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Friday, September 16, 2011

The Sheep and the Goats

The Sheep and the Goats

(Matthew 25:31-46)

In the Bible we are given a glimpse ahead into the future - a preview of an event that we are able to read about today while knowing that it won’t happen until later. The time is at the end of the age when Jesus comes back in His glory with all of His angels. The place is the great white throne in heaven. And the event is the final judgment - a somber and serious day! The purpose of the final judgment is to determine who will be allowed to enter the kingdom of heaven and who will be left out.

You and I will be there; and we will be judged along with the rest. Scripture prophecies: “All the nations will be gathered there” (Matthew 25:32a) And the Bible prophecy continues telling of how all the peoples down through the ages who have ever lived on this planet will all be standing there together before the great white throne. And Jesus will separate all the people in the world into just two groups, a group to stand on His right and a group to stand on His left. A group that will be allowed to enter heaven and a group that won’t. The sheep and the goats!

Let’s listen to the story from the Bible. “When the Son of Man comes in His glory, and all the angels with Him, He will sit on His throne in heavenly glory. 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. He will put the sheep on His right and the goats on His left. 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. For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you took me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you visited me.’

Then the righteous will answer Him, ‘Lord when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you a drink? When did we see you a stranger and take you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? When did we see you sick or in prison and visit you?’ The king will reply, ‘I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did it for me.’

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. For I was hungry and you gave me nothing to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink. 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.’

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?’ He will reply, ‘I tell you the truth, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for Me.’

Then they will go away to eternal punishment, but the righteous to eternal life.” (Matthew 25:31-46)

Were we given this prophecy of our future judgment day – as an encouragement to us to be more generous while we are here on earth? How does one become more generous? How does one become a sheep? Or a goat? Would a goat be someone who is selfish and usually only thinks of himself?

We remember that Adam and Eves’ son, Cain, asked God this question, “Am I my brothers’ keeper?” (Genesis 4:9) And of course the correct answer is, “Yes, you are your brothers’ keeper.” Scripture says: “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only he/she who does the will of my Father who is in heaven.” (Matthew 7:21) It would seem that the people who turned their backs on the poor in this life may be labeled as the “goats” in the next life.

And who are the sheep? Scripture says that: “My sheep hear My voice and they follow Me.” (John 10:27) The Bible tells us that if we believe in Jesus as our Savior and repent of our sins that we belong to Him. And when we belong to Jesus we are His sheep and we receive the Holy Spirit. And one of the jobs of the Holy Spirit is to speak to us. So as sheep we do hear Jesus’ voice since the Holy Spirit is in us speaking to us.

And as sheep, Scripture also says that when we hear His voice we will follow Him. And if we love Jesus we will try to do what He wants us to do. So if we say that we belong to Jesus but yet we never do what is in our power to do to stop the suffering of our neighbor, do we really belong to Jesus? Since we are meant to bear fruit, are we really Christian (a sheep) if there is no fruit of compassion on our tree? Do we just look like sheep but really are wolves in sheep’s clothing? Could we just be faking our sheep hood?

Scripture says that we are Jesus’ body. (1 Cor. 12:12-26) We are His hands and feet. When another person is in need we are privileged to be able to be used by our Lord to help meet that need. Scripture says that when Jesus tells the sheep that they took care of Him when He was in trouble; they were surprised and asked Him when they had helped Him. “The righteous will answer Him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you drink?” (Matthew 15:37) Amazingly it seems that the sheep aren’t even aware that they have done good deeds in order to get rewards in heaven. They are just living their normal sheep like life and doing what the Holy Spirit is telling them to do.

Not just in Matthew 25, but everywhere in Scripture God is telling us to take care of the poor. When Jesus tells the parable of the Good Samaritan, He has a righteous priest, hurrying past the injured man lying in the dirt. The priest might be late for church if he stopped to help. And Jesus has the hated Samaritan (Everyone knew that Samaritans were heathens!) stopping and caring for the wounded and bleeding traveler. In Jesus’ story the ugly Samaritan was the sheep and the godly priest rushing to church was the goat! The world is turned upside down!

When we stand there before the great white throne on that final judgment day, the world may also be turned upside down. We may be in for some big surprises. Some of the goody goods who we always thought were sheep, may end up as goats instead. And some of the folks that we figured were no good nothings may just be sheep after all. The only question Jesus asks us on that day is how did we treat the poor! How will your life have answered His question? When you stand before Jesus, will He put you on His right side or on His left? Enter the kingdom or be left out? Sheep or goat, what will it be?

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