It was, with little doubt, the most devious deception of the past century, a devilish scheme perpetrated upon trainloads of trusting men, women and children. It happened on the outskirts of a Polish town named Oswieçim during the Second World War. There, under the direction of Adolf Hitler, a slave labor camp was established for people he considered subhuman. It was only after the war’s end that the world would learn all the shocking facts of that place, known today by its German name, Auschwitz.
Auschwitz was much more than a labor camp. The primary industry there was murder. At least one million people who walked through the wrought-iron gates of Auschwitz never made it out alive. The large majority of them didn’t have a clue that they and their families would be dead within hours of their arrival.
Gathered from all over Nazi-occupied Europe, Jewish families were transported to Auschwitz in crowded freight and cattle cars. Upon arrival, all newcomers were immediately separated into two groups. To one side went the minority—only those men who appeared to be able to withstand heavy labor. To the other side went everyone else. They were the men of small frame, the women, the sick, frail, and elderly, as well as babies and children who wept as they were separated from their strong fathers.
The larger of the two groups was then herded to another place in the camp where their eyes fell upon a puzzling scene. Before them was a small orchestra of young women, neatly dressed, playing an upbeat, joyful tune. Each girl was concentrating intensely—almost too intensely—on the pages of music before her, seemingly oblivious to the hundreds of people who were now their audience.
An apologetic announcement was made: There had been an infestation of lice in the camp, and everyone must be disinfected in a communal shower before being admitted to the living quarters. Instructed to disrobe, each Jewish family neatly folded its clothes and placed them on a table with their other personal belongings. They were assured that their embarrassment would be over in just a few minutes, once they were sprayed with a harmless disinfectant.
As many as two thousand people at a time were paraded, naked, through the doors of a large, low building that was built into a hillside. Above the door a sign, bordered neatly with flowers, said “BATHS.” Once the last person was inside, the doors were slid shut and locked securely.
The orchestra stopped playing.
Through vents from above, Nazi workers dropped a small quantity of Zyklon B crystals, a poison manufactured for killing rodents. Inside, deadly vapors of hydrocyanic gas began to waft from the ceilings.
The clusters of Jewish families quickly realized something was very wrong. People began coughing, then choking convulsively and vomiting. Shouting and screaming in terror, the panicked crowd instinctively surged toward the sealed doors they had entered. The victims pushed, clawed, and climbed over each other, hoping desperately to escape their sure fate. Many quickly met their death, crushed on the concrete floor by the onrush. For the more aggressive, the hellish battle raged on a while longer.
After twenty-three minutes, all struggle ceased and the room was silent. The doors slid open, and workers dressed in gas masks and rubber boots entered to begin their gruesome task of disentangling the piles of contorted bodies and transporting them to nearby incinerators.
Finally, the room was efficiently washed of the filth of vomit, urine and fecal matter—the final bodily functions of hundreds of victims—lest the next trainload of Jewish families become suspicious of what really happened in the bathhouse. There was a tight schedule to keep—another train was scheduled to arrive soon—filled with more trusting people to deceive, murder and incinerate.
The wholesale slaughter of so many people is, to us, a heinous crime of the highest degree, and the deceptive means by which the Nazis lured their victims into the gas chambers only makes their sin more abhorrent to moral minds. Yet the deceit and horror of Auschwitz pales in comparison to a future scene about which the Bible tells us. Then the degree of the deception will be much greater; the fate of the condemned will be much worse; and then their numbers will be much higher.
Unlike Auschwitz, where Jewish families, knowing the hatred of their captors, approached the doors of the gas chambers with some apprehension, these future crowds will be filled with peace as they approach their doom. They had been singing songs of celebration for years in anticipation of the joys they suppose soon await them, but they will be fully self-deceived. And unlike those in Auschwitz, whose horrible sufferings ended after twenty-three minutes, these will suffer much longer. The pungent smoke of Auschwitz’s incinerators ultimately ceased rising into the dark sky. The smoke from hell, however, shall rise forever (see Rev. 14:11).
Picture the scene as Jesus foretold it:
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” (Matt. 7:22-23).
Jesus obviously revealed only the climax of a much longer story, but from this short segment, we can deduce other tragic details.
First, we can safely assume that the arguing we just read of the “many” who stand before Jesus is their final defense. They obviously had already been denied entrance into the heavenly kingdom. Now, with hearts beating wildly and minds spinning, they make their last desperate attempt to convince the Lord of His error.
To debate with God! How outrageous! What could drive a person to be so insane as to hope he might win such a dispute? Only pure desperation. Like a drowning man who grasps at anything, these panicked people pathetically hope to change the decree of the unchanging One.
And what was going through their minds when they heard His decree for the first time? He was their Savior, or so they thought. They loved Him, they thought. They had been looking forward to this day for a long time, expecting to hear Him say, “Well done, good and faithful slave…enter into the joy of your master” (Matt. 25:21). They had served Him in ministry, experiencing the flow of His power, or so they thought. They had been on the cutting edge of Christianity, prophesying, casting out demons, and performing acts that they considered to be miraculous. Is it not safe to assume they had studied parts of the Bible, attended church, perhaps even attended special seminars on spiritual warfare?
Now, marveling at His glory and filled with joyful anticipation, they listen intently as He is about to speak. Every word will be more precious than gold. Time stands still. Eternity has begun.
His voice breaks the silence: “You are denied entrance into My kingdom.”
Did He really say what I think I just heard Him say? Surely not. It couldn’t be. This is my Lord and Savior. “Lord, I must be so excited that my hearing has gone bad. Could You repeat what You just said?”
Again He speaks. “You are denied entrance into My kingdom.”
What? No! No! No! This can’t be happening. “Lord, I’m a Christian! I’m Your own! I belong to the family of God! I accepted You as my Savior! I’ve gone to church for years. Lord, You must be mistaken! Somehow there’s been a misunderstanding! I believed in You! You’re supposed to let me in!”
“You were deceived because you ignored much of what I said, as well as what I said through Paul, Peter, James, John and Jude. I repeatedly forewarned you of this. I 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’ (Matt. 7:21, emphasis added). You did not do the will of My Father while you were on the earth, proving that you did not truly believe in Me. Sin was your practice.”
“Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in Your name, and in Your name cast out demons, and in Your name perform many miracles?”
“Your prophecy was not inspired by My Holy Spirit, but from your own mind. Much of what you prophesied contradicted My Word. The demons you thought you cast out of your fellow false Christians didn’t exist. You were trying to deal with their sin by blaming it on a demon, when what they needed was repentance, faith and the new birth. The miracles you thought you performed were a sham. You accumulated teachers who told you what you wanted to hear. They proclaimed a false grace, misleading you into thinking you could get into heaven without holiness. You thought you were saved, but you weren’t. I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness.”
Will such a scene as I’ve just described actually occur? There is no doubt that it will, although I’ve obviously added some details to what has been foretold in Matthew 7:21-23. Nevertheless, standing before Jesus one day will be many people who have called Him Lord, who have been involved in “ministry,” and who expect to enter heaven. Yet, shockingly, they will be denied entrance.
I’m sure you’ll agree that it would be better to discover sooner rather than later if we’re currently self-deceived. Now there is time to change; then it will be too late.
“But I’m certain I’m not deceived!” you say. Do you realize that is what every deceived person would claim? Deceived people don’t realize they’re deceived—otherwise they would no longer be deceived. Better to say, “I may be deceived, and if I am, I want to know it.”
Let us then consider what Scripture says, and as we do, examine ourselves to see if we are truly “in the faith” (2 Cor. 13:5). And please, take your time as you read. What could be more important?