“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. 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?’ And then will I declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.’
(Matthew 7:21-23 ESV)
In today’s passage from the Sermon on the Mount Jesus expands on the topic of heaven and hell which He started a few days ago. In that passage He told us we choose our eternal destiny: heaven or hell. Yesterday He warned against people who, by their false teachings, lead others to hell.
Just because someone calls Jesus “Lord” doesn’t mean that person is a true follower of His. Not everyone who speaks this way will enter the kingdom of heaven. That is why Jesus told us to “beware” of false teachers [Matthew 7:15]. Words alone mean nothing.
What matters is if someone does the will of God. A person’s lifestyle is a more accurate barometer of their relationship with Jesus than their words [Matthew 7:16].
On the day of judgment, referred to by Jesus as “that day“, people will come face-to-face with Him as this passage implies. Many people will offer up a list of their good works as criteria for getting into heaven. Some people will point to the fact that they did many deeds in [Jesus’] name. While on earth they will have prophesied, cast out demons, and have done many mighty works.
Notice that Jesus does not deny that these people did these things. But He makes it clear in His response, ‘I never knew you‘, that even so, they count for nothing. Notice that Jesus will not be persuaded. He will simply evaluate. The time for us to have control over our destiny will have ended the moment our heart stopped beating.
Not many of us have prophesied or cast out demons. Our so-called good deeds aren’t quite so impressive. So how much of a chance do we have of getting into heaven compared to people who have done these impressive deeds? None. God doesn’t look at what we’ve done or not done and decide who gets into heaven. It’s not like putting together a high school football team where some who try out make the cut and others don’t.
Imagine a college course whose entire grade is based on a single, final exam. On this exam there is only one question and during the semester the teacher has already told you the right answer. Passing the course is simple if you were paying attention and believed him. Life works exactly in this way.
God has already told us how to be with Him forever in heaven. At the end of our life Jesus will “grade” each person on this sole criterion: did he/she believe they were a sinner who is in need of forgiveness and did they accept the forgiveness God offers only through Jesus.
Anyone who has will enter heaven. All others, still considered lawless (i.e. a sinner), will be told by Jesus to depart from Him. I can’t imagine the horror one will feel when they realize what a terrible and irreversible mistake they’ve made as in that moment they realize what their future – their unending future – holds.
Getting into heaven is simple if you were paying attention to God. And believed Him.
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