When Were You Hungry?

Matthew 25:31-46

“But when the Son of Man comes in His glory, and all the angels with Him, then He will sit on His glorious throne. And all the nations will be gathered before Him; and He will separate them from one another, as the shepherd separates the sheep from the goats; and He will put the sheep on His right, and the goats on the left. Then the King will say to those on His right, ‘Come, you who are blessed of My Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. For I was hungry, and you gave Me something to eat; I was thirsty, and you gave Me drink; I was a stranger, and you invited Me in; naked, and you clothed Me; I was sick, and you visited Me; I was in prison, and you came to Me.’ Then the righteous will answer Him, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see You hungry, and feed You, or thirsty, and give You drink? And when did we see You a stranger, and invite You in, or naked, and clothe You? And when did we see You sick, or in prison, and come to You?’ And the King will answer and say to them, ‘Truly I say to you, to the extent that you did it to one of these brothers of Mine, even the least of them, you did it to Me.’ Then He will also say to those on His left, ‘Depart from Me, accursed ones, into the eternal fire which has been 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; naked, and you did not clothe Me; sick, and in prison, and you did not visit Me.’ Then they themselves also will answer, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see You hungry, or thirsty, or a stranger, or naked, or sick, or in prison, and did not take care of You?’ Then He will answer them, saying, ‘Truly I say to you, to the extent that you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to Me.’ And these will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life.”

Context is King and this passage is the culmination of the Olivet Discourse, where Jesus answers the disciples’ questions; “Tell us, when will these things be, and what will be the sign of Your coming, and of the end of the age?” two chapters in Matthew are devoted to answering the disciples’ questions. But we would do well to ignore the chapter and verse breaks and headings added later, considering the context as presented by Jesus and recorded by Matthew, who was a Jewish eyewitness, and a former loathsome tax-gatherer and a disciple. Matthew left a profitable business to follow Jesus and has recorded his experiences to convince the first-century Jews that Jesus was their long-awaited Messiah. That is why Matthew writes, that is his primary aspiration to his audience. As my primary aspiration to my audience is for us to read our Bibles daily, using a hermeneutical tool such as the CAGED method, letting Scripture interpret Scripture, Matthew writes in such a way so as to show Jesus as the true Israel.

From being born in Bethlehem to fleeing to Egypt, returning from Egypt and being baptized and tempted in the wilderness, Matthew’s account of the life of Jesus follows the footsteps of Israel. Only, all that Israel failed to do, Jesus did, so that the Father in heaven said, “This is My beloved Son, with whom I am well-pleased; listen to Him!”

Therefore, we must listen to him and see his aspirations to the disciples and also Matthew’s aspiration to his audience because he was an eyewitness. Remember that Jesus is speaking to his disciples, alone, in the culmination of the Olivet Discourse, where Jesus is answering the disciples’ questions; “Tell us, when will these things be, and what will be the sign of Your coming, and of the end of the age?” We should also be familiar with the context of the Olivet Discourse and the book of Matthew as a whole. For time’s sake we cannot look at it all, but we have hit some highlights–Jesus’ earthly dwelling mirrors that of the nation Israel. We should also remember that Jesus has predicted the temple toppling, false christs, famines, wars, tribulation like has never been seen and says twice, so far, “Truly I say to you, all these things shall come upon this generation.” Jesus also used the second-person, plural, referring to the disciples, almost two dozen times. The Olivet Discourse was spoken directly towards them and what they could expect.

“But when the Son of Man comes in His glory, and all the angels with Him, then He will sit on His glorious throne. And all the nations will be gathered before Him; and He will separate them from one another, as the shepherd separates the sheep from the goats; and He will put the sheep on His right, and the goats on the left.”

The question  before us is, is this the final judgement? Or, is it possible that this is the judgement against Israel? Or, could it be that Jesus is using a literary device to demonstrate how things work, throughout all of history? Or, is it possible that none of these questions come close to the intended meaning in this particular passage? Though this is the culmination of the Olivet Discourse and can possibly be anything, I believe that we have to consider more context.

“He will put the sheep on His right, and the goats on the left. Then the King will say to those on His right, ‘Come, you who are blessed of My Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. For I was hungry, and you gave Me something to eat; I was thirsty, and you gave Me drink; I was a stranger, and you invited Me in; naked, and you clothed Me; I was sick, and you visited Me; I was in prison, and you came to Me.’ Then the righteous will answer Him, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see You hungry, and feed You, or thirsty, and give You drink? And when did we see You a stranger, and invite You in, or naked, and clothe You? And when did we see You sick, or in prison, and come to You?’ And the King will answer and say to them, ‘Truly I say to you, to the extent that you did it to one of these brothers of Mine, even the least of them, you did it to Me.’ Then He will also say to those on His left, ‘Depart from Me, accursed ones, into the eternal fire which has been 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; naked, and you did not clothe Me; sick, and in prison, and you did not visit Me.’ Then they themselves also will answer, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see You hungry, or thirsty, or a stranger, or naked, or sick, or in prison, and did not take care of You?’ Then He will answer them, saying, ‘Truly I say to you, to the extent that you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to Me.’ And these will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life.”

For one who is reading my missives for the first time, welcome. You have found the home of the CAGED method of Biblical hermeneutics, where; Context is King, Author’s Aspirations to his Audience are Apex, Genre is the General,Expositoryy Exegesis of Examples Enlightens, and Dividing Rightly the Word of Truth either confirms or cancels our preconceived notions and presuppositions. We are going through the book of Matthew considering all of its context and fulfilled prophesies from our Old Testament tutor. Therefore my missives, like the book of Matthew, build upon themselves. We don’t do exhaustive, in-depth analysis of the context and examples but we will zoom in on certain themes and sublime strings running through Matthew. I also assume two things; the reader has at least some knowledge of the Bible and that knowledge is heavily influenced by Western teachings and traditions. It’s why I write; unless you are learning for yourself, you only know what you have been taught. My missives exist for one reason; to get the average christian to read their Bible daily, considering the way in which it was written, not taking a small crumb but your true daily bread, keeping verses, which were added later, in their proper context. Today’s text is another example of the importance of keeping the content in its context. For even some pastors and preachers, theologians and teachers, have violently ripped today’s text out of its proper context.

We must remember that in the Olivet Discourse Jesus is describing, in much figurative language, the destruction of the temple and Jerusalem, much like during the Babylonian deportation. Jesus is judging apostate Israel and is the victorious fulfillment of the Law. Therefore when we remember these things and re-engage the content, within it’s context, considering the greater context, we conclude that this passage is not about the final judgement.

I know what you are thinking; “Russell P, of course it is, my pastor spoke on this last week! He said, ‘It is like Paul wrote to the Romans concerning, “the righteous judgment of God, who “WILL RENDER TO EVERY MAN ACCORDING TO HIS DEEDS.”‘ He also quoted Revelation, ‘”And I saw the dead, the great and the small, standing before the throne, and books were opened; and another book was opened, which is the book of life; and the dead were judged from the things which were written in the books, according to their deeds.”‘”

While true, inspired words of God, that would be taking the verses out of context. As for the context of Revelation, see my missives on Revelation, but as far as the Roman’s quote is concerned, consider; “For if Abraham was justified by works, he has something to boast about; but not before God. For what does the Scripture say? “AND ABRAHAM BELIEVED GOD, AND IT WAS RECKONED TO HIM AS RIGHTEOUSNESS.” Now to the one who works, his wage is not reckoned as favor, but as what is due. But to the one who does not work, but believes in Him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is reckoned as righteousness, just as David also speaks of the blessing upon the man to whom God reckons righteousness apart from works: “BLESSED ARE THOSE WHOSE LAWLESS DEEDS HAVE BEEN FORGIVEN, AND WHOSE SINS HAVE BEEN COVERED. BLESSED IS THE MAN WHOSE SIN THE LORD WILL NOT TAKE INTO ACCOUNT​.”

We will stand in judgement based upon our works, but not for salvation; see 1 Corinthians 3. Our work is tested by fire but our salvation has been predetermined from the foundation of the world in God’s grace and forknowledge. I still know what you are thinking; “but Russell P, isn’t this what Jesus is talking about with the sheep and the goats?”

Consider the conclusion; “And these will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life.” That is a works based salvation. Notice that the those who visited the sick and imprisoned get eternal life but the ones who didn’t “go away to eternal punishment.” This should cause us a great pause–let it sink in. According to a literal interpretation of this passage, all one has to do inherit eternal life is to feed, water, clothe and visit. The converse is also true, one is cast “into the eternal fire which has been prepared for the devil and his angels;” if one doesn’t do these things.

Can we learn from this? Yes, absolutely, but we are not “under” this. Is this passage a good reminder for how we should live our lives? Yes it is. Nevertheless, we are not judged as either sheep or ​goats based upon this passage. We need to consider the greater context of Matthew, especially Matthew 19- the current content. Jesus is judging apostate Israel and the remnant Israel. The remnant of Israel are not judged by their works, but their works demonstrate that they believed God. Romans four, Galatians 3 and Hebrews 11; “By faith Abel offered to God a better sacrifice than Cain, through which he obtained the testimony that he was righteous, God testifying about his gifts, and through faith, though he is dead, he still speaks. By faith Enoch was taken up so that he should not see death; AND HE WAS NOT FOUND BECAUSE GOD TOOK HIM UP; for he obtained the witness that before his being taken up he was pleasing to God. And without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of those who seek Him. By faith Noah, being warned by God about things not yet seen, in reverence prepared an ark for the salvation of his household, by which he condemned the world, and became an heir of the righteousness which is according to faith. By faith Abraham, when he was called, obeyed by going out to a place which he was to receive for an inheritance; and he went out, not knowing where he was going.”

In the recent context Jesus has said: “the kingdom of God will be taken away from you, and be given to a nation producing the fruit of it.” “YOU SHALL LOVE THE LORD YOUR GOD WITH ALL YOUR HEART, AND WITH ALL YOUR SOUL, AND WITH ALL YOUR MIND. This is the great and foremost commandment. The second is like it, YOU SHALL LOVE YOUR NEIGHBOR AS YOURSELF. On these two commandments depend the whole Law and the Prophets.” “I am sending you prophets and wise men and scribes; some of them you will kill and crucify, and some of them you will scourge in your synagogues, and persecute from city to city, that upon you may fall the guilt of all the righteous blood shed on earth, from the blood of righteous Abel to the blood of Zechariah, the son of Berechiah, whom you murdered between the etemple and the altar. Truly I say to you, all these things shall come upon this generation.” “Behold, your house is being left to you desolate!” “Truly I say to you, not one stone here shall be left upon another, which will not be torn down.” “Then they will deliver you to tribulation, and will kill you, and you will be hated by all nations on account of My name.” “Therefore when you see the ABOMINATION OF DESOLATION which was spoken of through Daniel the prophet, standing in the holy place (let the reader understand), then let those who are in Judea flee to the mountains; let him who is on the housetop not go down to get the things out that are in his house; and let him who is in the field not turn back to get his cloak.” “Truly I say to you, this generation will not pass away until all these things take place.”

In conclusion, the Olivet Discourse is about the coming of Jesus in just judgement against the apostate Israel who sought righteousness dependent upon their works, who rejected their Messiah. But don’t be arrogant towards the root, because you have been grafted in by the grace of God.

See the sublime string of the Law and the prophets who all point to Jesus as the true Israel and consider the context. “When did we see you hungry?” The Pharisees didn’t recognize him, but faithful Israel didn’t ​either, nevertheless, they walked in faith.

 

 

 

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