I would like to draw your attention to a verse that is much-quoted but rarely understood. Indeed, it has been the cause of much speculation over the years:
Matthew 7:21-23 “Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter 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 practise lawlessness.’
The Syriac version of the bible reads: “my Lord, my Lord” leading to discussions about how committed these people were. But that should not be our main focus at this time. The plain truth is that these people have appeared before God on “that day” with full expectation that they will be acceptable to God, and having had at least some form of Christianity or church allegiance, because they claim not only to have used the gifts of the Spirit but to have done so in the Name of Jesus.
Jamieson-Fausset-Brown Bible Commentary
“Many will say to me in THAT DAY”. What day? It is the day to which He had just referred, when men shall “enter” or not enter “into the kingdom of heaven.” (See a similar way of speaking of “that day” in 2 TiM 1:12; 4:8). Lord, Lord! The reiteration denotes surprise. “What, Lord? How is this? Are we to be disowned?”
I believe the confusion over who these people are and why they are ejected from their reward can be cleared up by comparing the passage with another, equally well-known one:
Mark 14: Jesus Predicts Peter’s Denial
29 But Peter said to Him, “Even though all may fall away, yet I will not.” 30 And Jesus said to him, “Truly I say to you, that this very night, before a rooster crows twice, you yourself will deny Me three times.” 31 But Peter kept saying insistently, “Even if I have to die with You, I will not deny You!” And they all were saying the same thing also.
What therefore was “denying the Lord”, but the inclination for self-preservation under pressure, something we might find within ourselves in these increasingly dangerous days?
Canon Andrew White speaking to the Orthodox Christian Network, said: “Islamic State turned up and said to the children, you say the words that you will follow Mohammed. The children, all under 15, four of them, said no, we love Yesua, we have always loved Yesua, we have always followed Yesua, Yesua has always been with us. They said, ‘Say the words.’ They said, ‘No, we can’t.’ They chopped all their heads off. How do you respond to that? You just cry.” (Source)
How tragic, yet how truly glorious, was the commitment of those children who – when offered the choice of conversion to Islam or death – declared “No, we love Yeshua” and they suffered a martyrs’ death for which I am sure they are being rewarded in Heaven right now.
(By the way, this could explain why the martyrs gathered below the sacrificial altar in Revelation 6:9 are “given a white robe” instead of arriving already dressed in it. This white robe of blood-bought righteousness is owned by all who are saved, yet the sanctification of these martyrs is retrospective. Are some who choose to die rather than deny Jesus rewarded with eternal life because that faith is “imputed to them” as it was to Abraham? Rom 4:22. They might have been perhaps what we call nominal Christians, or young children, but they made a decision for Christ in the last moments of their lives. Luke 12:8 “…whoever publicly acknowledges me before others, the Son of Man will also acknowledge before the angels of God.)
But to continue…
The denial of the Lord, in the bible, is to choose safety and acceptance rather than persecution and rejection. It is to value human life and this world rather than spiritual truths. This was true of Peter, certainly. It also seems to be implied in the words of Jesus about the last days, where in Luke 17:32-33 he says, “Remember Lot’s wife. Whoever seeks to keep his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life will preserve it.”
And also: Mark 8:34-36
And He summoned the crowd with His disciples, and said to them, “If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross and follow Me. For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake and the gospel’s will save it. For what does it profit a man to gain the whole world, and forfeit his soul?”
And Rev 12:11
“And they overcame him because of the blood of the Lamb and because of the word of their testimony, and they did not love their life even when faced with death”.
Peter, as we know, failed the test. But put yourself in his position and wonder if you would have been inclined to deny your involvement with this bunch of rebels in order to go on listening to the trial and staying close to the Lord you loved. Surely it was in a good cause?
Yet when Jesus returned, Peter had to repent of those three denials with three statements of allegiance and love. Three times the Lord asked, Peter, do you love me? And three times Peter needed to reply in the affirmative, to wash away his guilt. He knew himself to be an unworthy man when he knelt before the risen Lord on that beach. (John 21)
Peter had another chance, but in the last days there may not BE another chance. Those who deny him then may face the situation with which I began this post – the denial of Jesus to the Father.
He said Matthew 10:32 “Therefore everyone who confesses Me before men, I will also confess him before My Father who is in heaven. But whoever denies Me before men, I will also deny him before My Father who is in heaven.”
2 Timothy 2:12: If we endure, we will also reign with him. If we deny him, he also will deny us.
Who then are those who are DENIED before the Father in the passage at the beginning? They are God-fearing, charismatic Christians (yes, who else would do miracles “in the Name of Jesus”).
I have always been taught that these people were rejected because they were hypocrites, liars, pretenders, people who did good works for selfish gain. They did not know the Lord. Nobody wants to say that they are people we might go to church with! That cuts too close to the bone and makes us wonder about our own selfish and cowardly actions.
Is it possible for a Christian to become so involved in good works, helping others, this whole ongoing earthly agenda of peace, love and brotherhood that he loses sight of what is really most important?
Is it possible to take your eyes off Jesus Christ and Heaven and do all “in his name” while pursuing a different goal – that of “bringing the kingdom to earth” and “enthroning Jesus in the nations” and “christianising the fallen world”? Yes, unfortunately very possible if the context of the work has shifted from salvation to domination; from evangelism to rulership; from heaven to this earth.
This World Is Not My Home
If the pleasures of this earth (even a future hope of divine restoration) take hold and replace the heavenly hope, then it is unfortunately possible for a Christian to deny the Lord in the last days, for the sake of an alternative gospel of world peace and unity! The challenges of the Lord’s return cease to make sense, and are vilified instead. Why suffer and be persecuted for something you don’t believe in any more? Such people may denounce the true Lord, along with those who believe in him.
There is to come a “great delusion” and I do not believe it will be openly evil. It will be so subtle that it will test the hearts and minds of every living person. Could such a delusion sway some people off course – yes, the bible says that it will be so strong that it has the capability to deceive “even the very elect”.
Therefore, getting the doctrine right NOW is all important. The devil has been steadily working at eroding the truth for centuries but especially in the last few decades.
He has managed to replace biblical doctrine with a similar (but deadly) restoration/dominion doctrine that puts man in charge, and offers a better, brighter future for all. It is pleasing to the soul, and very attractive. It appears to be godly, and is “based on” scripture but is not truly biblical. Those who adopt it put themselves in grave danger.
Could they be some of the ones who object to being “denied” by Jesus Christ? When faced with the great delusion, because they did not “love the truth” they believe the lie and are therefore cast off.
When persecution arises, true Christians stand their ground and refuse to love this world system. But Christians who are fed the restoration doctrine of the new churches may see nothing wrong with world unity and rulership, nor even a unified world religion. To their minds it is “all in a good cause”. In the last day (although they are perhaps not even aware of it) by shifting their allegiance from God to the Earth they have denied the Saviour!
Thus, the Saviour will deny them before the throne of his Father. Peter denied by saying “I do not know the man” and here Jesus is saying “I never knew YOU!” It is their just reward.
How carefully therefore we have to guard our beliefs! How certain we need to be that nothing can sway us from our allegiance and loyalty to God.