The Sheep and the Goats

Understanding the Red Letters   Part 17

Continuing on in Matthew chapter 25, we come to a picture of the final judgment.  First, Jesus speaks to the sheep on His right.  “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.  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; naked, and you clothed Me; I was sick, and you visited Me; I was in prison, and you came to Me’ “ (Mathew 25:34-36).

The righteous will answer, “Lord, when did we see you hungry, thirsty, a stranger, naked, sick or in prison?”  “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 25:40).

To those on His left, the goats, the King will say, “You didn’t do any of these things for Me.”  The goats protest, “When did we see you that way?”  “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.’  These will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life“ (Matthew 25:45-46).

If we did not have the rest of the gospel, it would be easy to conclude from this one story that our entrance into heaven, our entrance into “the kingdom” is totally based on our good works toward our fellow man.  But as we have been showing throughout this series, our welcome into heaven is completely based on our faith in Christ.  So how does this parable fit in to our salvation understanding?

The key to the story, in my opinion, is the question that the righteous ask, “Lord, when did we see you this way?”  The righteous were doing righteous acts toward Jesus without even knowing it.  They obviously did not have this checklist on what was required to get into heaven since they didn’t even know they were doing it.  Or said another way, I don’t think this can be a checklist for getting into heaven, because the righteous did not even know they were achieving it.

Why didn’t the righteous know how serving their fellow man related to serving Jesus?  Because serving others is what the righteous do.  It is what they do because it is who they are.  Do we serve our fellow man perfectly?  No, living into our new identity and serving by Christ living His life through us is a maturing process that we learn how to do.  But serving others is not an entrance requirement to get into heaven.  It is what we do as we live into our new identity in Christ.

Never forget the one requirement to enter heaven; believe the gospel message of Jesus Christ.  When you believe this message, you receive the Son.  “God has given us eternal life, and this life is in His Son.  He who has the Son has the life; he who does not have the Son of God does not have the life.  These things I have written to you who believe in the name of the Son of God, so that you may know that you have eternal life” (I John 5:11-13).

Serving others is part of our new identity DNA.  But as a requirement to enter the kingdom?  That just doesn’t fit the rest of the gospel.