In Matthew the 25th chapter Christ looks down the corridor of time to that great last day... Judgment Day. He prophetically reveals a day that will be so grand and so awesome in its scale that it is almost unbelievable. If it were not for the omnipotence of God and the omniscience of God, such a day could and would never happen.
Mat 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.
Jesus reveals in that prophetic utterance that He, the 2nd person of the Godhead, will sit on His throne and He will judge everyone who has ever lived. He paints a picture of angelic involvement in separating the masses of raptured and resurrected men and women... the parting of them right and left. He then reveals the words He will use in the commending and condemning of all people of all time.
To those on His right hand, He will commend them and they will receive eternal life. To those of His left hand, He will condemn them to eternal separation from God.
The words He uses to commend the ones on His right hand have always pointed my mind to benevolence, good works, care and concern:
Mat 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.
The words He uses to condemn the ones on His left hand have always pointed my mind to the lack of benevolence, good works, care and concern.
Mat 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.
The older I become in faith, the more my mind entertains the broadness of Scripture and the vastness and depth of God's words and I wonder if I have put this passage in a box... a box I have exclusively labeled "Benevolence & Good Works."
Is it possible that this passage is broader in scope and deeper in meaning than I initially thought? It occurred to me the other day (as I returned to the states from Marsh Harbour and drove back to Tallahassee - a 6 hour drive from West Palm Beach), that all the items mention by Christ to both groups could easily parallel spiritual things as well as the physical.
"I was hungry..."
"I was thirsty..."
"I was a stranger..."
"I was naked..."
"I was sick..."
"I was in prison..."
All of the terms employed by Christ could relate to spiritual conditions and there are many passages that support that possibility:
HUNGRY: John 6:35 And Jesus said unto them, I am the bread of life: he that cometh to me shall never hunger; and he that believeth on me shall never thirst.
THIRSTY: John 7:37 In the last day, that great day of the feast, Jesus stood and cried, saying, If any man thirst, let him come unto me, and drink.
STRANGERS: Hebrews 11:13 These all died in faith, not having received the promises, but having seen them afar off, and were persuaded of them, and embraced them, and confessed that they were strangers and pilgrims on the earth.
NAKED: Revelation 3:5 He that overcometh, the same shall be clothed in white raiment; and I will not blot out his name out of the book of life, but I will confess his name before my Father, and before his angels.
SICK: Proverbs 13:12 Hope deferred maketh the heart sick: but when the desire cometh, it is a tree of life.
PRISONERS: Isaiah 61:1 The Spirit of the Lord GOD is upon me; because the LORD hath anointed me to preach good tidings unto the meek; he hath sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to them that are bound;
Why bring this up or look at this passage from this point of view? Because it emphasizes the need for evangelism, missions, and missions involvement by ALL of God's people.
If we see those who are spiritually hungry, thirsty for the truth, strangers to the covenant of promise, spiritually naked, spiritually sick, and imprisoned by sin and do nothing to provide for their spiritual needs, we fail desperately in the sight of Christ.
There are hundreds, if not thousands of benevolent organizations around the world that feed, clothe, provide shelter and aid to the needy of this world, yet they are not Christian based. Their good works are admirable but their good works alone do not earn or merit the salvation Christ will render to those on His right hand at the day of judgement.
There are thousands of churches around the world that feed, clothe, provide shelter and aid the needy as well... but if we feed, clothe, and tend to the needs of the body and neglect the needs of the eternal soul, what good have we accomplished?
Is it possible that Matthew 25 is bigger than just benevolence?
Is it possible that Matthew 25 is about evangelism and missions?
Is it possible?
One final thought... when Christ looked down the corridor of time and saw that last great day and all people of all time parted before Him, He saw you in that crowd. The question is what side did He see you parted to? The right or the left? The answer to that question may very well depend on how you meet the needs of others, both physically and spiritually.
There IS a Great Day Coming!