I only feel confident in asking you this question because I have asked it of myself. And if you are a serious student of Scripture then how you answer the question is a serious matter, and the consequences of your answer can be frightening. I am, of course, referring to the passage in Matthew 7:21-23 where Jesus warns against false prophets and pretenders of the faith. If you have never regarded these verses, I hope you will now…
Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only he who does the will of My Father who is in heaven. Many will say to Me on that day [when I judge them], ‘Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in Your name, and driven out demons in Your name, and done many miracles in Your name?’ And then I will declare to them publicly, ‘I never knew you; depart from Me [you are banished from My presence], you who act wickedly [disregarding My commands].’
Is the thought of not entering the Kingdom of Heaven and being banished from the presence of Jesus as upsetting and disturbing to you as it is to me? I don’t think we can read this passage and not contemplate whether we are somehow identified with whomever Jesus is speaking. And, at first glance, when considering this passage on its own, it can be confusing. These individuals are apparently prophesying in the Name of Jesus, and casting out demons and doing miracles, all in His Name. Some might ask, “Isn’t that what He tells us to do in John 14:13? Whatever you ask in my name, this I will do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son. And what about John 15:16? You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit and that your fruit should abide, so that whatever you ask the Father in My name, He may give it to you. Then there is John 14:12. “I tell you this timeless truth: The person who follows me in faith, believing in me, will do the same mighty miracles that I do—even greater miracles than these because I go to be with my Father!
So, again, at first glance it would appear that these people have followed all the rules. They appear to be doing the works of Jesus — and in His Name. So what is so egregious that Jesus tells them to depart from Him? And why does He describe them as disregarding His commands; or as the various translations label them, lawless rebels, workers of lawlessness, or plain old wicked? And, if on the surface, they appear to be doing everything He has asked of us, how can we avoid their fate?
To get the answers to those questions [and to settle our hearts about our own destinies] we must look at the verses before and after this unsettling indictment. It is important to note that up to now, Jesus has been teaching His disciples about the Kingdom of God; it’s rules and government; the characteristics of the realm in which God resides — beginning with the Sermon on the Mount. He has warned that entering this Kingdom is by a narrow gate; many will be those who choose the wider and more popular path, and few will be those who even find that narrow gate.
Then He warns those who would be His disciples to be on their guard against phony prophets. They appear to be genuine by their actions; pretending to be like the true sheep that hear their Master’s voice and obey. But their motives are all wrong, and you can tell they are false and counterfeit by the fruit of their ministries. Yes, they might have used His Name as a sort of lucky charm, or part of a formula, but notice that they asked, “Lord, have we not [done the works]…”. Remember, Jesus makes it very clear … Whatever you ask in my name, this I will do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son. So, likely, the fruit of their ministries was the recognition they gained for themselves, and not for the glory of God. No new disciples were made and the power from Heaven to drive out demons and perform miracles, while not wasted, did not bear fruit for the Kingdom.
NOTE: I want to give a word of caution at this point. I have heard many Christians leaders and commentators use this explanation to promote their theology that anyone who is doing the miracles Jesus commanded us to do are false prophets and teachers. Just like the Pharisees that accused Jesus of using the power of Beelzebul to heal the demon-possessed man (Matthew 12), these modern religious hypocrites accuse anyone who heals or does deliverance ministry of doing it by the power of Satan. Obviously, if you remember what the Lord has shown me, then you know that I disagree with this position.
Jesus, Himself, tells us in Mark 16:15-18, “As you go into all the world, preach openly the wonderful news of the gospel to the entire human race! Whoever believes the good news and is baptized will be saved, and whoever does not believe the good news will be condemned. And these miracle signs will accompany those who believe: They will drive out demons in the power of my name. They will speak in tongues. They will be supernaturally protected from snakes and from drinking anything poisonous. And they will lay hands on the sick and heal them.” and Matthew 28:19-20, Now go in My authority and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. And teach them to faithfully follow all that I have commanded you.
Now, back to my original thesis. I believe that Jesus tells these misguided followers that He doesn’t know them because there is no experiential knowledge of Jesus in their hearts. Were they doing the miracles and prophesying? Oh, yes! But, we’ve looked at the verses preceding Jesus’s dire statement. Now, let’s look at the verses that immediately follow.
Jesus talks about two different groups that have heard His teachings — those that apply it to their lives, and those who don’t. Simply put, those who “take it to heart” and those who don’t. See where I’m going? Those who do the works from a heart that seeks to glorify God and His Kingdom are in a heart and spirit-filled relationship with Jesus. They know Him from experience and are on solid ground. Those who are not joined to Him in that heart relationship will still be given the power to do the miracles by God, because they did them in Jesus’ Name. But they did it for their own glory and never experienced Him in the process. They are on risky ground.
But what about those who never attempt to do what He commanded? They got the first half right — preaching the gospel and baptizing. But they didn’t read the next sentence He spoke! He said there would be miracle signs that accompanied those who believe: they will cast out demons in the power of His name; they will speak in tongues; they will be supernaturally protected from snakes and from drinking anything poisonous; and they will lay hands on the sick and heal them. (Some scholars believe that the sentence about snakes and poison contains two Aramaic idioms. To pick up snakes could be a picture of overcoming one’s enemies (“snakes”), and drinking poison may be speaking of dealing with attacks on one’s character (poisonous words).
These are the signs and wonders so many in the modern Church deny. But then there is Luke 6:46, which in the Passion Translation says it better than I ever could: What good does it do for you to say I am your Lord and Master if what I teach you is not put into practice? So, here, we get another admonition by Jesus that calling Him Lord comes with great responsibility to not only do His commands, but do them out of a heart that has known and experienced Him, which will rightly give the glory to the Father.
Jesus makes it very clear in Matthew 6:21, Where your treasure is, there will be your heart also. He wants to be the treasure of our heart. He wants to know us personally, intimately, and experientially. Anything less, is unacceptable to Him. And that should make all of us Christians examine our hearts and our motives. Are we serving Him and doing the works He commanded us to do? And even more importantly, are we doing them from a heart that is joined to His? Or are we pretenders of the true faith? Those are very serious questions to ponder, and ones that we should not take lightly. I can’t imagine standing before Him on that day of judgment, and looking into His eyes, realizing that He doesn’t even recognize me! Lord, search my heart and find an obedient follower who has placed You securely upon the throne of her heart!
1 John 2:5-6 We can be sure that we’ve truly come to live in intimacy with God not just by saying, “I am intimate with God,” but by walking in the footsteps of Jesus.