Two Final Things, Then Home at Last - page 4


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From the Spring 2015 issue of Knowing & Doing:  

Two Final Things, Then Home at Last

by Thomas A. Tarrants, III, D.Min.
City Director, C.S. Lewis Institute - Washington, D.C.

 
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  This awe-inspiring account of Jesus returning to earth in power and great glory, to judge the living and the dead, is intended to be sobering. God the Father “has given him authority to execute judgment, because he is the Son of Man” (John 5:27). In this passage He takes His position on a glorious throne and conducts the judgment of all who have ever lived, whose bodies have been raised and reunited with their souls. After separating the nations into two groups, the sheep and the goats, Jesus focuses on a list of specific deeds and how each group performed or failed to perform them. The deeds are simple works of love such as giving food, drink, hospitality, clothing, and personal care to “one of the least of these brothers of mine” (His followers)5 in their time of need. These works of love are things that anyone can do. The sheep, whom Jesus calls “the righteous,” are welcomed into “the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world.” Their welcome is based on how each person has treated Jesus as that person has unknowingly encountered Him through His humble representatives on earth. Not surprisingly, some people have read this as teaching that the sheep were saved by their works. But a closer look shows that this is not the case. The sheep are astonished by the Lord’s commendation and are completely unaware of having served Him in this way. Clearly, they were not seeking to earn salvation by their works. More important, however, Jesus never taught salvation by works; rather, He taught that it was only God’s grace that could draw people to believe and trust in Him for salvation (John 6:36–40, 43–44). He also taught that genuine faith in Him produced inner moral change and outward righteous conduct. That is precisely what we see in the sheep He commends. Their deeds are the fruit and the evidence of God’s grace and love in their lives. They are not the cause of but the fruit of their salvation.
  The failure of the goats (the wicked) to perform works of love toward Jesus is prima facie evidence of their lack of God’s saving grace. While much more sin characterized their lives, the omission of these key works of love for Jesus infallibly reveals the true state of their hearts. They have rejected Jesus and the revealed will of God and have walked in a way of their own choosing. Now God will ratify and confirm their decision. Jesus says, “And these will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life” (Matt. 25:46). This is the fulfillment of Jesus’ earlier teaching, “Enter by the narrow gate. For the gate is wide and the way is easy that leads to destruction, and those who enter by it are many. For the gate is narrow and the way is hard that leads to life, and those who find it are few” (Matt. 7:13–14). C.S. Lewis sums it up well,

There are only two kinds of people in the end: those who say to God, “Thy will be done,” and those to whom God says, in the end, “Thy will be done.” All that are in Hell, choose it. Without that self-choice there could be no Hell. No soul that seriously and constantly desires joy will ever miss it. Those who seek find. To those who knock it is opened.6

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