Who are “workers of iniquity” and what is their fate?

Illustration depicting a set of cut out letters formed to arrange the word sin.

Matthew 7:21–23, What is the will of the Father? In verse 21, Yeshua makes reference to “the will of the Father.” In Hebraic thought, to what is he referring here? What is “the will of the Father”? Keep in mind that when Yeshua gave this teaching the only Scriptures in existence were the writings of the Tanakh, and the first five books of Moses in the Bible, were the central teaching document for the Jewish people—the nation of Israel. Therefore, we would be expected to find “the will of the Father” to be revealed in the Word (or Oracles) of Elohim originating from heaven and delivered to man. The will of the Father was revealed at Mount Sinai and was the reference point of all the Hebrew prophets who were constantly charging the people of Israel to return to the ancient paths of YHVH’s Torah (Jer 6:16, 19; 18:15). As we see in Psalm 40:8, the will of Elohim is nothing more than delighting in obeying the Torah from one’s heart—something this psalm prophesies the coming Messiah would do. 

Yeshua, the Living Word or Torah (instruction, precepts, teachings) of Elohim, came to set Torah on a firm foundation (the whole point of the Sermon on the Mount, as we have seen) by rescuing it from the hands of the hypocritical, greedy, arrogant and self-righteous religionists of his day. Yeshua said in John 7:16 that his doctrine or teaching was not his own, but that of his Father in heaven and that those who do the will of the Father will recognize that his doctrine or teaching is from the Father (verse 17).

In John 7:19, Yeshua asks the Pharisees: “Did not Moses give you the Torah, and yet none of you keep [do, perform] the Torah?” What is the summation of what Yeshua is saying here? He is telling the people that he came to do the will of his Father, to bring to them the oracles or doctrine of the Father as given at Mount Sinai (called the Mosaic Covenant), and that these words are not his and that, basically, he is simply a messenger transmitting his Father’s words to the people—the very words of Moses, which he accuses the people of not keeping or obeying.

This was the message of Yeshua to the people in his day. Is this not a relevant message to the Christian church of our day, which teaches that the Torah-law of Moses is of little nor no relevance to Believers? The idea that Yeshua came to abrogate the Torah-law of Moses is difficult to comprehend in light of such Scriptures as John 14:15, a direct quote from Exodus 20:6, where Yeshua equates himself with YHVH who spoke at Mount Sinai. (See also 1 Cor 10:4.) Do you comprehend the full impact of this? Yeshua, whom the Christians call Jesus Christ, is the very one who spoke out from Mount Sinai and the one who gave the Torah-law and led the Children of Israel through the Wilderness. It is this Torah-law that Yeshua came to uphold and restore as we have seen by our study on the Sermon on the Mount.

We see that many religionists will claim to be followers of Yeshua, but what separates the true followers from the counterfeit ones is whether they are doing the will of YHVH or not. Many will be prophesying in Yeshua’s name, casting out devils and doing many miraculous works in his name, but this is not the proof that they are his. What is the proof? He says in verse 23, “And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you: depart from me, you that work iniquity.”

What is the meaning of the word “iniquity” (in verse 23)? It is the Greek word anomia (Strong’s G458) meaning “unrighteousness” or “lawlessness.” Righteousness by biblical definition is “adherence to the Torah-commandments of YHVH” (Ps 119:172). When the Jewish writers of the Testimony of Yeshua (NT) use the word “law” is almost always a reference to the Torah. In Hebrew thought then (and now), there was no other law except the Law of Moses. This “law” or Torah came from Elohim through the “Angel” or more properly the Messenger from heaven who gave the Torah to Moses, and who was none other than the pre-incarnate Yeshua (Acts 7:37–38). So the word “iniquity” or “lawlessness,” as used in our verse could quite simply be understood to mean “Torahlessness.” In fact, Torahlessness would be an apt translation of the Greek word anomia, which is behind the word iniquity or lawlessness (depending on the English translation). Quite clearly, in Matthew 7:21-23, Yeshua is speaking to those who claim or profess to be his followers, who claim or profess his name, claim his miraculous power, claim to speak by his authority and even claim, no doubt, to love him, but in reality they fail to love him (according to the biblical definition of love) by obeying his word or Torah-commandments ( John 14:15). In other words, they are sinners, walking in sinfulness, for John defines sin in his epistle as “the transgression of the Torah-law of Elohim” (1 John 3:4). Of these same people, in the day of judgment, Yeshua will say, “Depart from me, you that work [do] Torahlessness, I never knew you.” Yeshua will not accept these people on the basis of their verbal professions or claims, nor will he accept them on the basis of their prophetic or miracle-working abilities. Yeshua, the Living Torah of Elohim made flesh, will accept them only on the basis of their obedience to and orientation toward the Torah-law of Elohim.

Is Yeshua here abrogating or nullifying the Torah-law given to Moses or is he reaffirming it to his followers? The language of this scripture is very clear to those who have ears to hear and to those who are truth-seekers. He is loudly and clearly validating the Torah and its relevance upon the lives of his disciples or followers!

Matthew 7:21, Not everyone. Yeshua said “not everyone”; he didn’t say “no one.” Some who say “Lord, Lord…” and who cast out demons, prophecy and do wonderful works in the name of Yeshua will enter the kingdom of heaven. The issue here isn’t the words or the works, but whether all was being done according to the will of Elohim or the will of the world, flesh or the devil. 

Matthew 7:23, Knew. The word “knew” in Matt 7:23 is the Koine Greek word ginosko meaning “to learn to know, come to know, get a knowledge of perceive, feel; to become known; to know, understand, perceive, have knowledge of; to understand; to know.” The equivalent Hebrew word is yadah meaning the same thing. According to The TDNT, the Jewish translators of the LXX used either the Greek words ginoksein (the root of ginosko) and eidenai for the Heberew verb yadah. The Hebrew yadah was sometimes a Hebraism for “knowing one’s wife in a sexually intimate way (e.g. Gen 4:17, 25; Gen 38:26; Judg 19:25; 1 Kgs 1:4). In each of the four references previously listed verses where yadah refers to sexual intercourse, the Greek word ginosko is used in each case. We find this Hebraism again in Matthew 1:25 in reference to Joseph, who, the Gospel states, didn’t “know” (ginosko) Mary, his wife, before Yeshua was born. So, depending on the context of the scriptural passage in which it is found, the Hebrew word yadah and the Greek word ginosko can refer to sexual intercourse. However, in Matthew 7:23, there is nothing in the passage to suggest that Yeshua is alluding to this Hebraism. Moreover, Yeshua will not “know” his bride in an intimate spiritual way until after his second coming when he “marries” his spiritual bride (the saints) and the wedding supper of the Lamb has occurred. This, obviously, hasn’t happened yet.

Depart from me. There’s no indication in Yeshua’s words here that he will cast these people into the lake of fire. Simply, the implication, if combined with Yeshua’s words in Matt 5:19, these people will have a lower reward in the kingdom of heaven—a dwelling place that is further away from Yeshua. The Scriptures are clear: One’s level of obedience to YHVH’s Torah-instructions that is, the less a sinner one is, the greater will one’s heavenly rewards be. In verse 24, Yeshua says that one must not only hear but also do or obey his words.

Work iniquity. See notes at Luke 13:27.

Luke 13:27, Workers. Gr. ergates meaning “worker, one who works for hire” or figuratively, a minister, Bible teacher.

Iniquity. Gr. adikia meaning “unrighteousness” or by biblical definition, Torahlessness (see Ps 119:172).

 

1 thought on “Who are “workers of iniquity” and what is their fate?

  1. Don’t you just love it when Xtians say the law was for the Jews and its been done away with? Do they not know Yeshua is a Jew? I say if you’re anti-Semitic you’re antichrist!

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