Here in the parable of the sheep and goats Jesus is summarizing the discourse He has had with His disciples on the Mount of Olives after forsaking the temple to the unbelieving nation of the Jews who would have their worldly spirit fill it rather than His Holy Spirit. Their rejection of the truth foretold the inevitable destruction of that in which they vainly trusted. Now overlooking the temple mount, Peter, James, John and Andrew were asking Jesus when such things would happen, and what would be the sign of His coming and of the end of the age, lest they too be caught up in the coming judgment upon the nation. In conclusion to the signs He gave that would indicate the time was near, He warned them to keep on the alert, for as exemplified by what was happening even then to the Jewish nation, the nature of His coming wouldn’t necessarily be obvious or in the manner in which they expected. And so dangerous is the deception in such times because of man’s sinful nature that is inclined to the spirit of the world, that Jesus then emphasized the importance of keeping watch and what that means practically in the parables of the thief and the faithful and unfaithful servants, and then again in the even longer parables of the ten virgins and the talents. Now in this final parable Jesus has again emphasized the surprise nature of His coming in glory to judge not just the nation of the Jews, but all the nations of the world, and that will catch both the just and the unjust off guard in regard to what it means for them to be on the alert. And yet, we know in hindsight that it really won’t be any surprise, for it will be just as He foretold, even in this parable, and in exact accordance with what we know to be the nature of God and His commandments to love our neighbor as ourselves. The only reason it is a surprise is because of the deceitful nature of sin to our fallen state.
And so it is that even now Jesus is already seated on His glorious throne, which is the truth of His word, and judging the nations through each of our lives by the choices we make in regard to that truth, sifting each heart to His right or His left as sheep or goats, wheat or chaff. All of life’s day long He stretches out His hands through the likes of those who are hungry, thirsty, strangers, naked, sick and in prison—especially through His choicest servants who suffer such deprivations in this world for their faithfulness to Him. Through these He judges the hearts of every person as to whether they support the nature of His kingdom and its principles—not just in word, but in deed. To those on His right who were born of His Spirit to have His nature and respond with compassion to even the least of His brethren He speaks of their hope for an ever brighter future in His kingdom of light. But to those on His left whose hearts were hardened against the nature of His kingdom by their love for the world His words offer no hope, but rather reflect the bottomless pit of ever darkening despair into which their sin leads.
Whereas Jesus ends the parable saying that the goats will go away into eternal punishment, where does he say the sheep shall go? See Mat 25:46. What word does He repeat here to describe the sheep and emphasize the nature of those who will enter into eternal life? Cf. Mat 25:37. By implication, what word must then describe the goats who go away into eternal punishment? From the parable, what actions marked the sheep as righteous, and what does this teach us about what it means to be righteous for the attaining of eternal life? Cf. Mat 19:16,21. Is it then the hearers of the law who will inherit eternal life, or the doers? See Rom 2:13, Jam 1:22,27. In addition to their deeds, what is the nature of sheep, epitomized by the Lamb of God, that is despised by the world and the opposite of goats or pigs, but that marks them as righteous in God’s eyes? Cf. Isa 53:7, Mar 14:60-61a, 1Pe 2:21-23.
What does Jesus mean by eternal life? See Joh 11:25-26 which Jesus would have spoken not long before this discourse; cf. Dan 12:2, Luk 18:30, Joh 12:25. Is eternal life just future? Cf. Joh 6:54. How does one obtain eternal life? See Joh 5:24, 6:47; cf. Heb 11:6. Is believing just an intellectual assent or passive acceptance? Cf. Joh 4:14, Rom 2:7, Gal 6:8, 1Ti 6:12. In what sense do believers already possess eternal life? See Joh 17:1-3, 1Jo 5:20 and consider: as life is living, can those who hate the light and refuse to come to the light so that they continually stumble in the darkness of sin be said to be living and experiencing the life for which God created them? Cf. Joh 10:10. What is the relationship between knowing the true God and Jesus Christ, the living Word of God Whom He has sent, and actively believing in them in order to take hold of eternal life? See Joh 3:36, 12:50, Rom 5:21, 6:22-23, 1Jo 1:1-2, 5:11,13; with 1Jo 5:13 cf. 1Jo 2:3-6, 24-25, 3:10,18-19,24, 4:12-13, 5:2-4. What does this understanding teach us about the false notion held by some that the hope of eternal life is in any way compatible with continuing to abide in sin? What does it remind us about eternal life being our deliverance from sin, and if there is no deliverance from sin, there is also no eternal life? Cf. 1Jo 3:7-9. How does this help us to understand that although salvation is as easy as believing in simple faith, the faith that believes unto eternal life also involves a striving to overcome all of the temptations to sin from the world, the flesh and the devil? Cf. Luk 13:23-24, Rev 2:7,11,17,26, 3:5,12,21.
As eternal life is knowing the only true God through Jesus Christ Whom He has sent to show us the Way to the Father by walking in the light of the Truth so as to obey the Father’s commandment and experience Life as He intended, is not eternal death and punishment not knowing the true God through the way revealed to us by the Son because one hates the light and will not come to the light in order to take hold of that which is life indeed? Cf. Joh 3:19-21, 14:4-7, 1Ti 6:19. As eternal life is already a present reality in some sense for believers, is it possible that the eternal punishment of stumbling into deeper and deeper darkness and falling to ever greater depths of sin is also already a reality for some who have so hardened their hearts against the truth as to no longer be able to drink of the living water and partake of the Holy Spirit that wells up to eternal life by persevering in doing good? Cf. Mat 12:30-34, 23:33. What does this again remind us about the sinfulness of sin, and why it is so important to flee from it lest it ever gain a stronghold in our lives? Cf. 1Ti 6:11, 2Ti 2:22.
With all of this in view, in what way are Jesus’ words in Mat 25:46 that conclude the Parable of the Sheep and Goats as well as the Olivet Discourse a summary in themselves of all He has taught in regard to the two paths and their two ends that men can choose to follow in this life, and indeed all that is bespoken of throughout Scripture? See Mat 3:12, 7:13-14,17-19,24-27, 13:30,41-43,47-50, Luk 16:19-23, Joh 15:5-6; cf. Deut 30:19-20, Psa 1, esp. Psa 1:6, 37:9-11, Pro 4:18-19, Jer 6:16 NET, etc…