I have seen this picture posted a few times on social media recently and it nearly turns my stomach.
I will try to stay away from too much political commentary on United States immigration policy; but I am ashamed at the use of Scripture in such a shameful manner. The comment is meant to say that God keeps certain people out of the Divine city while Hell welcomes everyone. On a very superficial level it might appear that this is a true statement, after all, Jesus said:
“Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it. But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it.” (Matthew 7:13-14)
The question we must ask ourselves is: “does the quote above coupled with the verses from Matthew accurately reflect the premise of Scripture?” The answer is an emphatic “NO”; the above comment is deliberately worded to make it appear that God wants to keep people out while hell is a place that will accept anyone and everyone. This mentality is contrary to the witness of Scripture.
First, we must understand that a walled and gated city had a certain meaning within ancient cultures, they were areas of safety, security, and prosperity. Thus, when God’s city is described as a walled city we are meant to imagine it as safe, secure, and prosperous. Secondly a quick glance at passages such as Revelation 21:25 “In the daytime (for there will be no night there) its gates will never be closed;” reveals that the gates are not meant to keep people out. It is extremely difficult to keep people out f a city when the gates are never shut. God’s city is welcome to all who want to enter it.
In fact, we see God as the one who is often described as breaking gates and walls.
For He has shattered gates of bronze And cut bars of iron asunder.
For He has strengthened the bars of your gates; He has blessed your sons within you.
The mighty men of Babylon have ceased fighting, They stay in the strongholds; Their strength is exhausted, They are becoming like women; Their dwelling places are set on fire, The bars of her gates are broken.
The sword will whirl against their cities, And will demolish their gate bars And consume them because of their counsels.
And most telling of all,
“I also say to you that you are Peter, and upon this rock I will build My church; and the gates of Hades will not overpower it.”
In this last verse we see Hell as a place trying to keep people out, notably the Church which represents God’s presence in this world. As C.S. Lewis said “The gates of Hell are locked from the inside.” Christ’s land is open to all while Hell is a region seeking to maintain its own power by keeping Christians out. Another vision of this theme comes from Dante’s Inferno where Hell’s gates lie broken and twisted because of Christ’s resurrection and yet no one leaves Hell. Hell is not a place for prisoners it is a dark place which keeps people out.
Two words must be said in closing. First, just as it is wrong to use Scripture to support building a border wall, so it is also wrong to use what I have just said to favor an open immigration policy. Though I would say that a Christian worldview of wanting to help the other person lends itself to a more open immigration policy there are no specific guidelines offered to us.
Second, I must address the words of Jesus in Matthew 7:13-14 since they appear to align with the idea of a closed border. In this passage Jesus is not saying that heaven is closed to many, but that unless you walk a certain path you will not want to enter heaven. The (admittedly poor) analogy would be a country throwing open its borders to everyone and only a few people desiring to enter. God does not close the door of heaven on anyone, many simply do not want to enter (see Matthew 22:1-14). God desires that all humanity will enter into God’s Kingdom, the question is does all humanity have the same desire?