How will everyone be saved if the “way is narrow”?
It’s true that God desires that all should be saved. This has led Him to devise a plan that will give the most people an opportunity for eternal life. This does not contradict Jesus’ statement that the way to life is narrow. It is important to understand that the truth is found by studying the combined testimony of all relevant passages.
When we use this method, we find there are three different ways for people to follow. They are described as, the “Narrow Way,” the “Highway of Holiness” and the “Broad Road” that leads to destruction.”
The Narrow Way and the Highway refer to the two ages, or time periods, of salvation. The present Christian, or Gospel Age is for the calling of the church class, also described as the “bride of Christ”. This group will reign with Jesus from heaven. The Highway of Holiness is descriptive of the Millennium when the remainder of mankind will be resurrected to earth for a 1,000-year trial period.
These two ages are reflected in the words of Acts 15.
“… God at the first did visit the Gentiles, to take out of them a people for his name... After this I will return, and will build again the tabernacle of David, which is fallen down…That the residue of men might seek after the Lord…” (Acts 15:14-17)
Taking from the Gentiles “a people for his name” describes the call of the church in the present time. The next step is to restore the nation of Israel since the earthly government will be administered through the restored nation, (referred to as “the tabernacle of David”). The purpose is clearly stated; so that the remainder of mankind can seek after the Lord.
This is a significant sequence that helps explain Jesus’ statement. He described the walk of a Christian as a narrow, or difficult way. Every Christian can relate to the challenges of remaining faithful to godly principles in a sinful world. Jesus said few would be able to live a lifestyle pleasing to God while living in this world. Those that remain faithful and are transformed into the character image of Christ, will be granted a heavenly reward, raised to eternal life.
However, Jesus did not mean the remainder of mankind will be lost in a burning hell. A careful study of the scriptural usage of “hell” reveals that it is simply the unconscious condition of death. Ecclesiastes 9:10 says, “…there is no work, nor device, nor knowledge, nor wisdom, in the grave, whither thou goest.”
The word for grave is “sheol,” the scriptural equivalent to the New Testament “hades.” (For a deeper study on hell listen to, “Is the Hell of Christian Tradition Taught in the Bible?” Part 1)
The church’s work is described by Jesus in Revelation 20:4-6.
“And I saw thrones, and they sat upon them, and judgment was given unto them…and they lived and reigned with Christ a thousand years. This is the first resurrection.
Blessed and holy is he that hath part in the first resurrection: on such the second death hath no power, but they shall be priests of God and of Christ, and shall reign with him a thousand years.”
This passage described the role of Jesus and the church as reigning over the earth where mankind will be resurrected for a 1,000 year kingdom. But the 1,000 years will not guarantee humanity eternal life. The kingdom is prophetically described as a time when “the knowledge of the LORD will cover the earth, as the waters cover the sea.” (Isaiah 11:6)
Unlike the Narrow Way of the Gospel Age, the knowledge of God will be clear and easily learned. False religions and deceptive errors will be removed. Universal laws will come directly from heaven. Satan will not be allowed to interact with man for the entire 1,000 years (See Revelation 20:2).
Isaiah also describes this time in glowing terms. The entire 35th chapter gives a complete flavor of what to expect in the earthly kingdom. Verse 8 uses a meaningful term, saying,
“…An highway shall be there, and a way, and it shall be called ‘The way of holiness;’ the unclean shall not pass over it; but it shall be for those: the wayfaring men, though fools, shall not err therein.” Isaiah 35:8
Mankind’s journey to eternal life is described as a highway, a wide and easily traveled road. The challenges will be less that those who had previously lived on the Narrow Way. At the end of the 1,000 years Satan will be released from his prison and allowed to tempt man one more time. It will be the world’s final test of loyalty.
Those who succumb to Satan’s new lies will be destroyed in what the scriptures term “second death.” (See Revelation 20:14 and 21:8) This is the end of the Broad Road to destruction Jesus described. The incorrigible will have had every opportunity to serve God but, in the end, chose to rebel`. Those who remain faithful to God and the principles of righteousness will be granted eternal life on earth.
God’s plan is beautifully summarized by the Apostle Paul in Ephesians 1:7-10:
“…So abundant was God’s grace, the grace which He, the possessor of all wisdom and understanding, lavished upon us, when He made known to us the secret of His will. And this is in harmony with God’s merciful purpose for the government of the world when the times are ripe for it–the purpose which He has cherished in His own mind of restoring the whole creation to find its one Head in Christ; yes, things in Heaven and things on earth, to find their one Head in Him.” (Weymouth translation)
To learn more about God’s plan of salvation for all listen to our series, “Did God Make Heaven and Hell Humanity’s Destiny?”