James D. Slopsema is pastor of Hope Protestant Reformed Church, Walker, Michigan.

Then said one unto him, Lord, are there few that be saved? And he said unto them,

Strive to enter in at the strait gate: for many, I say unto you, will seek to enter in, and shall not be able.

When once the master of the house is risen up, and hath shut to the door, and ye begin to stand without, and to knock at the door, saying, Lord, open unto us; and he shall say unto you, I know you not whence ye are:

Then shall ye begin to say, We have eaten and drunk in thy presence, and thou hast taught in our streets.

But he shall say, I tell you, I know you not whence ye are; depart from me, all ye workers of iniquity.

There shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth, when ye shall see Abraham, and Isaac, and Jacob, and all the prophets, in the kingdom of God, and you yourselves thrust out.

Luke 13:23-28

One from the multitude asked Jesus, “Lord, are there few that be saved?”

From Jesus’ answer that follows it becomes apparent that this questioner was of the opinion that only a few would be saved and that he was looking for Jesus to confirm his opinion. It would also appear that this man was of the opinion that he was numbered among the select few to be saved.

In response, Jesus does not even comment on whether there are only few that are saved. Rather, Jesus informs this man and the multitude that only a few of them would be saved, even though they were of the opinion that, belonging to the nation of Israel, they were numbered among the saved.

Hence, they must strive to enter in at the strait gate.

Also today there are those who consider themselves to be numbered among the saved on false grounds. They too will perish in the day of our Lord Jesus Christ, unless they heed the call of Christ.

It is well then that we hear the call of the Lord Jesus: “Strive to enter in at the strait gate.”


When Jesus speaks here of the strait gate, He is referring to the gate of the kingdom of God.

The kingdom of God, also called the kingdom of Christ and the kingdom of heaven, is the kingdom Jesus founded at His ascension into heaven. Ever since the ascension, therefore, the kingdom has existed in heaven. Nevertheless, the kingdom is not yet complete. Its completion awaits the second coming of Christ from heaven and the creation of a new heaven and earth.

This kingdom is one of fabulous wealth and splendor. For to this kingdom belong all the blessings of salvation Christ has earned on the cross. These blessings are fellowship and communion with the ever blessed God.

According to the figure Jesus uses, there is only one door or gate to this kingdom by which we gain access to this kingdom and its blessed salvation.

This door is the righteousness of Jesus Christ. In His great Sermon on the Mount Jesus taught that, to enter into the kingdom, our righteousness must exceed the righteousness of the Scribes and the Pharisees (Matt. 5:20). This implies that the only way into the kingdom is to possess a true righteousness. Now the righteousness which gains us entrance into the kingdom can not be our own righteousness or obedience. That is the false righteousness of the Scribes and Pharisees. The righteousness we need to enter the kingdom is the perfect righteousness of Jesus Christ, which He accomplished at the cross. For at the cross Jesus not only paid the price for sin but walked in perfect obedience to the divine law.


Now Jesus exhorts us to enter into the kingdom at this gate.

This is an exhortation to lay hold of the righteousness of Christ, that we may enter in and enjoy the blessings of the kingdom.

This is not something we are to do at the end of the world when the kingdom is perfected. This is something we are to do in this life. In fact, Jesus calls us here to a daily entering into the kingdom.

This is done by faith alone.

Faith is the gift of God which leads a man to a godly sorrow over his sins. Faith also leads him to confess all his sins before God and to seek forgiveness with God solely on the merits of Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross. To put it a little differently, faith is God’s work in the hearts and lives of His people, in which God leads them to the cross, to cling to the righteousness of Jesus Christ.

In the way of that faith, the believer finds the righteousness of Christ, enters daily into the kingdom, and enjoys all its blessings and glory.


It is only with great effort that the believer enters the kingdom.

This is suggested by Jesus when He calls the gate to the kingdom a strait or narrow gate. This is also suggested by the exhortation to strive to enter at the strait gate. The word here is our word “agony”. It is only with great agony that we by faith enter in at the strait gate.

The difficulty of entering into the kingdom is, first of all, the difficulty of turning away from all self-reliance. How proud we are by nature. In pride we are all inclined to rely upon our own works and worth before God. But to enter into the kingdom requires that we come before God, acknowledging our own unworthiness. It requires that we put away all our own works and cling to the righteousness of Christ alone. How humiliating this is! How painful! For the natural man it is completely impossible. For the born again Christian who has the gift of faith it is a daily struggle.

The difficulty of entering the kingdom is also the sacrifice and persecution which the life of faith brings to the believer.

The faith which lays hold of the righteousness of Christ and gains us entrance into the kingdom is a faith that also leads the believer to live a life of godliness. The fruit of all true faith is good works in the service of God. We may properly call this life resulting from faith the life of the kingdom.

But that life also brings suffering. The life of the kingdom brings hatred and persecution from those who oppose the kingdom of God. Besides, the life of the kingdom requires a great deal of sacrifice. To live the life of the kingdom in faith requires that you sacrifice the pleasures of sin, as well as many other earthly pleasures that are available to the ungodly.

For this reason many have no interest in entering the kingdom. The sacrifice is too great for them. This is certainly true of the natural man. But even the born again believer sometimes wavers as he faces the agony of entering into the kingdom.

Hence, we need to hear the exhortation of Christ: “Strive to enter in at the strait gate.”


The urgency of this call is found in the fact that many will seek one day to enter into the kingdom and shall not be able.

This is further explained by Jesus.

One day Jesus, the master of the house of God, will rise up and shut the door of the kingdom. This Jesus will do at His second coming. In a real sense, Jesus shuts the door of the kingdom also at death. For when the door of the kingdom is shut, those who have not entered by faith can no longer enter. This present life is the time of entering in and securing a place in the kingdom.

And Jesus informs the multitudes that when He one day shall rise up and shut the door of the kingdom, many of them listening to Him shall find themselves outside the kingdom. The door will be shut, and they will find themselves outside. And so they shall begin to knock, saying, “Lord, Lord, open to us.”

But Jesus informs them that He will not let them into the kingdom. He will answer them, “I know not whence you are.” In other words, I do not know to which house or kingdom you belong; but as the master of God’s house, I know you have no place here in God’s kingdom. You are strangers who have no place here.

But this same multitude, says Jesus, will respond that Jesus does indeed know them. Didn’t they eat and drink in Jesus’ presence? And didn’t Jesus teach them in their streets? This is really an appeal to the fact that they were part of the nation of Israel, the chosen nation of God. For Jesus had come as the Savior of Israel. And being part of the nation of Israel, the multitude had eaten and drunk in Jesus’ presence, and Jesus did teach them in their streets.

It becomes apparent here that their membership in the nation of Israel was the one thing the multitude trusted to gain them a place in the great kingdom of sod. Rather than cling to the righteousness God provides in Jesus Christ, the multitudes relied upon their place in the nation of Israel to secure them a place in the kingdom.

And so Jesus informs this same crowd that in the day of His return He will tell them, “I know YOU not. Depart from me ye workers of iniquity.” Being workers of iniquity, they demonstrate that they do not belong to the kingdom. They have not lived the life of the kingdom, which is the life of godliness and service to God. And they have not lived that life of the kingdom because they have not lived by the faith that clings to the righteousness of the cross. No, Jesus will declare that He knows not whence they are. And so they must depart. There is no place for them in the kingdom.

Hence, says Jesus to the crowds, there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth, when you shall see Abraham, and Isaac, and Jacob, and all the prophets in the kingdom of God, but you yourselves thrust out.

What a devastating blow this must have been to the crowds who had convinced themselves that theirs was the kingdom exactly because they belonged to the chosen nation of Israel.

And how urgent then became the call of Christ: “Strive to enter in at the strait gate.”

So also is this same calling very urgent to those workers of iniquity today who have convinced themselves that theirs is the kingdom because they are members of some church, attend church regularly, assent to the doctrines of Scripture, have their children baptized . . . .

Strive to enter in at the strait gate.

For soon the master of the house shall rise up and shut the door.