Summary: Is it possible to spend your life in church and your eternity in hell?
I Never Knew You!
(Can A Christian Go To Hell?)
Imagine, for a moment what it would be like to die and open your eyes in hell. Even more terrifying is if you had spent your life in church, supposedly doing all the right things.
"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. Many will say unto 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." (Matthew 7:21-23)
These three verses in the book of Matthew are probably some of the most troubling scriptures to me. They trouble me because they describe many in the Body of Christ, who at face value, are seemingly doing all the right things, yet at death are refused entrance into the eternal reward of the righteous.
Multitudes in the Church today are blessed with a tremendous anointing to move in the Gifts of the Holy Spirit. During church services, prophecies, words of wisdom or words of knowledge seem to just flow out of them (...have we not prophesied in thy name?).
Many have stood face to face with some of the most wicked spirits that hell could produce, casting them out of their victims, and sending them limping back to the abyss (...and in thy name cast out devils?).
Still others have built large and far reaching ministries and mega-churches. They have fed the poor, supplied relief and funds to third world countries. They have seen multitudes come to Jesus and receive salvation and physical healing (...and in thy name done many wonderful works?). As they stand before the Lord of Lords expecting to hear "Well done, thou good and faithful servant...enter thou into the joy of thy Lord" (Matthew 25:21). His words will ring in their ears throughout eternity."... I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity."
These groups will also include many Sunday School teachers, pastors and evangelists. Song leaders, choir members and musicians may also be in these numbers, along with elders, deacons and stewards. From the most influential member of the laity to the least, many run the risk of being rejected entrance to the kingdom of heaven.
How could this happen? It seems impossible that people with ministries, that we have judged as successful and blessed, could fall into such a spiritual waste land. But nonetheless it could happen.
SCRIPTURE MUST INTERPRET SCRIPTURE
One of the biggest mistakes we make when reading our Bibles is that too often we use our denominational doctrines or religious traditions as our standard for scriptural interpretation. This is backwards theology. We must let scripture, in context, interpret our doctrines. When we allow doctrines or traditions to interpret scripture we run the risk, like the Pharisees, of falling into religious tradition.
It has been my experience that religious people’s spiritual lives are usually centered around doctrinal traditions rather than the Word in it’s entirety.
Many times I have tried witnessing to these people and they usually always end the conversation with a debate. "Do you believe once saved, always saved? Or, "Does your church speak in tongues?" The sad fact is, they do not want an answer from God’s Word, they only want to argue doctrine. When religious people witness, for the most part, they will use the name of Jesus only to create another convert to their doctrine or their religious philosophy. Many times they do more harm to the kingdom of God then they do good.
A perfect example is myself. For the first 21 years of my life I was raised Roman Catholic. Had a religious person witnessed to me about the Pope being the anti-christ, or praying to Mary and departed saints being idolatry, two things may very well have happened.
1. I would have become very defensive and interpreted this as an attack against my faith and my God. I would have probably built a wall around me that no future Christian witness may have been able to penetrate. Or:
2. I would have believed their report and agreed to convert to their doctrine.
I still would have been lost and on my way to hell. That is why Jesus told the Pharisees, "Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye compass sea and land to make one proselyte, and when he is made, ye make him twofold more the child of hell than yourselves." (Matthew 23:15)
Thank God He sent me someone who was dedicated to the Word. Through the scriptures the Holy Spirit was able to reveal to me that my sin, not my theology, had separated me from a holy God. Because He loved me He sent His Son to the cross to bare my penalty of death. And that if I would repent of my sin and follow Jesus as Lord, my sin debt would be canceled, and I would be made righteous in Christ Jesus.