We must note, again, the time frame for this parable.
“When the Son of Man comes in His glory, and all the holy angels with Him, then He will sit on the throne of His glory.."
This is not a judgment of all men of all ages. It certainly can't be applied to those who died 100 years ago, 1000 years ago or yesterday. This is the "parousia," the presence, of the King on the Earth. He is coming with the angels. We see the angels' charge in The Parable of the Tares (they separate). This is a future event.
We must also look at who is judged:
"All the nations [Gk: éthnos, ethnic groups, non-Jews] will be gathered before Him, and He will separate them one from another, as a shepherd divides his sheep from the goats."
These are judged as nations, not as individuals. And they are judged as to whether they fed, clothed, visited, cared for, etc. those the Lord calls "the least of His brethren."
This can never be used to preach the gospel of grace. It is clearly a judgment of works. It can never be understood to deal with resurrection life.
For those teaching this, there are obvious questions.
- How many people must I visit?
- What if I visit one person in prison?
- Is that sufficient?
- Similarly, must I do all the deeds?
- What if I do all but clothe someone?
- And how are all men the Lord's "brethren?"
- Does he not call some "you are of your father, the Devil?"
The point is raised that the parable merely gives a taste of various good works, but are we to believe the goats never fed anyone? Never visited any sick person, etc.? They do absolutely no good works at all?
When we step back and realize these are NATIONS being judged and the Lord's brethren are THE JEWS, it starts to make sense. This is future and is placed just before the entrance (the theme of Matthew) into the earthly kingdom (not heaven). Remember our context for Matthew 24-25, the end of an age.
Let's look at Paul's explanation :
"For I could wish that I myself were accursed from Christ for my BRETHREN, my countrymen ACCORDING TO THE FLESH..."Jews. Israelites.
So, these are nations who are being judged as to how they have treated the Jews during the time of Jacob's Trouble. This is the context of Matthew 24-25.
These nations did what they did unwittingly ("When did we see you naked and clothe you...?"). We contrast this with the Lord's proclamation of future judgment for some in Israel who openly profess his name and who do "many wonderful works."
"Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied (taught) in Thy Name and in Thy Name have cast out demons? And in Thy Name performed many miracles [Gk:dýnamis]?"
The did all in THY [HIS] NAME. This is not disputed.
To these the Lord will say:
"I never knew (approved of) you: depart from Me, ye that practice lawlessness [Gk: anomía]."
This is part of the Sermon on the Mount, which is not the rules of the Kingdom, but the conditions of entrance into the kingdom, for Israel. Remember, the "gospel of the Kingdom" was to be preached to JEWS ONLY (Matt 10:5-7). And it is immediately after the Sermon that we meet the Gentile with great faith and the "Sons of the Kingdom" who are cast into "outer darkness." (Matthew 8:5-12)
- Jews = faith + righteousness = entrance
- Gentiles = great faith* OR righteousness = entrance
*They cannot have openly rejected Christ.These judgements are age-specific [aeon].
[Romans 2 should be read, noting the specific differences and that which is common to Jew and Gentile. Romans was written during the Acts Age which looked for the earthly kingdom.]
We must see these differences and rightly divide Matthew to understand the pronouncements of this parable. Remember, Matthew concerns the "Son of David" (heir to the throne) and the "Son of Abraham" (heir of the land). (Matthew 1:1)
Next time, we'll look at the entrance into the earthly kingdom.
All these parables, and the whole of Matthew must be understood together.