I never knew you.
This is one of the scariest sentences in the Bible.
But – it’s also a warning – and as such – is also very loving.
Is that possible?
Can the same sentence be both scary and loving?
I first wrote this one back on February 9, 2011.
It’s now almost six years later.
And time for an update.
The update is very much in line with, and part of, another article I just updated, titled –
If you haven’t read it yet, I invite you to do so, either now or after reading this one.
Originally, it was a teaching opportunity about this verse,
Now – I’m adding some application to it.
Application that comes from my own life.
A reminder to myself that I don’t want to hear these words from Jesus at the end of my life.
Where does this sentence come from anyway?
It’s in red letters like this – so it was said by Jesus. To be more specific, it’s from the Sermon on the Mount – towards the end – in Matthew 7:23. It’s part of a section the NIV calls A Tree and Its Fruit — from Matthew 7:15-23 —
A Tree and Its Fruit
Mt 7:15 “Watch out for false prophets. They come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ferocious wolves. 16 By their fruit you will recognize them. Do people pick grapes from thornbushes, or figs from thistles? 17 Likewise every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit. 18 A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, and a bad tree cannot bear good fruit. 19 Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. 20 Thus, by their fruit you will recognize them.
Mt 7:21 “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only he who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. 22 Many will say to me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and in your name drive out demons and perform many miracles?’ 23 Then I will tell them plainly, ‘I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!’
As Matthew relates what Jesus taught in the Sermon on the Mount – A Tree and Its Fruit is one of a series of warnings that Jesus has for us – His followers.
This particular warning has to do with false prophets – those who pretend to preach the Word of God and His Son Jesus – but actually do nothing of the kind.
Those who intentionally do this – go about giving false teachings to lead people astray on purpose – they will get what they deserve. In Matthew 18:1-9 – Jesus gives this warning for those who do such things —
The Greatest in the Kingdom of Heaven
Mt 18:1 At that time the disciples came to Jesus and asked, “Who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?”
Mt 18:2 He called a little child and had him stand among them. 3 And he said: “I tell you the truth, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. 4 Therefore, whoever humbles himself like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.
Mt 18:5 “And whoever welcomes a little child like this in my name welcomes me. 6 But if anyone causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin, it would be better for him to have a large millstone hung around his neck and to be drowned in the depths of the sea.
Mt 18:7 “Woe to the world because of the things that cause people to sin! Such things must come, but woe to the man through whom they come! 8 If your hand or your foot causes you to sin cut it off and throw it away. It is better for you to enter life maimed or crippled than to have two hands or two feet and be thrown into eternal fire. 9 And if your eye causes you to sin, gouge it out and throw it away. It is better for you to enter life with one eye than to have two eyes and be thrown into the fire of hell.
OK – guess we know where those folks are going to end up.
But that’s not who Jesus is talking to so much in A Tree and Its Fruit.
Here – He’s talking more to those who think they are following Him – but in fact are following someone else who has perverted Jesus’ teachings to the point where the followers of that “false prophet” / misleading teacher don’t know who Jesus really is – and so Jesus will tell them –
I never knew you.
Can you imagine anything worse?
What if you thought you were following someone’s teachings – expecting and believing that they were leading you to God, Jesus and salvation – only to find out, too late, that no such thing was happening.
Both of the quotes from Jesus above point to this exact thing happening. It’s part of what comes with having free will. We have the choice to follow Jesus – or not. Unfortunately – free will also means that others can choose to put themselves in a position of apparent authority – and then choose to lead people to Jesus – or away from Him.
So the scary part of what Jesus says in I never knew you. is what happens if we follow the false teachings until the day we die – and then it’s too late to change paths – too late to actually follow the ways that Jesus teaches.
The loving part in I never knew you. comes in the early verses in that section.
Jesus doesn’t give us warnings without also giving us a way to avoid the bad things that come if we don’t pay attention to the warnings.
The obvious part of what Jesus says – like we don’t get grapes from thornbushes – everyone can understand that.
The not so obvious part – how to tell whether the prophet / teacher is honestly and accurately portraying God’s word – not everyone understands that.
It’s not always easy – and it often takes doing some investigation to determine exactly what is the truth. And it always takes prayer.
For instance – last night I was looking in the iPad App Store to see if there ware any new free Bible related apps. There’s actually quite a few good ones, but I’m going to write about one that leads people away from Jesus – to show what we need to watch out for.
This particular one is called The Qur’an and The Bible. It sounded interesting to me. The description talked about the struggle between right and wrong – Adam versus Satan – and how to overcome perverted beliefs. This is exactly on point for this article.
There are some preview pages available to see before downloading the app, so I looked at them. The very first sentence in the Preface starts off with –
Infinite praise be to Allah who is the Lord of all universes and gratitude to Prophet Muhammed…
Many people will try to tell us that Islam is a great religion.
Many people will try to tell us that like Christians and Jews – Muslims consider Abraham to be their father. people, including Christian religious leaders – will try to tell us that we all believe in the same God.
Many people will tell us that Muslims believe in Jesus.
The problem is – not everything that many people will try to tell us is true.
For a quick summary of what Islam teaches about Jesus, see my previous article – The Muslim Jesus. <Sorry – it’s not moved over yet. Will include the link when it’s here.> You will see that – in spite of what so many people try to tell us – the Qur’an very clearly teaches that Jesus is Not the Son of God. Given that – Jesus can also not be our salvation. That destroys the very hope that we have in Christianity. And that’s going to lead to Jesus telling you I never knew you.
And it’s not just Islam that does this.
Even some religions that claim to be Christian teach things that are most unChristian.
Jesus is warning us in Matthew 7:15-23 – in A Tree and Its Fruit – to watch out for these things – to be involved in our walk with Him – not to follow blindly, but to know what we believe and to see where we are going. He’s asking us the question that this site is named for – Which “god” do you believe in?
And Jesus is telling us that if our “god” is not God – The Father, Son and Holy Spirit – Jesus will tell us – I never knew you.
Another thing we have to be very careful of is the difference between what we want Jesus to have said – and what He really said.
Many would like to believe that because Jesus loves everyone – that we’ll all go to Heaven.
Obviously, from these same verses – that’s just not true.
Jesus does love all of us. In fact – He loves us too much to have us stay where we are – too much for us to continue living a life of sin. Not that we’ll ever entirely escape it while we’re living in this earth – but to walk with Him on a path towards perfection.
Just to give a couple examples of this type of false belief – consider abortion as the first. It’s put before us these days as (1) a deciding between a woman’s right to choose and (2) murder of an unborn child.
It’s a very emotional issue – especially when put in those terms. But then – that is what it comes down to.
Some would like to believe that it’s possible to legislate – either way – the “correct” answer to the dilemma. While that can be done as far as what’s legal in man’s eyes here on earth – it’s just not possible for us to tell God what He should believe and how He should judge us.
How can we get around the 6th commandment – “You shall not murder”?
Do we really think that we decide to pick and choose which acts constitute murder?
If we go back to the original Hebrew word – as we should – it is “rasah”. The interpretation of that word – from the NIV Bible Commentary is –
While Hebrew possesses seven words for killing, the word used here (rasah; GK H8357) appears only forty-seven times in the OT. This is the one word that could signify “murder” where premeditation and intentionality are present. Thus this prohibition does not apply to beasts (Ge 9:3), to defending one’s home from night-time burglars (Ex 22:2), to accidental killings (Dt 19:5), to the execution of murderers by the state (Ge 9:6), or to involvement with one’s nation in certain types of war. It does apply, however, to self-murder (i.e., suicide), to all accessories to murder (2Sa 12:9), and to those who have authority but fail to use it to punish known murderers (1Ki 21:19).
God gives us free will. He gives us the choice to interpret this as we choose. He gives us the choice to have an abortion or not.
What He doesn’t give us a choice on – is how He will judge us. God alone is the interpreter of what His laws mean.
Having said all this – I’m not one who believes that the Bible says anywhere – that there is a sin we cannot be forgiven for, except one – from Jesus own words in Matthew 12:30-32 —
Mt 12:30 “He who is not with me is against me, and he who does not gather with me scatters. 31 And so I tell you, every sin and blasphemy will be forgiven men, but the blasphemy against the Spirit will not be forgiven. 32 Anyone who speaks a word against the Son of Man will be forgiven, but anyone who speaks against the Holy Spirit will not be forgiven, either in this age or in the age to come.
So – if you’ve already had an abortion – like with any other sin – forgiveness is there if you ask for it and truly believe.
But if you or a friend or a loved one are considering having an abortion – think very carefully. God does give us a choice – but they may come with a really high price. It’s one that it’s best not to forget.
Another example of wishful thinking that I want to bring up relates to all the stuff on LGBT and whatever else is included in the list these days.
Homosexual behavior has always been against God’s will. The entire chapter 18 of Leviticus is on unlawful sexual relations. It includes –
Lev 18:22 “ ‘Do not lie with a man as one lies with a woman; that is detestable.
and concludes with –
Lev 18:29 “ ‘Everyone who does any of these detestable things—such persons must be cut off from their people. 30 Keep my requirements and do not follow any of the detestable customs that were practiced before you came and do not defile yourselves with them. I am the LORD your God.’ ”
We can legislate all we want – we can make all of this legal here on earth. We can pass hate laws on the subject. By the way – as Christians – we should not – I repeat not discriminate or hate anyone involved in this type of lifestyle. We should pray for them. God gives us all a choice – but when we become followers of Jesus – we are to love everyone – as Jesus does. Period.
But – none of that is binding on God. He said it was wrong in the Old Testament – the same statements are made in the New Testament. There is nothing in the Bible that would point to this being acceptable.
If you are attending a church that says it is OK – and maybe they even have priests, ministers, pastors that live one of these lifestyles – I would recommend you be very careful. Beware Jesus’ warning about false prophets and those who would lead us astray.
Now – for the update.
Everything above is specific instances – influences from outside ourselves. In some ways, these are relatively “easy” to identify – if we want to – for exactly that reason. Every thought there comes from outside ourselves. Someone else is telling us that something is OK – and we’re more than willing to agree with them. Often, even if what we now agree with is something we would never have gone along with before.
But – what if the situation is entirely from within ourselves?
What if something happens in our own little “world” – with no influence from outside – really messes up everything we thought we believed in? What happens when we’re left only asking God – “Why”?
We keep asking. We keep getting silence. We reach a point where it’s just too much. Then we’re ready to abandon what we believed – and try to believe something else. Something to ease the pain of whatever just happened.
That’s when we really need to get back to the core of what we believe – that Jesus died so we may have eternal life with Him. That things happen, things we won’t understand right now, that will eventually be seen as having been for the best – even though we completely believe right now that they were the worst events possible.
And – for me – to get back to thoughts like this one – not wanting to hear Jesus tell me He never knew me.
Finally – this verse from Revelation –
Rev 7:17 For the Lamb at the center of the throne will be their shepherd;
he will lead them to springs of living water.
And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes
Short of Dewey (my four legged “kid” from the article referenced at the top) being in Heaven waiting for me, I can’t imagine what will dry the tears from him being taken by cancer so young. But even then, I’d could ask how come he couldn’t live longer – and still be in Heaven after a longer life?
So – it’s a verse that I can’t imagine how it’s going to be accomplished – but I believe it will happen.
And so – everything that happens here and leads to that – it must be “OK”. Even if it doesn’t seem OK now.
Don’t put yourself in a position of having Jesus say I never knew you.
At the end of my life, I want to hear something more like Jesus’ words in Luke 23:43 –
“I tell you the truth, today you will be with me in paradise.”