Then He will answer them, saying, ‘Assuredly, I say to you, inasmuch as you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to Me.’ And these will go away into everlasting punishment, but the righteous into eternal life.Matthew 25:45-46
We have heard of it before, the very words from the Savior Himself, that He is the Good Shepherd. His sheep hear His voice, and He knows them, and they follow Him. And He gives them eternal life, and they shall never perish; neither shall anyone snatches them out of His hand (Luke 10:27-28).
The flock of sheep is also clearly identified in Matthew 25:31-46, in what is popularly known as the parable of the sheep and goat, spoken by the Lord Jesus Christ. In the context of this passage in the Bible, Christ gave His disciples an eyesight view of what is to happen in the future, when He returns.
In Matthew 25:31, He said, “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 verse indicates to us that the occasion of the event of the sheep and goat, is taking place at a time of His return, or His coming, and coming with all His holy angels.
Compare this verse with Jude 14-15, “Now Enoch, the seventh from Adam, prophesied about these men also, saying, “Behold, the Lord comes with ten thousand His saints, to execute judgment on all, to convict all who are ungodly among them of all their ungodly deeds which they have committed in an ungodly way, and of all the harsh things which ungodly sinners have spoken against Him.”
The Sheep On The Right
After the Good Shepherd’s arrival, the judgment and the sorting begins. Those categorically recognized as the sheep is grouped to His right and the rest of the goats to His left. Undeniably, we can say with a matter of precision, that both the sheep and the goats, the good and the bad, will judged.
The King then said to those on His right hand, “Come, you blessed of My Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world” (Matthew 25:34). The sheep became puzzled why they were rewarded, and they asked the King, “Lord, when did we see You hungry and feed You, or thirsty and give You drink?”
The rewarded sheep were clearly seen to have reacted in confusion, as though they came expected to be punished, but instead, they were compensated and enumerated for their deeds. And the King said to them, “Assuredly, I say to you, inasmuch as you did it to one of the least of these My brethren, you did it to Me.”
The Goats On The Left
But to those on His left, the King said to them, “Depart from Me, you cursed, into the everlasting fire prepared for the devil and his angels” (Matthew 25:41).
As with the sheep, the goats also reacted in confusion, and in so they answered Him, saying, “Lord, when did we see You hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison, and did not minister to You?”
The deeds of the goats were unmistakably set in opposite order as compared to the sheep. They thought they did much for the Lord. They thought they had done good works for the King. And they thought they did well and were deserving of great rewards.
By the description of these goats, we can also reasonably assume that this is a group of people who knew the King, and they knew who Christ Jesus is. This is demonstrated by their claims that they did plenty in the Name of God or even for Him. And in our context, they could only be people that are no less than professing believers, whom are at the very least, outwardly bore the appearance or seen to be devoted Christians.
The Difference Between The Sheep & The Goats
During the gathering for judgment, the sheep are most likely the ones prepping themselves to face the Judge with anxiety, and in fear of being condemned. Whereas, the goats came to the throne, with great expectations of being exalted. However, only one group has been described as righteous, that is the trembling, unknowing sheep (Matthew 25:37).
The sheep came before the Lord, without any confidence that they might even be saved. And by their answers to the Lord, they displayed disbelief and their ignorance that they even did anything that could be counted as worthy before the Lord.
While the goats are entirely the opposite. They came with confidence and with the assumption that they will be called “faithful servants” of the Lord. In their altercation with the King, after being told to go away, they remained adamant and stubbornly insisted with what they have done for the King, by their reason given that they have done much for Him personally.
The Fine Line That Separates The Sheep & The Goats
Reading these passages in Matthew 25, we observed a very apposite point; the fact that both the sheep and the goats are undoubtedly believers of the judging King. Both, are highly unlikely to be unbelievers. The sheep could not possibly be unbelievers because they were called righteous, and they were rewarded with eternal Life. Whereas, the goats too cannot be unbelievers because they made it clear that they have done many things for the King personally.
Therefore, by these observations, we can conclusively assume that the unbelievers are not even in the picture at all, in this scene of judgment. Quite a chilling perfectibility, to think of it as though that unbelievers do not even qualify to stand before the King, or let alone be judged by Him.
Moving on to the exact fine print that draws the distinction between the sheep and the goats that are being judged, is this other “hidden” group of people in this parable, a group of people that are seldom noticed to have even existed for most who reads the Bible; i.e. the brothers or brethren of Christ (Matthew 25:40 & Matthew 25:45).
Summary Of the Three Parties In This Parable
1. The Sheep
The sheep are the ignorant lot. They did many things for the Lord, but they did not know they did it. They are likely to be the sheep from another fold that must be brought in, described by Christ Himself in John 10:16, “And other sheep I have which are not of this fold; them also I must bring, and they will hear My voice; and there will be one flock and one shepherd.”
The sheep are the ones that are also likely to have followed the commandments given by Christ, to love one another as stated in Romans 13:8-10, “Owe no one anything except to love one another, for he who loves another has fulfilled the law. For the commandments, “You shall not commit adultery,” “You shall not murder,” “You shall not steal,” “You shall not bear false witness,” “You shall not covet,” and if there is any other commandment, are all summed up in this saying, namely, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” Love does no harm to a neighbor; therefore love is the fulfillment of the law.”
By not committing adultery, they loved their spouses. By not committing murder, lying, theft or coveting the possession of others, they fulfilled the commands of loving one another and thus fulfilling the Law. Although they thought they only loved their neighbor as themselves, they inadvertently obey the Commandments of God. And the sheep did not know it. When the Lord returns with His full force of justice, they thought they were finished, because technically they never paid any attention to obeying God’s Commandments, although their deeds amounted to nothing less than righteousness and meeting the stringent obedience standards of God’s Commandments.
2. The Goats
The goats were characteristically not the same. They were proud, they were confident, and they were boastful. They claim they know the King. Furthermore, they claim they deserve to be rewarded. And they claim what they were doing is right. But they were wrong.
3. The Brothers Of Christ
Whereas the brothers or the brethren mentioned by Christ in this parable, they are a unique group of people. They are unlikely to be part of the flock of sheep. And neither were they of the goats. In fact, the sheep and the goats were of one group before being separated. If we reread the passages of this parable again and again, it seems obvious that neither the sheep nor the goats knew who these brethren were.
These brothers are mostly likely part of the saints that came together with Christ on the day of His return to the earth (Jude 14-15). The most compelling difference between these brothers with the sheep and the goats, is the fact that these brothers were not judged.
The Bible also provided details about people whom shall not be judged as those whom are already self-judging themselves. In 1 Corinthians 11:31-32, “For if we would judge ourselves, we would not be judged. But when we are judged, we are chastened by the Lord, that we may not be condemned with the world.”
The generic meaning of sanctification is the state of proper functioning.The Greek word translated “sanctification” (hagiasmos) as “holiness”. Therefore, people that are not judged are most likely people who have applied the rules of sanctification on their own; they understood the rules, they enforce the rules on themselves and they set themselves up as examples to the rest, by practicing righteousness and doing what is pleasing before God.
The people who practice righteousness should not be mistaken for perfect, sinless people. The Bible made this very clear that all have sinned (Romans 3:23) and no one is righteous (Romans 3:10). The change is that people who observed sanctification that does not required to be judged, are those who already repented, turned away from sin, they have their sins blotted out (Acts 3:19) and they no longer practice lawlessness (Matthew 7:23).
So, who are these brothers of Christ? And the Bible is never without answers, not even to this question.
In Matthew 12:48-50, “But He answered and said to the one who told Him, “Who is My mother and WHO ARE MY BROTHERS?” And He stretched out His hand toward His disciples and said, “Here are My mother and MY BROTHERS! FOR WHOEVER DOES THE WILL OF MY FATHER IN HEAVEN IS MY BROTHER AND SISTER AND MOTHER.”
Compare the above with Matthew 7:21-23, Jesus clearly described those who does the Father’s will are those whom are not condemned, and those who stood on the opposite side of lawlessness (sin). And also, Christ Himself made it clear that those whom He will instruct to depart or go away from Him, are more aptly those who prophesied in His Name, those who cast out demons in His Name, and those who done many wonders in His Name. Does this group of rejected people look like they are non-Christians? No, they don’t.
Whereas the sheep were rewarded because they loved the brothers of Christ and they did not even know they were doing it.