The vision of the supreme court. 25:31-46


Having answered the disciples' question concerning the "when" and the "sign" of his "coming and the end of the age", Jesus gives his disciples a visionary description of the day of judgment. In that day the righteous, the blessed ones, will be separated from the unrighteous, the cursed ones. The righteous are blessed because they are compassionate, a compassion that is theirs in Christ.

The passage

v31. Although Jesus doesn't identify the "Son of Man" with himself, there is no other reasonable possibility. This "Son of Man" is Daniel's Son of Man, the one who comes before the Ancient of Days to receive a kingdom and to reign in glory and power, Dan.7, Jol.3:1-12. His coming is a coming to heaven, not a coming to earth - the Son of Man gathers the saints (his "angels") and takes them to glory. Although impossible to understand, in eternal terms he has already done this, Eph.2:6.

v32-33. Just as the farmer separates his sheep and goats at evening time, so the Son of Man will separate all humanity into two groups, with those at his right hand given power and honor.

v34-40. Matthew now records a parable about a king who separates his subject into two groups depending on how they have treated the members of his family. Jesus obviously explained the meaning of the parable and this explanation is included in Matthew's account. The righteous, the blessed ones, receive the inheritance of the kingdom, an inheritance the Father prepared for them before the beginning of time. They receive the reward because they showed compassion to the most insignificant members of the king's family.

v41-45. The "cursed" are banished to eternal fire; their end the same as the Devil and his demons, and this because they did not show compassion to the king's family, certainly not the insignificant members.

v46. The final day brings complete separation. The righteous in Christ to eternal life, the cursed to annihilation.

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The terrible day

In our passage for study Jesus paints a picture of the day of judgment. It is a day of sorting: sheep to the right, goats to the left; blessed to the right, cursed to the left. One can imagine that many who stand before the Son of Man on that day will assume that the Judge will weigh up their life, the good and bad of it, and as long as the good outweighs the bad they will be granted entry to heaven. Yet, they are going to be shocked because God's judgment is based on an exceedingly great expectation, one which is beyond the norm. Jesus makes it quite clear that a failure to act with total compassion serves as a personal affront to God, an affront that leads to "the eternal fire."

When it comes to the subject of salvation, of finding ourselves on the right side of God and not on the left, Jesus often uses reverse psychology. Eternal life has always rested on a free acceptance of the mercy of God. The trouble is, people often think that getting into God's good books and staying there is all about behaving properly. It is this type of flawed thinking that Jesus constantly seeks to expose, and our passage for study is a perfect example of Jesus doing just that. If we honestly take to heart Jesus' words, we have to accept that we stand with the "accursed". Can any of us, at this moment in time, honestly say that we love the unlovely, that our compassion is boundless, touching even the most insignificant of human contacts?

The truth is that the only way a person will get to the right side of God and possess eternal life is if Jesus gets them there. Salvation, getting saved, staying saved, is totally dependent on the mercy of God; it is a gift of God, ours for the asking. Of course, such a person will reflect their standing with Jesus by their compassion, paltry though it be, but in the end, it is the fact that they stand with Jesus that gets them to God's right side.

So, take the warning; a person's eternal security depends on God's compassion, not our own.


1. What are the requirements for selection to the right side of the King? How are these requirement met in Jesus?

2. What evidence is there that the blessed and the cursed do not represent two separate components of the Christian community, namely true believers and professing believers?

3. Discuss the issue of eternal damnation. Is it eternal punishment, or eternal loss?

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