Pastor Terry Goerz
High Prairie Redeemer Lutheran Church
Please read the following familiar text called the Sheep and Goat Judgment in Matthew 25: 31-46. As you read ask yourself, “How is the division of the goats and the sheep made?”
“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.”
So how was the division of the goats and sheep made?
So many think this division was made by a judgment of the actions of the sheep and goats. The sheep do good things so they get to go to heaven. The goats do not do good things so they go away to eternal punishment.
Those who think this miss the fact that the division of the sheep and the goats occurs before this judgment. Before the judgment the text says Jesus separates the people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats.
Does a shepherd need to make a judgment to separate sheep from goats? Nope. Even a very young shepherd could do this simply by looking at the sheep and goats.
What is it about true Christians that makes it so Jesus and even angels, demons and Satan can simply look at us and see that we are Christians? God puts His Holy Spirit in us in our baptism. That Holy Spirit, among other things, is a deposit guaranteeing our entrance into heaven! [2 Corinthians 1:22 and 5:4; and Ephesians 1:14]
So yes, Christians are expected to live good, even exemplary lives, but not in order to “get into heaven”. Rather, with the Holy Spirit in us and as we mature our faith and co-operate with God in the sanctification of our lives this Holy Spirit changes our nature. Love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control more and more describe us as Christians. It becomes our nature to do all these good things the sheep are described as doing. We do not do them because we have to, but because it is in our changed nature to do them, we now want to do these things. They flow naturally from our Christian lives.
One other thing to note from this reading: notice that although all good people do some bad things, no mention is made of these bad things in this judgment. All “bad” people do some good things, but no mention is made of these good things in the judgment. There is no balancing of the good against the bad. It is black and white; you are either a sheep or a goat.
Romans 8:8 tells us those controlled by the sinful nature cannot please God. Even the good they do is not recognized by God. And for Christians we are credited with the righteousness of Christ. God only sees Christ in us and not our sinful acts.
So we can never be good enough to get into heaven on our own. Rather, we are saved by faith through grace, we are saved by the undeserved goodness and love of God toward us as He gives us the gift of faith, faith or trust in what Christ earned for us through His sinless life, His sacrificial death on the cross in our stead, and by His resurrection to life on that first Easter.