The meaning of Luke 13:24 is similar, as shown by the context. Jesus gave two illustrations about “the kingdom of God.” Later, he was asked: “Lord, are those who are being saved few?” Jesus replied: “Exert yourselves vigorously to get in through the narrow door, because many, I tell you, will seek to get in but will not be able.” “Many” refers to people who begged to be let in after a door was shut and locked. These were “workers of unrighteousness” who did not qualify to be with “Abraham and Isaac and Jacob and all the prophets in the kingdom of God.” The “many” had thought they would be first “in the kingdom of God,” but they actually would be last, evidently meaning that they would not be in it at all.—Luke 13:18-30.
The context shows that Jesus was dealing with entry into God’s heavenly Kingdom. Jewish leaders back then had long enjoyed a privileged position, with access to God’s Word. They felt that they were spiritually rich and were righteous in God’s sight, in contrast with the common people, whom they held in low esteem. (John 9:24-34) Yet, Jesus said that tax collectors and harlots who accepted his message and repented could have God’s approval.—Compare Matthew 21:23-32; Luke 16:14-31.
Common people who became Jesus’ disciples were in line to be accepted as spiritual sons when the heavenly calling did open up at Pentecost 33 C.E. (Hebrews 10:19, 20) Though vast multitudes heard Jesus, those who accepted him and later gained the heavenly hope were few. But the little flock of spirit-begotten humans receiving that reward could be compared to Jacob reclining at a table in heaven with Jehovah (the Greater Abraham) and his Son (pictured by Isaac). That certainly was worth exerting oneself for vigorously, but most who heard Jesus did not do so.
Consequently, we can see from the context in both instances that Jesus’ comments (about few being on the cramped road leading to life and being saved) related primarily to having God’s approval at that time when He was holding out the hope of heavenly life. Relatively few who heard the message of truth and learned what was required responded and proved faithful.—Matthew 22:14; 24:13; John 6:60-66.