Matthew 25:31-46 (Summarizing the Olivet Discourse: The Sheep and the Goats)

Recall that upon leaving the temple with Jesus and hearing His prediction of its utter destruction His disciples had asked Him when those things would take place, and what would be the sign of His coming and of the end of the age (Mat 24:3).  In conclusion to the signs He gave, Jesus warned that they must be on the alert and keep watch (Mat 24:42), the importance of which and what that means practically He then emphasized to them in the parables of the thief (Mat 24:43-44), the faithful and unfaithful servants (Mat 24:45-51), the ten virgins (Mat 25:1-13), and the talents (Mat 25:14-30).  In what way is the parable of the sheep and the goats a fitting summary to His discourse answering the disciples’ questions and His warning to be on the alert, as well as what it means for the citizens of His kingdom to keep watch?  Which of their questions does this parable particularly address, especially in regard to their intent that they not be swept away in the sort of judgment that was about to overtake the unbelieving Jews?  In what sense was the ministry of Jesus even at that time separating sheep from goats among the Jewish nation?  Cf. Mat 3:11-12, 21:31-32.  In what way did the Lord separate sheep from goats in the days leading up to the destruction of Jerusalem?  See Mat 24:15-18,23-26.

Although this parable is commonly interpreted as referring to some future, final judgment, in what way can the prediction depicted in it also be understood as relating to the entire church age, so that as what was at that time happening and about to happen to the Jews, so all the nations are even now being gathered before Him and separated one from another, just as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats?  Notice that when in Mat 25:32 is literally whenever, and in addition to referring to a single event whose time is uncertain (cf. Mat 9:15, 13:32, 1Co 16:2-3) the word may also refer to events that aren’t necessarily singular in nature and may happen at various as yet undetermined times; see Mat 5:11, 6:2,5,6,16, 10:19,23, 15:2; cf. Mat 19:28, 24:15,32-33.  Think too: In what sense following His crucifixion, resurrection, and ascension did Jesus come in His glory and sit on His glorious throne?  Cf. Mat 24:35, 26:64.  Even as the Lord is now by His angels gathering into His kingdom His elect and choice servants from the four winds (see our study on Mat 24:31), in what similar way are the nations also now through those same means being gathered before His glorious throne in judgment and individuals being separated one from another for the choices they make in regard to His messengers whom He has sent to proclaim the eternal gospel?  Cf. Mat 23:34-36, 28:18-20, Act 13:46; see also Mat 13:49, Luk 6:22, Act 13:2, 19:9, Rom 1:1, 2Co 6:17 where the same word translated here as separate is used for take out from, ostracize, set apart, take away.

In what way are God’s choice servants even now in this age in some sense able to inherit the kingdom prepared for them from the foundation of the world?  Cf. Mat 3:2, 4:17, 5:3,10, Luk 10:9-11, 17:21, Rom 14:17.  In what way are they separated out of the world to the Lord’s right hand as choice servants and come to inherit the kingdom He came to give as they perform acts of kindness and charity, even as He did?  Similarly, in what way are those who are so caught up in the world and its things so that they overlook the substance of true righteousness, peace and joy (which they associate with heaven) also being separated to the Lord’s left hand where they cannot inherit the Lord’s kingdom?  Cf. Jam 1:27.  Again, how does this help us to understand the sense in which Jesus’ coming to judge the nations is not just entirely future, but also present, and that coming is in the magnificent glory of the truth of His word that will never pass away, but that judges the thoughts and attitudes of each person’s heart throughout their lives so that at death, their judgment has already been determined?  Cf. Isa 42:21.  How does this help us to understand why the notion is not true that because God is fair He will give to men another chance for salvation after death?  Cf. Heb 9:27, and consider: how many opportunities throughout a person’s life does the Lord give a person to choose paths that lead to life, but they instead choose other paths to gratify their love for the world?  What does this remind us about the importance of our lives in this age for all of eternity?  Are our lives growing into the pure and wholesome grain that the Lord would have gathered into His barn?  Or are they becoming more like worthless chaff that is being separated out of His kingdom to be burned up, as was happening at that very time in the first century to the unbelieving Jews?

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