Without question in my mind, the most frightening statement Jesus ever made is found near the end of the Sermon on the Mount.
It’s found in Matthew 7:21-23. It was there that He told His entranced crowd on the shores of the Sea of Galilee about the nightmare scenario that many who believe in Jesus will face on Judgment Day.
“Not everyone who says to Me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter into 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’” (NASB).
That it’s judgment day is clear from Jesus’ reference to “that day,” and the fact that He is deciding the eternal fate of those who come before Him.
Jesus’ command to the many who face him on that day has an air of finality to it—they are to depart once and for all from His presence, most likely to their doom in the Lake of Fire.
That Jesus Himself is the judge on this Judgment Day is also clear. It is affirmed in other Scriptures as well, such as John 5:22: “For not even the Father judges anyone, for He has given all judgment unto the Son.”
In all likelihood, the scene is that of the Great White Throne Judgment found in Revelation 20:11-15 where any whose name was not found written in the Lamb’s Book of Life are thrown into the Lake of Fire prepared for the devil and his angels.
Notice also that Jesus very specifically mentions that not a few folks will experience this shocking fate. Not a few, but “many,” will hear these nightmarish words from the lips of Jesus Christ on that fateful day.
Then consider the shocking nature of Jesus’ revelation: that on Judgment Day, there will be many who come before Him sincerely believing and claiming that they have effectively served Him, for much or all of their lives. Their confidence that they had served Him had been bolstered by the fact that they had experienced the supernatural because of their use of the name Jesus—they had prophesied in His name, they had cast out demons in His name, and they had done “many miracles” in His name.
This will not be an isolated experience. Jesus is saying that among the billions of people who will appear before Him on that day, time and time and time again He will encounter these kinds of individuals. Repeatedly, people who sincerely thought that they had their eternal destiny settled for the good because Jesus had miraculously confirmed it will shockingly find out too late that though they were sincere, they were sincerely, terribly, tragically and eternally wrong!
What is so frightening about this passage is that it could happen to any one of us who base our salvation on Jesus. Jesus could be speaking to any of us who name Him as our Savior.
How can you know that this will not be your fate?
Clearly, Jesus would never have made such a frightening declaration unless He intended it to have a beneficial effect on at least some of us. Undoubtedly, His desire was that some of us who heard these nightmarish words would take Him seriously, and would check and double-check to make certain that this terrible fate would not be our own.
A great number of questions should come to all of our minds as we consider this scenario. How could it be that not a few, but many, who will claim to have served Jesus could possibly have been so wrong that he could say to them, “I never knew you?”
How could these same people have worked powerful miracles in the name of Jesus, and have watched these miracles actually come to pass without Jesus’ involvement, and yet in His name? What supernatural power could possibly have been at work here?
What is the precise nature of such a horrendous error?
What could have been done to prevent such a scenario for so many from having been played out? More than that what can be done, to prevent such a possible fate for ourselves?
What clues can we find in the context, or any Biblical text, that could help us in our search for such answers which could be so crucial as to determine our eternal destiny?
Stay tuned, for the answers are a matter of Biblical discernment, a discernment especially necessary according to Jesus in the last days before His Second Coming (See Matthew 24:4-5).
–Pastor Jim Wallace, Th.M., Dallas Seminary