The Narrow Way

“Enter ye in at the strait gate: for wide is the gate, and broad is the way, that leadeth to destruction, and many there be which go in thereat: Because strait is the gate, and narrow is the way, which leadeth unto life, and few there be that find it.” Matthew 7:13-14

Taken as a message about escaping hell, it is claimed that in the end, only a small portion of humanity will go to heaven, while everyone else suffers eternal torment. Instead, Jesus was drawing on the ‘two ways’ worldview, a common idiom used to describe Israel and their relationship with God. The concept goes all the way back to the covenant itself:
See, I have set before you today life and prosperity, death and adversity. Deuteronomy 30.15, NRSV

When Jesus talked about just a few people entering ‘the narrow gate’, this would have been understood as referring to a ‘remnant’ of Israel escaping the imminent judgment on their nation. The concept of a faithful remnant in Israel had always been a part of prophetic thinking (e.g. Isaiah 10.20; Jeremiah 6.9; Ezekiel 9.8). Jesus was predicting that only a few Israelites would make it through the ‘narrow gate’ and avoid ‘the coming wrath’.

Jesus closed his Sermon with the metaphor of a house collapsing in a flood (Matthew 7.24-27). This parable he borrowed from Ezekiel 13.1-16, a passage about the downfall of the Kingdom of Judah when Babylon conquered Jerusalem. Jesus adapted the image and centered it around himself: if Israel was to survive ‘the coming wrath’, they needed to trust in him.

From “Jesus and the End of Death” by Mark Edward. http://amzn.to/2zeva0A