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The Kingdom and the Judgment


Matthew 25:31-46


 "All the Nations Will Be Gathered Before Him"


Though some have taught to the contrary, Jesus plainly said everyone in the grave would be raised.  "Do not marvel at this; for the hour is coming in which all who are in the graves will hear His voice and come forth--those who have done good, to the resurrection of life, and those who have done evil, to the resurrection of condemnation" (John 5:28-29).  The parable of the judgment pictures what will happen following that resurrection.


Jesus said he would be seated on his glorious throne, where he has been seated since the days of the new birth began (Matthew 19:28).  Peter told the crowd assembled on Pentecost that our Lord was then seated on his throne (Acts 2:32-36; 1 Corinthians 15:24-28).  All nations, that is every person from those nations, will come before the throne.  Jesus will divide those people into two groups, the sheep, who are representative of those who accepted his leading, and the goats, representing those who would not be led but had to be driven.  The sheep will be placed on the right hand because that is the place of honor, while the goats will be on the left where, according to tradition, those condemned in their trials before the Sanhedrin stood (Matthew 25:31-33).


"Come, You Blessed of My Father"


Even before the world began, God planned a kingdom for the redeemed to inherit.  "But we speak the wisdom of God in a mystery, the hidden wisdom which God ordained before the ages for our glory" (1 Corinthians 2:7; Ephesians 1:4, 9-14).  In the judgment, the King, Christ Jesus our Lord, will invite the faithful to come into that kingdom (Matthew 25:34).


Jesus then listed six separate acts of service done for others as the reason those on the right hand will be invited (Matthew 25:35-36).  McGarvey says, "The acts here enumerated indicate more than a mere outlay of money.  They are not such as are the offspring of impulse, but such as call for the sacrifice of time, strength, sympathy, etc., and clearly demonstrate the fullness of the Christian life."  True love for the brethren, without which one cannot claim to love God, will motivate one to act in their behalf.  "But whoever has this world's goods, and sees his brother in need, and shuts up his heart from him, how does the love of God abide in him?  My little children, let us not love in word or in tongue, but in deed and in truth" (1 John 3:17-18; 4:20-21).  Only an actively loving faith is truly alive (1 Corinthians 13:1-3; James 2:14-17).


Interestingly, in the parable, Jesus portrayed those bidden to enter asking when they had seen the Lord in such situations and helped him.  He said he will respond by saying, "Assuredly, I say to you, inasmuch as you did it to one of the least of these My brethren, you did it to Me" (Matthew 25:37-40; compare Mark 9:41).  This is reminiscent of the Lord asking Saul of Tarsus why he persecuted him, when in fact he had been persecuting the church (Acts 9:4).  Jesus so closely identifies with the members of his body that to hurt them or help them is to do the same to him!


"Depart from Me, You Cursed"


Just as surely as God has prepared a kingdom for his own, he has prepared an everlasting fire for the devil and his angels.  It is sad to hear the King saying some men will be condemned to that fire because they have not ministered to those in need.  In case the point was not understood before, we find Jesus telling those on the left hand that they will not enter in because they failed to tend him when they saw him in need.  Like those on the right hand, they will ask when they saw him in such a condition and did not attend to him.  His response was, "Assuredly, I say to you, inasmuch as you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to Me" (Matthew 25:41-45).


In verse 41, hell was described as an everlasting fire.  In verse 46, he says it will be a place of everlasting punishment.  McGarvey says, "The word 'punishment' expresses misery and suffering purposely inflicted."  He also noted the condemnation of the wicked will be just as long in its duration as the reward of the righteous.  There is no doctrine of a second chance taught in this parable of our Lord.  It is imperative that we all prepare to stand before his judgment seat today!


Discussion Questions


1.  Where is Jesus today?  Give scriptures to support your answer.


2.  Who do you think will be raised to appear before Christ's judgment seat and why?


3.  How long has God been preparing an inheritance for the redeemed?  Who will be told to come in?


4.  How long will hell last?  What will it be like?  For whom was it intended?  Who will also have to go there?


5.  What type of relationship does Christ have with individual Christians?  Why do you think so?


--Gary Hampton, author, evangelist, and preacher training school director