These mysterious yet powerful two chapters are concluded by Christ’s sobering picture of the general judgment.  Again, I would point out that He seems here to have primary reference to the judgment of those who have professed His Name.  The rank heathen who live entirely apart from the light of the Gospel will not be judged for how they treated Christ’s people, since none of His saints dwelt among them.  The light they enjoyed by nature and conscience will surely be enough to condemn them, though it is likely correct to suggest they shall be “beaten with few stripes,” because little was given to them, as opposed to those who had the privilege of hearing the Gospel and still rejected it. 

 In I John 3:14, we read, “We know that we have passed from life unto death, because we love the brethren.”  This is a primary ground for separating the true from the false Christians.  Never is that revealed in more startling clarity than at the judgment, when Christ divides the sheep from the goats on account of how they treated His dear children.

This coming of Christ, described in verse 31, must be distinguished from His coming in judgment upon Jerusalem in 70 A.D., because no judgment of this sort took place at that time.  Whether this is a literal description of what will happen at the general and final judgment, or simply spoken in such a way as to impress upon our minds the dreadful solemnity of that great day, is immaterial.  We know that it is the day of days, the day towards which all creation is hastening.  It is the day that no man can avoid.  The two great certainties of human existence are death and judgment.  He who does not live his life in light of this grand reality lives the life of a fool.

All nations will be gathered before Christ at that time, and He will divide the sheep from the goats, setting His chosen and redeemed on the right hand, and the reprobates in the left.  This glorious King will then welcome the righteous into the kingdom prepared for them from the foundation of the world.  He then recounts their good deeds, remarkably declaring how much good they had done towards Him.  The righteous are astonished by this.  It is evident that the sheep on the King’s right hand had no thought of entering heaven based upon the merit of their good works.  They were trusting entirely in the bloodshedding and resurrection of the Redeemer, in His righteousness, and not their own.  But what is evident is that Christ highly honors the good conduct of His people, and desires to reward them for it.  The good works that He enumerates are not the meritorious cause of their entrance into heaven, but the evidence that they are the true citizens of that kingdom.

The vital union of Christ with His people is strikingly evident in this passage.  He tells the righteous that when they fed the hungry and gave drink to the thirsty, when they clothed the naked, when they visited their sick and imprisoned brethren, that they did it unto Him.  Likewise, the condemnation of the wicked is upon the same grounds.  Now, we know from many other passages that men and women will be condemned to the Lake of Fire on multiple grounds.  For instance, Revelation 21:8 instances unholy fear, unbelief, murder, witchcraft, adultery, idolatry, and lying, as sins which condemn to eternal perdition.  But, again, Christ is not here dealing so much with the meritorious cause of either acceptance or condemnation, but the evidence of each individual’s spiritual state.  The true child of God reveals his character by how he deals with the people of Christ.  He puts himself out, giving of his own time and possessions, to alleviate their needs and strengthen them in their suffering.  The unbeliever, although he may have a profession of religion, has no genuine love to the brethren, and lives only to pursue his carnal desires, even while the dear saints of God are suffering and in need.

It is these loveless wretches who shall hear the dread words, “Depart from me ye cursed, into everlasting fire prepared for the devil and his angels.”  That unspeakable place of torment, the Lake of Fire, was apparently created when Lucifer and his fellow rebels assaulted the throne of the Most High, and were cast out of heaven.  But it will be the abode not just of foul spirits, but of every person not secured by the blood and righteousness of the Redeemer.  These will go away into punishment that is everlasting, torment that can never, never end, because there is no expiation for their sins.  But the righteous, who were so by sanctification, but accepted by God upon the righteousness of His Son, will enter into life eternal, and reap all the rewards that their glorious Lord has to offer.

 

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