“You can enter God’s Kingdom only through the narrow gate. The highway to hell is broad, and its gate is wide for the many who choose that way. But the gateway to life is very narrow and the road is difficult, and only a few ever find it.” (Matthew 7:13–14 NLT)
In his juxtaposition between the narrow gate to God’s Kingdom and wide gate leading to hell, Jesus is not simply talking about what kind of reception each of us will receive on the other side of this life. That is part of it, but his inclusion of language referring to travel – the highway to hell and the difficult road to life – broadens this teaching beyond the narrow scope we can so often find ourselves taking in discussions of these verses. Jesus appears to not be talking so much about a one-time event like walking through a narrow gate but more about the ongoing, everyday business of life, the daily struggle of choosing which path to take at any given moment.
Even the phrase “highway to hell” points a bit to this truth. A better translation from the original Greek word be “the road that leads to destruction.” According to Strong’s Greek Lexicon, that word “destruction” – apóleia – does not suggest “annihilation;” instead it implies “loss of well-being” or wholeness. Found throughout the Scriptures, this concept of wholeness, or shalom, refers to the way God intended things to be. This means Jesus is not talking about what it means to enter into Heaven but what it means to be his disciple, which Dallas Willard describes as “learning from him how to lead my life in the Kingdom of the Heavens everywhere I am, in every activity I engage in.”
To be a disciple of Jesus, to be continually formed ever more closely into his image, is a difficult path to take, but Willard gives us three ways we can go about learning to live our lives as Jesus would were he in our shoes. First is learning to do the things Jesus says to do. Second is learning to go about the usual business of life in the character and power of Christ. Third is learning to “exercise the power of the kingdom—of Christ in his Word and Spirit—to minister good and defeat evil in all of the connections of earthly existence.” This process of learning these three dimensions of being a disciple is not an easy undertaking, but it is the only way to “the gateway to life” that so few of us ultimately find.