The Grave Judgment of the Unrighteous

“Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels” (Matt. 25:41). To the sheep, Jesus will say, “Come, you who are blessed.” But to the goats, Jesus will say, “Depart from me, you cursed.” The grave judgment of the wicked is “eternal fire.”

In Revelation, the throwing of the unrighteous into eternal fire will happen after the Great White Throne Judgment. “Then Death and Hades were thrown into the lake of fire. This is the second death, the lake of fire. And if anyone’s name was not found written in the book of life, he was thrown into the lake of fire” (Rev. 20:14-15).

This eternal fire, Jesus will say, is prepared for the devil and his angels. Note that the fire is not prepared for the unrighteous. The kingdom was prepared before the foundation of the world, but not the fire. Thus, we can say that God did not originally prepare the fire for sinners. (Blomberg) However, when people rejected Christ, God decided to damn them. By implication, the decision to throw the wicked into eternal fire is a consequence of their decision to reject Christ.

This is the kind of God I see in the Bible. God did not decide to prepare hell first and then throw people into it. God did not prepare hell and then choose people to go there. Rather, God prepared the fire for the devil and his angels. Then God decided to punish people in hell after they rejected Christ.

Their decision to reject Christ is shown in vv. 42-45.

42 For I was hungry and you gave me no food, I was thirsty and you gave me no drink, 43 I was a stranger and you did not welcome me, naked and you did not clothe me, sick and in prison and you did not visit me.’ 44 Then they also will answer, 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?’ 45 Then he will answer them, saying, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to me.’

The righteous are rewarded for their response to Christ. But the wicked are judged for their rejection of Christ. Their rejection is shown by their lack of positive response toward Christ. They gave Him no food, no drink, no welcome, and no clothes to Christ.

Again the point is not the feeding of the hungry. Rather, the stress is their rejection of the least of Christ’s brothers. By rejecting the least of Christ’s followers, they rejected Christ. Thus, rejection of Christ leads to damnation.

This is a serious thing for people today. Your response to Christ’s followers, and therefore to Christ, will determine whether you will inherit eternal life or suffer in eternal fire.

How have you responded to Christ’s messengers? Have you received their message about Christ or rejected it? To say yes to Christ’s messengers is to say yes to Christ. To say yes to Christ is to inherit the kingdom. To reject Christ is to suffer in eternal fire.

The most important decision you will make in your life today is to respond to Christ’s messengers and His message by putting your faith in Christ alone.

Will you make that decision today? Come to Christ today.

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The Generous Reward of the Righteous

“Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world’” (Matt. 25:34). Jesus calls the righteous “blessed by my Father.” When Jesus says, “my Father,” He means a special relationship between the Son and the Father (Matt. 11:27; 20:23). To be “blessed by my Father” then is to have a special relationship with Jesus and the Father. This is one mark of the righteous—they have a special relationship with Jesus and the Father.

Then Jesus will say to believers, “Inherit the kingdom prepared for you.” In Matthew, when you trust Christ, you become part of the kingdom. The kingdom is among you today. But the kingdom in its fullness has not yet come. That is why Jesus teaches us to pray, “Your kingdom come.”

When Jesus comes, the kingdom will come. When the kingdom will come, the righteous will inherit this kingdom. The promise of the kingdom will be fulfilled when Jesus comes.

Jesus says that this kingdom is “prepared for you from the foundation of the world.” The foundation of the world refers to the “beginning of time.” (Hagner) God has prepared the kingdom for those who believe in Christ. God has purposed to prepare the kingdom for believers. When Jesus comes, God’s eternal purpose will be accomplished.

Then Jesus will give the reasons for His reward of the righteous.

“For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to me’” (Matt. 25:35-36).

Jesus was in need and they satisfied His need. Jesus was hungry and they gave Him food. He was thirsty and they gave him drink. He was a stranger and they welcomed Him. He was naked and they clothed Him. He was sick and they visited Him. He was in prison and they came to Him.

The sheep will not know how they had served Christ (vv. 37-39). They will ask—when did we see you needing help?

“And the King will answer them, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me’” (v. 40). This is the main point of the parable. The focus is not the works of mercy of the righteous. Rather, the emphasis is that as the righteous responded to the need of the least of Jesus’ brothers, they also responded to Jesus. Responding to Jesus’ brothers is the same as responding to Jesus. By responding to the least of Jesus’ brothers, they responded to Jesus.

Thus, Jesus is one with His brothers. His brothers are one with Jesus; both are “identical twins.” To help Jesus’ brothers is to help Jesus. To reject Jesus’ brothers is to reject Jesus. That is the teaching of the NT. “And he said, “Who are you, Lord?” And he said, “I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting” (Acts 9:5). Saul was out persecuting and killing Jesus’ followers. On the road to Damascus, the Lord appeared to him. There, Saul learned that as he was persecuting Jesus’ followers, he was actually persecuting Jesus.

Paul wrote later, “Thus, sinning against your brothers and wounding their conscience when it is weak, you sin against Christ.” (1 Cor. 8:12). “Now you are the body of Christ and individually members of it” (1 Cor. 12:27).

It raises the question: Who are the least of Jesus’ brothers? In Matthew, Jesus’ brothers are those who believe and follow Him.

“But he replied to the man who told him, “Who is my mother, and who are my brothers?” 49 And stretching out his hand toward his disciples, he said, “Here are my mother and my brothers! 50 For whoever does the will of my Father in heaven is my brother and sister and mother.” (Matt. 12:48-49; cf. John 20:17; Rom. 8:29; Heb. 2:11–12).

More, the “least” refers to the “little ones” who trust Jesus. “But whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin . . . So it is not the will of my Father who is in heaven that one of these little ones should perish” (Matt. 18:6, 10, 14). The little ones refer to disciples. “And whoever gives one of these little ones even a cup of cold water because he is a disciple, truly, I say to you, he will by no means lose his reward” (Matt. 10:42).

Jesus said that as you responded to the least of my brothers, i. e., my disciples, you have done it to me also. Thus, the righteous are those who responded outwardly to the needs of their brothers—the least, the little ones, the disciples of Jesus. As they have responded positively to followers of Jesus, so they have also responded to Jesus. This is another mark of the righteous. They respond to Jesus.

This is not to say that they are made righteous by their works of mercy. Rather, they are shown to be righteous by their response to Christ. In Matthew, outward acts of righteousness are the manifestation of an inward righteousness in Christ (Matt. 5:20). Thus, the good works of the righteous toward Christ’s brothers are the outward demonstration of an inward righteousness in Christ. In other words, their response to Christ’s brothers is a response of faith in Christ. They respond to their brothers because they have faith in Christ. Their response to Christ reveals their righteousness in Christ.

The Great Separation of Sheep and Goats

Jesus said, “Before him will be gathered all the nations, and he will separate people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats” (Matt. 25:32). On that day, all the nations will be gathered before Christ. The context refers to “all the tribes of the earth” (Matt. 24:30). Hence, all the nations refer to all the peoples of the earth, from every tribe, tongue, and nation of every land. All the Jews and Gentiles and believers and unbelievers of every nation will be gathered before Christ. It is universal. Every person from every nation of every land will stand before the throne of Christ and answer to Him.

The NT stresses this day of accounting on the day of judgment.

Rom. 14:10-12,

 10 Why do you pass judgment on your brother? Or you, why do you despise your brother? For we will all stand before the judgment seat of God; 11 for it is written, As I live, says the Lord, every knee shall bow to me, and every tongue shall confess to God.” 12 So then each of us will give an account of himself to God.

2 Cor. 5:10,

“For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each one may receive what is due for what he has done in the body, whether good or evil.”

Rev. 20:11-15,

11 Then I saw a great white throne and him who was seated on it. From his presence earth and sky fled away, and no place was found for them. 12 And I saw the dead, great and small, standing before the throne, and books were opened. Then another book was opened, which is the book of life. And the dead were judged by what was written in the books, according to what they had done. 13 And the sea gave up the dead who were in it, Death and Hades gave up the dead who were in them, and they were judged, each one of them, according to what they had done. 14 Then Death and Hades were thrown into the lake of fire. This is the second death, the lake of fire. 15 And if anyone’s name was not found written in the book of life, he was thrown into the lake of fire.”

Is your name written in the Book of Life? If you have trusted Christ and Christ lives in you, your name is written in the Book of Life. If Christ is in you, then you are kept by the power of God. You are saved forever. There is no record in the NT that God erases some names in the Book of Life. Once your name is written in the Book of Life, it stays written there forever because your salvation in Christ is forever!

The sheep is a metaphor of believers; and the goats, of unbelievers and fake believers (Matt. 10:16; 26:31). Today, in every church, there is a mixture of sheep and goats. You never know who are the true believers and the fake believers. But on Judgment Day, you will know. Christ will separate the sheep from the goats.

“And he will place the sheep on his right, but the goats on the left” (Matt. 25:33). The phrase “at his right” refers to the “place of honor.” (Hagner, Blomberg) “‘The Lord said to my Lord, Sit at my right hand’” (Matt. 22:44). “God exalted him at his right hand as Leader and Savior, to give repentance to Israel and forgiveness of sins” (Acts 5:31). The right side means that Christ will honor the righteous. Today, the world honors the rich and powerful. People honor the high and mighty. Despite the corruption in Congress, the Congressmen call themselves, “Honorable.” They love to honor themselves.

Yet nobody honors the poor and powerless today. Nobody honors the lowly followers of Christ. Nobody honors you. But when Jesus comes, he will honor the righteous. He will honor you!

Sheep and Goats: The Final Judgment

This sermon is the last of my 12-part sermon series entitled, “Signs of the End But Not the End” (under the category, “The Last Days,” in this blog), an exposition of the Olivet Discourse of Jesus in Matthew 24 to 25.

Matthew 25:31-46 is the final section of the Olivet Discourse. It is also the last formal teaching of Jesus in the Gospel of Matthew. It is about the return of the Son of Man and succeeding judgment.

Jesus’ return will be a time of accountability. Everyone will stand before Jesus and give an account of what he has done. It will also be a time of separation. Jesus will separate the sheep and the goats, the righteous and the unrighteous.

I’d like to share four main points that we can draw from this section. First is the glorious coming of the Son of Man (v. 31); second, the great separation of sheep and goats (vv. 32-33); third, the generous reward of the righteous (vv. 34-40); and fourth, the grave judgment of the wicked (vv. 41-46).

The Glorious Coming of the Son of Man

Jesus said, “When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, then he will sit on his glorious throne” (Matt. 25:31). When Jesus comes, he will sit on his throne. His throne will be a throne of judgment. The key issue in Jesus’ teaching is not the time of His coming, but the consequence of His coming and therefore, the need to be ready for His coming. For his coming is a coming of judgment. Therefore, everyone should be ready for His coming. This is the emphasis of Jesus in the Olivet Discourse. (Hagner)

In the OT, only Yahweh plays the role of Judge of all people. But in the NT, Jesus plays the role of Judge of all people. The coming of Christ therefore is the coming of the Son of Man who will judge the righteous and the unrighteous.

Jesus will come “in his glory.” In Matt. 16:27, “For the Son of Man is going to come with his angels in the glory of his Father.” Yet here, Matthew writes, “the Son of Man comes in his glory.” Matthew emphasizes the glory of the Son of Man, the glory of Christ.

This is the glory of the Son of Man according to Daniel 7:13-14.

“I saw in the night visions, and behold, with the clouds of heaven there came one like a son of man, and he came to the Ancient of Days and was presented before him. And to him was given dominion and glory and a kingdom, that all peoples, nations, and languages should serve him; his dominion is an everlasting dominion, which shall not pass away, and his kingdom one that shall not be destroyed.”

The glory of Christ is the glory of dominion and kingdom. It is the glory of the subservience of all peoples from all nations. It is the glory of an everlasting dominion, which shall not pass away. It is the glory of a kingdom that shall not be destroyed.

Therefore, Before the Lord Comes, We Must Serve Him Faithfully

In sum, while Christ the master is away, we must serve him faithfully. What ability or resources has God given you today? That is your talent, your capacity to serve. Use it for the Lord and for his kingdom.

It does not matter how many talents you have, whether five or two. What matters is that you will apply and multiply that talent. If you use and maximize your talent, the Lord will say to you on judgment day, “Well done, good and faithful servant.”

But if you will not use it for the kingdom, you will lose it. You will be found to be a fake disciple, resisting the will of God.

Therefore, before Christ comes, serve him faithfully.

The Lord Will Judge Fake Disciples with Total Loss

Jesus said,

He also who had received the one talent came forward, saying, ‘Master, I knew you to be a hard man, reaping where you did not sow, and gathering where you scattered no seed, 25 so I was afraid, and I went and hid your talent in the ground. Here, you have what is yours.’ 26 But his master answered him, ‘You wicked and slothful servant! You knew that I reap where I have not sown and gather where I scattered no seed? 27 Then you ought to have invested my money with the bankers, and at my coming I should have received what was my own with interest. (Matt. 25:24-27)

The man with one talent knew that his master wanted to “reap” and “gather” a harvest from him. But he did not do anything to multiply his talent. He just dug into the soil and hid his one talent in the ground. The result was that the one talent gained nothing. It did not make a profit. The problem with this servant is that he disobeyed the will of his master to multiply his one talent. This is a mark of unbelievers—disobedience to God’s will in their lives.

So, the master said, “You wicked and slothful servant” (v. 26). He is called “wicked” or bad because he was a bad manager of his resources. He is also called “worthless” or useless (v. 30) because He did not fulfill his master’s goals. He knew that his master expected a profit from his one talent. But he did not make his talent grow. He could have put it in the bank to earn interest. But he did nothing about it.

So the master said, “Take the talent from him and give it to him who has the ten talents” (v. 28). The reason—“For to everyone who has will more be given, and he will have an abundance. But from the one who has not, even what he has will be taken away” (v. 29).

Who will give more and take away more? The Lord Jesus Christ is the Judge of the living and the dead. Christ will give more and take away more. On judgment day, Christ will give more to faithful disciples. But he will take more from fake disciples. In the kingdom of God, faithfulness means more blessings. Unfaithfulness means the loss of all blessings, including the first blessing. (Hagner)

Therefore, brothers and sisters in the Lord, please use your ability today, for if you do not, you will lose it on the last day. Use it or lose it. Better use it now or lose it later.

That is not all of the master’s judgment. “And cast the worthless servant into the outer darkness. In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth” (v. 30). These are the same words used in Matthew 22:13, “Then the king said to the attendants, ‘Bind him hand and foot and cast him into the outer darkness. In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.’”

The “outer darkness” refers to the darkness outside the banquet hall. The kingdom of God is like a wedding banquet. To be thrown into the outer darkness then is to be excluded from the kingdom of God. The “weeping and gnashing of teeth” refers to the anguish of people who regret their unbelief in Christ or to the anger of people against God for judging them. (Davies-Allison) Thus, Jesus refers to fake disciples—people who are not members of the kingdom in the first place.

In Matthew, the phrases “outer darkness” and “weeping and gnashing of teeth” refer to unbelievers (Matt. 8:12; 13:42, 50; 24:51). Thus, the judgment of Christ upon faithless disciples is his judgment upon fake disciples.

The Lord Will Bless Faithful Disciples with Generosity

Jesus said, “And he who had received the five talents came forward, bringing five talents more, saying, ‘Master, you delivered to me five talents; here, I have made five talents more.’ . . . And he also who had the two talents came forward, saying, ‘Master, you delivered to me two talents; here, I have made two talents more’” (Matt. 25:20, 22). The verb “made” is from kerdaino, which means, “to gain” or “make a profit.” (Gingrich) The NKJV, NASB, NIV translates it, “gained.” The man with five talents gained five more. Then the man with two talents gained two more.

That is a good picture of the kingdom of God. The kingdom of God is about utilizing your abilities and multiplying the results of your abilities. It is about employing your capacity to serve and increasing your productivity. The kingdom of God is investing your abilities in things that will yield multiplied results.

“His master said to him, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant. You have been faithful over a little; I will set you over much. Enter into the joy of your master’” (v. 21). To the two men, the Master said the same thing. There is a commendation (“well done”), a recognition (“you have been faithful”) and a compensation (“I will set you over much.”)

The words “You have been faithful over a little; I will set you over much,” echoes v. 29, “For to everyone who has will more be given, and he will have an abundance.” It speaks of the abundance of God’s generosity to faithful disciples. It expresses the overflowing generosity of God to faithful servants. It shows the bountifulness of God’s generosity to faithful followers.

God is a generous God to those who faithfully serve him. This is the eschatological blessing of the faithful. On the last day, Jesus will shower his faithful servants with abundant blessings beyond imagination.

I do believe that those who serve the Lord faithfully today will receive abundantly more blessings than those who do not serve him. Faithful pastors will receive more than faithless pastors. Faithful Christians will receive more than faithless Christians.

Then the Master said, “Enter into the joy of your master” (v. 23). The joy of your master is the joy of the commendation and reward of your master. It is the joy of the blessing of your master for your faithfulness.

Will you use your abilities today for the kingdom? Will you serve the Lord faithfully starting today?

If you serve the Lord faithfully until he comes, you will receive far more than anything you can imagine now. That is the generosity of the kingdom of God. Then you will enter into the joy of your master. That is the joy of the kingdom of God.

The Lord will Settle Accounts with Everyone on the Last Day

“Now after a long time the master of those servants came and settled accounts with them” (Matt. 25:19). When Christ comes, he will settle accounts with his disciples. “Therefore the kingdom of heaven may be compared to a king who wished to settle accounts with his servants” (Matt. 18:23). The kingdom of God is about Christ who will settle accounts with his people.

The verb “settled accounts” is from the word “sunairo,” which means, “to settle or check on accounts with someone.” (Louw-Nida) The Lord Jesus will come and check the records of our lives. He will evaluate us on how we have used our God-given capacities. The Lord Jesus will assess how we have served him.

Thus, the settling of accounts refers to eschatological judgment—judgment on the last day. Note how each one will face the Lord Jesus Christ on that day. “And he who had received the five talents came forward” (Matt. 25:20). “He also who had the two talents came forward” (v. 22). “He also who had received the one talent came forward” (v. 24).

Christ will call every one of us to see him. We will face our Lord and explain to him how we have lived our lives. Every one of us will stand before Jesus and show him what we have done.

If the Lord will come today, will you be ready to tell him that you have used your abilities for his kingdom? Can you tell him that you have invested his talents in the kingdom? Will you tell him that you have served him productively?

That is a question worth pondering today.

The Kingdom is About Serving the Lord Productively While He is Away

Jesus said, “For it will be like a man going on a journey, who called his servants and entrusted to them his property. To one he gave five talents, to another two, to another one, to each according to his ability. Then he went away” (Matt. 25:14-15). This is the main point of the parable—the responsibility of the servants to invest the resources of the master while he is away. The master calls his servants and entrusts them with his property. He gives five talents to the first guy, two to the second, and one to the third. He expects them to grow his investments.

A talent is money worth 6,000 denarii. One denarius is equal to one day’s wage of a laborer. (Hagner) Hence, 6,000 denarii is equal to 200 months of wages of a laborer. Six thousand denarii then is equal to seventeen years of wages.

The minimum wage today is Php 8,500.00 per month. Thus, one talent is about Php 1.7M today. Now five talents is Php 8.5M. Two talents is about Php 3.4M today. That is a lot of money!

Yet the point of the parable is not about the money, but about how they used the money for their Master. “He who had received the five talents went at once and traded with them, and he made five talents more. So also he who had the two talents made two talents more. But he who had received the one talent went and dug in the ground and hid his master’s money” (Matt. 25:16-18). The point is not about how much money they received, but about how they made the money grow for their Master.

Now different amounts of money were given to different individuals. Thus, the talents may represent different God-given abilities. (Hagner) It may also represent time and material resources. (Blomberg) More, it may symbolize different capacities and capabilities to serve the kingdom. A talent therefore is your capacity to serve the kingdom.

Some of us are given more capacities and some, less capacities. But the goal is to use your capacity for the kingdom. The kingdom is about how you use your talent, your God-given ability, capacity, and capability for the Lord and for his kingdom. Jesus’ point is how you use your capacity so that you will serve him productively while he is away. It is about serving the Lord faithfully with whatever capacity he has given you.

What is your God-given ability and capacity today? Some of you have the gift of teaching, but you do not teach. Some of you have the gift of encouraging, but you do not encourage. Some have capacity to give more money, but you do not give. Some have the capacity to serve, but you do not serve.

What are you capable in doing for the kingdom of God? That is your talent. That is your resource. That is your capacity to serve the Lord and his kingdom. Use it for the Lord and for his kingdom.

Use It or Lose It: The Parable of the Talents

The Parable of the Talents is the third parable about the kingdom of God in the Olivet Discourse (Matt. 25:14-30). The parable focuses on the responsibility of disciples to serve the kingdom productively while the Lord is away. That is the main point of the parable—to serve the Lord with the resources he has given us before he comes.

14 “For it will be like a man going on a journey, who called his servants and entrusted to them his property. 15 To one he gave five talents, to another two, to another one, to each according to his ability. Then he went away. 16 He who had received the five talents went at once and traded with them, and he made five talents more. 17 So also he who had the two talents made two talents more. 18 But he who had received the one talent went and dug in the ground and hid his master’s money. 19 Now after a long time the master of those servants came and settled accounts with them. 20 And he who had received the five talents came forward, bringing five talents more, saying, ‘Master, you delivered to me five talents; here, I have made five talents more.’ 21 His master said to him, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant. You have been faithful over a little; I will set you over much. Enter into the joy of your master.’ 22 And he also who had the two talents came forward, saying, ‘Master, you delivered to me two talents; here, I have made two talents more.’ 23 His master said to him, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant. You have been faithful over a little; I will set you over much. Enter into the joy of your master.’ 24 He also who had received the one talent came forward, saying, ‘Master, I knew you to be a hard man, reaping where you did not sow, and gathering where you scattered no seed, 25 so I was afraid, and I went and hid your talent in the ground. Here, you have what is yours.’ 26 But his master answered him, ‘You wicked and slothful servant! You knew that I reap where I have not sown and gather where I scattered no seed? 27 Then you ought to have invested my money with the bankers, and at my coming I should have received what was my own with interest. 28 So take the talent from him and give it to him who has the ten talents. 29 For to everyone who has will more be given, and he will have an abundance. But from the one who has not, even what he has will be taken away. 30 And cast the worthless servant into the outer darkness. In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.’

The kingdom of God is about a man who entrusted his property to his servants while going on a journey. He expected his servants to grow his investments with them while he is away. It is not about the number of talents per servant. Rather, it is about how they made his money grow while he is out.

Again, the characters in the parable are figurative. The master going on a trip is the Lord Jesus Christ. The two servants with five and two talents are faithful disciples. The one servant with one talent refers to faithless or fake disciples. Faithless disciples are people who oppose God’s will. Fake disciples are people who claim to follow Christ but their lives don’t show it.

The talents represent God-given abilities and capabilities. The coming back of the master is the coming of Christ. The settling of accounts refers to Christ’s judgment of everyone at his coming. The reward of the master refers to the reward of Christ for faithful disciples. The judgment of the master refers to the judgment of Christ for fake disciples.

I’ve outlined the parable into five main points. Let us dig deeper into this parable and take note of its lessons.