VERSE DISCOVERY: Matthew 25:31-46 (KJV, Public Domain)
Much of our culture is self-seeking and gives evidence to a heart that is far from the heart of God. And, as time goes by it seems to infect more and more like a disease that won’t be snuffed out. But snuff it is what God is asking for as we raise for ourselves flags of surrender to be waved in service for Him toward others. That we give up of us and pour out all for Him; that we show the world a thing or two about true love; true appreciation to a Savior who poured out all for us.
The Bible tells us, “In all things shewing thyself a pattern of good works…” (Titus 2:7). It’s time for a new pattern to be laid. The foundation of self must dissipate, and new groundwork needs to be found on who He is the head of our life and all that He has already done. It’s time to show the world a different lifestyle.
The Bible assures us, “That they do good, that they be rich in good works, ready to distribute, willing to communicate; laying up in store for themselves a good foundation against the time to come, that they may lay hold on eternal life,” (1 Timothy 6:18-19). In that, we see that our service toward one another matters and what we do or do not do for others on behalf of our Lord – the impact of it can even show up in our eternal reward or eternal punishment.
In this lesson, Jesus teaches the difference between the two. He shows His disciples the difference of being classified as a sheep or a goat.
When the Son of Man Comes
Matthew 25:31-33 “When the Son of man shall come in his glory, and all the holy angels with him, then shall he sit upon the throne of his glory: And before him shall be gathered all nations: and he shall separate them one from another, as a shepherd divideth his sheep from the goats: And he shall set the sheep on his right hand, but the goats on the left
Today’s lesson is known to be a part of The Olivet Discourse which begins at Matthew 24:1. Throughout this “discourse,” Jesus is telling or prophesying of times to come. He even foretold of the destruction of the temple which would occur in A.D. 70 (see Matthew 24:1-2).
I absolutely love how this portion of the discourse begins with the word “when.” Not “if,” but “when.” And the “when” that is being referenced is the second coming of Jesus Christ.
Jesus is coming back! Point blank. And, one’s eternity is measured by how they lived on earth.
A large part of biblical preaching and teaching is focusing on and preparing people for the return of Christ that they might reign with Him when He comes.
When some look down through the pages of history, they don’t see the chain of events that ushered in the plan of salvation for mankind. They believe or don’t believe based off what they see with their natural eyes and their short-sighted minds and/or ideas. They don’t see the promise of the good to come that God has already laid up for our futures. They don’t see the fulfilling prophecies that brought God’s kingdom closer to man. When they look down through history all they see is a normal course of events. They don’t see this beautiful, epic love story where God tries to woo mankind back to Himself.
But, rest assured, there is a future after this and Jesus says “when” the time comes, this is what’s going to happen. The events that He speaks of are truths that are still unfolding. We haven’t seen it all yet, but it’s coming.
The Bible reassures us, “For the Lord is not slack concerning his promise, as some men count slackness,” (2 Peter 3:9a). We are also told, “For the vision is yet for an appointed time, but at the end it shall speak, and not lie: though it tarry, wait for it; because it will surely come, it will not tarry,” (Habakkuk 2:3).
Know this, every word of God, for good or bad, for happy or sad, for those who believe or for those who don’t believe, will come to pass! For right now He is withholding His hand of judgment so that as many people as possible can be saved. For us and everyone out there, there is hope for salvation. God’s waiting won’t add to the demise of people as in the. Rather, His “longsuffering” is because He is “not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance,” (2 Peter 3:9b). Will all come and accept a relationship with God through Jesus Christ? No. But God loves mankind so much that He wants to get as many people as possible out of the waters of sin that seek to drown them for all eternity.
And, although He has held off, eventually, judgment will come. 2 Peter 3:10 says, “But the day of the Lord will come as a thief in the night…”
Here, in this lesson, we see we have a King, and the King is coming back. A time of judgment takes place; a division from those who believe and those who don’t believe; from those who are considered righteous and those who are called cursed: the sheep and the goats, if you will.
“When” this takes place, our lesson tells us “the Son of man shall come in his glory, and all the holy angels with him, then shall he sit upon the throne of his glory.” Daniel paints a very similar picture to the one Jesus is describing. He writes, “I saw in the night visions, and, behold, one like the Son of man came with the clouds of heaven, and came to the Ancient of days, and they brought him near before him. And there was given him dominion, and glory, and a kingdom, that all people, nations, and languages, should serve him: his dominion is an everlasting dominion, which shall not pass away, and his kingdom that which shall not be destroyed,” (Daniel 7:13-14).
Here, we see Jesus obtained His dominion and declaring His reign in these verses and was found sitting “upon the throne of his glory.” Have you ever read a story when a king rides up in battle with his armies, obtains the victory and sits down on the throne declaring his rule? This is the picture that comes to my mind when I read this verse. Jesus, the King of all kings, comes with His entourage of angels; His armies of heavenly hosts and sits in His place of honor where He will rule and reign forever into eternity.
He is that prophesied “righteous Branch, and a King shall reign and prosper, and shall execute judgment and justice in the earth,” (Jeremiah 23:5; emphasis mine); and here it can be said, “Let the judging commence.”
“Before him shall be gathered all nations: and he shall separate them one from another, as a shepherd divideth his sheep from the goats.” When He does return, as already stated, a judgment will commence, and this judgment should be taken seriously for in it those living for Christ will be blessed and those who are not shall be condemned.
Here, He is gathering “all nations,” meaning no one on the face of this earth will be exempt from this judgment. Everyone will be examined, and everyone will be separated “as a shepherd divideth his sheep from the goats” according to how He classifies them. Psalm 4:3 lets us know, “That the LORD hath set apart him that is godly for himself…”
We see here, those who are classified as being “sheep” are placed “on his right hand.” Repeatedly in the Bible, we see the phrase “at the right hand” is used. For example, in the Old Testament, God said, “Fear not… I will uphold thee with the right hand of my righteousness,” (Isaiah 41:10; emphasis mine). And, in the New Testament Hebrews 12:2 says, “Looking unto Jesus the author and the finisher of our faith; who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God,” (emphasis mine).
The “right hand” is a special place. It gives the idea that those on the right are in a more honored and favored position than others.
The opposite occurred for those who are considered “goats” for they were placed “on the left.” In the following verses, we will really see the impact of what being in those opposite positions means.
To the Sheep He Says…
Matthew 25:34-40 “Then shall the King say unto them on his right hand, Come, ye blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world: For I was an hungred, and ye gave me meat: I was thirsty, and ye gave me drink: I was a stranger, and ye took me in: Naked, and ye clothed me: I was sick, and ye visited me: I was in prison, and ye came unto me. Then shall the righteous answer him, saying, Lord, when saw we thee an hungred, and fed thee? or thirsty, and gave thee drink? When saw we thee a stranger, and took thee in? or naked, and clothed thee? Or when saw we thee sick, or in prison, and came unto thee? And the King shall answer and say unto them, Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me.”
First, the “King” addresses those “on his right hand.” With that, He calls them, “Blessed of my Father” and pronounces that they will “inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world.”
In John 14:3 Jesus stated before His death, “And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again, and receive you unto myself; that where I am, there ye may be also.” Here, we see the “King” has come back as promised and is now speaking directly to those have become inheritors of that prepared kingdom; to those that He is receiving to Himself.
Their service gave proof/evidence of the faith they claimed they possessed causing them to think outside of the box of their own little world into that of others who have needs. But let us remember, we are not saved by our works, but our works prove to whom we belong. “Even so faith, if it hath not works, is dead, being alone,” (James 2:17; read vss. 14-18).
Jesus gave the reason they were in their favored position: on a human level, they acted as He would in their care and concern for the “brethren.” To do this means their faith was put into action, and that manifested itself through service, despite the cost to their personal being.
In another portion of Scripture Jesus said, “He that loveth his life shall lose it; and he that hateth his life in this world shall keep it unto life eternal. If any man serve me, let him follow me; and where I am, there shall also my servant be: if any man serve me, him will my Father honour,” (John 12: 25-26; emphasis mine). Here, we see them receiving that honor as the “blessed of my Father.”
Basically, payday has come, if you want to call it that. Just as in a natural job, so it is in the spirit. Those who work good works will be rewarded. That’s why Hebrews 13:16 tells us, “But to do good and to communicate forget not: for with such sacrifices God is well pleased.” God is pleased when we offer our lives in service and the doing of good works. Colossians 3:23-24 supports this by telling us, “And whatsoever ye do, do it heartily, as to the Lord, and not unto men; Knowing that of the Lord ye shall receive the reward of the inheritance: for ye serve the Lord Christ” (emphasis mine). There is a reward at the end of the services we offer on behalf of the Lord.
The “sheep” know what it is to put their faith into action and make a difference in the world around them. Faith is not silent. Faith is full of action. Faith is alive. Faith is shared through works to testify of its genuineness and sincerity. Faith does more than move mountains; if it is lived out in the lives of the men and women of God, it can move hearts toward salvation!
When one is living a life of faith people should be able to look at their life, their actions, as signs of accreditation that we belong to God. They should be able to tell by how we operate and carry ourselves through our display of service, that we live what we talk.
James, in his book, wrote, “If a brother or sister be naked, and destitute of daily food, And one of you say unto them, Depart in peace, be ye warmed and filled; notwithstanding ye give them not those things which are needful to the body; what doth it profit?” (James 2:15-16).
James saw the emptiness in just words alone. Speaking “peace” without lifting a finger to physically help satisfy the present need, to him it was not true faith. True faith believes and then allows that belief to be put to work. True faith has heavenly aspirations that work out to show good on earth. So, he asked, “What doth it profit” without it? What is each of us doing now that is benefiting his fellow man and the kingdom of heaven?
Words without supplying to the physical, emotional or spiritual comfort of another in distress are what these two verses speak of. But, all too often, how many times have we heard or spoken of what should be done to help others without putting in some work to help society move toward that goal?
Jesus gave props to those who stepped in to help others. James mentioned two issues that Jesus also stated: naked and food, giving further verification of the call to help one another in need.
Jesus said to those who helped the “hungred… thirsty… stranger… naked… sick… prisoner,” it was as if they were helping Him. Their care for their fellow man matters in the eyes of heaven. They supplied for and filled needs wherever it showed up and were blessed because of it.
The “sheep” didn’t understand when they ever saw Jesus in the needs described and gave aide to Him. But, “the King shall answer and say unto them, Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me.”
Treat people like you would treat Jesus. Wow!
Again, let us remember, we are not saved by works: “For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is a gift of God: Not of works, lest any man should boast,” (Ephesians 2:8-9). Rather, works give proof to the living faith on the inside: “Even so faith, if it hath not works, is dead, being alone,” (James 2:17).
To the Goats He Says…
Matthew 25:41-46 “Then shall he say also unto them on the left hand, Depart from me, ye cursed, into everlasting fire, prepared for the devil and his angels: For I was an hungred, and ye gave me no meat: I was thirsty, and ye gave me no drink: I was a stranger, and ye took me not in: naked, and ye clothed me not: sick, and in prison, and ye visited me not. Then shall they also answer him, saying, Lord, when saw we thee an hungred, or athirst, or a stranger, or naked, or sick, or in prison, and did not minister unto thee? Then shall he answer them, saying, Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye did it not to one of the least of these, ye did it not to me. And these shall go away into everlasting punishment: but the righteous into life eternal.”
Now it’s time to turn our attention to those on the “left;” “the goats.” These are spoken to and receive the opposite of the sheep because what they did, or in this case, did not do, was the opposite.
Instead of a reward of inheritance of a prepared kingdom, they were condemned to “everlasting punishment;” a place of “everlasting fire, prepared for the devil and his angels.” Instead of being called “blessed” and “righteous,” they were marked as being “cursed.”
Jesus presented the same scenarios to the left residents that He did to those on the right and in each instance the words “no” or “not” stands out. They were given the same chances and opportunities to help and make a difference, but they refused. This is contrary to kingdom living. That’s not who Jesus is or what He’s all about. Them that want to be where He is should be as He is.
Does this remind us of somebody? Remember the story of Lazarus and the rich man (Luke 16:19-31). Both the “goats” and the “rich man” had the opportunity to help but were not moved with compassion to do so. Both received the same end. Here, we already stated above what the goats received. In the case of the rich man the Bible tells us, “In hell he lift up his eyes, being in torments…” (Luke 16:23).
To reiterate the blessings of those who choose to selflessly serve others, Jesus affirms that the righteous will go “into life eternal.” Awesome!
How one treats and serves people, or not, has an everlasting impact, for reward or punishment.
PDF Printable Sunday School Lesson Pack (With easy to read instructions following the P.E.A.R.L. format on how to conduct each lesson with areas for adding personal notes): Sunday School Lesson – A Sheep or a Goat
Draw the Scene: A Sheep or a Goat Draw the Scene
Activity Sheet: A Sheep or a Goat Activity Sheet
Memory Verse: A Sheep or a Goat Memory Verse
Kid’s Journal Page: Kid’s Journal Page – A Sheep or a Goat
Adult Journal Page: Adult Journal Page – A Sheep or a Goat
“Unto the Least of These” (Many activities including some for group participation and coloring page for younger students. Enjoy!)
“The Sheep and Goats Coloring Page” (Older students)
“The Parable of the Sheep (and the Goats)” (Games, activities and even self-portraits with a twist. A lovely idea. Enjoy!)
“Sheep or Goats?” (Activities, group ideas, and more. Enjoy!)
“Retelling the Story of the Sheep and Goat with Felt” (What an interesting way to tell this popular story for little ones to understand and enjoy.)
“Sheep Storytime” (Here is a cute, little adorable, stand alone sheep that your students can make to accompany this week’s lesson. Enjoy!)
“How to Draw a Goat” (Though we really want to focus on being sheep, your older students may enjoy to learn how to draw a goat, step by step. This could be a great reminder of what not to be. Enjoy!)