Insert text here.
The final test - Does Jesus know me!
"Not everyone who says to Me, 'Lord, Lord,' shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father in heaven.
Many will say to Me in that day, 'Lord, Lord, have we not
prophesied in Your name, cast out demons in Your name, and done many wonders in Your name?'
And then I will declare to them, 'I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness!"
Matthew 7:21-23 NKJV
How can these things be? How is it possible to do great things in God's name and not be known by God! It's not that our final Judge doesn't know us. It's that our Judge knows us too well. Saying "Lord, Lord" is not the magic key to the kingdom of heaven. It doesn't matter how many times we have invoked God's name throughout our lives. There is still a major missing element.
Jesus painted a dramatic picture. It's judgment time, a day full of devastating surprises. If the scene were not so serious, it would be comical. Many people approach the gate, confident of their own acceptability. But our Lord doesn't see it the same way! So like a con artist or master persuader, people attempt to talk their way into the kingdom. On and on they go about all the important things they did in God's name. Our Lord has heard it all before. Each person trying to top the previous one. Finally Jesus says, "Who are all these people! Go away! I don't know you! Never did."
This description of the final judgment doesn't fit into any theology I know of. Those who believe salvation to be a gracious gift from God through faith will understand this passage no better than those who believe in salvation through good works. It is baffling. How can Jesus be so unforgiving. We have been assured that if we believe in Jesus, we will get in. But Jesus said nothing about that here. Didn't even mention the word "faith."
The scene has a ring of finality about it. It's very discomforting. Jesus put himself, not Saint Peter, at the gateway to the kingdom of heaven. Our gentle, welcoming Jesus has a new and different role. He determines who will enter, and he knows how to say "No." This takes lots of people by surprise. In no uncertain words, he turned many away calling them lawless, maybe for taking God's name in vain so often!
What are the worst words in the world? "Get away from me" must surely be high on the list. The harshest words we would never want to hear come from the mouth of Jesus! This raises a big question for each one of us: Is it possible God will not know me? I see two clues. One in the first line and the other in the last line.
1) Jesus said those who enter the kingdom of heaven are people who have done the will of God. Therefore I must do something, but it's not good works, a profession of faith, or belief in any particular church creed. What is required is that I "do the will of my Father in heaven." Now there is a phrase that is left wide open to interpretation. Who can explain the mysteries of God's will! Yet whatever it is, I must do it.
Because Matthew included these words of Jesus at the end of the sermon on the mount, we could interpret the will of God as doing all the things Jesus just got done teaching. I'm sure the lessons of this sermon are not the complete will of God, but for our purposes here, it is a good starting place.
2) Those who enter the kingdom are people God "knows." Which sounds like a strange comment because God is supposed to know everything. But there are different ways to know something or someone. In the Biblical sense, to know someone is to be at one with them. Like husband and wife, two become one. Knowing someone implies a relationship of intimacy and love, wherein life is not about me, it's about us and doing that which pleases the other.
What do you think would please our heavenly Father more than anything else? The answer to that question is probably what Jesus has just summarized--that we humbly love and trust God and, as much as it depends on us, live in peace and harmony with each other and the rest of God's creation. Which brings us full circle. "Not everyone who calls Me 'Lord, Lord,' will enter the kingdom of heaven, but those who do the will of My Father in heaven."
God will recognize us as one of his own, when we have heard the words of Jesus and, with a sincere and humble heart, put them into practice. "Lord, Lord" is not the password; obedience is. We must do the will of God. That's the bottom line. If we want to live in heaven in the future, we had better start practicing the ways of heaven here on earth, right now.
Use the following questions for small groups, journaling, further study or reflection.
Icebreaker: Share with your group one time when you wanted to be included, but felt excluded instead.
What is your gut reaction to this passage? Is it fair? How do these words make you feel? Do you want to argue with Jesus? Or do you defend and support his words?
We need to remember each passage of Scripture is just one "piece of the pie." This is not the only place in the Bible which addresses the theme of a final judgment. How does today's passage add to, or take away from, other teachings you have heard and read about judgment day?
Imagine yourself standing before Jesus at heaven's door. What do you say to Jesus? What does Jesus say to you?Would you talk about what you did for God or what God did for you?
What are some things you are doing now which will prepare you to live in heaven when you die?
Jesus had told the Pharisees, "It is written, 'I desire mercy, and not sacrifice.' Go learn what that means." Jesus seems to be telling his would-be disciples in this passage to go and learn what it means to do the will of his heavenly Father. How can you discover the will of God for your life? What are some things you can do to "go and learn what this means."
Jesus is following through with his theme that only a few will ever find and receive the life he wants to give them. Many people will miss the mark. Why would this be important information for Jesus to disseminate?
Read I Corinthians l3:1-3. How do these words from St. Paul shed some light on those who claimed they had prophesied and done great works in God's name?
I have heard hell described as separation from God. Do you see support for that definition in this passage? Is there anything worse than separation from God? If we separate ourselves from God in this life, can we blame God for separating us from himself in death?