Friday, February 3, 2012


Matthew 25:31-46

The passage before us, like others in these two chapters (Matthew 24-25), has led to a myriad of interpretations. It has been often misused by some to proclaim a “social gospel” and by others to teach a salvation by works. Much of the confusion occurs because the passage is stolen from its context.

We agree with John Walvoord, who addressed this matter: “A further distinction must be observed in that the Scriptures clearly indicate that God has a separate judgment for the nation Israel (Ezek 20:34-38) and in this case the judgment would include Gentiles rather than the Jewish nation. As will be seen in the exposition this gives a reasonable interpretation of the term “brethren” as in contrast both to the sheep and the goats. Accordingly, on a strict exegesis of this passage, the judgment deals with those on earth among the Gentiles who have survived the tribulation and now await judgment in relation to entrance into the millennial kingdom. It is accordingly not a general judgment, not a judgment of the church which has been raptured earlier, nor is it a judgment of the dead as in Revelation 20:11-15.

So this passage represents neither the judgment seat of Christ (for believers subsequent to the rapture) or the Great White Throne judgment (the judgment of the dead referred to in Revelation 20). It is a judgment of the nations with regards to the treatment of “His brethren” (Matthew 25:40). A judgment that will take place at the end of the tribulation.

Another important and oft-neglected aspect of this judgment has to do with the significance of the deeds that were commended. The things spoken of are indeed things that every child of God should do—in any age. But understanding the context of the deeds helps to better appreciate their importance. The great tribulation will be a time of persecution for the Jesus—referred to in Jeremiah 30:7 as “the time of Jacob’s trouble.” The persecution will be so great that two-thirds of the Jews in the land will die (Cf. Zechariah 13:8). That time will be marked by a satanic hatred of the Jewish people (much as exists in this age but to a higher degree). Satan will once again attempt to exterminate them as he has done before in previous occasions. Those faithful Jews who refuse to worship the world ruler will face a death sentence. It is in that context that these deeds take place. Walvoord notes, “Accordingly, these works of kindness take on tremendous significance as they would involve extreme danger on the part of the person performing them...for a person under these circumstances to befriend “my brethren,” it would indicate true faith in God.” The works spoken of thus giving evidence of that “true faith.”

In Hitler’s Germany there was likewise a great persecution of the Jews. Jews were despised, thrown out of their businesses, ostracized, and ultimately led off to slaughter. And there were some believers in Christ who stood against the tide of that growing hatred and persecution. They spoke out, they intervened, they hid, fed, clothed, visited, and showed love towards the Jews in that day—knowing full well that their benevolent intervention would threaten their own lives and/or livelihood. Some were sent to the prison camps where they suffered the same fate as the Jews they had cared for. History has a way of repeating itself.

At the end of the tribulation “all the nations will be gathered before Him” (Matthew 25:32). The long standing promise—“I will bless those who bless you, and the one who curses you I will curse” (Genesis 12:3)—will be once again fulfilled. We should indeed do the things spoken of in this passage—care for the hungry, the thirsty, the stranger, the unclothed, the imprisoned—true faith in God is revealed in so doing (Cf. 1 John 3:16-17; James 2:14-17). But to show love to God’s people in His name when great risk is involved—that’s a glorious thing indeed. That kind of sacrificial love is even now being demonstrated by believers towards their persecuted brethren in various parts of the world.

As believers in Christ we will not be at this particular judgment, but we will “appear before the judgment seat of Christ.” We will then “be recompensed for (our) deeds in the body, according to what (we) have done, whether good or bad” (2 Corinthians 5:10). Those deeds done with His love, by His grace, through the Spirit, in obedience—these alone will pass the test. The gold, silver, precious stone-like deeds built on the good foundation of a genuine relationship with Christ will remain. All else will be burned up (1 Corinthians 3:10-15). Let us be careful then to show love to others and especially to those being persecuted for their faith (Galatians 6:10; Hebrews 10:34, 13:3). God is pleased with such sacrifices (Hebrews 13:15-16).

Pastor Jerry

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