Saturday, October 18, 2008

Invitation and Judgment

When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, he will sit upon his glorious throne, and all the nations will be assembled before him. And he will separate them one from another, as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. He will place the sheep on his right and the goats on his left.

In this division of persons the Lord judges righteous from unrighteous and delivers those whom are fed and under the watch of the one shepherd – that of Jesus Christ. One should understand that the Lord seeing us as sheep is not metaphor but a true relationship he wants his people to dearly see. Those who have experience on farms can testify to the nature of sheep as creatures easily led astray and in need of a shepherd. The Psalms often make reference of the shepherd who leads his sheepfolds according to the integrity of his heart (Ps. 78:72). Countless saints have rejoiced in Psalm 23 where the Lord comforts his flock, leading them in righteousness, and feeding them.

This final judgment discourse is a sobering reminder that works of mercy, compassion, and hospitality have eternal consequences (Matt 25:46). Sheep and goats have a different appearance, likewise faith has outward signs that manifest themselves and become visible. Our faith does not induce us to remain idle but frees us from the law so that we might rejoice in it. While it is true that a bad tree cannot bear fruit a good tree must bear good fruit. Or as Luther has boldly stated, “faith without good works is dead.” It also might behoove Lutherans to deeply consider the explicit meaning of this text: to be kind, merciful, and supporting to their pastors who carry out their duties in the stead of Christ himself. This is not just beneficial for the health and security of the Pastor but will be eternally beneficial for the lay person to see his Pastor’s authority as that given by Jesus.

Our understanding of missiology should be heavily guided by this text. The final judgment and End Times are all Christ’s work. He is having His way with us through the Apostolic Office where he reconciles us to the Heavenly Kingdom. “Mission work” must be seen through the water, body and blood given at Golgotha. The means of grace are delivered by the Apostolic Office which carries out the mission of the Church (Matt 28:19). The Final Judgment in Chapter 25 should not terrify anyone except those who reject Christ. The separating of the sheep and goats is a call to repentance by way of invitation not condemnation (25:33). The Parousia should be a source of joy and comfort for all Christians. Jesus offers His Bride, the church catholic, all that is His in a most Holy Marriage: Christ in the flesh, union with Christ, communion with saints, accompanied by angels, archangels and all the company of Heaven.

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