Posted by: forbygrace | September 28, 2008

The Great Surprise

And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness!’ (Matthew 7:23). This is the response Jesus says many will hear at the Day of Judgment. I find this verse to be one of the most terrifying in all of scripture as it is spoken to those who are outwardly religious and believe themselves to have a saving relationship with Jesus Christ. This confidence of theirs is evident by what they say, “Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in Your name, cast out demons in Your name, and done many wonders in Your name?”

The first thing to see in their declaration is that they emphatically declare Jesus as Lord. When a Jew wanted to declare something strongly in the Hebrew language, they used repetition as we see here: “Lord, Lord”. Notice that these are not people who half-heartedly declared Christ—they were emphatic. In our day when lukewarm Christianity passes for saving faith, it must be seen that your confession, in and of itself, means nothing. If salvation was granted by the sole means of a confession, these people would be as saved as anyone else.

Second, we see that these people did many convincing works that would lead us to think them saved. It’s clear from the text that some of these people will be preachers, some are soul winners, some are the largest financial givers in the church, and others have been involved in the church all their life and yet, they will one day here the solemn words “depart from me”.

A common (and wrong) view of this prophetic warning from Jesus is that He is warning against those who try to enter heaven by way of works. While it’s true that none enter heaven because of their works, Jesus response to these people is not a rebuke for their works, nor is it a rebuke for their proclaiming Him as Lord. So what is it? Jesus gives us the answer plainly, “…you who practice lawlessness”. Their rejection is based wholly on them being workers of lawlessness (iniquity, sin, wickedness, violation of the law, unrighteousness). Those hearing their sentence of eternal damnation are not necessarily adulterers, drunkards, thieves, murders or openly profane persons. Rather they did the work of the Lord but it was done deceitfully; they sought after satisfying themselves and did not preach Christ, but themselves—their own views, philosophies, likes and dislikes. The sobering truth is that it will not be a few like this, but many will come in this manner.

It is because this matter is of eternal importance that we are commanded, “Examine yourselves to see whether you are in the faith; test yourselves.” (2 Corinthians 13:5). It is vital that we know our hope is on the foundation that will stand in the Day of Judgment.

Jonathan Edwards in his work On Religious Affections writes:

When once a hypocrite is thus established in a false hope, he has not those things to cause him to call his hope in question, that oftentimes are the occasion of doubting to true saints; as, first, he has not that cautious spirit, that great sense of the vast importance of a sure foundation, and that dread of being deceived. The comforts of true saints increase awakenings and caution, and a lively sense of how great a things it is to appear before and infinitely holy, omniscient Judge. But the false comforts put an end to these things and dreadfully stupefy the mind. Secondly, The hypocrite has not the knowledge of his own blindness, and the deceitfulness of his own heart, and that mean opinion of his own understanding, that the true saints do. Those that are deluded with false discoveries and affections, are evermore highly conceited of their light and understanding. Thirdly, The devil does not assault the hope of the hypocrite, as he does the hope of a true saint.

Will you hear the words “depart from me…”? Your confession, however doctrinally correct, your good works and your sincerity will not take you to glory. All you do and all you say must come from a pure heart. The old nature must die and the new nature must spring forth from a new heart. That is why it is…unless one is born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God. (John 3:3).


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