“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. Many will say to Me in that day [the day of Christ’s bodily return to earth], ‘Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in Your name, cast out demons in Your name, and done many wonders in Your name?’ And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness” (Matthew 7:21-23, NKJV).
Those are chilling words which Jesus Christ will say to certain people at His return! If you truly believe in Jesus as your Lord, you will want to make sure you won’t hear Him, at that time, telling you, “I never knew you; depart from Me…”
It is amazing — and frightening! — that Jesus would say this to many (not a few!) who claim Jesus as their “Lord” or “Boss” and who in fact prophesy, cast out demons and do many wonders in His name. For all their profession of Christianity, these hordes of people will, sadly, be denied entry into God’s kingdom! [See: Is Jesus your Lord — Really?]
To those who believe in Jesus Christ and consider Him their Lord, therefore, it is an extremely serious matter to make sure that He indeed knows us — and will not tell us to go away from Him!
How can we make sure, from God’s Word, that Jesus knows us and we won’t hear those frightening words from Him when He returns to establish God’s kingdom here on earth? We need to be sure and certain how we stand with God! The apostle Paul cautions us: “Therefore let him who thinks he stands take heed lest he fall” (1 Corinthians 10:12).
Let us take serious heed of God’s Word on this vitally important matter!
But doesn’t Jesus already know everyone?
One might ask, doesn’t almost everybody believe that God is “omniscient” — all knowing? Would not Jesus, as God and Creator of all things know everything about everyone? [See: The True Christ.] After all, John declares that Jesus “…knew all men, and had no need that anyone should testify of man, for He knew what was in man” (John 2:24-25; see also Acts 1:24).
God knows what goes on inside every man’s brain. David said of God, “O LORD, You have searched me and known me. You know my sitting down and my rising up; You understand my thought afar off” (Psalm 139:1-2). Indeed Jesus could read what was in the minds and hearts of people. [You can see that in such scriptures as Matthew 9:4; 12:25; Luke 5:22; 6:8; 11:17.]
Jesus said that God even knows it when a hair falls from our head (Luke 10:30 says, “…the very hairs of your head are all numbered” [by God]). While He walked this earth, Jesus was God in the flesh (John 1:1, 14).
So, what is this special “knowing” of people, on the basis of which Jesus will judge whether they will be in His presence forever — or He will tell them to go away?
Here are some pointers or markers, from God’s own words, as to who Jesus “knows” in this special way — and how.
Seal of authenticity and quality
Governments, private corporations, schools and lawyers have their official “seal” attached to or embossed on documents to attest to their authenticity. Product watchdogs also attach their official seal on products they deem to be of such quality as to merit their approval and endorsement. These are products that have passed the highest and strictest standards of “quality control.”
Jesus also has His “seal” on the people that He claims to be His own — authentic Christians! The apostle Paul put it this way: “Nevertheless the solid foundation of God stands, having this seal: ‘The Lord knows who are His’…” (2 Timothy 2:19). Revelation 7:3 also shows that God will seal His true servants on their foreheads, symbolically where the seat of one’s consciousness and thoughts is.
Paul further tells us what true Christians are sealed with: “…you were sealed with the Holy Spirit of promise, [which] is the guarantee of our inheritance [everlasting life in God’s kingdom] (Ephesians 1:13-14). They have Christ’s seal of approval!
Paul gives this added way to identify the people who are truly Christ’s: ” Now if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he is not His” (Romans 8:9). Jesus knows those who are truly His — those who belong to Him — through His Spirit that He has given to them! And, in contrast to one with a “carnal mind,” those who have Christ’s Spirit are thus able to please God (Verse 8).
Christ’s Spirit is a spirit of power. Paul assured his associate Timothy: “…God has not given us [true Christians] a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind” (2 Timothy 1:7, KJV).
Jesus knows where His Spirit — His power — goes to. This is shown in the story of the woman who had had a hemorrhage for 12 years, for which she had blown all her money on physicians and remedies and was none the better but all the worse at the end (Luke 8:43-48). She was finally healed when she touched the hem of Jesus’ robe. Jesus said, “Somebody touched Me, for I perceived power going out from Me” (Verse 46). Looking around Him, Jesus knew where power from Him had gone to: that woman who touched His robe (Mark 5:32-34). That is why a person who has the Spirit of Christ is known by Him, and belongs to Him.
Using another analogy, Jesus tells us: “I am the good shepherd; and I know My sheep, and am known by My own” (John 10:14). His sheep hear His voice and follow only Him; His sheep will not follow a stranger but will flee from him instead (John 10:5). Also, in John 13:18, Jesus says: “I know whom I have chosen.” [See: Predestination.]
A person who has truly received God’s Spirit will live a life that shows the fruit of the Spirit, as listed in Galatians 5:22-23. God’s Spirit will assure that person that he is indeed a child of God, and heir to His glorious promise (Romans 8:14-17) which is to be fulfilled at Christ’s return. [See: Are We All God’s Children?]
How then receive Christ’s Spirit?
As John 13:18 (just quoted above) shows, Christ chooses — at least in this present dispensation — who will receive the gift of His Spirit, and who will not receive it.
Jesus told His disciples: “You did not choose Me, but I chose you and appointed you…” (John 15:16). Personally taught by the resurrected Christ (Galatians 1:11-12), Paul declares that it is God who chooses or appoints people who “will obtain salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ” (1 Thessalonians 5:9). Quoting Exodus 33:19, Paul also says, “For He says to Moses, ‘I will have mercy on whomever I will have mercy, and I will have compassion on whomever I will have compassion.’ So then it is not of him who wills, nor of him who runs, but of God who shows mercy…. He has mercy on whom He wills, and whom He wills He hardens” (Romans 9:15-16, 18).
That God should show mercy on anyone means that one has committed some wrong for which one rightly deserves some punishment. To humans, who have all sinned and come short of God’s moral perfection and glory (Romans 3:23), God says that our sins have separated us from God (Isaiah 59:2), and we in fact rightly deserve death (Romans 6:23). It is then God’s absolute will — not the will of any man — to show mercy to whomever God chooses. It is God’s absolute prerogative to forgive a sinner and thus remove the penalty for sin that he deserves. [See: The Divine Prerogatives.]
When we come to know God’s “timetable,” we will understand that God is not trying to save all of mankind at once but that, at this stage in His plan, God is calling out and choosing from this vast world of sinners only a “few” people (Matthew 20:16; 22:14) to become part of His “firstfruits” or — in the language of a family — His “firstborn” children. The Bible calls them “the elect.” For those whom God has not chosen to be in that initial “batch” of His children, He has provided a later time for their salvation. [See: Predestination, This Is Not the Only Day of Salvation and The Value of the Firstborn.]
God then opens the understanding of such a person He has chosen for salvation, to the true gospel of Jesus Christ, leads him to repentance, and then to baptism “for the remission [or forgiveness] of sins,” and finally to receiving the gift of God’s Holy Spirit (Acts 2:38; 11:18).
God’s Spirit — and Christ’s Spirit — in that converted person leads and empowers him to live a life that obeys the will of God the Father. As God promises in Ezekiel 36:27, God’s Spirit will enable that person to obey the laws of God. He will thus fulfill the two requisites mentioned by Christ for entry into God’s kingdom (Matthew 7:21 and 23): 1) doing the will of Jesus’ Father in heaven, and 2) not practicing “lawlessness” (here translated from the Greek anomian, meaning absence of law). [See: God’s Spirit and Obedience.]
What about those not known by Jesus now?
Those who are not “known” (in that special way) by Jesus now or in the past will be excluded from God’s kingdom when Christ returns. “The Son of Man will send out His angels, and they will gather out of His kingdom all things that offend, and those who practice lawlessness, and I will cast them into the furnace of fire. There will be wailing and gnashing of teeth” (Matthew 13:41-42; compare with Matthew 7:23).
They will be among those “many” of humanity (“all flesh”) whom the Lord Jesus will slay when He comes to judge them, and “to render His anger with fury, and His rebuke with flames of fire…and by His sword” (Isaiah 66:15-16).
Is God’s judgment on the vast majority of human beings whom Jesus has never “known” final and forever?
If we believe in a God of enduring mercy and abundant grace, we will see that God’s judgment on these human beings is not final. In a time He appoints, God will give these human beings a fair chance to also receive His Holy Spirit, cause them to understand the true gospel of Christ and hopefully believe it, repent of sin, and be baptized as all the true Christians before them had gone through. Every person will receive God’s mercy and Christ’s Spirit in God’s chosen time.
That hope for most people is clearly declared in Revelation 20:5 — “But the rest of the dead [those who will not be included in the “first resurrection,” which takes place at Christ’s soon return] did not live again [through a resurrection] until the thousand years [of Christ’s reign on earth with the “saints” who are resurrected or changed to immortality at Christ’s return, Verses 4 and 6] were finished.”
Survivors from God’s wrath
Contrary to the teaching of some, the Bible shows that there will be human survivors after the desolation when Jesus pours out the “seven last plagues” of God’s wrath (Revelation 17-19). About that Day of Judgment, Isaiah 24:6 says, “Therefore the curse has devoured the earth, and those who dwell in it are desolate. Therefore the inhabitants of the earth are burned, and a few men are left.”
Isaiah 6:13 indicates that the “few men… left” will be a tenth of Israel’s population — and probably a tenth as well of the rest of mankind — who will survive as mortals after the Day of God’s wrath. Like a stump of a live tree, the earth’s population will sprout again. These are the mortals who will become subjects of God’s kingdom on earth under Christ as King of kings with His glorified saints reigning with Him for an initial 1000 years (Revelation 5:8-10; 20:6). These mortals will have their chance to receive God’s Holy Spirit and to learn of God’s ways (Isaiah 2:2-4) during that time.
[To learn more about how that millennium of untold peace, prosperity and joy will come about, click on this link: http://www.herbert-armstrong.org, click ENTER HERE , select “Books & Booklets” and scroll down to the booklet titled “The Wonderful World Tomorrow — What it Will Be Like” or the book titled Tomorrow’s World — What it Will Be Like. You may also click on this link: http://www.ucg.org and search under “literature” for “The Wonderful World Beyond Today…Refreshing News: God’s Government Is Coming.” See also: World Peace — At Last!]
All to be known by Christ
2 Peter 3:9 assures us: “The Lord is not slack concerning His promise, as some count slackness, but is longsuffering toward us, not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance.” If to be known by Christ is key to entering God’s kingdom and not perishing forever, God will provide every single human being the opportunity to know God and to be known by Him. As Isaiah 11:9 prophesies, “the earth will be full of the knowledge of God as the waters cover the sea.”
God will, of course, not force salvation on anyone. When God the Father makes Christ available to everyone (John 6:44, 65), one has to desire to come to Him and to the “water of life” — His Spirit — that He offers freely (Revelation 22:17; John 7:39). Otherwise, the person who refuses what Christ offers, who does not come to Him and will not be subject to Him, will end up in the “lake of fire” and die the “second death” (Revelation 21:8; 22:14-15).
This age now is the time for those chosen by God to be a part of God’s “firstfruits” or “firstborn,” to be known by Jesus. Those who will be called to salvation during the millennial rule of Christ we may consider the batch of “secondfruits” or “secondborn.” Those who will be called to salvation after the millennium we may consider the batch of “thirdfruits” or “thirdborn” in God’s family. This should make clear what Jesus meant when He said, in Matthew 19:30, “But many who are first [to exist on this earth] will be last, and the last [the last generation of mankind in this age] first” — first to be in God’s kingdom, “when the Son of Man sits on the throne of His glory” (Verse 28). [See: Predestination, This Is Not the Only Day of Salvation, and The Value of the “Firstborn”.]
Make your election sure
Those whom God has “elected” or “appointed” to be “known” by Jesus and to enter God’s kingdom, the apostle Peter exhorts: “Therefore, brethren, be even more diligent to make your call and election sure, for if you do these things you will never stumble; for so an entrance will be supplied to you abundantly into the everlasting kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ” (2 Peter 1:10-11). In verses 5 through 9 Peter lists “these things” to do to ensure that election.
At His return, Jesus will reject those who profess to call Him their Lord yet do not obey Him — do not obey His laws. He will call them those “who practice lawlessness” [Greek, anomian — meaning, “without law”] (Matthew 7:23). And He will tell them to go away from Him. [See: The Law of Christ, Is Jesus Your Lord — Really? and The Value of the Firstborn.]
The apostle Paul instructs us: “Examine yourselves as to whether you are in the faith. Test yourselves. Do you not know yourselves … that Jesus Christ is in you? — unless indeed you are disqualified [KJV, “reprobate” — does not pass God’s “quality control”]” (2 Corinthians 13:5). If Christ is indeed in us through His Spirit, and we have the fruit of His Spirit to show for it (Galatians 5:22-23), we will be certain that we will not be “disqualified.” Jesus knows us and He will receive us into His kingdom. [See: God’s Spirit and Obedience, Saved for Good Works, and Being and Doing.]
Those whom Jesus knows are His true friends — and they know Him too! He said, “You are My friends if you do whatever I command you” and He makes known to them “all things that I heard from My Father” (John 15:14-15). They are those who love Him and show it by keeping His commandments and words (John 14:21, 23). In turn, Jesus and the Father respond by loving them also — and by making Their home with them (same verses). [See: The Law of Christ.]
The greatest thing
In recent years the praise song “Knowing You” has become popular. People love singing the chorus, which goes:
Knowing You, Jesus, knowing you —
It is the greatest thing!
You’re my all, You’re the best,
You’re my joy, my righteousness,
And I love you, Lord!
It is certainly a great thing to know Jesus. But an even greater thing is to be known by Him. As the apostle Paul put it: “But now after you have known God, or rather are known by God, how is it that you turn again to the weak and beggarly elements, to which you desire again to be in bondage?” [See: Freed From Bondage.]
To be known by Jesus — this is the greatest thing! It ensures that He will accept us into the kingdom of His Father, and He will not tell us to “depart from Me.”
May God help us to know Jesus, love Him truly, and may He truly know us — now and at His soon return!
Pedro R. Meléndez, Jr.