21 Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. 22 On that day many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?’ 23 And then will I declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.’
When I was in high school, these verses in Matthew 7, were some of the most sobering words of Jesus I had ever read. Revelations 2:1-7 came in a close second but this passage was definitely one that caught my attention and caused me to re-evaluate the sincerity of my proclaimed faith. Since I was a teenager, my life was filled with inconsistencies. I acted one way at home, another way at school and even a third way at church. So, reading Jesus’ words in these verses made me seriously look at my proclaimed faith and ask myself, “Do I truly live what I believe?”
Jesus says, “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven.” He goes on to say that on that day (most likely referring to the Day of Judgment) there will be many (not a few but many) who will claim Him to be their Lord but He will regretfully have to say to them, “I never knew you; depart from me you workers of lawlessness.”
Who are “workers of lawlessness”? The NLT version says “you who break God’s laws” and the NIV translates it as “you evildoers”. Essentially, they are those who do not obey God’s will or His values. So, Jesus is saying that there are people who say that God is their Lord or ruler, but they do not do what He tells them to do. However, they certainly do other things in His name.
In verse 22, we read that they prophesy in His name, cast out demons in His name and do many mighty works in His name. So this begs the question, “How can a person do these good and powerful things and still not know Jesus?” Well, verse 22 does not say that they actually do these powerful works in His name. What the passage says is that they will SAY, “Lord, Lord did we not prophecy in your name… etc.” In other words, there will be many on the final Day of Judgment who will think that they did, and therefore say that they did, many great things in His name. But they will be self-deceived. On that day, Jesus will disillusion them by showing them how they actually lived in their day-to-day lives.
But how is it possible for someone to deceive himself into thinking that Jesus is his Lord while at the same time not obey His ways? I have some thoughts about this and will share them in my next article.