Here in the Parable of the Sheep and the Goats Jesus is summarizing the warning to His disciples that He has been emphasizing throughout the Olivet Discourse to be on the alert and keep watch, as well as what that means practically in order that they not be swept away in judgment at His coming. For such was exactly what was happening at that very time to so many of the religious leaders of the Jews, even though God had entered into a covenant relationship with them, and just as Jesus was about to do with His disciples. For although many of the Jews, and especially their leaders, thought of themselves as the Lord’s flock, in fact they were not sheep who followed the shepherd, but goats who trod down the pastures, muddied the waters, and thrust at the weak with their horns (cf. Eze 34:17-22). Here in this parable Jesus says that when He comes in His glory, He will separate the sheep from the goats, which is exactly what His word does as men are confronted by its truth: Those who are sheep are separated by their nature to His right by the choices they make in response to His word and expanding kingdom, especially in regard to their support of even the least of His brethren who are hungry, thirsty, and strangers on earth because of their witness for the truth. On the other hand, those who are goats are separated by their nature to the King’s left, again, as we shall see in the verses that follow, by the choices they make in response to His word as it is carried forth by His brethren. And whereas Jesus’ words to the sheep shine brighter and brighter of their future hope in His kingdom, His words to the goats are just the opposite and grow dimmer and dimmer with a sevenfold darkness of their future apart from Him.
Beyond their separation from Him, pronounced accursed, and commended to eternal fire, with what final words does the King seal the woes that will befall those who by their life choices demonstrate their rejection of the great and only salvation from their sins that was freely provided them at the cost of God’s own Son? See Mat 25:41. What does the King’s statement indicate about there being a leader of angels who are in rebellion against God, that we know as the devil? By what other names is he known? See Rev 12:7-9, 20:2; cf. Luk 11:15-18. Consider Jesus’ words that the eternal fire into which the goats among men shall depart was prepared for the devil and his angels; how does this argue against the belief held by some that some men are created by God for eternal damnation and destruction in that fire? Think: If such were the case, would not the eternal fire be spoken of as having been prepared also for them? Cf. 1Ti 2:4, 2Pe 3:9. Although the eternal fire spoken of was prepared for the devil and his angels, what does the fact that the goats from among men will depart into it indicate about their participation in the devil’s rebellion against the kingdom rule of God over His creation that also destines them to partake of his judgment? What does this remind us about there being a bigger sphere to God’s rule than over just men upon the earth? Cf. Eph 1:10, 6:12, Phil 2:10, Col 1:16,20. What might this also indicate about the creation of angels and God’s dealings with them predating the creation of man? Cf. Job 1:6, 38:4-7.
Consider that the judgment of eternal fire for rebellion against God’s rule was not instantaneous as in a fit of rage, but prepared; what does the preparation of such a place of eternal damnation indicate about the deliberate nature of God’s justice that is in perfect balance and harmony with His great love, being patient and willing to forgive the sins of the repentant, and cautious to offer every opportunity for the wicked to turn back to Him, but that will by no means leave the guilty unpunished? Cf. Exo 34:6-7, Num 14:18. What does the preparation of such a place of eternal damnation also indicate about there being a point past which the sins of the rebellious so harden their hearts as to make them irredeemable? Think: Given the great love of God as expressed through His only begotten Son Jesus Christ, would it have been necessary to prepare such a place if there was any way possible that those who will end up there might have been redeemed? What does the danger of becoming irredeemable teach us about the greatness of the responsibility that accompanies the greatness of the free will of those who are created in the image of God? What does it also remind us about our high calling as bearers of God’s image, especially as that calling is infinitely magnified by the additional worth imputed by God sending His own Son to redeem us? What does it also remind us about the cosmic danger and responsibility commensurate with such a high calling, and so great a salvation? On the one hand, there is the right for men in spite of their fallen nature to become sons of God: think about what that means! But on the other hand, there is the danger of being consigned to the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels! Cf. Heb 2:1-3. What does this also remind us about the sinfulness of sin, that delivers men from so high a calling to such an end planned only for those who are beyond the help of even Almighty God? What does the preparation of a place of eternal damnation for the devil and his angels and those who follow in their rebellion—into which they are not immediately cast—also indicate about how God uses the wicked and even the irredeemable who are already prepared for destruction to accomplish His own purposes? Cf. Rom 9:17-18,22-23.