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A Sabbath Message August 10th, 2013 – Ken Westby
Things That Jesus Said Part III
by Brian Knowles
Things That Jesus Said Part III: Who are the Sheep, Who are the Goats?
This article has a theme text. It is found in Matthew 25:31- 46. It reads as follows:
“When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him,
He will sit on his throne in heavenly glory.
All the nations will be gathered before him,
And he will separate the people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. He will put the sheep on his right hand and the goats on his left.
Then the King will say to those on his right,
‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father,
Take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation 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,
I needed clothes and you clothed me,
I was sick and you looked after me,
I was in prison and you came to visit me.’
Then the righteous will answer him, ‘When did we see you hungry and feed you,
Or thirsty and give you something to drink,
When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needed clothes and clothe you?
When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’
The King will reply, ‘I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me.’
Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. For I was hungry and you gave me nothing to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink, I was a stranger and you did not invite me in, I needed clothes and you did not clothe me, I was sick and in prison and you did not look after me.’
They will answer, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or needing clothes or sick or in prison, and did not help you?’
He will reply, ‘I tell you the truth, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me.’
Then they will go away to eternal punishment but the righteous to eternal life.”
We don’t find this teaching – in this form – in any other Gospel. It’s only found in Matthew. It is one of the most powerful, and perhaps frightening, teachings in the New Covenant collection. It bears reading over and over again – dwelling on every convicting word. When we allow these words of Jesus to sink down into our hearts, they both explain something very profound, and they open up a reality about the divine personality that many – even in the Church – may not have grasped.
Jesus refers to himself as the “Son of Man.” In this context, he seems to have taken it from Daniel 7:13-14. These verses are describing a glorified, supernatural Messiah in his full radiance and power. He is accompanied by tens of thousands of angels. When these sayings of Jesus are fulfilled, no one will doubt that he is truly God’s Anointed One.
The word “nations” here is the Greek ethnos – from which we get the term “ethnic.” The Hebrew word behind ethnos is goyim = meaning gentiles or nations. What is being described here is the judgment of all non-Jews or non-Israelites. There is no evidence here that Jesus is referring to Christians or to Israel. It’s just the non-Israelite people of the world to whom he’s referring.
Yeshua then characterizes himself as a shepherd who separates sheep from goats in his mixed flock (v. 32). Note the symbolism of right and left hands – the sheep are on the right. Now consider Psalm 110:1: “The Lord says to my Lord: ‘Sit at my right hand until I make your enemies a footstool for your feet.” This is the most quoted verse in the Old Testament. It appears 18 times in the New. In Mark 12:36, Jesus said that David was speaking under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit when he wrote this. It is a picture of God’s Anointed One – Yeshua – sitting at the right hand of God. In turn, those with whom Jesus is to share his kingdom will also sit at his right hand. The right hand is the hand of use, of instrumentation. Just as Jesus is God’s instrument, the “sheep” that are placed on his right hand will be his instruments in the Kingdom. The term “separation” in Matthew 25:32 is a metaphor for judgment.
Now read John 5:25-30. [Author’s note: Since this article was originally prepared as a sermon in which the passages would be read aloud, it is recommended that the reader read each passage cited.] Here we see a two part resurrection – one to life, the other to condemnation. In Matthew 25:34, those on his right inherit the kingdom which has been in ongoing development from the beginnings of history. It was always God’s intent to share power with those to whom he could entrust it. We were born to rule. Paul writes to Timothy of a “crown” which all of the righteous will inherit: II Timothy 4:8.
In Jesus teaching here (Matthew 25), he is speaking of the righteous drawn from the ranks of the world at large – from the goyim or nations. As I said earlier, these do not seem to be Jews or Christians but righteous gentiles.
Revelation 2:8-11 again refers to the crown which all of the righteous will inherit.
Returning to the Matthew pericope (literary unit), we find out what qualifies some people as sheep and others to be rejected goats. Why do some of these gentiles inherit the kingdom? Why are they called “Blessed of my Father”? Is it because of the way they have treated God’s people – whomsoever those may be. (As it says in II Timothy 2:19, “The Lord knows them that are his”.) This is a powerful point, the importance of which can’t be over estimated. Reread Matthew 25:35 -36. Note the word “for.” It’s important. It explains the reason some are blessed and others are cursed in the judgment. Jesus uses the first person here for a reason. What bad people do to Israel, or to the Church, they to the Messiah. God, and Jesus, take it personally. In the judgment, the Lord will avenge the abuse of his people. What anyone does to God’s Jewish or Christian people, they do to God and Christ.
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