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Matthew records Jesus saying:

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. 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?’ And then will I declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.’—Matthew 7:21-23 (ESV)

Meanwhile, Peter (in Acts 2:21) and Paul (in Romans 10:13) quote Joel:

And it shall come to pass that everyone who calls on the name of the LORD shall be saved. For in Mount Zion and in Jerusalem there shall be those who escape, as the LORD has said, and among the survivors shall be those whom the LORD calls.—Joel 2:32 (ESV)

Did Jesus mean something different than Joel (and Peter and Paul), did he disagree with the prophet, or did he not know (or remember) the prophecy?

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3 Answers 3

Your question seems to be rhetorical. Most likely, of course, Jesus knew the prophecy of Joel. Did he quote it? Very likely, even if we can not pin it down. Not all is written down. The book Revelation quotes it often. (It is said to be inspired by him. Apk 1, 1)

There is a difference between the two situations in which persons would call on the Name of the Lord:

With Joel in a situation of distress and great danger. (Darkness and blood. Joel 3, 4)

With Jesus in situations of opportunities to impress other people. (Prophesying, casting out demons, doing mighty works.)

Hypocrisy only makes sense in the situations Jesus was talking about, not so much in the tribulation of Joels prophesy.

So Jesus - even if using similar words - meant something entirely different from what the prophecy of Joel was talking about.

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I like what you're saying here, Hannes. Joel referred to those who mean it when they cry out "Lord, Lord." Jesus meant that those who give Him lip service wouldn't be saved. And I really like how you have brought the context of danger vs. impressing others. Good work! –  Frank Luke Apr 25 '13 at 14:24

The OP is right - it appears Matthew 7:22 implies:

Those who have invoked the power of God for prophecy, exorcism and miracles may still be condemned on the day of Judgement.

And from that one can conclude...

Therefore, NO assurance of salvation can be given, even when invoking the powerful name of Jesus Christ.

And even more scandalous in this verse is the use of the Greek word... “polloi” (“multitude”, “great in number”, “numerous”, “many”).

If Jesus is speaking of false-Christians or pretend-Christians, the use of “polloi” insinuates that the church contains a “multitude”, “great in number”, “numerous” amount of imposters.

However, drawing such implications puts Matthew 7:22 at odds with Joel 2:32 and contradicts most of the Gospel narrative. Therefore there must be more depth in the meaning of this verse.

Seeing as how the Gospel of Matthew is primarily a message to the Jews. And the sermon on the mount is during the start of Jesus’s ministry, a time that was exclusively focused on ministry to the Jews. And since Jesus’s sermon on the mount is delivered to a Jewish audience and primarily deals with refuting and correcting the false teachings of the Jewish religious leadership.

It is reasonable to contextually assert that this verse, with other verses in this discourse, are addressing directly the “Old Covenant People.”

Interpreting the “polloi” multitude to be a “multitude of those who rely on diligent law-keeping for salvation (ie Pharisees)” the next verse makes this declaration:

And then will I declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.’ - Matthew 7:23 (ESV)

In the Greek, the word translated “lawlessness” is the cognate “anomia” made up of...

  • 1 “a” which means "no" and
  • 3551 “nómos” which means "law"

Literally it means "no-law"

So in this context (Jesus addressing the Jewish establishment) this passage declares:

...depart from me, you workers of
[imperfect law-keeping, that is in effect]

A teaching similar to Mt 7:22 is given by Jesus in Luke 13...

“Once the head of the house gets up and shuts the door, then you will stand outside and start to knock on the door and beg him, ‘Lord, let us in!’ But he will answer you, ‘I don’t know where you come from.’ Then you will begin to say, ‘We ate and drank in your presence, and you taught in our streets.’ But he will reply, ‘I don’t know where you come from! Go away from me, all you evildoers!’ There will be weeping and gnashing of teeth when you see Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, and all the prophets in the kingdom of God but you yourselves thrown out. - Luke 13:24-28 (NET)

If this is the same teaching, we know for certain it is specifically directed at the “Old Covenant People” because in the very next verse Jesus shifts the subject to speak of the “New Covenant People”...

Then people will come from east and west, and from north and south, and take their places at the banquet table in the kingdom of God. - Luke 13:29 (NET)

Paul re-affirms what Jesus says about the failure of those seeking justification through the law…

For there is no partiality with God. ...and all who have sinned under the law will be judged by the law. ...on the day when God will judge the secrets of human hearts, according to my gospel through Christ Jesus. - Romans 2:11 - 16 (selected)

And Paul further says this...

...You who preach against stealing, do you steal? You who tell others not to commit adultery, do you commit adultery? You who abhor idols, do you rob temples? You who boast in the law dishonor God by transgressing the law! For just as it is written, “the name of God is being blasphemed among the Gentiles because of you.” Romans 2:21-23 (NET)

Clearly Jesus is directing His admonition squarely at the religious who try to earn salvation through law-keeping, as the Mt 7:22-23 warning would have no application to a people who live by faith under a Covenant of grace and mercy.

Joel too prophesies of this future Covenant of grace when he speaks of a “future time,” saying...

“And it shall come to pass....” Joel 2:32

Before his prophecy continues with...

“...everyone who calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved” Joel 2:32

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In the Old Testament, in Joel 2:32, the actual scripture says, "And whosoever shall call upon the name of Yahweh shall be delivered." Later, translators decided to change it to LORD. So, according to Matthew, Christ said, "Lord." According to Joel, he actually said, "Yahweh." So the two men are saying something different.

Yahweh was removed from scripture more than 6,500 times in the Old Testament. We don't know how many times in the New Testament. But, if you look at the King James version of the Bible, everywhere that you see either LORD or GOD in all caps signifies where Yahweh used to be in the Old Testament. This is a fact that the Dead Sea Scrolls confirmed, and any Hebrew scholar will tell you the same.

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Some of the information contained in this post requires additional references. Please edit to add citations to reliable sources that support the assertions made here. Unsourced material may be disputed or deleted.

Welcome to Biblical Hermeneutics Stack Exchange! Be sure to take our site tour to learn more about us. We're a little different from other sites. This doesn't show its work, which is a requirement on this site. Don't just tell us what you know, tell us how you know it. –  Dan Mar 16 '14 at 0:28
Welcome! Thank you for sharing your insights. I see Dan has directed you to our site tour. Perhaps this brief summary will help as well. In answering questions: 1) Keep the text the focus and keep the question in mind. 2) Show your work step by step, logically connecting the dots. 3) Support all assertions with credible sources by providing quotations/citations/links. 4)Stop short of application. These should get you off to a fairly good start. –  user2027 Mar 17 '14 at 14:18
The change from YHWH to Lord goes back to a Hebrew tradition of avoiding saying the name of God lest they do it lightly. It wasn't removed from Scripture. Picking up any copy of the Hebrew Bible will show you that it is there in the text. However, it was glossed with LORD in deference to the long-running Jewish tradition. –  Frank Luke Apr 25 '14 at 17:39

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