“When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, then he will sit on his glorious throne. 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. And he will place the sheep on his right, but the goats on the left. 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. 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, I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to me.’ Then the righteous will answer him, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you drink? And when did we see you a stranger and welcome you, or naked and clothe you? And when did we see you sick or in prison and visit you?’ 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.’ “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. 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 did not welcome me, naked and you did not clothe me, sick and in prison and you did not visit me.’ 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?’ 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.’ And these will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life.”
(Matthew 25:31-46 ESV)
Yesterday we began a study of Jesus’ final comments to His disciples about the end times, which they had asked about [Matthew 24:3]. Since none of the disciples lived to see His return we can conclude that Jesus’ comments apply to those people who will be alive when He returns at the end of the Great Tribulation.
Note that Jesus refers to Himself as the King. This is the only time Jesus ever referred to Himself as a king and He does so while speaking of the far distant future. For 2,000 years humanity has been waiting for Jesus to return. But we should not forget that Jesus has also been waiting all this time to take His rightful place as King. Some day He will.
At that time Jesus will separate people into two groups, one on His right and one on His left, metaphorically speaking. The right side is the side of favor (e.g. a right-hand man). Being put on the left indicates not being favored.
Those on His right are blessed by God and they will be allowed to continue to live, on earth, under Jesus’ perfect leadership during His millennial reign.
Jesus mentions six deeds done by these people to justify this decision. Some people interpret these words as proof that salvation is earned. But a careful study reveals this is not the case. Notably, Jesus used the word “inherit“.
When someone inherits something, through a will for example, they do so without merit. They are an heir at the discretion of the person writing the will. Most contracts, such as the sale of a house, are bilateral contracts – they require two parties to be put into effect. But a will (also known as a covenant or testament) is a unilateral contract – it only takes one person to put it into effect.
This is exactly how salvation works. God unilaterally wrote a contract, better known as a covenant or testament (as in New Testament) which grants eternal life in heaven to those He chooses. And those who He chooses are not those who work for it [Matthew 7:21-23; John 3:16; Ephesians 2:8-9] but those who humbly accept it as a free gift because they know they need it.
Notice that the good deeds mentioned here are all pretty mundane – simply meeting basic, everyday needs. The evidence of salvation is not a past decision or a major accomplishment but a continuous pattern of selfless behavior – one that feeds the hungry and clothes the naked without having any agenda. Good works don’t save anyone. But they are evidence of being saved [James 2:14-26].
During the Great Tribulation those who believe in Jesus, which will include mostly Jews, will be mercilessly persecuted and will, therefore be in dire need of basic necessities such as food, drink, and clothes. They will be put in prison and their health will suffer accordingly.
Those who come to the aid of these brothers (and sisters) of Jesus will unwittingly be demonstrating love for Jesus. They think they are simply ministering to fellow human beings in need. But they will be doing so much more. Since these persecuted people belong to Jesus, those who help them will also be ministering to Jesus. And for that they will be rewarded with life in His earthly kingdom.
Comments? Questions? I’d love to hear from you. Please feel free to contact me about this post.