This is a message that will tell you how you can go to heaven when you die. There are two doors after death: destruction or delight, and we choose which door we will pass through while we are alive; either the narrow door to heaven or the wide door to hell. Many of you are already believers and know you are going to heaven, so you may wonder why I’m speaking on this topic. The Bible makes it clear that many people think they are going to heaven, but they are mistaken. So it’s good to occasionally clear our minds of all of our preconceived notions and consider how a person can go to heaven. Heaven can only be entered through a narrow door. Have you found heaven’s narrow door? Let’s read about it in Luke 13:22-30.
Then Jesus went through the towns and villages, teaching as He made His way to Jerusalem. Someone asked Him, “Lord are only a few people going to be saved?” He said to them, “Make every effort to enter through the narrow door because many, I tell you, will try to enter and will not be able to. Once the owner of the house gets up and closes the door, you will stand outside knocking and pleading, ‘Sir, open the door for us.’ But He will answer, “I don’t know you or where you come from.’ Then you will say, ‘We ate and drank with you, and you taught in our streets.’ But he will reply, ‘I don’t know you or where you come from. Away from me, all you evildoers!” There will be weeping there, and gnashing of teeth, when you see Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob and all the prophets in the Kingdom of God, but you yourselves thrown out. People will come from east and west and north and south, and will take their places at the feast in the Kingdom of God. Indeed, there are those who are last who will be first, and first who will be last.”
If we want to enter heaven, there are four important truths we need to understand:
1. There is Only One Door to Heaven and it is Narrow
These words of Jesus are not politically correct in our age of religious pluralism. If Jesus came to America preaching this message today, He would be labeled a radical and would probably be arrested. In fact, that’s exactly why the Jews arrested Him and executed Him 2,000 years ago.
To say there is only one way to heaven is an unpopular stance today. Most people think there are many ways to get to heaven. They think it doesn’t matter what you believe as long as you are “sincere.” Well, those Palestinian suicide bombers are sincere in their beliefs, and they are wrong. You can be sincere – and be sincerely wrong.
A man told me he thought getting to heaven was like flying in an airplane. I could fly American Airlines, he could fly Delta, and somebody else could fly Northwest airlines, but we’d all get to the same destination. “Doesn’t that sound logical?” he asked.
I told him it sounded logical, but when you get on an airliner, you could never be 100% certain it would arrive at the intended destination; it could be diverted by weather, hijacked, have mechanical problems, or even crash. I told him I am booked to fly on Jesus Airlines and it’s the only one in the universe with a 100% on time arrival record! For Jesus (or any of us) to insist there is just one way to heaven seems too narrow-minded in this age of enlightenment. But look at His words again in verse 24: “Make every effort to enter through the narrow door, because many, I tell you, will try to enter and will not be able to.” Jesus didn’t speak of different doors or different airliners. He didn’t say “enter through one of the narrow doors.” He spoke of the narrow door.
Other Scriptures confirm there is only one way to heaven. In John 14:6, Jesus said, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me.” Now, let me misquote this verse the way most folks believe. They think Jesus said, “I am one of the ways, part of the truth, and one kind of life. No one comes to the Father unless they are religious, good, kind, and sincere in whatever it is they believe.” But Jesus didn’t say He was one of the ways or even the best way; He said He is the only way.
For five decades, Billy Graham has been filling stadiums around the world preaching Jesus is the only way to heaven. He always has a banner with John 14:6 placed in a prominent place. As you can imagine, many people think his position is too narrow-minded. Several years ago, after he conducted a crusade in Australia, a woman wrote a letter of complaint to the newspaper. Her words are typical of many who do not appreciate our insistence that Jesus is the only way to heaven. She wrote, “After hearing Billy Graham on the air and viewing him on television, I am heartily sick of the type of religion that insists my soul (and everyone else’s) needs saving–whatever that means. I have never felt that I was lost. Nor do I feel that I wallow in the mire of sin, although his preaching insists I do. Give me practical religion that teaches gentleness and kindness and acknowledges no barriers of color or creed, that remembers the aged and teaches children about goodness and not about sin. If, in order to save my soul, I must accept such a philosophy as I have recently heard preached, I prefer to remain forever damned.”
Sadly, Jesus confirmed that millions of people share her attitude. He pointed out that only a small percentage of the entire population are going to be saved and He was dogmatic about it!
What’s wrong with being dogmatic about some things? If you go in for surgery, you wouldn’t want your surgeon to say to you the night before the surgery, “I don’t want to be dogmatic about the way to do this surgery. I think I’ll try a different approach this time. I may try going in from the other side for a change. After all, there’s more than one way to skin a cat.” You’d say, “But I’m not a cat and I don’t want to be skinned! Do the surgery the way you were taught to do it!” How far do you think the surgeon would get if he did it the wrong way?
We can’t bend God’s rules either. The people in this passage were at the door; they were even knocking on the door. But almost getting into the door won’t get us into heaven. When it comes to our eternal salvation there is only one door. What is it?
2. Heaven’s Door is Knowing God by Knowing Jesus
A few years ago, I conducted a survey. One of the questions on the survey was: “In your personal opinion, what do you understand it takes for a person to go to heaven?” As you can imagine, I got a variety of interesting answers. Everybody has an opinion. The most common incorrect answer to the question of how to get into heaven was: “Do good or be good.” Wrong. Access to eternal life in heaven can only be gained when we have a personal relationship with God.
In verse 25, Jesus describes people who will be pounding on heaven’s door after it is shut. They will be hollering, “Let me in! Open the door! I went to church; I even went to Sunday School! I gave my money to the church. I even worked for You! Hey, let me in!” Notice the reply of the Master of the house. He says, “I don’t know you.” It’s all about knowing God. Do you know Jesus Christ? Does He know you? He said in John 10:27, “My sheep hear My voice; I know them and they follow Me.” Do you recognize God’s voice when you hear it? Do you know Jesus and does He know you?
All of us in this room know about President Obama. Maybe you’ve met him or shaken his hand, but do you really know him? Have you visited with him enough that you are known by him? The same can be said about Jesus. Everyone here knows about Jesus, but some of you might have had casual contact with Him. Others of us have met Him and we know Him intimately because we talk with Him regularly (by the way, it’s easier to gain access to Jesus than it is to President Obama, so feel free to get to know Him).
Eternal life is knowing Jesus. Let me call your attention to the verse that best defines what eternal life is: “Now this is eternal life: that they may know You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom You have sent” (John 17:3). Eternal life is knowing God. That’s the door to heaven and it is the only way to get into heaven.
I love to read fables because they are like the parables of Jesus. Many of them teach practical lessons that can be applied to spiritual truth. There’s an old Russian fable about a cat and a fox. The fox bragged to the cat about how clever he was. He claimed he had hundreds of ways of escaping from the hunters who chased him. He could hide in a hole, or backtrack in a creek, or lie flat in tall grass. He was proud of his big bag of tricks. The cat replied she only had one way of escape, but that seemed to work.
At that moment, they heard the sounds of the hounds coming toward them. The cat scampered up the tree and hid herself among the leaves. She said to the fox, “This is my plan. What are you going to do?” The fox first thought of one plan, then of another. While he was debating the best plan the hounds came closer. At last, in his confusion, the fox was caught by the hounds and soon killed by the hunters. The cat witnessed the whole scene and provides the moral of the story: “Better to have one safe way than a hundred by which you cannot be sure.”
God is Spirit and no man can see Him without dying. That’s why Jesus came to this planet. God took on human flesh and became one of us, so we can relate to Him. Jesus said, “I am the door; whoever enters through Me will be saved. They will come in and go out, and find pasture” (John 10:9). The narrow door into heaven is Jesus Himself. There is no other way to get to heaven than by trusting in Jesus as your Savior and Lord.
Maybe you have heard of the name, “Ivan the Terrible.” He was crowned the first Czar or Caesar of Russia in 1547. He was cruel and ruthless. He gouged out the eyes of the architects who built the beautiful St. Basil’s Cathedral, so they would never be able to build anything more beautiful. He had seven wives and abused them all. He even killed his own son in a fit of anger. There were many reasons why people called him “terrible.”
When he died in 1584 the leaders of the church followed his strange instructions. They shaved his head and dressed him in a Monk’s robe. Ivan the Terrible knew he was such a wicked man that he was hoping God would mistake him for a monk and let him into heaven. But you can’t get into heaven by disguising yourself as someone and hoping God will mistake you for him or her. There is only one door and that door is Jesus.
3. There are Only Two Doors Leading to Eternity – Choose Your Door
Each of us faces these doors. Behind one is eternal life and delight. Behind the other is death and destruction. There is no mystery involved in these doors. The doors are clearly marked and Jesus tells us what is behind each door. Beginning in verse 28, Jesus describes the fate of those who don’t enter through the narrow door. He says there will be “weeping and gnashing of teeth.” That means there will be hopeless sorrow and unending pain. It makes me shiver in revulsion just thinking about it. Jesus said these people will “see Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, and the prophets.” One of the worst parts of hell is the ability to realize others are in heaven and you aren’t. What a terrible place hell will be. In his epic, Inferno, Dante described hell as having different levels and circles of torment. He created minute details you never find in Scripture, but he got it right in one respect. He inscribed over the gate to hell these words: “Abandon all hope, ye who enter here.”
Then Jesus contrasts that awful scene with the delightful glories of heaven. People from all four points of the compass, from all over the planet will gather for a feast! The Kingdom of God is like a feast, not a funeral. So, how do you get to enjoy the party and miss the pain? Choose the right door. In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus lets us know there are actually two doors that lead to two totally different destinies. He said, “Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it. But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it” (Matthew 7:13-14).
Consider the two doors. The one leading to destruction and hell is wide, and easy to find. Jesus said most of the world is on the pathway that leads to that door. But the door that leads to the delight of eternal life is narrow and only a few find it. God loves us so much He has made a way for us to know Him and to spend eternity with Him. But He also loves us so much that He has honored us by giving us the capacity to choose.
4. Heaven’s Door is Open Now, But Someday it Will be Shut
I can tell you on this very day, God’s door of grace is still wide open. But in verse 25, Jesus says one day the Master of the house will get up and close the door: “Once the owner of the house gets up and closes the door, you will stand outside knocking and pleading, ‘Sir, open the door for us.’ But he will answer, ‘I don’t know you or where you come from.” The door could close for you today. You could die today and that would close the door. Or, Jesus could return today and that would close the door of grace as well. You don’t have to be a rocket scientist to know things are heating up to a new level in Israel. All of that is a clear indication we are in the season of the return of Christ. So, if you haven’t trusted Jesus yet, do it today. Christian, if there is someone you know and love who hasn’t walked through God’s narrow door yet, don’t let another day pass by without lovingly urging them to trust Jesus alone for their salvation.
You can choose to enter heaven’s door today. Jesus said it’s a narrow door. Think about that for a minute. It’s so narrow only one person can walk through it at one time. In other words, you can’t walk through heaven’s door holding someone else’s hand. I thank God my parents raised me in church and sent me to Christian school, but when it came time for me to give my life to Jesus, I walked through that door all by myself. Some of you think because your grandfather was a preacher or your mother was a godly saint that you can walk through the door with them, but you can’t. The narrow door to heaven says, “One person at a time.”
Do you know what else it means because it’s a narrow door? It’s so narrow you can’t bring a bunch of excess baggage with you. In fact, you’ve got to unload all your “stuff” before you walk through it. I read once about a hiker who got trapped in a cave. He found a small opening to escape, but he couldn’t squeeze through with his backpack. So, he removed his backpack, and then his canteen, and then his jacket before he could slip through the opening. When you walk through the narrow door of heaven, you’ve got to leave your backpack of sinful habits and sinful attitudes behind. As the old song says, “Nothing in my hand I bring, Only to your cross I cling.”
Have you discovered heaven’s narrow door? Jesus is inviting you to come to Him today. Is there a need in your life? Does there seem to be an unquenchable thirst in your soul you haven’t been able to satisfy by anything this world offers? On the last page of the Bible, God extends an invitation to all of us. He says, “Is anyone thirsty? Come! All who will, come and drink. Drink freely of the Water of Life!” (Revelation 22:17).
The Bible speaks about another kind of door: it’s the door to your heart. And the way you walk through heaven’s door is by asking Jesus to come into the door of your heart. The most famous painting of the 19th century is by English artist Holman Hunt and is called “The Light of the World.” It’s a dark picture because it is night, symbolizing that the night has come and the day of salvation is almost over. Jesus is wearing a crown of thorns and standing at a door with a lantern in His hand. He is knocking on the door and His message is hard to miss. Jesus says, “Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with that person, and they with Me” (Revelation 3:20). Art critics looked at the painting and pointed out that Holman Hunt made a mistake–there was no latch on the door. His reply silenced the critics. He said the door of our heart only has a doorknob on the inside. We are the only ones who can open our hearts to Jesus.
Right now, Jesus is standing at the door of your heart. He’s knocking. Do you hear His voice? Will you open your heart to Him? When you do that, you will have found Heaven’s narrow door.