Not Everyone Who Calls Jesus “Lord” Will Enter the Kingdom of Heaven
As you read through the New Testament, you’ll soon come across this chilling statement by Jesus in Matthew:
“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. (Matthew 7:21)
It’s a simple but saddening fact: not everyone who calls Jesus “Lord” will enter the kingdom of heaven. Here Jesus is referring to people who currently call Him “Lord, Lord.” When Jesus spoke these words, people could see Him and directly address Him as “Lord.” Today, though, we cannot see him – yet we address Him as such in prayer. There will be praying people denied entrance into the kingdom of heaven.
The kingdom of heaven is not for those who merely identify and address Jesus as Lord with their words, but who acknowledge Him as Lord with their lives. This contrast is made clearer when Jesus said, “Why do you call me ‘Lord, Lord,’ and not do what I tell you?” (See Luke 6:46.)
Not Everyone Who Does Supernatural Ministry Will Enter, Either
“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?’”(Matthew 7:22)
Jesus goes on to say that many who have seemingly done supernatural ministry in His name will not enter the kingdom of heaven. I write seemingly because we don’t know if they really have done these things or if they only claim to have done them. But Jesus doesn’t seem to care either way because prophesying, casting out demons and other mighty works are no basis for entering His kingdom. There will be many denied entrance who claim to have done such things.
How many will go to Jesus claiming much less and be turned away? “Lord, didn’t I go to church?” “Didn’t I teach Sunday school?” “Didn’t I have regular quiet times?” Unfortunately, no amount of religious activity will gain us entrance into the kingdom of heaven.
Going along with this point about religious activity and good works, you may be interested in reading Remember Your First Love.
Jesus Needs to Know Us
Usually, we hear that we need to know Jesus. But, as we move on to verse 23, we see something different. After people claim to have done “mighty works” in His name, Jesus says that He will “declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness'” (Matthew 7:23).
Imagine that someone shows up at your front door asking to come in. He knows your name, your likes and dislikes, the cute things your kids have done recently, where you went for vacation last year and more. But you don’t even recognize him. Would you let him in? Of course not! With Facebook, people can know a lot about us without any real relationship with us. In a similar way, our knowing things about Jesus forms no basis for entry into heaven. It hinges on His knowledge of us – on a relationship.
Note that Jesus does not point to our having done the will of the Father here, as He did earlier. Doing the Father’s will is a sign that we are His. However, it is not the basis on which we are judged worthy of entering the kingdom of heaven. It is whether or not Jesus knows us that matters in that moment.
There Will Be More Turned Away Than Invited
Taking a closer look, we find that those who do not enter the kingdom will be more than those invited in. This is suggested in verse 22: “[O]n that day many will say to me …” Moreover, we see it clearly stated a little earlier in verses 13 and 14:
“Enter by the narrow gate. For the gate is wide and the way is easy that leads to destruction, and those who enter by it are many. For the gate is narrow and the way is hard that leads to life, and those who find it are few.”
If everything we’ve observed so far is true, we should take notice. In fact, it should really terrify us.
We Will Find Out in Front of Jesus Christ
This is a small point, but I think it’s important. All this is easy to ignore right now because you’re only facing your electronic screen. But on that day, you’ll face Jesus Christ Himself, and there will be no ignoring it. We must address this now.
Those Turned Away Will Not Be Surprised
Jesus will “declare to them, ‘I never knew you …'” The word translated “declare” here is almost always translated “confess.” To con-fess is to “say with.” When you confess your sins you are saying with God that what you’ve done is sinful. He’s not surprised. He’s just glad that you’re now saying it with Him.
When Jesus confesses to a man that He doesn’t know him, he will find that he already knew it. I don’t think he’ll frantically plead his case, thinking Jesus made a mistake. He will know the truth of Jesus’ words, and their finality.
There Will Be No More Mercy
God is merciful and gracious – and as the Bible says, He doesn’t wish anyone to perish. But on that day, His mercy will be only a memory. Jesus will say, “Depart from me.” He won’t say, “I’ll give you one last chance to turn and honor me as Lord.” This means quite simply that now is the time.
Don’t Wait – Respond Right Now
If you call Jesus “Lord” but don’t do what He says, you need to examine your relationship with Him. If you suspect that Jesus does not know you as this passage describes, you need to address it with Him in prayer right now. Go to Him and ask Him to save you and be your Lord. Let a pastor or Christian friend know right away of your decision. If you don’t have someone you can go to, contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
In verse 21, Matt suspects that Jesus is talking about people who pray (addressing Jesus as Lord, Lord). Do you agree or disagree and why?
How can someone identify and address Jesus as Lord, yet not do the will of the Father? Or, as Jesus says in Luke 6:46, “Why do you call me ‘Lord, Lord,’ and do not so what I say?”
How can someone claim to prophesy and cast out demons in Jesus’ name, yet not enter the kingdom?
What is the difference between knowing Jesus, and Jesus knowing you?
Read Matthew 7:13-14. Do you think the Lord will turn more people away from the kingdom than invite in? Why or why not? What does this say about God?