In Jesus’ “Sermon on the Mount,” He deals with many topics and themes, but He saves this final scenario with something the people would remember. The text reads as follows:
“Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father who is in heaven will enter. Many will say to Me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in Your name, and in Your name cast out demons, and in Your name perform many miracles?’ And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness” (Matt. 7:21-23).
Words Are Not Enough
Interestingly, most of Matthew 7 is about judging. The immediate context speaks of those who would be recognized by their fruits, and Jesus immediately follows with the passage that, frankly, I don’t want to hear directed at me; and I hope nobody I know will hear these words directed at them either.
First, let’s take a look at what Jesus says in verse 21. He’s speaking of the kingdom of heaven, which was something most Jewish people wanted to see and to which they wanted to belong. All we need do is look at John 6 to see a picture of their expectations.
It goes without saying there were and are many prophecies of the kingdom which have yet to be fulfilled: Isaiah’s prophecies of beating swords into plowshares and spears into pruning hooks; Jeremiah’s prophecy of the righteous Branch; Daniel’s prophecies in chapters 2 and 7, mentioning the King and the kingdom quite clearly are just a few still awaiting fulfillment.
What exactly the average Jewish person thought when he or she heard Jesus speak these words (and this was early in His ministry) is anybody’s guess. The gospels record several vignettes, snapshots or soundbites, but these were samples and not necessarily the thoughts of everyone. We easily could surmise some were excited about the prospect of the kingdom while others weren’t.
Something I’m sure caused everyone who heard this part of the “Sermon on the Mount” to pay close attention was the first part of the verse: “Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord’ will enter into the kingdom of heaven.” This tells me that some perhaps were expecting entry, but were caused to question if they would actually enter the kingdom. After all, they could lay claim to a verse from Joel, that “whoever calls on the name of the Lord will be saved” (Joel 2:32), but Jesus plainly said that’s not enough.
Calling someone, including Jesus, “Lord” is not the same thing as calling on the name of the Lord. I believe that’s the first lesson Jesus wanted the disciples to grasp, something to remember. Again, we don’t know how many people who heard the “Sermon on the Mount” were genuine believers, or became believers as time passed. Incredibly, some who heard one of the greatest sermons of all time may have rejected the message and died without salvation.
The second lesson Jesus wanted the people to learn and remember was the second part of that verse: that those who did the will of the Father would enter the kingdom. There is something else Jesus didn’t say: He didn’t explain in any detail (at least in the Scripture text) just what the will of the Father was. Later, Jesus explained clearly what was included in doing the Father’s will: Matthew 12:50;18:14; and John 5:30 give some examples. Oh that we, even today, would seek to know and do the Father’s will.
Deeds Are Not Enough
We look now at the next two verses, and we can take notice of some contrasts. In verse 21, Jesus said, “Not everyone…will enter” and in verse 22, He says “Many will say…Verse 21 mentions words but not deeds, verse 22 speaks of several types of actions or deeds. Jesus made the transition because, we might say, He’s changing the focus from what people said to their actions.
The first thing He mentioned was that some would appeal to their prophesying. That God did and still had prophets at this time (i.e., John the Baptist) is clear. That there were false prophets also is clear. The Jewish people must have heard time and again about the various false prophets who plagued Israel for most of their existence. Balaam was one such false prophet; the lying prophet at Bethel, who tricked the true prophet into eating, drinking and losing his life was another; Zedekiah, who made horns and prophesied of victory when Micaiah spoke God’s true message is another; as was Hananiah who contradicted Jeremiah’s prophecy. He may have been sincere, but he wasn’t expecting the Word of the Lord when Jeremiah told him, “This year you are going to die” (Jer. 28:16). Surely they remembered all the prophets of Baal and the prophets of the groves when Jezebel and Ahab reigned in the northern kingdom.
However, the people who were going to stand before Jesus probably would have thought they were prophesying in the name of the Lord. Sadly, what we think is right may not be right except when God gives His approval. Judas Iscariot was one of those who prophesied in the name of the Lord, but there is no way he ever would enter the kingdom of heaven.
Another thing Jesus mentioned was casting out demons. This apparently was seldom done in the Old Testament, but Jesus later cast out many demons. He gave this power to different groups of disciples, who later reported, “even the demons are subject to us in Your name” (Luke 10:17). This, however, was no guarantee of salvation, as Jesus later told the Pharisees, “If I by Beelzebul cast out demons, by whom do your sons cast them out? For this reason they will be your judges” (Matt. 12:27). In Acts 19, there were seven sons of Sceva, who tried to cast out a demon and got the surprise of their lives. There is no mention as to whether they were believers in Jesus.
The final thing they would appeal to was the miracles they had performed. Regardless of the frequency of miracles, the reality is Jesus will say to anyone who performed miracles without true faith in Him: “I never knew you. Depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness.”
So, just as the people who heard the “Sermon on the Mount” or anyone who has read it a number of times, the bottom line is: The words we say and calling Jesus Lord—anyone can do either—but unless a person is genuinely sincere and genuinely repents of his or her sins, it’s just talk, and talk is not enough. Period.
Any number of people may be deceived by the deeds they’ve performed or accomplished. It’s no secret there are false prophets today, even as there were in the days when Jesus walked the earth. People may have the ability to be good orators, swaying emotions, as well as belief systems; some may be able to lay claim to performing great and mighty deeds; others may have the ability to cast out demons. They may think all these good deeds and great accomplishments account for something. No, unless a person knows Jesus, He will not acknowledge him or her, and the result is a Christless eternity.
Please examine your own heart and make sure today that you are born again and genuinely have repented of your sins. Don’t risk it. Wouldn’t you rather hear Jesus say, “Enter into the joy of your Lord” than “Depart from Me”?
God bless you and guide you into the right choice.