12 Weeks of Prayer Week 5 Day 6
A Separation unto Salvation
By Pastor Mike Heil
Brothers and Sisters, if you will bear with me, I am going to involve myself in a little bit of “theological hair-splitting.” I know, I know, you weren’t expecting anything different from me. So, here it goes. The first principle or application of Biblical interpretation, right after Scripture will interpret Scripture, is context. Now what is context? Context is the setting of the Scripture: who is it written to, why was it written, was it applying to a specific timeframe, etc. Context tells us how we can make proper application of the scriptural passage. An easy example of context appears when we read 1 Corinthians 11:1-10, the portion of Scripture which talks about authority and the length of a woman’s hair. What that meant to the Corinthians in 55 A.D. would be vastly different from what it would mean to a modern woman living in America in 2020. So, context would be very necessary in this passage to understand how we would walk in faith towards God and His Word amid a different culture, with different moral problems.
So, let the “theological hair-splitting” begin by us looking at Matthew 25:31-46 so that we might understand what our Lord was saying about the separation of the goats and sheep. Let me make a simple list of the context.
1. Who is Jesus speaking to? For this we must go back to the beginning of Matthew 24 and follow it forward. In Matthew 24:1-3 we find out that the passage about the coming separation of the goats and the sheep was originally spoken onto his disciples, who were of course Jewish. The recipients of this initial information from Jesus were a private group of Jews who were his disciples.
2. What is the timing given to the passage? This is easily seen in Matthew 25:31 when Jesus says, "when the Son of Man comes in His glory, and all the angels with Him, then He will sit on His glorious throne." So, the timeframe is the future, at the end of the tribulation when Jesus appears in his glory. When Jesus, once again, walks upon this earth. Just before the millennial reign, there will be a separation of goats and sheep.
3. Who will be separated? Once again this is answered quickly and Matthew 25:32. Here Jesus states it will be a separation of the nations. This is especially important to comprehend, because most of the time this passage is primarily equated with a separation of individuals. However, if we read it within context, Jesus specifically says it will be a separation of the nations. I firmly believe that every nation that has ever been upon the face of the earth, dwelling in history, will receive judgment from God depending on how they have treated his people, Israel. In many places in Scripture, we see this happening, God judged Assyria based on how they treated Israel. God judged Babylonia based on how they treated Israel. Every nation is judged by the measuring stick of Israel, and in the future when God separates the goats and sheep, the nations that stand with Israel will be judged as sheep and the nations that have opposed and attempted to destroy Israel will be judged as goats. Still, it is important that you and I recognize nations are made up of people. When we get to Matthew 25:35-46, we see the language used refers to individuals. I believe that within the nations, whether they are goats or sheep, individuals will be judged also based on how they have responded to Israel. However, this would take way too much time to share scripturally in a short devotion.
If the general context of the passage in Matthew 25:31-46 is speaking to nations and individuals in their response to Israel, is there any application to what is happening in America today (and to varying degrees around the world)? I believe there is. You see, God always called Israel to be a separate people (Exodus 33:15; Deuteronomy 7:2-6; Judges 2:1-3; Ezra 6:21); not because they were special of themselves, but to remain a model of God’s holiness and blessings to the nations. Now, God in His mercy and grace, has included us in covenant just as He did the Jews. In that sense, we are called to walk separate from the world as Israel was called to walk separate from the Gentile nations. As with Israel, our separation is not one of haughtiness or arrogance but one of revealing the love and blessings of God to the world. To do this properly, you and I are called to a separation, 2 Corinthians 6:14 states, “Do not be bound together with unbelievers; for what partnership have righteousness and lawlessness, or what fellowship has light with darkness? Or what harmony has Christ with Belial, or what has a believer in common with an unbeliever?” And, also, in 2 Peter 2:9-11, “But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for God’s own possession, so that you may proclaim the excellencies of Him who has called you out of darkness into His marvelous light; for you once were not a people, but now you are the people of God; you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy. Beloved, I urge you as aliens and strangers to abstain from fleshly lusts which wage war against the soul.” These passages, amongst many more in the New Testament, carry the idea that in Christ there will be a natural separation from the world.
Finally, we have come to visit the sad and tragic polarization and separation that is occurring today. In one sense, it is a separation of the goats and sheep because what is happening in the separation will have the eternal consequence of being in the presence of God for eternity or being separated from the presence of God for eternity. This separation from the side of the saints (sheep) is not one of offense. It is one of faithful obedience to our Lord. We are not going out of our way to offend others, or hurt others, or think that we are better than others. Rather, we are trying to be faithful and walk with our Lord. Jesus told us very specifically in John 3:19 that those who walk in darkness would hate us because of the light that we spread. Think of it like this: if you are out camping and you turn on a lantern, suddenly, the animal noises stop and the little creatures that were moving around scramble into the darkness. Walking in the separation of integrity and morality has this effect on those who desire their own self-centeredness over the Lord.
The other side of the separation of the saints in the world is how the world responds. Bear in mind that we can’t control that so don’t try to control it. We find today that the world hates us! They hate us, but they first hated our Lord before us. You and I walk in the high, exalted position of being associated with our Lord when the world hates us. I am not saying we should enjoy this hatred, but we should understand we are not alone in going through the suffering. How should we react when the world takes offense when there are no offenses there? What should we do when we attempt to love others and treat them kindly, yet they return hatred and persecution towards us? We should do exactly as our Lord did, who prayed for them and continued to love them, and yielded up His life for them. Remember, nowhere in Matthew 25:31-46 does it indicate that you and I do the separating, which is done by our Lord. And, as we continue to walk faithful to the Lord, His presence and His peace will always sustain us. Selah.
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