Matthew 25:31-46 Last Sunday of the Church Year
Walking through New Orleans with the youth group was a little scary. Not the people we saw, but the signs on the shops. Voodo Museum. Palm Readings. We don't see that around here, or do we? Telling the future has always been popular. People go read horoscopes as if their future was determined by how the stars are aligned. We wish people good luck instead of God's blessing and prayer. Trying to tell the future through spirits is considered satanic arts among Christians. It's sinful, for God reveals all he wants us to know about the future through his Word.
Jesus tells us what we need to know about future events. There will be wars, famines, earthquakes, and an increase in lawlessness. There will be false Christs who will lead many away from the truth. True believers in the gospel will go endure great hardship and be persecuted. The gospel message of forgiveness of sins will go through the whole world. Then the end will come.
On the last day Jesus will return suddenly without warning. The dead will rise first. Then those who are left will meet Jesus above the earth. We will be gathered before God's throne. There will be a judgment, a separation of believer from unbeliever. True believers in Christ will enter the new world that God will create from the ashes of earth. Unbelievers will be condemned and sent out of God's presence to hell.
Today's parable is about the Last Judgment. It's not really a judgment. It's a public demonstration of who we were on earth. God will reveal who was a sheep and who was not. That really happens at the moment we die. We are judged whether we were sheep or not. We can't change that after death, and it's no secret. We can know right now where we will spend eternity. Do we believe in Jesus alone as our only Savior, and will we let that remain first in our lives until we die? How you answer that question determines where you will spend eternity.
We don't make ourselves into God's sheep. The sheep are chosen. They are invited to enter the kingdom which Jesus says was prepared for them from foundation of the world. We are elected, or called by God, to be his people. God made us his sheep when he changed our hearts to know Jesus as the Good Shepherd.
The sheep in the parable received their blessing to sit at the right hand of the Son of Man before a single word of their works were spoken. In fact, the sheep weren't even aware of when they did their good deeds. "Lord, when did we see you hungry or naked, or sick or lonely?" God had to tell them when they were serving him. They received no credit or thanks on earth. They followed their shepherd because that's what sheep do. Any good works were done after they came to saving faith.
It's another story for the goats on his left. They are cursed. Their works are evidence of a problem. They lack faith. They rejected God on earth. If they had called on God, trusting in his mercy in Jesus, he would have delivered them. Now it's too late.
Romans 10:11-13 says, "Everyone who believes in him will not be put to shame." For there is no distinction between Jew and Greek; for the same Lord is Lord of all, bestowing his riches on all who call on him. For "everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved."
The unbelievers hear a different word from the Son of Man. "Depart from me, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels." God didn't prepare hell for humans, but for demons. People go there because they can't stay with the righteous. They must go outside of God's heavenly kingdom.
The goats don't know when they missed serving the Son of Man while they lived on earth. "When did we ever see you hungry, or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison? How were we supposed to serve you?"
Without faith in Jesus and His forgiveness, all our sins and lack of service to God remain offenses against God. He will hold us fully accountable.
This parable is a wakeup call to us all. We can see the future right now. God is coming back to earth to take his flock home.
But we can also see today from the vantage point of the future. What will it matter on judgment day if we gain the whole world, but lose our souls? The sheep do not live now to serve their own purposes. They live as members of God's flock.
You can look like a sheep if you do the things sheep do, but you will still be a goat if you don't believe like a sheep.
Being a sheep means receiving forgiveness through faith in Jesus Christ. As a sheep, you look forward to Jesus' return with eager expectation.
James F. Wright
November 20, 2011
Immanuel Lutheran Church
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