The most fearful statement in the Bible is that many will go to hell that think they are going to heaven. Jesus said, “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’” (Matthew 7:21-23).
Many who think that they are going to heaven are not! Many will be lost who think they are saved. Are you possibly one of those people who are going to be horrified by those words of Jesus when you die? What went wrong? Why are these people rejected from being in the presence of the Lord? Looking at those verses, what reasons can you see for these people being rejected?
Did you notice that going to heaven is not based on what one says (words)? Even many people who say the right things about Jesus are not going to heaven. Even if they call Him “Lord” does not mean that they are going to heaven.
Did you notice that going to heaven is not based on what one does (works)? Even many people who do religious things for Jesus are not going to heaven. Even if they prophesy and cast out demons and perform miracles does not mean that they are going to heaven.
Did you notice the reason Jesus said that many people would be rejected and not go to heaven? Jesus said it is because they are “lawless.” Many people who claim that Jesus is their Lord and who do religious works are actually lawless or “Lord-less.” To be lawless means that a person is Lord of his or her own life. Being Lord of your own life is sin because you are not the King, Jesus is! The Bible says, “Everyone who practices sin also practices lawlessness; and sin is lawlessness” (1 John 3:4).
Who is King in your life, you or Jesus? Who do you serve, yourself or Jesus? Do you keep His commandments and do His will or do you do your own thing and lean on your own understanding to guide your life? The Bible says, “By this we know that we have come to know Him, if we keep His commandments. The one who says, ‘I have come to know Him,’ and does not keep His commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in him” (1 John 2:3-4).
Two Main Culprits That Are Sending Many People To Hell - Libertinism (Words) and Legalism (Works)
There are two main culprits that are sending many people to hell who think they are going to heaven. The first culprit is the false gospel of libertinism. This is the false gospel of “easy-believism;” of saying the right words about Jesus but not receiving Him as Lord. Jesus said, “Why do you call Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ and do not do what I say?” (Luke 6:46). The Bible says, “They profess to know God, but by their deeds they deny Him” (Titus 1:16). These people are trying to have Jesus as Savior but not as Lord and they are still in control of their own lives and they do not do what the Bible says for them to do – they are not obedient to Jesus’ commandments.
The second culprit that is sending many people to hell who think that they are going to heaven is the false gospel of legalism. It is the false gospel of “making Jesus Lord;” of doing religious works for Jesus but not receiving Him as Lord. The Bible says that no man can be saved by being good or doing good deeds. “For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not as a result of works, so that no one may boast” (Ephesians 2:8-9). And, “By the works of the Law no flesh (mortal man) will be justified (saved)” (Galatians 2:16).
No one can “make Jesus Lord” of his or her life by doing religious deeds and duties. Not by going to church, not by being baptized, not by preaching or teaching or anything else. You cannot “make Jesus Lord” because He is Lord. He will not bow down to you or anyone else for you or them to crown Him and make Him Lord. You must bow down to Him and receive Him as Lord if you are going to be saved.
The two culprits that are sending many people to hell who think that they are going to heaven are libertinism (words), saying the right words about Jesus; and legalism (works), trying to make Jesus Lord. Both groups of people, the libertines and the legalists, have one thing in common – they are lawless and Lord-less and need Jesus as their Lord and Savior.
The Only Way to be Saved - Lordship (Worship)
The Bible gives a clear picture that going to heaven is a matter of lordship – not words, just saying the right things about Him (“Lord, Lord”) or works, doing things to “make Him Lord” but actually bowing before Him and worshiping Him and receiving Him as Lord. This clear picture of salvation being a matter of lordship is given to us in the Bible in Luke 23:32-43. See for yourself what the Bible has to say on the subject of salvation being a matter of lordship (worship).
Two others also, who were criminals, were being led away to be put to death with Him.
When they came to the place called The Skull, there they crucified Him and the criminals, one on the right and the other on the left.
But Jesus was saying, “Father, forgive them; for they do not know what they are doing.” And they cast lots, dividing up His garments among themselves.
And the people stood by, looking on. And even the rulers were sneering at Him, saying, “He saved others; let Him save Himself if this is the Christ of God, His Chosen One.”
The soldiers also mocked Him, coming up to Him, offering Him sour wine,
and saying, “If you are the King of the Jews, save Yourself!”
Now there was also an inscription above Him, “THIS IS THE KING OF THE JEWS.”
One of the criminals who were hanged there was hurling abuse at Him, saying, “Are you not the Christ? Save Yourself and us!”
But the other answered, and rebuking him said, “Do you not even fear God, since you are under the same sentence of condemnation?
And we indeed are suffering justly, for we are receiving what we deserve for our deeds; but this man has done nothing wrong.”
And he was saying, “Jesus, remember me when You come in Your kingdom!”
And He said to him, “Truly I say to you, today you shall be with Me in Paradise.”
No picture is really complete unless it has a proper backdrop and frame. The Bible supplies the proper backdrop and frame for this picture of salvation and the picture will be clearer once we have it in its proper setting. This account in the Bible is the crucifixion of the Lord Jesus Christ who was crucified between two criminals. The two criminals are part of the backdrop of this picture of salvation and it is from their examples that we see some truths about people today.
First, both of these criminals represent all of mankind. All of us have a problem – all of us have refused to serve and worship God as our King; we have refused to do what God has told us proving that we have decided that we would rather be king in our own lives than to let God be King in our lives. “All have turned aside, together they have become useless; there is none who does good, there is not even one” (Romans 3:12).
If God had been their King would these criminals have committed crimes or would they have done good instead? What have you done that proves that you have refused to let God be your King? “All have sinned (done their own thing; lawlessness) and come short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23). And the Bible says, “The wages of sin (doing your own thing; lawlessness) is death” (Romans 6:23). We all deserve to die and go to hell because all of us have turned from God’s way of doing things to our own way of doing things. We have broken God’s laws and become lawless – living out from under His kingship or lordship.
Second, Jesus warned us in the Bible, “Make friends quickly with your opponent at law while you are with him on the way…” (Matthew 5:25). All of us are on the way to God’s court and must receive an “out of court settlement” before we come to court or we will be thrown into the prison of hell and will not come out of there. “It is appointed for men to die once and after this comes judgment” (Hebrews 9:27). The amazing truth is that God offers us who have violated His laws an out of court settlement if we will receive it before it is too late.
These two criminals were on their way to God’s court. They were being executed and death was going to usher them into God’s presence for judgment. If they were to experience God’s salvation they must receive His offer of an out of court settlement before it was too late.
So we see that we all have a problem – we have all sinned and deserve to die and be locked in the prison of hell for ever. We have all mocked Jesus’ kingship. The Bible shows us that both criminals mocked Jesus’ lordship by their words and their works. Matthew 27:38-44 tells us that the people, the chief priests, the scribes, the elders, and the two robbers were mocking and taunting and insulting Jesus because they did not believe that He was really the King. Have you ever doubted that Jesus is really the King? Have you ever denied Jesus by either your words or works or both?
And we also see that just like these two criminals we are all on the way to God’s court and need to receive an out of court settlement before it is too late. The question now is: how does that work? How do we receive an out of court settlement from God?
We get the answer to those questions from this picture of salvation given in the Bible. The Bible clearly shows that salvation is a matter of lordship and that receiving Jesus as King (Lord) and Savior is God’s out of court settlement.
Here is how it works:
One criminal changed his mind about Jesus and began to believe that Jesus really was the King – “But the other answered, and rebuking him said, ‘Do you not even fear God, since you are under the same sentence of condemnation?”
He admitted that he was guilty and receiving what he deserved – “And we indeed are suffering justly, for we are receiving what we deserve for our deeds.”
He realized and admitted that Jesus was innocent and had done nothing wrong – Jesus was dying for crimes He had not committed – “but this man has done nothing wrong.”
He confessed with his mouth that Jesus is Lord (King) – “Jesus, remember me when You come in Your kingdom.” Only kings have kingdoms.
He believed in his heart that God would raise Jesus from the dead – “Jesus, remember me when You come in Your kingdom.” He knew that Jesus was being executed and was going to die but he also believed that God would raise Him from the dead and that He would come again.
He called on the name of the Lord – “Jesus, remember me when You come in Your kingdom.”
The Bible says, “If you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord (King) and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you shall be saved. For with the heart man believes resulting in righteousness and with the mouth he confesses resulting in salvation. And whoever calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved” (Romans 10:9-10, 13). The word “confess” is not the same as the word “profess.” The word “confess” means “to say the same thing as another,” or “agree with another.” So to confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord does not mean just to say or profess, “Lord, Lord,” but it means to agree with God that He really is Lord and to prove it by being sorry over your sin, asking Him (Jesus) to forgive you, and serving Him as Lord.
Do you agree with God that Jesus really is Lord? Do you agree with God that you are not Lord? Are you sorry for having lived out from under His all-wise and all-loving lordship? Are you willing to ask Him to forgive you?
The word “believe” does not mean to just understand some facts about something or someone in your head but it means to “trust.” Do you trust that God raised Jesus from the dead? Do you believe that Jesus is a trustworthy King and reliable Governor of your life? Do you trust yourself and your own goodness to get you to heaven or do you trust Jesus and His goodness to get you to heaven?
Have you ever “called” on the name of Jesus for Him to forgive you and save you? That does not mean that you have prayed and asked Him into your heart but it means that you have prayed and asked Him to include you when He comes in His kingdom. This means that you have asked Him to be your Lord (King). This means that you want to be one of the King's subjects, loving, honoring, and obeying Him because of His love for you.
God’s out of court settlement is His own Son. “For God so loved the world (you), that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes (trusts) in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life” (John 3:16).
Jesus, the only One who has never sinned, paid your sin debt for you. I urge you that if you have never received Jesus as your Lord (King) and Savior then today, make friends quickly with God by calling on the name of Jesus and receiving His forgiveness and the salvation that He offers.
The criminal that died and went to hell wanted Jesus as Savior – “Are You not the Christ? Save Yourself and us!” But notice that he did not want Jesus as Lord (King). If he would have wanted Jesus as Lord (King) he would not have tried to command Jesus what to do but like the other criminal who went to heaven he would have submitted himself to Jesus and received Him as his King.
Have you tried to have Jesus as Savior but not as Lord? Repent, and call on Him to save you and He will. Have you tried to have Jesus as Lord but not Savior? Have you tried to “make Him Lord?” Repent, and call on Him to save you and He will.
He is Lord and Savior and we must receive Him for who He really is. Genuine salvation is not words (what we say about Jesus); it is not works (making Jesus Lord); but it is worship (receiving, trusting, and serving Jesus as Lord and Savior).