Jesus Is Coming To Separate The Sheep And The Goats 

Text: Matthew 25:31-46

31 When the Son of Man comes in his glory and all the angels with him, then he will sit on his throne of glory; 32 and all the nations will be gathered before him and he will separate them from one another, just as the shepherd separates the sheep from the goats, 33 and he will put the sheep on his right hand and the goats on his left.

34 Then the King will say to those on his right, “Come! you who are the blessed ones of my Father, inherit the kingdom that was prepared for you from the beginning of the world. 35 For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me a drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, 36 I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to me.”

37 Then the righteous will answer him, saying, “Lord, when did we see you hungry and fed you, or thirsty and we gave you a drink? 38 And when did we see you a stranger and we invited you in, or naked and we clothed you? 39 And when did we see you sick or in prison and we came to you?”

40 And answering, the King will say to them, “Truly I say to you, as much as you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me.”

41 Then he will say to those on his left, “Depart from me, you accursed ones, into the eternal fire that has been kept in readiness for the devil and his angels. 42 For I was hungry and you did not give me anything to eat, I was thirsty and you did not give me a drink, 43 I was a stranger and you did not invite me in, I was naked and you did not clothe me, I was sick and in prison and you did not visit me.”

44 Then they will also answer, saying, “Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison and we did not help you?”

45 Then he will answer them, saying, “Truly I say to you, as much as you did not do it for one of the least of these, you did not do it for me.”

46 And they will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life.

Sermon:

Some Christians struggle to understand the relationship of works to faith. They wonder, “If we are saved by faith alone without works, are not works still required?” Their confusion arises from not separating the law, which demands works, from the gospel, which does not demand works.

Unless we understand the biblical relationship of works to faith, we will be confused by texts such as Matthew 25:31-46. The relationship of works to faith is like the relationship of an effect to its cause. We all know the old adage: “Where there’s smoke, there’s fire.” No one asks when he sees smoke, “What causes the smoke?” He knows a fire is causing the smoke. The smoke is the effect. The fire is its cause.

Likewise, works are the effect and faith is their cause. A Christian’s fire of faith produces the smoke of works. If we see the smoke of works, we know the fire of faith is causing them. James explained it this way: “I will show you my faith by my works.

The Bible teaches we are saved by faith alone in Christ Jesus without works. Some passages of the Bible, however, point to the effects of the faith--the good works, as the basis for being saved. Those passages are directing our attention to the effects and the evidence of the faith rather than to the faith that saves and produces the good works.

In our manner of speaking we also substitute the effect for its cause. We might say our car stopped running because the gas gauge is on empty. What we mean is that the car stopped running because the gas tank is empty, which caused the gas gauge to read empty. We substitute the effect, the empty gas gauge, for its cause, the empty gas tank.

Or, we might tell the children that they can have extra privileges when their report card is filled with “A’s” and “B’s.” What we mean is the children can have extra privileges when they have mastered their subjects. The “A’s” and “B’s” on the report card are only the effects of the children’s’ having mastered their subjects.

In the same way the Bible speaks of the effects, or smoke, of good works as the basis for being saved, instead of the faith that saves and produces those good works. This text is a case in point. The text teaches us: “Jesus Is Coming To Separate the Sheep And The Goats. All Will Be Judged By Their Works. All Will Go To Their Eternal Place.”

Jesus stated, “When the Son of Man comes in his glory and all the angels with him, then he will sit on his throne of glory; and all the nations will be gathered before him, and he will separate them from one another, just as the shepherd separates the sheep from the goats, and he will put the sheep on his right hand and the goats on his left.

Jesus will return on the last day in his glory as the King of heaven and earth to judge the living and the dead. He will then separate the sheep from the goats. The sheep, our text tells us, are the blessed ones of the heavenly Father, who receive the inheritance, the kingdom prepared for them since the beginning of the world. The Bible clarifies the kingdom of heaven was prepared from the creation of the world for the elect, whom God chose to be brought to faith in Jesus through the gospel. The sheep, then, are the elect, the believers in Jesus. Since there are but two kinds of people in the world, the believers in Jesus and the unbelievers, the goats are the unbelievers.

On the day Jesus comes to judge the living and the dead, he will not point to the faith in the believers’ hearts as the reason for their inheriting the kingdom prepared for them. He will point to their works--the effects or fruits of their faith. He will point to the smoke of good works as the evidence of the saving fire of faith in their hearts. For as where there is smoke, so there is fire, so likewise where there are good works, there is faith. If there were no faith, there would be no good works.

Regarding the sheep, Jesus said, “Then the King will say to those on his right, 'Come! you who are the blessed ones of my Father, inherit the kingdom that was prepared for you from the beginning of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me a drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to me.' ”

Regarding the goats, Jesus said, “Then he will say to those on his left, “Depart from me, you accursed ones, into the eternal fire that has been kept in readiness for the devil and his angels. For I was hungry and you did not give me anything to eat, I was thirsty and you did not give me a drink, I was a stranger and you did not invite me in, I was naked and you did not clothe me, I was sick and in prison and you did not visit me.

On the last day Jesus will judge all people by their works. The sheep, who have produced good works as the fruits of their faith, will be saved. Jesus judges the existence of their saving faith on the basis of their works, for where there is saving faith, there will be good works. The goats, however, will be damned, because they have no good works as the fruits of faith. Jesus judges their lack of good works as evidence of their lack of faith.

On the last day Jesus will judge all people as he told us to judge a tree by its fruits. “He told us: “By their fruits you will know them; surely people do not gather grapes from thorn bushes or figs from thistles, do they? In this manner every good tree produces good fruit, but the decayed tree produces bad fruit.” (Matthew 7:16,17). He will judge people the same way we judge a tree by its leaves or its fruit. When we see that a tree has produced apples, we judge it to be an apple tree. When Jesus sees on the last day a person’s good works of faith, he will judge that person to be a believer in him, a good tree and one of his sheep. But when he sees no good works of faith, he will judge that person to be an unbeliever, a decayed tree and a goat.

The good works he will look for are the works of love that fulfill his commandments, which he summarized as loving God above all and loving one’s neighbor as oneself. He clarified this through the question the righteous sheep raised: “Lord, when did we see you hungry and we fed you, or thirsty and we gave you a drink? And when did we see you a stranger and we invited you in, or naked and we clothed you? And when did we see you sick or in prison and we came to you?” He then told the sheep, “Truly I say to you, as much as you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me.

Jesus also clarified he will be looking for works of love in obedience to his commandments through the question the goats raised: “Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison and we did not help you?” He then told the goats: “Truly I say to you, as much as you did not do it for one of the least of these, you did not do it for me.

On the last day Jesus will judge us by our works. He will look for the good works of faith that fulfill his commandments to love God and our neighbor. By our works of obedience and love he will determine that we are a believer in him whose faith produced the works he sees. On the other hand, if he sees a lack of good works of faith, he will judge us to be an unbeliever.

Needless to say, when Jesus comes in his glory, we want to be numbered among his sheep and good trees. Our faith in Jesus, who saved us and gave us eternal life, will produce the good works of love and obedience that declare we are his sheep and good trees. Our faith will do good deeds for those around us, and in the process do them for Jesus.

We have many opportunities to do this. We can collect food items to help a needy family in our area. We can collect gifts for those in institutions like hospitals and prisons. We can give items that we no longer use to agencies that help the poor. We can give a special gift to a relief fund that helps the victims of floods, tornadoes, earthquakes, or other natural disasters. We can help an elderly or sick neighbor by cutting his grass or shoveling his snow or running his errands. The opportunities are endless.

Each of us should know in our heart that we have failed numerous times to obey our Lord’s commands and to fulfill the law of love for God and our neighbor. We also should know from the Bible that we deserve to be punished eternally for our sinful failures. So should we be afraid that on the day Jesus comes to judge all people by their works that he will see our many sins and judge us as a goat and a decayed tree?

Let us take comfort in God’s Word that tells us Jesus died as the atoning sacrifice for our sins. The Holy Spirit has testified through the apostle John: “(Jesus Christ) is the reconciling sacrifice for our sins, and not only for our sins but also for the sins of the whole world. . . the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin.” (1 John 2:2; 1:7). Because Jesus suffered the punishment for our sins, God has testified that he forgives our wickedness and remembers our sins no more (reference Jeremiah 31:34). His full forgiveness of our sins and his totally forgetting about our sins is evident in the judgment Jesus described in this text. He did not see or bring up one sin against his sheep. He saw none of their sins but only their good works of faith. This is how it will be in the Day of Judgment for us who trust in Jesus for the forgiveness of our sins. For the sake of his dying for our sins, not one sin will be charged against us.

On that Day of Judgment all people will go to their eternal place. Regarding the unbelievers, Jesus said: “And they will go away into eternal punishment” He also stated, “Depart from me, you accursed ones, into the eternal fire that has been kept in readiness for the devil and his angels.

The unbelievers will not stand in the assembly of the righteous on the Day of Judgment. The Lord’s holy angels will separate them out. When the Lord commands, “Depart from me, you are accursed, into the eternal fire,” his angels will cast them into the flames of hell where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.

Contrary to the Jehovah’s Witnesses and others who do not believe there is a hell, hell is a very real place. In that place the damned are forever separated from the Lord and his blessings. There the Lord punishes them for their sins and unbelief with an everlasting torment, which never ends, and from which there is no relief or escape. There the full fury of the Lord against sin is poured out without mercy.

The biblical teaching of hell is part of God’s law to threaten us, so we repent of our sins, keep our old sinful natures in check, and are prepared to welcome the gospel of God’s forgiveness in Christ for our salvation. We who are righteous, that is justified by faith, will then go into eternal life. We believers in Jesus will hear the blessed welcome of the Lord: “Come! you who are the blessed ones of my Father, inherit the kingdom that was prepared for you from the beginning of the world.” Then his holy angels will gather us up and we will meet the Lord Jesus in the air to be with him forever.

We receive eternal life in heaven as an inheritance, a gift of God that we have not earned. There in heaven we will be righteous and holy, like the Lord is. There we will shine in glory like the Lord does. There in his presence we will experience a joy, contentment, love, and peace, which surpass our imagination. There we will be home -- in the place Jesus has prepared for us. To this we look forward in hope.

In the meantime, having this hope, we live by faith and by faith produce the good works of love and obedience by which we will be judged. Amen. 



Unpublished work. Copyright 2003 JCS of Christian Inconnect. All rights reserved.  No part of this document may be reproduced for distribution or publication without prior permission from Christian Inconnect.

All Scripture verses on this web page, unless otherwise indicated, are a translation of the pastor of Christian Inconnect and are a part of the Christian Inconnect Version (CIV), on which he is working. He reserves all rights to his translated verses and to their copyright ©. They may not be quoted without his prior permission.
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