SEPARATING THE SHEEP FROM THE GOATS

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SEPARATING THE SHEEP FROM THE GOATSCopyright Š 2012 Robert B. Thompson. All Rights Reserved

Scripture taken from the HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION. Copyright Š 1973, 1978, 1984 International Bible Society. Used by permission of Zondervan Bible Publishers.

Chapter 25 of the Book of Matthew tells us about the coming of the Lord, and separating the sheep from the goats. Jesus and His brothers are there. It is possible the "brothers," like their Lord, also are on thrones. God's angels are present. All the nations living on the earth at that time are gathered before Christ and His brothers.

When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, he will sit on his throne in heavenly glory. All the nations will be gathered before him, and he will separate the people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. He will put the sheep on his right and the goats on his left. (Matthew 25:31-33)

This event could take place at the next coming of the Lord, when Christ descends to the earth with His saints, The armies of Antichrist are destroyed. Antichrist and the False Prophet are thrown into the Lake of Fire. One angel puts Satan in chains and hurls him into the Bottomless Pit.

Or, it could take place at the end of the thousand-year Kingdom Age, the time of the final judgment of men and angels.

I believe the setting is the next appearing of Christ, after the destruction of evil I just have mentioned. The reason I believe the setting is the next appearing of Christ is based on the following passage:

God is just: He will pay back trouble to those who trouble you and give relief to you who are troubled, and to us as well. This will happen when the Lord Jesus is revealed from heaven in blazing fire with his powerful angels. He will punish those who do not know God and do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus. They will be punished with everlasting destruction and shut out from the presence of the Lord and from the majesty of his power on the day he comes to be glorified in his holy people and to be marveled at among all those who have believed. This includes you, because you believed our testimony to you. (II Thessalonians 1:6-10)

Think about the passage above.

Christ comes in blazing fire with His angels. Those who do not know God or obey the Gospel will be punished with everlasting destruction. He is glorified in His holy people (his "brothers," as we see later in Chapter 25).

This fits Matthew; but it does not appear to fit the judgment that follows the Kingdom Age (Millennium).

As Matthew tells us: Christ is seated on the Throne of His glory. The peoples of the earth stand before Him. These would include the members of the Christian churches who are not part of the Royal Priesthood when He appears.

Let me explain; because the fact that many members of Christian churches are not part of the Royal Priesthood is not commonly understood. In our unscriptural haste to make certain everyone on earth becomes a Christian, we have not taken the time to consider what it means to be a member of the Royal Priesthood.

Let me give you an example:

Yet you have a few people in Sardis who have not soiled their clothes. They will walk with me, dressed in white, for they are worthy. He who overcomes will, like them, be dressed in white. (Revelation 3:4,5)

To be dressed in white is to be qualified to follow Christ when He descends to install His Kingdom on the earth as a member of the Royal Priesthood who will rule on the earth.

And they sang a new song: "You are worthy to take the scroll and to open its seals, because you were slain, and with your blood you purchased men for God from every tribe and language and people and nation. You have made them to be a kingdom and priests to serve our God, and they will reign on the earth." (Revelation 5:9,10)

Now I do not say lightly that there will be professing Christians, church members, who will be among the nations who are gathered before Christ and His brothers when He appears. If the truth be known, there are far more members of Christian churches in the world than there are Christians.

A Christian is a disciple of Jesus Christ. A Christian denies himself, takes up his cross, and follows the Lord, his Master, at all times—every moment of every day. There is no other person who is a "Christian," a "little Christ."

How many true Christians do you know?

We should understand from the second and third chapters of the Book of Revelation that the rewards that we associate with all who profess to be "saved" are actually limited to the overcomers. It is the overcomers, the Christians living in victory over the world, over sin, and over self-will, who are God's priests, "little Christs," who will be raised to life when Jesus returns and caught up to meet Him in preparation for the Battle of Armageddon.

I am aware of the consequences of what I am saying. Of all the church members of all the Christian denominations in the world, only a handful are genuine Christians; who are not of the world just as Jesus is not of the world.

The word "Christ" means "anointed." When an individual is anointed with the Holy Spirit, he or she becomes a member of the priesthood. No one who is not anointed with the Holy Spirit is a member of the priesthood.

So every true Christian, someone who actually has come to the Lord and not just gone through a religious "accepting of Christ," starts off as a member of the Royal Priesthood. The Spirit, the mark of the priesthood, is in him.

But that crown of anointing can be stolen; and it often is:

I am coming soon. Hold on to what you have, so that no one will take your crown. (Revelation 3:11)

There are many passages of the New Testament that tell us we can lose what we were given at the first. The parable of the talents is one. I am not going to list them now because we might get off the subject of separating the sheep from the goats.

How Christ must be displeased with the multitude of pastors, evangelists, orthodox priests, Bible teachers, and other religious leaders who simply will not follow the Bible. They have their own ideas of what the Christian salvation should be like.

How many times have you heard a preacher say we must be careful lest we lose our salvation? Yet, the New Testament says that in several different ways.

How many times have you heard a preacher state that we should lay aside all else that we may attain to the resurrection from the dead? Yet, the Apostle Paul cited that as his ultimate goal.

How many times have you heard a preacher state that if we continue to walk in our sinful nature we cannot inherit the Kingdom of God? Yet, that is what Paul taught.

In a large Christian church you might find one or two genuine disciples of Jesus. The rest may be fine people, but they are of this world and will be gathered with the nations when the Lord appears.

I know that many people who attend Christian churches are good, decent people. But this does not make them disciples. The mark of the Royal Priesthood may not be in them. The same is true of the proponents of other religions; and also of people of the world.

If I accomplish nothing else in this article I would hope that each Christian who reads my words would turn to Jesus and find out if you are of Him or of the world. Don't be too sure of yourself. Pray until you really get hold of Jesus, until you pray through to peace and victory. We in America are heading toward Divine Judgment; and if the prophets truly are hearing the Lord, a lot of Americans are going to be killed.

I do not care if you and all your ancestors were raised in a Christian church. You need to pray earnestly until you know Jesus for yourself and can help others to stand during the moral and physical chaos that are rapidly approaching.

I have just spent several paragraphs to explain what I meant when I said there will be Christian church member gathered with the nations when the Lord Jesus comes. Only the true disciples, the true members of the Royal Priesthood, those who live by His body and blood, will be with Him when He comes. A part of Christ is in them, and this is what makes them members of the governing priesthood.

Let us now continue with Matthew:

When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, he will sit on his throne in heavenly glory. All the nations will be gathered before him, and he will separate the people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. He will put the sheep on his right and the goats on his left. (Matthew 25:31-33)

You may be under the impression that the "sheep" are the Christians. They are not. The "sheep" are not the brothers of Christ. They are people from the nations for whom the Kingdom of God is being created. The members of the Royal Priesthood are the rulers of the Kingdom of God, and they will govern the "sheep" whom God has chosen to save into His Kingdom—the Kingdom that was made for the "sheep."

All that is necessary to be saved, at the time I am writing, is to believe in Christ and be baptized. But that may not make a person a member of the priesthood. We can see that the Apostle Paul after a great deal of ministry was still striving to attain to the mark set before him. That does not sound like "believe and be baptized," does it?

There are numerous people from the nations of the earth who choose to believe in the Lord Jesus and be baptized, according to His commandment. From among these people, God chooses some to be members of the priesthood. Those who are chosen are not content to be casual church members. The Divine fire is in them to give them a desire to press into Christ. They endure many hardships as they press into the Kingdom of God.

They preached the good news in that city and won a large number of disciples. Then they returned to Lystra, Iconium and Antioch, strengthening the disciples and encouraging them to remain true to the faith. "We must go through many hardships to enter the kingdom of God," they said. (Acts 14:21,22)

Those who believe and are baptized may or may not experience the urge to know Christ that is true of the priesthood.

To be "saved" means to survive throughout the Kingdom Age (Millennium)and then be brought over to citizenship on the new earth. The new Jerusalem, the Tabernacle of God, is the Wife of the Lamb. This is, the Royal Priesthood that will govern the people saved from the nations. Their rulership shall continue for eternity.

Although we do not often hear it preached, there are two classes of "saved" people. The are the members of the Royal Priesthood, and then there are the "sheep" from the nations.

Later we shall discover there is a basis on which God saves people into His Kingdom that is not a matter of "accepting Christ," as we do today.

The "sheep" from the nations will be put on His right; and the goats from the nations will be put on Christ's left.

Then the King will say to those on his right, 'Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world.' (Matthew 25:34)

Notice how God has planned all things from "the creation of the world." This is why we are exhorted to enter God's rest. It is because all things, including our personal life, have already been finished in God's mind. Our task is to cease from our own works and enter that finished work.

Notice that the Kingdom of God was not prepared for the Royal Priesthood but for the "sheep." Isn't that remarkable? The Kingdom is the inheritance of the sheep! That ought to keep us from getting puffed up. We were created for the benefit of other people!

As soon as Christ has finalized His judgments, the "sheep" will be disbursed to various countries of the world, and kings will be assigned to them. Such is the thousand-year Kingdom Age that will occur prior to the coming down through the glorious new sky of the gigantic new earth.

On what basis did the "sheep" qualify to enter the Kingdom at this time?

For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me. (Matthew 25:35,36)

Many Christian people may be disturbed that the "sheep" did not "take the four steps of salvation." May I say that Christ, having died to make an atonement for the sins of the world, can include in His Kingdom any person He desires. These people inherited the Kingdom because they "gave a cup of cold water to a prophet," so to speak.

There are people living today on the earth who are not believers in Christ but whom God will impress to assist Christians who are in need. I was in a village in India, on one occasion, and the villagers told me that their thatched meeting place had burned down, and the Hindu villagers helped them build a new one.

On another occasion, Bob Marley and I were going through an inspection required before we entered India. The burly Indian inspector opened one of our suitcases. Piled on top of the clothes was a Bible. The inspector said, "Oh, holy men of God." And he waved us through.

God sees things like that! Someone who assists a Christian, knowing he or she is a Christian, does not lose his reward. But woe unto those who offend a Christian. God sees that also, and it will be mentioned when the offender stands before Christ in the judgment!

Then the righteous will answer him, 'Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?' (Matthew 25:37-39)

Notice that the "sheep" did not realize they were ministering to Christ, although they may have understood the individuals they assisted were disciples of the Lord.

The King will reply, 'I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me.' (Matthew 25:40)

When Jesus said, "you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine," it must be true that the brothers were visible to the "sheep." If they were not, the expression "these brothers of mine" would not make sense. Christ obviously was indicating people who were present and could be seen.

I think this idea of the brothers being present fits the following:

On the day he comes to be glorified in his holy people and to be marveled at among all those who have believed. This includes you, because you believed our testimony to you. (II Thessalonians 1:10)

Christ will be glorified in "his holy people," in His brothers, who possibly may be seated on thrones around Him as far as the eye can see.

Then he will say to those on his left, "Depart from me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. For I was hungry and you gave me nothing to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink, I was a stranger and you did not invite me in, I needed clothes and you did not clothe me, I was sick and in prison and you did not look after me." (Matthew 25:41-43)

This event no doubt follows the Battle of Armageddon, so the Antichrist and the False Prophet already will be in the "eternal fire." Satan will be in the Bottomless Pit, because he is to be released later as a final testing of the people of the earth.

They also will answer, 'Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or needing clothes or sick or in prison, and did not help you?' (Matthew 25:44)

As also in the case of the "sheep," the "goats" did not realize when they were not helping the Lord's disciples they were ignoring the needs of Christ.

He will reply, 'I tell you the truth, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me.' (Matthew 25:45)

Then they will go away to eternal punishment, but the righteous to eternal life. (Matthew 25:46)

To be a member of the Royal Priesthood, of the Body of God's High Priest, the Lord Jesus Christ, is a very high honor indeed. Paul refers to the believers as holy ones (saints), not as Christians.

If we are wise we will make certain that the development of Christ in us is given the highest priority in our life. It is easy, in the present antichrist world system, to become distracted and spend our valuable time and energy on the temporary things and issues of the current life.

Let's you and me put the Lord Jesus Christ in first place in our life.

But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people belonging to God, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light. (I Peter 2:9)