Are you a wide gate believer?
First posted: March 2004
This article describes the difference between a "wide-gate believer" and a "narrow-gate believer". Which one are you? Let the Scriptures give you the answer.
"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)
Most believers use this passage as an evangelism tool. To them, the "narrow gate" is the life of a Christian and the "wide gate" is the life of a non-Christian; the "narrow gate" leads to Heaven, and the "wide gate" leads to hell. Even though this interpretation is technically correct, accepting it as the final and complete interpretation of this passage drains away the essence of what the Lord is trying to tell us here. Most of the believers I know personally are "wide gate" believers. They will not be going to hell when they die, but they will not enter into the "eternal life" that the Bible talks about. I know that this statement sounds contradictory, but that is because the Church has misunderstood the true Biblical meaning of the phrase "eternal life". To most, "eternal life" is escaping hell, but, in the Bible, "eternal life" is much, much more than that, and many will be sorely disappointed on Judgment Day when they realize what they missed out on, by settling for simply escaping from hell.
The key to "eternal life" is to be a narrow-gate believer. But, how can you know if you are one? First, we must understand what the Lord is referring to when He speaks to us about "gates".
"Judges and officers shalt thou make thee in all thy gates, which the LORD thy God giveth thee, throughout thy tribes: and they shall judge the people with just judgment." (Deuteronomy 16:18)
As you can see from this passage, ancient cities used to place their "courts of law" at the gates of the city. Many passages in Scripture such as Ruth 4:1 and James 5:9 reinforce the relationship between gates (or doors) and judgments in Scripture. This relationship makes sense spiritually because a judgment, in essence, is the declaring of something as "good" or "bad". You keep what is "good", and you put away what is "bad". When you go to the fruit stand to buy apples, for example, you make judgments to determine which apples are "good enough" to buy, and you pick those, putting aside the apples that don’t pass your judgment. Judgments, therefore, are a filtering process, and gates and doors serve the role of filtering what can go in and out of a house. At an expensive restaurant, for example, an employee stands at the door to check the attire of those trying to enter, and, if the attire does not meet the restaurant’s standards, they are forced to either put on the necessary clothes or leave the restaurant.
Many pastors teach believers that they are not supposed to make judgments, quoting Matthew 7:1 when doing so, but these pastors are taking this passage out of context. If we cannot ever execute judgments, we would have to remove John 7:24, 1 Corinthians 2:15, 1 Corinthians 5:3, Psalms 82, and many, many, many other passages from the Bible, since those passages call us to make judgments. When Matthew 7:1 is taken in context, however, it can be discerned that the Lord is speaking to our souls, not to our spirits. We are not only allowed to make judgments in the spirit, but we are called to do so. A person who makes no judgments is like a person who leaves the door of his house wide open, allowing anyone and anything to enter and leave. We all make judgments every day. It is inevitable and necessary. We will be posting an article in the future on this important issue.
Another interpretation for gates or doors in the Scriptures can be seen in passages such as 1 Corinthians 16:9, 2 Corinthians 2:12 and Colossians 4:3. These passages portray doors as "windows of opportunity". In that sense, a door represents an opportunity that did not exist until the door appeared.
I used to be a member of an intercessory group where each member made a commitment to download a list of prayer requests from the Internet on a given weekday and then pray over this list, which generally ended with a listing of believers with various health problems. One day, as I was praying for the sick brothers and sisters, I felt a strong faith anointing, and I believed that the faith in me was enough to produce healing in the people I was praying for. This strange thought then entered my mind: "All we need is faith to have healing". And, all of a sudden, Isaiah 53:5 ("by His stripes we are healed") seemed superfluous, irrelevant. This, obviously, didn’t sound right to me, but this whole thought sequence troubled me that afternoon.
I then asked the Lord to help me untangle my confusion, and, after a while, the Lord spoke this to my heart: "You could have all the faith in the universe, but if Jesus had not sacrificed Himself for you, your faith would not be able to heal a single person from the simplest disease". When the Lord said this to me, it all just became clear:
Faith needs a gate!!!
When the Lord Jesus was striped for us, He opened a gate, a door of opportunity, where once there was only a wall. Now we can direct our faith towards that gate to pray for healing (literal and spiritual). This principle is Scriptural:
"By whom also we have access by faith into this grace wherein we stand, and rejoice in hope of the glory of God" (Romans 5:2)
The word "access" in this passage has the connotation of a "key", since keys are used to give us access to what lies beyond a closed door. This means that "faith" is a "key" to a door. This is reinforced by the following two passages:
"I am the door: by me if any man enter in, he shall be saved, and shall go in and out, and find pasture." (John 10:9)
"For through him we both have access by one Spirit unto the Father." (Ephesians 2:18)
A key is useless without a door. Therefore, if faith is a key, it needs a door or gate. Matthew 7:13 talks about two gates. This means that God gives us an option. We can choose which gate we can direct our faith to, and the interesting thing is that both gates produce results. We will now study two persons in the Bible; one prayed towards the wide gate and the other towards the narrow gate, and we will study the differences between the two.
"In those days was Hezekiah sick unto death. And Isaiah the prophet the son of Amoz came unto him, and said unto him, Thus saith the LORD, Set thine house in order: for thou shalt die, and not live. Then Hezekiah turned his face toward the wall, and prayed unto the LORD, And said, Remember now, O LORD, I beseech thee, how I have walked before thee in truth and with a perfect heart, and have done that which is good in thy sight. And Hezekiah wept sore. Then came the word of the LORD to Isaiah, saying, Go, and say to Hezekiah, Thus saith the LORD, the God of David thy father, I have heard thy prayer, I have seen thy tears: behold, I will add unto thy days fifteen years." (Isaiah 38:1-5)
Most pastors teach this prayer as an example of effective and faith-filled prayer, but an analysis of the consequences of this "answered prayer" reveals something different. The Lord commanded Hezekiah to "set his house in order". The original word in Hebrew for "house" is beth and the word for "to set in order" is tsavah, which literally means, "to command, to give orders, to charge". The first time that both of these Hebrew words appear together in one verse is Genesis 18:19:
"Seeing that Abraham shall surely become a great and mighty nation, and all the nations of the earth shall be blessed in him? For I know him, that he will command his children and his household after him, and they shall keep the way of the LORD, to do justice and judgment; that the LORD may bring upon Abraham that which he hath spoken of him." (Genesis 18:18-19)
Here, the word beth is translated as "household" instead of "house", and the word tsavah is translated as the verb "to command" instead of "to set in order". This is one of many examples where Bible translators involuntarily hide Biblical revelation through inconsistent translation.
In Genesis 18:19, the Lord declares that He will make a great progeny come forth from Abraham because Abraham was willing to command his children and his household. The Lord was doing the same with Hezekiah. Hezekiah, up until chapter 37 of Isaiah, had been a good king, a king obedient to God and bent on doing God’s will. However, it seems like Hezekiah had one little flaw: he was too accommodating with his children. To put it in "modern" terms, he was a "liberal parent". Abraham was a parent who taught his children to abide by commandments and principles, preparing them to be men of "justice and judgment", as Genesis 18:19 declares. Hezekiah, however, seemed to be a parent whose focus was to see his children happy and content. The reason why God accompanied the order to "command his household" with a death sentence in Isaiah 38:1 was because many people are not willing to impart judgment and justice on others because of their emotional ties to them. If a father "loves" his son too much (notice the quotation marks around the word "loves"), he will not want to apply judgment on his son because "hurting" his son in any way would be like hurting himself. Therefore, what seems like virtuous fatherly love is more a love of self, where the son is an extension of self. This is why the Lord said,
"If any man come to me, and hate not his father, and mother, and wife, and children, and brethren, and sisters, yea, and his own life also, he cannot be my disciple." (Luke 14:26)
When you love your children (or any other person around you) to such an extent that you prefer their happiness over God’s will and purpose for them, you are in essence loving yourself, and you are hampering their future:
"He that spareth his rod hateth his son: but he that loveth him chasteneth him betimes." (Proverbs 13:24)
"Withhold not correction from the child: for if thou beatest him with the rod, he shall not die. Thou shalt beat him with the rod, and shalt deliver his soul from hell." (Proverbs 23:13-14)
By not imparting justice and judgment in his household, Hezekiah was forsaking the future of his descendants, and this attitude becomes evident in the following chapter, in Isaiah 39, which we will study later in this article. The Lord loved Hezekiah, but He wanted to rescue the future of his children, and the command to "set his house in order" was accompanied by a death sentence because the Lord wanted Hezekiah to die to his love of self, which was his main hindrance to imparting a word of justice and judgment to his children.
Most pastors in the Church today suffer from the "Hezekiah syndrome". They "love" their congregations so much that they are not willing to preach a God of justice and judgment. "That is the God of the Old Testament", they shout. "The God of the New Testament is a God of love and mercy", they add, without understanding that the God of the Old Testament is the same as the God of the New Testament. God was not playing the "good cop, bad cop" routine when He inspired the New and the Old Testament. The core difference between the Old and the New Testament is expressed in Jeremiah 31:31-34 and in Hebrews 8:7-12 (please note that the word for "testament" is the same as "covenant" in Greek: diatheke). The Old Testament, or Covenant, limited the access to the Holy Place and to the Holy of Holies to a certain group of people. The New Covenant opens this access to anyone with faith. We are all priests and kings now (Revelation 1:6). Now, we all have direct access to the Holy of Holies, to the Shekinah Glory of God, not just a select few. Many pastors, through their implicit behavior, cause their congregations to think that only "pastors" and "full-time ministers" can hear from God and that "regular folk" can’t pretend to speak on behalf of God because, after all, they are not "ministers" (thereby contradicting Isaiah 61:6). These preachers of spiritual castes are the ones who are still caught up in the Old Covenant. God is still a God of justice and judgment in the New Covenant, because He cannot deny His own essence. If there are doubts, one only has to read New Testament passages such as Acts 5:1-11, Romans 1:17, John 3:36, Hebrews 1:9, Hebrews 6:4-8, Hebrews 13:26-29, Jude 1:14-15, and the entire book of Revelation. We will be posting a future article on this subject. Paradoxically, according to the books of the prophets, it is the understanding of God’s justice and holiness (not His mercy) what will eventually release the greatest revival and manifestation of God’s life-transforming love and compassion on Earth. To quote an old Tina Turner song, "Their day is coming; all else are castles built in the air".
After Hezekiah prayed, Isaiah returned with a message from the Lord that he would live 15 more years. The next chapter, Isaiah 39, reveals what Hezekiah did with these extra years of life. When the son of the king of Babylon found out that Hezekiah had been healed, he sent letters and presents to Hezekiah to congratulate him. Hezekiah then proceeded to show the house of his treasures to the Babylonians. The Word declares that there was nothing in his house or in his whole dominion that Hezekiah did not show to them. Isaiah then confronted the king on what he had just done, and when the king showed no repentance, Isaiah pronounced the judgment of God: the Babylonians would return to invade Hezekiah’s kingdom in the days of his descendants, and all the treasures in the house of Hezekiah would be taken to Babylon.
As you read Isaiah 39, notice how the Holy Spirit repeats the word "house" (beth in Hebrew) time and time again. The Lord had told Hezekiah to impart justice and judgment in his house, but he refused to do it because he treasured his children more than he treasured God. This exposed his children to the spoiling of the enemy in a spiritual sense, and this is why he then proceeded to expose his treasures to the spoiling of the Babylonians in the natural sense. What is most saddening about the end of Hezekiah’s life is his answer to the judgment of God pronounced by Isaiah:
This is one of the most selfish declarations that I know of in the Bible!!! What a sad end for a man who had been such a good king and such a faithful servant of the Lord. When he faced death, his fear of death was so strong that he turned from an obedient servant of God to a selfish, satisfaction-seeking man. He had just mortgaged the future of his descendants, but he didn’t care, because he wouldn’t have to live to see the harvest of devastation he had just sown!!! Notice how an unwillingness to impart justice and judgment really winds up being nothing more than a love of self.
Another tragic consequence of the 15-year life extension that Hezekiah got can be found in 2 Kings:
"And Hezekiah slept with his fathers: and Manasseh his son reigned in his stead. Manasseh was twelve years old when he began to reign, and reigned fifty and five years in Jerusalem. And his mother’s name was Hephzibah." (2 Kings 20:21-21:1)
When one reads 2 Kings 21, one can find out that Manasseh turned out to be one of the most evil kings in the history of Judah. Manasseh’s successor, his son Amon, was also a very wicked man. Considering that Manasseh was 12 years old when Hezekiah died, we can deduce that Hezekiah begat Manasseh 3 years into his 15-year extension. Had he accepted God’s judgment and died to his "self", he would not have begotten Manasseh, who according to 2 Kings 21:9, not only was evil himself but seduced the people of Judah into committing great abominations against the Lord. Nowhere in the Scriptures is it told that Hezekiah proceeded to impart word of justice and judgment in his house during his 15-year extension. All he cared about was being healed and living. He was not interested in God’s underlying purpose in his disease. He did not understand that God had a higher plan, that God was allowing what was happening in his life to prevent spiritual destruction from befalling him and his descendants. He only cared about three people, "Me Today", "Myself Now", and "I At This Time". And, as long as those three were OK, everything was OK.
We can conclude, therefore, that the 15-year extension was not such a blessing, as it appears to be on the surface. If God knew these 15 years would bring tragic consequences, why did He answer Hezekiah’s prayer? The key to answering this question is in Isaiah 38:2, where it declares that Hezekiah "turned his face toward the wall, and prayed unto the Lord". Why did the Holy Spirit take the time to mention this detail? Because it was a physical manifestation of what Hezekiah was doing spiritually. All his life, Hezekiah had been a narrow-gate believer. Narrow-gate believers live as slaves to God’s will. Their central focus and concern is the fulfillment of God’s purposes on Earth, not their own. Every time a narrow-gate believer has a desire in his or her heart, he or she filters that desire through the narrow gate. Since gates represent judgment and filtering (as we explained earlier), we can say that narrow gate believers expose their desires to the judgments of God. If the requested desire can be filtered through God’s perfect will and purposes, it will be taken up by God. Otherwise, the request is rejected at the gate. For example, if a young narrow-gate male believer is in love with a beautiful girl in church, his prayer towards God in order to marry this girl will get filtered through God’s perfect will. If that girl will serve more as a stumbling block than a blessing in the fulfillment of God’s purposes for that young man, his marriage request will not pass through the narrow gate and the girl will not marry him. The young man might be heartbroken for a few days because of the denied request, but the mighty ministry that God has in store for that young man will still be intact, and eternal rewards await him, because he placed God above all else, including his own self-interests.
Hezekiah had been like this all his life; he had died to many things. But when God asked him to die to that one last thing that would "seal the deal" and ensure the fulfillment of his calling on Earth and bless his posterity, he backtracked.
"Now the just shall live by faith: but if any man draw back, my soul shall have no pleasure in him. But we are not of them who draw back unto perdition; but of them that believe to the saving of the soul." (Heb 10:38-39)
[Notice how the verse numbers in the passage above correspond to the chapter numbers in Isaiah related to Hezekiah’s regression. Notice also how the chapter number in the above passage ("10") corresponds to the number that appears in Isaiah 38:8. Coincidence? I don’t think so.]
Hezekiah did exactly what a certain rich young man did when he asked Jesus what he needed to do to have eternal life:
"And he answered and said unto him, Master, all these have I observed from my youth. Then Jesus beholding him loved him, and said unto him, One thing thou lackest: go thy way, sell whatsoever thou hast, and give to the poor, and thou shalt have treasure in heaven: and come, take up the cross, and follow me. And he was sad at that saying, and went away grieved: for he had great possessions." (Mark 10:20-22)
Hezekiah had run a great marathon, and he was just 10 blocks away from the finish line, but he decided to give up. He settled for a nice, comfortable life. When he turned his face to pray that fateful day, he was turning away from the narrow gate to pray towards the wide gate. Since he had been a narrow-gate man all of his life, there was no wide gate when he turned to pray towards it; there was only a wall. But, as he continued to pray, the wide gate he had rejected all his life began to take form on the wall, and, when he finished his prayer with "sore weeping" (Isaiah 38:3), the wide gate was completed. In the original Hebrew, Isaiah 38:3 says that Hezekiah "wept with a great weeping". The Hebrew word gadowl that appears here means, "great, large", and gadowl comes from gadal, which means, "to grow, to magnify". Hezekiah enlarged his gate. He turned from the narrow gate towards the wide gate. From that point on, he was a wide-gate believer.
When a wide-gate believer makes a request in prayer, the request is not filtered and judged through God’s perfect will and purposes, as is the case with narrow-gate believers. Instead, it is filtered through the self-centered desires of the believer. When a young wide-gate male believer prays and prays to God for a pretty but spiritually lukewarm girl in the congregation to marry him, God will generally answer that request, even if the girl will serve to ruin God’s calling for the young man’s life. Some of you might be saying, "God would never answer my prayer if it is not good for me". Even though this sounds like a nice little evangelical truth, it contradicts the Bible. Notice how Hezekiah’s 15 years spoiled what had been a great life of devotion to God. If there are still doubts, consider Numbers 11, where the rebellious people of God demanded flesh, because they got tired of the manna:
"And say thou unto the people, Sanctify yourselves against to morrow, and ye shall eat flesh: for ye have wept in the ears of the LORD, saying, Who shall give us flesh to eat? for it was well with us in Egypt: therefore the LORD will give you flesh, and ye shall eat. Ye shall not eat one day, nor two days, nor five days, neither ten days, nor twenty days; But even a whole month, until it come out at your nostrils, and it be loathsome unto you: because that ye have despised the LORD which is among you, and have wept before him, saying, Why came we forth out of Egypt?" (Numbers 11:18-20)
The Lord sent quails, and the people got their wish:
"And the people stood up all that day, and all that night, and all the next day, and they gathered the quails: he that gathered least gathered ten homers: and they spread them all abroad for themselves round about the camp. And while the flesh was yet between their teeth, ere it was chewed, the wrath of the LORD was kindled against the people, and the LORD smote the people with a very great plague. And he called the name of that place Kibrothhattaavah: because there they buried the people that lusted." (Numbers 11:32-34)
Notice that, in Numbers 11:32, the Holy Spirit takes the time to declare that everyone gathered at least 10 homers of quail flesh. Interestingly enough, the sign to confirm Hezekiah’s healing also involves the number "10":
"And this shall be a sign unto thee from the LORD, that the LORD will do this thing that he hath spoken; Behold, I will bring again the shadow of the degrees, which is gone down in the sun dial of Ahaz, ten degrees backward. So the sun returned ten degrees, by which degrees it was gone down" (Isaiah 38:7-8)
The name "Ahaz" means "he has taken possession" and refers to possessing eternal life, reaching the promised land, being made One with God for eternity. When we receive the Lord Jesus into our hearts, we begin the process of our salvation. Through the Lord’s sacrifice, you are irrevocably redeemed from the eternal torment in hell, but you are not guaranteed eternal life. This is why Revelation 3:5 says that only those who overcome will not be blotted out of the book of life. The book of life does not refer to the list of people who will escape hell, as most of us have been taught to believe. It refers to those who will be made One with God forever more. You can be in "heaven" and still not have "eternal life". Some will escape the torment of hell and see the kingdom of God, yet they will not enter it (John 3:3,5). They will watch the New Jerusalem from the outside, because they will not be allowed to enter through its gates (see Revelation 21 verses 2, 7-8, 12, and 27). When the young man of Mark 10:17-22 was asking about "inheriting eternal life" in verse 17, he was not referring to making it into Heaven. This is why Jesus does not tell him to repeat the sinner’s prayer of salvation. The young man and the Lord Jesus were both referring to inheriting or "possessing" the final destination God wants for us: that we abide in Him forever more (Revelation 21:22).
When Hezekiah turned to the wide gate, he forsook eternal life, and that is why the sun’s shadow went back 10 degrees. The sun refers to the Glory of God (Revelation 21:23), meaning that Hezekiah stepped back from abiding in God’s Glory forever more. The number "10" here refers to the following:
"And unto the angel of the church in Smyrna write; These things saith the first and the last, which was dead, and is alive; I know thy works, and tribulation, and poverty, (but thou art rich) and I know the blasphemy of them which say they are Jews, and are not, but are the synagogue of satan. Fear none of those things which thou shalt suffer: behold, the devil shall cast some of you into prison, that ye may be tried; and ye shall have tribulation ten days: be thou faithful unto death, and I will give thee a crown of life. He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the churches; He that overcometh shall not be hurt of the second death." (Revelation 2:8-11)
Notice how the Lord does not promise the church of Smyrna new houses, new clothes, fine cars, and expensive jewelry. The focus of a narrow-gate believer goes way beyond enjoying earthly possessions. Hezekiah didn’t want to die young because he wanted to retire from his life of consecration and sacrifice and enjoy the material benefits of having been a "good believer". It seemed unfair to him that, after his life of consecration, he would not be given his well-earned right to sit back and enjoy his palace and his treasures. This is why he says the following:
"I reckoned till morning, that, as a lion, so will he break all my bones: from day even to night wilt thou make an end of me" (Isaiah 38:13)
In Scripture, when the Lord is portrayed as a lion, it refers to the Lord executing judgments. When Hezekiah declares that God wanted to break all his bones as a lion, he is basically saying: "God, you are unfair judge; Your judgments are cruel and unusual. I don’t want to live as a narrow-gate believer anymore, exposing all my hopes and desires to Your unfair judgment". He also equates the narrow gate to the gates of hell:
"I said in the cutting off of my days, I shall go to the gates of the grave: I am deprived of the residue of my years." (Isaiah 38:10)
The word translated "grave" in this verse is the Hebrew word Sheol, which refers to "Hades" or hell. Remember that we started this article with Matthew 7:13, where the Lord declares that the narrow gate leads to life, eternal life. In Isaiah 38:10, Hezekiah is saying that the narrow gate that leads to eternal life really leads to hell. He is saying to God, "You deceived me. I served You all these years, looking towards the narrow gate, expecting life, and You pay me with death!!!"
When most believers read Hezekiah’s "poem" in Isaiah 38:10-22, they see a poem of thanksgiving for answered prayer, but when you look into the details of what Hezekiah is saying, we can see that Hezekiah is, in a very subtle way, calling God unfair and a deceiver for having threatened to execute His judgments on his life. Wide gate believers hate suffering. They hate pain. They hate God’s purifying judgments. But it’s precisely through God’s judgments that His eternal, God-like, nature is formed in us.
Hezekiah’s "poem of reproach" ends in "praise" to God, but it is similar to a misbehaved brat at a shopping mall that demands that his father buy him an ice cream, throwing a temper tantrum upon his father’s denial, and then smiling and saying "thanks, dad", after his father finally gives in to his request. When God denies the "ice cream" to the believer, He does it as a Father. When bratty believers insist and throw a temper tantrum, similar to Hezekiah’s "great weeping", God grants them the "ice cream", but not as a Father, because a good father does not give non-beneficial things to his son (James 1:17). When God gives wide-gate believers their desired "ice cream", He "cuts off" the Father-Son relationship and treats the believer as a "bastard", because he is refusing to be conformed to the nature of the Father of our spirits:
"And ye have forgotten the exhortation which speaketh unto you as unto children, My son, despise not thou the chastening of the Lord, nor faint when thou art rebuked of him: For whom the Lord loveth he chasteneth, and scourgeth every son whom he receiveth. If ye endure chastening, God dealeth with you as with sons; for what son is he whom the father chasteneth not? But if ye be without chastisement, whereof all are partakers, then are ye bastards, and not sons. Furthermore we have had fathers of our flesh which corrected us, and we gave them reverence: shall we not much rather be in subjection unto the Father of spirits, and live? For they verily for a few days chastened us after their own pleasure; but he for our profit, that we might be partakers of his holiness. Now no chastening for the present seemeth to be joyous, but grievous: nevertheless afterward it yieldeth the peaceable fruit of righteousness unto them which are exercised thereby." (Hebrews 12:5-11)
When earthly parents give their brats the "ice cream", they usually do it to appease the kid and to end the embarrassment of everyone’s stares at the mall. When God grants the "ice cream", it is not because He wants to avoid embarrassment. God fears no man!!! And God does not practice the policy of "appeasement". He never appeases iniquity, because there can be no peace between righteousness and iniquity (2 Corinthians 6:14, Galatians 5:17, James 1:13). He wars against it until it is destroyed (Exodus 17:16). So, when He gives us the "ice cream", He does it because He allows us to choose whether or not we want to be His sons or not. By insisting on the "ice cream", a believer is saying this to God,
By saying this, a believer degrades himself from a human being to an animal. He or she is denying the main factor that differentiates humans from other life forms: the opportunity to have fellowship and to be One with God. It’s as if we become mere souls and renounce to the spirit that is in us, the spirit that is made in God’s nature (Ephesians 4:24, Colossians 3:9-10). God calls Himself the "Father of Spirits" (Hebrews 12:9), not the "Father of souls". Both humans and animals have souls, but only humans have spirits.
Therefore, when God gives the "ice cream" to the wide-gate believer, this is what the Lord is saying back,
When the wide-gate believer receives the "ice cream", his heart is at that point so hardened that he or she is not able to recognize the spiritual transaction that just took place. He just gave up his birthright for a temporary morsel:
"Lest there be any fornicator, or profane person, as Esau, who for one morsel of meat sold his birthright." (Hebrews 12:16)
The wide-gate believer, however, believes that the "ice cream" in his hand is a confirmation that everything is OK between him and God. This is why Isaiah 38 ends with these 2 verses that seem to be out of sequence:
"For Isaiah had said, Let them take a lump of figs, and lay it for a plaister upon the boil, and he shall recover. Hezekiah also had said, What is the sign that I shall go up to the house of the LORD?" (Isaiah 38:21-22)
I know of at least one Bible translation where the translators inserted these 2 verses between verses 6 and 7, because they felt that these 2 verses don’t "go well" at the end of the chapter. But the Lord placed these 2 verses here for a reason, and it’s to illustrate Hezekiah’s unawareness of what he had just done. The chapter ends with Hezekiah asking a question that was answered 15 verses before, in verse 7. This is similar to when a student falls asleep in class and then wakes up towards the end of the period and asks a question that had already been asked and answered 15 minutes before. God leaves Hezekiah looking like a fool, asking a question that was answered 15 verses ago, 1 verse for each extra year he was conceded. Apparently, Hezekiah never did get to understand the spiritual meaning of the sign described in verses 7 and 8. In other words, the Holy Spirit is trying to tell us that the "beautiful poem" recited by Hezekiah between verses 9 and 20 is not a poem birthed out of an understanding heart:
"Doth not wisdom cry? and understanding put forth her voice? She standeth in the top of high places, by the way in the places of the paths. She crieth at the gates, at the entry of the city, at the coming in at the doors. Unto you, O men, I call; and my voice is to the sons of man. O ye simple, understand wisdom: and, ye fools, be ye of an understanding heart" (Proverbs 8:1-5)
"And God said unto him, Because thou hast asked this thing, and hast not asked for thyself long life; neither hast asked riches for thyself, nor hast asked the life of thine enemies; but hast asked for thyself understanding to discern judgment; Behold, I have done according to thy words: lo, I have given thee a wise and an understanding heart; so that there was none like thee before thee, neither after thee shall any arise like unto thee." (1 Kings 3:11-12)
Being exposed to God’s wisdom means to be exposed to His judgments, and His judgments working in us mold us, leading us to eternal life.
Now that we have studied the prayer of a wide-gate believer, we will briefly look into the prayer of a narrow-gate believer.
Chapter 11 of 2 Samuel narrates the story of David’s adultery with Bathsheba and his murder of her husband Uriah. In chapter 12, the Lord sends the prophet Nathan to confront David, who apparently had no remorse and felt comfortable with what he had done. At that moment, David was acting as a self-centered, wide-gate believer, having regressed from his fellowship with God, just like Hezekiah. When confronted by Nathan, however, David’s reaction was different to Hezekiah’s reaction when Isaiah confronted him in Isaiah 39: David realized what he had done and repented, and Nathan pronounced God’s judgment.
"And David said unto Nathan, I have sinned against the LORD. And Nathan said unto David, The LORD also hath put away thy sin; thou shalt not die. Howbeit, because by this deed thou hast given great occasion to the enemies of the LORD to blaspheme, the child also that is born unto thee shall surely die. And Nathan departed unto his house. And the LORD struck the child that Uriah’s wife bare unto David, and it was very sick" (2 Samuel 12:13-15)
When David repented, he went back to being a narrow-gate believer and became exposed once again to God’s judgments, the judgments which David had sought and been under all of his life:
"The fear of the LORD is clean, enduring for ever: the judgments of the LORD are true and righteous altogether. More to be desired are they than gold, yea, than much fine gold: sweeter also than honey and the honeycomb" (Psalms 19:9-10)
"I know, O LORD, that thy judgments are right, and that thou in faithfulness hast afflicted me." (Psalms 119:75)
"Great are thy tender mercies, O LORD: quicken me according to thy judgments." (Psalms 119:156)
When God, in His justice, decreed the death of the child David had had with Uriah’s wife (notice how 2 Samuel 12:15 calls Bathsheba "Uriah’s wife", even though Uriah was already dead), David began to seek the Lord and fast, praying to God that He not take the child’s life. He fasted for 6 days, and, on the seventh day, the child died. When he learned this, David ended his fast and answered the following to those who expected him to "go crazy" upon learning of the child’s death:
"And he said, While the child was yet alive, I fasted and wept: for I said, Who can tell whether GOD will be gracious to me, that the child may live? But now he is dead, wherefore should I fast? can I bring him back again? I shall go to him, but he shall not return to me." (2 Samuel 12:22-23)
Notice how David did not throw a temper tantrum, recriminating against God for having taken the child’s life. He did not say, "Lord, I repented, didn’t I? Didn’t I say I was sorry? Why are you doing this to me?" He understood that there was a higher purpose, that the child’s life served as a living seed that would bring restoration to his future descendants, even though the sowing process was painful, much more painful for David than for the child himself, I would say. Hezekiah had avoided imparting justice and judgment on his children, but here was a man, David, who was willing to have justice and judgment imparted on his children.
Notice, also, how much more selfless David’s attitude was compared to Hezekiah’s. He knew that he himself would not die (verse 13), but he fasted and prayed for 6 days, hoping that God would preserve the child’s life. When Hezekiah knew that tragedy would befall his children after his death, he simply was happy that it was not going to happen in his days (Isaiah 38:8). Hezekiah did not fast and pray, asking God for forgiveness and the restoration of his descendants. Hezekiah had become a self-centered, wide-gate believer who was only looking out for "number one".
Why didn’t God take the child’s life immediately? Because the child’s 6 days of suffering caused agony and suffering in David’s soul that worked as a process of renewal and restoration in David’s life. The child’s life was not wasted. It served a mighty purpose, and that child did, in 6 days, what most believers never do in a lifetime: transform the lives of the people around him and the lives of generations to come. Remember that our biological life is not the essence of our whole existence. We are spiritual beings whose calling and purpose go way beyond this little ball of dust that rotates around the sun.
There is also an interesting thing to note in verse 22 of 2 Samuel 12: David said that he prayed to God, hoping that God would be "gracious to me". In other words, David was praying for the child’s healing as if it was a favor to David himself. He saw the child as an extension of himself, and, when the child died, it was as if something in him had died. The child’s death, therefore, constituted David’s death to his "self".
In verse 23 of 2 Samuel 12, David adds an interesting comment: "I shall go to the child, but he will not return to me". Besides the obvious implication that the child went to heaven, there is a deeper principle being declared here: a narrow-gate believer "goes" to God while a wide-gate believer asks God to come to him. In other words, narrow-gate believers adapt to God; wide-gate believers demand that God adapt to them.
After the child’s death, the Bible declares the following:
"And David comforted Bathsheba his wife, and went in unto her, and lay with her: and she bare a son, and he called his name Solomon: and the LORD loved him. And he sent by the hand of Nathan the prophet; and he called his name Jedidiah, because of the LORD." (2 Samuel 12:24-25)
Notice how David’s suffering served as a seed that eventually produced as a harvest one of the wisest men in history: Solomon, whom the Spirit called "Jedidiah", which means, "beloved of Jehovah". We "reap" a special affection in God’s heart when we are constantly seeking God’s will and not our own, when we are narrow-gate believers. The Lord Jesus was Himself a narrow-gate believer, a man bound by the will of His Father:
"I can of mine own self do nothing: as I hear, I judge: and my judgment is just; because I seek not mine own will, but the will of the Father which hath sent me." (John 5:30)
This is why the Father says the following of Jesus:
"While he yet spake, behold, a bright cloud overshadowed them: and behold a voice out of the cloud, which said, This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased; hear ye him." (Matthew 17:5)
God recognizes narrow-gate believers as His sons. Wide-gate believers are treated as His "creation", but not recognized by God as His sons, thereby becoming "bastards", i.e.- children not recognized by their Father. This is why the child that died in 2 Samuel 12 is never called "David’s son" throughout the whole chapter; the first time the word "son" appears in this chapter is in verse 24, referring to the birth of Solomon. David’s illegitimate child conceived in adultery was the product of his own self-will, and the fact that the Holy Spirit doesn’t use the word "son" when referring to the child is to symbolize the fact that God had stopped considering David as His son, waiting until David would repent. This is similar to the father of the prodigal son, who considered his younger son to be dead until he repented:
"It was meet that we should make merry, and be glad: for this thy brother was dead, and is alive again; and was lost, and is found" (Luke 15:32)
The prodigal son demanded an inheritance that did not serve as a blessing but rather led to his perdition, much like Hezekiah’s request to be healed served to ruin him spiritually. The prodigal son’s father (who is a figure of God the Father) granted his son’s request, knowing that the money would do his son no good, but it was the son’s call. He was old enough to know what he was doing. When he went for the quick benefit rather than the long-term blessing, the prodigal son lost his father-son relationship. During the prodigal man’s days of self-centered perdition, the father only had one son. His other son was dead, in a figurative sense (as Luke 15:32 reveals), but the father gladly received the prodigal man back as a son when he repented.
David’s request, though much nobler in nature, was denied at the narrow gate. Hezekiah’s request, though self-centered and brattish, was accepted at the wide gate. Which type of believer do you want to be? Narrow-gate believers are world-changers; wide-gate believers are resource-consumers, spiritual "black holes". David’s name is explicitly mentioned 59 times in the New Testament; despite his many accomplishments, Hezekiah’s name is mentioned only twice (and fleetingly), in Matthew 1:9-10, in the long line of biological descendants of Jesus. The Messiah was known as the "son of David" (Matthew 1:1), not as the "son of Hezekiah". David is mentioned in the famous "faith" chapter, Hebrews 11; Hezekiah isn’t. David’s name appears in the last chapter of the Bible:
"I Jesus have sent mine angel to testify unto you these things in the churches. I am the root and the offspring of David, and the bright and morning star." (Revelation 22:16)
David’s spiritual posterity was restored in judgment and this is why the Lord calls himself the "offspring of David". Hezekiah’s lasting spiritual posterity perished because of his self-centeredness.
As a "clincher", the Holy Spirit adds an interesting comment at the beginning of Proverbs 25:
"These are also proverbs of Solomon, which the men of Hezekiah king of Judah copied out." (Proverbs 25:1)
It is interesting to note that Solomon, a result of narrow-gate faith, appears in the same verse as Hezekiah, a figure of wide-gate faith. The word in Hebrew that is translated "copied out" in this verse is "athaq", which literally means, "to remove" and is translated as such in 7 of the 9 verses in the Old Testament where it appears (and translated as "left off" in the other verse). In other words, Proverbs 25 is a chapter that illustrates the wisdom that narrow-gate believers possess and that wide-gate believers have discarded or "removed" from their hearts. In essence, this wisdom that wide-gate believers "remove" from their hearts is the awareness of a righteous God, a God of justice and judgment:
"Take away the dross from the silver, and there shall come forth a vessel for the finer. Take away the wicked from before the king, and his throne shall be established in righteousness" (Proverbs 25:4-5)