Let’s open our Bibles together to Matthew chapter 25 for our last message in this chapter and the last message in the series on Signs of Christ’s Coming. We’ve been looking at the Olivet Discourse, chapter 24 and 25, and we come to a conclusion in that text in our lesson today.
The Bible has so very much to say about judgment, so very much. It is a major biblical theme. In Psalm 7:11, the Bible says, “God is angry with the wicked every day.” And maybe that’s the reason why the Bible has so much to say about it, because God is so continually concerned about judging sin. In Psalm 1 verse 5 it says, “The ungodly shall not stand in the judgment.” I suppose that most folks think that judgment is pretty much an Old Testament message, but that is not the case. The message of judgment is equally important to the New Testament. And in a very real sense, it is even more dramatically presented in the New Testament than it is in the Old Testament. People look at the Old Testament and say, “Well, there you have an angry God, destroying peoples, destroying nations, creating great wars. But in the New Testament isn’t God presented as a God of love?” Well, the fact is God is presented as a God of love in both the Old and the New, and God is presented as a God of judgment in both the Old and the New. There’s no difference.
In fact, if you study the Old Testament carefully, you will notice something. Primarily the judgments of the Old Testament have to do with temporal judgment, that is judgment on earth. They focus on what happens to man in the world. Where judgment in the New Testament focuses on eternal judgment, what happens to man in the afterlife, the next world. The Old Testament may talk about a nation being destroyed or a man losing his life or being cut off from the world. It emphasizes the fact that God raises up and puts down certain individuals, certain powers, certain peoples, but it focuses on them in terms of their temporal existence. You come to the New Testament and the primary emphasis turns to being that which focuses upon the eternal aspect of judgment, the afterlife.
I mean, you do have in the New Testament temporal judgment like the death of Ananias and Sapphira, the sudden blindness of Elymas the sorcerer, the terrible death of Herod Agrippa who having been smitten by the angel of the Lord was eaten by worms and died. You do have the temporal judgment on Jerusalem predicted which is as much a temporal judgment as the prediction of devastation to come to Babylon and Nineveh in the Old Testament. You do have in the New Testament temporal judgment, “Woe unto you Chorazin. Woe unto you Bethsaida,” Capernaum’s devastation and destruction. Those things are in the New Testament. But the emphasis of the New Testament is on the eternal judgment, is on the consequence of temporal judgment, not just that you might lose your life but that you will lose your soul forever. That’s the New Testament emphasis.
John the Baptist, for example, in the New Testament preaches, “You brood of vipers, who warned you to flee from the wrath to come?” Not some present wrath but some future wrath. And he said, “The chaff will He burn with unquenchable fire.” And John the evangelist said, “He who does not obey the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God rests on him.” And you go to the book of Acts and you hear the Apostle Paul, and he’s presenting truth to Felix. And it says he argued about justice and self-control and future judgments so that Felix was alarmed. And you read the Apostle Paul, how that he says to the Romans that the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness, unrighteousness of men who hold the truth and so forth. And you read Paul saying, “The Lord is the avenger.”
And then you go to the epistle to the Hebrews and you read there about a fury of fire which will consume the adversaries, a fearful prospect of judgment. You read about a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God, a blazing fire, a darkness, a gloom, a tempest. Many, many things to do with judgment. And then summed up in the words of Hebrews, “Our God is a consuming fire.” You go to James and James says, “Judgment is without mercy to one who has shown no mercy.” And 1 Peter, “For the time has come for judgment to begin with the household of God. And if it begins with us, what will be the end of those who do not obey the gospel of God?” And in 2 Peter, you read about swift destruction, condemnation, destruction. You read about punishment until the Day of Judgment, destruction again, the gloom of darkness, the heavens and earth being destroyed, the destruction of ungodly men. You go to the little epistle of Jude and you read that Sodom and Gomorrah serve as an example of a punishment of eternal fire when the Lord will come with His holy angels to execute judgment on all and to convict all the ungodly of their deeds of ungodliness which they have committed in such an ungodly way and of all the harsh things which ungodly sinners have spoken against Him.
And then you go to Revelation and it’s more eternal judgment. It bristles with judgments. The wine of God’s wrath poured unmixed into the cup of His anger, torment with fire and sulphur, the smoke of their torment going up forever and ever, no rest day or night, the angel swinging his sickle into the earth and gathering the vintage of the earth and throwing it into the great winepress of the wrath of God. And out of the mouth of Christ a sharp sword by which He judges and rules. And you read of the winepress of the fury of the wrath of God, of the second death of the lake of fire and so forth and so forth.
So the New Testament focuses tremendous emphasis on judgment. And it isn’t just in the Acts and the epistles and the Revelation, it’s in the gospels also. Because no one said more about judgment than Jesus did. He taught about it over and over and over. He spoke of sins that wouldn’t be forgiven. He spoke of the danger of losing one’s soul forever. He spoke of perdition. He spoke of destruction. He spoke of hell, of fire, of wailing and weeping and gnashing of teeth, of outer darkness, of torment. The awesomeness of facing eternity apart from salvation. His words are intense; they are inescapable; they are dramatic.
So we are not surprised when we come to Matthew 25 that in the climax of His sermon on His second coming, it too has a warning about judgment. In verse 41 He says, “Depart from Me, you cursed, into everlasting fire prepared for the devil and his angels.” And somebody might say, “Well, I thought Jesus was a person who shared love with everybody, I thought Jesus was one who was kind and good, what is all of this about everlasting fire and cursing? And then again in verse 46 about everlasting punishment.”
Well, to answer it as simply as I’m able, it is a warning that comes out of love. Love warns. I mean, that’s basic – love warns. If there is something to avoid it is loving to warn someone to avoid it. It is not loving not to warn them. We would not say Jesus was a person who shared great love if He didn’t warn us about that which could eternally damn us. It is love that warns. So the fact that He gave so many judgment warnings does not minimize but rather maximizes His love. There is no harshness in Him. There is no coldness. There is no unfeeling attitude toward the destiny of men, but over and over and over again a warning against unbelief, a warning against judgment. And so wherever you are in the New Testament, you feel this constant pressure of impending judgment. It is a focus that comes again and again and again, that men might be drawn to salvation not only by the attraction of salvation’s benefits but by the horrors of the alternative – judgment.
So the disciples are saying to Jesus in this passage, Matthew 24 and 25, “Tell us about Your second coming. Tell us about when You set up Your kingdom.” They don’t know it as the second coming because they don’t imagine He’ll go back and come again, but we call it that. “Tell us about the establishing of Your kingdom. Tell us about when You come in Your glory. Tell us what it’s going to be like when You reign as Messiah. What are the signs and when will it happen?” they say in verse 3 of chapter 24. And so He answers them. He gives them all kinds of preliminary signs and then says, “The exact moment, no one knows, so everyone needs to be ready.” Everyone. Why do you need to be ready? Because when He comes there will be with that coming an irreversible and eternal judgment. And that is the final climax of His message. Verse 31, when He comes He will judge. Verse 32, separating all people into two categories called sheep and goats. The sheep go into the kingdom. The goats are kept out. We don’t know when that’s going to happen specifically. Oh, there are signs, but when it happens it’ll be too late for any changes then. So the Lord is saying you should be ready – you should be ready.
As I’ve said before, when any person dies they immediately enter into that judgment right then. And the decision of their eternal destiny is rendered. But for those who are still alive when Jesus comes, at the moment of His coming that judgment will take place. So He says, “When I come, I come as a judge, not only as a King. I come to determine who is allowed to enter My kingdom.” And so even here when the disciples are saying, “What is the sign of Your coming and when is it going to happen?” He ends with a warning. So typical of His love. And He says in effect, “I want everyone to know the signs, I want everyone to know I’m coming, so that everyone will be ready when it comes, when it happens.”
Now we’ve looked at the judge in this judgment, the Son of Man, verse 31. We’ve looked at the time of the judgment, after the close of the tribulation when He comes in glory to set up His kingdom. We’ve looked at the place of judgment where His glory throne is, that’s in Jerusalem. We’ve looked at the subjects of judgment, verse 32, all the peoples, all the ethnē, all the ethnic groups, everybody all around the world that’s still alive.
And now we want to look this morning at the process of judgment, how does this judgment occur? Well notice verse 32 says all the nations are gathered, all the peoples are gathered, everybody from everywhere all over the earth that’s still alive is brought into Jerusalem and He separates one from another. He separates them into two groups, analogous to a shepherd dividing his sheep from his goats. Shepherds do that in that land. If you ever go there, even to this very day – I was there a few months ago and saw it again – you see mixed herds of sheep and goats all over the hillsides. Shepherds divide them. They divide them very often for feeding and they divide them very often for resting. They move them together and then separate them. And that is necessary because sheep and goats do not feed well together and they do not rest well together. And the reason being the sheep are basically docile, gentle, easily led and easily scared. The goats are unruly, rambunctious and almost fearless, and they create all kinds of problems for the sheep. And so a separation needs to be made.
And in the same way that a shepherd would sort his sheep from his goats, so the Lord Jesus Christ, in His coming, will separate believers from unbelievers. Believers, to be taken into His kingdom to join the glorified saints out of the Old Testament, tribulation, and the church who are going to be there in glorified form with new bodies fit for earth and heaven. He’s going to take those who are living, who are represented here as sheep into His kingdom as well. The goats are put out of His kingdom.
Now notice verse 33 and see this analogy taken a step further. “He shall set the sheep on His right hand, the goats on His left.” Now this tells us something right away. The right hand is the hand of blessing. The right hand is the hand of honor. The right hand is the hand – are you ready? – of inheritance – of inheritance. That is the preferred hand. The sheep here are preferred in the analogy. As I said, they are submissive; they are gentle; they are docile. The goats are unruly and rough and rugged and so forth and they represent those who are the non‑blessed. To show you the importance of this, when Jacob, for example – there could be many illustrations of it in the Old Testament – but when Jacob set out to bless his grandsons – his son Joseph had two sons, Ephraim and Manasseh. And when Jacob set out to pronounce the blessing on those sons, he was very cautious on which son he placed his right hand because that very simple act of placing his right hand on that young man indicated that he was the heir, that he was the child of inheritance, that he was the line, if you will, of blessing. And so you remember that he crossed his hands in order to be sure that he got his right hand on Ephraim because the setting of the right hand symbolized blessing and inheritance. And that’s what you have here. The sheep, the docile, easily led, responsive, needing to be cared for sheep represent the saints. And they are put on the right hand, the place of blessing.
Now notice verse 34. “Then shall the King say to them on His right hand” – and we’ll stop there for a moment. In that great climactic day when Jesus comes and He’s ready to set up His kingdom – He has landed in Jerusalem. His throne is there. He’s going to rule the world. In His coming, you’ll remember, He destroyed all the armies of Armageddon; He defeated all the nations that were fighting against Him. In a terrible bloodbath, He comes the victor. And having defeated all of His enemies, having come back to reign, He establishes His throne. He collects all these people together and on His right He puts the believers. They are separated. And He says this to them, “Come” – literally, come here. Come to Me, come into My kingdom – “ye blessed of My Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world.” That’s what He says to the sheep, to the believers alive at His second coming. They have lived through their earthly life. They survived the holocaust of the great tribulation. They’re still alive physically. They have to know what happens to them now, and so He says, “Come into the kingdom.” You will remain alive; you will not die; you will live the way you are; you will go into this kingdom. Actually they don’t have to do anything. They’re already here on earth; the kingdom has come on earth; they just keep living. And they’ll live as they lived before physically. They’ll live though under the rule of Jesus Christ in His glorious kingdom.
Notice it says, “Then shall the King say unto them.” This fits Matthew’s emphasis. This is the King. And he finally really overtly calls Him the King because He now is coming in His kingdom. He has called Himself, verse 31, Son of Man. Back in chapter 24 verse 30, twice Son of Man, a term of humiliation. But now Jesus calls Himself King. And He says, “Come to My right side.” By the way, in Greek, Roman, and Talmudic sources, the good people in any kind of a judication, any kind of a trial situation, always went to the right side of the judge. So this fits that pattern. “Come you blessed of My Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the earth” – or the world.
Now this is a key interpretative thought and I want you to get this. It’s so important. He is inviting them into the kingdom. On what terms? Well many people have sort of had difficulty with this passage, because they say, “Well look, it says in verse 35 and 36 that they were – ‘You fed Me when I was hungry. You gave Me water when I was thirsty. You took Me in when I was a stranger. You clothed Me when I was partially clad. You visited Me when I was sick and you came to Me when I was prison.’ And doesn’t that teach salvation by works? Isn’t He saying you can come into the kingdom because of your philanthropy? You can come into the kingdom because of your basic human kindness? You can come into the kingdom because of all the social action that you were involved in? This seems rather problematic. Are people going to go into the kingdom because of their social orientation?” There’s far more to it than that, beloved, far more to it. And that’s all bound up in verse 34. People who get confused here somehow miss verse 34, because verse 34 makes it very clear the basis of their entrance into the kingdom. It’s extremely clear.
First of all, “Come” – here comes number one point – “ye blessed of My Father.” That emphasizes the source of their salvation. You are blessed of My Father. You are entering into the kingdom because My Father has determined to bless you. Here you have sovereign grace beautifully expressed. By the way, the phrase in the Authorized, “You blessed of My Father,” in the Greek literally says, “My Father’s blessed ones.” You are coming into My kingdom because God predetermined sovereignly to bless you. He redeemed you out of His sovereign love. So verse 34 expresses the innate reality of redemption and salvation and justification.
And then it says, “Come you who are the blessed who belong to My Father, inherit” – inherit, which implies something very important. You inherit something because you are born into a family. Right? It implies again that they belong to the family of God, to which you belong by faith. You inherit what is yours because by faith you have become a joint heir with Christ, if we can sort of borrow Paul’s thought in Romans 8. So you are the elect by sovereign grace, the chosen to be blessed by the Father. And you are those who inherit because you belong to the family by faith, you are sons of God. And so you see the source of salvation and you see the gift of salvation given to those who are the children of God.
Further it says, “Inherit the kingdom prepared for you.” And that again emphasizes the selectivity of salvation. When God prepared the kingdom it was for you that He prepared it. You were chosen; you were ordained to this; you are those whom the Father designed to love. So you have the source of salvation in the Father’s blessing, desire to bless, you have the reception of salvation in the faith that brings you into the inheritance, you have the selectivity of salvation in the fact that the kingdom was prepared for those people. Let me tell you something, whoever it was prepared for are going into it. God isn’t going to lose any and He knows who He prepared it for.
And then a further thought. It was prepared from the foundation of the world. Now that emphasizes the eternal covenant that God made with Himself to redeem a people selected before the foundation of the world. Who are these people going in? They’re not just people who got involved in social action. They’re not just people who did good deeds on the earth. These are those chosen from the foundation of the world by sovereign God to receive His grace and be blessed and who responded by faith and became His heirs in the family. And all of that soteriological richness is compacted in verse 34. And that can’t be missed, that can’t be missed. The good deeds mentioned in 35 and 36 are not the primary emphasis. The primary emphasis in identifying these people is in verse 34. The good deeds are the fruit of the redemption defined for us in such simple yet profound terms in verse 34. And the people who get confused by this passage get confused because they perhaps haven’t looked as closely as they ought to look at verse 34. And looking at verses 35 and 36 alone might provide some difficulty.
A parallel to the verse, verse 34, is in 1 Peter 1:3, “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ who according to His abundant mercy has begotten us again to a living hope by the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead to an inheritance, incorruptible, undefiled that fadeth not away, reserved in heaven for you.” In other words, the emphasis again in 1 Peter is that God did it; God blessed, by His mercy chose us, gave us an inheritance; that’s why we’re redeemed and that’s essentially what verse 34 is saying. The real fact of salvation is in verse 34. The proof of it is in verse 35 and 36. They are only outward evidences of an inward sovereign grace.
So the justice – now listen – the justice, the fairness, the equity of what the King does in bringing these people into His kingdom, the justice of His act is manifest in the deeds that these people demonstrate. But it isn’t the deeds alone that qualify them. It’s their redemption which issues in those deeds. So when He says, “Come in on this basis,” He is judging them according to their works but only insofar as their works are a manifestation of the redeeming act which God foreordained in their behalf.
The Lord wants this not to be a secret. He isn’t saying, “Come into My kingdom, because you know and I know that you’re Christians, even though nobody else knows.” He is saying, “You come into My kingdom because you’re the chosen and it’s obvious that you’re the chosen because this is how you have lived.” And may I encourage you folks again in this passage as in so many other passages, the mark of salvation is always the same, it is manifest righteousness. And in this particular case, it is manifest righteousness revealed in one area and that is love – love – selfless love.
Notice verse 35, “I was hungry” – here’s the reason. Because, “I was hungry and you gave Me food. I was thirsty and you gave Me drink. I was a stranger and you took Me in. I was naked” – or actually ill clad or improperly clothed, not stark naked – “and you clothed Me. I was sick and you visited Me. I was in prison and you came unto Me.” Six things are mentioned: Hunger, thirst, estrangement, improper clothing, sickness, and imprisonment. And He says I know you belong in My kingdom because you met all those needs in My case. You ministered to Me in those areas. You did. You ministered to Me.
You see, the kingdom is for people who do that for Christ. Yes, the kingdom is for people who minister to Christ in that way, who supply a need, whatever that need might be. And in that culture, that’s what the need was. People could be hungry and have no food; they could be thirsty and need a drink. They could be strangers without a place to stay, ill clothed and needing proper clothing, sick and needing someone to come and attend to their sickness, in prison and needing someone to come and visit them there to find out why they were there and work to get them out. That’s what they needed in that day. Frankly, some of those needs still exist even in our day, but in our culture a lot of those needs are being met but people have a lot of other needs, a lot of other hurts, a lot of other problems, a lot of other anxieties. And He is saying you demonstrate to Me that you are people of the kingdom chosen by the Father because it is your objective to meet those needs. Well that’s pretty straight stuff. In fact, He says you’ve done it to Me. The kingdom is for people who do that for Christ. That indicates there genuine salvation.
Well the response of the people in that day is quite amazing. Verse 37, now watch this, “Then shall the righteous answer Him saying” – stop there for a minute. Who answered Him? The good deeders, the good doers, the philanthropists, the social activists? Then answered Him – who? – the righteous. And that is not just forensic. That is it’s not just declared righteousness, it’s real righteousness. It’s imputed righteousness. And here again we are reminded that the reason these people do this is because they are made righteous in Christ. And this is the outflow of that miracle. It’s the righteous, it’s the blessed of the Father, it’s the inheritors of the kingdom, it’s the predetermined and foreordained who demonstrate their righteousness in good deeds. And they say, “Lord, when saw we Thee hungry and fed Thee or thirsty and gave Thee drink? When saw we Thee a stranger and took Thee in or naked and clothed Thee? Or when saw we Thee sick or in prison and came unto Thee?” They say, “Wait a minute, You haven’t even been here. When did we do that to You? When was that that we did that? When were we ever so generous to You?”
“And the King shall answer and say unto them, ‘Verily I say unto you, inasmuch as you have done it unto one of the least of these My brethren, you have done it unto Me.’” What a statement. Who are His brethren? Well Hebrews 2:11 and 12 says He’s not ashamed to call us who believe His brethren. I believe He’s referring to the redeemed people. I believe He is simply saying this, “Whatever you do to meet the need of a fellow Christian, you do to Me.” Is that not right? Because, “He that is joined to the Lord is one spirit,” 1 Corinthians 6:17. “Nevertheless I live, yet Christ lives in me,” Galatians 2:20. Paul celebrates that again and again, we are in Christ and Christ is in us. Christ is in His people. What is done to me as a Christian is done to Him. He is so intimately identified with me.
Back in Matthew 18 He says, “When you receive one such little child,” Matthew 18 – I think it’s 4 and 5 there – “When you receive one such little child in My name, you receive Me.” And He means there not a physical child but a spiritual child. When you receive another believer and you open your arms and you meet their need and you embrace them and you take them in and you strengthen them and you encourage or you help them or whatever, you accept them, you do it to Christ. Whatever you do to another believer, you do to Christ. That’s the bottom line. That’s the simple yet profound truth that the Lord is endeavoring to communicate. Whatever you do to a fellow believer, you do to Christ. It’s that simple. And that is a truth that is oft indicated in the texts of Scripture. “He that receiveth you,” Matthew 10:40 says, “receiveth Me, and he that receiveth Me, receiveth Him that sent Me.” Boy that’s another dimension. When you open your arms to a fellow believer, you’re receiving Christ. And when you’re receiving Christ, you’re receiving the Father whom Christ represents. It’s a tremendous thought. What you do to another believer is what you do to Christ.
And so He says to these who are gathered on His right hand, who are the chosen of the Father, your choice, your sovereign grace, your election, your redemption and your imputed righteousness has caused you to demonstrate the love of God to the people of God. And I see that. And that’s the external mark of your genuineness and I take you into My kingdom.
Now may I back up a little bit in the passage, since we’ve covered it, and say this? It is always manifest righteousness that marks a true believer in Scripture. It is always the product of the life that demonstrates the reality of the life. It is what James says, faith without works is – what? – it’s dead. It’s non‑existent. Now let me take it another step. There are going to be some folks gathered in the final judgment who are going to say, “Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in Thy name and in Thy name cast out demons and in Thy name done many wonderful works?” Matthew 7:22 and 23. “And the Lord says, ‘Then will I profess unto them, “Depart from Me, you who worked iniquity, I never knew you.”’”
Now wait a minute. We prophesied in Your name. We cast out demons in Your name. We’ve done many wonderful works in Your name, and You’re telling us You don’t know us? You see, there’s none of that criteria here. He doesn’t say, “Oh, I saw you cast out demons. I saw you prophesy greatly. I saw you do many wonderful works.” Listen to me, it isn’t those monumental successes outwardly that demonstrate the proof of true salvation. It is that day-to-day routine grace kindness goodness demonstrated toward believers in need that proves the case. And there are going to be lots of folks in the line saying, “Look at all the greatness, look at all the grandeur, look at all splendor, look at all the wonders we did.” And He’ll say, “I don’t know you.” And there will be some folks who did the daily routine simple acts of love and therefore manifested the indwelling presence of the living God. And that’s exactly what Jesus meant when He summed it up in simple words, He said, “Love one another,” John 13:35, “as I have loved you. By this will all men know that you are” – what? – “My disciples.” The proof is in manifest love, in the routine things of life, in the caring for those who have need.
You say, I never met anybody who was naked so that I could put clothes on them, but if I did I would. That’s the heart attitude. But maybe you’ve met somebody with another need, have you met that need? That’s how you examine yourself to see if you’re in the faith. That’s the test in the end. It’s similar in Romans 2, isn’t it, where it says God, in verse 6, “will render to every man according to his deeds. To them who by patient continuance in well doing seek for glory, honor, immortality, they’ll receive eternal life.” You see, He doesn’t say the ones who did all the phenomenal things, that had the big meetings and the big miracle workers, and so forth and so forth. He says it’s to those who by patient routine well doing. It’s just the goodness of life that flows out daily, the faithful discharge of humble duty in the day-to-day things that demonstrates genuine salvation.
Like Peter says in 2 Peter 1, it’s having virtue and godliness and brotherly kindness and love. It’s showing that unselfish consciousness, that unaffected selflessness. And let’s face it, even though we look at ourselves and we say, “Well, I see that sometimes, so I know I’m a Christian,” we aren’t really happy with what we see most of the time, are we? I mean, we really indulge ourselves. Look at last week for you, as I look at for me last week. What did you do last week to meet the need of someone else? What did you do to set aside a comfort, something you really wanted to do or you wanted to have to put in the hands of someone else something they needed? Time? Prayer? Thought? Instruction? Love? Kindness? Food? I don’t know. Did you go visit anybody in the hospital? Did you go to a prison to see someone there to see how you could help? Maybe they have a family – they need care for that family, I don’t know.
You see, basically saved people, redeemed people, righteous people, people who belong to the Father manifest the Father’s characteristics. When Jesus came into the world He did too. And when John the Baptist sent a messenger to find out whether Jesus was the Messiah, Jesus responded by saying this, “You tell John that the poor have the gospel preached to them, that cripple people walk, that deaf people hear, that blind people see.” In other words, He didn’t say, “Look, tell him about this big miracle, tell him about that stupendous thing,” He just said tell him that it must be God because I’m going through the world meeting the needs of hurting people. I’m helping people. That’s God’s heart.
And that’s the way it is with believers. If you belong to Jesus Christ there’s a giving attitude. I mean, I’m concerned about this. I’m concerned about it not only in our older generations, I’m concerned about it in our younger generations. I’m concerned about it with our young people. Because we live in an utterly indulgent society and many of us who are a little bit older sort of have a little more sane view, but kids are coming up just bombarded with indulgences so that everything is consumed by the eye, the ego. And we lose touch with the fact that we ought to be giving ourselves away. Service rendered to another Christian is a mark of a Christian. And service rendered to another Christian is an act toward Christ and that’s an act toward God and that’s proof of your salvation.
And I’ll tell you something. These people who are standing there at that moment when Jesus comes will have survived the tribulation and the tribulation will have generated some dire need – some dire need. There will be hungry, thirsty people. There will be homeless people. There will be shattered and devastated families and lives. There will be desperate people. There will be imprisoned people. There will be deathly sick people. All of those things will come out of the tribulation in very clear and bold relief. And when that happens to the family of God, it will be the believers that come to their rescue and they don’t care whether they’re identified with the family of God, they don’t fear the consequence of that. They’ll pay the price.
So ask yourself the question: If you were brought before that tribunal, which you will be – all of us face the Lord some day – will He look at you and say, “Yes, you’re blessed of My Father. Yes, you are to come into My kingdom in your glorified form. Yes, you belong there among those who were chosen before the foundation of the world, because I see in your life the love of the Lord. I see you reaching out to other people. I see you sharing and meeting needs?” It’s a very important question. What are you doing for someone else? I mean, what are you doing for someone else? That’s the simple question. What are you doing? Anything?
Well these dear people, I love their attitude. It’s so humble. They’re not only good, they’re basically humble. They say, “When did we ever do that?” Oh, they don’t say, “Oh yes, of course, Lord, yes. Yes, we have a plaque on our wall: Philanthropist of the year. We understand that, yes.” There’s none of that. They don’t know what He’s talking – what do You mean? You know, the true Christian is going to read that and say, “O God, I failed.” And if that’s what you’re saying in your heart, then maybe you do belong with that group. Yes, I look at my own life and I say, John MacArthur, have you ever fed somebody that was hungry? Yes. Another brother in Christ? Yes. It’s better, to be honest with you, if my wife does it. They like it more. We work together on it. Have you ever given someone a drink when they needed it? Have you ever taken a stranger in and given him lodging? Have you ever taken someone who didn’t have proper clothing and purchased that? Have you ever gone to the sick to comfort them? Have you ever gone to the prison? Yes, yes, Lord. But I mean, not what I should have done. Don’t you feel that way? I mean, woefully beneath what I should have done.
And I love the brothers, I just become insensitive sometimes. I want to meet needs. I want to feed people the Word of God. I don’t have a lot of people in my society, Lord, who don’t have clothes. I don’t have a lot of people who don’t have food. We’ve got a system in America where most of that stuff is covered. But there are other needs and we meet those needs if we love. And if we love we show we belong to God, because God is love, and He sheds His love abroad in the hearts of those who are His children. And John says, “If you see your brother have need,” 1 John 3:16, “and you close up your compassion, then how dwells the love of God in you?” I mean, do you live for you or for others?
Well, He says you’re to come into My kingdom. You not only are good and kind and demonstrating the love of God, but you’re humble, too. “And you who have done it unto the least of these My brethren, you’ve done it unto Me.” That’s such a beautiful thought. Christ identifies with the least of His brethren, the least, the most insignificant, the most inconsequential life is intimately integrated with the life of the Lord Jesus Christ. You look at some saints and you say, “Oh, they’re nothing. I’m not going to waste my time on them,” or, “Their personality doesn’t appeal to me,” or, “I don’t want to get involved in that situation.” That’s Christ identified with that person. The least – and the least are usually the most trouble. Have you noticed that? They take the most out of you. It’s the most prominent who need the least help. It’s the least who need the most. God help me, help all of us, to show ourselves to be His children through this.
And the rest of the people are on His left hand. What happens to them? Verse 41, “He’ll say to those on the left hand, ‘Go away from Me.’” Come here, you on the right. Go away, you on the left. “Go away. You cursed” – you damned and devoted to destruction, go away – “into everlasting fire prepared for the devil and his angels.” Hell was prepared for the unredeemable devil and his angels who fell and there was no plan to redeem them. They who were once pure and holy in the presence of God, chose unholiness and there is no way to reverse that. There is no remedy for that and so God prepared a place for the devil and his angels in everlasting fire and that was for them. But men have chosen to identify in their rebellion and they go there by choice to a place not even intended for them, for God created man for fellowship with Himself.
But you cursed, you devoted to destruction, you who have rejected Me, go away into everlasting fire. That speaks of separation – “Depart from Me.” It speaks of association. Go with the devil and his angels. It speaks of isolation. It’s a place of darkness, He says back in verse 30. It speaks of duration, it’s everlasting. It speaks of affliction, it’s fire. Imagine – imagine that scene. Go away, you chose it. Why? “For I was hungry and you gave Me no food. I was thirsty and you gave Me no drink. I was a stranger and you took Me not in. I was naked and you clothed Me not. I was sick and in prison and you visited Me not.” In other words, you never demonstrated the love of God, which is the mark of the manifestation of His presence. You never revealed a changed life. You never showed love for the brethren. He’s not talking about the milk of human kindness, you never gave yourself away to meet the needs of other redeemed people.
And they say to Him, “Well, wait a minute, Lord. When did we see You hungry or thirsty, or a stranger, or naked, or sick, or in prison and didn’t minister to You?” Why if we had known You were around, we would have done that. When did we ever see You?
“Then will He answer them saying, ‘Verily I say unto you, inasmuch as you did it not to one of the least of these, you did it not to Me.” Never with a proper motive, never with a heart of the love of God do the unregenerate minister to the saints. You didn’t do it. Now isn’t that amazing? People are saved because they’re chosen by God. They’re damned because of what they don’t do. They’re saved because they’re the blessed of the Father, chosen before the foundation of the world to inherit. They’re damned because of what they don’t do.
You remember the virgins? It didn’t say, “And five virgins went into the wedding and five were shut out for being vile, immoral, ugly, gross, evil, wretched sinners.” No, it wasn’t what they did that left them out, it was what they didn’t do. They didn’t get any oil. The point there was that they didn’t have oil. It was something they didn’t have, they didn’t do. Not something they did that damned them. There’s nothing you can do in terms of sin. No matter how gross that sin is that results in your damnation, it’s what you don’t do. It’s the failure to believe in the Lord Jesus Christ. It’s the same with the servant. The third one who got one talent, it wasn’t what he did, it was what he didn’t do. He just buried it and paid no attention to it that damned him and sent him to outer darkness.
The virgins weren’t vile they were just negligent. And the servant wasn’t immoral, he just did nothing. And people are damned to hell by what they don’t do. And what they don’t do is believe in the Lord Jesus Christ. It is the absence of righteousness. It is the absence of the love of God that comes through faith in Christ. It is the absence of those kind of deeds that demonstrate righteousness and demonstrate God’s love. It is the absence of the sin of – it is the presence of the sin of unbelief, the absence of faith.
Well they die right there on the spot in that moment. You say, how is that death going to take place? The closest we can ascertain is in Zechariah 14. The Day of the Lord comes, verse 4. His feet stand on the Mount of Olives. There is a valley created. The nations come in it to be judged. The Lord is King over all the earth. Chapter 14 verse 9, the Lord is King over all the earth. There’s one Lord. His name is one. And then the judgment falls. It says, “The plague with which the Lord will smite all the peoples . . . Their flesh shall consume away while they stand on their feet, and their eyes will consume away in their sockets and their tongue will consume away in their mouth.” I don’t know how that happens, but in that moment, the people on His left will be consumed instantaneously. They leave the earth. They go to everlasting fire. “And these shall go into everlasting punishment. But the righteous” – there they are identified again. Not good doers but the righteous whose righteousness is manifest in good deeds, they go – “into everlasting life.” The words everlasting and eternal in the verse – I don’t know why they translated that same Greek word two ways. They’re the same. Everlasting punishment is just as everlasting as everlasting life.
People want to say, well the punishment isn’t eternal, is it? Well if it isn’t neither is the life. But on the other hand, the life is eternal and so is the punishment. It is everlasting punishment where the worm does not die and the fire is not quenched, where the smoke of their torment goes up forever. No kingdom for them. They leave the earth. They’re gone from the earth, never to return, to go into eternity without God. At the end of the thousand years they come back for their final sentencing. But this is an irreversible judgment, everlasting punishment. The righteous, they go into the kingdom in physical bodies. You say, well what’s going to happen to them? Well what they enter into is an eternal life. So if their physical body dies, they’ll just be glorified instantaneously, because they’ve entered into also an irreversible eternal blessing.
So our Lord brings His sermon to an end with a warning. Yes, He’s coming. When is He coming? We don’t know the exact moment. Men should be ready at all times because irreversible judgment will occur when He comes. On the one hand will be the sheep who have embraced the Savior and been made righteous and have received the love of God which they manifest. On the other hand are the goats, not made righteous, not possessors of the love of God, therefore unable to manifest it. They are set apart. The sheep come into the kingdom. The goats are destroyed from the earth to eternal punishment.
That’s the choice of every soul. That’s how eternity will be, just two places. And every person whoever lives on the face of the earth will be in one or the other. You will. And it may not be just the issue of what you do, your deeds will damn you. But they need not. It’s what you don’t do. it’s a refusal to come to Christ that ultimately pronounces the final curse. So the message of our Lord is, “I’m coming in glory to set up My kingdom. I want to bring into the kingdom those who believe in Me.” That’s the cry.
Father, we thank You this morning for Your Word to us, refreshing our hearts by pulling us away from the world and all of its noisy din and all of its myriad voices and distractions. And yet at the same time, Lord, instilling in our hearts an awesome overwhelming sense of fear as we realize the severity of what awaits those who do not know the Savior. Father, it’s a mark of true believers that they’re loving and they’re humble. It’s a mark of non-believers, in a sense, that they are non-loving. They don’t have the love of God shed abroad in their hearts reaching out to other saints. And they’re not humble; they don’t know why they should be left out. Father, we pray that those who are true saints will have that affirmed in their hearts and those who are not will have that affirmed as well, so that they can take the step of faith in Christ.
With your head bowed in a final moment, between you and the Lord, do a little spiritual inventory. Is your life in His control? Have you received salvation? Do you know if you were to face God in the next moment that you would be hearing Him say, “Come, you blessed of My Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world?” If there’s any thought that you might hear, “Depart from Me, you cursed, into everlasting fire prepared for the devil and his angels,” then you need to confess your sin and embrace Christ.
This article is also available and sold as a booklet.