Prepared by Dr. John E. Marshall
Matt. 25:31 (Holman) When the Son of Man comes in His glory, and all
the angels with Him, then He will sit on the throne of His glory.
Thus begins the Parable of the Sheep and the Goats, which expresses the heart of Christianity as the earliest believers understood it. This passage, maybe more than any other, brings to prominence the beautiful social ethic championed in Old Testament Judaism and New Testament Christianity.
The other three Gospels—Mark, Luke, and John—have no parallels to this imposing, majestic passage. This detail helps fuel the opinion held by some that the Gospel of Matthew is the most influetial book ever written.
When Jesus returns, He will no longer be a homeless wanderer with only a handful of followers. He will enjoy the retinue of a king; pomp and circumstance will be the order of the day. Heaven’s angels will come behind Him; Earth will snap to attention before Him. On that day, unbelievers will see with their eyes what believers have always seen by faith; Jesus is God.
Jesus will judge us. Nothing will be hidden. Secret sins are temporary, concealed for only a fleeting nanosecond. In the final day, they will all be exposed. His revealing our deeds before judging us will actually be a mercy. We will finally truly know ourselves, and see that what we receive is just.
I am grateful we will be judged by One of our own, One who shared our experience. In addition to being God, He is also human. He knows us.
Be glad Jesus decides. This is important. If someone else rendered the verdict, we might fear it would be temporary, subject to reversal.
The instant we arrive in Heaven, we will realize we do not deserve to be there. As this truth comes crashing in on us, we need to know King Jesus brought us there. This will let us enjoy Heaven without fear of removal.
Matt. 25:32a All the nations will be gathered before Him,. . .
On the final day, attendance will be all-inclusive. The whole human race, dead and living (Rev. 20:11-13), will be there for the muster roll. The living will come. Also, Earth, which is a huge graveyard, will yield its dead.
The crowd will stretch farther than eyes can see. Christianity has seen huge meetings. Over a million met for Billy Graham in Seoul, South Korea. Another million once came to hear German evangelist, Reinhard Bonnke, in Lagos, Nigeria. These stun us, but aren’t as big as the last day crowd will be.
Many of us have sung of this moment all our lives. It is the theme of the song “When the Roll Is Called Up Yonder.” A Methodist Sunday School teacher who always took attendance for his classes wrote the song. The absence of a sick child one day caused him to think how sad it would be to not have your name listed in the Book of Life.
After Jesus has been preached in all nations to show He is Savior of the world, He will return to judge the nations. The ancients believed each nation had its own gods, but on the final day we will see the Bible taught truth. There is only one God; He rules over all nations. People will gather from everywhere, and see Jesus is the world’s only God, Savior, and Judge.
Matt. 25:32b-33 . . .and He will separate them one from another, just as
a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. He will put
the sheep on His right and the goats on the left.
The multitudes will gather in clusters, united by their nationalities. They will separate as individuals, divided by their relationship toward Jesus.
There will be only two divisions: sheep and goats, animals that well represent those who do or don’t follow Jesus. The sheep are innocent and tend to follow shepherds. Goats are unruly, tending not to follow a shepherd.
There is no third option, no temporary verdict, no Purgatory. We’re in one camp or the other. Knowing Jesus or not knowing Him is the separator.
Reading of this moment reminds me how grateful I am for the Bible. It tells what is, and will be, expected of us. Without it we would be clueless as to what we should be doing now, and to what awaits us on the other side.
Matt. 25:34a Then the King will say to those on His right, Come, you
who are blessed by My Father,. . .
This is the only time Jesus called Himself King. It is appropriate here. Sentences pronounced by a King wield ultimate authority. His first verdict is to the sheep. “Come” is the Gospel word. Jesus will woo and invite us, saying “Welcome!”, as if we’ve been apart from Him way too long. We now come to Him in His Word, and in prayer, but an ultimate coming awaits us.
The essence of our faith here and forever is close fellowship with Jesus. Ever be coming now. Keep coming forever. The word “has heaven lurking in it” (Spurgeon). Closeness to Jesus is the best blessing imaginable.
Jesus describes His followers as “blessed by my Father”. The Three in One’s love for each other is the springboard of their love for us. The Spirit glorifies the Son, who glorifies the Father as the First Cause of all blessings.
Matt. 25:34b . . .inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the
foundation of the world.
The final reward will not be a trivial gift given in a little hidden away corner. Receiving a kingdom is a big deal. We will “inherit” Heaven. An inheritance is not earned, but a gift received due to being a family member.
In Heaven we will feel at home, as if living in our own house. We will enter not as strangers or enemies, but as children receiving our birthright.
Heaven has been “prepared for you from the foundation of the world.” It is ready for us. God Himself took time to do this. He prepared it; He put good things in, and left bad things out. It will be perfect. This homecoming is important to God. Since Jesus is God, He will be infinitely creative. Since He is human and knows us, He will fashion it for our infinite enjoyment.
Matt. 25:35a For I was hungry and you gave Me something to eat; I was
thirsty and you gave Me something to drink.
It’s as if Jesus said, “I prepared Heaven for you because I knew you would show the family resemblance.” We don’t earn this praise. It rather bespeaks the fact we lived the way God in us wanted and enabled us to act.
We are saved by grace through faith; we by our deeds of love prove we are saved. Grace and faith let Jesus in; love lets Him out for all to see.
In our text, “for” provides evidence, not cause. For instance, when we say “She is alive, for she is moving”, we do not mean she is alive because she is moving; we mean her moving proves she is alive. We inherit Heaven not due to our deeds. They merely prove what we are: God’s sheep.
Six works are listed here: feed the hungry, give drink to the thirsty, take in immigrants, clothe the naked, care for the sick, and visit prisoners. These are not the only six works we are expected to do as Christ-followers.
They are a representative sample of what we should do. Christianity is not these six plus nothing else, nor is it something else without these six.
Why did Jesus pick these six in particular? Maybe because everyone assembled will appreciate the value and importance of these specific deeds.
In the throng, some will not value preaching, teaching, praying, etc., but these six deeds they will acknowledge as significant. Jesus may think other deeds are more important, but the crowd won’t. All will see and have to admit His verdicts are true. Even His enemies won’t be able to object.