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Gospel of Matthew 25: 31-46 (NIV)
(Jesus continued:) 31 “When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, he will sit on his throne in heavenly glory. 32 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. 33 He will put the sheep on his right and the goats on his left.
34 “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. 35 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, 36 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.’
37 “Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? 38 When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? 39 When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’
40 “The King will reply, ‘I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’
41 “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. 42 For I was hungry and you gave me nothing to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink, 43 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.’
44 “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?’
45 “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.’
46 “Then they will go away to eternal punishment, but the righteous to eternal life.”
To distinguish between sheep and goats, I was told in north Africa, look at the tails. The tails of goats point upwards, the tails of sheep hang down.
In this passage Jesus was not concerned about sheep and goats. Their mention is illustrational. In alluding to the end-times, Jesus provided significant insights regarding his true identity:
- The “Son of Man” will return and it will be glorious.
- His entourage will include “all the angels”.
- His posture will be “enthroned” and his title will be “King” (verses 31, 34, 40).
- His role then, with the authority of the Father, will be to judge all the nations.
- “Righteousness” will be his discriminator (verse 37).
Jesus has already told his disciples, “… this gospel of the kingdom will be preached in the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come” (Matthew 24: 14).
I thank God for the United Bible Societies and for all Bible translators and distributors who strive to bring the gospel of the kingdom to all nations in their own languages. Let us support them in prayer and practically – “… and then the end will come”.