Salvation and Damnation linked to Deeds

(Matthew 7:13-23)


The Christian Scriptures abound with references to the Last Judgment, to Heaven, and to Hell. This saying seems to promise salvation only to a sub-grouping within the early church, placing considerable emphasis on the performance of good deeds. In this it resembles the teachings of Jewish prophets like Isaiah (1:10-20). Such a path to salvation is far more rigorous than, for instance, the Buddhist tradition of the eventual salvation of all beings.

What metaphor in this passage seems to promise Hellfire to those who are not true followers?


Enter through the narrow gate, for the gate is wide and the road is easy that leads to destruction, (1) and there are many who take it. For the gate is narrow and the road is hard that leads to life, and there are few who find it.

Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep's clothing but inwardly are ravenous wolves. (2) You will know them by their fruits. Are grapes gathered from thorns, or figs from thistles? In the same way, every good tree bears good fruit, but the bad tree bears bad fruit. A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, nor can a bad tree bear good fruit. Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. Thus you will know them by their fruits.

Not everyone who says to me, "Lord, Lord," will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father in heaven. On that day many will say to me, "Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many deeds of power in your name? (3) Then I will declare to them, "I never knew you; go away from me, you evil-doers."

New Revised Standard Version


(1) Traditionally interpreted as eternal torment in Hell.

(2) Aimed at teachers who disagreed with the dominant group in the early church.

(3) Note that not even the successful performance of miracles is enough to prove worthiness.



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This is an excerpt from Reading About the World, Volume 1, edited by Paul Brians, Mary Gallwey, Douglas Hughes, Azfar Hussain, Richard Law, Michael Myers Michael Neville, Roger Schlesinger, Alice Spitzer, and Susan Swan and published by Harcourt Brace Custom Publishing.

The reader was created for use in the World Civilization course at Washington State University, but material on this page may be used for educational purposes by permission of the editor-in-chief:

Paul Brians
Department of English
Washington State University
Pullman 99164-5020

Reading About the World is now out of print. You can search for used copies using the following information:Paul Brians, et al. Reading About the World, Vol. 1, 3rd edition, Harcourt Brace College Publishing: ISBN 0-15-567425-0 or Paul Brians, et al. Reading About the World, Vol. 2, 3rd edition, Harcourt Brace College Publishing: ISBN 0-15-512826-4.

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