Monday, May 23, 2016

Let NONE Scare you! The Last Judgment of Matthew 25:31-46 is a Parable - Part #2

Friends,

This is the Part #2 in this series, you may read Part #1 here.

Four Parables with a definite pattern.



The very fact that we know that Jesus Christ's coming back is not to separate sheep from goats is the proof that we already know that the so-called Last Judgment passage is not to be understood literally.

From Mat 24:43 to Mat 25:46 we can see a series of parables with a definite pattern.
  • Mat 24:43-51, the parable of the faithful servant and the wicked servant. (There are Christian groups who interpret the parable in such a way to prove that their founder or governing committee is the faithful servant.) This parable is about providing nourishment to the household of faith, without bossing over them.
  • Mat 25:1-13, the parable of the wise maiden and the foolish maiden. (Again, some groups use this parable to claim that only those who are 'more anointed' among them will become the bride of Christ.) This parable is about keeping one's faith and hope, though one doesn't know the day and hour of the arrival of the bridegroom.
  • Mat 25:14-30 the parable of the talents, involving the hardworking servants and the slothful servant. This parable instructs one to invest all that one is given in the business of the master.
  • Mat 25:31-46 the parable of the sheep (righteous) and the goats (unrighteous).
All these 4 parables mention the coming of the master or the bridegroom or the Son of Man. In all these cases those who do good are rewarded and those who do evil are reprimanded and punished.

Before the first and third parables, Jesus cautioned his disciples to be vigilant and watchful, saying:

Mat 24:42 Therefore, stay awake, for you do not know on what day your Lord is coming.
Mat 25:13 Watch therefore, for you know neither the day nor the hour.

A Third Group.

Unlike the previous parables where there are only two groups of people (one good, one evil),  the so-called Last Judgment parable found in Mat 25:31-46 has a third group, whom Jesus calls my brothers. They are the beneficiaries of the good deeds done by the sheep (the righteous) on the right side of the throne.
Mat 25:40 And the King will answer them (the sheep), 'Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me.'
Please note that his reply to the goats does not contain the expression: my brothers:
Mat 25:45 Then he will answer them (the goats), 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.'
It is quite unlikely that the King would have meant the goats (unrighteous) by the expression my brothers while answering the sheep (righteous) and vice versa.

The identity of "my brothers".
 
Though Jesus is not ashamed to call us his brothers (Heb 2:11), the expression my brothers is used several times to mention his disciples.
Mat 28:10 Then Jesus said to them (women who visited his tomb, after his resurrection): ... go and tell my brothers to go to Galilee...
Joh 20:17 Jesus said to her (Mary Magdalene): ... go to my brothers and say to them, 'I am ascending to my Father...
Yes, Jesus has also said that "whoever does the will of my Father in heaven is my brother..." (Mat 12:50), no doubt. But, don't we all think that we are doing the will of the heavenly father while we are actually pushing our own agendas and religious presuppositions on Facebook, YouTube, Google+ and other social media?

The King's (Son of Man, Jesus Christ) words to the sheep leaves little scope for Christian activists on the social media to be included among whom Jesus meant as the least of these my brothers.
Mat 25:35 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,
Mat 25:36 I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to me.'
Those whom Jesus called as my brothers were in prison.
  • Apostles were in prison - Act 5:18
  • Saul (Paul) committed many Christians to prison - Act 8:3
  • Herod sent Peter to prison to please Jews - Act 12:4
  • Paul and Silas were in prison in Thyatira - Act 16:23.
  • ... and many more.
Please read the following passage about what Paul had to undergo:
2Co 11:23 ... far greater labors, far more imprisonments, with countless beatings, and often near death.
2Co 11:24 5 times I received at the hands of the Jews the forty lashes less one.
2Co 11:25 3 times I was beaten with rods. Once I was stoned. ...
2Co 11:27 in toil and hardship, through many a sleepless night, in hunger and thirst, often without food, in cold and exposure (nakedness).
We come to know about the hardships Paul had to undergo because was a prolific writer. Will we ever know what many others had to undergo, unless we go through reliable historical documents?

It is a known Biblical fact that saints in Jerusalem had acute shortage of food and Paul had to make collections for them from various places. (Rom 15:25, 26; 2Co 9:1-12; 1Co 16:1-4)

Dear in Christ, you may be conducting prison ministries, hospital ministries and charity homes, but you won't be ministering to whom Jesus meant as my brothers. (In all probability, the people whom you minister in prisons could be murderers, thieves and rapists who may not fit in as the brothers of Jesus.)

Whereas the 3 previous parables were meant to instruct the disciples to be vigilant, hopeful and active in their mission, the purpose of this last parable was to tell the disciples that those who provide for them would be richly rewarded and those who refuse to provide for them will be punished.

Is this an isolated passage?

None of the other 3 gospels mention the Last Judgment. The only similar passage is in Rev 20:11-15. Given that Revelation is a symbolic book, it may not be sensible to think that only the judgment part is literal.

In fact, in the Last Judgment passage Jesus was rephrasing things that he told them at various occasions. For instance, examine Jesus' instructions to the disciples before sending them out on their first missionary journey.
Mat 10:40 Whoever receives you receives me, and whoever receives me receives him who sent me.
Mat 10:41 The one who receives a prophet because he is a prophet will receive a prophet's reward, and the one who receives a righteous person because he is a righteous person will receive a righteous person's reward.
Mat 10:42 And whoever gives one of these little ones even a cup of cold water because he is a disciple, truly, I say to you, he will by no means lose his reward." (Compare "the least of these" of Mat 25:40, 45 with "these little ones")
Luk 10:10 But whenever you enter a town and they do not receive you, go into its streets and say,
Luk 10:11 'Even the dust of your town that clings to our feet we wipe off against you. Nevertheless know this, that the kingdom of God has come near.'Luk 10:12 I tell you, it will be more bearable on that day for Sodom than for that town.
The judgment (that day), rewards for those who help the disciples, punishment for those who turn them away are mentioned in these passages.

If you are still not disappointed with me, let me tell you about judgment by eternal fire.

In Christ,
Tomsan Kattackal