Jesus went through one town and village after another, teaching as he made his way to Jerusalem. Someone asked him, 'Lord, will only a few be saved?' He said to them, 'Strive to enter through the narrow door; for many, I tell you, will try to enter and will not be able. When once the owner of the house has got up and shut the door, and you begin to stand outside and to knock at the door, saying, "Lord, open to us," then in reply he will say to you, "I do not know where you come from." Then you will begin to say, "We ate and drank with you, and you taught in our streets." But he will say, "I do not know where you come from; go away from me, all you evildoers!" There will be weeping and gnashing of teeth when you see Abraham and Isaac and Jacob and all the prophets in the kingdom of God, and you yourselves thrown out. Then people will come from east and west, from north and south, and will eat in the kingdom of God. Indeed, some are last who will be first, and some are first who will be last.'
While the questioner who asked how many would be saved did not get a direct answer from Jesus, nevertheless it was made very clear to him and to all of us that each one’s salvation is in his own hands. All those who accept Christ, his teaching and the helps he has made available to them, will enter the kingdom of God. On the other hand, those who are excluded from that eternal kingdom will have only themselves to blame. God invites all men and women to heaven. He gives all the help necessary to everyone of us, but, because mankind have a free will which God cannot force, some will abuse that freedom and choose wrongly.
Jesus mentions the narrow door through which we must enter into God’s kingdom. This means that we must exercise self-restraint and mortification and this we do when we respect and keep his commandments. When we are called to judgment, it will be too late to shout “Sir, open for us.” We should have sought his mercy and his forgiveness during our earthly life, and he would have granted it.
Neither will it avail us to say that we knew him in life. Acquaintance with Christ is not enough. We should have loved him and become his real friends, which we could only do by being loyal followers of his. “He taught in our streets” will only prove our guilt. We could have learned his doctrine; we could have become his disciples, but we would not. The pagan who never heard of Christ will not be condemned for not following his teaching, but the Christian who did hear his doctrine and refused to carry it out, will deserve condemnation.
As descent from Abraham was not a claim for special consideration on the part of the Jews, neither will any other circumstances of nationality, birth or earthly privilege help us on the day of judgment. Each one will stand or fall by his own mode of life during his term on earth. Nothing and nobody else can change the just judgment of God when thath moment arrives for each one of us.
The thought of our moment of judgment is a staggering one even for the holiest of us. Things and actions that do not trouble us much now, will appear in a light then. The prayers we omitted or said carelessly, the Masses we missed on flimsy excuses the little bit of continual injustice to a workman or customer, or the dishonesty practiced by a worker against his employer, the sins of impurity of which we thought rather lightly, the bad language so freely used and the scandal we spread flippantly, the money wasted on drink or gambling when our children needed nourishment and clothing – these, and many other such faults of which we excuse ourselves so easily now, will not be a source of joy or consolation for us on that dread day, if we arrive at God’s justice seat still burdened with them.
We are dealing with god’s mercy while alive. He will forgive any sin and any number of sins if we truly repent, and resolve to correct these faults. To do this is the only one guarantee that even God himself can give us of a successful judgment. Every man who lives in God’s grace will die in God’s grace and be numbered among the saved. The man who lives habitually in sin, and refuses to amend his life, will die in his sinful state, and thus exclude himself from eternal salvation.
I have a free will. I can choose to pass that final examination or to fail it. The whole of my eternity, the unending life after death, depends on my choice now. If I choose to follow Christ and live according to his laws during the few years I have on this earth, I shall pass and shall be among the saved. If I ignore Christ and his laws now, he will not know me on the day of judgment. I shall be among the lost. God forbid that I should choose the latter course. Amen.