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Matt 7:13-14 (ESV) says:

13 “Enter by the narrow gate. For the gate is wide and the way is easy that leads to destruction, and those who enter by it are many. 14 For the gate is narrow and the way is hard that leads to life, and those who find it are few.

Matt 7:13-14 (NLT) says:

13 “You can enter God’s Kingdom only through the narrow gate. The highway to hell is broad, and its gate is wide for the many who choose that way. 14 But the gateway to life is very narrow and the road is difficult, and only a few ever find it.

My question is very specific and very narrow (no pun intended): what does "it" in "those who find it are few" refer to. Does "it" refer to:

  • The gate,
  • God's Kingdom,
  • way, or
  • life?

Insights from the original Greek grammatical analysis is very welcome.

Related questions to sharpen the choice:

  1. If it is the "gate", does it refer to the beginning of the salvation journey (during our lifetime) or the end (judgment day)?

  2. Is it right to interpret the "the way is hard" as our sanctification journey, which implies that "hard" refers to the great risk of failing (apostatizing or giving up)? If that is so, is it right to interpret "scarcely saved" in 1 Pet 4:18 as that great risk of denouncing one's faith because of the incurred suffering in carrying Jesus's cross?

  3. Which is the meaning of "narrow"?

    Meaning Analogy Example Faith Reference Example
    difficulty of finding the START of the journey looking for a needle having the true gospel preached to you is rare (ex. someone in communist China)
    difficulty in making the decision to start the journey laziness / procrastinate already understand the gospel, but like St. Augustine says "Lord, make me chaste—but not yet."
    perceived/actual difficulty of the journey treacherous and winding road carrying the cross incurs being persecuted by your family/friends, making it easy to give up
    difficulty of staying in the journey a lot of easy "exit ramps" to cross over to the wide road many temptation from the world making it very easy to fall away from faith / backslide
    ambiguity of the choice/way hard to make the right choice or easy to get lost in the way true Christianity is hard to discern, great risk of false teacher leading one to the wrong gospel or wrong religion
    eligibility of entering the journey entering Harvard need to renounce the many illicit pleasures of the world to genuinely declare faith in Jesus
    eligibility of entering heaven graduating Harvard self deception / cultural Christian getting "reality check", cf. Matt 7:21-23
    specificity of the choice only 1 out of 100 keys you already have in your hand can open the door only Christianity can save you, cf. John 14:6
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In Matt 7:14, grammatically, there are (unfortunately) three choices for the antecedent of the final pronoun as provided by the gender of the four nouns:

For small is the gate [Fem] and narrow the way [Fem] leading to life [Fem], and few are those finding her [it].

The pronoun "it" in most versions is actually feminine and so could refer to any of the preceding three feminine nouns, "life", "way", or "gate". The simplest (grammatically, but always the surest) is to assume the closest noun, which is in this case, "life"; but this is less likely as it is in the accusative and the others are nominative.

However, we are actually given a strong clue in the previous verse where two different roads and gates are contrasted:

  • V13 - enter via the wide gate for the wide path - many find the wide gate
  • V14 - enter via the narrow gate for the narrow path - few find it [the narrow gate].

This, the correct antecedent of "it' (actually "her") is "gate". However, we have more information about this in other places. Note the following:

  • John 10:6, 7 - Jesus spoke to them using this illustration, but they did not understand what He was telling them. So He said to them again, “Truly, truly, I tell you, I am the gate for the sheep.
  • John 14:6 - Jesus answered, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me.

Thus, both Matt 7 and John 10:7 & 14:6 use a very similar metaphors for Jesus - the gate and the way. Only a minority find and accept Jesus as the gate (John 10:7) and the way (John 14:6) to eternal life.

FURTHER - in 1 John 5:11, 12, John 14:6, 1:4, Jesus is also the "life". Thus, we find that:

  • Jesus is the gate
  • Jesus is the way
  • Jesus is the (source of) life

Hence we could say that all three nouns preceding "it" in Matt 7:14 are regular metaphors of Jesus, but only a minority ("few") find Jesus and thus, eternal life.

Narrow Path

The meaning of "narrow path" is actually given in the sentence in which it occurs - "narrow is the path and few find it". That is, a narrow path is much more difficult to find than a wide/broad path/road (as any bush walker will testify!)

The difficulty is finding the path probably corresponds to several things that are known characteristics of the Christian "way" -

  • the unpopularity of the path due to its inherent "troubles", 1 Cor 7:28, John 16:33
  • the effort involved in entering the narrow gate as per Luke 13:24.
  • the self-discipline and self control required as per 1 Cor 9:25, 2 Peter 1:6, etc.

Note the comments of the Jamieson-Fausset-Brown Bible Commentary

few there be that find it—The recommendation of the broad way is the ease with which it is trodden and the abundance of company to be found in it. It is sailing with a fair wind and a favorable tide. The natural inclinations are not crossed, and fears of the issue, if not easily hushed, are in the long run effectually subdued. The one disadvantage of this course is its end—it "leadeth to destruction." The great Teacher says it, and says it as "One having authority." To the supposed injustice or harshness of this He never once adverts. He leaves it to be inferred that such a course righteously, naturally, necessarily so ends. But whether men see this or no, here He lays down the law of the kingdom, and leaves it with us. As to the other way, the disadvantage of it lies in its narrowness and solicitude. Its very first step involves a revolution in all our purposes and plans for life, and a surrender of all that is dear to natural inclination, while all that follows is but a repetition of the first great act of self-sacrifice. No wonder, then, that few find and few are found in it.

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  • Wow, I didn't realize it's so ambiguous grammatically. Could we at least determine whether the "gate" is in the beginning or the end of the journey? Also, would you be able to narrow down (no pun intended, again) the choices of "narrow" I listed in the table? – GratefulDisciple Jun 21 at 7:21
  • You could simply your language with this modification to your statement: "The simplest (grammatically, but always the surest) is to assume the closest noun, which matches in case and number, " But, a good answer. – Perry Webb Jun 21 at 8:58
  • actually "noun which matches in case, gender, and number." – Perry Webb Jun 21 at 9:39
  • The above is true of adjectives. Pronouns need not match case, only gender and number, usually. There are exceptions when we need to look for a reason,such as with Spirit, which is neuter. – Perry Webb Jun 21 at 11:33
  • Just trying to simplify the languagre, but haven't done that yet. – Perry Webb Jun 21 at 11:36
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What is the “it” in “those who find it are few” in Matt 7:14?

1/ "It" refers to the Kingdom of God: Acts 14:22 reads:

Acts 14:22 NET 22 They strengthened the souls of the disciples and encouraged them to continue[b] in the faith, saying, “We must enter the kingdom of God through many persecutions.”

2/ The "gate", refer to the beginning of the salvation journey (during our lifetime)

The way is "hard"

Why is it that “few are the ones finding” the narrow gate to life? Three reasons explain: (1) It takes diligent effort to find it; (2) Christendom, despite its many religions, has not entered the narrow gate, and (3) the narrow gate leads to the the "Kingdom of God."

The cramped road, or the right way to worship God, leads to everlasting life. The spacious road, or the wrong way to worship God, leads to death. If your traveling in a foreign country you will need the assistance of a road map to reach your destination, the starting point is your "gate." Christians have the Bible as their guide. God has given us the Bible so that we can learn the right way to worship him. To study the Bible, and He will help you to benefit from his teachings because he deeply cares for you. Isaiah 48:17.

DILIGENT EFFORT

But why should it require diligent effort to go in through the narrow gate? Because everyone is born on the spacious “road leading off into destruction.” We are naturally travelers on the broad highway leading off into destruction, as Paul the apostle of Jesus Christ explained in writing to the Ephesian Christians:

Ephesians 2:1-NASB

Made Alive in Christ

2 And you were dead [c]in your offenses and sins, 2 in which you previously walked according to the [d]course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, of the spirit that is now working in the sons of disobedience. 3 Among them we too all previously lived in the lusts of our flesh, [g]indulging the desires of the flesh and of the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, just as the rest.

Jesus warned us that when we want to do the will of God, we will face challenges. He said: “(Read Mt 7:13-14)“Not everyone saying to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter into the kingdom of the heavens, but the one DOING THE WILL OF MY FATHER who is in the heavens will. Many will say to me in that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not . . . perform many powerful works in your name?’ And yet then I will confess to them: I never knew you! Get away from me, you workers of lawlessness.”​—Matthew 7:21-23.

No wonder it is a narrow gate! The unholy practices belonging to this world are not allowed on the road to life, practices such as:

Galatians 5:19-21 NASB

19 Now the deeds of the flesh are evident, which are: sexual immorality, impurity, indecent behavior, 20 idolatry, witchcraft, hostilities, strife, jealousy, outbursts of anger, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions, 21 envy, drunkenness, carousing, and things like these, of which I forewarn you, just as I have forewarned you, that those who practice such things will not inherit the kingdom of God.

1 Peter 1:14-16 NASB

14 As obedient children, do not be conformed to the former lusts which were yours in your ignorance, 15 but like the Holy One who called you, [d]be holy yourselves also in all your behavior; 16 because it is written: “You shall be holy, for I am holy.”

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