Attempting to understand Matthew 25:31-46. Chapter three continues to look at the nations and the sheep.
It is evident to me that some of my greatest impacts have come from exposing my frailties and successes in recovery. We all have things that push our limits, and false teachers are one of mine. I subject myself to some of them every Monday. My girlfriend asks me why I keep going if it makes me so angry, I have given that much thought, and I think I stay there because I need fellowship and the twisted concepts they conjure, give me a good measure of how confused the majority of us are. This confusion is why I have a burning desire to teach the Bible.
I want you to understand something. I am not naive; I know I cannot change anybody. But, what if I could get people to think and then apply some logic and knowledge to the Word of God. Maybe then we would not say things like the Revelation is difficult and we will probably never understand it.
Continuing with our look at Matthew 25: 31- 46.
I am a huge advocate of context, and since the passage, I want to begin with picks up in mid-sentence let's bring those that do not follow closely up to speed.
"But when the Son of Man comes in His glory, and all the angels with Him, then He will sit on His glorious throne. "All the nations will be gathered before Him; and He will separate them from one another as the shepherd separates the sheep from the goats;" (Matthew 25:31-32 NASB)
In the word picture Jesus paints:
- He comes in his glory.
- Angels come with Him. (Not to mention the saints.)
- He will sit upon His glorious throne.
- The nations are gathered before Him
- And, out of this crowd, He separates them (as though a judgment or assessment has taken place.)
Why should or would any of this be important?
Because as a Jew you would have been expecting the Messiah to come back in this manner.
One of the biggest problems in the “Christian church” is that we have cast aside our understanding and acknowledgment of our root-stock – Israel. This lack of knowledge is probably the main reason our Bible study leaders tell us things like the Revelation is a hard book to understand. The good news for us “Gentile” followers of Christ is that we were adopted - grafted into the good root stock and therefore have every right to the same information and rich heritage that Israel had. Now, because this background information was meant to be essential to the root stock, perhaps this knowledge should be something that excites us as well.
We know that Israel awaits the Messiah. Sadly, Jesus, the Messiah, has already come, but he was not accepted, and thus, God's anger comes against Israel (Take the time to read Jeremiah chapter 5.) The good news is that followers of Christ get to bypass God's wrath that is coming upon the earth as the prelude to the physical return of Jesus.
For people everywhere report how you welcomed us and how you turned to God from idols to serve the living and true God and to wait for his Son from heaven, whom he raised from the dead, Jesus, our deliverer from the coming wrath. (1 Thessalonians 1:9-10 NET.)
But since we are of the day, we must stay sober by putting on the breastplate of faith and love and as a helmet our hope for salvation. For God did not destine us for wrath but for gaining salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ. He died for us so that whether we are alert or asleep we will come to life together with him. (1 Thessalonians 5:8-10 NET.)
One other quick thing.
Since we accepted Christ, a profound and lasting relationship, we have transitioned from being Gentiles into being the Church.
Alright, take notes here. There are only three people groups in the world, as far as God and the Bible are concerned. They are The Jews; the Church, and, the Nations/Gentiles. If you are a follower of Christ, even though you came out of the nations or were first a Jew, you are now part of the group known as the Church.
The Jews anticipated the Messiah's coming in this manner before they were Jews.
"By faith Abraham, when he was called, obeyed by going out to a place which he was to receive for an inheritance; and he went out, not knowing where he was going. By faith, he lived as an alien in the land of promise, as in a foreign land, dwelling in tents with Isaac and Jacob, fellow-heirs of the same promise; for he was looking for the city which has foundations, whose architect and builder is God.” (Hebrews 11:8-10 NASB)
Abraham was not a Jew unless you wish to deem him one because he subjected himself to the sign of the covenant agreement he made with God through circumcision. Even then, the number of them were not called Jews until much later in their history, after Judah. For the longest time, we see the nation referred to as Israel, and this begins with the captivity in Egypt. So, long before there was a Jew, there was this man, Abraham. A man who believed God. And he, with no concept of what was to come, looked for this home, “whose architect and builder is God.”
“ All the nations will be gathered before Him.”
In trying to understand who the nations are I have to ask some questions:
- What is the context of the question that evoked this response?
The question asked by the Jewish disciples was a response to Jesus saying the temple will be destroyed almost immediately after they elaborated on its greatness, as they walked toward the Mount of Olives. They asked two questions: One had to do with the destruction of the temple, while the other was specific to the time when He would come back as the Messiah. (Remember, the disciples did not grasp who He was until sometime after His resurrection.)
- What is a Jewish understanding of the nations?
In giving Israel its admonition to go and take the land, God tells them what He will do to the nations.
Exodus 34:24 NASB "For I will drive out nations before you and enlarge your borders,.."
An aspect of Israel's understanding is that the nations have caused them to stumble and fall.
Leviticus 18:24 NET. " 'Do not defile yourselves with any of these things, for the nations which I am about to drive out before you have been defiled with all these things.
And, there is an expectation of judgment coming upon the nations.
The LORD of hosts has sworn saying, "Surely, just as I have intended so it has happened, and just as I have planned so it will stand, to break Assyria in My land, and I will trample him on My mountains. Then his yoke will be removed from them and his burden removed from their shoulder. "This is the plan devised against the whole earth, and this is the hand that is stretched out against all the nations. "For the LORD of hosts has planned, and who can frustrate it? And as for His stretched-out hand, who can turn it back?" (Isaiah 14:24-27 NASB)
- And, who are the sheep?
Since God has gathered the nations, it does not seem reasonable to think that any of these would be remnants of Israel. The nations were always the enemies of Israel/God. In the light of the Christian church, they are also perceived as those outside of a relationship with Christ. Sheep, on the other hand, are always God people. An example would be:
"My people have been lost sheep. Their shepherds have allowed them to go astray...” (Jeremiah 50:6 NET.)However, it appears, based upon Israels own actions, that Israel has been deemed not to belong to God. (I highly recommend you read Jeremiah chapter 5 to get a better understanding of how God comes to this decision about Israel, His sheep.)
Jeremiah 5:9-11 MKJV Shall I not judge for these things? Says Jehovah. And shall not My soul be avenged on such a nation as this? (10) Go up on her vine-rows and destroy, but do not make a full end; take away her branches, for they are not Jehovah's. (11) CJBi "For the house of Isra'el and the house of Y'hudah have thoroughly betrayed me," says Adonai.
So Israel's actions cut many of them off from God and placed them among the nations.
It is possible that you read passages like Matthew 25:32-46 you find yourselves asking, why no one else gets the benefit of God's mercy at this time? And that leads me into the next section, so stay tuned.