Questions and Answers
Q: Can you tell me what Matthew 25 means?
There are a lot of people out there that believe you have to do works to get to Heaven and sometimes it does sound like it." I guess what I should be asking is whether or not the word "righteous" here means salvation by faith or salvation by works, because Matthew 25: 31-36 doesn't let us know if the sheep accepted Christ into their lives or not. I guess the word sheep means that they were already saved by faith, but if this were the case then the story itself would be pointless because we already know that those who don't accept Christ are going to Hell."
One must find and keep within the context of thought taught by our Lord. His discourse began in chapter 24 in answer to His disciple’s questions concerning the time of His establishment of the Kingdom. Keep in mind, His disciples were looking for a literal kingdom where Jesus would sit upon and reign from David’s throne in Jerusalem.
Jesus’ teaching is entirely prophetic and points toward the Tribulation Period and the Second Advent of Christ to the earth. The nation of Israel, and how other peoples and nations relate to Israel, seems to be the primary focus. The reference to the “elect” is to be understood as God’s Jewish elect, not the church. The church is not found in either the prophecies or parables of this discourse.
The first word of chapter 25, “Then”, refers back to chapter 24 and clearly places this parable in the time preceding and during the King’s return to earth. Both parables, the ten virgins and the ten talents, teaches there will be true and false servants.
Matthew 25:31-46 describes the Judgment of the Nations, or Gentiles, which will take place on earth after Christ comes to reign, verse 31.The “sheep” and “goats” refer to Gentiles living during the Tribulation. The “brethren” speaks of the faithful Jewish brethren who refuse to deny Christ’s name during the Tribulation in spite of towering persecution. The manner in which the “sheep” ministered to these Jewish “brethren” was rewarded. Punishment was the result in how the “goats” treated these Jews.
Salvation is always presented in the Bible as a gift of God’s grace, received by faith in Jesus Christ’s substitutionary death and resurrection. Only those who have true faith shall be saved. It is not by works. But the Bible does teach that true faith produces good works. If there are no good works, it is an indication that the person was never saved. We must understand that Gentiles are not saved by befriending the Jewish remnant, but that this kindness reflects their love for the Lord.
The Judgment of the Gentiles reminds us that Christ and His people are one, what affects them affects Him. We have potential for showing kindness to Him by showing kindness to those who love Him.