THE KING’S JUDGMENT AT THE END
Kv.; 31-32 “31“When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, he will sit on his glorious throne. 32All the nations will be gathered before him, and he will separate the people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats.”
I remember one professor in my university had us review his textbook to prepare for our final exam. Through reviewing each chapter and studying hard, we made good scores. I respected the professor for his kindness and humanity, though he was one of top scholars in Korea. By his influence, I wanted to be a researcher for my major, like M. Peter Lee did.
When we meditate on today’s passage, we can recognize that Jesus our Lord earnestly tells us what to do and how he will judge all nations when he returns.
How does Jesus distinguish the sheep and the goats when he returns? How does this passage tell us to prepare ourselves for Jesus’ return?
I. The sheep on his right.(31-40)
Read verses 31-33. “31“When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, he will sit on his glorious throne. 32All the nations will be gathered before him, and he will separate the people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. 33He will put the sheep on his right and the goats on his left.”
When Jesus returns in his glory with all the angels, his first concern will be to gather his sheep among all the nations. He will separate the people one from another as a shepherd divides the sheep from the goats. ‘One from another’ means he knows each person’s deed clearly, whether it was good or bad, even though there are numerous people in the world before him. This indicates that our individual life of faith is the final result and will be counted based on what we have done. Up to now in the last two chapters, Jesus emphasized a believers’ deeds and life of faith from the parables of the Faithful and Wise Servants, Ten Virgins, Bags of Gold, and this passage.
Who are Jesus’ sheep? Read verses 35-40. ““34“Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. 35For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, 36I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’
37“Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? 38When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? 39When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’
40“The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’”
Here, we see that the King Jesus points out the righteous’ care for the hungry, the thirsty, strangers, the sick, and prisoners. The sheep are obviously those who care for such needy people. Jesus regards them as the righteous. Why does Jesus regard the righteous as the sheep? What does it mean? The characteristic of sheep is humble, weak and dependent, dumb and very near-sighted, knowing their shepherd’s voice and following him. In the same concept, the righteous hold onto the grace of the Lord Jesus in their hearts; by that grace, their lives are a simple life of obeying the word of Jesus, like in Mt.6:1-4. In such a gospel-centered life, when the King commended them, they wondered what he meant, because they had never seen him as hungry, thirsty, sick or in prison and care for him. But he said to them, “Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.” He pointed their care for the needy were for his brothers and sisters who belong to him. In fact, Jesus mentioned about the shepherd-care for his believers many times.
Once, when Jesus sent out his disciples to preach the good news to villages to villages, he gave them a great encouragement, saying, “And if anyone gives even a cup of cold water to one of these little one who is my disciples, truly I you, that person will certainly not lose their reward.” (10:42) Jesus himself took care of his disciples through showing them his healing and miracles, the hypocrisy of the religious leaders, and teaching them with many amazing parables; but also he protected them from the bad influence of the Pharisees and the teachers of the law. He gave them many examples about his return after his ascension so that they might be ready. He even told them in this passage what he will do when he returns as Judge.
Jesus’ concern about all his believers tells us that we must care for each other sincerely and serve our fellow believers as we serve our Lord King Jesus. We can see that he was not concerned about how we obeyed the word of God in our lifetime, but instead, about how we served and cared for other believers in him, because serving other believers means we obey his word. Jesus regards caring for others among believers as practical obedience to his word and top priority.
Serving each other in Jesus means serving Jesus. Serving others reveals our expression of obedience and love toward Jesus. Moreover, serving and caring for our brothers and sisters expresses his grace to us on the cross. Sunday, one person serves snack time faithfully, and all others enjoy it. Through this passage, we should think about what Jesus truly wants us to care about. If we don’t serve each other in Jesus, then it means we don’t love Jesus. Serving others is indeed a practice of our faith in Jesus. Apostle Paul gave us a good example when he said, “But by the grace of God, I am what I am, and his grace to me was not without effect. No, I worked harder than all of them-yet not I, but the grace of God that was with me.”(1Co.15:10) When we are filled with the grace of our Lord Jesus, we are willing to serve and care for others sacrificially as Jesus did on the cross for us. We don’t expect others to serve us, but we serve them first.
Second, read verses 37-39 again. “37“Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? 38When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? 39When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’”
The righteous were puzzled, for they had never seen the King nor served him. Their puzzlement reveals their deed was forgotten from their minds. By the grace of Jesus, they served and cared for their brothers and sisters in Jesus without an obligation or duty. The grace of Jesus made them serve and care for the family of Jesus. This is the true Christian life and attitude. Those who fully remember Jesus’ death on the cross and his blood for our sins are willing to serve others sacrificially, like Mother Teresa and Mother Barry. Such life is eating Jesus’ body and drinking his blood. (Jn.6:53)
How does the King treat the other goats?
II. The goats on the left.(40-46)
Read verses 40-45. “41“Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. 42For I was hungry and you gave me nothing to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink, 43I was a stranger and you did not invite me in, I needed clothes and you did not clothe me, I was sick and in prison and you did not look after me.’
44“They also will answer, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or needing clothes or sick or in prison, and did not help you?’
45“He will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me.’
46“Then they will go away to eternal punishment, but the righteous to eternal life.”
What were the goats’ problem? They cared for no one except themselves. They didn’t serve and care for their fellow believers. They knew the Lord Jesus died for them, but they didn’t remember his death on the cross and his blood for their sins, so they went back to their own worldly lives. They seemed to be believers, but they didn’t care or forgive others who hurt them. In fact, they were self-centered and cared for their own family. They taught the Bible to others, but in their personal lives, they lived worldly lives like unbelievers. They excused their own circumstance; they didn’t want to participate in the work of the gospel.
Our modern Christians have a similar lifestyle; there is no difference from unbelievers except going to Sunday service. They talk about Jesus, but in their minds, there is no Jesus. So they live double lives, like the Pharisees and the teachers of the law.
One Sabbath, Jesus saw a man with a shriveled hand in the synagogue and had compassion on him. He told the man to stand up in front of everyone, and then he asked the Pharisees, “Which is lawful on the Sabbath; to do good or to do evil, to save life or to kill?” But they remained silent. Jesus looked around at them in anger and was deeply distressed by their stubborn hearts. However, he didn’t give up. He healed the man and gave him a new life on the Sabbath, though he risked his life. What was the Pharisees’ attitude towards Jesus’ healing on the Sabbath? They went out and began to plot with the Herodians how they might kill Jesus. (Mk.3:1-6) Their hearts were possessed by their regulations, and they couldn’t see the amazing, immediate healing, but instead, only Jesus’ law-breaking.
We can see the goats believed Jesus, but did not believe in Jesus. They believed Jesus, but they didn’t have a relationship with their fellow brothers and sisters. The goats didn’t practice the word of Jesus at all in their lives. Jesus’ suffering and death meant nothing for them.
How does the King deal with the goats on the left? “Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels.” 46“Then they will go away to eternal punishment, but the righteous to eternal life.”(41,46) Their final destiny will be into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels; that is eternal punishment. Jesus states that the place of eternal fire is for the devil and his angels, not for mankind, but we see the devil will bring all goats into his place, the eternal fire.
Jesus tells us about all the things that will happen before he dies and ascends, so that we may take his word seriously in our hearts and live the life of the sheep until his return. The deed of the sheep until Jesus returns is the life of salvation and what Jesus looks for. Praise our Good Shepherd Jesus and give thanks to him, for he tells us the way of our true Christian life through this passage.
34“Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. 35For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, 36I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’
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