A sermon by Nate Wilson for Christ the Redeemer Church of Manhattan, KS, 20 November 2011
7:21 Not everyone who is saying to me, “Lord, Lord,” will enter into the kingdom of heaven,
but rather the one who is doing the will of my Father in the heavens.
7:22 Many will say to me in that day, “Lord, Lord, Didn’t we prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many miracles in your name?”
7:23 And then I will confess to them, “Never did I know you; depart from me, workers of lawlessness!”
The late southern comedian Jerry Clower used to tell stories about his friends in rural Mississippi. Marcell Ledbetter was Jerry’s best friend, and he had a whole slew of brothers – there was Marcell, then Vernell, then Ezell, Odell, and Clovis. In one episode, he tells the story of Vernell Ledbetter at the bus station. I can’t remember all the details exactly, but the story goes something like this: Vernelle was a big country bumpkin, and he ain’t never been to the big city before, but his cousin Eudelle Ledbetter, who had sung so purdy at his mamma’s funeral, was getting’ hitched in Tupelo, Miss-ippi, and Vernell, he’d saved up enough money to buy himself a nice suit and a bus ticket to Tupelo for the wedding, and he was going to go in style. Well, Marcell Ledbetter, he took his brother Vernell over to the Greyhound bus station and showed him the counter where he could buy himself a bus ticket to Tupelo, Miss-ippi. And the man at the counter told Vernelle that the bus would be leaving in one hour. So Vernell sat down on the bench to wait. Pretty soon he noticed some lights blinking on a fancy machine over in the corner of the bus station. So he sauntered over to the corner to figure out what this fancy machine was. Well, over top of that machine, there was a sign that said, “STEP ON THE SCALES, AND I WILL PREDICT YOUR HEIGHT, WEIGHT, NAME, AND YOUR DESTINATION!” “Well, I’ll be,” said Vernell, “the weight, I can figure, but how could a little old machine know what my name is and where I’m going? This has got to be a gyp. I’m going to put a nickel in there and just prove that it don’t know.” So Vernell chinks in a nickel and stands on the scale, and zip, out come this piece of paper that reads, “Your name is Vernell Ledbetter, you are 6 foot 4, weigh 213 pounds, and you are going to Tupelo, MS.” Vernell’s jaw dropped; how could that machine know all that? It must be some kind of fluke! “I’m going to put in another nickel and see if it says the same thing.” Sure enough, the machine eases out another piece of paper, and on that paper it says, “Your name is Vernell Ledbetter, you are 6’4” 213#, and you are headed for Tupelo.” Wow! Now Vernell had to figure out how come that machine knew all that about him. Was it being operated by somebody at the counter? He just had to figure this thing out, so he looked all around that fancy machine to see if it had any wires attached to it, but he couldn’t see none. So he steps up to the machine a third time and dropped one more nickel in. Out slides the paper again, and this is what he read, “Your name is still Vernell Ledbetter, You are still 6’4” 213#, and you done missed your bus to Tupelo!”
In this next passage, Jesus describes what it takes to miss the bus, as it were. He describes two things that many false teachers and those who follow them try to do in order to get to heaven. But these two things are like buying the wrong ticket to the wrong destination; they will never get anybody to heaven:
7:21 Not everyone who is saying to me, “Lord, Lord,” will enter into the kingdom of heaven, but rather the one who is doing the will of my Father in the heavens.
Mat 7:21 Οὐ πᾶς ὁ λέγων μοι Κύριε Κύριε, εἰσελεύσεται εἰς τὴν βασιλείαν τῶν οὐρανῶν, ἀλλ᾿ ὁ ποιῶν τὸ θέλημα τοῦ πατρός μου τοῦ ἐν [τοῖς+א,B,C,θ,f1] οὐρανοῖς.
A) The destination here is the Kingdom of Heaven; That’s where everybody wants to go.
1) I believe this is speaking of heaven: Jesus is speaking of a future event which He calls “that day,” in which He will act as a judge to decide who gets in to heaven.
2) All the verbs are future: “Not everyone will enter… they will say… I will [say]… depart.
3) The phrase in v.22 “In that day” comes out of the blue and never occurs again in Matthew, but if we look back at the previous uses of the phrase “in that day,” we see that it occurs in the writings of the prophet Zechariah, who used that phrase more often than any other Bible author, and most of the time, he was speaking of the end times: (The following passages from Zachariah are from the Septuagint O.T., paraphrased from Brenton’s English translation.)
a. Zechariah 2:11 And many nations shall flee for refuge to the Lord in that day, and they shall be for a people to Him...
b. Zech. 9:16 And the Lord their God shall save them in that day, even His people as a flock…
c. Zechariah 12:9 And it shall come to pass in that day, that I will seek to destroy all the nations that come against Jerusalem.
d. Zech. 13:2 “And it shall come to pass in that day,” says the Lord of hosts, “that I will utterly destroy the names of the idols from off the land, and there shall be no longer any remembrance of them: and I will cut off the false prophets and the evil spirit from the land…”
e. Zech. 14:4 And His feet shall stand in that day on the mount of Olives, which is before Jerusalem on the east, and the mount of Olives shall split in two...
f. Zech. 14:8-9 And in that day living water shall come forth out of Jerusalem... And the Lord shall be king over all the earth: in that day there shall be one Lord, and His name one.
2) There are also passages in the N.T. that use the phrase “that day” to speak of end times:
a. Luke 17:24-31 “For just like the lightning, when it flashes out of one part of the sky, shines to the other part of the sky, so will the Son of Man be in His day… And just as it happened in the days of Noah, so it will be also in the days of the Son of Man… the day that Noah entered the ark, the flood came and destroyed them all. It was the same as happened in the days of Lot… on the day that Lot went out from Sodom it rained fire and brimstone from heaven and destroyed them all. It will be just the same on the day that the Son of Man is revealed. On that day, the one who is on the housetop and whose goods are in the house must not go down to take them out; and likewise the one who is in the field must not turn back. (NASB)
b. 2 Timothy 4:8 in the future there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day; and not only to me, but also to all who have loved His appearing. (NASB)
4) The setting of these future events referenced in Matthew 7:21ff here refers to Jesus’ 2nd coming when He judges mankind and saves those whom He loves and who love Him.
Jesus says that not everyone who says “Lord, Lord” then will enter into heaven.
B) What does it mean to say “Lord, lord?”
1) In the Septuagint Greek O.T., King David taught the people to address God as “Lord, Lord:” – “And now, Lord… let Your name be established and magnified for ever, men saying, ‘Lord, Lord, Almighty God of Israel.’” (1 Chronicles 17:23-24 - Brenton)
2) This was a way in the O.T. of translating the divine name YHWH/Jehovah into Greek.
a. Baruch, the scribe who wrote the book of Jeremiah, used this name to authoritatively confirm Jeremiah’s prophecy as coming from the one true God (Jer. 51:62).
b. Jesus said, “You call me “Master” and “Lord,” and you say well, for so I am.” (John 13:13)
c. So in one sense, it is an acknowledgement that Jesus is God; it is an honorable title, recognizing His divine power as God to judge and to save.
3) However, here in this judgment day scenario, it seems to be an emergency request, like when the 5 bridesmaids got shut out of the wedding party due to their negligence and were banging on the door, saying, “Lord, lord, let us in!” (Matt. 25:11)
4) Throughout the Greek O.T. there were several people who addressed God with the double “Kurie” with emergency requests for the salvation of the Jewish people:
a. Moses prayed that God would not destroy Israel in the desert (Deut 9:26), and God relented.
b. The prophet Amos used it while interceding for the Jews – that God would not utterly wipe them out with locusts and fire (Amos 7:2-5), and God softened His punishment.
c. According to the apocryphal section of the book of Esther in the Septuagint, Mordecai prayed thus for deliverance from Haman’s plan to kill the Jews (Esther 4:17), and God delivered the Jews.
d. Likewise, in the apocryphal book of 3 Maccabes (2:2), the high priest Simon prayed for deliverance of the Jews in Jerusalem from the pagan King of Egypt, Ptolemy Philopater and God miraculously intervened.
5) However, as Jesus said, not everyone who prayed, “Lord, Lord,” got their request. There is a notable exception, and that was Moses in Deuteronomy 3:24-27 “‘Lord, Lord,’ he prayed, ‘You have begun to show Your strength and power to your servant… for what God is there in heaven or on the earth, who will act like You with such might? I will therefore go over and see this good land that is beyond Jordan...’ Yet the Lord… did not regard me, and would not listen to me; and the Lord said to me, ‘Hold your peace; don’t speak of this matter to me anymore. Go up to the top of the rock, and look… westward, and northward, and southward, and eastward, and behold it with your eyes, nevertheless you will not go over this Jordan.’”
a. Moses prayed, “Lord, Lord, let me enter your promised land,” and God said, NO. Why? Because Moses had disobeyed God in the matter of striking the rock instead of speaking to it to provide water for the children of Israel, as he had been instructed.
b. I’m not saying that Moses didn’t go to heaven; I’m just saying that we have a story in the Old Testament of someone who prayed, “Lord, lord…” and yet was not allowed to enter the promised land, and this provides a warning for us, that in a similar way, there will be some people who call Jesus “Lord” who will not be admitted into heaven.
c. Believing that Jesus is Lord is not enough: James 2:19-20 “You believe in the one, true God? That’s well [and good]; the demons also believe and tremble [at His authority,] but [that’s not good enough.] Are you willing to recognize, you fool, that faith without works is useless?”
C) Doing the will of God is contrasted with calling “Lord, Lord.”
1) In Greek there’s a weak word for “but” (de) and a strong word for “but” (alla), and this is the strong word: 7:21b “…but rather the one who is doing the will of my Father in the heavens.”
2) “…can we imagine that [saying Lord, Lord] is enough to bring us to heaven, that such a piece of formality as this should be so recompensed, or that He who knows and requires the heart should be so put off with shows for substance? Compliments among men are pieces of civility that are returned with compliments, but they are never paid as real services; and can they then be of an account with Christ? …if inward impressions be not answerable to outward expressions, we are but ‘as sounding brass and a tinkling cymbal’… ‘[holding] a form of godliness, but [denying] its power’… as those who did put on [Christ] a gorgeous robe and said, ‘Hail, King of the Jews’” [while crowning Him with thorns and beating Him]. ~Matthew Henry
3) Does this mean that it is not important to confess that Jesus is your Lord? Not at all:
a. Matthew 10:32 “Therefore everyone who confesses Me before men, I will also confess him before My Father who is in heaven.” (NASB)
b. Romans 10:9 if you confess with your mouth Jesus as Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved (NASB)
c. Believing and proclaiming that Jesus is Lord is a necessary part of Christianity.
4) When Jesus said, “Not all who say Lord, Lord…,” He implied that some who call Jesus Lord WILL enter heaven, just not ALL of them, because a verbal confession of faith alone is not what gets you into heaven – it’s not a valid ticket by itself. It must be combined with active obedience – doing the will of Father God.
a. Ps. 40:8 I desired to do Your will, O my God, and Your law in the midst of my heart. (Brenton)
b. Psalm 143:9-11 Deliver me from my enemies, O Lord; for I have fled to You for refuge. Teach me to do Your will; for You are my God; Your good Spirit will guide me in the straight way. You will bring me to life, O Lord, for Your name's sake; in Your righteousness…. (Brenton)
c. On the other hand, the ones who had no good works to present, in Jesus’ scenario of the sheep and the goats, are the ones who will be cursed: “Depart (πορεύεσθε) from Me, accursed ones, into the eternal fire which has been prepared for the devil and his angels; for I was hungry, and you gave Me nothing to eat; I was thirsty, and you gave Me nothing to drink; I was a stranger, and you did not invite Me in; naked, and you did not clothe Me; sick, and in prison, and you did not visit Me…” (Matthew 25:41-46, NASB)
So the first ticket of saying a confession of faith is not enough, and the second ticket of doing good deeds is introduced.
7:22 Many will say to me in that day, “Lord, Lord, Didn’t we prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many miracles in your name?”
Mat 7:22 πολλοὶ ἐροῦσί μοι ἐν ἐκείνῃ τῇ ἡμέρᾳ· Κύριε Κύριε, οὐ τῷ σῷ ὀνόματι [ε+Crit]προφητεύσαμεν, καὶ τῷ σῷ ὀνόματι δαιμόνια ἐξεβάλομεν, καὶ τῷ σῷ ὀνόματι δυνάμεις πολλὰς ἐποιήσαμεν;
A) Again, the occasion appears to be judgment day, when Jesus returns and places some people – who thought they were all right – with the goats under His judgment. They are protesting His judgment, saying, “Wait a minute. We prophesied in your name! We did miracles in your name! Surely you made a mistake! Lord, lord, this is an emergency, we need to be saved here!” And Jesus will say, “You are showing me the wrong ticket. Simply doing good works is not what gets you into heaven. Simply performing miracles in Jesus’ name does not prove that you are a Christian.”
B) This means that there are people who have prophesied, cast out demons, and even performed miracles, who are nevertheless destined for hell!
1) The grammar (ou + indicative) indicates that the answer to their question is indeed, “Yes.” They did indeed prophecy and exorcise and perform miracles in Jesus’ name.
2) Although dunameis (translated wonderfulKJV/mighty worksESV/wondersNKJ/miraclesNAS,NIV) basically means a demonstration of the strength that a certain person can muster, when it is speaking of God, we’re talking about genuine miracles. Matthew used this same word dunameis regularly to refer to the miracles Jesus did (11:20-23, 13:54,58; 14:2).
3) We see from Biblical history that pagans were able to prophecy, cast out demons, and do miracles:
a. Moses warned the Israelites of this in Deuteronomy 13:1-3 “If a prophet or a dreamer of dreams arises among you and gives you a sign or a wonder, and the sign or the wonder comes true, concerning which he spoke to you, saying, 'Let us go after other gods (whom you have not known) and let us serve them,' you shall not listen to the words of that prophet or that dreamer of dreams...” (NASB)
b. The Midianite prophet Baalam (Num. 23:8ff) and the Jewish high priest Caiphas (John 18:14) delivered true prophecies, but remained in rebellion against God.
c. The Sons of Sceva (Acts 19:13-14) cast out a demon “in the name of the Jesus whom Paul preaches,” but they didn’t personally know Jesus, so the demons played havoc with them.
d. Judas was one of the disciples, and he presumably healed people and preached the gospel, but he was the “Son of Perdition” who “perished” (John 17:12).
e. Simon the magician performed great wonders in Samaria in the days of the apostles, (miracles perhaps like Pharaoh’s magicians did in Moses’ time– Ex. 7:11ff), but he was in the “bonds of iniquity” (Acts 8:9-23).
problem, as Jesus’ words in v.23 tell us, is that they are also still ἐργαζόμενοι τὴν ἀνομίαν
= you who work iniquityKJV/workersESV/practitioners
1) The last Greek word in the sentence is a-nomia – law-lessness, rebellion against law;
2) Law is equivalent to the will of God in v.21, and related to Lordship – the authority to make laws to govern us.
3) The participle “you who work/practice” is present tense, indicating that these are not people who happened to do some wrong in the past, they are still living out a life of rebellion to God’s authority up to the minute that Jesus returns. They call Jesus Lord, but they are not obeying Him as Lord.
4) A growing personal relationship with God results in knowing the will of God and responding with obedience to His law-will rather than rebellion against it in lawlessness.
D) This calls for caution:
1) First of all, we should exercise caution in who we follow:
a. Jesus already warned us about false prophets a few verses earlier.
b. There are men and women who pass ordination exams, preach wonderful sermons, and even been successful at evangelism, who will not themselves be in heaven, because we are not saved merely by what we say or merely by what we have done. (M. Henry)
c. Furthermore, in the last days, the antichrist will do amazing wonders and deceive many into following him. Rev. 13:11-14 …He performs great signs, so that he even makes fire come down out of heaven to the earth... And he deceives those who dwell on the earth because of the signs… (NASB) but he is eventually thrown into the lake of fire – Rev. 19:20.
d. Don’t allow yourself to be impressed by people who can do amazing things – even spiritual things. Keep comparing their teachings with the standard of the Bible. Only if they match up to God’s word should we pay attention to them.
2) We should also exercise caution in how we assure ourselves of heaven. We cannot use good works as the basis of our assurance:
a. There are some Christians who believe that speaking in tongues is the ultimate proof that one is a Christian and that one has the Holy Spirit. But speaking in tongues is a phenomenon practiced by Hindus and Muslims too – not just Christians. I believe it can be a legitimate and Biblically-practiced spiritual gift, but I’m afraid there are going to be people who thought they were Christians because they had spoken in tongues, who find out on judgment day to their bitter disappointment that speaking in tongues didn’t prove anything. We are not saved merely by what we say or merely by what we do.
b. “They think that they shall go to heaven because they have [a good reputation among people who profess faith], have kept fasts, and given alms, and have been preferred in the church; as if this would atone for their reigning pride, worldliness, and sensuality, and want of love to God and man.” (M. Henry)
E) Please note: This does not mean, however, that doing good works is bad:
1) Jesus did NOT say, “Everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord, didn’t we prophesy [etc.] …” Jesus said “Many” not “All.” This implies that there are some who performed these good deeds and were not condemned in the judgment. They are the same as the “few” who found the narrow way that leads to life, as opposed to the “many” on the broad way that leads to destruction.
2) It is, in fact, a requirement of all Christians that we act out our faith by telling other people and using the power of God to help people:
1 Cor. 14:1, the Apostle Paul wrote, “Keep pursuing love, yet keep being
zealous about the spiritual gifts – especially in order that you might prophesy.”
(I think the prophesying here primarily means teaching God’s word to people).
b. The apostle James also weighed in on this: “For just as the body without the spirit is dead, so also faith without works is dead.” (Jas. 2:26, NASB) Good works are important.
3) The point is that the good works you have done should not be used as the ultimate proof that you are God’s child.
a. God spoke through Baalam’s donkey, but that doesn’t mean the donkey went to heaven.
b. These good works are not the cause of our salvation, they are a result of God’s power changing our lives, and we do them in gratitude to Him for saving us.
Good deeds – even many miraculous ones – are not the ticket to heaven; there is more to it. Jesus will say “Depart” to many people who have done “good” things.
7:23 And then I will professKJV/ declareNAS,NKJ,ESV/ tellNIV/ confess/ testify to them, “Never did I know you; depart from me, workers of lawlessness!”
Mat 7:23 καὶ τότε ὁμολογήσω αὐτοῖς ὅτι Οὐδέποτε ἔγνων ὑμᾶς· ἀποχωρεῖτε ἀπ᾿ ἐμοῦ οἱ ἐργαζόμενοι τὴν ἀνομίαν.
· This Greek word apo-chorew (depart/AwayNIV /Literally “go away from the country”) occurs 3 other times in the Bible:
1. Jeremiah 46:5, where Pharaoh Necho’s army would be forced to retreat back from Mesopotamia to Egypt,
2. Luke 9:39, when a demon would not leave the boy it was terrorizing, and
3. Acts 13:13, when John Mark left Paul & Barnabas in Turkey and went home to Jerusalem.
§ In all three occurrences, it is about turning away from occupying a certain space. In the case of Matt. 7, ἀποχωρεῖτε is talking about being turned away by Jesus from occupying the kingdom of heaven.
§ The picture of Moses being turned away from occupying the Promised Land even though he prayed, “Lord, lord…” becomes all the more pointed.
The parallel passage in Luke’s
Gospel gives the same reason for this rejection in different words:
Luke 13:26-28 Then you will start to say, “We ate and drank in Your presence, and You taught in our streets;” and He will say, “I’m telling you, I do not know where you are from; Stand apart (ἀπόστητε) from me, all you workers of unrighteousness (οἱ ἐργάται τῆς ἀδικίας).” In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth…” (NASB)
· How does your heart respond to that kind of warning? If it says with Peter, “Never would I forsake you!” (Matt. 26:35) Then that indicates you are a saved sinner like Peter who will fail from time to time – as Peter did, but who desires a growing relationship with God and will be given entrance into heaven.
· What is the ticket? Being known by God! Walking in a relationship where there is interpersonal knowledge and mutual self-revelation.
· It begins with God’s knowledge of us:
o Romans 8:29-30 For those whom He foreknew, He also predestined to become conformed to the image of His Son, so that He would be the firstborn among many brethren; and these whom He predestined, He also called; and these whom He called, He also justified; and these whom He justified, He also glorified. (NASB)
o Psalm 139:1-16 …O Lord, You have tried me and known me. You know my down-sitting and my up-rising: You understand my thoughts long before. You have traced my path and my bed, and have foreseen all my ways… behold, O Lord, You have known all things, the last and the first: You have fashioned me, and laid your hand upon me. This knowledge is too wonderful for me… You have helped me from my mother's womb… Your eyes saw my unwrought substance, and all shall be written in Your book... (based on Brenton)
o Amos 3:1-2 Hear this word, O house of Israel… You especially have I known out of all the families of the earth... Brenton (Greek: ἔγνων/Heb: ידעתי/modern English versions use the word “chosen”)
o In this sense, Jesus says, “I never knew you. You were never one of those I chose to save. I never desired an eternal love relationship with you.”
· However, that relational disconnect was mutual, for these people who will not enter the kingdom of heaven also have not truly loved and reverenced and grown in the knowledge of God. “It’s not that their acquaintance was broken off – there never was any.” (Wm. Hendricksen)
· On the other hand, those who are known by God respond by growing in their knowledge of Him:
o Nahum 1:7 The Lord is good to them that wait on him in the day of affliction; and he knows them that reverence him. (Brenton)
o 1 Cor. 8:3 if someone loves God, He is known by him. (NAW)
o Galatians 4:9 But now that you have come to know God, or rather to be known by God, how is it that you turn back again to the weak and worthless elemental things, to which you desire to be enslaved all over again? (NASB)
o 2 Timothy 2:19 The Lord knows those who are His, and, Everyone who names the name of the Lord is to abstain from wickedness. (NASB)
· God’s knowledge of us is perfect from the start, but our knowledge of Him grows, therefore it must be cultivated. It is cultivated through:
1. self-revelation in prayer, and
2. time spent taking in God’s revelation of Himself to through scripture.
o It results in reverencing Jesus as Lord and in turning away from things that offend God and doing what He says is good.
1. Prepare in faith to stand before the Judgment seat of Christ:
· 2 Corinthians 5:9-10 Therefore we also have as our ambition… to be pleasing to Him. For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each one may be recompensed for his deeds in the body, according to what he has done, whether good or bad. (NASB)
· The only way to be pleasing to God is to throw ourselves now upon the mercy of Jesus, the only one whom God has said He was “well-pleased” with. We must ask Jesus to save us and bring us to heaven – and trust that He will.
· Thank God that He will save sinners who repent and do not continue in active rebellion to Him, but who rather love Him with all their heart, mind, soul, and strength!
2. Imitate Jesus. Say with Him, “Depart from me if you are going to keep practicing sin. I am not going to allow rebellion against God under my sphere of authority.” That’s what king David did too: (the following passages from the Psalms are from the NASB)
· Psalm 6:8 Depart from me, all you who do iniquity…
· Psalm 119:115 Depart from me, evildoers, That I may observe the commandments of my God.
· Psalm 139:19b …Depart from me, therefore, men of bloodshed.
· This extends to more than outside influences on you; it extends to turning away from everything in your own heart which displeases God. We must repent of our sin and stop being “workers of lawlessness.”
· Psalm 101:4 A perverse heart shall depart from me; I will know no evil.
3. Grow in your knowledge of God’s will by studying the Bible and obeying it:
God told the church in Sardis, Turkey that if they would do this, he would confess their names and keep them in the book of life and accept them into heaven, and He will do the same for us: “To the angel of the church in Sardis write… ‘I know your deeds... Wake up, and strengthen the things that remain, which were about to die; for I have not found your deeds completed in the sight of My God. So remember what you have received and heard; and keep it, and repent… But you have a few people in Sardis who have not soiled their garments; and they will walk with Me in white, for they are worthy. He who overcomes will thus be clothed in white garments; and I will not erase his name from the book of life, and I will confess his name before My Father and before His angels. He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.’” (Rev. 3:1-6, NASB)