Many of the things Jesus said are challenging, but few offer a greater challenge than the words to be spoken to some “on that day” (Matthew 7:22), i.e., the day of judgement. He speaks of those who come before him, to whom he will say, “Depart from me; I never knew you” (verse 23). These will respond “… Lord, Lord, did we not prophecy in your name … and do many mighty works in your name?”
In referring to those who prophesy, we should not think of those who have some gift to foretell the future. The work of those called prophets in the Old Testament was to proclaim God’s word. Often these were words of warning as well as encouragement. Any who speak the message of Christ to others are quoting God’s words from the Bible, and are in this sense prophets. All who do this take a great responsibility on themselves. James makes the point, “Not many of you should become teachers, my brothers, for you know that we who teach will be judged with greater strictness” (3:1).
Those who Jesus tells to depart are described as “workers of lawlessness”. What is such a worker? In the last chapter of Revelation we read a list of those who are “outside” God’s “city”. This was because their names were not found in “the book of life” (20:12). Earlier in Revelation (3:5) we read of names being blotted out and others retained in God’s book of life. What causes them to be excluded? Those “outside” are not just those who are really bad in today’s estimation of wickedness but include “everyone who loves and practices falsehood” (22:15).
Those Jesus tells to “depart” thought they knew Jesus, but Jesus never knew them. What is it to know someone? In the Bible’s way of expressing it – it means to have a genuine relationship with them. We must make sure we have a really strong and committed relationship to Christ – so that he will welcome us into his kingdom.