To whom did Jesus never know? Who will he say this to?
Matthew 7:21 - 23
ESV - 21 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. 22 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?
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During His earthly ministry, Jesus witnessed to Jews about Himself as the promised Messiah, and about the promised Kingdom of God on earth. In each case He was witnessing to Jews, in fulfillment of the Prophecy in the Hebrew Bible that He would arrive, and in fulfillment of the prophecy in Isaiah 53, His crucifixion. The mission of Jesus was to get National Israel to return to Him ---- they had ignored Him for centuries (see the Abrahamic Covenant, Genesis 12 through 15). Those Jews who accepted Jesus as the promised Messiah were guaranteed residence in the Kingdom of God on earth, with Jesus ruling over the 12 Tribes of Israel. Those who rejected Jesus were scheduled for the Great White Throne Judgment (Look it up! Research it!) At the Great White Throne Judgment, those who rejected Him will hear Him say, 22 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?' 23 And then I will say to them, 'Depart from Me, you who work iniquity -- I never knew you.' The Kingdom of Heaven in this context is an earthly Kingdom promised to the Jews. Read it as the Kingdom FROM Heaven.
In my opinion, the people to whom Jesus is referring in this passage will have professed to be His followers and disciples during their earthly lives, and may have even preached, prophesied, and performed the types of works described in His name, but were counting on those works (rather than total faith in Jesus' atoning sacrifice and subsequent resurrection) for their salvation. Their hearts never truly belonged to Christ. Their boasting of their actions indicates that they are not the ones whom Paul was describing in Ephesians 2:8-9 who know that they have been saved solely and totally by God's grace (undeserved mercy) through faith. (Yes, redeemed Christians should perform good works as visible evidence of their faith (James 2:17), but those works are the result or effect of their salvation -- not the cause of it.) Even seemingly miraculous actions that the people to whom Jesus is referring may have performed will not be enough to save them. For example, Judas Iscariot, as one of the twelve apostles, undoubtedly performed the same preaching, healings, exorcisms, and similar actions that the other apostles did at Jesus' command (Matthew 10:1-8) during His earthly ministry. And yet, at the conclusion of that ministry, just prior to Judas' betrayal of Him, Jesus nevertheless described Judas as "the son of perdition" who had been eternally lost (John 17:12).
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