Matthew 25:31-33 (The Nature of Sheep and Goats)

Here in the Parable of the Sheep and Goats Jesus is summarizing for His disciples the repeated warnings He has been making in the Olivet Discourse to be on the alert lest the judgment that was about to befall the Jews also overtake them as well.  In the previous parables He had emphasized both the importance of keeping watch lest they be unprepared and His coming take them by surprise, as well as what it means practically for them to keep watch; compare Mat 24:42-44 with Mat 25:1-13, and Mat 24:45-51 with Mat 25:14-30.  In what way are both of these emphases also present in this parable?  We have also seen that Jesus’ coming is marked by a magnificent glory, but a glory that is not evident to the eyes of the world and its kingdoms.  It was this hidden glory of God that Isaiah saw in the Suffering Servant, that those who are faithful even unto death, God will raise them up, even from the dead.  And He will honor and reward them with a heavenly glory that is as much greater than the glories of this world as the heavens are higher than the earth.  But again, that glory in which Christ comes, as when he came at first, is likewise veiled in humility, even as the glory of a woman is veiled during public worship, so that those who are outside of the relationship cannot see it—only those who enter into the covenant can see the hidden glory.  For the god of this age has blinded the minds of the unbelieving so that they cannot see the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God (2Co 4:4).  Only in Christ is that veil removed so that not only men but also angels can see the true nature of God’s magnificent glory.

For God’s hidden glory that is made manifest in Christ is not like the glory of the rulers of this age.  And the rulers of this age are not just the great men of the world but also the great spiritual forces in the heavenly places that empower them; cf. Deut 32:8 and notice that sons of Israel found there that is translated from the Masoretic text (c. 700-1000 a.d.) is more likely sons of God (Dead Sea Scrolls, which the LXX translated as angels of God)[1]; see also Dan 10:13,20, Eph 6:12.  For as Jesus had earlier taught His disciples, although these material and immaterial rulers of the Gentiles (or nations, as the word is translated in Mat 25:32) lord it over their subjects and their great men exercise authority over them, it is not so in Christ’s kingdom.  And just as the nation of Israel was brought into judgment before the throne of Christ’s glory, which is the truth of His word from where He reigns in righteousness, in this same way will all other nations also be gathered before Him when He comes to them in the glory of His Father.

Although we tend to envision that all these nations will be gathered before Him at the same time at some future, final judgment, does the text actually require this?  Or is it possible that as the Jewish nation was brought into judgment through the truth of Jesus’ words over the course of His ministry and the subsequent years that led to its destruction in 70 a.d., so would all nations also be gathered before the throne of His glory over the entire Church age, whenever, and wherever, the Son of Man who has been given all authority in heaven and on earth comes to them in His glory, and His kingdom comes and His will is done on earth as it is in heaven, as His followers in faithful obedience to the great commission, even unto death, go and make disciples of all nations in order that they too might share His glory?  Cf. Mat 28:18-20, Rom 1:16, 2:9-10, 8:16-17, 1Pe 4:13-14,17-18.

To what does Jesus compare His righteous judgment as king that will separate the nations into or out of His kingdom even as it was doing at that time among the Jews?  See Mat 25:32; cf. Eze 34:17-24 and notice that each occurrence of sheep in this passage is literally one of a flock, and may refer to a sheep or a goat.  See also Joh 10:16, 11:52, Psa 98:2-3, Isa 49:6, 52:10, 56:8.  What is the difference between a sheep and a goat?  Although both are under the care of a shepherd and may graze in the same pasture, what is their different natures that ultimately causes the shepherd to separate them from one another?  Note: Goats are much more destructive of a pasture than sheep and can devastate a field not only of its grasses but of all herbage.  “Indeed they have extirpated many species of trees which once covered the hills” (Robertson’s Word Pictures).  Hence they are often used today to clear fields of weeds.  In what way do those of the Lord’s flock but are described here as goats feed in the good pasture while treading down with their feet the rest of the pasture, and drink of the clear waters while fouling the rest of the waters?  What consequences does that have for the more docile and less destructive sheep of God’s flock that causes Him to separate the goats from the sheep in judgment?  See Eze 34:19-22.

To what side of Him does Jesus say He would separate the sheep, and to what side the goats?  What is the significance that the sheep that enter into eternal life are separated to His right and the goats that go away into eternal punishment to His left?  See Ecc 10:2; cf. Gen 48:13-19.  See also Gen 13:1-12, and notice that from Bethel where they were standing, the portion that Lot chose for himself that seemed better was to the left, eastward, and the part that Abraham took was to the right.  Even today, what side is used to describe liberal politics, and which side is used to describe more conservative politics?  Which side is more traditionally aligned with righteous, Christian values?

[1] Cf. the NET translation, “When the Most High gave the nations their inheritance, when he divided up humankind, he set the boundaries of the peoples, according to the number of the heavenly assembly.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *