Jesus said, “…narrow is the gate and difficult is the way which leads to life, and there are few who find it” (Mt. 7:14). This verse has been used in many sermons preached to instill fear in its listeners reminding them that only few are going to end up going to heaven. One preacher I heard reminded his hearers that when God says few, He means few (See: 1 Pet. 3:20; Rev.3:4). There can be no doubt based upon these passages that only few are going to heaven; but how “few” is few in Matthew 7:14? What exactly did Jesus mean? Either Jesus meant “few” without qualification or Jesus meant “few” comparatively. Based upon the context of Scripture, there can be no doubt that Jesus was speaking comparatively. How can we know this?
We can know this because of the seed promise that was made to Abraham. The seed promise made to Abraham was speaking of those who would have faith in Jesus Christ (Gal. 3:14; 4:21-31; Rom. 9:1-13). This promise was anything but small. Those who are of the seed promise are described as being more numerous than the stars in the sky (Gen. 15:5; 26:4) and the sand which is on the seashore (Gen. 22:17-18).
Some argue that this promise was only in reference to physical Israel and has nothing to do with Christians. However, Paul makes his point abundantly clear that the seed promise was in reference to those who ultimately would be in Christ. “Now we, brethren, as Isaac was, are children of promise” (Gal. 3:28). “If you are Christ’s, then you are Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise” (Gal. 3:29). Peter explicitly explains the meaning of the seed promise when he said, “You are sons of the prophets, and of the covenant which God made with our fathers, saying to Abraham, ‘And in your seed all the families of the earth shall be blessed’” (Acts 3:25).
Unfortunately, many well-intended Christians have misused and abused Matthew 7:13-14 to teach that few means just a handful of people (Thus, the smaller and more exclusive your group becomes, the more righteous you must be). This is absolutely false and contradicts the seed promise made to Abraham 430 years before the Old Covenant of Moses (Gal. 3:15-25). When Jesus spoke of only a few going to heaven, He was speaking comparatively (That is, few compared to the majority). Consider that in 2012, a poll that was taken shows that only 33% of the world’s population claimed any form of Christianity. Even if we were to assume that all 33% were faithful followers of Jesus, this would still be considered few compared to the majority of non-believers. So, in conclusion, how few is few in Matthew 7:13-14 according to Jesus? As few as the stars in the sky and as few as the sand on the seashore.
– Kevin Pendergrass