The sheep and the goats

By Mike Ratliff

 For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each one may be recompensed for his deeds in the body, according to what he has done, whether good or bad. 2 Corinthians 5:10 (NASB)

12 So He said, “A nobleman went to a distant country to receive a kingdom for himself, and then return. 13 And he called ten of his slaves, and gave them ten minas and said to them, ‘Do business with this until I come back.’ 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, after receiving the kingdom, he ordered that these slaves, to whom he had given the money, be called to him so that he might know what business they had done. Luke 19:12-15 (NASB) 

26 I tell you that to everyone who has, more shall be given, but from the one who does not have, even what he does have shall be taken away. 27 But these enemies of mine, who did not want me to reign over them, bring them here and slay them in my presence.” Luke 19:26-27 (NASB) 

Let us now look at that element in Man’s heart that refuses to bow the knee to any god except one with whom it is comfortable. If God the Father 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.

31 “But when the Son of Man comes in His glory, and all the angels with Him, then He will sit on His glorious throne. 32 All the nations will be gathered before Him; and He will separate them from one another, as the shepherd separates the sheep from the goats; 33 and He will put the sheep on His right, and the goats on the left. Matthew 25:31-33 (NASB) 

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 these enemies of mine, who did not want me to reign over them, bring them here and slay them in my presence.” 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 “But when the Son of Man comes in His glory, and all the angels with Him, then He will sit on His glorious throne. 32 All the nations will be gathered before Him; and He will separate them from one another, as the shepherd separates the sheep from the goats; 33 and He will put the sheep on His right, and the goats on the left. Matthew 25:31-33 (NASB)

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 put the sheep on His right, and the goats on the left. Matthew 25:33 (NASB)

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 of My Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. 35 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 invited Me in; 36 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, ‘Lord, when did we see You hungry, and feed You, or thirsty, and give You something to drink? 38 And when did we see You a stranger, and invite You in, or naked, and clothe You? 39 When did we see You sick, or in prison, and come to You?’ 40 The King will answer and say to them, ‘Truly I say to you, to the extent that you did it to one of these brothers of Mine, even the least of them, you did it to Me.’ Matthew 25:34-40 (NASB) 

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 also say to those on His left, ‘Depart from Me, accursed ones, into the eternal fire which has been prepared for the devil and his angels; 42 for I was hungry, and you gave Me nothing to eat; I was thirsty, and you gave Me nothing to drink; 43 I was a stranger, and you did not invite Me in; naked, and you did not clothe Me; sick, and in prison, and you did not visit Me.’ 44 Then they themselves also will answer, ‘Lord, when did we see You hungry, or thirsty, or a stranger, or naked, or sick, or in prison, and did not take care of You?’ 45 Then He will answer them, ‘Truly I say to you, to the extent that you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to Me.’ 46 These will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life.” Matthew 25:41-46 (NASB) 

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 he who does the will of My Father who is in heaven will enter. 22 Many will say to Me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in Your name, and in Your name cast out demons, and in Your name perform many miracles?’ 23 And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness.’ Matthew 7:21-23 (NASB)

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!

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