My family and I love the movie Cars. For the three of you who haven’t seen it (smile), the movie begins with a race. The race ends with an exciting photo finish. The main characters wait for the results to be announced after the replay is reviewed. Finally, the main character, Lightning McQueen, hears the announcement that begins “For the first time in racing history…” which he finishes “…a rookie has won the Piston Cup” because he was a rookie and assumed he had won. He dashes through the curtain as the announcer finishes the announcement “…we have a three way tie.” Needless to say he was pretty embarrassed. As Jesus says in these verses, there are going to be some surprised individuals on judgment day just as Lightning McQueen was at the announcement that they, too, have lost the race.
Their failure, however, will not come from a lack of effort. First of all, they use the right language. Their proclamation appears sincere. These false brethren call Him “Lord”. They profess the same thing that you and I profess, folks, that Jesus is the Sovereign King. And they’re making this proclamation in the right setting—“that day”—the day of judgment. So we can picture in our mind’s eye this crowd of people (“many”) standing before the Lord as He prepares to judge people. That these false sheep can stand in the presence of Christ and boldly proclaim Him to be their Lord demonstrates either brazen arrogance or pathetic self deception. I’m not sure which is worse.
However, in their mind, they have a track record that proves their claim. These people have been on fire for God, at least according to themselves. They have spoken God’s word to people (“prophesy”). Furthermore, they dealt in spiritual warfare (“cast out demons”). Finally, they have displayed God’s power in visible ways (“perform many miracles”). These people have been busy—busier than your average Joe Church-goer I would wager. Then, to top it off, as they make the point of repeating three different times, they did all these things “in Your name”. In other words, they claim to have been pure in their motivations. Their activity, which was obviously very zealous, was done in His authority. What presumptive arrogance we see from these people as they stand before Almighty God.
However, the Judge of all the earth will judge rightly. Jesus says that He will pronounce their doom. Possibly, this multitude has fooled a great many people, maybe even themselves, but they won’t pull the wool over this Lamb’s eyes. First of all, Jesus denies their claim that they acted in His name. He says that He will tell them “I never knew you” meaning they had no relationship with Him. They claimed they did what they did in the name of Christ but they did not know Christ because He did not know them. Further, He will cast them out from His presence. He gives the command for them to “Depart” which is in the present tense so you could say “Depart and keep on departing”. Get as far out of my sight as you can and then keep going. These wicked people who have claimed to speak for God when in fact they did not will be rejected totally and driven from His presence. Finally, He identifies their character. These people claimed to be so active on behalf of our Savior. They claimed to be so pious and pure in their motives. However, as we see, Jesus knowing their hearts declares them to be people “who practice lawlessness”. Truth be told, they might have claimed to be serving God but they were not. These people pretended to be Christians but their act wasn’t good enough to fool the almighty Judge. In the end, they will get what is coming to them.
The saddest part of these verses is that these people truly believed they were saved. They were deluded or had deluded themselves. Activity is not proof of salvation. We should take this as a sobering reminder that we must always examine ourselves—that it is a healthy thing to evaluate our relationship with Christ. The consequences of not doing so are eternal and soul damning.