December 11, 2014
“When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, he will sit on his glorious throne. 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 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, ‘Lord, 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 needing clothes and clothe you? When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’
“The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters 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 also 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, ‘Truly I tell you, 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.”
What do sheep and goats have to do with the return of Jesus and the end of time?
But before we go any further, I want to reassure you that when I say things like, “the end of the world” and “the end of time,” I don’t mean to scare anyone. The end of time really means the end of time. In other words, we can throw away our watches and clocks because time will be over and we will live in eternity, and eternity never ends. That’s what forever means.
As I have noted before, the end of the world means the end of the world as it presently exists in its broken state (i.e. where children have cancer and are sold into slavery and where earthquakes and tsunamis kill thousands of people). When the world as we know it ends, the world as we always hoped it could be begins. This will be the world made right.
This brings me to our text for today and the question about sheep and goats. Part of making the world right means that evil will finally be punished. At the end of time Jesus will return and everyone who ever lived will be raised from the dead. Next will come the judgment. Everyone who is still alive when Jesus comes along with everyone who was dead will stand together before the Lord. If you’ve ever said the Apostles Creed or the Nicene Creed this will sound familiar. (i.e. he will come to judge the quick and the dead. quick means living, not fast).
Now here’s the interesting part. In the end, judgment comes down to one of two decisions. A person either 1) lives forever with God in the new heaven and the new earth or 2) doesn’t live forever with God in the new heaven and the new earth. So is a person judged on how much good they have done compared to how much bad they have done? Good question. No. If that were the case, none of us would get to live forever with God in the new heaven and the new earth. That’s where the very good news, also known as the Gospel, comes in. Remember? “For God so loved the world that he gave his only son that whoever believes in him will not perish but have eternal life.”
Jesus died on the cross and rose from the dead in order to save people from the curse of sin and death. He paid the penalty of sin so that we might have eternal life. The key is we must put our faith in him. We must believe this good news in our heart of hearts and follow him with our lives.
That’s where the sheep and the goats come in. Jesus says the judgment will look something like a shepherd separating sheep from goats. One group will live forever with God in the new heaven and the new earth and one will not. The difference? Do you know what the sign will be of whether a person really trusted in Jesus for their salvation and received his mercy for their sins? The sign, or the way to tell who really trusted Jesus and received mercy and who didn’t will be to see who really showed mercy to other people when they most needed it. Did you feed people when they were hungry? Did you clothe them when they were naked? Did you visit them when they were in prison? Did you care for them when they were sick? Did you welcome in strangers when they had nowhere else to go?
Jesus will say, you thought you were doing it for them, but you were really doing it for me.
One final bit. People don’t live forever with God in the new heaven and the new earth because they showed mercy to people in need. People live forever with God in the new heaven and the new earth because they trusted in Jesus and received his mercy. It just so happens that the people who really received mercy are the same kind of people who show mercy to others. It doesn’t come down to what you say but who you have become.
So here’s the hard look we need to take at ourselves. Have we placed our faith in Jesus and received his mercy for our failures? Here’s how to tell. Are we becoming the kind of people who show mercy and kindness to people who are in need? If we aren’t becoming those kind of people, chances are we haven’t really trusted in Jesus, in which case we need to ask ourselves some hard questions.
The good news is if you are reading this there is still time. That’s what’s so amazing about Jesus telling us these things ahead of time. It’s like he is giving us a chance to ask ourselves the hard questions now so we can be prepared when the time comes.
That’s enough for now. I’ll leave you with these thoughts and see you again tomorrow.
PEOPLE GET READY! JESUS IS COMING.
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