeless punishment usage of the text (although Luke’s and/or Jesus’ connection of the incident to the parable of the mustard seed is suggestive – but not obviously so). What I think it does count decisively against, is an argument that Jesus must have been affirming only a few will be saved from their sins.

The surrounding contexts of Matt 7:13-23, on the other hand, fit a universal salvation theology better than a hopeless punishment theology, I think.

Now updated with more connecting comments such as Matt 8:11-12 (sons of the kingdom wailing and gnashing their teeth when tons of people outside the kingdom come in but they’re thrown out), and more stress on the context about people being condemned for condemning other people.

For more discussion on this topic from a 2010 thread at this site: … f=14&t=718

Are there few that BE saved? Present tense. It does not speak of final destiny.

23 and a certain one said to him, `Sir, are those saved few?’ (YLT)
23 And one said unto him, Lord, are they few that are saved? (NASB)
23 Now someone said to Him, "Lord, are few being saved? (CLV)
23 Said and one to him: O lord, are few those being saved? (Diaglott)

Jesus doesn’t answer the question directly. He says many will seek to enter “at the straight gate” and shall not “be able”. It seems they were trying to enter but, for some reason, they didn’t have the ability. Jesus does not say the “many” will never be able to enter or never be saved. To the contrary, Paul says “many”, not few, shall be saved, by which He means all:

Rom 5:18 Consequently, then, as it was through one offense for all mankind for condemnation, thus also it is through one just act for all mankind for life’s justifying."

Rom 5:19 For even as, through the disobedience of the one man, the many were constituted sinners, thus also, through the obedience of the One, the many shall be constituted just."

Fear not, said the angel who announced it, for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people. Luke 2:10.
Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men. Luke 2:14.
But love your enemies, do good to them, and lend to them without expecting to get anything back. Then your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High, because he is kind to the ungrateful and wicked. Luke 6:35

Luke 15:3 And he spake this parable unto them, saying, 4 What man of you, having an hundred sheep, if he lose one of them, doth not leave the ninety and nine in the wilderness, and go after that which is lost, until he find it?
Luke 15:8 Either what woman having ten pieces of silver, if she lose one piece, doth not light a candle, and sweep the house, and seek diligently till she find it?

1 Corinthians 3:13 Every man’s work shall be made manifest: for the day shall declare it, because it shall be revealed by fire; and the fire shall try every man’s work of what sort it is.
14 If any man’s work abide which he hath built thereupon, he shall receive a reward.
15 If any man’s work shall be burned, he shall suffer loss: but he himself shall be saved; yet so as by fire.

1 Cor.13:2 If I have the gift of prophecy, and know all mysteries and all knowledge; and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing…4 Love is patient, love is kind and is not jealous; love does not brag and is not arrogant, 5 does not act unbecomingly; it does not seek its own, is not provoked, does not take into account a wrong suffered, 6 does not rejoice in unrighteousness, but rejoices with the truth; 7 bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.8 Love never fails; but if there are gifts of prophecy, they will be done away; if there are tongues, they will cease; if there is knowledge, it will be done away. 9 For we know in part and we prophesy in part; 10 but when the perfect comes, the partial will be done away…13 But now faith, hope, love, abide these three; but the greatest of these is love.

1 Corinthians 15:22 For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive… 28 And when all things shall be subdued unto him, then shall the Son also himself be subject unto him that put all things under him, that God may be all in all.

1Tim.2:4 who doth will all men to be saved, and to come to the full knowledge of the truth;

Yes, even Judas, Pharoah, Sodom & Hitler.

Matthew wrote of “few” finding it. Paul says “many” will (Rom.5:18-19). Who is wrong? How to harmonize?

Rom 5:18 Consequently, then, as it was through one offense for all mankind for condemnation, thus also it is through one just act for all mankind for life’s justifying."

Rom 5:19 For even as, through the disobedience of the one man, the many were constituted sinners, thus also, through the obedience of the One, the many shall be constituted just."


Matthew was speaking in the present tense (not final destiny)

Paul was speaking in the future tense (final destiny).

Also Paul was teaching universalism. The “many” in v.19 is a Hebraism meaning all. Just as Jesus says He would give His life a ransom for “many” (Mk.10:45) which Paul says is for “all” people (1 Tim.2:4-6).

Mt.1:21 And she shall bring forth a son, and thou shalt call his name Jesus: for he shall save his people from their sins.
Mt.2:6b …my people Israel.

Matthew 7:21-23-Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter into the Kingdom of Heaven; but he who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. Many will tell me in that day, ‘Lord, Lord, didn’t we prophesy in your name, in your name cast out demons, and in your name do many mighty works?’ Then I will tell them, ‘I never knew you. Depart from me, you who work iniquity.’

Could this mean a future judgment where the false prophets here are going to depart into the LoF for correction? Considering that enter in the Greek is in the future tense.

Yes, it could conceivably refer to the LOF, Hades, Gehenna, “outer darkness” during the millennium, etc

The way I would read this is that the Kingdom of Heaven (or God, etc.) is equivalent to the rulership of God. If you do not obey the King, then you are not submitted to His Kingship and hence not “in” the Kingdom. Once you learn to obey the statutes of the King, then to that degree (that you can and do obey Him), you are a citizen of the Kingdom. Otherwise, I think the best one could say would be that a willfully disobedient person might reside (so to speak) in the King as all things do, but is not a subject–since he does not subject himself to the authority of the King.

We tend to interpret “Kingdom of Heaven” as a place we go to when we die. I don’t think that’s necessarily the way in which the Jews would have understood Jesus’ words.

Maybe Tom Wright can help some…

Yeah I do disagree qaz… but I posted his video because he makes the same basic and IMO salient point that Cindy made above about the traditional idea of “going to heaven” etc — I agree on that score. Technically, Wright (like Andrew Perriman) is a partial ‘prêterist’ although both of them loath the prêterist moniker; and I understand that… one reason I went with the moniker pantelist :wink: