Matthew 25:41 (So Great a Salvation; So Great the Judgment for Rejecting It)

We have seen in the parable of the sheep and goats that whereas the words spoken to the sheep grew seven times brighter as they spoke of the richness of their future with Christ, the words spoken to the goats grew seven times darker of their sad and woeful state apart from Him.  For not only is He able to sympathize with man’s weakness as our great High Priest who was tempted in all ways as we are (Heb 4:14-16), but He is also able to righteously mete out a just recompense to those who stubbornly reject the great salvation of Him who all the day long stretches out His hands to a disobedient and obstinate people (Rom 10:21).

What do Jesus’ words in the parable to the goats to “depart from me” remind us about His words elsewhere in regard to many who thought they knew Him as their shepherd?  See Mat 7:23, 25:11-12, Luk 13:27.  What is it that separates men from God?  See Isa 59:1-2, Luk 5:8.  In spite of man’s sinful nature that separates him from God, what does Jesus’ response to Peter in Luk 5:10 remind us about God’s desire that all men should be saved and come to the knowledge of the truth?  Cf. 1Ti 2:4.  Although it is clear that Jesus as King and Judge will tell the goats they must depart from Him into spiritual death, does He take any pleasure in doing so, and would He not much rather that they had turned from their ways to live?  Cf. Eze 18:23,32, 2Pe 3:9.

In the parable Jesus refers to the goats as accursed ones; who does Scripture reveal as those who are accursed that helps us to understand how one may avoid being separated out of God’s kingdom as a goat?  See Deut 11:26-28, Jos 6:18, 7:12, Dan 9:11, 1Co 16:22, Gal 1:8, Heb 6:8, 2Pe 2:14.  In what way does Jdg 5:23 speak of being accursed in the very sense Jesus goes on to describe in Mat 25:42-43?  Although Jesus says that the sheep were blessed of the Father, does He say that the goats are likewise cursed by Him?  Why are they accursed?  See Gal 3:10.  Who then is ultimately responsible for them being accursed?  Rather than cursing man for his sin, what has God done to redeem him from the curse of his sin?  See Gal 3:13.  What does this again remind us about God’s great love for man, and His desire that none should perish, as well as the lengths that He has gone to in order that men might be saved from the curse of their sins?  Considering that God allowed His only Son to become accursed on our behalf in order that we might be saved, how much severer punishment might one be in danger of for neglecting so great a salvation and treating lightly His blood by which one may be sanctified from sin?  Cf. Heb 2:1-3, 10:29.  What does God’s desire that none should perish, His willingness to forgive, and the lengths that He has gone to redeem man, but the hardness of hearts that reject such love remind us about the sinfulness of sin, why sin is so evil, and the importance of repentance?

Throughout scripture, what is the significance of fire into which the goats are commanded to depart?  See Mat 3:10-12, 7:19, 13:40-42,49-50, 18:8-9, Luk 12:49, 17:29, Joh 15:6, 2Th 1:6-9, 2Pe 3:7, Jud 1:7, Rev 14:10, 16:8, 18:8, 19:20, 20:9-10,14-15, 21:8.  Should we understand the fire of God’s judgment only in physical terms, or may it also be understood spiritually or metaphorically?  Cf. Jam 5:3, Jud 1:23, Rev 11:5, 17:16.   What is the relationship to fire of the nature of God?  Cf. Heb 12:29, Rev 1:14, 2:18, 19:12, 4:5, 15:2.  What is the significance of fire and the nature of God to the Christian?  See 1Co 3:13-15, 1Pe 1:7; cf. Heb 10:26-27.

What is meant in the parable by “eternal” fire?  Cf. Jude 1:7 from which annihilationists argue that since the fire itself that destroyed Sodom and Gomorrah was not what was eternal, but its effects, so too does the eternal fire of God’s judgment refer not to an everlasting fire that never goes out, but to the eternal, irreversible consequences of being completely obliterated that will befall God’s enemies.  But cf. Mat 3:12 and Mar 9:43-48 and notice that the words used could not be clearer to emphasize the difference between temporal punishments such as fire that can be quenched or worms that do die, and eternal punishments of fire that cannot be quenched and worms that do not die[1]. See also Mat 25:46 that even more clearly juxtaposes the eternal punishment of the wicked with the eternal life of the righteous: If it is not the punishments themselves of the wicked that are eternal, but only the effects, then neither would the life promised to the righteous actually be eternal, but only its effects.  The argument from Jude 1:7 also does not take into account that at the time Jude was written, the fires of that great conflagration were in fact not extinguished as they are today. According to Philo, a first-century Jewish writer, “even to this day the visible tokens of the indescribable disaster are pointed out in Syria—ruins, cinders, brimstone, smoke and murky flames which continue to rise from the ground as from a fire still smoldering beneath.”  Hence, Jude’s meaning is that the site of those cities that was still burning is a warning of the very real eternal fires of God’s judgment that will overtake the wicked.  Cf. the “Door to HellDarvaza gas crater in Turkmenistan and coal seam fires like Burning Mountain in Australia that are present day examples in space and time that typify the eternal fires of God’s judgment, similar to Jude’s reference to Sodom and Gomorrah.

[1] If a drop of water be denied to cool the tongue, buckets of water will never be granted to quench this flame.  Matthew Henry

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