Short Commentary – Matthew 25:31-46

Matthew 25:31-33

Jesus gives us a clear description of what the end of the Age will be like in the last 16 verses of Matthew 25. Two parables earlier in the chapter gave some insight as to what the end will be like but these final 16 verses are more direct and matter-of-fact. We first see in verse 31 that Jesus, “the Son of Man, [will] come in His glory and all the angels with Him, then He will sit on his glorious throne.” We see Jesus in all His glory and greatness here. As we give Him worship and praise daily here in earth, His holiness and worth will one day be put on display as our King “will sit on His glorious throne.” Now once our great, holy, worthy, awesome King is on His “glorious throne,” every single person from every single people group will be before Him. I can imagine it as if He is up on a great mountain with all of His subjects looking up in adoration if we will be able to gaze upon His glory at all. While verse 32 states that all “nations” will be “gathered before Him,” the term “nations” is intended to mean all peoples. The original language indicates that the term “nations” is not to mean countries (USA, China, India, etc.), but rather individual people groups. This is important to understand as it provides us with the assurance that every single person from every single people group will be standing before this great King at the foot of His glorious throne. Christ is also a shepherd in verse 32 and not just a king. For as our shepherd, He will separate “the sheep from the goats.” Jesus will look upon the vast multitude in front of Him and pick out those “sheep” who are His followers. By doing so, He will be separating them from the “goats” who are not followers of His. Through this separation by the Lord Jesus Christ, there is an indication in verse 33 that it is a permanent separation as “He will place the sheep on His right, but the goats on the left.” The sheep are separated totally and completely from the goats. This indicates that Christ will forever separate His followers from those who chose not to follow Him in their life.

Matthew 25:34-40

After this distinctive separation, we can see in these 7 verses the reason for total separation. Those “sheep” who are on His right will be invited to “inherit the kingdom prepared for [them] from the foundation of the world.” This is such an intimate statement by our King and shepherd Christ Jesus. A statement of such love and intimacy could only be reserved for His followers, those who are close to Him in personal relationship. They have been separated and placed at His right side to be ushered into the eternal kingdom of God to live forever in perfect fellowship with God the Father and Christ our King. So now the question becomes, how are we distinguished as sheep from goats? Amongst this great crowd of every person from every people group, what identifies us to Christ as a follower of His? Jesus gives us the answer in verses 35-36 and verses 38-40. First in verses 35 and 36, Jesus states that those on His right are to inherit the kingdom for six reasons. Jesus said:

  1. “I was hungry and you gave me food”
  2. “I was thirsty and you gave me drink”
  3. “I was a stranger and you welcomed me”
  4. “I was naked and you clothed me”
  5. “I was sick and you visited me”
  6. “I was in prison and you came to me”

I can just imagine the confusion on the faces of those on His right who have been offered this gracious opportunity to inherit the kingdom of God and then Jesus says the reason is because they loved and cared for Him when he was in states previously mentioned. For Jesus Himself says that they (“the righteous”) will say, “‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you or thirsty and give you drink? And when did we see you a stranger and welcome you, or naked and clothe you? And when did we see you sick or in prison and visit you?'” it seems to the righteous followers of Christ that their inheritance is merited on deeds they did not do. However, the answer Jesus gives in verse 40 is very powerful. This is very eye-opening and convicting for all who claim Christ as Lord. He says that “as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me.” This indicates that we as Christ-followers are identified by the love and care we show to those who are the “least of [His] brothers.” These acts in and of themselves do nothing for our salvation. However, we are to, as James 2:18 states, show our faith by our good works. This is proven in verses 34-40 as those declared righteous by Christ separated from the “goats” are able to inherit the Kingdom of God based on the loving treatment shown to the poor, hungry, thirsty, sick, naked, and imprisoned. This is faith with works. For, “faith apart from works is dead.” James 2:26

Matthew 25:41-46

A very different scene is set in the closing verses of Matthew 25. The mood completely takes a 180° turn. I can just see Christ eagerly ushering His followers into eternal life with such joy and excitement on their faces. Then, He turns to those on His right as they await His judgment. As they are briefly experiencing the presence of Christ the Lord that they will be separated from, they are cowering in fear and in awe of His glory. Now comes the most dreaded words in all of Scripture: “Depart from me, you cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and His angels.” Just writing this strikes fear in me. I immediately focus my thoughts on those who I know will be as a “goat” on the right side of the throne of Christ. This is what awaits those who neglected the poor, hungry, thirsty, naked, sick, and imprisoned. They neglected them because it was not in their nature because they had not been redeemed by God through faith in Jesus Christ. The natural response of a follower of His was absent from their lives and ignorance is no excuse as Christ answers their objections in verse 45. Ultimately Jesus sums it all up in verse 46: “And these will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life.” Bottom line, if you are a follower of His, you will inherit eternal life. If you are not a follower of His, you will be thrown away “into the eternal fire prepared from the devil and his angels.”


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