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                        "THE GOSPEL OF MATTHEW"

                 The Judgment Of The Nations (25:31-46)

INTRODUCTION

1. Included in "The Olivet Discourse" are two parables, followed by a
   judgment scene...
   a. The parables are directed toward Jesus' disciples
      1) The first to encourage them to be watchful - Mt 25:1-13
      2) The second to admonish them to be productive - Mt 25:14-30
   b. The judgment scene depicts the nations brought before Jesus 
      - Mt 25:31-46
      1) Note that it is the "nations" being judged, not disciples
      2) The nations are judged based upon their treatment of Jesus'
         disciples
         a) Those that showed mercy and kindness to His disciples are
            blessed
         b) Those that did not are condemned

2. Questions abound regarding "The Judgment Of The Nations"...
   a. Who are the "nations" in this passage?  All of mankind, or only
      the non-elect?
   b. Is this "judgment" scene depicting the Day of Judgment, or might
      it refer to a judgment that foreshadowed the Final Judgment?
   c. As part of "The Olivet Discourse", could Jesus still be talking
      about events related to the destruction of Jerusalem?

[However one may answer such questions, there are important lessons to
be gleaned from these words of Jesus.  But let's first consider how it
may be that Jesus is still referring to events related to the
destruction of Jerusalem described in Mt 24...]

I. THE JUDGMENT OF THE NATIONS THEME

   A. AS FOUND IN THE BOOK OF JOEL...
      1. The coming day of the Lord is depicted
         a. Following the outpouring of God's Spirit - Joel 2:28-29
         b. A great and terrible day is coming - Joel 2:30-31
         c. Yet salvation is available to those who accept it - Joel
            2:32; cf. Ac 2:16-21
      2. A "judgment of the nations" is then described
         a. The nations gathered in the Valley of Jehoshaphat - Joel
            3:1-2a,12-16
         b. The nations judged on the basis of their treatment of God's
            people - Joel 3:2b-8

   B. AS FOUND IN THE OLIVET DISCOURSE...
      1. Jesus foretold the coming day of the Lord - Mt 24:1-51
         a. Coming in destruction upon Jerusalem 
         b. With warnings to escape when they see Jerusalem surrounded
            by armies
      2. A judgment of the nations is then described - Mt 25:31-46
         a. The nations gathered before Son of Man
         b. The nations judged on the basis of their treatment of God's
            people ("inasmuch as you did it to one of the least of
            these My brethren")

   C. THIS IS A COMMON THEME IN THE SCRIPTURES...
      1. God describes judgment to come, using other nations as
         instruments of His wrath
      2. But He also holds the nations accountable for how His people
         are treated; for example...
         a. Assyria, the rod of God's anger - Isa 10:5-7,12-14,24-26
         b. Damascus, Gaza, Tyre, Edom, Ammon - Amos 1:3,6,9,11,13
      3. Nations that went too far (e.g., abusing the innocent) were
         held accountable

   D. JESUS MAY BE USING THE SAME THEME...
      1. Describing a judgment upon the nations...
         a. Employing figures reminiscent of the Judgment at the Last
            Day; for example...
            1) The Son of Man coming in glory, sitting on His throne
            2) The nations divided like sheep and goats
            3) Judgment rendered, followed by reward or punishment
         b. For such judgments foreshadowed and typified the Final
            Judgment
      2. Describing a judgment of the nations...
         a. Which followed the Lord's judgment upon Jerusalem - Mt 24
         b. Regarding their treatment of His brethren (the disciples of
            Jesus)
         c. Nations who treated them kindly would be blessed, otherwise
            they would be condemned
         -- In the Book of Revelation, we see how Jesus dealt with the 
            Roman empire, used as the instrument of wrath in destroying
            Jerusalem, and then the object of wrath in its own judgment

[This may be what Jesus is doing at this point in "The Olivet
Discourse".  It would certainly serve to comfort His disciples, knowing
that nations which failed to show mercy to them would not go
unpunished.  Even if this is point of the text, we can still glean
important...]

II. LESSONS FROM THE JUDGMENT OF THE NATIONS

   A. THERE WILL BE A DAY OF JUDGMENT...
      1. Just as the Lord has judged nations throughout history
      2. So He will judge the world at the end of time, at the Last Day
         a. Jesus often spoke of the Judgment - e.g., Mt 12:36-37,
            41-42; Jn 12:47-48
         b. Paul also - e.g., Ac 17:30-31; 24:25; Ro 2:3-6; 14:10; 
            2Co 5:10; 2Ti 4:1
         c. Others as well - e.g., He 9:27; 1Pe 4:5; 2Pe 2:9; 3:7;
            1Jn 4:17; Jude 6
      -- Are we preparing for the Day of Judgment?

   B. ONE ISSUE WILL BE HOW WE TREATED JESUS' BRETHREN...
      1. Of course, every deed, word, and thought will be judged (see
         above verses)
      2. But our text reminds us how Jesus takes the treatment of His
         brethren - Mt 25:40,45
         a. "as you did it to one of the least of these My brethren,
            you did it to Me"
         b. "as you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did
            not do it to Me"
      3. Jesus made the same point to Saul on the road to Damascus 
         - Ac 9:1-5
         a. "Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting Me?"
         b. "I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting."
         -- By persecuting the church, Saul was guilty of persecuting
            Christ!
      4. Jesus is the head, and His disciples (the church) is His body
         - Ep 1:22-23
         a. What we do or not do for His disciples, we do or not do for
            Christ!
         b. How is our treatment of our brethren?  Are we guilty of:
            1) Abusing them?
            2) Ignoring them?
            3) Failing to love them?
      -- What is our relationship with other Christians, especially in
         the context of the local church?

   C. THERE ARE PLACES PREPARED FOR AFTER THE JUDGMENT...
      1. One is for prepared people - Mt 25:34
         a. Described as "the kingdom prepared for you from the
            foundation of the world" - cf. 2Ti 4:18; 2Pe 1:11
         b. Described as "new heavens and a new earth in which 
            righteousness dwells" - cf. 2Pe 3:13; Re 21:1
         c. Described as "the holy city, New Jerusalem" - cf. He 13:14;
            Re 3:12; 21:2-7
         -- This place is for those whose names are in the Lamb's book
            of Life - Re 20:11-15
      2. One is for unprepared people - Mt 25:41
         a. Described as "the everlasting fire prepared for the devil
            and his angels" - cf. Re 20:10
         b. Described as "the like of fire and brimstone" - Re 20:10,
            14; 21:8
         c. Described as "the second death" - Re 20:14; 21:8
         -- This place is for those whose names are not in the book of
            life - Re 20:15
      3. Both places are prepared to last for eternity - Mt 25:46
         a. The one offering everlasting punishment
         b. The other offering eternal life

CONCLUSION

1. God's judgment upon nations in the past were written for our
   admonition - 1Co 10:11
   a. Such judgments reveal that God is a Righteous Judge
   b. Such judgments portend the Judgment to come at the Last Day

2. Whether or not Jesus uses the setting of the Final Judgment to
   describe judgment upon the nations following the destruction of
   Jerusalem, His words should cause us to consider...
   a. Are we preparing for the Day of Judgment?
   b. Involved in that preparation, is our relationship with our
      brethren what it ought to be?
   c. What will Jesus say to us on that Day?

May we all walk in the grace and mercy of the Lord with an obedient
faith and love, so that we may hear Him say:

   "Come, you blessed of My Father, inherit the kingdom prepared
   for you from the foundation of world." - Mt 25:34
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