In my estimation, the most chilling words in the Bible center not on Hell but on judgment. To judge is to separate the wheat from the chaff; the sheep from the goats; the lost from the found.
Judgment determines who is deemed righteous and who is not. The righteous spend eternity in Heaven and the unrighteous, in Hell. If we were judged on the basis of our works (the sum total of every thought, word, and deed as measured against the perfection of a holy God), none would be found righteous.
Romans 3:10 states this emphatically. “There is no one righteous; no not one”. Instead, we are declared righteous on the basis of our relationship with Jesus. If we know Him, we inherit His righteousness as our own and when measured against the standard of perfect holiness, are not found lacking. But we have to know Him. And He has to know us. This is where those chilling words come into play.
As part of the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus tells the crowd that “Many will say to me on that day,” ( what day?… Judgment Day) “Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name and in your name drive out demons and perform many miracles? Then I will tell them plainly, I never knew you.” They had the good works, but they didn’t know Jesus. They were expecting His approval but the reality is that their works, even the really impressive ones, didn’t matter at all. The measuring stick was something else entirely. And that is the heart of judgment.
We see the same illustration in another form in the Parable of the 10 Bridesmaids. “At that time, (what time? … the end of time) the kingdom of Heaven will be like 10 bridesmaids who took their lamp stands and went out to meet the bridegroom. Five of them were foolish and five were wise. The foolish ones took their lamps but did not take any oil with them. The wise, however, took oil in jars along with their lamps. The bridegroom was a long time in coming, and they all became drowsy and fell asleep.”
As the story continues, we learn that the bridegroom arrives without warning, leaving the foolish bridesmaids to scramble for oil while the wise were immediately prepared to enter the wedding feast. When they arrived later, the foolish bridesmaids banged on the door and begged to be let in. But the bridegroom replied, “I tell you the truth, I do not know you.” The bridesmaids had lamps, but they were empty. Without oil, the lamps were useless. In the Bible, oil often symbolizes the Holy Spirit and without the Spirit, we cannot lay claim to the righteousness of God. Our works, just like the empty lamps, will never be enough.
When Christ returns to judge the living and the dead, the critical question will not be “do I know Jesus?” but rather “does Jesus know me?” I can think of nothing more tragic than standing before Him expecting approval, but hearing the words, “I never knew you.”
~ Melissa Gibbs has been a member of LIFE Fellowship for over 10 years, is the mother to four boys and the late widow of JD Gibbs.