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The Realities of Heaven and Hell: The Parable of the Sheep & the Goats

“His German name was Karl der Grosse. At age twenty-nine, he was crowned the ruler of a tiny kingdom in what is now modern-day France. Few people at his coronation thought that King Karl would one day reshape the map of Europe.

At the time of Karl’s ascension in 771, Europe was a collection of petty fiefdoms, plagued by superstition and ignorance, poverty and pestilence. Lost in the dark ages.

In this apocalyptic age, Karl rose up to rescue Christendom. By sheer brutality, he dragged Europe out of the Dark Ages. Over the next forty-two years he fought fifty-three wars. When he defeated an army or captured a city, he insisted that everyone convert to Christianity. Those who refused were slaughtered.

By the cross and sword, he carved out an empire that went from the Atlantic to Russia. Then he spent his final years building monasteries and universities, trying to atone for his reign of terror. He died as one of the most powerful men in the world.

Two centuries later, workmen accidentally broke into Karl’s burial crypt under the cathedral in Aachen, Germany. As they peered into the musty darkness, they saw a two-hundred-year-old skeleton encased in cobwebs and tied to a throne. A crown was perched sideways on a grinning skull.

As the workers inched closer, they saw a table holding a large Bible. The right index finger of the skeleton was resting on a verse in the open book. The workmen called for a priest. Holding a candle close to the Bible, he read the Latin verse of Jesus’ words: “What do you benefit if you gain the whole world but lose your own soul?” (Mark 8:36).

History remembers him by a single name, Charlemagne. Each of us has been shaped by the way he transformed history. Yet as he coughed out his last, he ordered his body to be buried in a way that would give a message: both the great and small will appear equally naked before God to give an account for their lives.”

-Robert A. Petterson, The One Year Book of Amazing Stories

Today we conclude our series on key issues of the faith. We’ve only touched on a few of the important key issues of the faith, but we will certainly return in the future to many of these topics as we grow together in Christ.

I want to address one of my favorite portions of scripture today, from Matthew chapter 25. And I think this scripture gives us a good picture of ultimate reality. This is one of the many parables that Jesus Christ taught when he was on Earth. It’s a parable about sheep and goats. It’s interesting just how Jesus taught the crowds who followed him. He taught spiritual truths by referring to everyday practices and normal parts of everyday life. Typically ancient nations like Israel were designed in a particular way. There were various walled cities, to defend against invading armies. And these walled cities would be surrounded by farmlands and grazing pastures. There was no complicated supply chain to keep everyone supplied. If a city wanted food, it would have to be surrounded by farm lands and flocks and herds. It’s fairly common. If you think about Owosso it’s pretty similar, you have the inner city area, and surrounding the city you see various farm lands.

So what would everyone see and be aware of? Flocks of sheep, goats, farming, planting, and so on. So Jesus taught referencing such things. If Jesus was walking the Earth today, I imagine he would reference things like the internet, cars, colleges, industries, restaurants, and sports teams.

But in any case Jesus teaches here in Matthew 25, verses 31 through 46 about when Jesus Christ returns to Earth. We know that this will happen at some point in the future, though we don’t know exactly when. It says, “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.”

Typically sheep will follow their master, and tend to gather in flocks. Goats are different. They are more independent and more likely to be resistant and go their own way.

And it continues saying, “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.’”

If Jesus taught this parable today he would be accused of teaching a works based gospel. Because it’s all about what people did for Jesus, right? Well, it’s right here in the word. This a parable that really fits well with the work of The Salvation Army.

I felt very early on as a Christian that I wanted to be part of a church that was really doing something, really connected with the community, really being the hands and feet of Jesus. And the Lord led me to begin working as a caseworker at a salvation army homeless shelter. I loved it.

But this is what we do right? We provide food to the hungry. We provide water to the thirsty. We provide housing assistance and motel vouchers for the homeless. We provide “coats for kids” which fulfills that mandate to provide clothing. And we’re also called to visit and care for the sick, and to visit those in jail, and believe me, I’m working on developing those sort of ministries here.

The scriptures continues, “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, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’”

The amazing thing is, whenever we do one of these things for someone in need, it’s just like we did it for Jesus.

Sometimes I know full well that someone is trying to take advantage of me. I know of them around town. But then I remind myself, it doesn’t really matter, because I’m doing it for Jesus. So I help them. That’s my calling.

And apparently part of our judgment as Christians will be, did we fulfill these mandates to help those in need? And in particular, did we help other Christians in need?

Then we see Jesus addressing those on the left, the goats, “‘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, ‘Truly I tell you, 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.””

Have you ever noticed someone in need, and the Lord was moving in your heart to go talk to them or help them or pray for them, and you felt the Holy Spirit say go do it, and you didn’t? There have been times that I’ve felt that. And I always regret it later. So if the Spirit is speaking to you, be sure to go quickly and do it. Just do it. Go quickly.

In any case, we see Jesus saying depart from me, to the goats, who did not care for him. These are the lazy Christians who did not help those in need. They didn’t serve others. They served themselves. And if we live that way, we’ll be held accountable.

Jesus actually says to them, you are cursed, into the eternal fire, prepared for the devil and his angels.” Scary stuff. And sometimes we don’t like to talk about this part, about divine accountability. God is love. God is mercy. God is gracious. But God is also a just judge.

JI Packer a famous theologian said, from his book, Your Father Loves You, “Why do men shy away from the thought of God as a judge? Why do they feel unworthy of him? The truth is that part of God's moral perfection is his perfection in judgment. Would a God who did not care about the difference between right and wrong be a good and admirable being? Would a God who put no distinction between the beasts of history, the Hitlers and Stalins, and his own saints be morally praiseworthy and perfect? Moral indifference would be an imperfection in God, not a perfection. And not to judge the world would be to show moral indifference. The final proof that God is a perfect moral being, not indifferent to questions of right and wrong, is the fact that he has committed himself to judge the world.

It is clear that the reality of divine judgment must have a direct effect on our view of life. If we know that retributive judgment faces us at the end of the road, we shall not live as otherwise we would. But it must be emphasized that the doctrine of divine judgment, and particularly of the final judgment, is not to be thought of primarily as a bogeyman, with which to frighten men into an outward form of conventional righteousness. It has its frightening implications for godless men, it is true; but its main thrust is as a revelation of the moral character of God, and an imparting of moral significance to human life.”

It matters how you live and the choices to make. The goal here isn’t to scare you into being good. The goal is to point to God’s justice and righteousness. And to remind us that we are accountable to God. And there will be a day of judgment, when we give an account for how we lived.

So we see Jesus teaches us, to provide food for the hungry, water for the thirsty, to care for the sick, for those in jail, to provide clothing, and to help meet needs in the world. This is an important calling, and one we partake in, in the salvation army. This august we distributed over 120 backpacks for children in need. We give out food everyday through our daily meals, and our pantry. I would encourage you here if you haven’t, volunteer to help with some of these services. We always needs to volunteers. But more importantly, do these things in your daily life. God will give you opportunities to help people and meet needs. All you have to do is take those opportunities.

My motivation is simple for doing what I do everyday: God is really real. The Bible is really God’s word. Jesus Christ is really my savior. Which means every good deed I do in this life for someone, is just like I did it for Jesus my dear friend himself. And more so, I know I will be rewarded in heaven for each good deed I do.

There are many who testify to having near death experiences, or visions from God, in which they see Jesus in heaven, and Jesus will show these people their house in heaven, and how every time they do a good deed, or preach the gospel, or meet someone’s need, it adds on something new to the house. And Jesus is the carpenter, building the house in heaven, preparing it for them when they arrive in heaven. How beautiful is that? I think it’s amazing. And indeed God’s word says that we will be rewarded for what we do in this life for Christ. Great is our reward in heaven, when we serve Jesus here. Every loaf of bread, every gallon of water, every piece of clothing given to those in need are jewels in your crown in heaven.

I know these things are true. So Christians, be like the sheep who follow our great shepherd Jesus Christ. Don’t be like the goats, who pretend to care about the needy, but don’t really do anything to help people. They just serve themselves. Don’t just pretend. Really live it out. 



This post first appeared on A Lifestyle Of Peace, please read the originial post: here

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The Realities of Heaven and Hell: The Parable of the Sheep & the Goats

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