Matthew 7:22-23 - To Whom Did Christ Say, I Never Knew You

SCRIPTURE: Matthew 7:22-23 Many will say to me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name? and in thy name have cast out devils? and in thy name done many wonderful works? And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity.

QUESTION: These people thought they knew Jesus, but Jesus declared that he never at any time knew them. This is a judgment seat scene. If Jesus didn t at any time know these people they obviously were never in a valid covenant with Him. Who are these people?

ANSWER: Whether this is a judgment seat scene or not, the words I never knew you do not necessarily mean that "he never at any time knew them." To the contrary, would we not expect that Christ will be familiar with all individuals subject to his judgment? The verses in question must be considered within their context to discern the intended meaning. The context of Matthew 7 is the Sermon on the Mount, Christ's audience being the lost sheep of the House of Israel to whom he was sent. Chapter 7 presents several parables, the one immediately preceding our subject verses addressing false teachers portrayed through the natural example of trees and their fruit (verses 15-20). The lesson is that false teachers are known (and to be judged) by their fruits - Wherefore by their fruits ye shall know them (vs.20). Our Lord immediately follows this declaration with, Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the Kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven (vs. 21). The context of the subject verses 22-23 appear to be a warning to those who profess Christ, that they might discern and do the will of my Father, lest they work iniquity and find themselves excluded from the kingdom.

A similar scenario is presented in Luke 13:24-30 addressing the many thatseek to enter in, and shall not be able, having been denied entry with a similar rebuke - I know you not whence ye are. These then depart, seeing Abraham, Isaac and Jacob and all the prophets in the kingdom and you (yourselves) thrust out. Here the "many" are described as those who seek to enter in.

The Diaglott rendering of the Matthew 7:23 phrase is I never approved of you, depart from me, you who practice iniquity. Having instructed his audience that they will be "known by their fruits" (vs. 16,20), Christ here addresses those that work iniquity. Departing from iniquity is an admonition for saints as well as for sinners, i.e., The Lord knoweth them that are his. Let every one that nameth the name of Christ depart from iniquity (2 Timothy 2:19).

We see a similar rebuke in the parable of the virgins in Matthew 25:1- 13 where the door was shut to the foolish virgins and they cried unto their Lord, open to us. These individuals were espoused to the bridegroom, yet he answered and said, Verily I say unto you, I know you not. Through Ezekiel, God has explained how this can be, Hear now, O house of Israel; ...when the righteous turneth away from his righteousness, and committeth iniquity, and doeth according to all the abominations that the wicked man doeth, shall he live? All his righteousness that he hath done shall not be mentioned, in his trespass that he hath trespassed, and in his sin that he hath sinned, in them shall he die (18:23-25). At the judgment seat, saints found to have "practiced" iniquity will certainly find themselves not approved and subject to Christ's rebuke, I know you not. Speculation on the appearance of those outside covenant relationship at the judgment seat based on the words, I never knew you / I know you not, lacks credibility and persuasiveness as these words are clearly scripturally applied to those espoused to Christ, as in the parable of the virgins.