Early in His ministry, Jesus made this bold declaration: “Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father in heaven” (Matt. 7:21). Think about each element of this verse and the two verses that follow.
There is nothing more important or essential for us than to “enter the kingdom of heaven.” Jesus first tells us who will NOT enter the kingdom of heaven. It is not enough to say to Jesus, “Lord, Lord.” What did He mean by that? Look at the next verse (v. 22), as Jesus looks ahead to the day of judgment: “Many will say to Me in that day, ‘Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in Your name, cast out demons in Your name, and done many wonders in Your name?’” Here are persons who, like Jesus discussed in verse 21, call to Him as Lord, AND they itemize for Jesus some things that they have done for Him in His name.
Think for a moment, how impressive the actions are that are mentioned in verse 22: prophesied, cast out demons, done many wonders. They are very impressive things to be able to do for the Lord in His name. And, notice how sincerely these people thought that what they were doing was right, acceptable, and even commendable by the Lord.
Was there something wrong with what they were doing? It all sounds good and looks good. Jesus’ stern rebuke and condemnation in verse 23 is compelling. To these individuals who just claimed to have done all of these great things for the Lord in His name, Jesus pronounces: “And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness!’” To a group of sincere believers and followers, who just declared their allegiance to Him and doing deeds in His name, Jesus announced: (1) “I never knew you”; (2) “Depart from Me”; (3) “You practice lawlessness!” Their activities for Him were lawless.
Jesus had warned in verse 21 that, “Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,” shall enter the kingdom of heaven.” Then, He gave a clear illustration that He is dead-serious about this warning; He will not hesitate to condemn for all eternity even those who sincerely claim to follow Him.
Let’s go back up to verse 21. Jesus also makes it very clear who SHALL enter the kingdom of heaven—it is “he who does the will of My Father in heaven.” That is a VERY limited number of people (see verses 13-14). Jesus said that there are only a FEW who would do the will of the Father and enter the narrow gate of heaven. In Matthew 7, Jesus both limits and specifies the ones who will go to heaven. Are you in that number? Are you doing the will of the Father in heaven?