"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 "And an highway shall be there, and a way, and it shall be called The way of holiness; the unclean shall not pass over it; but it shall be for those: the wayfaring men, though fools, shall not err therein. No lion shall be there, nor any ravenous beast shall go up thereon, it shall not be found there; but the redeemed shall walk there: And the ransomed of the LORD shall return, and come to Zion with songs and everlasting joy upon their heads: they shall obtain joy and gladness, and sorrow and sighing shall flee away."—Isaiah 35:8-10
These two texts tell us of three ways in which men may travel—the "Broad Road," the "Narrow Way," and the "Highway." We will consider them in the order named. Our first parents in their perfection were surely not upon any of these roads; they were at the goal of harmony with God and full perfection of being in God’s image and likeness and favor. The Scriptures explain that by disobedience they fell from their exalted condition into sin, that thus they came under divine displeasure and condemnation called the "curse," and were started upon "the broad road which leadeth to destruction." It should be noted that this is not the broad road that leadeth to eternal torment, as so many erroneously suppose. The Scriptures are quite explicit in telling us that the penalty upon father Adam and his entire family was "Dying thou shalt die," and our Lord in our text speaks of the broad road upon which they thus launched as leading to destruction. No reasonable interpretation can twist and turn this plain English word destruction into meaning the very reverse—to make it mean preservation, with the additionally impossible thought of a preservation in fire, torture, etc.
The Broad Road Slippery
When our first parents started on the downward way to destruction their less impaired physical and mental powers permitted greater self-restraint, and hence we read that father Adam was 930 years in reaching the end of that road—reaching death—destruction. But as century after century rolled by, his children inherited more and more of imperfection, mental, moral and physical; the broad road to destruction became more slippery, so to speak, until today we find the average of human life 35 years, and in civilized lands the mental powers have become so impaired that on an average one out of every three hundred needs to be incarcerated in an insane asylum, and about the same proportionate number, morally impaired, needs to be imprisoned. Physically the entire race is full of aches and pains, and dying at the rate of 90,000 a day.
God to the Rescue
The Prophet tells that when there was no eye to pity and no arm to deliver our race from this awful predicament of the broad road into which they came by disobedience, then God pitied and his arm brought salvation. (Isa. 59:16.) For 4,128 years God waited to take even the first step in the relief promised to the Prophet, and then he sent forth his Son in the likeness of sinful flesh to redeem the world, to redeem Adam and all of his race—from the broad road and from the destruction to which it leads, and into which millions had already gone. The Scriptures very particularly tell us what Christ did for us: "Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures." (1 Cor. 15:3.)
Thus, the Apostle explains, God could be just and yet the justifier of him that believeth on Jesus." (Rom. 3:26.) Our Lord was just in thrusting our first parents out of their Eden home, out on this broad road to destruction. He has been just for all those centuries in permitting the race to go to destruction, and he is just in permitting the redeemer to pay man’s penalty, that thus eventually the broad road might be discontinued, and those who had gone into destruction as well as those on the way to it might be rescued therefrom.
The foundation laid by Jesus’ death is so broad and so strong as to be the guarantee that Adam and all of his race will be recovered from the broad way and from the destruction at its end. In a word, the death of Jesus guarantees the ultimate release of the entire human family from the sentence of destruction. Hence it is that the Scriptures assure us that there shall be an awakening from this death, this destruction—that there shall be a resurrection from the dead both of the just and the unjust. In other words, had it not been for the redemptive work accomplished by our Redeemer at Calvary, Adam and his entire race would have been without any hope of recovery from death. But God had compassion upon our race, and has a plan in connection therewith which ultimately shall display most gloriously not only his justice in our condemnation and his love in our redemption, but also his wisdom and his power in connection therewith.
Meantime, as a result of our Redeemer’s death, to all those who believe (and to none others) destruction is turned into a sleep. Thus the believers in God’s promises in times past spoke of their dead, whether good or bad, not as destroyed but as passing into a sleep. Abraham, Isaac and Jacob slept with their fathers, though their fathers were heathen men and not heirs with them of God’s promises. Be it noted also that at the time Jesus uttered these words he had not yet completed his atonement sacrifice, and hence he made no reference to the change from the destruction into which the race was going to a sleep condition, from which in the resurrection morning he would awaken all and bring them forth.
The Narrow Way to Life
Instead of at once stopping the progress of the race on the broad road, instead of at once beginning the work of mental and moral and physical refreshing and restitution (Acts 3:19-21) our Lord in harmony with the Father’s arrangement has permitted the world in general to continue on this down ward course for nearly 2,000 years longer. But meantime he has not been idle; he has been calling out to the earth’s teeming millions, to his apostles, and to all who become his followers, telling all who are burdened and heavy laden and desiring life that there is now open a narrow way by which all who will obey the voice may separate themselves from the mass of the race and, following in the footsteps of Jesus in the narrow way, may ultimately reach with him the glory, honor and immortality of the Divine nature. The voice which calls, however, specifies the narrowness of the way, the difficulties of the journey, its roughness to the feet, its thorns and thistles and steepness; and as a consequence, even of those who have the ear to hear comparatively few care to seek the path still future or are willing to endure hardness as good soldiers of the Lord Jesus and to follow on in his footsteps.
We need not wonder that these footstep followers of Jesus are a little flock, nor should we suppose that God is disappointed in this matter. On the contrary, thus it is written: "Not many wise, not many great, not many learned, not many noble, but chiefly the mean things, the poor of this world, rich in faith, to be heirs of the Kingdom." (1 Cor. 1:25-28;) (Jas. 2:5.) Again, our Lord’s words, "I thank thee, O Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because thou hast hidden these things from the wise and prudent and hast revealed them unto babes. Even so, Father, for so it seemed good in thy sight" (Matt. 11:25,26) and again his words, "Fear not, little flock, it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the Kingdom." (Luke 12:32.) We see then this little flock, which the Lord is now calling out from the world of mankind, and saving with the special salvation, and under special terms and conditions of a narrow way and difficult path, are to constitute a kingdom class; and many Scriptures assure us that this kingdom class with their Lord Jesus is to be the Divine agency through which , the moment the broad road shall have been abolished, Adam and his race shall be rescued from the destruction of death into which they went through sin and from which they were redeemed by the precious blood of Christ. Whoever sees, then, the divine plan outlined in the Scriptures has a sufficient explanation of why the trials and testings of the church of this present time, the little flock, should be crucial—why they should be required to demonstrate their loyalty in a special manner.
The Highway of Holiness
The highway of holiness mentioned by the Prophet is very different in many respects from either the broad road leading down to destruction or the narrow way of the present time leading upward to glory, honor and immortality. A preferred translation of the Prophet’s words are these: "And a raised way shall be there, even a high road, and the high road of holiness shall it be called. There shall not pass over it one who is unclean." (Isa. 35:8.) The word "there" in our text associates it with the context, which is admittedly a description of the Millennial age, when the wilderness and solitary place shall be glad and the desert shall rejoice and blossom as the rose. The context tells us "No lion shall be there nor any ravenous beast shall go up thereon, it shall not be found there; but the redeemed shall walk there, the ransomed of the Lord shall return." Again we read, "The wayfaring men, though fools, shall not err therein." All these descriptions indicate that the highway of the future, of the Millennial age, will in very many particulars be distinctly different from the narrow way of this Gospel age. The narrow way with the difficult gate is the very opposite thought of the broad, public high road.
We are glad for our share in the narrow way and for its prospects of glory with the Lord; but we would rejoice with the world of mankind also that, after the little flock now willing to walk in this narrow way shall be gathered to the heavenly fold, to the Kingdom glories with their Lord, the remainder of mankind shall neither be thrust into eternal torment nor into everlasting death, destruction, but that through God’s mercy and love, the next step in the great Divine plan of the ages will be their rescue.
"Thy Kingdom Come"
Ah, but, some will say, if God will not save sinners in their sins, and if sinners either hear not or hear indistinctly the invitation to the narrow way, or if hearing they refuse the narrow way of self-sacrifice, what hope can there be for them? What could God do for the world other than he is now doing for the Church? Can he coerce the wills of mankind? Would it please God to establish a paradise peopled with those whose hearts, whose wills, were in opposition to him but coerced into submission? We answer, No! Our Lord declares that the Father seeketh such to worship him as worship him in spirit and in truth from the heart. We answer further that, while under present conditions God is offering opportunities for the narrow way of self-sacrifice only, he proposes the establishment of new conditions when the narrow way is ended and when the time shall come to open the highway of holiness and destroy the broad road.
The new conditions are referred to throughout the Scriptures, both in the Old and in the New Testaments, and always as a promise, as a glorious hope for the world, Jew and Gentile. Thus an intimation of the coming highway and its opportunities of rescue was mentioned to father Abraham when Jehovah declared to him, "In thy seed shall all the families of the earth be blessed." This implied not only a blessing of Abraham’s seed, and its high exaltation to power and authority and royalty so as to be able to bless the world, but it implied that eventually blessing would reach the world through it. As we have previously seen, the narrow way of this Gospel age is for the selection of the seed of Abraham, as the Apostle declares, that through these selected ones all the families of the earth shall receive a blessing from the Almighty.
So then we see that the Kingdom of God’s dear Son, declared through the prophets, declared by our Lord in his parables and by the apostles, is still future; that its establishment has waited for the selection and preparation of the Kingdom class—the Bride class; that the heavenly King and his glorified Bride may in due time, after the marriage supper of the Lamb, take and exercise the great authority secured over the world, secured by the precious blood of Christ. Now then we see from this standpoint how much will depend upon the character of that Kingdom and the degree of power and authority which it will exercise amongst men.
An Autocratic Rule
Had we the time to enter into the subject in detail and to show from the various prophecies the character of this coming Kingdom, it would be manifest to all that it will not be a Republic, even though we agree that a Republic is the highest form of human government, the best suited to the happiness and welfare of the intelligent. The Kingdom of God’s dear Son will be an absolute monarchy; mankind will not be asked to vote for Jesus as King or President of the world—"He shall take unto himself his great power and reign;" and again, "He must reign until he shall have put all enemies under his feet"—brought all into subjection to his righteous rule.—Rev. 11:17; 1 Cor. 15:25.
The reign of Christ, it is Scripturally declared, will last a thousand years, and during that reign he will undo all the dire results of the reign of sin and death for the preceding 6,000 years. Ignorance and superstition will flee away under the sunlight of the truth, when the Sun of Righteousness shall then arise with healing in its beams, flooding the whole world of mankind with the light of the knowledge of the glory of God. O, how differently men will view their Creator when once they get this light! How differently those who are in the narrow way now view him in advance of the world, in proportion as they have the eyes of their understanding opened that they may see by faith the glories of the Divine character through the telescope of the Divine Word.
We are assured also that in the glorious time the Lord will judge the world in righteousness—that is to say, he will grant rewards and punishments to each individual of the race according to their willful deeds, good or bad. All favoritism will be in the past, in the sense that the blessing of the Lord will be open to the world in general, "every creature." Abraham’s natural seed, circumcised Jews, long accustomed to reverence the Lord, will by reason of this very fact have the earliest favors in that time, since they will be able more quickly than others to conform to the laws of the Kingdom when the Lord shall lay justice to the line and decision to the plummet.
We are not to understand from this that Divine justice will cease to burn against all unrighteousness, against all sin, but we are to understand that Jesus, the Head and the Church, his body, as the great Mediator, Prophet, Priest and King of that time, will be granted full control of the human family, so that on account of the redeeming blood shed for all none shall suffer for the weaknesses of heredity, but merely for his own willful, intelligent conduct. Even then his punishment will be, as Scripturally declared, in the nature of stripes for his correction, to help him out of the weaknesses of his depravity and assist him into the highway of holiness, which he may enter by a full submission of his will to the Divine law. True, the Scriptures speak of incorrigibles—of some who now, after starting in the narrow way, turn to wallowing in the mire of sin, willfully, deliberately, and, resisting God’s grace, die the Second Death. They show also that in the coming age whosoever will not hear and heed and obey the great Prophet (the Christ, Head and Body) shall be ultimately destroyed from amongst the people.
No Unclean Thereon
The Prophet declares that no unclean shall pass over it. Before any could get upon this highway of holiness he must renounce sin—"uncleanness." Jesus the great high priest has full atonement made so far as justice is concerned for every one of these, and therefore as soon as sin is renounced and the will is turned to righteousness and obedience to the Divine will, their uncleanness from the Divine standpoint of their Judge and Lord will be gone, though their weaknesses and imperfections in the flesh may still continue with them a considerable time while they journey along the highway of holiness and become gradually stronger mentally, morally and physically, attaining thus step by step on an upward way to that grand climax of human perfection represented originally in father Adam, who was the image and likeness of God in the flesh.
It will be noticed that this highway is not a downward one but an upward one; none can roll to perfection against his will. It will require the effort of the will to attain to obedience and to the eternal life promised at the end of the way. In this respect the highway of the future is very different from the broad road of the present time, which is a downward one, on which mankind go often despite their struggles to the contrary. In this respect the highway of the future more nearly resembles the narrow way of the present time in that it is an upward one, but the stumbling-stones of the narrow way will not be there, as the Lord has indicated saying, through the Prophet: "Go through, go through the gates; prepare ye the way of the people, cast up, cast up the highway; gather out the stones; lift up a standard for the people."—Isa. 62:10.
From this standpoint—seeing that the opening of the world’s highway and the turning of the course of mankind from the downward way into that highway will begin at the second coming of Christ, when the Church, the little flock, the Kingdom class, shall have been selected and prepared and glorified—we can see the force of the Apostle’s expression, indicating that mankind is unconsciously waiting for the second coming of Christ to receive these great blessings which will rescue them from their present groaning and dying.
Hearken!—"The whole creation groaneth and travaileth in pain together until now" "waiting for the manifestation of the sons of God." No wonder that this great reign of the Prince of Peace, the King of Righteousness, the heavenly Judge, for the blessing and uplifting of the world, has so prominent a place in the divine revelation. We may say that it is the real object and work of the Savior—the present selection of the Church to the higher than human nature, to the divine nature, being a slight matter, though to us a most important and precious privilege and blessing.