Whatever You Did for the Least of These (The Last Days, part 7)

In this devotional series, we’re taking a look at Matthew 24 & 25 to see what Jesus teaches us about his return and the end of the current age of history. Today, we’ll conclude with Matthew 25:31-46.

In Matthew 25, Jesus concluded his teaching about his return with a picture of final judgment. Final judgment is the last event of the current age of history, before eternity kicks off with the re-creation and perfection of the heavens and earth. Of this event, Jesus says,

“All the nations will be gathered before [the Son of Man], and he will separate them one from another, just as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. He will put the sheep on his right and 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.'” (25:32-34)

Jesus’ mention of “all the nations” indicates that though he was a Jew and the expected Messiah of the Israelites, that neither the salvation he offers nor the judgment he carries out is exclusively for the Jews. In the Old Testament, God chose the Jews as his people to bring forth a King who would be King over all peoples. So, rightly, all will stand before Jesus at judgment.

During judgment there is a separation of people that Jesus compares to the separation of sheep and goats. Shepherding terminology is used much throughout the Bible, and sheep often stand as a metaphor for God’s people and goats as those who continue in their sin and rebellion against God. The sheep are blessed and welcomed into the joys of eternity; whereas later, the goats are cursed and sent “into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angles” (25:41). This showing the wrath of God that burns against sin.

So, what does Jesus say marks the difference between the sheep and goats? Of the sheep, he says, “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 took me in; I was naked and you clothed me; I was sick and you took care of me; I was in prison and you visited me” (25:35-36).

This prompts the people to ask, “When did we do these things?” With the King replying, “Whatever you did for the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.” (25:37-40). The goats, however, are described as those who did not help take care of others.

Here we find an example of what James would label as faith and works. Faith without works is dead, James wrote. His point being that a true faith in God through Jesus, a faith that is trusting in him for the love of God and the forgiveness of sins, is a faith that also manifests itself in good works, specifically works that show a great love for others.

Love is at the heart of the Christian faith. We experience God’s love and that love compels us to love others. We still might do some socially good deeds like those described without faith, but the deeds themselves won’t save us. We need faith. (See: Isaiah 64:6 and Ephesians 2:8-10). But then, a person with faith will live out that faith in a way that makes a positive impact on others. Saving faith always leads to doing good. And as we do to others, it is as if we have done for Jesus.

So, as we long for Jesus’ return, let us live out our faith, seeking to meet people’s needs as we wait to enter the perfect joy of eternity.

All scripture references taken from the Christian Standard Bible. For the previous part of this series, click here: https://fbcadrian.com/2018/08/16/well-done-the-last-days-part-6/

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