The Kings Justice: Good, Works
We come today to the last of a series of studies in the Lord Jesus’ teachings on the end times in and 25. It’s become very apparent in the last several passages that we’ve looked at that Jesus emphasizes that faithfulness it He way that we are prepared for His coming. But He also raises the possibility that there may be some people who think they are His disciples who are not, in fact, faithful. Of course, He warns all those who are not his disciples that they should not think that they are ready for the day of His coming; but instead should prepare now by trusting in Him, and by faithfulness that they may be ready when the day comes. Because when the day comes, it will be too late, as we saw in the story of the ten bridesmaids. And so today we come to this concluding section.
Suppose on the judgment day you were to stand before God, and He were to say to you, “Why should I let you in to My Heaven?’ And suppose you were to give a wonderful, theologically correct answer. “Well, because I believe in the Lord Jesus Christ alone for my salvation, as He has been offered in the gospel.” And supposed the Lord were to say to you in response. “Okay, let Me ask another question. What evidence is there that you really believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and love Him with all your heart and soul and strength.” What would you say? The Lord Jesus Christ is speaking in this passage of precisely that issue. In this passage, He is speaking about the evidence of a true believer, and the evidence of a false believer. For on the last day, He warns, there will be three categories of people. There will be those who have truly believed on Him and walked in His way. And then there will be those who profess to be His disciples, but were not. And there will be those who never professed to be His disciples, and they didn’t think it was that important. And both of those latter categories are going to find themselves condemned, because ultimately, in the final aside, all will be counted as saved or lost. And He’s speaking especially to those latter two categories in this passage. Whether they be people who profess to be the Lord Jesus’ Christ’s disciples, and yet denied that by their lies. Or whether they were those who persecuted His disciples and thought they were going to get by with it. The Lord Jesus Christ speaks of His coming in glory in order to show all men what they may expect in the day of His coming.
And my friend, this passage before you today contains both an irrefutable argument against salvation by works, and at the same time a startling warning that we will all be judged by works. Yes, I said what I meant to say. This passages contains for us an irrefutable argument against salvation by works, and it also teaches us that we will all be judged by works. Jesus taught both of those without apology.
Sheep and the Goats:
The background of the symbolism that He uses, the sheep and the goats is, of course, from the practice of Palestinian shepherds. The Palestinian shepherds at night would separate their sheep from and their goats. The sheep liked to be in the open countryside, but the goats liked to be warm. So the goats were brought in. The sheep would be left in the field. Furthermore, we know from stories around the time of the Lord Jesus Christ that sheep had often been used to speak of something that was good, and goats were often used as a portent of trouble. I don’t know if that’s because of their personality, or what, but that’s the way they were used in common literature. And so the Lord Jesus is saying, “I’m going to separate, at the end, the sheep and the goats,” using them as a sign for the symbol for the righteous and the unrighteous.
But of course the metaphor of Jesus as the judge, as the shepherd, comes right out of the Old Testament. It comes from Ezekiel, chapter 34, verse 17. You may want to turn with me there. Jesus is drawing right from the prophesy of Ezekiel something that he said God would do in the last day. In , verse 17 we read as, “For you, my flock, thus says the Lord God, ‘Behold, I will judge between one sheep and another between the ram and the goat.’” The Lord Jesus is appealing to that story, and He’s saying to His disciples, “You know, you were looking for My glorious coming. You’re right. My coming is going to be glorious, and I am going to be the One to separate the sheep from the goats. I am the One about whom Ezekiel was prophesying by the inspiration of the Holy Spirit.”
And we must all come to grips with this claim of deity by the Lord Jesus Christ and by the nature of His second coming. When He comes again, He is not coming in a state of humiliation. He will not come a second time as the suffering servant. He comes as the judging King of the world. And we must not miss the bluntness of Jesus’ claim. Jesus’ claim to divinity is unmistakable here.