Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Those Who Inherit the Kingdom

Then the King will say to the sheep on His right hand, “Come, you blessed of My Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world.” (Matthew 25:34)
This promise is from the parable of the sheep and the goats, a teaching that is often cited but frequently misunderstood.
When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, he will sit on his throne in heavenly glory. 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. He will put the sheep on his right and the goats on his left.

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. 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, 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.”

Then the righteous will answer him, “Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?”

The King will reply, “I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me.”

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. For I was hungry and you gave me nothing to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink, 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.”

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?”

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.”

Then they will go away to eternal punishment, but the righteous to eternal life. (Matthew 25:31-46)
There are two groups: the sheep and the goats. These are the nations of the world, not just the governmental entities, but all people. In Bible times, sheep were highly valued while goats were something of a nuisance and almost worthless.

Jesus is the Son of Man, the King who separates the nations as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. The sheep are lined up at His right hand, the hand of favor; the goats are placed at His left hand, signifying dishonor.

What is the basis for this separation? That is where many people misinterpret this parable. They think that it based on how the poor and needy in general are treated. That is, those who remember the poor and needy, and treat them well, are the sheep; those who neglect them are the goats.

Certainly we should always be mindful of the poor and needy to be hospitable toward them and show them kindness. God has always displayed His heart for the poor, and every good Jew in Jesus’ day would have understood that it was part of his moral duty to look after them properly. The same is required of Christians today.

That, however, is not what Jesus is talking about in this parable. He is not referring to the hungry, the thirsty, the stranger, the naked, the sick and the imprisoned in general. He is speaking about a particular group: “these My brethren.” Earlier in Matthew, Jesus clearly identified who are His brothers.
While Jesus was still talking to the crowd, his mother and brothers stood outside, wanting to speak to him. Someone told him, “Your mother and brothers are standing outside, wanting to speak to you.” He replied to him, “Who is my mother, and who are my brothers?” Pointing to his disciples, he said, “Here are my mother and my brothers. For whoever does the will of my Father in heaven is my brother and sister and mother.” (Matthew 12:46-50)
Who are His brothers? Those who do the will of His Father. When asked, “What shall we do, that we may work the works of God,” Jesus answered, “This is the work of God, that you believe in Him whom He sent” (John 6:28-29). His disciples — all who confess Jesus Christ as Savior and King — are His brothers. To receive them is to receive Him; to reject them is to reject Him. Jesus said,
He who receives you receives me, and he who receives me receives the one who sent me. Anyone who receives a prophet because he is a prophet will receive a prophet’s reward, and anyone who receives a righteous man because he is a righteous man will receive a righteous man’s reward. And if anyone gives even a cup of cold water to one of these little ones because he is my disciple, I tell you the truth, he will certainly not lose his reward. (Matthew 10:40-42)
To receive Jesus’ disciples is to receive the message they bring — the gospel of Christ — and thus receive the Lord Jesus Himself. How we respond is the difference between eternal life and everlasting punishment.

The whole world is divided into two groups: those who receive the gospel of Christ and those who reject it. Those who receive it are blessed. They inherit the kingdom prepared for them from the foundation of the world — the kingdom of Heaven on Earth.



The Kingdom of Heaven on Earth

The Kingdom of Heaven on Earth
Keys to the Kingdom of God
in the Gospel of Matthew

by Jeff Doles

Preview with Amazon’s “Look Inside.”

Available in paperback and Kindle (Amazon), epub (Google and iTunes) and PDF.