Who Are The Sheep And Who Are The Goats?

By Mike Ratliff

10 For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each one may receive what is due for what he has done in the body, whether good or evil. (2 Corinthians 5:10 ESV)

12 He said therefore, “A nobleman went into a far country to receive for himself a kingdom and then return. 13 Calling ten of his servants, he gave them ten minas, and said to them, ‘Engage in business until I come. ’ 14 But his citizens hated him and sent a delegation after him, saying, ‘We do not want this man to reign over us. ’ 15 When he returned, having received the kingdom, he ordered these servants to whom he had given the money to be called to him, that he might know what they had gained by doing business. (Luke 19:12-15 ESV)

26 ‘I tell you that to everyone who has, more will be given, but from the one who has not, even what he has will be taken away. 27 But as for these enemies of mine, who did not want me to reign over them, bring them here and slaughter them before me.’” (Luke 19:26-27 ESV)

If God or our Lord Jesus Christ are honestly portrayed as we read in Sacred Scripture the vast majority, those whose hearts are overrun by relativism, will stiffen their necks in rejection. However, when a smiling, culturally “relevant” preacher repackages the Holy Trinity and Christianity into a ‘product’ that sells then that ministry will become huge. Book deals and speaking engagements deluge this new superstar of a religion that seems to exist only to speak what people want to hear. Such is the nature of the “visible church.”

31 “When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, then he will sit on his glorious throne. 32 Before him will be gathered all the nations, and he will separate people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. (Matthew 25:31-32 ESV)

Who is the Son of Man? This was our Lord’s favorite ‘title’ for Himself during His earthly ministry. His disciples saw Him as much more than simply a man. The Jews were looking for a conquering king as their Messiah, but our Lord came as a suffering servant instead. Now look at Luke 19:12-15, which I placed at the top of this post. This is the introduction to our Lord’s parable of the ‘Ten Minas.” However, in this parable He included two statements that seem out of place. In fact, in the parallel passage of this parable (Matthew 25:14-30) these two statements are omitted. However, Matthew does finish this discourse with a description of our Lord coming in glory, separating the sheep from the goats, which Luke omitted. In Luke 19:12-15 we read of a nobleman going to a far country to receive a kingdom for himself. He gave orders for his servants and gave them resources in which to serve him while he was gone. Then we read this statement, “But his citizens hated him and sent a delegation after him, saying, ‘We do not want this man to reign over us.’“ Now, read Luke 19:26-27, which is directly under Luke 19:12-15 above. In the intervening verses, (vv16-25) after this nobleman returns he has each of his servants give an account of how they managed his resources while he was away, we read that two did well while the third did nothing with the resources entrusted to him.

In both Luke’s and Matthew’s account the two good servants are told, “Well done, good and faithful servant…” then they were given more authority and rewards. However, the servant who did nothing with the resources given to him is severely rebuked. All that he has is taken away from him then he is cast into outer darkness. Before we go any further, let us not forget the Greek word used for “servant” in these passages is δοῦλος or doulos. This word indicates one who is a slave, not a hired servant.

Now what does Luke tell us about those “citizens” who did not want this man reigning over them? He says, “But as for these enemies of mine, who did not want me to reign over them, bring them here and slaughter them before me.” Here is what we have. The nobleman does not have a kingdom, but leaves on a journey to receive one. He has citizens who hate him. He leaves slaves in place to do his will while he is gone, to continue his work. When he returns he has everyone give an account. He finds that some of his slaves did his will and he rewards them. He finds others who were self-oriented, self-focused, and did not obey him. Those are stripped of everything then cast into outer darkness. He then has those who did not want him reigning over them brought before him then killed.

Now let us look our Lord’s own description of His returning in glory. Here is this passage again from Matthew 25.

31 “When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, then he will sit on his glorious throne. 32 Before him will be gathered all the nations, and he will separate people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. (Matthew 25:31-32 ESV)

When our Lord returns, and we know that He will because He said He would, it will not be as it was at His incarnation. He came as a suffering servant, being born as humble child to a common family. However, when He returns it will be in glory. This Greek word is δόξα or doxa. That should sound a bit familiar to you. Think of the word ‘doxology.’ This word, δόξα, means, “the appearance, reputation, and glory belonging to a person with honor and renown.” Notice that when our Lord comes in His δόξα all will be centered in Him for who He is. His second coming will be glorious! All of the angels will be with Him. He will then sit on His throne (θρόνος) of δόξα. This throne of glory will become the center of everyone’s attention because our Lord in all His δόξα will be on it. Then every person who has ever lived will be gathered before Him. He will then separate them into two groups. The Greek word for separate used here is ἀφορίζω or aphorizō. This is an interesting word. It means to create a boundary or divide that excludes one side from the other. There will be no fence sitters.

33 And he will place the sheep on his right, but the goats on the left. (Matthew 25:33 ESV)

The right is the preferred side. Those placed on His right are the sheep while those placed on the left are the goats. There will be no goats on His right side and no sheep on the left side. Then our Lord will address those on His right.

34 Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. 35 For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, 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 feed you, or thirsty and give you drink? 38 And when did we see you a stranger and welcome you, or naked and clothe you? 39 And when did we see you sick or in prison and visit you? ’ 40 And the King will answer them, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me.’ (Matthew 25:34-40 ESV)

What do we learn here? The kingdom these on His right will inherit has been prepared for them from the foundation of the world. Then He seems to be saying that these will inherit this kingdom because they showed mercy and helped ‘the least of these my brothers.’ Well we know that salvation is by grace through faith alone not according to works so what our Lord is saying is that those who are regenerate will be marked by how they do these things towards the brethren. Christians showing mercy to and helping other Christians is the same thing as doing it unto the Lord. Genuine Christians have the same love for other Christians that our Lord does because they are born from above and are growing unto His likeness. What about the goats?

41 “Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. 42 For I was hungry and you gave me no food, I was thirsty and you gave me no drink, 43 I was a stranger and you did not welcome me, naked and you did not clothe me, sick and in prison and you did not visit me. ’ 44 Then they also will answer, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison, and did not minister to you? ’ 45 Then he will answer them, saying, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to me. ’ 46 And these will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life.” (Matthew 25:41-46 ESV)

Notice that the unregenerate, the goats, did not show mercy to the brethren. They were self-centered because they were not born from above. They do not have our Lord’s character growing in them. They are sent away into eternal punishment while the sheep have inherited the kingdom and will be with their Lord forever.

Think now of the Parable of the Minas and this account of our Lord’s glorious return. Remember those people who did not want the Lord reigning over them? Remember those slaves who did not obey the Lord, but wasted their resources in their self-focus? These are goats. The citizens who rejected the King are slain before his eyes while the worthless slave is sent into outer darkness. This is a parable so it would be mistake to try to overdo the symbolism here, but what we see are some truths that we need to understand, grasp, and take into our hearts for assurance and motivation to obey our Lord.

First, Jesus is coming back. He has left to receive His Kingdom, but He is coming back. Second, many profess to be citizens in His kingdom, but refuse to have Him reign over them. They may call themselves Christians, but their ‘god’ and their ‘Jesus’ are ones of their own making. Third, many who appear to be Christians are not, but are worthless and self-centered. However, there are also genuine Christians who do use the resources (God’s grace and provision) given to them to further the Kingdom. Fourth, those who obey our Lord are genuine believers and will be rewarded in eternity, but those who disobey our Lord are disingenuous and will lose everything they thought they had. They will be cast into outer darkness. Fifth, those people who appeared to be Christians, but refused to have Jesus reign over them will be slain before His eyes. They will also be removed from His sight and will suffer punishment eternally. These are the goats along with those worthless slaves who wasted the resources God gave to further the Kingdom. Sixth, Genuine believers are merciful and gracious and love the brethren while disingenuous believers do not. The genuine believers minister to other Christians with our Lord’s love. The disingenuous believers may indeed have ministries professing to care for the poor and needy, but they do not minister to them with the pure milk of God’s Word. They do not preach healing words. They do not love them with that active love the genuine believers have.

Lastly, let us compare these passages with this one:

21 “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. 22 On that day many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name? ’ 23 And then will I declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.’ (Matthew 7:21-23 ESV)

Never forget, a profession of faith and having a ministry is no guarantee that one is genuine. Many who look very good to the undiscerning eye will actually be amongst this group who consider their “works” to be validation that they are sheep rather than goats.

Soli Deo Gloria!

5 thoughts on “Who Are The Sheep And Who Are The Goats?

  1. This is about the same as asking, “Who’s the Wheat and who’s the Tares?” Who’s going to judge which is which but God Himself? I know what to expect and look for, but it’s not up to me to decide. All I can do is witness, testify, Pray, and Praise God. As Mike once wrote, we are not to Judge!

  2. Mike, confused by your last paragraph:

    “…Never forget, a profession of faith and having a ministry is no guarantee that one is genuine. Many who look very good to the undiscerning eye will actually be amongst this group who consider their “works” to be validation that they are sheep rather than goats…”

    Do you mean “they are goats rather than sheep” ??

  3. Tares not wheat, wicked not faithful servants, foolish not wise virgins, undesirable not choice fish, goats not sheep… All of the same picture Tom! The broad road which leads to destruction is not the world, for they are already judged. It is those who climb up another way, who gather their own sheep, thieves, robbers, wolves, and hirelings. Thus the broad road which leads to destruction runs down the center isle and up across the pulpits of the jesus franchises of the Harlot religious system.
    As always Mike great work, brother! Your teaching will get you kicked out of more places then you probably care to think about, but One Place will welcome you with open arms! He builds with lively stones like you brother!

Comments are closed.