Some speculate about when the Lord will return, but Christ Jesus gave no time indicators (i.e., signs) with respect to the judgment day (Matt. 24:34-36). He did, however, focus on man’s need to be prepared for that unexpected, yet certain, reckoning.
Matthew 25 focuses on the necessity of this preparation. Through the parables of the foolish virgins and the talents, we are impressed with the need and nature of spirit preparation. In verse 31 of this chapter, the Lord continues to emphasize the point, by saying:
“When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, then he will sit on his glorious throne. 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. 25:31-32).
What follows in the text instructs us about judgment, as Jesus depicts the response and rationale for the divine separation. Through careful consideration and application, we can be ready for the day when we shall appear before Christ’s judgment seat (2 Cor. 5:10).
When the Son of Man Comes, He Will Sit
When the Son of Man comes, he will sit on his glorious throne. Notice the deity of Christ as reflected in the term “glory.” He will come “in his glory” and sit on “his glorious throne.” His deity will be manifested to all, “for we shall see him even as he is” (1 Jn. 3:2). Even those who pierced him will wail (Rev. 1:7), for his glorious divine nature will be unmasked and fully revealed at his appearing.
But the humanity of Christ is stressed also, as the glorious one is the Son of Man. With the second advent of God’s Son, a new era will be inaugurated as he sits on the throne of his glory — not David’s throne, nor in Jerusalem. This does not mean that Christ is not currently reigning as king over his kingdom, the church, for the New Testament clearly teaches that he is (Matt. 16:18-19; 1 Cor. 15:24-27; Col. 1:13; Rev. 1:9). Rather, it speaks of a new day for the kingdom, when its citizens will be transported into a heavenly regime and eternity begins (Matt. 25:46).
When the Son of Man Comes, He Will Separate
When the Son of Man comes, he will separate all nations. The Lord reveals that his return will be for judgment.
- All nations will be gathered, and separation will occur.
- All that are in the tombs will hear his voice, and all shall stand before his judgment seat.
- Therefore, all are commanded to repent, for he will judge the world in righteousness (Acts 17:30-31). This great division will be universal and discriminating.
When the Son of Man Comes, He Will Say
When the Son of Man comes, he will say. The dialog of verses 37-45 represents truths associated with the judgment day. We should not conclude from these verses that these words will be spoken literally on that day, any more than “sheep” will be on the right hand and “goats” on the left. But the dialog between the Son of Man and the sheep and the goats portray lessons that must be learned now for our preparation of the day of the Lord.
He will say to those on the right, “Come, you who are blessed by my Father.” To be blessed by the Father means that the sheep are saved. Upon them is bestowed grace and mercy, through which they escape God’s wrath (cf. Rom. 5:9). Note the inseparable connection between the Father and Son, as emphasized in the expression “my Father.”
He will say, “Inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world.” This begins eternity (v. 46), not an alleged millennial reign of Christ. The word “inherit” means that they can take rightful possession of the kingdom, which designates a heavenly abode. For such a time, God has been preparing (cf. Jn. 14:1-3). His plan from all eternity will come to pass.
Whatever God planned from the foundation of the world is exactly what Jesus foresaw as coming to fulfillment. Such is not the case with the “spare tire doctrine” of premillennialism, which supposes Christ was unable to establish his kingdom at his first coming, and therefore improvised with the church plan.
The culmination of God’s eternal purpose will be fully known and enjoyed when the Lord returns. These honest and sincere souls will then comprehend the enormity and splendor of God’s plan. They will wonder how “unworthy servants” could be so blessed. But Jesus explains the reason they are so blessed with the word “for.” “For I was hungry, thirsty, a stranger, naked, sick, and in prison, and you gave me food, drink, welcomed me, clothed me, and visited me.”
In this explanation, Christ did not reveal the total sum of divine requirements for salvation. Repentance is not mentioned, but penitence is obligatory (Acts 17:30). Baptism is for the remission of sins (Acts 2:38), but it is absent from the Lord’s explanation. Nor does he include worship, which a man must render to God (Jn. 4:24; Col. 3:16).
Jesus Christ is not teaching that salvation is mere philanthropy. But he is teaching that good works must issue forth from a saved soul, and we ought to be zealous to do them (Eph. 2:10; Titus 2:13).
They are not, therefore, sufficient for our salvation, but they are necessary.