Thank you for your question. If it’s ok I would like to link it to a similar one in further on in the book of Matthew.
“When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, then he will sit on his glorious throne. 32Before him will be gathered all the nations, and he will separate people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. 33 And he will place the sheep on his right, but the goats on the left. 34 Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. 35 For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, 36 I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to me.’ 37 Then the righteous will answer him, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you drink? 38 And when did we see you a stranger and welcome you, or naked and clothe you? 39 And when did we see you sick or in prison and visit you?’ 40 And the King will answer them, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me.’41“Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. 42 For I was hungry and you gave me no food, I was thirsty and you gave me no drink, 43 I was a stranger and you did not welcome me, naked and you did not clothe me, sick and in prison and you did not visit me.’ 44 Then they 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 minister to you?’ 45Then he will answer them, saying, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to me.’ 46 And these will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life.”
It’s important to call to mind the positive assurance that are given to the christian, which encourage our hearts as we read these passages.
First, Jesus is the righteous judge, and we know from his great sacrifice on the cross that the judge is for us! In verses 31-32 Jesus’ depiction of the son of man, seated on the throne with angels and gathering all of the nations is a HUGE STATEMENT. He is citing Dan 7( Son of Man” vision), Zech 14:5 (angels accompany Yahweh in coming judgment), and Joel 3:1-12 (all nations are gather for judgment by Yahweh). In this statement it is as if he is claiming, ‘My judgments are perfect because I am the eternally perfect one. I judge every heart not by performance or comparison with others, but by relationship to me.’
Second, Jesus is the good shepherd. In verses 32-32 He separates the sheep from the goats. Some commentaries say that the shepherd image emphasizes the “last minute” division of those who up to that point have been mixed up together. Jesus is the good shepherd, he gives as much time as possible for he sheep to recognize the call of his voice and join his flock.
Third, Jesus is a generous king. In verses 34-40 we see the king handing over a large inheritance to those who didn’t even realize they were ministering to others. I like how Tim Keller puts it in his book King’s Cross. "The gospel is about being called to follow a king. Not just someone with the power and authority to tell you what needs to be done-but someone with the power and authority to do what needs to be done and then to offer it to you as good news. Jesus Christ’s Kingship will not crush you. He was crushed for you.”
When we read passages like Matthew 7 or Matthew 25 we must hold the centrality of the gospel in our focus. Jesus is the perfect judge, a good shepherd and a generous king. In Matthew 25 both the sheep and the goats are surprised at their “qualifications”. This indicates that neither was working for their salvation or powerful enough to secure it by their righteous deeds. Their righteousness comes from their transformed hearts in response to Jesus’ proclamation of the kingdom.
When we keep these gospel truths in focus these passages are not reason for alarm, but a call for rest to our souls.
Thanks for the great question,