Why did Jesus prophesy of telling Christians, “depart from me, I never knew you”—despite all they do “in his name" (Mt 7:21-23)? Who are these Christians and which ingredient for salvation are they (and most likely you) missing? Read on to understand the most important prophecy regarding Christians and Jesus' requirement for salvation that most Christians “NEVER” hear of, let alone meet...
Understanding Salvation Thanks to Jesus and Prophecy
In this article I'm going to share what I learned from Jesus' words about salvation by my study of prophecy such as Mt 7:21-23, Mt 24:4-5 and more.
I'm convinced that without all my prophecy research and insights derived there from, I would not understand salvation today. I would probably not be saved. This understanding of salvation from Jesus' words has changed how I think and what I do for the better, something Christianity's teachings never did for me.
I'm thankful and happy to share these insights for you for free in this public study, as made possible by my supporters.
Now join me as I cover the following exciting points:
- Why Jesus "never" knew and will reject sincere believers at the rapture (never means never)
- Why I am convinced less than 1% of Christians are saved (and yet this proves God's love?)
- 3 Ingredients to Salvation (miss any and you will be told "depart from me")
- The missing 3rd ingredient (that I bet you don't have because Christianity has you convinced is a "heresy")
- The most important verse in the Bible (that took me over 30 years to identify)
- The most important parable of Jesus (it both clearly describes the missing 3rd ingredient and ties it directly to salvation)
“Jesus, are there few saved?” (Lk 13:23)
Many Christians avoid Bible prophecy because it tends to be dark and scary. (I have heard Christians confess they never read the Book of Revelation for this reason.) Yet, you probably have read several of Jesus' prophetic statements that are arguably even more troubling for Christians in particular. At the end of the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus cryptically said:
Matthew 7:13-14 (ESV) — 13 “Enter by the narrow gate. For the gate is wide and the way is easy that leads to destruction, and those who enter by it are many. 14 For the gate is narrow and the way is hard that leads to life, and those who find it are few.
Speaking about this current age under Satan's deception (Rev 12:9), Jesus predicted "few" will get saved while "many" go to destruction. (In the Millennium, there will be no more deception and the narrow path will be wide and found by all (Jer 31:34; Hab 2:14)) Of course, Christians today assume that they are the saved and that it's mainly the non-Christians who are "the many" who are the lost.
This sounds good until you realize that Christianity is the most popular religion in the world. It's so popular that nearly one out of three people are Christians (2.5 billion Christians worldwide as of this writing). Although 33% is a minority of the population, it still fits the label of "many" a lot better than it does the label "few."
How do we make sense of that as Christians? There are too many of us!
You might say to yourself that perhaps the answer is that at that time, before Christianity, few were saved because, after all, didn't Jesus tell them to pray to God for more workers for the harvest for this very reason (Lk 10:2)?
"Depart from me; I never knew you" (Mt 7:23)
Hope for this explanation is dashed quickly a few verses later. Further on in the Sermon on the Mount you encounter our titular passage:
Matthew 7:21-23 (ASV) — 21 "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. 22 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?' 23 And then I will declare to them, 'I never knew you; DEPART FROM ME, YOU WHO PRACTICE LAWLESSNESS.'"
This is the day of the rapture and, just as Jesus promised, it will also be "many" (Mt 7:13) being rejected. Yet, as suspected above, the many group is easily confirmed as Christians:
- Only Christians call Jesus "Lord" (and emphatically at that, hence the doubled title).
- Only Christians do things "in Jesus' name" (literally and figuratively)
- Only Christians would be surprised at being rejected by Jesus from the kingdom "on that day." (Atheists and other religious groups don't recognize Jesus or expect to receive anything from him. Only Christians.)
Yet still...why are they rejected? How can this be possible? What did they do wrong or miss? This makes no sense!
Unless...OK, could it be maybe this is talking about are the "phony Christians" and not the true Christians like us? That's where our mind goes immediately to resolve this conflict, doesn't it?
"That's Not Me/My Denomination/My Movement!"
We want to avoid the uncomfortable conclusion staring at us in the face that most Christians are deceived (Lk 21:8) and going to be rejected by Jesus. Therefore we imagine Mt 7:22 refers to some subset of Christianity who is not us. For example:
- "It's the Catholics!" (say the Protestants) "Because they follow the Pope!"
- "It's the Protestants!" (say the Catholics) "Because they have left the true church led by the Pope!"
- "It's the Charismatics!" (say non-charismatics) "Because they focus too much on prophesying, demons and miracles" (Mt 7:22).
- "It's those who aren't baptized in the spirit/speaking in tongues!" (say the Charismatics who do this) "Because if you don't have the spirit that way you're not 'born again' and saved."
- "It's Sabbath breakers!" (say the Sabbatarians) "Because it clearly says they are committing lawlessness like Sabbath-breaking!" (Mt 7:23)
- "It's the Christians keeping Christmas and Easter" (say the Hebrew Roots/Messianic folks who keep the Leviticus 23 festivals) "Because they are doing pagan idol worship and neglecting God's law." (Mt 7:23)
Obviously, this "pass the buck" approach to resolving what's wrong with the Christians Jesus is talking about is biased and not ideal. It is not based on systematically looking at the entire passage to see which one answer logically fits all of the given parameters about these rejected Christians.
Once you figure why these Christians are rejected, then you can find out which Christians they are or who is in danger including yourself.
"Depart From Me, I Never Knew you!" - Jesus
Jesus predicted that he will tell many sincere believers to basically "get lost" instead of welcoming them into the Kingdom. So...who are they and what did they miss or do wrong? In this study, get those answers and the one requirement for salvation Jesus taught (that Christianity misses) so that you can make sure you don't hear these dreaded words yourself!
So, What Did These Christians Do Wrong?
I already wrote a very large study for my supporters to carefully break down Matthew 7:21-23 and find out what these Christians did so wrong to miss out on salvation in such epic fashion. The key I explain there is to not focus on what the Christians say or did in the middle verse (Mt 7:22) but on what Jesus said they failed to do and did instead in the first and last verses, respectively (Mt 7:21, 23).
The first verse gives us the first characteristic of those who miss the rapture: they were simply not "doing the Father's will" (Mt 7:21).
But what is the "will of the Father?" We can find that out in the third verse where Jesus names these Christians according to their failing. Depending on the Bible version used, Jesus calls them practitioners of "lawlessness" or "iniquity" or simply "evil."
The Greek word there is anomia which literally means "without law," "no law" or "lawless." That gives us the second characteristic of the rejected: they are acting in violation of a key law.
Combining this new characteristic with the first characteristic we get:
- not "doing the Father's will" = "practicing lawlessness"
and the inverse would be:
- "doing the Father's will" = practicing the law
The "Father's will" then is that we follow his "law."
You're probably wondering how it could possibly be true that Jesus taught law keeping when everyone knows "we are under grace, not law?" Christianity commonly teaches that law-keeping is a heresy called "legalism."
But this is Jesus, so, as crazy as it sounds to Christian thinking, if he is saying we need to keep a law to enter the kingdom, let's trust him, hear him out and try to follow.
What, then, is this law he is referring to? Certainly not the Law of Moses, right? If we move on to Luke's version of Jesus' warning we'll immediately rule that out and find the right answer:
Luke 6:46 — "Why do you call Me 'Lord, Lord,' and don't do the things I say?"
OK, not what "Moses" said, but what "I" Jesus says. That's a relief! Putting Matthew's and Luke's accounts together then gives us the following:
- not "doing the Father's will" = "practicing lawlessness" = "not doing the things Jesus said"
The inverse of that then tells us exactly how to enter the kingdom:
- doing the Father's will = practicing the law = "doing the things Jesus said"
The "Law of Christ"
Finally, Jesus' message is plain and understandable!
It means, number one, that the commands of Jesus are a law for believers to follow; he is to be obeyed to receive eternal salvation (Heb 5:9). Although that may sound "wrong" to Christian thinking, the NT confirms "the law of Christ" that we are to "fulfill" (Gal 6:2) and his gospel as a thing to be "obeyed" (2Th 1:8; 1Pe 4:17). (Shocking, eh?)
Number two, and more importantly, it means to be saved you must truly submit to Jesus as Lord by adopting this law. If you continue living life as a law unto yourself, like everyone does as the free moral agents they are, then you will be rejected from the kingdom!
In other words, it's not enough to believe in Christ; you must decide to become like Christ. Don't let that idea overwhelm you with some misconstrued concept of "perfectionism." Christ submitted to God, obeyed his commands and loved people as a model for all of us. To be Christ-like means you operate with the same heart and intent, even if you can't do it perfectly like Jesus did. Remember, God judges by the heart (1Sa 16:7; Jer 17:10), not performance!
What exactly is "God's law?"
Briefly speaking, Jesus concluded his Sermon on the Mount with the statement "do unto others as you would have done to you for this sums up the Law and Prophets" (Mt 7:12). This ethic is called the Golden Rule or treating others well unilaterally (meaning regardless of how they treat you). It's what we all know we should do already (without ever cracking a Bible), but we don't find the motivation or incentive to make ourselves do it because it is so hard and unpleasant. We easily justify not doing it or judge others as not deserving of this kind of love.
So the reason Christians will hear "depart from me" is because they are breaking God's law of love. They don't love their neighbor as themselves (Mt 19:19). This means the key to avoid hearing "depart from me" is by obeying Jesus who said the Golden Rule sums up and fulfills the whole Bible (Mt 7:12=Gal 5:14).
"I Never Knew You?"
I settled this question almost three years before this writing with that answer. It was quite a thrill and also very helpful to finally be 100% clear on what God wanted me to focus on.
I am revisiting it now in this new article because of an email I recently received. Someone wanted me to know that my advertised conclusion about most Christians being told "depart from me" was wrong (without having read the study) simply because Jesus said he "never knew" these rejected Christians while in John 10:14 he said "he knew" his sheep, which we "know" are Christians. Thus, the "I never knew you" statement cannot be talking about Christians (or so he argued).
In John 10:27, Jesus states categorically: "I know them" when referring to actual born again believers. ... Jesus could "never" say to any born again believer: "I never knew you" (Mt 7:23) because that would be a lie. It is therefore obvious, that any Bible teacher who says that actual born again believers are appearing before Jesus in Matt 7:21-23 for judgment, has had a "close encounter of the demonic kind." ... No offense, bro. Whenever there is a misunderstanding of Scripture, it is almost always traceable to (PRIDE). Pride is an emotion, logic is not!
What's wrong with his argument (besides resorting to ad hominem by accusing me of having a demon and pride, lol)? Take a look at the passage he is basing his case on:
John 10:14-29 (HCSB) — 14 “I am the good shepherd. I know My own sheep, and they know Me, 15 as the Father knows Me, and I know the Father. I lay down My life for the sheep. ... 19 Again a division took place among the Jews because of these words. 20 Many of them were saying, “He has a demon and He’s crazy! Why do you listen to Him?” 21 Others were saying, “These aren’t the words of someone demon-possessed. Can a demon open the eyes of the blind?” 27 My sheep hear My voice, I know them, and they follow Me. 28 I give them eternal life, and they will never perish—ever! No one will snatch them out of My hand. 29 My Father, who has given them to Me, is greater than all. No one is able to snatch them out of the Father’s hand.
(Notice that the Pharisees also accused Jesus of having a demon in the passage he quotes, before accusing me of the same. Like the surveys say, Christians behave more like Pharisees than like Jesus.)
Do you see the flaw in his argument?
It's simple, but probably not for most Christians.
My correspondent is making an unsupported assertion that "the sheep" Jesus refers to in John 10 are Christians or "born again believers" (as he calls them). He never proves this. I know why he never bothers: every Christian already assumes this. "We're the sheep!" In contrast to this assumption, Jesus said these are "his sheep" because "they follow me" (John 10:27)—not because they accept him as savior or holding some other mere belief with no repentance.
This goes back to the whole problem brought up and covered above: Christians do not follow Jesus which means doing what he says (Lk 6:46). They do what their pastor/church/religion/denomination says. They assume (like I did as a young man) that those telling them what to do are saved and if they copy them, they will be saved, too. And so on with everyone assuming everyone is saved but not going back to Jesus' words to be sure. Jesus said this leaves you on a foundation of sand (Mt 7:24-27).
Defeating this argument was easy. Ignoring his insults was easy, too. What was not easy was to put out of my mind was that word he was focusing on: "never." I had ignored that word up to this point. How could Jesus say "never knew" about so "many" Christians.
Is Christianity really that inept? Are so few Christians finding and acting on the truth of loving their neighbor as themselves for God (Mt 7:12)?
Less Than 1% of Christians Saved?!
This all lead me to ask myself the question:
"What percentage of Christians are saved?"
I had never asked this exact question before. I had only generally considered it to be low, perhaps 10% if you had asked me a month prior.
It was almost too scary a question to consider. In fact, when I asked the question on my Facebook page, many refused to answer saying they were not to judge individuals or presume to know what only God knows (which was not required for what I was asking: only an opinion of basically how successful Christianity was by assigning percentage to it.) Of those who dared to answer, a couple said 100%, more said 50% (ten virgins, half were saved), a few said 33% (like one third the angels who rebelled?), several said 25% (one out of four categories of the Parable of the Sower were saved) or 10%. A handful of people answered 1-3%. (Two of them were Sabbath keepers who think anyone not keeping Sabbath is not saved which explains their low opinion of 99% of other Christians, lol).
This idea of "never knew" now seemed to me to point to a percentage on the very low end or a very poor "conversion rate" of Christians to followers of Jesus who he knew. For this to be true, Christians would have to have the completely wrong idea about salvation so that they ever attain it for even a second. Otherwise Christ could not say he never knew them. Is that the case?
The timing of the question was perfect. Among the people I fellowship with who know to try to "love your neighbor as yourself" I had been noticing a recurring pattern of a large percentage feeling depressed or defeated after starting to work on it. They were either people with self-worth/low self-esteem issues, or who didn't feel God was fair or who felt people were horrible and annoying. Thus they were failing at the "love everyone (including yourself)" commandment and it was taking its toll on them as they struggled to cope with the negative feelings of shame, guilt and failure that this brought up. Sharing the truth about what Jesus required for salvation according to Matthew 7:21-23 was causing many who tried to fail, just as Jesus said:
Luke 13:23-24 (HCSB) — 23 “Lord,” someone asked Him, “are there few being saved?” He said to them, 24 “Make every effort to enter through the narrow door, because I tell you, many will try to enter and won’t be able...
After two weeks of much prayer, thought and observation of people actually trying to observe Matthew 7:12 and failing to stick with it, my conclusion was this:
I think < 1% of Christians are saved or not even 1 out of 100 It may be only 1 out of 1000 or even only 1 out of 10,000! I say this because Christians are never taught they need to work on loving others as their responsibility in their salvation nor are they trained on how to do it. They are told instead it's a heresy to avoid. It takes a special Christian to ignore all this and listen to what they see Jesus say in their Bible, if they even read it.
I know that's hard to hear, even depressing or shattering to your view of God being loving. When I shared this with one close personal friend, she quipped that it sounded "horrific" for me to believe that. Another sister shared that she could not rectify a God of love with such a low percentage of people saved. She put the number at 30%, admittedly just to maintain her image of God as love.
My answer to 1% sounding "horrific" or "unloving of God" is this:
- 1% is only talking about this age, the first 6000 years under Satan's great deception (Rev 12:9), not ultimately. With the second resurrection, it does not matter how many or how few get saved now. Everyone who did not make it in their first lifetime in Satan's world will have a chance when Satan is in prison and God's truth fills the earth. Overall when God's entire roughly 8000 year plan of salvation is over, I would guess more than 99% will be saved in the end because God's way of life is so attractive once you know and experience it.
- I would argue when we're talking about eternal life that is given and cannot be taken back, it would be unloving of God to let people into the Kingdom who are not ready for it because they have not adopted and practiced God's laws that alone result in peace and harmony forever. (More on that point below.)
"Many Deceived In My Name"
Is it really possible that Christians are misunderstanding salvation so badly that they never even come near it? I say yes. Consider what Jesus predicted in the Olivet Discourse prophecy:
Matthew 24:4-5 — 4 And Jesus answered and said unto them, Take heed that no man deceive you. 5 For many shall come in my name, saying I am Christ; and shall deceive many.
Once again we see that "many" word coupled with a perfect description of Christians: those who come in Jesus' name, calling him the Christ. (Are you beginning to wish there were not so many Christians, lol?)
Satan would be behind this deception, after deceiving the "whole world" already on many issues (Rev 12:9). What would be the purpose of targeting Christians with more deception? Obviously, the ideal goal for Satan's targeted deception of already deceived believers (Rev 12:9) would be to make for sure that they also are deceived about salvation so well that they completely miss it!
Do you think for a second that Satan was not successful in hijacking the church, the church, mind you, that is divided into over 40,000 warring denominations? (Hmm. Care to bet on that?)
No doubt about it. Satan has been successful in deceiving the world about Jesus through the Christian religion that formed under Constantine.
Want proof? Tell me, are you mostly following what other Christians have said or taught you, or are you mostly studying daily and following the red letters in your Bible, the words of Jesus?
I know the answer for me: for more than 30 years since first becoming a Christian and even first reading the Bible, I was not studying and following Jesus' words. Not until that last few years. How pathetic and sad is that?
Three Ingredients For Personal Salvation
Are you ready now to get undeceived and find out what Jesus said on salvation?
First, let's review what Christianity has told everyone on the subject which is wrong. Christianity has taught us there are only two parts to salvation:
- Jesus' perfect sacrifice (and perhaps resurrection from the dead).
- Faith in that, once you hear about it, renders it to you as a free gift.
Additionally, Christians are taught that claiming any action requirement on our part (beyond the faith part), is "works-based salvation heresy." This has been drilled in everyone's head so much that the minute you raise any of the verses where Jesus talks about a third ingredient to salvation of works, they immediately shut you down for suggesting "we must earn salvation." They bring forth all the many verses that talk about Jesus being the only way to the Father, salvation is a free gift we cannot earn, no one could keep the law perfectly except Jesus, etc. This is also wrong.
What they are missing is that all those verses do is talk about Jesus' role in providing his part for our salvation, yes, freely. The verses don't talk about our role that other verses do. Our role is both faith and works because, as Jesus' brother James said, "faith without works is dead" (James 2:17, 20, 26)!
When asked how to enter the kingdom/have eternal life Jesus gave an answer that is called heresy in Christianity:
Matthew 19:16-19 (ESV) — 16 And behold, a man came up to him, saying, “Teacher, what good deed must I do to have eternal life?” 17 And he said to him, “Why do you ask me about what is good? There is only one who is good. If you would enter life, keep the commandments.” 18 He said to him, “Which ones?” And Jesus said, “You shall not murder, You shall not commit adultery, You shall not steal, You shall not bear false witness, 19 Honor your father and mother, and, You shall love your neighbor as yourself.”
Whenever I share Jesus' astounding direct answer above to the question on how to have eternal life, Christians always, always say it's wrong, "salvation by works," etc. Either they don't believe Jesus, or they don't believe Jesus meant what he said!
But he did mean it. Therefore, according to Jesus, James, Peter and even Paul (1Pe 4:17; 2Th 1:8), Biblical salvation looks like this:
- Jesus' perfect sacrifice counted from the foundation of the earth (Rev 13:8) (whether you know about or "accept" what he did or not. This is how people before 30 AD could be saved. This also means even Jews who reject Christianity and its pagan, Xmas-and-Easter-wrapped Christ can still receive Jesus' atonement because they are not rejecting God's word/the Jewish Messiah, only Christian word/the paganized Christ. See 2 and 3...)
- Faith that God is good and rewards those who seek him (Heb 11:6). (Jews believe this from the Word of God like many Christian Bible readers do.)
- Works/Fruits of repentance in obedience to God's will which we learn directly from seeking him (mainly love). (Judaism has the concept of tzedekah or charity in from the Old Testament.)
Note: the works do not "earn salvation!"
They do, however, earn something according to the Bible. They earn reward in this life and the next (Mark 10:30; Rev 20:12-13). The next life comes as a free gift for your faith, but the reward in that life ("some 30, some 60, some 100;" (Mt 13:8) "one city, five cities, ten cities" (Lk 19:17)) is determined by how much you overcome in this life once you get saved by faith (Rev 21:7; Rev 2:7,11,17; 3:5,12,21). Again, see my study on Depart From Me for a helpful chart on Salvation vs. Reward.
"If Salvation Is A Free Gift, Why Do We Need Works?!": Here's Jesus' Own Answer
At this point you are probably confused and thinking of lots of verses that seem to contradict the interpretation above. The chief one is that Paul said salvation is a free gift (Eph 2:8) and we don't get saved by works "so no one can boast" (Eph 2:9).
How does that fit with works being required? What are they required for? Allow Jesus to answer with his own analogy:
Matthew 22:1-14 (HCSB) — 1 Once more Jesus spoke to them in parables: 2 “The kingdom of heaven may be compared to a king who gave a wedding banquet for his son. 3 He sent out his slaves to summon those invited to the banquet, but they didn’t want to come. 4 Again, he sent out other slaves, and said, ‘Tell those who are invited: Look, I’ve prepared my dinner; my oxen and fattened cattle have been slaughtered, and everything is ready. Come to the wedding banquet.’ 5 “But they paid no attention and went away, one to his own farm, another to his business. 6 And the others seized his slaves, treated them outrageously and killed them. 7 The king was enraged, so he sent out his troops, destroyed those murderers, and burned down their city. 8 “Then he told his slaves, ‘The banquet is ready, but those who were invited were not worthy. 9 Therefore go to where the roads exit the city and invite everyone you find to the banquet.’ 10 So those slaves went out on the roads and gathered everyone they found, both evil and good. The wedding banquet was filled with guests. 11 But when the king came in to view the guests, he saw a man there who was not dressed for a wedding. 12 So he said to him, ‘Friend, how did you get in here without wedding clothes?’ The man was speechless. 13 “Then the king told the attendants, ‘Tie him up hand and foot, and throw him into the outer darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.’ 14 “For many are invited, but few are chosen.”
This parable may look similar to others Jesus gave using "the kingdom as a wedding supper" motif where the invited, honorific people did not come as expected and then others come, basically the unwanted of the world. But this one has an additional plot twist that no others have. In it, someone who agreed to come and take the seat of a no-show gets kicked out for improper attire.
What? Why? I don't know about you, but this was another saying of Jesus that I didn't understand. It's seemed incredibly unfair. What if nobody told him or if he was too poor to have fancy clothes? How petty to judge someone on their outfit who shows up last minute to help you in a bind! Or so I thought as a young man reading this. I admit that I was offended by this parable at one time.
Now that I'm older and understand salvation from Jesus' words, it all makes sense:
- Firstly, everyone knows you don't come to a wedding looking like a bum and stick out like a sore thumb. It dishonors the couple's special day and the setting. No one has to tell anyone to not show up to a wedding wearing sweatpants.
- Secondly, I understand now what the wedding attire represents in this parable and why it's so important. End time prophecy describes the actual future wedding feast and stops to comment on how they are dressed, why and what it means:
Revelation 19:7-9 (HCSB) — 7 Let us be glad, rejoice, and give Him glory, because the marriage of the Lamb has come, and His wife has prepared herself. 8 She was given fine linen to wear, bright and pure. For the fine linen represents the righteous acts of the saints. 9 Then he said to me, “Write: Those invited to the marriage feast of the Lamb are fortunate!” He also said to me, “These words of God are true.”
Righteous works are required for salvation so you fit in the kingdom as a proven, loving individual like Jesus and God are. You will stick out like a sore them in the kingdom if you show up dressed like a bum/acting like a typical Christian who has not focused on loving others.
How Jesus' Parable Teaches All 3 Parts of Salvation!
Therefore, in Jesus' "wedding clothes" analogy from his parable above, we could say salvation looks like this:
- Jesus: Jesus' sacrifice is the invitation that makes your entrance to the wedding even possible. (It was free and you didn't earn it, amen?)
- Faith: You believing the invitation to the point that you plan on it. You "save the date," make travel arrangements, ask the neighbor to watch your dog, etc.
- Works: Getting your wedding attire and getting dressed before you go: "The bride has made herself ready" (Rev 19:7).
That's why you need works: so you are "fit for the kingdom" that Jesus got you into!
If Christianity's gospel was true, here's how Jesus' wedding clothing analogy would play out:
- Jesus: Jesus died for you to have your invitation
- Faith: You believe Jesus not only invited you but will do everything! He'll make the arrangements with your neighbor to watch your dog and he'll even come to pick you up and dress you in the wedding outfit that he picked out and brought especially for you.
Ridiculous sounding, I know, but not far from the truth of how Christians think salvation works, yes?
But, Faith In What?
Unfortunately, Christianity has trained us to ignore all the verses on works "because everyone knows salvation is a free gift by faith!" Yes, it is free, but based on faith in what? You don't get the free gift without the right kind of faith.
You should know there are all kinds of faith. For example, you no doubt have "chair faith." That's faith that it's safe to sit in a chair and know it will not break your weight and cause you injury. That kind of faith saves, too. It saves you from the exertion of standing all the time. But it does not get us to heaven.
Similarly, faith in "Jesus as my personal Savior" does not save us for eternity or make us right with God. Satan knew Jesus was coming as Savior to cause trouble for him. That's why he was trying to stop him in any way possible, even slaughtering the innocents in the first century. Satan believed in Jesus as the savior of mankind. By the definition of Christianity that makes Satan saved or Christian. The demons also believe in God and tremble (James 2:19). But none of them accept Jesus as Lord and do what he says and love others for God. (Jesus called out those who call him Lord without treating him as Lord by obeying him (Lk 6:46))
We must have faith that God is good and rewards us for doing his will (Lk 8:21). If God is not good like Jesus said and demonstrated (Mt 19:17), then it's game over. Life is not worth living under a bad or capricious god. But if God is good, and we believe this, then we should do everything he says because it will also be good and good for us always.
God says to love others like he does, helping even wicked people (Mt 5:45). Loving others like that is challenging. It's harder yet when you don't feel good or the person seems especially undeserving of love. Yet we are to love even our enemies (Mt 5:43). The only way to sustain this kind of love is by having the type of faith that saves: faith that God is good and will help and reward you for doing this very hard counter-intuitive action of loving stinky ugly offensive people!
Only Way To Harmony In Eternity
Why is this the only faith that saves or why does God request such sacrificial love? In the end, it's quite pragmatic.
The only way we will have harmony for eternity is if God only lets people in to the kingdom who have not only agreed on love but who also have practiced and proven they don't quit when its painful to do.
By the way, that's why God tested Abraham by asking him to do the unspeakable act of sacrificing his own son. Would he obey even when it made no sense? He passed that test and God said now he knew he would obey him always. It also showed us all God is serious about us doing wild or hard things just because he says so. If you really believe and trust "God is good no matter what," where's the problem with anything he requires?
On the other hand, imagine an eternity just...like...your...local church. Everyone at church agrees on one thing, not love but rather "I need a savior and Jesus saves." How do you feel about Christian behavior? Is it a "love fest" like we read about the Jerusalem church in the Book of Acts (Act 2-5) because they were following the doctrine of the apostles (Act 2:42)? Or is it more or less like the behavior you see in world (manipulation, judgment, gossip, backstabbing, politics) but with religious dress on it?
Can you see how it's actually necessary and loving of God that he does not set the bar so low for salvation that people who only agree "Jesus saves" are not let in? Instead, everyone in the kingdom will have passed the love test.
No, they won't love perfectly yet. Aren't you glad that is not the requirement for entrance no matter how many times Christians claim this when you bring up "works?" Yet they will be experienced enough at loving others through regular focus and tested by God like he did with Abraham as an example for us all. They will be getting better at being more like Jesus all the time in eternity as will we all.
"But, Tim, what about [Jesus salvation verse]?"
How do I answer all the verses that talk about salvation and Jesus?
Simple: I believe and accept them all as telling us about just one part of our salvation: Jesus' part or role. We need that part, but it's not the only part. Those verses do not tell us the whole story. No single verse does.
We have a role in our salvation, too, with two parts. We know this because the Bible talks about our part of having faith in God=his will=his Word=his goodness (Mt 19:17=Heb 11:6). But it also talks about works or "fruits of repentance" (Lk 3:8) that come out of what you learn from the Word of God you claim to have faith and respect for.
The verses about Jesus' role in our salvation don't negate or contradict the verses about our role in our salvation; they complement each other. Together they tell the whole story. You cannot negate any of the three parts by showing me all the verses about an isolated part. It's called tunnel-vision when you focus on one issue to the exclusion of all else and does not lead to truth. It's not how you understand the full intended picture when it comes to the Bible.
Most Important Verse in the Bible?
If you still have doubts about us needing to love others for God if we want to enter the kingdom (Mt 19:16, 19), allow me to share with you my exciting insight on the most important verse in the Bible and how I came to it.
For my summer vacation from high school in 1984, I postponed getting a job in the fast food industry in order to read the entire Bible. Why? I had become serious about serving God after reading some free material on the Bible given to me. I arrived at the point of wanting to make sure I knew what God required of individuals. The only logical next step to my mind was to read the entire Bible to find out what God wants. (Only later did I understand how unusual I was when I read a survey saying only 5% of Christians have read the entire Bible.)
Thirty years and many rereadings later, in 2016 I finally recognized the verse that answers my question: what does God want us to do?
Why did it take so long just to understand what God wants from us and see it in this most important verse?
Well first of all, like most, I was heavily trained and influenced by Christianity. This loaded my mind with paradigms that affected my reading of the Bible negatively as described above. When reading Jesus' difficult words, what I had learned from religion caused me to doubt what Jesus said. Or at least I doubted he really meant what he said. This is not as crazy as it sounds when you remember some of the choice statements of Jesus like "pluck out your eye," "cut off your hand," or "eat my flesh and blood."
On top of the obstacle of religious misinformation, the Bible itself presents obstacles to understanding its main message. The Bible is a big book and full of many difficult commands and even more difficult mysteries. Unlike most Christians, I did not write off and ignore the Old Testament. I was influenced by Sabbath-keeping Christians who study the whole Bible. I, too, studied the whole Bible from 1984 on.
That's a lot of territory full of rabbit trails to go down. I explored many hard mysteries such as the Nephilim, God's name and end time prophecy. God helped lead me to the people with the clues and answers. That took a long time!
Finally, in 2016, after moving to Germany and into our new house, I was led to just keep reading the gospels over and over. I knew I still did not understand the "Gospel of the Kingdom" Jesus taught and I believed it had to be in there somewhere. I came to slowly understand the Sermon on the Mount which opened the Gospel up to me. I wrote several studies on it for the support team such as Three Keys to the Sermon on the Mount.
In that study I map out how the final teaching verse of the sermon (before the first of four concluding warnings, two of which we already covered above on the narrow path and depart from me) also sums up the entire sermon:
Matthew 7:12 (HCSB) — 12 Therefore, whatever you want others to do for you, do also the same for them—this is the Law and the Prophets [the whole Bible at that time].
There it was. Jesus said that whole Bible was summed up in the "Golden Rule." That's what God "wanted" from us. Do that and you are pleasing God. Do that and you are going to please a lot of people, too (although there's no promise all will recognize or appreciate your love or not persecute you for it!).
No surprise really, is it? We can all agree that the world would be quite nice if everyone followed this rule (as it shall be in the kingdom). But few do because it's hard and they don't realize God will help them do it if they do it for him (Mt 6:33)—which by the way is the "Good News of the kingdom" summarized in one verse (bonus!). More on that in that supporter study.
If Jesus said the fulfillment of the entire Bible is to love others, do you still think it's "works-based salvation heresy" that we should forget about?
Jesus' Most Important Parable Also Explains the 3rd Salvation Requirement
Still not convinced? I can imagine some are still struggling. That's OK. "It sounds like earning salvation" is a hard paradigm to shake.
Well, you can't expect a single summary verse in the Bible to say everything you'd like. That verse tells us unequivocally that the complete summary of the Bible is "do the Golden Rule." As I argued, we can reasonably conclude that choosing to obey "the whole Bible" that way makes us acceptable to God. Admittedly, it does not explicitly tie that action to salvation.
That's where Jesus' prophetic Parable of the Sheep and the Goats comes in (Mt 25:31-46). After giving 23 mystifying parables (obfuscated on purpose, as he states in Mark 4:10-13), in his last parable, number 24, he finally speaks plainly. He describes this Golden Rule behavior that we should adopt to enter the kingdom and he ties not adopting this behavior as the reason people will be kept out of the kingdom, the same as he predicted in his famous "depart from me" prophecy (Mt 7:23):
Matthew 25:31-46 (HCSB) — 31 “When the Son of Man comes in His glory, and all the angels with Him, then He will sit on the throne of His glory. 32 All the nations will be gathered before Him, and He will separate them one from another, just as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. 33 He will put the sheep on His right and the goats on the left. 34 Then the King will say to those on His right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by My Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. 35 For I was hungry and you gave Me something to eat; I was thirsty and you gave Me something to drink; I was a stranger and you took Me in; 36 I was naked and you clothed Me; I was sick and you took care of Me; I was in prison and you visited Me.’ 37 “Then the righteous will answer Him, ‘Lord, when did we see You hungry and feed You, or thirsty and give You something to drink? 38 When did we see You a stranger and take You in, or without clothes and clothe You? 39 When did we see You sick, or in prison, and visit You?’ 40 “And the King will answer them, ‘I assure you: Whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of Mine, you did for Me.’ 41 Then He will also say to those on the left, ‘Depart from Me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the Devil and his angels! 42 For I was hungry and you gave Me nothing to eat; I was thirsty and you gave Me nothing to drink; 43 I was a stranger and you didn’t take Me in; I was naked and you didn’t clothe Me, sick and in prison and you didn’t take care of Me.’ 44 “Then they too will answer, ‘Lord, when did we see You hungry, or thirsty, or a stranger, or without clothes, or sick, or in prison, and not help You?’ 45 “Then He will answer them, ‘I assure you: Whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for Me either.’ 46 “And they will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life.”
It doesn't get any clearer than that in the Bible! Yet it's sadly all too easy to miss even this as my own life shows. After 23 confusing parables, the 24th is able to almost remain "hidden in plain sight." It's also a mere 17 verses out of 31,102 in the whole Bible, coming after some 23,000 verses of the Old Testament. Therefore it's as easy to miss as a needle in a haystack. That's what I've started calling the truth that God wants us to love our neighbor for him in order to have salvation: a needle in a haystack!
These 17 verses also do not help if you read them with the built-in assumption that you are good and certainly, certainly one of the sheep because you chose the right religion and are a born again Christian, like the person I quoted above assumed. In his rush to prove me wrong with Jesus' parable of the sheep who follow him, he forgot that Jesus also spoke about goats who did not follow what he said.
Under that paradigm, you just keep reading on past Jesus' warnings without asking if you really are thinking and acting like a sheep or more like a goat.
Obviously, our default action mode is "goat mode" (even if we look in the mirror and see a sheep). We find many good and justified reasons not to act in love to others. It takes conscious thought and effort to act like a sheep and see everyone like Christ as he said they were in the parable. This is what Mother Teresa reportedly did. She looked for the Christ in people she helped. Sounds like she did not ignore this parable but was inspired by it to find a strategy that worked for her.
(And I know mentioning her that some will wrinkle their nose that Mother Teresa "was Catholic," or "believed XYZ heresy", etc. But, again, that's religious thinking. Jesus' recorded thoughts above convince me that Mother Teresa will be in the Kingdom while many Christians who despise and judge her won't be...)
"Sorry, Dear Christian: You're Probably A Goat!"
Given the above, if you're a Christian reading this, I regret to inform you that, in all likelihood you're a goat and not saved. Ouch! I know, right? I bet you're almost as surprised and displeased to hear that as the Christians in Mt 7:22 will be. But I'm telling you this so you don't end up a part of that sad, scary prophecy.
I know you've been told by your religion that as a Christian you're a sheep and saved just for "accepting Jesus as your personal savior." Or you told yourself this out of a natural self-serving bias whereby we tend to view ourselves more positively than we are. But according to the many words of Jesus shared above, "few" of us are sheep and we're only one of them if we are acting like one towards others in accordance with Jesus' instructions.
How can you be sure? Well you can be pretty sure you're not a sheep if up to this point you have not had it in mind daily that your salvation requires you comply with what the Lord said about loving your neighbor (Mt 7:12=Mt 19:19). Thought precedes action. Actions do not happen without premeditation especially when the action is hard or unnatural. Also, because loving people takes effort, if you don't think something valuable hinges upon doing it, you won't stick with it. You'll quit and look for a way to justify or feel good about it.
Letting Christianity tell you "works are not required" or focusing on the verses that seem to say that, are the usual routes to feeling good again. Yet always the "depart from me" prophecy is looming to be fulfilled with people who sought appeasement now or the wide, easy path (Mt 7:13).
If you want to become a sheep and sustain that, pray to God for help to do so daily. You don't have to be perfect, you just have to make that your goal. You'll find that just trying every day will manifest a marked difference between you and the old you and you and other people around you who are not worried about the Golden Rule to receive salvation. You'll begin to receive compliments from people noticing you're "different" or "changing" or "treating me better." It's quite a thrill because you'll know God's doing it and working through you maybe for the first time.
Also at this point I recommend reading my previous article on the end time checklist of where to look to find areas of love you can grow in so that you're strong and ready when the end time comes and our resolve is tested on whether we are offended and our love waxes cold (Mt 24:12).
Finally please consider joining my support team where I have much content to share wisdom (Lk 1:17) for success on this narrow path.
Luke 13:23-24 (HCSB) 23 “Lord,” someone asked Him, “are there few being saved?” He said to them, 24 “Make every effort to enter through the narrow door, because I tell you, many will try to enter and won’t be able
Frequently Asked Questions
I have received many comments and emails since writing the article above and since this topic is so important, I'm updating the original article with a FAQ to improve understanding of Jesus' instruction on salvation:
Q. "Jesus' words don't apply to Christians because he said, 'I only came to the house of Israel'"...or "Romans to Philemon are the only 13 of the books for the Body of Christ"...etc.
A. On a personal note, I was kind of shocked after releasing the article above to hear multiple Christians say I'm wrong to quote quote Jesus' words on salvation to Christians "because Jesus words were to the Jews." That emotion aside, logically, this is easy to work out. Jesus' itinerant ministry of preaching and healing was indeed limited to mainly the people and land Israel which is what Mt 15:24 explains to a non-Jew trying to get a healing from him. Jesus never traveled abroad in his ministry for this stated reason. Nevertheless, there is no doubt that his instructions are for "all" when he told his disciples to "go out into all the world making disciples to follow all he had instructed them" (Mk 16:15; Mt 28:19-20). Don't be confused about this and that he came to teach salvation to mankind!
As for Paul or anyone else's words being what the church should follow for salvation, this brings us to the very source of the trouble that the church has been in since the apostles died out. The church has been following human religious teaching because it's much easier to understand and follow than Jesus' extremely difficult words. Jesus anticipated this reaction in his four warnings at the end of the Sermon of the Mount (Mt 7:13-27) which is where the "depart from me" passage comes from (Mt 7:21-23). The fourth and final warning is the best answer to anyone claiming that Jesus' words are not for Christians but Jews only (Mt 7:24-27):
Matthew 7:24-27 (HCSB) — 24 “Therefore, everyone who hears these words of Mine and acts on them will be like a sensible man who built his house on the rock. 25 The rain fell, the rivers rose, and the winds blew and pounded that house. Yet it didn’t collapse, because its foundation was on the rock. 26 But everyone who hears these words of Mine and doesn’t act on them will be like a foolish man who built his house on the sand. 27 The rain fell, the rivers rose, the winds blew and pounded that house, and it collapsed. And its collapse was great!”
If you're not going to follow Christ's words then you're on the sand not the rock, quite simply. If that's what you choose, then you might reconsider calling yourself a Christian or stop referring to Jesus as "Lord," based on his stated preference in Luke's parallel to the previous passage from Matthew:
Luke 6:46 (HCSB) — “Why do you call Me ‘Lord, Lord,’ and don’t do the things I say?
Also, it does no good to write to accuse me of "not rightly dividing the word of truth (2Tim 2:15)" (as one lady did who said the article above "disturbed and worried" her). If Jesus' words disturb and worry you, then the solution is to repent and start studying and following them with God's help. When you project the problem on anyone else but yourself, you're not solving the problem. Christians who will hear "depart from me" will all have similar justifications for why it's someone else's fault that they did not study and do what Jesus said. (What's yours?)
Q. "You're so wrong. Jesus was condemning works in Mt 7:22. Paul said 'we're saved by grace not works so no man can boast.' I hope you enjoy heaven with lots of boasting people like you!"
A. This verse was quoted a lot at me but actually I agree with it wholly. Yes, Jesus condemned works in his name that were not what he commanded. The distinction that is lost on my critics is that just because the works that Jesus commanded are still required for salvation doesn't mean they "earn" us salvation, which is still a "free gift."
It's like the analogy I used above: the invitation to the wedding is free (salvation). The high standard of dress at the wedding (works) is only a requirement to fit in at the wedding (eternal life with the family of God in loving harmony). By extension of that analogy, nobody ever gets invited to a wedding only after they first work for the host or show them all their clothing, yes? The invitation comes for free to those who are willing to believe it's legit and accept it (faith). They just better not show up without proper attire (works based on the faith that it's legit) and embarrass themselves or the honored couple who invited them!
Are all of you Ephesians 2:9 fans getting this now? If not, see the question above about what Jesus will say to you at the rapture if you try to quote Paul to him as an explanation for why you didn't listen to his words about adopting a philosophy of loving your neighbor for God like he said over and over and over...
Q. "Why do you condemn Christianity or put up your condemning 1% number? Is any of this necessary? Why risk offending Christians?"
A. I don't condemn Christianity or Christians. I came up through Christianity by the grace of God and then moved on once I started checking its teachings and found it be in conflict with Jesus' words to honor its own tradition (Mt 15:3). Christianity has done a lot of good, and a lot of evil; it's a mix of truth and lies like any other religion. For this reason, I only trust basing my doctrine on the Bible.
My question "what percentage of Christians are saved" and my "1%" answer are posed to provoke discussion and thought to help people consider whether they are "in the faith" (saved) just like Paul encouraged the Corinthians to do (2co 13:5). No harm is intended, although I know some will spiral into depression when their own personal answer is not yet a "yes" with high confidence (because they lack confidence in themselves).
This kind of "triggering" is hard for all of us, but is necessary sometimes for breakthroughs past obstacles that are keeping people stuck and unsaved. Note that Jesus did the same with his statements and questions during his ministry, offending on purpose. ("Unless you eat my flesh and drink my blood..." was highly offensive and discouraging to his followers at the time - John 6:66). I've heard lots of positive fruit from my "<1% Christians saved" concept and I feel without powerful statements like this, you cannot get Laodicean Christians today (Rev 3:14-21) to stop and listen to Jesus' words that may indicate they are not saved.
Q. This "Second Resurrection" doctrine does not seem to line up with Jesus' parables like 'the narrow path that it leads to destruction' (where is the 2nd chance in that?) / I've never heard of another resurrection before. Where do you get this?
A. I get the 2nd resurrection in the literal text of Scripture (Rev 20:5, Ezekiel 37:1-14).
It's true that none of parables of Jesus mention it but neither do they conflict with it. This is the case with many things found elsewhere in Revelation like the 144,000 but not the parables of Jesus. Reading the parables properly requires careful harmonization with the rest of the Bible. This is just the same as trying to make the four gospels line up with each other so they don’t contradict. In the same way, Jesus' parables do not include everything as Revelation does yet they do not conflict either if you read them carefully without reading into them more than they say through inserting Christian doctrine subconsciously.
To that end, understand that Jesus' narrow path analogy does not say “everyone on the wide path is destroyed, 100%.” People can get off the wide path along the way before the end in either their first life or in their second. Most will only do so in their second life after Satan’s deception is gone and the truth fills the entire earth. Nobody is doomed to eternal destruction for being deceived, even though the abbreviated, shorthand explanation of the outcomes in Jesus’ parables (with people surprised they were wrong as a dramatic device) can easily lead people to that wrong conclusion that there is no second chance. If this were true, it would make God not love but hate, like Satan, condemning people to eternal hell with just one chance even while deceived by Satan the whole time. That's not the case as the consensus of Scripture tells us, thankfully!
Q. Isn't explaining "I never knew you" so much simpler than you make it and just about how Christians "don't know Jesus" or have a "personal relationship Jesus?"
A. That's completely backwards from what Jesus said and taught. He did not say, "You didn't know me." He says he doesn't know you...because you don't do his Father's will (which is what he taught the preceding 3 chapters and everywhere else). You did your own thing, lawlessly, doing "lawlessness."
That Jesus said it this way makes sense. For example, if you want to get into the White House, it's not important if you know President Trump but whether he knows you. Jesus has his own "Lamb's Book of Life" to check your name on. Conversely, and contrary to what Christianity vaguely says about "developing a personal relationship with Jesus" (?), we do not have ability to meet and "know Jesus" today. We're on earth and he's up in Heaven until his time of return (Acts 3:21).
But we don't need to! Thankfully we can know what Jesus said to do and do it so we have our names written in his Book of Life. That's the focus that Jesus is concerned about and the one that produces fruit. Vague platitudes do not produce much of anything beyond a temporary appeasement. Jesus is not really expressing concern about who knows who, but rather who is operating in love like God the Father is (1Jn 4:7).
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