The Sermon on the Mount—Do All Enter the Kingdom?
AFTER warning of false prophets whom his hearers might meet up with during the first century C.E., Jesus said: “Not everyone saying to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter into the kingdom of the heavens, but the one doing the will of my Father who is in the heavens will.”—Matt. 7:21; compare Luke 6:46.
In order to enjoy the blessings of God’s kingdom, persons must acknowledge the lordship of Jesus Christ. (Rom. 10:9; Phil. 2:11) But more is involved than paying lip service to the Son of God by addressing him as “Lord, Lord.”
Admittance to the full range of Kingdom blessings is only for “the one doing the will of my Father who is in the heavens.” That “will” is adequately set forth in the Sermon on the Mount. It requires doing “fine works” in declaring Kingdom truths to others. It also includes transforming one’s personality so as to display godlike qualities such as mildness, chasteness, trustworthiness, unselfishness, love, sincerity and faith.—See Matthew 5:16, 21, 22, 27-30, 33-48; 6:1-18, 25-34.
The next words of Jesus show that many who would claim to be his followers would fall short in this regard: “Many will say to me in that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and expel demons in your name, and perform many powerful works in your name?’ And yet then I will confess to them: I never knew you! Get away from me, you workers of lawlessness.”—Matt. 7:22, 23.
“In that day,” when God executes judgment against his enemies (Zech. 14:1-3; 2 Thess. 2:1, 2; 2 Pet. 3:10-12), “many” will seek favorable consideration by claiming to have accomplished remarkable feats ‘in his name,’ that is, as if representatives of Jesus Christ and by means of divine power obtained through him.
They will ask: “Did we not prophesy [that is, utter divine communications and perhaps predictions of future events] in your name?” But such ‘prophesying’ is not a sure identification of true Christian discipleship. According to the Scriptures, predictions that sometimes came true, as well as messages delivered as if by divine authority, were proclaimed also by false prophets.—Deut. 13:1-3; Jer. 14:14.
Some would boast that they ‘expelled demons in his name.’ There are persons in Christendom today who claim to have such power. But the practice of casting out demons (by means of mystical rites) has always been a feature of non-Biblical religions. Moreover, certain Jews of the first century C.E. expelled demons by means of magical formulas that they believed were handed down from King Solomon.*
It is not supernatural prophesying, expelling of demons or any other “powerful works” (miracles) that identify true Christians. In fact, when foretelling the sign of his presence and the conclusion of the present system of things, Jesus declared: “False Christs and false prophets will arise and will give great signs and wonders so as to mislead, if possible, even the chosen ones.” (Matt. 24:24) Such false prophets, impostors, would appear right in the Christian congregation and would attempt to lead astray many of its members.—Acts 20:29; 2 Pet. 2:2, 3, 10-22; Jude 4, 8-13, 16-19.
As noted above, Jesus pointed out that the genuine Christian would be “the one doing the will of my Father.” And what is the Father’s “will” for this day? As foretold by Jesus, it is that “this good news of the [established] kingdom . . . be preached in all the inhabited earth for a witness to all the nations” before the end comes. (Matt. 24:14) Do the sects of Christendom proclaim God’s kingdom to be at hand? No, for they regard it as something merely in the hearts of people, or in the far-distant future. They hypocritically give lip service to Jesus, but they refrain from doing the will of his Father. It is left to the comparatively small group known as Jehovah’s Witnesses to “declare good news of good things” of God’s Kingdom purposes “to the extremities of the inhabited earth.”—Rom. 10:15, 18; see also 1 Corinthians 9:16.
All who claim to have a relationship with Jesus Christ, without doing Kingdom works and putting on a truly Christlike personality, will fare badly when he executes divine vengeance against the present system of things. Then Jesus will “confess,” or make publicly manifest, that he “never knew” those whose Christianity was no deeper than lip service and so-called “charismatic” gifts. Never did the “many powerful works” in which they boast fool the Son of God. Rather than displaying righteousness, in actuality they proved to be “workers of lawlessness.” Hence, when Jesus acts as God’s executioner at the coming “great tribulation,” he will declare to them: “Get away from me.” Those imitation Christians will be denied entrance into the eternal blessings of God’s kingdom.—Compare Matthew 24:21, 22; 25:41, 46.
With regard to Jews’ expelling demons, we read in Exorcism Through the Ages: “The chief characteristic of these Jewish exorcisms is their naming of names believed to be efficacious, i.e. names of good angels, which are used either alone or in combination with El (=God); indeed reliance on mere names had long before become a superstition with the Jews, and it was considered most important that the appropriate names, which varied for different times and occasions, should be used. It was this superstitious belief, no doubt, that prompted the sons of Sceva, who had witnessed St. Paul’s successful exorcisms in the name of Jesus, to try on their own account the formula, ‘I conjure you by Jesus whom Paul preacheth,’ with results disastrous to their credit (Acts, xix, 13). It was a popular Jewish belief, accepted even by a learned cosmopolitan like Josephus, that Solomon had received the power of expelling demons, and that he had composed and transmitted certain formulae that were efficacious for that purpose. The Jewish historian records how a certain Eleazar, in the presence of the Emperor Vespasian and his officers, succeeded, by means of a magical ring applied to the nose of a possessed person, in drawing out the demon through the nostrils—the virtue of the ring being due to the fact that it enclosed a certain rare root indicated in the formulae of Solomon, and which it was exceedingly difficult to obtain.”—See Josephus’ Antiquities of the Jews, Book 8, chap. 2, sec. 5 and The Jewish War, Book 7, chap. 6, sec. 3.