The Type of Person Who Won’t Make It To Heaven, or wherever

Today, we will finish our current study of Christ’s “Sermon on the Mount.” Throughout His sermon, Jesus has contrasted between legalistic religion, or self-righteousness, and salvation by grace alone, or seeking first God’s kingdom and His righteousness. He has revealed the folly of works-based religion and of irreligion. He has stated clearly that people are unrighteous by nature and that citizenship in the kingdom of heaven is and must be entirely a gift of God, given through His forgiveness, and received in our genuine and sincere repentance.

Download the Audio Series on Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount by clicking here.

In this passage, Jesus sums up the entire sermon in His closing remarks. He reveals that there are only two possible foundations upon which someone can live his or her life. Only one of these foundations is sturdy.

Matthew 7:21-29

“Not everyone 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 will enter. 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.’

Therefore everyone who hears these words of Mine and acts on them, may be compared to a wise man who built his house on the rock. And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and slammed against that house; and yet it did not fall, for it had been founded on the rock. Everyone who hears these words of Mine and does not act on them, will be like a foolish man who built his house on the sand. The rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and slammed against that house; and it fell—and great was its fall.”

When Jesus had finished these words, the crowds were amazed at His teaching; for He was teaching them as one having authority, and not as their scribes.

Foolish living (v. 21-23)

“Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven,

Most people in our day, even Christians, do not believe that there is a Hell. About 45% of people believe that there is. Only 29% of those who are not Christian believe that there is actually a Hell. Conversely, 68 % of people believe that there is a heaven. This includes 39% of those who are not Christian. While people are reluctant to believe that there is a Hell, many are willing to believe that there is some sort of heaven. 62% of people surveyed believe that all people will ultimately be in heaven and will be reunited with their loved ones there (All stats are from stateoftheology.com). This means that only 6% of people believe both that there is a heaven and that not everyone will be there. Sadly, this means that probably only 6% of people actually believe what Jesus taught (This is only accurate concerning those actually surveyed but is likely representative of the population at large).

Jesus has taken the time through the previous sections of His sermon to describe exactly what type of person will not enter the kingdom of heaven. These are the same people who, according to Christ’s illustrations in this section of His sermon, are on the wide road and are building their houses upon the shifting sand. Jesus is very clear and explicit that not everyone will enter the kingdom of heaven. In fact, not even everyone who claims the name of Christ or goes by the name “Christian” or believes him or herself to be religious or to be destined for the kingdom of heaven (or anything like heaven) will enter. This prospect ought to terrify us, especially if we think that we are going to heaven. This text forces every Christian to question his or her salvation. It forces people of other religions to question why they believe they are destined for their equivalent of paradise. It forces the irreligious person or the person who doesn’t believe in an afterlife to think about eternity. My goal, here, is not to “scare the Hell” out of anyone like the stereotypical evangelical fire-and-brimstone preacher. I will not ask unhelpful questions like, “If you died tonight, where would you go?” I simply want to plead with you to consider the truthful words of Jesus because I care for you and I serve Jesus Christ.

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Throughout His sermon, Jesus has pointed out these things:

  • Those who will receive a reward in heaven are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness and are persecuted for the sake of righteousness, bearing the fruit of righteousness as described in the beattitutes. Theirs is the kingdom of heaven (5:1-12).
  • Unless our righteousness surpasses that of the religious elite (our pastors, teachers, professors, religious gurus, etc…), we will not enter the kingdom of heaven (5:20).
  • Whoever belittles another person is guilty enough to go into the fiery hell (5:22).
  • The unrighteous desires or lusts of people cause them to stumble and be thrown into Hell (5:29).
  • Those who practice their acts of righteousness in front of others to be seen by them have no reward with the Father in Heaven (6:1).
  • Those who practice charity in front of others to be seen by them have received their reward in full on this earth (6:2)
  • Those who pray in front of others to be seen by them and so that their desires may be fulfilled have received their reward in full on this earth (6:5-7).
  • Those who fast (or practice any religious thing) to be seen by others have received their reward in full on this earth (6:16).
  • The only hope people have is to seek God’s righteousness and not their own (6:33).
  • The kingdom of heaven is received by faith alone, not by our works (7:7-12).

We are only getting through this first part of Jesus’ preaching ministry, and we see that Jesus alludes to Hell as often as He mentions the kingdom of heaven. It is almost as if people who believe that there is an afterlife assume that they are destined for Heaven. This certainly proves to be true in our own day as indicated by the survey numbers above. Not everyone will enter the kingdom of Heaven.

but he who does the will of My Father who is in heaven will enter.

So, it is those who rely on their own righteousness who will not enter the kingdom of heaven. It is those who do the will of the Father who will enter. What does it mean to do the will of the Father? If we are not careful, we may interpret this in a way that is contrary to the Gospel and especially to Jesus’ sermon here. This is not and cannot be a legalistic or works-based statement. The whole point of Jesus’ sermon is that human works are insufficient to accomplish the things of God. Throughout the sermon, Jesus has been instructing His disciples to seek first God’s kingdom and His righteousness. This is the opposite of seeking one’s own righteousness. Whatever Jesus means by doing the will of God, we know that He cannot mean in any way that we have to somehow work for our salvation or that our works contribute to salvation at all. Salvation is through faith alone apart from works. This is the point Jesus has been making.

There is another text in which Jesus is described as giving an exact definition of what He means by God’s will concerning salvation. So, instead of guessing what this means, let’s ask Jesus. He answers in John 6:40-44,

“For this is the will of My Father, that everyone who beholds the Son and believes in Him will have eternal life, and I Myself will raise him up on the last day.”

Therefore the Jews were grumbling about Him, because He said, “I am the bread that came down out of heaven.”

  They were saying, “Is not this Jesus, the son of Joseph, whose father and mother we know? How does He now say, ‘I have come down out of heaven’?”

  Jesus answered and said to them, “Do not grumble among yourselves. No one can come to Me unless the Father who sent Me draws him; and I will raise him up on the last day.”

The will of the Father is that the people He has chosen for Himself and has brought to Christ will behold the Son, believe in Him, and have eternal life. Christ will raise His people up on the last day. According to Jesus, the Father’s will is not that people would will to follow Him according to their own righteousness. That sort of message is contradictory to the Gospel and to Jesus’ message throughout His preaching ministry. God’s will is that we are subject to His will in salvation and that His righteousness is made known. This has been Jesus’ consistent message throughout His sermon.

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.’

Jesus goes on to describe the type of person who will not enter into the kingdom of heaven. It is the person who expects that, because he or she was a good person or served God or kept the religious rules or had successful ministries or helped people, that they will enter the kingdom of heaven. This sort of self-righteousness is defined by Jesus as lawlessness. It is the very unrighteous nature that the Law was given to stand as a testimony against. We are sinners, and Jesus is our only hope. It is healthy for us to think about these things and to think about our own salvation.

The only strong foundation (v. 24-27)

Therefore everyone who hears these words of Mine and acts on them, may be compared to a wise man who built his house on the rock. And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and slammed against that house; and yet it did not fall, for it had been founded on the rock. Everyone who hears these words of Mine and does not act on them, will be like a foolish man who built his house on the sand. The rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and slammed against that house; and it fell—and great was its fall.”

Jesus illustrates this truth for us again. This illustration is like the previous illustration with the wide and narrow ways. The Saduccees did not believe in an afterlife just as many people today do not believe in an afterlife. Not only is it foolish to assume this because we see through a glass darkly, but it is also foolish to think that salvation doesn’t apply to our lives on this earth and in this life. Jesus also teaches about the need in this life to have the proper foundation and walk the narrow way. Since this life is described as the storm, it is those who weather the storm who endure to the end. Someone who is not grounded in the grace of God according to the words of Jesus Christ alone (v. 26) is not only ill-prepared for the storms in this life but will not endure to the end. Here, we see that this solid foundation is the explicit word of Christ alone. Nothing else is sufficient for our endurance in this life and for securing an everlasting place for us in eternity.

Our citizenship in the Kingdom of Heaven matters for life on this earth and in eternity.

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Jesus’ teaching was different (v. 28-29)

When Jesus had finished these words, the crowds were amazed at His teaching; for He was teaching them as one having authority, and not as their scribes.

The focus shifts, here, from only the disciples to the crowd. The crowd is amazed. Jesus’ teaching carried with it authority, the very authority of God’s explicit word (5:17-19). When God’s explicit and unadulterated word is the content, there is an authority that accompanies the proclamation of the word because God is the one who spoke it. If we are dressing it up, trying to make it more attractive or palatable, or annul it in the least degree (5:19), then what we are saying does not carry with it the authority of God. Since this is precisely what the scribes were doing (5:20), then Jesus’ teaching was not like that of their scribes. Jesus even had to correct some of the teachings of their scribes during the sermon (5:21-48). The explicit word of God is what has authority. Let us teach and hear the word of God presented correctly and applied rightly.

Questions:

  1. How easy is it for well-intending people to add works to faith for salvation (e.g. Lordship Salvation)?
  2. How does a correct interpretation of Christ’s sermon on the mount compare and contrast to what you’ve heard or seen before?
  3. Are you really and truly a citizen of God’s kingdom?
    1. If not, today is the day of repentance and belief in Christ.

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3 comments

  • My dear brother in Christ Jesus,
    Our Lord said and thought some very hard doctrines while on the earth.
    Thank you for not “sugar coating” His Word.
    Question:
    What is “Lordship Salvation”?
    Thank you and God bless you and your ministry,
    Albert

    • Lordship Salvation essentially posits that one must both have faith and obey God in order to receive salvation instead of distinguishing faith from works and believing the Bible, which states clearly that we are saved by grace through faith and not by works (Ephesians 2:8). Works are the fruit, not the root.

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