Some of the most chilling passages in the Gospels refer to people who thought they were saved and then hear the shocking words of the One they assumed was their Lord, telling them he does not know them.

Not every one who says to Me, “Lord, Lord,” will enter the kingdom of heaven; but he who does the will of My Father who is in heaven. Many will say to Me on that day, “Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in Your name, and in Your name cast out demons, and in Your name perform many miracles?” And then I will declare to them, “I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness.” Matt 7 :21-23

They seemed to be doing good works, even ones that might be associated with very committed Christians, but Jesus accused them of practicing “anomia”. So what is it about them that would lead Jesus to make this declaration?

  • 1
    See also John 11:51. Prophecies, exorcisms, and miracles are basically the works of God, in which the prophet, exorcist, or miracle worker are mere vessels. Being a good person, however, is not a passive work of God, but also a quality of one's own self, as opposed to something purely external to it.
    – Lucian
    Aug 24, 2021 at 14:25
  • It's a sad indictment that this Q is to be closed because the answer, apparently, would be opinion based. It's a good Q except for the 'into heaven bit'. Of course, there ARE lot's of opinions! :)
    – Steve
    Aug 25, 2021 at 2:38
  • Those who invoke Jesus' own answer to this Q (in vs. 21) cannot be accused of giving an opinion-based answer! He told us the reason, and the passage in question states it clearly. Pointing that out to some who may have overlooked it is just as hermeneutical an answer as quoting screeds from the books of scholars!
    – Anne
    Aug 25, 2021 at 11:32
  • 1
    People may have been looking at the "examples" part of the question and voting to close because of it. I've edited that out, and think this question should remain open.
    – curiousdannii
    Aug 26, 2021 at 1:18
  • @Lucian, why have you not submitted an answer. It seems to me that a full response from you would be gold.
    – Austin
    Aug 27, 2021 at 3:32

11 Answers 11


Why does Jesus not allow [those] even doing works in his name into heaven?

Answer: Because they did not do what he asked!

Question:  So, What did He tell us to do?
John 3:5: "Truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water
[baptism] and [born of] the Spirit he cannot enter
into the kingdom of God

What is that?

1. Born of water.
2. Born of the Spirit.

So, how is being "born of water" not baptism?
The remaining question: What is being "born of the Spirit?"

This one is more subtle. People will vary on their responses to this question. However, let us consider this: Who wrote Scripture? The apostles/disciples? Well, sure. But, Who else? The Holy Spirit.

Now, how can we be born of the Holy Spirit? We can immerse ourselves in Scripture — the Word of God. While many believe there are other ways, this one is a slam dunk. If we immerse ourselves in the Bible, we are internalizing the Mind of God, delivered by the Holy Spirit. Whatever else we think, it is secondary to this fact.

We must also hear, believe, repent, confess, and be baptized. We must then live godly lives. Only if we do these things will we inherit eternal life.

It is truly amazing that so many will completely disregard this response. They will call it "legalistic" or use any number of other denigrating terms to convince themselves, and others, that this is unnecessary. And, they all sound perfectly convincing when they tell you this.

Following Christ's directions, that is, obeying Him is actually very simple, and it gets much easier over time. First, let us understand that belief in Christ is "a work":

John 6:28-29: "Therefore they said to Him, 'What shall we do, so that we may work the works of God?' Jesus answered and said to them, 'This is the work of God, that you believe in Him whom He has sent.'”

All of the conditions of salvation are "works." Christ's Law is comprised of the essential works of:

1. Hearing the Word (Rom. 10:17;
2. Believing in Christ as Savior (Jn. 6:29);
3. Repenting of sins (Acts 26:20);
4. Confessing that Christ is Lord (Matt. 10:32);
5. Being baptized — immersed — in pure water, and,
6. Living a sustained life of godliness.

Many people reading this will reject baptism. They will offer any number of excuses why baptism is irrelevant. Is it really so hard to convince those that they are in a very precarious situation and do not realize it?

You had better believe it is!

People will resort to almost anything to reject these simple truths. That is why Christ will tell them, "I never knew you — depart from me!" The simple fact is, they utterly refuse to do what He asked. Their almost unanimous responses are "baptism is a work!" "Works are unnecessary in the New Testament!", "baptism is merely an outer sign of an inner grace", etc., etc.

James explains the following: "Faith without works is dead" (Jas. 2:26). Number (6) above includes worship consisting of prayer, communion, songs, and biblically-founded preaching. It also includes studying the Word of God (as above, immersing oneself in the Holy Spirit).

Omitting vital obedience to Christ is why "those who seem to be doing good works, even ones that might be associated with very committed Christian [behavior]" are actually lost. God expects obedience before all burnt offerings and sacrifices (metaphorically)! This has always been true: God does not change.

The rest we finally enter, our Promised Land in Christ, is an eternal rest with God, the New Testament Sabbath. Such obedience to God will result in:

Salvation, Forgiveness, Justification, and Newness of life in Christ.

  • 1
    'This is the work of God that ye believe ... ' Does not this mean that God does it. It is His work ? And that we are to cease from our own works ?
    – Nigel J
    Aug 24, 2021 at 6:20
  • @NigelJ Well, I quoted John 6:28-29. Belief, according to Christ, is a work. All the steps to salvation are works that we do: Hear, Believe, Repent, Confess, Live godly lives. BUT, the work of baptism is a work of God. It is this that washes away our sins - it is metaphorically our death, burial, and resurrection along with Christ. I realize many will disagree with this. I've already experienced plenty of that before. I answered this the way I did because I think this OP is vitally important to us.
    – Xeno
    Aug 24, 2021 at 6:25
  • 1
    So your faith is something that you do, that comes from yourself - out of your own human nature ? And therefore God is obliged to save you, because of your good work, that others did not do ?
    – Nigel J
    Aug 24, 2021 at 6:29
  • 2
    The only action this man had was to express his faith; no water baptism. -- One of the criminals who were hanged railed at him, saying, “Are you not the Christ? Save yourself and us!” 40 But the other rebuked him, saying, “Do you not fear God, since you are under the same sentence of condemnation? 41 And we indeed justly, for we are receiving the due reward of our deeds; but this man has done nothing wrong.” 42 And he said, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.” 43 And he said to him, “Truly, I say to you, today you will be with me in paradise.” (Luke 23:39–43, ESV)
    – Perry Webb
    Aug 24, 2021 at 12:39
  • 1
    @PerryWebb Thanks for that Perry. As to the thief, you'll recall the new covenant had yet to take effect: the man on the cross was held to O/T standards. We know that he died before the Gospel took precedence because Christ had not yet died and been resurrected. We also know that he believed in Jesus, repented of sins, and confessed Christ before men, so he had both faith and works. Lastly, the thief could receive a special dispensation because Christ had the power to forgive sins. Naturally, this did not typify our expectations, but rather it again served to demonstrate Christ’s authority.
    – Xeno
    Aug 24, 2021 at 17:51

Why does Jesus not allow some people who consider themselves good Christians (recognizing him as Lord and even doing works in his name) into heaven?

Jesus warns of the danger of being misled by false prophets, they come in sheep's clothing but inside they are ravenous wolves. False prophets can be recognized by their deeds and teachings. Jesus said:

Matthew 7:15-23 NET

15 “Watch out for false prophets,[a] who come to you in sheep’s clothing but inwardly are voracious wolves. 16 You will recognize them by their fruit. Grapes are not gathered[c] from thorns or figs from thistles, are they?[d] 17 In the same way, every good tree bears good fruit, but the bad[e] tree bears bad fruit. 18 A good tree is not able to bear bad fruit, nor a bad tree to bear good fruit. 19 Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. 20 So then, you will recognize them by their fruit.

Judgment of Pretenders

21 “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’[f] will enter into the kingdom of heaven—only the one who does the will of my Father in heaven.

In the parable of the sheep and the goats Vs, 22 people ask:

22 On that day, many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, didn’t we prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many powerful deeds in your name?’

But his reply is

Vs 23 Then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you. Go away from me, you lawbreakers

Jesus called them workers of lawlessness, so not being true disciples of Jesus Christ, such workers would be children of the Devil.[John 8:44, 1 John 3:10 ]

John 8:44 NASB

44 You are of your father the devil, and you want to do the desires of your father. He was a murderer from the beginning and does not stand in the truth because there is no truth in him. Whenever he tells [a]a lie, he speaks from his own nature, because he is a liar and the father of lies.

1 John 3:10 NET

10 By this the children of God and the children of the devil are obvious: [a]anyone who does not practice righteousness is not of God, nor the one who does not love his brother and sister.


Jesus called those people expelling demons as workers of lawlessness, because their deeds and teachings showed that they are agents of the Devil. By using exorcists to expel demons in Jesus' name, Satan by this seemingly good work would be transforming himself into "an angel of light" ,” thereby advancing his power and influence over the deceived.

2 Corinthians 11:14 NET

14 And no wonder, for even Satan disguises himself as an angel of light.

  • (+1) Good, succinct answer that draws well from Matthew 7. Thanks!
    – Steve can help
    Aug 26, 2021 at 5:54

Jesus tells us the reason at the outset. Verse 21, which you quoted in full, states that those condemned did not do the will of the Father. That is why Jesus will not acknowledge them as belonging to him by faith on that Day of Judgment. Oh, they loved to name the name of Jesus, especially when uttering prophecies and doing miraculous works! Yet Jesus states in verse 23 that their works were works of iniquity.

Remember what Jesus had warned of, only a few verses earlier? In verse 15 he said, "Beware of false prophets" that look like 'sheep', but they are actually ravenous wolves hiding behind their apparently good, Christian works. Those ones he exposes on the Day of Judgment uttered false prophecies in the name of Jesus. They were false prophets. But look at how many 'sheep' are in awe of every claimed prophecy spouted in churches and at prayer meetings or written down in books! The gullibility of many is staggering, but that's because those ones go by sight and love to see spectacular events and listen to self-professed 'prophets'. Jesus warned to examine the 'fruits' those supposed Christians prophets utter.

What is the 'fruit' of a true, godly prophet? True prophecies. What is the 'fruit' of a false, ungodly prophet? False prophecies.

That deals with those protesting that they prophesied in Jesus' name but inside the apparently good fruit they offered were cancerous worms.

What about those casting out demons and doing other suchlike wonderful works? This is where those who make a great show of exorcisms need to be compared with those who quietly, prayerfully, (and often with fasting) persist in rescuing a person from demonic grips. Only this afternoon I had two visitors, one being a retired pastor who spoke of such an event years ago when he was in London. There was no public display with him and others in the church who spent many weeks helping a woman who would suddenly have the demonic switch 'thrown'. Compare that with television and video performances put on in front of large crowds. There is no comparison. Look also at claimed miracles where thousands then flock to sites hoping for a repeat performance, or for some sort of rubbed-off blessing if they can only touch an object supposed to be connected to a previous miracle. That's just superstition. And don't the demons know how to invoke auras and visual tricks!

The safeguard for Christians is to be always seeking to do the will of God, day by day, not seeking sensationalism. They follow Jesus, quietly and faithfully, not rush from venue to venue to hear and see the latest miracle-worker doing the charismatic rounds.

What Jesus warned of should stop us in our tracks, to make sure we are daily in the will of God with our living, our worship, and our reaching out to others. Oh, those false prophets and workers of iniquity loudly protest that they are truly doing God's will. Let them. They will be in for a hideous shock on the Day of Judgment, and all because they preferred to do what they thought they should be doing as 'good works' that would merit them salvation, than seek God's will for their lives.

You also asked about the five foolish virgins and their lamps that went out. That has already been covered in Stack with such links as In Matthew 25:8-9 what does the oil in the ten virgins parable represent?

You will see that there are many different ideas about this and the subject deserves a separate question, but many such questions have already been posted on Stack. You can do a search by going to Tags, keying in 'parables' and seeing what comes up.

  • Thanks @Anne. Yes, in reference to the virgins, I was asking specifically about the relationship between the two warnings. Aug 25, 2021 at 2:05

To understand this question it is necessary to grasp the significance of "knowing" in the Bible.

As we recall, when Adam "knew"** his wife, they had a son. That "knowing" involved a deep relationship. They were close.

God uses the marriage relationship to illustrate His love for His people. God's people, dwelling in the New Jerusalem, are likened to His "bride" (Revelation 21:2). A bridegroom and a bride are close. They "know" each other.

But what happens if their love grows cold? What does the relationship look like when they no longer spend time together, when they no longer "know" each other?

By this analogy, God illustrates His own deep longing to become intimately connected with us. We might say we are His, that we belong to Him, but unless we have a living relationship with Him, it is not really so--it is just lip service.

Saying "I love you" without acting the part, is not genuine love. Jesus said, "if you love me, keep my commandments" (John 14:15); and James tells us that "faith without works is dead" (James 2:17). Paul said in 1 Corinthians 13 that even martyrdom, without love, profits nothing. So on one side we have the error of insincerity, while on the other side we have the error of hypocrisy.

Essentially, both of these errors stem from a false concept of who God is which leads the person to become self-confident, depending on his or her own actions for salvation. Those who truly, intimately, know God will never presume to place their confidence on their own abilities or actions. Those who know God will lose all sight of self, and be so enraptured by His love and merciful kindness that they shine with a reflection of His glory.

It will not be those who have truly known God who will be bringing their works to His attention; they would credit all of their usefulness to Him who gave it to them. (See Revelation 4:10-11.)

** The Hebrew word used here for "know" is the word יָדַ֖ע (yada), and literally means "to know." It can also mean "to be acquainted with", "to be knowledgeable", "to be wise", "to admit", "to confess", or "to know by experience." It is not a word having any direct sexual meaning, though many feel it is a euphemism for such.

  • But aren't insincerity and hypocrisy really the same thing? These people seem to have been demonstrating faith and works, but it wasn't enough. Right, he doesn't know them, but could it go beyond putting confidence in their good works? Aug 24, 2021 at 5:49
  • @MartinHemsley Yes, insincerity and hypocrisy are ultimately both forms of selfishness, and in the end, all sin is. But insincerity is demonstrated in a different way than hypocrisy; whereas the former may have a form of godliness, but denying the power thereof, the latter denies the applicability of the law, claiming it is not necessary to follow it in every particular (Nicolaitan doctrine). In the end, both are ways that may seem right, but whose end are the ways of death.
    – Polyhat
    Aug 24, 2021 at 6:09

First, this is talking about the Kingdom of Heaven - which is not heaven. The Kingdom of Heaven is on earth (I.e. location is ‘on earth’).

And, we know the constituents of this Kingdom, because Jesus tells us elsewhere …

MAT 13:38 The field is the world, and the good seed stands for the people of the kingdom. The weeds are the people of the evil one,

This verse clearly shows that in this Kingdom, there are ‘good seed’, but that there are also ‘people’ around intermingling with the ‘good seed’ who are not ‘in’ this Kingdom. That is, those who Jesus turned away in your quoted texts (Mat 7:21-23) were not ‘sent to hell’. (Yet!!!)

The Kingdom of Heaven has benefits. These are outlined in the beatitudes (previous chapters, I.e. the ‘context’ of your passage!). Those turned away could not, would not be able to benefit from what the Kingdom provided merely because they [apparently] exercised authority via ‘His name’. Kingdom living was based on your right living (yes, ‘works!), not what they claimed to have done.

The people here were not ‘Christian’s’ - although this depends on your definition of what a ‘Christian’ is. My definition is one who is ‘born again’, and this requires Jesus to have died, which here he had not yet done.

You say “Jesus accused them of practicing “anomia””, and elsewhere in this discussion others have said this passage is a “chilling warning”. I appreciate this story has been ‘used’ to support many other interpretations, which may stir reaction - Nevertheless the context of this passage does not support this story being used in this way.

As to your point that these people ‘knew’ him, but he didn’t know them. The Kingdom of Heaven has a ‘king’. So obviously all in that Kingdom will ‘recognise’ the king (Lord). And it’s clear from other parables that not all in this Kingdom ‘follow its principles’. These people were obviously (attempting?) using the Kings authority without consent, because the King didn’t know them. So even that aspect has a ‘in’ contextual explanation.

  • Why would Jesus be talking about who will enter the kingdom of heaven if they were already there? I am defining "Christian:" in this context as a follower of Christ. Those who called him Lord would consider themselves his servants. To follow your example in Mt 13 41“The Son of Man will send forth His angels, and they will gather out of His kingdom all stumbling blocks, and those who commit lawlessness, 42and will throw them into the furnace of fire; in that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth. That is not a chilling warning? Aug 25, 2021 at 3:14
  • @Martin Hemsley - Several points. 1 - as I said, those ‘there/present’ does not mean they are also ‘in’ (participating) in Kingdom. Living in the ‘realm’ but excluded from membership. 2 - I also specifically said not in ‘hell’ yet. Your comment takes a verse about the end of the age. 3 - I suspected a definition of ‘Christian’ caused the misunderstanding. 4- ‘Chilling’? Yes, this passage is often used to wake up/‘scare’, induce ‘fear’ in the wrong people’. ‘Christian’s’ need *never fear a ‘chilling’ message. Finally, there are plenty of other responses that will no doubt appeal.
    – Dave
    Aug 25, 2021 at 3:30
  • It is not about what appeals but about what is truth. The passage is a warning to people who may think they will enter heaven because they feel they know Jesus and they are doing certain things for him. Don't assume that people who may need to be warned don't need to be warned. You don't know their hearts and you may not even know if they are doing the works Jesus wants them to do. How does it hurt to be constantly monitoring our faith and our deeds? Aug 25, 2021 at 3:43
  • @Martin Hemsley For many, what ‘appeals’ is what they consider truth. And, FTR, I never suggested any issue with “monitoring our faith and our deeds”. Nevertheless, let’s leave this debate. Your interpretation of this passage seems close to the traditionally held view, therefore has wide support. Cheers!
    – Dave
    Aug 25, 2021 at 4:20
  • Cool, Dave! I always like to see different views. But what appeals often is less likely to be truth. Eternal exclusion does not appeal to me. Aug 25, 2021 at 5:08

So what is lawlessness? Clearly it is something that can be practiced even while one is performing miracles and doing things that we believe are "good deeds", so it's worth understanding what is being said here.

For the rest of this comment, I will used "good deeds" and "bad deeds" as understood by common human morality. There are several myths about these good deeds:

  1. Myth 1. Bad people do bad deeds and good people do good deeds.

Matt 7.9-11

Or which one of you, if his son asks him for bread, will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a serpent? If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask him!

So evil people (in God's eyes) also have a sense of morality and abide by that morality. In fact, when the Bible really wants to condemn someone, it says that they "did what was right in their own eyes" (e.g. Judges 21.25. Proverbs 21.2). No one is condemned for doing what is wrong in their own eyes, because when you know you did wrong you rely on grace. It is when you did what you think was right that you are in danger.

  1. Myth 2. The purpose of the law is to get us to do good deeds.

Remember that the Law was given to Israel by a murderer who fled justice (Moses) and it was carried around in a sarcophagus (ark) that killed anyone who touched it except one person (the high priest) on one day of the year (Yom Kippur). The purpose of the law is:

  • to bring death (2 Cor 3.6)
  • to shut every mouth (Rom 3.19)
  • to cause sin to increase (Rom 5.20)
  • to testify of Christ (John 5.39)

Nevertheless we say the Law is perfect and the source of life, because the death of the firstborn (Adam) is required in order for the life of the second born (Christ) to be revealed in us. We must die so that Christ can live in us - no man born of woman was greater than John the Baptist. That includes Moses, Isaiah, etc. But even John the Baptist said, speaking of Christ: "He must increase, but I must decrease." (John 3.30).

  1. Myth 3. One should try to do good deeds.

Rom 7.21 ESV

So I find it to be a law that when I want to do right, evil lies close at hand.

  1. Myth 4 - those who commit too many bad deeds (with the number left up to the reader) are denied eternal life.

When the Angel of Death went through the land, it did not check to see whether someone was a good or bad person, it checked if the home had the blood of the passover lamb on its door. That is all that mattered. Ex 12.21-23. This was the first ordinance of the law that was taught to the people:

You shall observe this rite as a statute for you and for your sons forever. Ex 12.24 LEB

Thus being lawful, or obeying the law, is observing the ordinances about putting the blood of the lamb on your door and their elaborations. Being lawless is not observing the ordinance. It's not about doing miracles or other good deeds. All the other ordinances of the law are elaborations of this one ordinance, given to the israelites because of their sinfulness. All of the law is a prophecy of Christ. Even the commandments that we think are about good deeds or social justice or whatnot, say not stealing your neighbor's cow or not eating bats -- are really just parables of Christ, expressing different views of his nature, of his various ministries, of our relationship to him, etc.

  1. Myth 5 - those who do good deeds are righteous and those who do bad deeds are sinners.

John 16.7-11 (ESV)

Nevertheless, I tell you the truth: it is to your advantage that I go away, for if I do not go away, the Helper will not come to you. But if I go, I will send him to you. And when he comes, he will convict the world concerning sin and righteousness and judgment: concerning sin, because they do not believe in me; concerning righteousness, because I go to the Father, and you will see me no longer; concerning judgment, because the ruler of this world is judged.

Thus we have:

  • God's definition of sin = not believing in Christ
  • God's righteousness = Christ's ascension
  • God's judgement = the ruler of this world is judged

Now sin is lawlessness (1 John 3.4), but we know that sin is not believing in Christ, so not believing in Christ is lawlessness, and the workers of lawlessness are those that don't believe in Christ.

Why didn't they believe? Because they believed in their own works instead, and thus they became workers of iniquity (sin) even though they thought they were doing "good deeds".

  • Your myths might be someone else’s truth. Myth 1 Depends on how you identify a good and bad person. The good man brings good things out of the good treasure of his heart, and the evil man brings evil things out of the evil treasure of his heart. For out of the overflow of the heart, the mouth speaks. Luke 6:45 Myth 2 The purpose of the law was originally to show people what God expected of them (good deeds not bad ones), We are not held to all Mosaic law after Jesus, but there still is a godly standard of behavior we are expected to follow. Ro 2 23 (Doers of the law justified). Aug 26, 2021 at 9:13
  • Myth 3 One should try to do good deeds? You'd better believe it. See John 5:28-9 Myth 4 I’ve never heard anyone try to come up with number, but if your deeds are evil, the prognostic is not good for you. Ro 2:5-9 Myth 5 - Mt 25:45 Then the King will answer, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for Me.’46And they will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life.” Aug 26, 2021 at 9:18
  • Going to the Father was not a reference to the ascension but rather to Jesus’ death. It is through what he did for us on the cross and through his resurrection that we are saved. Without that, no amount of works will save us. But if we are not doing the good works of discipleship, we must not assume that we are saved. I think it is more likely that they were also doing lawless deeds of the flesh which were a manifestation of what was truly in their hearts. Aug 26, 2021 at 9:19
  • @MartinHemsley No, it was a reference to the ascension. If you are still unclear about this, you can ask it as a question and many people in the community will explain this.
    – Robert
    Aug 26, 2021 at 18:15
  • Thanks, but it is not a burning issue for me. I am comfortable with my opinion of seeing God's righteousness connected more with the death and resurrection aspect of Jesus going to the Father than the ascension, a visible sign for the disciples. Aug 26, 2021 at 18:39

The verses of Matt. 7:21-23 define lawlessness as not doing the will of the Father.Vs. 21 "he that doeth the will of my father" is the framework that results in the "lawlessness" of vs. 23. The only definition of "good" that matters is God's definition of good.

"But we are all as an unclean thing, and all our righteousnesses are as filthy rags; and we all do fade as a leaf; and our iniquities, like the wind, have taken us away." (Isa. 64:6, KJV)

There is only One that can make us good, only One that can make us righteous, and that is Yeshua, the Son of God (Jesus Christ).

"Jesus saith unto him, I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me." (John 14:6, KJV)

God's definition of good is Jesus' righteousness. As all of our "good" deeds, all of our righteousness are as filthy rags to Him, our good deeds will never make us good enough. Only Christ's righteousness can cleanse us so that we can stand before our Father in heaven.

So we have to replace our filthy rags with Christ's white linen.

"He that overcometh, the same shall be clothed in white raiment; and I will not blot out his name out of the book of life, but I will confess his name before my Father, and before his angels." (Rev. 3:5, KJV)

The angel of death passed over all those in the land of Egypt whose doors and lintels were covered by the blood of the lamb (Ex. 12:22-27). As Christ fulfilled / completed all of the animal sacrifices of the old law in Himself through His bodily sacrifice at the crucifixion, we no longer kill animals as sacrifices. To be covered now by His blood is the washing away of our filthy rags through immersion in water.

"He that believeth and is baptized {immersed} shall be saved; but he that believeth not shall be damned." (Mark 16:16. KJV)

That is the example that Christ Himself set for us, and which showed us that only after rising from the water did the Holy Spirit anoint Him. It is only after we rise up our of the water that we are also anointed for His service, set apart to live for Him, and then our names are written in the book of life, and only then are we covered by His blood sacrifice.

Only then do we have Christ's righteousness covering our sins. Only then can we claim to be His.

"Therefore we are buried with him by baptism into death: that like as Christ was raised up from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life." (Rom. 6:4, KJV)

If we do not do what He said to do, then we do not believe Him. Belief and faith are action words, and require completion, follow through. So, those people who were doing "good" deeds but without being in Christ, without being covered by His righteousness were not doing so in His name, thus they were working iniquity.

Because Christ said He never knew them means they had not been obedient to the command to be immersed into His death, burial, and resurrection; and therefore they were not covered by His blood sacrifice. As they were not covered by His righteousness, were not clothed in His righteousness, then they had not been anointed for service as a priest in His kingdom (1 Pet. 2:9; Rev. 1:6), therefore they had no authority to do anything in Jesus' name. As they had no authority and relationship with Christ, then they were working outside Jesus' name, outside of His kingdom, usurping Jesus' name, and were therefore lawless.

Same as a thief who misrepresents themselves to a banker to try to spend your money out of your account. The thief has no such authority. Those outside of Christ who were using His name did not have the authority to do so. Their "good works" were not authorized.

  • Hi Gina, thanks for your answer. The passage doesn’t really define lawlessness. The defendants claimed that they were doing good works in the name of Jesus, and that may well have been the case. We have examples in the NT of people who were not following Jesus who were casting out demons in his name. I do think you are right in assuming the hearts of the people referenced in Mt 7 were not right and that was most likely reflected in fleshly or lawless thoughts and behaviors. Aug 30, 2021 at 17:54
  • @MartinHemsley - it is not their heart that is in question. It is their disobedience. I will try to add 1 more para. to the answer to elaborate.
    – Gina
    Aug 30, 2021 at 21:09
  • 19“Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. 20“But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys, and where thieves do not break in or steal; 21for where your treasure is, there your heart will be also. 22“The eye is the lamp of the body; so then if your eye is clear, your whole body will be full of light... 24“No one can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and wealth. Aug 30, 2021 at 21:20
  • @Gina This is a very good answer. I particularly like your statement: "It is only after we rise up our of the water that... our names are written in the book of life, and only then are we covered by His blood sacrifice." What a travesty that so few accept the simplicity of these words (cf. 2 Cor. 11:3). To me, Romans 6:3-4 is unassailable. Of course, the reason they do not do so is spelled out for us in 2 Cor. 4:3-4. +1.
    – Xeno
    Aug 30, 2021 at 21:36
  • Heart and obedience go together. Think of the televangelists with less than pure motives who may be doing good things for God. People can cast out demons for the wrong motives, but the free person still benefits because God is ultimately the power behind the work. It is not because the vessel is so holy that God can use it, lest any man should boast. So just because someone casts out a demon doesn’t mean they have a clean heart, without which no man will see the Lord. Ps 24:3,4, Mt 5:8, Heb 12:14 Aug 30, 2021 at 21:39

Not every one who says to Me, “Lord, Lord,” will enter the kingdom of heaven; but he who does the will of My Father who is in heaven. Many will say to Me on that day, “Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in Your name, and in Your name cast out demons, and in Your name perform many miracles?” And then I will declare to them, “I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness.” Matt 7 :21-23

Jesus gives a chilling warning against people who mouth the name of Lord but not looking to the will of the Father. If they are not doing the will of the Father, then they are practicing lawlessness.

Mark 10:

18 “Why do you call me good?” Jesus answered. “No one is good—except God alone.

Jesus is good because he is doing the will of the Father. Those people, in the eyes of humans, successfully prophesy, cast out demons, and perform many miracles in Jesus' name. If they do them not according to the will of the Father, then these are lawless activities. They are no good.

Why does Jesus not allow some people who consider themselves good Christians (recognizing him as Lord and even doing works in his name) into heaven?

Because they mouth their activities in the name of the Lord but in fact, they have not sought the will of the Father.

Is it a lawless activity and not the will of the Father to deliver someone from demonic oppression, something Jesus did himself?

If it was done by the will of the Father, then okay. E.g., Acts 16:

16 One day as we were going to the place of prayer, we were met by a slave girl with a spirit of divination,c who earned a large income for her masters by fortune-telling. 17This girl followed Paul and the rest of us, shouting, “These men are servants of the Most High God, who are proclaiming to you the way of salvation!”

18She continued this for many days. Eventually Paul grew so aggravated that he turned and said to the spirit, “In the name of Jesus Christ I command you to come out of her!” And the spirit left her at that very moment.

If it was not done by the will of the Father, then it was a lawless activity. E.g., Acts 19:

13 Some Jews who went around driving out evil spirits tried to invoke the name of the Lord Jesus over those who were demon-possessed. They would say, “In the name of the Jesus whom Paul preaches, I command you to come out.” 14Seven sons of Sceva, a Jewish chief priest, were doing this. 15One day the evil spirit answered them, “Jesus I know, and Paul I know about, but who are you?” 16Then the man who had the evil spirit jumped on them and overpowered them all. He gave them such a beating that they ran out of the house naked and bleeding.

  • Is it a lawless activity and not the will of the Father to deliver someone from demonic oppression, something Jesus did himself? Aug 25, 2021 at 18:23
  • I added more :)
    – user35953
    Aug 25, 2021 at 18:50

Why does Jesus not allow some people who consider themselves good Christians (recognizing him as Lord and even doing works in his name) into heaven?

This point is brought out in the chapter "Your Religion Really Matters" in the book You Can Live Forever in Paradise on Earth p.30-31:

13. What did Jesus say we must do to be approved by God?

13 It is not enough for us to say we believe in Christ and then do what we think is right. It is absolutely necessary that we find out what God’s will is on the matter. Jesus showed this in his Sermon on the Mount when he said: “Not everyone saying to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter into the kingdom of the heavens, but the one doing the will of my Father who is in the heavens will.”Matthew 7:21.

14. Why might Jesus regard us as “workers of lawlessness” even though we were doing “good deeds”?

14 We could even be doing what we believe to be “good deeds,” and be doing these in the name of Christ. Yet all of these would be of no value if we failed to do God’s will. We would be in the position of the ones Christ next mentions: “Many will say to me in that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and expel demons in your name, and perform many powerful works in your name?’ And yet then I will confess to them: I never knew you! Get away from me, you workers of lawlessness.” (Matthew 7:22, 23) Yes, we can be doing things that we think are good—and for which other humans may thank us and even praise us—but if we fail to do what God says is right we will be regarded by Jesus Christ as “workers of lawlessness.” [italics theirs]

So it's not just about following through with what is asked of us but having the right attitude, motivation, and humility to do what Jehovah God wants from us.


Jesus is not speaking to the current day Christian church which is His body. He is speaking to the Circumcision. They must "endure to the end to be saved." We are saved by faith alone. James is written to the Circumcision also and he says "faith without works is dead " The apostle to the Gentiles says "by faith alone. Hope this helps.

  • Which of Jesus' teachings are for the Christian Church and which are for the Circumcision? What is the problem with teaching Christians to endure to the end? The apostle to the Gentiles says clearly, “And let us not be weary in well doing: for in due season we shall reap, if we faint not (Gal 6:9). By faith Abraham, when called… obeyed and went…. (Hebrews 11:8). If Abraham had not put his faith into action (works), his faith alone would not have justified him. Just because James addressed his book to the 12 tribes does not mean that it doesn’t apply to all Christians. Aug 30, 2021 at 5:50
  • Faith alone does not save Gentiles or Jews. Works alone don't save Jews or Gentiles. Both must be present in every believer's daily walk with God. In Christ there is no Jew or Greek. We are all constantly battling against sin and temptation. Paul explains why he wrote the book of Romans at the end, “so that all the Gentiles might come to the obedience that comes from faith” (16:25b). Aug 30, 2021 at 6:06
  • "Which of Jesus' teachings are for the Christian Church and which are for the Circumcision?" The 13 Pauline epistles are to the Christian Church, all the other epistles are to the Circumcision which has been held in abeyance until the fulness of the Gentiles comes in. Gentiles were never under any law (Romans 2). Reaping is not "salvation." That is talking about giving, not saving. Mar 24, 2022 at 14:00

The problem is not that these people were doing miracles without specific authorization by God. The problem is that they were also doing things that God asks people not to do, "lawlessness". You can do good works, even miraculous ones, but also be doing bad works which demonstrate that your heart is not right or pure.

Mark 7:21-22 “For from within, out of the heart of man, come evil thoughts, sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, coveting, wickedness, deceit, sensuality, envy, slander, pride, foolishness."

Paul later reiterated that those who practice such things will not be saved.

19The acts of the flesh are obvious: sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery; 20idolatry and witchcraft; hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions 21and envy; drunkenness, orgies, and the like. I warn you, as I did before, that those who live like this will not inherit the kingdom of God.

It may be the case that some people involved in these flashy ministries of miracles have baser motives than bringing glory to God and reaching the lost. They may be in it for money, power, or personal glory. They will be shocked to hear Jesus' words on the Day of Judgment unless they repent and change.

Most Christians understand that we can not be saved by works alone. Fewer understand that we can't be saved by faith alone. What Jesus wants us to understand in this passage is that we can believe in him and even be doing good works and still not be saved if we persist in sin, walking in the deeds of the flesh without repentance, instead of walking in the Spirit and continually seeking holiness.

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