In contemplating with believing hearts the “Final Judgment Scene” as here portrayed in Matthew 25:31-46 it should be borne in mind that the history of the world is the history of the church!
There are those who fail to keep this in mind, expositors of the Bible, and then raise the question: who is Jesus really speaking of as being judged in that day? Is he speaking of the judgment simply of the wicked? Or will both be judged in that day? We believe that the latter is true. It should be kept in mind that even as there is a resurrection unto life and a resurrection unto damnation, thus also there is a judgment unto condemnation and a judgment unto acquittal!
We believe that for a proper understanding of the judgment we must bear in mind that this the judgment of the world in which the Son of Man, suffered, died, and arose again and ascended unto the right hand of His Father. What we confess in the Apostolicurn (Twelve Articles of Faith) concerning the Triune God; God, the Father and our creation, God, the Son, and our redemption, and God, the Holy Ghost and our sanctification must be kept in full relevancy. For, strictly speaking, in these Articles we have the historicalorder of the Trinity revealed in the economy of salvation, and particularly of God, in Christ, as He shall come again to judge the living and the dead in that Great Day! And, it should be clearly understood, “living” and “dead” are not those who have not yet died physical death and those who have, but it refers to those “who are in Christ” and those who are not “in Christ.”
We should keep in mind that in that day when the “Son of Man shall sit in His glory and when all the nations shall come before Him,” it is a very Christocentric day. It is wholly a day in which the glory of the Son of Man will be revealed. It is a day in which God will rejoice! For it is the day in which will be openly manifested that it was God’s good-pleasure that “all the fullness of the Godhead should dwell in Him.” And God will have all those “in derision” who would not have this Son to reign in Zion! In that day it will be openly manifested “that God hath made this. Jesus, whom ye have crucified, both Lord and Christ,” Acts 2:36; Col. 1:19. Graphically it will then be heard: “He that sitteth in the heaven shall laugh: the LORD shall have them in derision. Then shall he speak unto them in his wrath, and vex (trouble) them in his sore displeasure. Yet have I set my King upon my holy hill of Zion. I will declare the decree: the LORD hath said unto me, Thou art my Son; this day have I begotten thee”! When the “King shall sit” in that very sitting we see what God “hath begotten” when He raised His Son out of the dead and set Him at His own right hand. For do we not read in Acts 13:32, 33: “and we declare unto you glad tidings, now that the promise which was made unto the fathers, God hath fulfilled the same unto us their children, in that he hath raised up Jesus again: as it is also written in the second psalm, Thou art my Son, this day have I begotten thee.” To be sure, here we are told that this “begetting of the Son” refers to the “coming into the flesh of the Son of God, born from the virgin Mary, and finally set down on God’s right hand.”
It will be the Christocentric day!
It will be the day of the Divine Theodicy, in Christ His Son!
In no sense of, the word will it be a day of judgment according to moralistic principles. Even the judgment of God’s people will be their relationship to this Son and the “kingdom prepared for them from the foundation of the world,” Matthew 25:34. And the wicked will be judged in how they treated Christ! For what was not done to the “least of these of mine, was not done to Me”!
Thus we understand just a bit of the nature of that day!
It is the final stone in the Consummation (Volending) of the history of the world which all concentrates in the history of the Church, which is one with Christ! It is the day when the “birth pangs” in history as it gives birth to “this day have I begotten thee,” will be finished. Then shall the sorrows of history be remembered no more for “joy that the Manchild is born”! It is the last chapter of the Protevangel! Gen. 3:15.
The Seed of the woman shall fully triumph over the seed of the Serpent.
But if this be the “day” of God’s First-born Son, the First-born of every creature as he is the First-born out of the dead, (Col. 1:16, 18) then surely the judgment is also most singular. Let us notice the text, “Then shall be gathered before him all nations, and he shall separate them one from another, as a shepherd divided (his) sheep from the goats.”
In this world the “sheep” and the “goats” were together! Their lives were rather intertwined. The church did not enjoy a “harbor of seclusiveness” but was in the center of history! Where the church is there is history, recorded history! It cannot be the history of the world, and, therefore, the history of the church. Quite conversely, it is the history of the church. Surely the “field,” which is “the world” in the Parable of the “tares” in Matthew 13:24-30, Matthew 36:43; is not a field of tares with wheat sown in it, but it is a field of wheat with “tares” sown in it. From the viewpoint of the Son of Man the history of the “field” is not the history of the “tares” but it is the history of the “field of wheat”! And thus also the flock of the shepherd is not a flock of sheep and goats, but it is a flock of sheep with goats in it. The separation here is not at all on the basis of an equality in Status Quo!
What does this mean?
That when judgment is made it is not to “find out” which are “sheep” and which are “goats,” but it is to put the goats from among the sheep!> “The blessed of the Father must receive the inheritance prepared for them from the foundation of the world”!
And through much tribulation the “sheep” are to receive this “inheritance”! It is through the long and hard way of temptation. And the “righteous” (verse 46) look for their reward. For righteous they were in an evil world. It was ever the “goats” in the midst of the “flock” which made life so miserable for the “flock.” Especially is this the case when the “goats” claim to be the “blessed of the Father,” when they insult the “sheep and claim to be the “flock”!
It is very unbearable when those who are not of the Firstborn Son among many brethren, claim that they are these brethren!
But let it be a great comfort to the “righteous” that presently the Son of man shall sit on the Throne of His glory. His verdict will be final. It will be no mere “Kangaroo Court”!
And judgment will begin at the house of God!
Does not the apostle Peter write: “For the time is come that judgment must begin at the house of God; and if it begin at us, what shall be the end of them that obey not the Gospel of God? And if the righteous scarcely be saved, where shall the ungodly and sinner appear?” (I Peter 4:17, 18.)
If we bear in mind that “church history is world history” then we can understand that judgment begins at the house of God. It begins in the center of the church on earth where the Word of God is preached, where the Sacraments are administered in Christ’s Name, and where Christian Discipline is exercised in Christ’s name. It begins there where what is “bound on earth is bound in heaven”! And in ever widening circles it moves out into the world. Thus we see it in the revealing passage in Romans 2. Do we not read in the verses 6-9 the following: “Who will render to every man according to his deeds . . . tribulation and anguish, upon every soul of man that doeth evil, of the Jew first and also of the Gentile”? And will not “as many as have sinned without law also perish without law”? And again, will not those “as have sinned in the law also be judged by the law”? Verse 12. Does this not imply that there are those, on the periphery of the circle of the world and the nations, who stand in a different proximity to “the law” than those who “sin in the law”?
It is, therefore, indeed a judgment which begins at the house of God! Yet, it will be such a judgment that “all the nations shall be gathered together” before the throne!
And to the “sheep” it will be said in that day: “Come ye blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world,” We notice here the following elements:
1. That the “sheep” are called the “Blessed of the Father,” as the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. This brings to mind the beautiful passage of Ephesians 1:3-7, where we read, “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who hath blessed us with all spiritual blessings in heavenly places in Christ: according as he hath chosen us before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before him in love; having predestinated us unto the adoption of children by Jesus Christ unto himself, according to the good-pleasure of his will, to the praise of the glory of his grace, wherein he made us accepted in the beloved, in whom we have the redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of his grace.”
2. That whatever they receive is purely theirs “by inheritance”! Since these sheep are sons, in the First-born Son among many brethren, therefore they are also heirs, heirs of God and joint-heirs with Christ. Rom. 8:17-18; Gal. 3:29.
3. That this “inheritance” was prepared up to the present moment for them. God never swerved from that purpose. He gave these “sheep” to Christ, and these sheep are known by name to Him, and in the judgment they will be the full recipients of this great benefit of the grace of election!
And the “ground” of the judgment must not be confused with the “ground” of our salvation!
It is a fine and clear point of distinction.
There is a vast difference between the “ground of judgment” and the “ground “of salvation”! These two must never be separated in the case of the righteous, to be sure! But not to distinguish these properly, either leads to the maelstrom of Antinomianism or to that of proud Pharisaism, self-righteousness. These two are but the antipoles of the same error: not properly distinguishing the “ground of salvation” and the “ground of judgment”!
It seems that Christ makes the “ground” of judgment in both cases the “works” of either the righteous or of the wicked, does it not? We believe it does! The Lord willing we shall have more to say about that in the next article in The Standard Bearer.
We must listen carefully to the text on this point.
We must neither be stranded on the rock of “Antinomianism” nor upon the sandbar of moralism and self-righteousness, parading as Christian sanctification.
D.V., then, the next time.