What is the fate of a false prophet?
Jesus provides the answer in Matthew 15.21–23:
“Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only he who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. Many will say to me on that 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. Away from me, you evildoers!’”
With these words, Jesus identifies two false paths to salvation. The first consists of theological orthodoxy without ethical change. The earliest Christian confession is, “Jesus is Lord.” According to Romans 10.9, “if you confess with your mouth, ‘Jesus is Lord,’ and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.” First Corinthians 12.3 teaches that the difference between a truly spiritual person and a falsely spiritual person is the ability to confess, “Jesus is Lord.” And, if Philippians 2.9–11, the reason why God raised Jesus from the dead and seated him at his right hand is so that “every tongue [would] confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.” So, the confession of Christ’s Lordship is the essence of saving faith, the mark of true spirituality, and God’s eternal purpose for humanity.
And yet, Jesus says, some will call him “Lord, Lord” but not be saved. Why? Because they have not understood that confession involves obedience. Jesus Christ is not your Lord unless you do what he says. That is why the first group does not enter the kingdom of heaven. They have not performed “the will of my Father who is in heaven.”
The second false path makes an equal but opposite error. Here, people come to Jesus having performed all sorts of spectacular good works. “Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and in your name drive out demons and perform many miracles?” But their impressive performance masked a lack of personal relationship: “I never knew you.” And notice that these people’s deeds were works of impressive spiritual power, but not obvious moral conversion. They prophesied and exorcised, but did they love God and neighbor?
It should go without saying that Jesus wants all people to confess that he is indeed Lord. But that confession—if it is to be truly meant—requires moral change and inward devotion. As Paul put it in Galatians 5.6: “The only thing that counts is faith expressing itself through love.” Not orthodoxy without ethics, not impressive deeds without personal relationship—God wants the whole shebang.
What, then, is the false prophet’s fate? It is separation from God. “Away from me, you evildoers!” There is no hope for the “prophet” who confesses Jesus as Lord but doesn’t act like it, from the heart. But then again, why focus only on prophets, for Jesus’ warning is equally applicable to us non-prophets as well.