31 When the Son of Man comes in His glory, and all the holy angels with Him, then He will sit on the throne of His glory. 32 All the nations will be gathered before Him, and He will separate them one from another, as a shepherd divides his sheep from the goats. 33 And He will set the sheep on His right hand, but the goats on the left.” (Matthew 25:31–33, NKJV)
Of course, we understand Jesus is describing people under the figure of sheep and goats. The setting is the day of His glory and judgment. Attended by a heavenly host, Jesus will be arrayed gloriously on His throne of judgment (2 Cor. 5:10). All the tribes of humanity from Adam to the last day will gather before Him, where each person will give an account of our lives (Rom. 14:12). Christ will judge impartially and righteously according to God’s truth, and each of us will receive judgment according to our deeds (Rom. 2:1-11). Judgment involves a moment of decision and separation, and Jesus describes it as separating sheep and goats (a common practice to this day). The question on our heart should be, “Will I be a sheep or a goat?” The answer is up to us. Jesus describes the sheep as those who loved their neighbor as themselves (Matt. 25:34-40). These will inherit a kingdom of eternal life (v. 34, 46). The goats are those who failed to regard others before themselves. By failing to serve others, they failed to serve Christ (Matt. 25:41-45). These will inherit an eternal punishment of fire (v. 41, 46). Instead of denying the judgment, denying our sins, or denying eternal hell, we should believe Jesus and serve Him by serving others. Prepare for Judgment Day. Sheep or goat; Which will we be?
23 for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, 24 being justified freely by His grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, 25 whom God set forth as a propitiation by His blood, through faith, to demonstrate His righteousness, because in His forbearance God had passed over the sins that were previously committed, 26 to demonstrate at the present time His righteousness, that He might be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus.” (Romans 3:23–26, NKJV)
Let that soak in for a moment. Our sins make us guilty before God and under His wrath. Our just punishment is eternal death (Rom. 1:18; 3:19; 6:23). But, God has provided an offering for our sins that appeases His wrath against sin (1 Jno. 2:2; 4:10). That offering is His Son, Jesus Christ. God’s grace justifies sinners by the blood of Christ (Rom. 3:24; 5:9). His blood appeases God’s wrath, redeeming us from sin’s bondage and death (Rom. 5:10; Heb. 10:1-10). The Law of Moses could not do this. God’s power to save sinners is in the gospel of Christ (Rom. 1:16; 3:20-22). By the offering of His Son, God showed Himself to be just (innocent, holy) when He bore with previous sins (Rom. 3:26; Acts 17:30). Now, He commands all sinners everywhere to repent (Acts 17:30-31). Thus, God is vindicated. The death of Jesus shows God was just in forbearing with “sins that were previously committed.” And, His righteousness is seen in justifying those who have faith in Jesus (Rom. 3:26). The faith (the gospel) produces personal faith that obeys the word of Christ (Rom. 1:16-17; 10:17; 6:17-18). Believing sinners obey Christ’s command to be baptized, which is into His death so their sins will be washed away by His blood (Mk. 16:16; Rom. 6:3; Acts 22:16).
17 “Therefore My Father loves Me, because I lay down My life that I may take it again. 18 No one takes it from Me, but I lay it down of Myself. I have power to lay it down, and I have power to take it again. This command I have received from My Father.” (John 10:17–18, NKJV)
Jesus did not commit suicide by laying down His life. He sacrificed His life in obedience to the Father’s command. And by His power, He would come back to life (Jno. 11:25). No one took His life against His will. Jesus did not resist arrest in Gethsemane, although He could (Matt. 26:52-53). He yielded to the unjust trials before the Jewish Sanhedrin, Herod, and the Roman governor. He endured mocking ridicule, humiliation, and scourging’s trauma. Without resistance, He was nailed to a cross and executed condemn sin and to draw sinners to Himself for salvation (Jno. 12:31-33). The good news of His death and resurrection gives tremendous answers to those who contemplate suicide. Jesus gives help to the helpless who face sin’s heartache and loss (Heb. 2:14-18; 4:15-16). He gives peace and joy to the hapless, whose misery seems unbearable (Rom. 5:1-2; Acts 16:25-34). He gives a new birth and living hope to the hopeless (1 Pet. 1:3). If you are in despair to the point of considering suicide, seek help immediately. And, hear the gospel call to come to Jesus Christ for salvation from your sins. Because Jesus died for you, you can live with help, comfort, and hope in Him. In Christ, death is swallowed up in eternal victory (1 Cor. 15:54-58).
13 But I do not want you to be ignorant, brethren, concerning those who have fallen asleep, lest you sorrow as others who have no hope. 14 For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so God will bring with Him those who sleep in Jesus. (1 Thessalonians 4:13–14, NKJV)
The word translated “ignorant” means “not to know.” While knowledge can produce arrogance when one thinks too highly of himself, decided advantages also come with knowledge (1 Cor. 8:1-2). Jesus said knowing the truth (His word) “shall make you free” from sin as you abide in His word (Jno. 8:31-32, 33-36). Today’s passage declares knowing the future of Christians who have died removes our sorrow and gives us hope (v. 13). More specifically, knowing and believing Jesus rose from the dead supports our hope (desire and expectation) that Christians will be raised from the dead and be with Jesus when He returns (1 Thess. 4:15-16). Such blessed assurance replaces the sorrow of death’s loss with bold confidence that invigorates our faith when death separates us from beloved saints. God has a future planned for His people. Whether living or dead, when Jesus returns and raises the dead, the saints of God will “always be with the Lord” (1 Thess. 4:17). Knowing what will happen to those who have died in the Lord empowers us to “comfort one another with these words” (1 Thess. 4:18).
3 knowing this first: that scoffers will come in the last days, walking according to their own lusts, 4 and saying, “Where is the promise of His coming? For since the fathers fell asleep, all things continue as they were from the beginning of creation.” (2 Peter 3:3–4, NKJV)
It is a sad reality that many people scoff at the truth that a day of judgment is coming. Preferring to fulfill their selfish lusts, they forget that God sees and knows their every thought and action. This wicked person says in his heart, “God has forgotten; He hides His face; He will never see” (Psa. 10:11). But, God always sees (Heb. 4:13). The fact that judgment has not yet come does not mean it will not. Indeed, Peter charged such scoffers of his day with willfully forgetting God’s judgment of sin with the flood in the days of Noah (2 Pet. 3:5-6). Things have not continued “as they were from the beginning of creation.” Ignoring God and His judgment against sin will not make the day of judgment any less real, any less painful, or any less permanent in the finality of its condemnation of sin. The gospel pleads with us not to thumb our noses at God and His judgment of our sins. Jesus calls us to repentance and conversion to escape eternal death and to enter eternal life (Rom. 6:23). Do not scoff at God and His word; judgment is coming. Reward awaits the righteous, but “ungodly men” will be destroyed on that awesome day (2 Pet. 3:7-13; 2 Thess. 1:9-10).
9 That which has been is what will be, that which is done is what will be done, and there is nothing new under the sun. 10 Is there anything of which it may be said, “See, this is new”? It has already been in ancient times before us. (Ecclesiastes 1:9–10, NKJV)
Solomon wants us to view life on earth from an eternal vantage point. There is nothing new under the sun. What will be has already happened somewhere to someone. Sure, technologies advance, discoveries are made. But, the essence of life itself, its course, its parameters, its purposes – these have remained constant since the beginning of the creation (to coin a phrase from Jesus, Mark 10:6). Solomon saw the never-ending cycles of life in the circuit of the sun, the courses of the wind, and the evaporative equilibrium of the rivers and seas (Eccl. 1:3-7). Even our endless desires testify to the ultimate futility of life under the sun, since “the eye is not satisfied with seeing, nor the ear filled with hearing” (Eccl. 1:8). Ultimately, a life lived without fearing God and obeying His commandments fails to fulfill its fundamental purpose (Eccl. 12:13). The cycles of the earth and of life on this planet will continue for us until death comes (Eccl. 12:1-8). After that comes judgment and eternity (Heb. 9:27). “For God will bring every work into judgment, including every secret thing, whether good or evil” (Eccl. 12:14). Are you ready?
3 Therefore the sisters sent to Him, saying, “Lord, behold, he whom You love is sick.” 4 When Jesus heard that, He said, “This sickness is not unto death, but for the glory of God, that the Son of God may be glorified through it.” (John 11:3–4, NKJV)
The sisters of Lazarus, the beloved friend of Jesus, sent Him word that their brother was seriously ill (Jno. 11:1-2). John’s narrative goes on to tell of Lazarus’ death, and that Jesus raised him from the dead (Jno. 11:17-44). Jesus knew the outcome of the sickness would not be death, it would be to the glory of the Father and the Son. Although Lazarus died physically, his resurrection affirmed Christ’s power over death (Jno. 11:25). Jesus also has power over the spiritual death caused by sin (“whoever lives and believes in Me shall never die,” Jno. 11:26). When sickness comes to us or to our loved ones, may we have the faith to see and use the opportunity it gives us to trust in God and to give Him glory. May we follow the example of Paul, whose physical ailment became an occasion for him to more fully trust the grace and power of the Lord (2 Cor. 12:8-10). Physical death awaits us all (Heb. 9:27). But, by living and believing in Christ we have spiritual life now, and eternal life beyond the grave (Jno. 5:28-29).
“Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life; whoever does not obey the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God remains on him.” (John 3:36, ESV)
Yesterday we learned from this verse that whosoever believes in the Son “has eternal life” precisely because one obeys the Son. One who “does not obey the Son” is under God’s wrath instead of life. There is one more thing worth our consideration here. Many who believe one is saved “by faith alone” also believe in the impossibility of apostasy (“once saved, always saved”). However, if it is true that once the believer has eternal life he will always have life and never lose it – even if he becomes disobedient – then it necessarily follows the disobedient unbeliever can never escape the wrath of God that “remains on him.” To believe “once saved, always saved,” one must (according to this view of John 3:36) also believe “once lost, always lost.” (We are aware Calvinistic theology accepts these conclusions.) However, the gospel does not. It is for all (Mk. 16:15). God desires the salvation of every sinner (1 Tim. 2:3-4). Freewill enables us to choose to hear, believe, and obey the gospel to be saved (Acts 2:21-22, 37-41; 17:30). It also allows us to choose to sin and fall from grace (Gal. 5:4; 2 Pet. 2:20-22). Security in Christ is sure when we obey in faith: “Therefore, brethren, be even more diligent to make your call and election sure, for if you do these things you will never stumble; for so an entrance will be supplied to you abundantly into the everlasting kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ” (2 Pet. 1:10-11).
51 “Most assuredly, I say to you, if anyone keeps My word he shall never see death.” 52 Then the Jews said to Him, “Now we know that You have a demon! Abraham is dead, and the prophets; and You say, ‘If anyone keeps My word he shall never taste death.’ 53 Are You greater than our father Abraham, who is dead? And the prophets are dead. Who do You make Yourself out to be?” (John 8:51–53, NKJV)
Jesus confidently taught that anyone who keeps His word will not die (“never see death”). Later, Jesus comforted Martha with this same truth following the death of her brother Lazarus: “And whoever lives and believes in Me shall never die” (John 11:26). Jesus was talking about escaping spiritual death, but His accusers could only think in physical terms. So, they charged Him with being possessed and controlled by a demon. It is false and futile to separate obeying Jesus from having eternal life, since Jesus linked obedience with victory over death. (Even His enemies understood Him to say people who obey Him would not die.) Why do so many teach that people “shall never see death” with faith only? This doctrine convinces millions that obeying Jesus is not necessary for salvation. Yet, Jesus said it is. We know who Jesus is, even though His enemies rejected Him and His teaching. He is the Christ, the Son of God (John 8:49, 54-55). Therefore, we believe what He said, and endeavor to keep His word to escape eternal death (Rom. 6:23).
“then the Lord knows how to deliver the godly out of temptations and to reserve the unjust under punishment for the day of judgment” (2 Peter 2:9, NKJV)
We all need rescuing from the powerful surge of sin that sweeps souls away from God into eternal punishment. God delivers sinners from sin’s bondage and death through the gospel of His Son (Rom. 1:16; 6:17-18; 6:23). God also knows how to deliver godly ones from the trials and temptations they face from “the unjust.” God both delivers the godly while reserving the ungodly for punishment. God “did not spare the angels who sinned,” but cast them into the abyss awaiting judgment (2 Pet. 2:4). God punished the ancient world with a flood while saving Noah and his family (2 Pet. 2:5; 1 Pet. 3:20-21). God turned Sodom and Gomorrah into ashes because they “gave themselves over to sexual immorality” and had “gone after strange flesh” (2 Pet. 2:6; Jude 7). In that moment of judgment God delivered righteous Lot from being “oppressed by the filthy conduct of the wicked” (2 Pet. 2:7-8). These examples serve to boost and secure our faith in moments of doubt and spiritual struggle. God does not abandon the righteous, nor does He forget the wicked (2 Thess. 1:4-10). The Lord’s day of judgment is coming when the unjust will reap their just punishment. The gospel call from God is to repent while you have the time and the ability to do so. Do not harden your heart. God does not want you to perish, He wants you to repent and obey Him to be delivered from sin’s terrible penalty of eternal death (2 Pet. 3:9).