We are now in the last week of Jesus’ life. His entry into Jerusalem, his final instructions to the crowds and to the disciples. Now the question comes: if Jesus is leaving as predicted, when is He coming back? And what will be the ones who are counted as great in the Kingdom? Jesus has taught about the acceptance or exclusion of the virgins at the wedding. He has taught of the parable of the talents, recommending that we use what God has given us for eternity. Now he teaches about the sheep and the goats – those included or excluded from the Kingdom or hell.
40 “The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’ 41 “Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. 42 For I was hungry and you gave me nothing to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink, 43 I was a stranger and you did not invite me in, I needed clothes and you did not clothe me, I was sick and in prison and you did not look after me. 44 “They also will answer, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or needing clothes or sick or in prison, and did not help you?’ 45 “He will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me.’ 46 “Then they will go away to eternal punishment, but the righteous to eternal life.” Matthew 25:40-46.
1. First the Prediction. When Jesus the King returns, Every Person will Give an Accounting of His or Her Life, First ordained by God.
34 “Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. Matthew 25:34.
8 For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— 9 not by works, so that no one can boast. 10 For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do. Ephesians 2:8-10.
The good news is that we are not left to our own devices or energies or planning as following Jesus. Redemption leads to good works. And those good works are established for us from eternity past, only now for us to be faithful in completing. The start of our lives – salvation, and now discipleship – is from God, not from our own. And this start was before the creation of the world!
2. Second, the Promise. God will Reward the Faithful, Those who are Least Among Us.
40 “The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’ Matthew 25:40.
26 Those who consider themselves religious and yet do not keep a tight rein on their tongues deceive themselves, and their religion is worthless. 27 Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world. James 1:26-27.
Just as Jesus taught repeatedly about the care for the least in the Kingdom, for the child who is brought to Him, for the sick, the lame, the frightened and confused, so now those who care for the least, for those who seemingly have no claim to the attention or care of God – those will be the great ones in the Kingdom. Those with the least position to request from us – the widows and the orphans – are the exact definition of religion that is pure and faultless. Amazing!
3. Third, The Warning. Hell is Real. In the end, There Will be Two Groups of People – the Sheep, the Redeemed and Rewarded; and the Goats, the Ones Who have Rejected Jesus, and will Spend Eternity in Hell and Punishment.
31 “When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, he will sit on his glorious throne. 32 All the nations will be gathered before him, and he will separate the people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. 33 He will put the sheep on his right and the goats on his left. Matthew 25:31-33.
22 “The time came when the beggar died and the angels carried him to Abraham’s side. The rich man also died and was buried. 23 In Hades, where he was in torment, he looked up and saw Abraham far away, with Lazarus by his side. Luke 16:22-23.
18 The wrath of God is being revealed from heaven against all the godlessness and wickedness of people, who suppress the truth by their wickedness, 19 since what may be known about God is plain to them, because God has made it plain to them. 20 For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that people are without excuse. Romans 1:18-20.
These two classes of people will have no excuse, since ‘what may be known about God is plain to them.’ Hell, also called Hades or Gehenna, is real. It is a place of separation from God, where people are in eternal torment or punishment. Though not a popular topic, understandably, it is a real place, taught in the Old Testament and the New Testament. of punishment for those who reject God.
The critic of God would say, that is not fair? But this text says the opposite. Every man and woman who has or will live has a chance to see the grace and revelation of God, and to accept or reject it. Our lives reflect our values. For we are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works. Jesus return will finally and completely acknowledge the reality of two classes of people – the ones who chose the narrow path and saw Jesus and His message and accepted it, and the ones who chose the broad path, rejecting God, to their own demise and destruction.
No wonder that Jesus taught these critical truths in the last hours of his life. 8 For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— 9 not by works, so that no one can boast. 10 For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do. Ephesians 2:8-10. God’s best to you this week. We are now two days from the cross, and with these teachings, Jesus’ enemies are gathering to plot his death.