Matthew 25:31 "When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, he will sit on his throne in heavenly glory. 32 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. 33 He will put the sheep on his right and the goats on his left. 34 "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. 35 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, 36 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.' 37 "Then the righteous will answer him, 'Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? 38 When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? 39 When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?' 40 "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.' 41 "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. 42 For I was hungry and you gave me nothing to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink, 43 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.' 44 "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?' 45 "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.' 46 "Then they will go away to eternal punishment, but the righteous to eternal life."
I love stories. Whether they are true stories like “Unbroken” or “Lone Survivor.” Or fantasy stories like “Lord of the Rings” and “The Chronicles of Narnia.” The artists use words to paint pictures in your mind.
I also really enjoy reading graphic novels of “Batman” or “Spider-Man” or reading children’s books like Dr. Seuss or “Skippy John Jones” because the illustrators combine words and paint in creating pictures on paper.
I love Jesus’ stories – His parables. He is able to paint a picture with His divine words.
Our new End Times paintings tell a story. They combine God’s words and paint a picture … with paint.
The story that Jesus tells us today in His parable of the sheep and the goats, and the story that our artist tells us is the same story – it is the story of the Last Judgment.
The parable of the sheep and the goats is Jesus’ last parable. It is His last word about the last things before He dies and rises. At Jesus’ first coming, He came silently and humbly, announced by a few angels and laid in a manger. At Jesus’ second coming, He will come with a loud command, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trumpet call of God that all people on the earth – and under the earth – will hear (1 Thessalonians 4:16). Jesus was once mocked as a king by those who watched Him be pierced with nails and hung on a cross. He will come again in glory to on His throne as the King of Kings, and all those who pierced Him will mourn because of Him (Revelation 1:7).
Jesus’ life and ministry were expressed with lowliness and humility. His eternity will be expressed with glory, power and honor. His appearance will be like “jasper and carnelian. A rainbow, resembling an emerald, [will encircle] the throne” (Revelation 4:2). The nimbus with three rays around Jesus’ head communicates the divinity of the Trinity. The “meander” that looks like waves on the throne is a Greek symbol for eternity, for “His kingdom will be an everlasting kingdom” (Daniel 7:27). Jesus’ feet rest on the earth for “God has placed all things under his feet” (Ephesians 1:22). The God of heaven has given Jesus “all dominion and power and might and glory” (Daniel 2:37).
Christ’s coming at the end of days will be for the Last Judgment. He will be like a shepherd who separates his flock at the end of the day. Jesus refers to a customary practice of the shepherds in Palestine. During the daytime, they allow the sheep and goats to graze together in the same pasture, but at night they separate them into their respective pens. On the Last Day, the Good Shepherd will separate the mass of humanity before Him. While on earth, His true followers coexist and roam around with unbelievers. But there will be a separating on the Last Day. Once and for all eternity, the Good Shepherd will usher the sheep – His believers – to His right into the green pastures of paradise (Psalm 23:2). The Good Shepherd will direct the goats – the unbelievers – to His left into the gloomy dungeons of hell (2 Peter 2:4).
Judgment Day will be a time of sorting and separation. The basis for the Shepherd’s sorting is not what they did but what they are – sheep and goats. Not good and bad sheep. Not religious and irreligious goats. Just sheep and goats.
Jesus is the Judge seated on His throne. He makes His judgment on the basis of the Gospel, not on the basis of works. “He who believes and is baptized will be saved” (Mark 16:16). The sheep are the ones who took God at His Word and trusted Him to forgive them and rescue them through Christ’s perfect life, substitutionary death, and glorious resurrection. We call such people Christians.
“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’” (Matthew 25:34).
The King of creation entered our world, breathed the atmosphere of this planet, and walked on this earth. He lived according to God’s standard of perfection of no-sin-ever. He dragged a crossbeam to Golgotha’s hill and was nailed to it. He poured out His divine blood in death. He lay in the dark grave for three days. He rose from the tomb on Easter dawn. Then forty days later He ascended to the right hand of His heavenly Father to be seated on His throne.
At His first coming, Jesus did what is impossible for any human to do. He paid for the sins of the mass of humanity. Then He covered His fallen creation with the umbrella of His forgiving love. All who have their sins covered by Jesus’ blood and righteousness are declared innocent, sinless, and forgiven. “Blessed are they whose transgressions are forgiven, whose sins are covered. Blessed is the man whose sin the Lord will never count against him.” (Romans 4:7-8).
Christ’s wounds are emphasized as He sits on His throne. It is by His wounds that we are healed (Isaiah 53:5). The marks in His hands, feet, and side prove that He was dead and is alive forevermore (John 20:25).
The angel reads the scroll because the believers names are written in God’s Book of Life (Revelation 20:12). Only their names are written, for all their evil deeds, all their wicked actions, all their unbelief and doubts have been erased by the blood of Jesus.
The sheep on the right receive a blessing. They are “blessed by the Father.” They have an inheritance, a kingdom prepared for them from before the foundation of the world. That’s Christ-talk. When you talk about anything “before the beginning,” it must be in Christ.
The saints on Jesus’ right are painted with the expressions of joy and exhilaration. They are receiving what they have not earned and are enjoying what they do not deserve.
It is disheartening to say that at His second coming, Jesus will find those people who have foolishly pushed aside the umbrella of His mercy. On Judgment Day they will be caught unprotected and will be drenched in Jesus’ holy anger. They will have hellfire rain down on them. The Bible says, “They will pay the penalty, namely everlasting destruction, away from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of his power” (2 Thessalonians 1:9).
Jesus 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” (Matthew 25:41).
The sheep are identified as the “righteous,” the justified, those declared innocent for Jesus’ sake. The goats are those who refuse to be justified, who reject Christ’s gift of forgiveness and salvation. Instead, they trust in their own works and their own righteousness.
The unbelievers on Jesus’ left are painted with expressions of regret and anguish. The demon is leading them away from Christ’s presence for all eternity. They are receiving what they have earned and are getting what they desire. They realize what they have forsaken, but now it is too late. “Then they will go away to eternal punishment, but the righteous to eternal life” (Matthew 26:46).
The unbelievers have no inheritance – only a dismissal. “Depart from me.” They aren’t blessed but cursed. Not by the Father, please note, simply cursed. The Father curses no one. God’s will is that all be saved in Jesus, and come to the knowledge of that truth (1 Timothy 2:4). If anyone is cursed, if anyone winds up in eternal fire, it will be entirely against God’s good and gracious will to save. It was their own will that chose their curse.
The unbelievers’ sin was one of omission. They did nothing. They gave nothing. Most importantly, they believed nothing about the Christ.
Their placement on the left is a direct result of their rejection of their Savior. They turned their back on every word of God’s free salvation. They wanted nothing to do with their Savior, and now they will live without Him forever. By their unbelief, they have called Him who is the Way, the Truth and the Life a Dead-End, a Liar, and a Waste-of-Time. And in the end, their rejection becomes their own condemnation.
They don’t get what they deserve, they get what they desire. For they desired to have nothing to do with God. And God gave them what they desired.
When it comes to Christ’s judgment, there won’t be any gray areas. There is only the soft yellow and orange of heaven and the scary yellow and orange of hell. We will all be judged on the basis of our relationship with Jesus. And that’s it.
There is a separation that is coming. The believers will be separated from their sins – as far as the east is from the west (Psalm 103:12). Therefore they are welcome in Jesus’ presence. But unbelievers retain their sins. Therefore, they are banished from Jesus’ presence.
Why does Jesus mention the list of deeds in His parable of the sheep and the goats? Since this is a public judgment, Jesus is declaring evidence of His righteous verdict. He shows that everyone belongs in the group to which He has assigned them. Jesus mentions feeding the hungry, giving drink to the thirsty, caring for the stranger, etc. Notice that Judge Jesus does not mention a single sin against them because “they have been justified freely by God’s grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus” (Romans 3:24). Only the good works of the righteous are mentioned because they are motivated by the love of Christ. Their deeds are not the way to earn heaven. Rather, their good deeds are expressions of thanks for all that Jesus had done to give them heaven.
On the other hand – literally – the goats are absent any good. Because they have no faith, they have no Jesus. Because they have no Jesus, their works are not sanctified by Jesus, their deeds are not purified in His blood, like the deeds of the believers. They have no faith, so therefore they have no works to provide as evidence of their faith. In contrast, their lack of works are evidence of their lack of faith in Christ. Believers receive eternal salvation as a gift from God. Unbelievers bring eternal punishment on themselves. The Bible says clearly: “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him” (John 3:16-17).
The Good Shepherd already knows those who belong to Him and those who belong to Satan. He sorts the sheep from the goats on the basis of faith alone. The Augsburg Confession says of this separation and judgment: “The difference between those who are in Christ and those who stand outside His forgiveness cannot be stated more clearly. The difference is as great as heaven and hell.” (AC XVII)
Whether you are reading novels or children’s books, magazines or comic books, the artists and illustrators paint pictures in your mind. What a blessing that during the season of End Times, we are able to look at this painting to see how our artist has used God’s words to paint the story of the Last Judgment in our minds and in our souls. Amen.