Vol. XI — No. 49 December 6, 2020
When the son of man shall come in his glory, and all the holy angels with him, then shall he sit upon the throne of his glory: And before him shall be gathered all nations; and he shall separate them one from another, as a shepherd divideth his sheep from the goats: And he shall set the sheep on his right hand, but the goats on the left. Then shall the King say unto them on his right hand, Come, ye blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world: For I was an hungred, and ye gave me meat: I was thirsty, and ye gave me drink: I was a stranger, and ye took me in: Naked, and ye clothed me: I was sick, and ye visited me: I was in prison, and ye came unto me. Than shall the righteous answer him, saying, Lord, when saw we thee an hungred, 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? And the King shall answer and say unto them, Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me. Then shall he say also unto them on the left hand, Depart from me, ye cursed, into everlasting fire, prepared for the devil and his angels: For I was an hungred, and ye gave me no meat: I was thirsty, and ye gave me no drink: I was a stranger, and ye took me not in: naked, and ye clothed me not: sick, and in prison, and ye visited me not. Then shall they also answer him, saying, Lord, when saw we thee an hungred, or athirst, or a stranger, or naked, or sick, or in prison, and did not minister unto thee? Then shall he answer them, saying, Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye did it not to one of the least of these, ye did it not to me. And these shall go away into everlasting punishment: but the righteous into life eternal.
In the words preceding our text, Jesus told His disciples the parable of the talents. In it Jesus taught us that as servants of the Lord, we should serve our Savior faithfully. Such service He may rightly expect from us for we are His redeemed slaves. In the letter of St. Paul to the Romans (12:1-2) the Holy Spirit exhorts us thus: “I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service. And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect will of God.”
When we are active in His service, we should always remember that, however much we are able to accomplish, it was our duty only. We will never be able to accomplish more than our duty. Jesus said to His disciples: “So likewise ye, when ye shall have done all those things which are commanded you, say, We are unprofitable servants: we have done that which was our duty to do.” Luke 17:10. “Therefore be ye also ready: for in such an hour as ye think not the son of man cometh, who then is a faithful and wise servant, whom his lord hath made ruler over his household, to give them meat in due season? Blessed is that servant, whom his lord when he cometh shall find so doing. Verily I say unto you, That he shall make him ruler over all his goods.” Matt. 24:44-47.
Ever since Adam’s time, when God promised to send a Savior into the world, all true believers have looked forward to the coming of Christ. They looked for both His coming, i.e. (1) His coming to redeem the world from sin and death; (2) His coming to execute judgment and establish His Kingdom of righteousness and blessedness.
The Old Testament revelation speaks of the second coming of our Lord, but the New Testament revelation gives more detailed instruction—Matthew 24 and 25. From our text we learn that—
“When the son of man shall come in his glory, and all the holy angels with him, then shall he sit upon the throne of his glory: And before him shall be gathered all nations: and he shall separate them one from another, as a shepherd divideth his sheep from the goats: And he shall set the sheep on his right hand, but the goats on the left.”
The Man whom God has ordained (Acts 17:30-31) to judge the world on the last day is the same Jesus whom He sent into the world as our Redeemer. Jesus as true man born of Virgin Mary, suffered, was crucified, died and was buried for the expiation of the sins of the world. Jesus as true man was raised again from the dead for our justification. This same Jesus was seen of His disciples during the forty days after His resurrection. This same Jesus, while He was speaking to them on the day of ascension, “was taken up (into heaven), and a cloud received him out of their sight.” Acts. 1:9. The angels assured the disciples: “…this same Jesus, which is taken up from you into heaven, shall so come in like manner as ye have seen him go into heaven,” Acts 1:11.
The martyr Stephen, before he was stoned to death by some of the same Jews who had crucified Christ, was granted a glimpse of heaven: “But he, being full of the Holy Ghost, looked up steadfastly into heaven, and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing on the right hand of God. And said, Behold, I see the heavens opened, and the Son of man standing on the right hand of God.” Acts 7:55-56.
This same giorified Savior sha11 come again to judge the world. Into His hands the Father has placed all power, dominion, and rule, wherever it may be, whatever it may be. “The Son of man shall come in glory, and all the holy angels with him” and “he shall sit upon the throne of his glory.”
“The sitting upon His throne” is not a mere display of glory. It has a purpose. He will sit in judgement. The scene is difficult for us to visualize, because of its stupendous glory and awe-filling proportions. Millions of angels shall surround His throne. Before Him shall be gathered all nations. Millions upon millions of human beings, the living and those once dead but now raised from the dead, shall be assembled. All human beings from Adam’s time to the end of the world will be gathered before Him—not one individual created soul will be excepted. Who but the eternal, all glorious, omnipotent Son of God would be able to perform such a gathering.
The holy angels are not mere decoration. They are the servants of the most high God, the glorified Savior—now judge of all nations. Quickly they shall assist and bring about the separation of all individuals into two groups̶those on the right side of Jesus and those to the left. Just like a shepherd in Palestine customarily separates the goats and the sheep of his flock at night, and places them into separate sheepcotes, so shall all people be separated into two groups before the judgment throne of Jesus.
Who are the sheep? “I am the good shepherd, and know my sheep, and am known of mine. As the Father knoweth me, even so know I the Father: and I lay down my life for the sheep. And other sheep I have, which are not of this fold; them also I must bring, and they shall hear my voice; and there shall be one fold, and one shepherd.“ John 10:14-16.
The sheep are those who have been fed with and have received the Word of God which Jesus commanded His apostles and teachers to teach: “So when they had dined, Jesus saith to Simon Peter, Simon, son of Jonas, lovest thou me more than these? He saith unto him, Yea, Lord; thou knowest that I love thee. He saith unto him, Feed my lambs.” John 21:15.
They are God’s elect, chosen from eternity to be children of God, brought to faith through the Gospel of Christ and His forgiveness of sins, and who hope for the eternal redemption of body and soul in heaven. “And he shall send his angels with a great sound of a trumpet, and they shall gather together his elect from the four winds, from one end of heaven to the other.” Matt. 24:31.
Who are the goats? They are the unbelievers, who have despised and trodden under foot the Gospel, the heavenly pasture or food prepared through God’s Son Jesus Christ for the salvation of souls.
“And as for you, O my flock, thus saith the Lord God; Behold, I judge between cattle and cattle, between the rams and the he goats. Seemeth it a small thing unto you to have eaten up the good pasture, but ye must tread down with your feet the residue of your pastures? and to have drunk of the deep waters, but ye must foul the residue with your feet? And as for my flock, they eat that which ye have trodden with your feet; and they drink that which ye have fouled with your feet.” Ezekiel 34:17-19.
“Then shall the King say unto them on his right hand, Come, ye blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world.”
“Come, ye blessed of the Father.” The sheep, the believers, have in this life been blessed already of the Father. We remember the great spiritual blessings enumerated by the Apostle Paul in Eph. 1:3-14. These are some of the great gifts: daily forgiveness of sins, peace, joy; the knowledge that we are beloved sons of God, the eternally elect of God through faith in Christ, that we are members of Christ’s Church, that we share the blessings of fellowship with Him, and that we hope for our eternal redemption.
Now the judge of all nations will change hope into reality. No longer will those sheep still living face the toil and tribulation of life in this sinful world. Then all the believers, who have died before, and all the living believers will enter the glorious life of being kings with the King of kings—all equal before the throne of the glorious and eternal king of kings and Lord of lords. We shall rule with Him in the joys of heaven forever. A11 pain, tears, tribulation and unhappiness shall cease. The believers in Christ shall enter life everlasting.
“For I was an hungred, and ye gave me meat: I was thirsty, and ye gave me drink: I was a stranger, and ye took me in: Naked, and ye clothed me: I was sick, and ye visited me: I was in prison, and ye came unto me. Then shall the righteous answer him, saying, Lord, 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? And the king sha11 answer and say unto them, Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me.–
The works of the believers will be used as proof that they were the blessed of the Father. By faith in Christ the Savior they “inherited” the kingdom prepared by the Father for the blessed ones.
We remember the words of Jesus: “I am the vine, and my father is the husbandman. Every branch in me that beareth not fruit he taketh away: and every branch that beareth fruit, he purgeth it, that it may bring forth more fruit. Now ye are clean through the word which I have spoken unto you. Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, except it abide in the vine, no more can ye, except ye abide in me. I am the vine, ye are the branches: He that abideth in me, and I in him, the same bringeth forth much fruit: for without me ye can do nothing.” John 15:1-5.
Note well that the sheep do not even remember the good works they have done. This is not the case with those who wish to “earn” their way into heaven. The latter self-righteous ones keep a record of their supposed “good” deeds or merits, and conveniently forget their wicked deeds or engage in their own kind of special bookkeeping with respect to certain ethical and unethical conduct.
The deeds of the Christian will be characterized by love for the brethren. Their attitude toward the brethren of Jesus indicates their relation to Jesus the Savior. Saul who persecuted the Christians, persecuted Jesus Himself (Acts 9:4). The Holy Spirit caused the true sheep to love the brethren of Christ; just as the devil caused the goats, the unbelievers, to ridicule, to despise, to hate, to oppose and persecute the Christians.
“Then shall he say unto them on the left hand, Depart from me, ye cursed into ever lasting fire, prepared for the devil and his angels.”
The unbeliever never was really happy even in this life. He rejected the Savior from sin. He boasted that he was independent and free. He was proud of his own religion and works.
Yet he was not free. He was a tool of the devil, a slave to sin and his own sinful lusts. He loved the deeds of darkness. He tried to escape the thought of eternal judgment and the hereafter or invented his own religious delusion to quiet his troubled conscience. He had no real peace and joy.
Such shall also receive no inheritance. They shall only receive confirmation of their life-time desire to be free of God. Now the eternal God shall grant their desire and make it permanent. The Judge of all men pronounces: “Depart from me.” “Cursed” they shall be forever. By their servitude of sin and the devil they shall also receive the devil’s reward: entrance into the place of “everlasting fire, prepared for the devil and his angels.”
“Then shall he say also unto them on the left hand, Depart from me, ye cursed, into everlasting fire, prepared for the devil and his angels: For I was an hungred, and ye gave me no meat: I was thirsty, and ye gave me no drink: I was a stranger, and ye took me not in: naked, and ye clothed me not: sick, and in prison, and ye visited me not. Then shall they also answer him saying, Lord, when saw we thee an hungred, or athirst, or a stranger, or naked, or sick, or in prison, and did not minister unto thee? Then sha11 he answer them, saying, Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye did it not to one of the least of these, ye did it not to me. And these shall go away into everlasting punishment: but the righteous into life eternal.”
The cursed were unbelievers. They did not repent of their sins and accept the forgiveness of God through the blood of His righteous Son. They said “No” to His glorious Gospel.
Now Jesus will demonstrate that they were quite blind because of unbelief. They did not know the brethren. They did not see them hungering, thirsting, naked, nor any of their needs. They did not know or love the brethren, because they did not know or love Jesus the Savior. “And these shall go into everlasting punishment.”
My dear friends, are you prepared for the coming of the Son of God? Do you have the garment of righteousness, the free gift of forgiveness of sins? Do you love Jesus, and hence also His brethren? “But the righteous (shall enter) into life eternal.” Amen.
Ministry by Mail is a weekly publication of the Church of the Lutheran Confession. Subscription and staff information may be found online at www.clclutheran.org/ministrybymail.
All scripture quotations, unless otherwise indicated, are taken from the King James Version.