“When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, then he will sit on his glorious throne. (32) 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. (33) And he will place the sheep on his right, but the goats on the left. (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. (35) 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, (36) I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to me.’ (37) Then the righteous will answer him, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you drink? (38) And when did we see you a stranger and welcome you, or naked and clothe you? (39) And when did we see you sick or in prison and visit you?’ (40) 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.’ Matthew 25:31-40 ESV
Notice in Matthew 25:31-40 (above) there are 3 groups of people: “sheep”, “goats”, and “my brothers.” All too often when people read that passage, they see only 2 of the 3 groups, “sheep” and “goats”. When interpreting it, readers tend to assume that the “sheep” and “my brothers” are one in the same. If that’s correct, then for all practical purposes Jesus is commending the “sheep” for serving themselves, feeding themselves, clothing themselves, visiting themselves, etc.
Let’s begin by looking at the word “nations”; the Greek word is ‘ethnos’ and Strong’s dictionary defines it “a race (as of the same habit), that is, a tribe; specifically a foreign (non-Jewish) one (usually by implication pagan): – gentile, heathen, nation, people.”
By definition, the nations are gentiles, heathens, pagans, i.e., un-believers. Notice in Matthew 25:32 that it’s the “nations” (un-believers) whom the angels gather unto the Lord. Note also that in Matthew 28:19 it’s the “nations” (un-believers) to whom the Lord sends out His disciples with instructions to make disciples of un-believers.
Now let’s take a look at the word “brothers”; the Greek word is “adelphos” which originates in the word “delphus” which means (the womb); a brother (literally or figuratively) near or remote: – brother.
So how does one become a “brother” of Jesus when by definition, a brother comes from the same “womb”? Since Jesus is “Spirit”, brothers for Jesus must be born of water and the Spirit, or “born again” (John 3:3-7). To that end, Jesus refers to the disciples as brothers in Matthew 28:10.
If we’re faithful to the Greek definitions of “ethnos” and “adelphos”, then it should be clear that the brothers are a separate group who accompany Christ to judgment as witnesses. Where one of the basic messages of the gospel is sacrifice and self denial (Matthew 16:24-25), it is inconceivable to me that Jesus would commend the nations in Matthew 25:31-40 for what amounts to serving themselves. Lest there be any doubt whether or not the “sheep” of the nations were saved before judgment commenced, 3 times in verses 37-39 they reply to the Lord:
“When did we see you?”
Clearly, they did not know the Lord. Considering elsewhere the Lord says “away from Me, for I never knew you” (Matthew 7:23), I’m stunned that un-saved people are found to be “righteous” and rewarded with eternal life.
Matthew 25:31-40 describes a jaw-dropping scene wherein the Lord confers “sheep” status upon select people of the nations in reward for their charitable acts toward His brothers. Imagine such boundless grace as the gift of eternal life in the Lord’s kingdom, for simply giving a drink, meal, clothing, visit in prison, or help during illness, to a brother or sister of the Lord. And imagine a love so great for the brother’s and sister’s, that the Lord receives such acts of charity as if they were done unto Him personally!
I’ve heard it said before that we are “Jesus with skin on” for the unsaved in this world. In times past, I have lamented some of the hardships my wife and I have endured on this walk of faith walk the Lord has appointed us to. If however I remain mindful of the Lord’s purpose in our hardships for revealing Himself to a world who wouldn’t otherwise see Him, I am blessed to know that the un-saved peoples of the nations are afforded the opportunity to encounter Christ Jesus through us and to respond to Him charitably. Through His brothers, the Lord continues to reach out to the un-saved who remain in this world and through His brothers, Christ Jesus saves them.
We often get so hung up on leading people to Christ and making sure they confess their sins, making sure they recite the sinners prayer with a contrite heart, that we fail to see just how AMAZINGLY GRACEFUL our LORD really is.
Eternal life for a DRINK. Imagine that!
Leaves a brother speechless doesn’t it?