We will finish this verse-by-verse study of Matthew chapters 24 and 25 here in Part 6, starting with Matt. 25:33.
(33) and He will put the sheep on His right, and the goats on the left. (34) Then the King will say to those on His right, "Come, you who are blessed of My Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. [[Those called sheep are granted entrance into God's eternal kingdom. In the salvation plans of God, this kingdom has been "prepared...from the foundation of the world." (Cf., e.g., Matt. 20:23; 1 Cor. 2:9; and Heb. 11:16.) God's plans from the foundation of the world include who His elect are, based on His foreknowledge (cf. Eph. 1:4; Rom. 8:28-30; Rev. 13:8; 17:8; and 21:27). As I mentioned, Rev. 21:27 demonstrates that the names of the elect of the nations (assuming that such people exist, people who are distinct from God's true Israel, which I do assume) are written in the Lamb's book of life. Revelation 13:8; 17:8 demonstrate that these names have been in the book of life since the foundation of the world. (Many verses, including Rev. 13:8; 17:8, demonstrate that the names of all the members of God's true Israel are in the Lamb's book of life.) All salvation flows from God's grace, not works that merit/earn salvation.]] (35) For I was hungry, and you gave Me something to eat; I was thirsty, and you gave Me drink; I was a stranger, and you invited Me in; (36) naked, and you clothed Me; I was sick, and you visited Me; I was in prison, and you came to Me." (37) Then the righteous [[The adjective "righteous" is used here, as it often is, in a relatively righteous sense. For one thing, Christ isn't saying that they are righteous like born-again Christians are righteous, who have received the imputed and imparted righteousness of God. There is no denial of the fact that the Bible teaches that all people (with the exception of born-again Christians) are spiritually dead and (to one degree or another) sinners (e.g., Rom. 3:9; Eph. 2:1-3; and 1 John 1:10). Some who are not born-again Christians are relatively righteous in that they have a heart (somewhat) open to God and do some righteous things; such people are typically quick to admit that they need to repent and receive forgiveness for their sins.]] will answer Him, saying, "Lord, when did we see you hungry, and feed you, or thirsty, and give You drink? (38) And when did we see You a stranger, and invite You in, or naked, and clothe You? (39) And when did we see You sick, or in prison, and come to You?" (40) And the King will answer and say to them, "Truly I say to you, to the extent that you did it to one of these brothers of Mine, even the least of them, you did it to Me." [[We won't begin to understand these verses until we understand who "these brothers of [Christ]" are. Many understand them to refer to the needy of mankind, worldwide. The Bible shows that we should show concern for the needy of mankind (and especially if they are, in some ways, innocent; e.g., the orphaned, widowed, and enslaved). However, I am confident that these aren't the people Jesus referred to here. "These brothers of [His]" are Christians. See Matt. 28:10; John 20:17; Rom. 8:29; and Heb. 2:11-18. Christ identifies, in a very special way, with His disciples (cf. Acts 9:5; 1 Cor. 8:12; and 12:27). (I should mention that you often hear that His brothers are the end-time remnant of Israel, who will be persecuted after the pre-week rapture of Christians.)
As I mentioned, the saints (true Israel), now judged, resurrected/transformed, glorified, and reigning, are present with the Lord Jesus Christ when He judges the nations. They are the brothers He refers to. As I mentioned, one of the most important points of this passage, if not the most important point, is Christ's loving concern for His brothers/disciples as they live for Him in what are often difficult circumstances throughout this present age. For many Christians the circumstances have been extremely difficult (as with the apostle Paul, for example) and there have been many martyrs for Christ, very much including our generation.
Note that the King is speaking to the sheep here. His "brothers" aren't the sheep, or those of the sheep who had been in need, or those of the sheep and goats combined who had been in need. Although many disagree, the sheep aren't Christians. Christians wouldn't be surprised, or respond as the sheep do here in Matt. 25:37-39. When Christians extend mercy to other Christians, they do it first, and foremost, with Jesus Christ in mind, and for Him. They not only love Him (as their Savior and their Lord), but they also know they have been commanded by Him to walk in love, and especially toward other Christians in need (cf., e.g., John 13:34, 35; 15:12, 17; 17:20-23; Gal. 6:10; James 2:14-17; 1 John 3:13-24; and 4:7-5:2). It is also true that when Christians extend mercy to non-Christians, they do it with Christ in mind. He is our Lord.
MATTHEW 10:40-42 (especially 10:42) are an important cross-reference regarding rewards for extending mercy to the disciples of the Lord Jesus Christ. Matthew 10:40 says, "HE WHO RECEIVES YOU RECEIVES ME [my capitalization], and He who receives Me receives Him who sent Me." Then Matt. 10:41, 42 (NIV) say, "Anyone who receives a prophet because he is a prophet will receive a prophet's reward, and anyone who receives a righteous man because he is a righteous man will receive a righteous man's reward. (42) And IF ANYONE GIVES EVEN A CUP OF COLD WATER TO ONE OF THESE LITTLE ONES BECAUSE HE IS MY DISCIPLE [[Cf. Mark 9:41. In the margin of Matt. 10:42, the NASB has "i.e., humble" to help explain "little ones." The BAGD Greek Lexicon (under the adjective translated "little ones") says it means to be small "in esteem, importance, influence, power, etc. ...." "Little ones" here in Matt. 10:42 apparently refer to the most insignificant Christian disciples, but the words can apply to all Christians (cf. Mark 9:41, 42; Luke 17:1, 2).]], I TELL YOU THE TRUTH, HE WILL CERTAINLY NOT LOSE HIS REWARD." No act of kindness extended to Christian disciples, because they are disciples of Christ, goes unnoticed by Christ/God; it will be rewarded.
These words of Matt. 10:40-42 are all the more understandable in context with all of Matthew chapter 10, which speaks of the difficulties that Christians would often face as they took the gospel throughout the cities of Israel. Matthew 10:11-15 speak of the apostles being dependent (in God's plan) on the support of the people in the places they minister. Those who receive them as messengers of Christ and support them will be rewarded; those who reject them (and their message) will be cursed. Matthew 10:40, 41 fit well in a missionary context like this (not that 10:40, 41 need be limited to a missionary context), but 10:42 seems to cover any act of kindness done (with the right motive) in behalf of any Christian in need.
A dominant point (an exciting point) that permeates Matt. 10:40-42 and 25:34-40 is that the Lord Jesus Christ (and beyond Him God the Father) loves His disciples, and He is concerned about them in a very special way, so much so that those who extend mercy to them because they are His disciples will be rewarded. Matthew 10:40-42 make it clear that extending kindness to Christ's disciples BECAUSE THEY ARE DISCIPLES is what is in view here, and I believe we can see the same principle at work in Matt. 25:34-40.
It is important to see that the good works these sheep did for Christ's brothers flowed from what was in their heart. We couldn't say that they had faith in Christ (in a new-covenant sense, as born-again Christians), but we can undoubtedly say that their hearts were open to God to some extent. Why didn't they become Christians? This question isn't answered for us here; it seems to go beyond the scope of this passage, which is, as I mentioned, quite abbreviated and simplified. We can't say that these sheep were totally separate from contact with Christians (and the gospel) in that they extended mercy to Christians. At the same time, I don't believe we can put these sheep in the category of those who God drew to Christ (cf. John 6:44) who then rejected the gospel. (Much Scripture shows that those who willfully reject the gospel will not be saved.) However, just because people have met Christians and have a heart open to their God doesn't necessarily mean that they have rejected the gospel if they haven't become born-again Christians.
I assume THAT GOD DIDN'T CHOOSE THESE PEOPLE TO BE PART OF HIS TRUE ISRAEL, BUT PART OF THE NATIONS. I'll leave the details with God; I know He'll do all things in a perfect way. I'm sure that when He is done with His work, and we are living in the super-glorious eternal state pictured in Revelation chapters 21, 22, all of us in God's eternal kingdom (true Israel and the elect of the nations) will stand in total awe of God as we see the full outworking of His super-glorious plan of salvation and the full manifestation of His glory and grace (cf., e.g., 1 Cor. 2:9; Rom. 11:33-36).]] (41) Then He will also say to those on His left [the goats of 25:32, 33], "Depart from Me, accursed ones, into the eternal fire which has been prepared for the devil and his angels [[(On the devil's angels, cf. Rev. 12:4, 7-9. On the eternal fire which has been prepared for the devil and his angels, cf. Rev. 19:20; 20:10, 14, 15; 21:8; also see Matt. 3:10, 12; 5:22; 7:19; 13:40, 42, 50; and 18:8, 9.) Based on these words, we can probably say that the eternal fire was originally prepared for the devil and his angels after their rebellion, not for man; however, it seems we must also say that God knew before the foundation of the world what part of mankind would eventually share this fate with the devil through following him in his rebellion (cf., e.g., Matt. 25:34).]]; (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; naked, and you did not clothe Me; sick, and in prison, and you did not visit Me." (44) Then they themselves 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 take care of You?" (45) Then He will answer them, saying, "Truly I say to you, to the extent that you did not do it to one of the least of these [referring to His brothers, as 25:40 shows], you did not do it to Me." (46) And these will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous [On the "righteous," see under 25:37.] into eternal life.' " [[In this context, with the "eternal fire which has been prepared for the devil and his angels" (25:41) and the "eternal punishment" (25:46), "eternal life" (25:46) speaks of the eternal life in God's eternal kingdom pictured in Revelation chapters 21, 22. (Those from the nations living in the millennial kingdom won't experience eternal life at that time.) These chapters of the book of Revelation (the last two chapters of the Bible) put much emphasis on the entrance of the nations into God's new heaven and new earth, with its new Jerusalem. Emphasis is also put on the fact that God's true Israel is reigning with God in new Jerusalem when the nations enter. The raptured saints will have begun to reign at the time of the mid-week rapture, and all the members of true Israel will have been reigning throughout the millennium, and Rev. 22:5 shows that "they will reign forever and ever." What a salvation! What a destiny! Thank you Father! Thank You Lord Jesus! Thank You Holy Spirit!]]
May God's will be fully accomplished through this paper and His people be edified! In Jesus' might name!