When the Son of Man Comes in His Glory
Sunday, May 19, 2013 -
Matthew 25:31-46 - “When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, then he will sit on his glorious throne.  Before him will be gathered all the nations, and he will separate people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats.  And he will place the sheep on his right, but the goats on the left.  Then the King will say to those on his right, 'Come, you who are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world.  For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me,  I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to me.'  Then the righteous will answer him, saying, '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?'  And the King will answer them, 'Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me.'  "Then he will say to those on his left, 'Depart from me, you cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels.  For I was hungry and you gave me no food, I was thirsty and you gave me no drink,  I was a stranger and you did not welcome me, naked and you did not clothe me, sick and in prison and you did not visit me.'  Then they also will answer, saying, 'Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison, and did not minister to you?'  Then he will answer them, saying, 'Truly, I say to you, as you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to me.'  And these will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life."
1) IN JESUS’ VISION OF THE FUTURE OF THE WORLD, THERE IS COMING A GREAT FORK IN THE ROAD - Matthew 25:31-33 - “When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, then he will sit on his glorious throne.  Before him will be gathered all the nations, and he will separate people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats.  And he will place the sheep on his right, but the goats on the left.”
The text says there will be a gathering and a separating. “Before him will be gathered all the nations, and he will separate people one from another ”(32). Some will go to the right, and some will go to the left. Very simply, the crowd will not all stay together. They won’t all go to the same place. Nor will they receive the same treatment. What ever else is tricky in this passage, surely that much is crystal clear. It really makes no difference how many authors of “near death” experiences write about going through a tunnel and heading toward a bright light. It makes no difference that in most of those books everyone goes to the same place and has the same experience. I don’t care how many angels of light come up with different stories, or how popular their teaching becomes. Here’s what Jesus said. There will be a great separation - a great division - when He comes to judge the world.
This is something we must never forget. Here, and for now, people can lose themselves in a crowd that is much like themselves. There is no pressure to act - no reason to change - and no threat of penalty if they don’t. We are so used to the freedom to choose that we presently possess. We can choose to live for the Lord. We can choose to live for ourselves. We are free to choose how passionate and how devoted we will be to Christ and His cause. We can choose to live with areas of compromise. We can choose our own level of involvement or uninvolvement in Christ’s church. The opportunity to choose and set our own course is so limitless.
Then Jesus tells of a coming time when all of that freedom comes to a jolting, crashing end. There will be a separating that will set eternal destiny. That separation will be decided for is. All our decision making will come to an end. Jesus will choose. It will all be out of our hands.
2) JUDGEMENT WILL BE BASED ON OUR ACTIONS, RATHER THAN OUR BELIEFS - Matthew 25:34-36 - “Then the King will say to those on his right, 'Come, you who are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world.  For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me,  I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to me.'” See also Matthew 25:41-43 for the description of the failure of others to do these same things.
There is no escaping Jesus’ point. Separation is determined on the basis of what people do, or what they don’t do. They were never asked about their beliefs. All that was assessed was their deeds. This raises some very important questions. Does it matter what we believe? What about verses like, “Except you believe that I am He, you will die in your sins.” Or, “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and you will be saved.” Are people saved by faith or by works? And if they aren’t saved by works, how can they be judged by works?
For many Christians the issue raised by these words from Jesus is only one more reminder of a thorny theological issue. Some Christians feel the Bible gives two messages at the same time. Here, in today’s text, Jesus says He will separate and judge the world by the things they do or do not do. But in other places He says, “Come unto me all you who labor and I will give you rest.” In John 3:16 Jesus says “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.” Then, in John 5:28-29 He says, “Do not marvel at this, for an hour is coming when all who are in the tombs will hear his voice  and come out, those who have done good to the resurrection of life, and those who have done evil to the resurrection of judgment.”
Or consider the teaching of the Apostle Paul. Paul is noted for his defense of the great doctrine of justification by faith alone. In Ephesians 2:8-9 Paul says, “For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God,  not a result of works, so that no one may boast.” But in 2 Corinthians 5:10 Paul says this: “For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each one may receive what is due for what he has done in the body, whether good or evil.”
Jesus and Paul are not contradicting themselves. The problem is in our understanding of their words. We are saved by grace. We are not saved by works. So, if we are not saved by works, why are we judged by works? And the whole Bible gives the same unified answer to that question. Works are the only possible result of grace received. I am not saved by works. But my profession of salvation can never be unaccompanied by works - Titus 2:11-14 - “For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation for all people,  training us to renounce ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright, and godly lives in the present age,  waiting for our blessed hope, the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ,  who gave himself for us to redeem us from all lawlessness and to purify for himself a people for his own possession who are zealous for good works.”
That’s why Jesus says He will look at the works of the people. He will assess the reality of their faith on that basis. Their righteous deeds don’t undo the foundation of free grace in their lives. Notice the key words in verse 34 - “Then the King will say to those on his right, 'Come, you who are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world.’” These blessed people didn’t earn the kingdom with their righteous deeds. The kingdom was passed on freely - like any inheritance. Their righteous deeds only demonstrated that they were, in fact, the Father’s children (“....you who are blessed by my Father” 34). They were recipients of free, adopting, divine life and grace.
3) IN JESUS’ ACCOUNT, THE PART OF THE LIFE RECEIVING DIVINE ATTENTION WASN’T THE PART WE CONSIDER THE ‘RELIGIOUS’ PART - Both with those being rewarded and those being judged, attention was focused on things so small, neither crowd remembered them. It’s the unguarded moments - the action done when no one else notices - the righteousness that sustains its own life outside church walls - that shows the authenticity of what’s truly in my heart. It’s the unstudied part of my life that reveals the Lordship of Jesus. That’s where the life of the kingdom shines most brightly. That’s the part of my life that shows if what’s happening in the sanctuary is really changing my life, or if it’s all a religious performance. Jesus looks at the way I live the part of my life I think is on my own time.