Youssef: The Truth About Christ's Return - And How to Know You're Ready
In Matthew 25, Jesus famously tells the parable of the sheep and the goats.
Comparing the Son of Man to a shepherd separating his flock, Jesus explains that during the end days, he will put the proverbial sheep on the right and the goats on the left. Those on the right — those who honored him in life — will have eternal life, while those on the left — those he “does not know” — will receive eternal punishment.
The Bible is very clear — Jesus himself will judge the human race. When the religious leaders persecuted him for healing on the Sabbath, he told them, “For just as the Father raises the dead and gives them life, even so the Son gives life to whom he is pleased to give it. Moreover, the Father judges no one, but has entrusted all judgment to the Son, that all may honor the Son just as they honor the Father. Whoever does not honor the Son does not honor the Father, who sent him” (John 5:21-23).
This was the first time Jesus referred to himself as king. Throughout his earthly ministry, Jesus talked about the kingdom of God — but he rarely spoke of himself as king. He probably wanted to avoid misunderstandings among his followers who expected him to set up an earthly kingdom. Yet in this contentious encounter with the religious leaders who opposed him, he boldly declared himself to be both king and judge.
Many people seem amazed at the notion that Jesus would come again in all his majestic power as the king and judge of the human race. But why is that amazing?
We shouldn’t be astonished that Jesus the Son will return in all his power and glory. Rather, we should be astonished that he ever came in humility and grace to die for us and offer us the gift of salvation. We shouldn’t be amazed that he will judge sinners. Rather, we should be amazed that he offers pardon and forgiveness to those who trust in him.
Genuine believers are the true sheep of Christ. Because genuine believers are filled with the Holy Spirit, they naturally love and serve, give of themselves, sacrifice themselves, and reach out to people in need. They don’t even realize what they are doing, because good deeds are simply the fruit of their new nature.
The goats, on the other hand, live for themselves. Even their good works are mostly “virtue signaling,” showing off how much they care about this or that cause. As the Apostle Paul said, those who do good works without being motivated by a Christ-like love and compassion are like a “resounding gong or a clanging cymbal” (1 Corinthians 13:1).
The process of the Lord’s judgment will be very simple: Sheep to the right, goats to the left. Those who are his on one side, those who are not his on the other. Those who had a genuine relationship with the Good Shepherd on one side, those who never knew him on the other.
The word picture of sheep and goats was familiar imagery to the disciples. If you are a city slicker like me, you rarely ever see a sheep or a goat. You may need to have this word picture explained to you. But the application is very simple: If you have placed your complete trust in the Lord Jesus for your salvation, if you have humbly asked him to save you from your sins, you are a sheep.
If, however, you are full of your own ideas of who God is, if you think God has an obligation to let everybody into heaven, or if you think you are entitled to eternal life because your “good deeds” outweigh your “bad deeds,” then you are a goat. You have rejected God’s plan of salvation. You have rejected his Son, the Lord Jesus. You have decided that you don’t need Jesus; you can save yourself. That is stubborn, self-willed, goat-headed thinking.
But here’s the good news: The day of judgment is not here yet. It’s just around the corner. It’s at the door — but it’s not here yet. You may only have the next few moments, but there is still time. Right now, you can confess that you are a sinner and ask Jesus to come into your life and save you.
Jesus concludes the parable of the sheep and goats in Matthew 25:46: “Then they will go away to eternal punishment, but the righteous to eternal life.”
This is the pronouncement. On the day of judgment, the goats will be consigned to eternal punishment. Why? Because of their unbelief. Because they failed to recognize Jesus as the only way to the Father. Because they have failed to serve him in obedience. Because, as unbelievers, they are unfit for his kingdom. Because they have persecuted and mocked Jesus’s followers. Because they have belittled Jesus’ own claim to be king.
Jesus describes hell as “eternal punishment” and “the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels.” It is a punishment from which there is no escape, no relief, no rest.
By contrast, those who have accepted Jesus’ payment on the cross, who have acknowledged their sin and desperation apart from Christ, who have gratefully accepted his forgiveness — they will inherit eternal joy in God’s presence. The contrast between heaven and hell could not be more stark.
There are genuine Christians in this world and there are “cultural Christians.” There are sheep and there are goats. Genuine Christians have submitted their will to the will of God. Their relationship with Christ is central to their thinking, their decision-making and their behavior. They spend time each day talking to God and reading his Word. Their personal relationship with Jesus is central, not peripheral, to their lives.
The time to prepare for the judgment is now. As Jesus said, “Therefore keep watch because you do not know when the owner of the house will come back — whether in the evening, or at midnight, or when the rooster crows, or at dawn. If he comes suddenly, do not let him find you sleeping” (Mark 13:35-36).
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