The Plan of God in Brief
STUDY 9—The Three Ways
"Wide is the gate of destruction, and broad that way leading thither; and many are they who enter through it. How narrow is the gate of life! How difficult that way leading thither! and how few are they who find it."—Matt.7:13,14 Diaglott "And a 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, nor be found there: but they that walk there shall be delivered."—Isa.35:8,9.
Three ways, the "broad road," the "narrow way" and the "highway," are brought to our attention in the Scriptures.
This road is named this way because it is most easy to the degenerate human race. Six thousand years ago, as a sinner condemned to destruction, Adam (and the race represented in him) started upon this road, and after nine hundred and thirty years he reached its end—destruction.
For six thousand years the race has steadily pursued the broad, downward way. Only a few, comparatively, have tried to change their course and retrace their steps. In fact to retrace all the steps and reach the original perfection, has been impossible, though the effort of some to do so has been commendable, and not without beneficial results. For six thousand years sin and death have reigned relentlessly over mankind, and driven them upon this broad road to destruction. And not until the Gospel age was a way of escape brought to light.
The teachings of Jesus and the apostles bring to light life—a restitution or restoration to life, for all mankind, as based upon the merit and sacrifice of the Redeemer; and they show this to be the significance of many Old Testament types. They also bring to light immortality, the prize of the high calling of the Gospel Church.
Our Master tells us that it is because of the narrowness of this way that the many prefer to remain on the broad road to destruction. "Strait [difficult] is the gate and narrow is the way that leads unto life, and few there be that find it."
Recognizing the fact that only in the divine nature is life independent, unlimited, exhaustless, ever continuous and neither produced nor controlled by circumstances, we see that of necessity Jehovah is superior to those physical laws and supplies which He ordained for the sustenance of His creatures. It is this quality, which pertains only to the divine nature, that is described by the term immortality. As shown in the preceding study, immortal signifies death‑proof, consequently disease and pain‑proof. In fact, immortality may be used as a synonym for divinity. From the divine immortal fountain proceeds all life and blessing, every good and perfect gift, e.g. the sun the earth receives her light and vigour which He created.
Man has not inherent life: he is no more a fountain of life than a diamond is a fountain of light. And one of the very strongest evidences that we have not an exhaustless supply of life in ourselves, in other words we are not immortal, is that since sin entered, death has passed upon all our race.
God had arranged that man in Eden should have access to life sustaining trees, and the paradise in which he was placed was abundantly supplied with numbers of "every [kind of] tree" good for food or for adornment. (Gen.2:9,16,17) Among the trees of life good for food was one forbidden. While for a time forbidden to eat of the tree of knowledge, he was permitted to eat freely of trees which sustained life perfectly; and he was separated from them only after transgression, that thereby the death‑penalty might go into effect.—Gen.3:22‑23.
So the glory and beauty of humanity are seen to be dependent on the continued supply of life, just as the beauty of the diamond is dependent on the continued supply of sunlight. When sin deprived humanity of the right to life, and the supply was withheld, immediately the jewel began to lose its brilliancy and beauty, and finally it is deprived of its last vestige (residue) in the tomb. His beauty consumes away like a moth. (Psa.39:11). As the diamond loses its beauty and brilliancy when the light is withdrawn, so man loses life when God withholds the supplies from him. "Yea, man giveth up the ghost [life] and where is he?" (Job 14:10). "His sons come to honour, and he knoweth it not; and they are brought low, but he perceiveth it not of them." (v.21). "For there is no work or device or knowledge or wisdom in the grave where you are going." (Eccl.9:10 NKJV). But since a ransom has been found, since the death penalty has been paid by the Redeemer, the jewel is to have its beauty restored, and is again to perfectly reflect the Creator’s image when the Sun of Righteousness shall arise with healing in His wings. (Mal.4:2). It is because of the sin‑offering, the sacrifice of Christ, that "All that are in the (their) graves…shall come forth." (John 5:28‑29) There shall be a restoration of all things; first an opportunity or offer of restoration to all, and ultimately the attainment of human perfection by all who will obey the Redeemer.
This, however, is not the reward to which Jesus refers as the end of the narrow way. From other Scriptures we learn that the reward promised to those who walk the narrow way is the "divine nature"—life inherent, life in that superlative degree which only the divine nature can possess—immortality. What a hope! Dare we aspire to such a height of glory? Surely not without positive and explicit invitation could any rightfully so aspire.
We learn that Jehovah, who alone possessed immortality originally, has highly exalted His Son, our Lord Jesus, to the same divine, immortal nature; hence He is now the express image of the Father’s person. (Heb.1:3). So we read, "As the Father has life in Himself [God’s definition of "immortality"—life in Himself—not drawn from other sources, nor dependent on circumstances, but independent, inherent life], so has He given to the Son to have LIFE IN HIMSELF." (John 5:26 NKJV). Since the resurrection of the Lord Jesus, then, two beings are immortal; and amazing grace! the same offer is made to the Bride of the Lamb, being selected during the Gospel age. Yet not all of the great company who are nominally of the Church will receive this great prize, but only that "little flock" of overcomers who so run as to obtain it; who follow closely in the Master’s footsteps; who, like Him, walk the narrow way of sacrifice, even unto death. These, when born from the dead in the resurrection, will have the divine nature and form. This immortality, the independent, self‑existent, divine nature, is the life to which the narrow way leads.
This class is not to be raised from the tomb human beings; for we are assured by the Apostle that, though sown in the tomb natural bodies, they will be raised spiritual bodies. These all shall be "changed," and even as they once bore the image of the earthly, human nature, they shall bear the image of the heavenly. But "it doth not yet appear what we shall be"—what a spiritual body is; but "we know that, when He shall appear, we shall be like Him," and share in "the glory to be revealed."—1 John 3:2; Col.1:27; 2 Cor.4:17; John 17:22; 1 Pet.5:10; 2 Thess.2:14; Rom.8:18
Not only is this high calling to a change of nature confined exclusively to the Gospel age, but it is the only offer of this age. Hence our Lord’s words quoted at the beginning of this chapter include on the broad road to destruction all who are not on the way to the only prize now offered. All others are still on the broad road—these only have as yet escaped the condemnation that is on the world. This, the only way of life now open, because of its difficulty, finds few who care to walk in it. The masses of mankind in their weakness prefer the broad, easy way of self‑gratification.
The narrow way, while it ends in life, in immortality, might be called a way of death, since its prize is gained through the sacrifice of the human nature even unto death. It is the narrow way of death to life. Being reckoned free from the Adamic guilt and the death penalty, the consecrated voluntarily surrender or sacrifice those human rights, reckoned theirs, which in due time they, with the world in general, would have actually received. As "the man Christ Jesus" laid down or sacrificed His life for the world, so these become joint‑sacrificers with Him. Not that His sacrifice was insufficient and that others were needed; but while His is all‑sufficient, these are permitted to serve and to suffer with Him in order to become His bride and joint‑heir. So, then, while the world is under condemnation to death and is dying with Adam, this "little flock," through the process of faith reckonings and sacrifice, already described, are said to die with Christ. They sacrifice and die with Him as human beings, in order to become partakers of the divine nature and glories with Him; for we believe that if we be dead with Him, we shall also live with Him. If we suffer with Him, we shall also be glorified together.—2 Tim.2:11,12; Rom.8:17.
In the beginning of the Millennial age, those who now walk the narrow way will have gained the great prize for which they ran, immortality; and being clothed with the divine nature and power, they will be prepared for the great work of restoring and blessing the world during that age. With the end of the Gospel age, the narrow way to immortality will close, because the select "little flock" that it was designed to test and prove will have been completed. "Now is the accepted [Greek, dektos, acceptable or receivable] time" (2 Cor.6:2 NKJV)—the time in which sacrificers, coming in the merit of Jesus and becoming dead with Him, are acceptable to God—a sacrifice of sweet odour. Death, as the Adamic penalty, will not be permitted forever; it will be abolished during the Millennial age; as a sacrifice it will be acceptable and rewarded only during the Gospel age.
While the special hope of the Gospel age is so surpassingly glorious, and the way to it is correspondingly difficult—narrow, hedged in by hardships and dangers at every step—so that few find it, and obtain the great prize at its end, the new order of things in the age to come is to be entirely different. As a different hope is held out, so also a different way leads to it. The way to immortality has been a way which required the sacrifice of the otherwise lawful and proper hopes, ambitions, and desires—the sacrifice forever of the human nature. But the way to human perfection, to restitution, the hope of the world, requires only the putting away of sin: not the sacrifice of human rights and privileges, but their proper enjoyment. It will lead to personal purification and restoration to the image of God as enjoyed by Adam before sin entered the world.
The way back to actual human perfection is to be made very plain and easy; so plain that none may mistake the way; so plain that "the wayfaring man, and those unacquainted therewith, shall not go astray." (Isa.35:8 Leeser); so plain that none will need to teach his neighbour, saying, Know the LORD, for all shall know the LORD from the least unto the greatest. (Jer.31:34). Instead of being a narrow way that few can find, it is termed "a highway," a public roadway—not a narrow, steep, rugged, difficult, hedged byway, but a way specially prepared for easy travel—specially arranged for the convenience and comfort of the travellers. Verses 8 and 9 show that it is a public road, open to all the redeemed—every one. Every one for whom Christ died, who will recognize and avail themselves of the opportunities and blessings purchased by the precious blood, may go up on this Highway of Holiness to the grand goal of perfect restitution to human perfection and everlasting life.
Thus we have found a "Broad Road," on which at present the masses of mankind travel, deluded by the "prince of this world," and led by perverted tastes. We have found that it was opened up and that our race was started in its headlong course upon it by "one man’s disobedience." We have found that the "Highway of Holiness" is to be opened up by our Lord, who gave Himself a ransom for all and redeemed all from the destruction to which the "Broad Road" leads, and that it will, in due time, be accessible and easy for all the redeemed ones whom He bought with His own precious blood. We have found, furthermore, that the present "Narrow Way," opened up by the merit of the same precious blood, is a special way leading to a special prize, and is made especially narrow and difficult as a test and discipline for those now being selected to be made partakers of the divine nature and joint‑heirs with our Lord Jesus in the Kingdom of glory soon to be revealed for the blessing of all. Such as have this hope—who see this prize—may count all other hopes as but loss and dross in comparison.—Phil.3:8‑15.