Does Matthew 25:31-46 teach you must do good works to get to heaven?

“Then He will answer them, saying, ‘Assuredly, I say to you, inasmuch as you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to Me.’ And these will go away into everlasting punishment.’” Matthew 25:45-46a

Some religious people teach that the Judgment of the Sheep and Goats (Matthew 25:31-46) says you must give to the needy to be saved from everlasting punishment. But this understanding ignores the context of the passage (Matthew 24:1-25:46) and contradicts the clear teaching of the New Testament about salvation by grace through faith alone in Christ alone apart from any good works (John 1:12; 3:15-16, 36; 4:10-14; 5:24; 6:40, 47; 11:25-27; 20:31; Acts 16:31; Romans 6:23b; 4:5; Galatians 2:16; Ephesians 1:13-14; 2:8-9; I Timothy 1:16; I John 5:13; Revelation 22:17; et al.). Matthew 25:31-46 is about the judgment of people who lived during the Tribulation period after the Rapture of the Church (Matthew 25:31-32; cf. Revelation 6-19).

The “sheep and the goats” in this passage represent Gentiles (“all the nations” – 25:32) who survive the Tribulation period and will be judged by King Jesus according to their response to Jesus’ Jewish “brethren” who are the 144,000 evangelists during the last half of the Tribulation period (Matthew 25:35-40, 42-45; Revelation 7:1-8; 14:1-5). Since no one who takes the mark of the beast gets saved during the Tribulation period (cf. Revelation 14:9-11), no unbeliever will help the Jewish evangelistic “brethren” of Christ. The Gentile believers who survive the Tribulation physically have endured faithfully for Christ (Matthew 24:13-14, 22) and helped His Jewish brethren, so they will “inherit” the kingdom or reign with Christ in His Kingdom on earth (Matthew 25:34; cf. 19:27-29; 2 Timothy 2:12; Revelation 2:25-27).

The New Testament distinguishes “entering” the kingdom from “inheriting” the kingdom. We enter the kingdom of God by faith alone in Christ alone (Matthew 18:3; 19:14; Mark 10:15; John 3:5, 15-16), but we “inherit” the kingdom of God through faithful, sacrificial service and suffering for Christ (Matthew 19:27-29; Romans 8:17b; I Corinthians 6:9-10; Galatians 5:19-21b; Ephesians 5:3-5; Colossians 3:23-24; Hebrews 1:2, 5, 9, 13-14; 6:12, 17; 9:15; Revelation 2:25-27).

For example, entering my house is different than inheriting my house. Entrance into my house is free. But if you want to inherit or possess my house, you must pay for it. When you pay for it, then you are entitled to certain privileges or authority. When you inherit my house, you can decide how to arrange the furniture and what colors to paint on the walls. But if you just enter my house, you don’t have those privileges. The same is true in the spiritual realm. You enter the kingdom of God through faith alone in Jesus Christ alone. But you will not have all the privileges or authority that come with inheriting the kingdom. You must earn those privileges through faithful service to Jesus.

The “goats” in Matthew 25:31-46 represent unbelieving Gentiles who are judged and cast into the everlasting fire of hell. The “sheep” represent faithful believing Gentiles who will enter “into eternal life” and be transformed because you cannot “inherit” or rule in the Kingdom without being a transformed believer (Matthew 25:46; cf. I Corinthians 15:50). So this passage is not teaching that salvation is given to those who help the needy. Rather it is teaching that rewards will be given to believers who faithfully endure for Christ in the Tribulation period.

Prayer: Lord Jesus, although Matthew 25:31-46 refers to people in the Tribulation period, it does apply to me now. Lord God, Your salvation from hell has always been absolutely free through faith in You alone and always will be. But in this passage, You are talking about how to earn Your inheritance rewards that grant more authority and privileges in Your coming Kingdom. Oh my precious Lord, please grant me the grace to faithfully serve You until the end of my life on earth so I may receive Your inheritance rewards in the future. With those rewards, I will be able to bring You more glory and honor in Your coming Kingdom. Thank You my Lord and my God for hearing my prayer. In Jesus’s name. Amen.

A Look into the Future – Part 6 (Video)

This is the sixth in a series of videos about the future as recorded in the last book of the Bible, the book of Revelation. This video focuses on the Great White Throne Judgment of unbelievers.

The 3-CIRCLE ILLUSTRATION IS USED BY PERMISSION OF EVANTELL. The Revelation Art is used by permission of Pat Marvenko Smith, copyright 1992. To order art prints visit her “Revelation Illustrated” site, http://www.revelationillustrated.com.  Other digital images are used with permission from Good News Productions International and College Press Publishing (www.FreeBibleimages.org) and GoodSalt (www.goodsalt.com). The music and video scene in this video are used with permission from the producers of the video entitled “The Free Gift.”

Must I continue in doing good to receive eternal life?

“God, who will render to each one according to his deeds:’ eternal life to those who by patient continuance in doing good seek for glory, honor, and immortality.” Romans 2:5b-7

A casual reading of these verses has led some to include that one must continue in doing good in order to receive eternal life. But how does one harmonize such an interpretation with the many verses that clearly teach that eternal life (salvation) is a free gift which one receives by believing in Jesus alone (John 3:15-16, 36; 4:10-14; 5:24; 6:40, 47; 11:25-26; 20:31; Acts 10:43; 13:39; 16:31; Romans 3:22-26; 6:23; Ephes. 2:8-9; I Timothy 1:16; I John 5:13; Rev. 22:17)?

A more consistent way to understand these verses is to realize that Paul is speaking to the self-righteous moralist who thinks he is good enough to enter heaven on the basis of his own morality (Rom. 2:1-4). Paul warns the self-righteous person that he is as guilty as the person whom he condemns because the longer he persists in his self-righteousness, the more guilt God will add to his record until the day His wrath is poured out on the unbeliever (Rom. 2:5; cf. Rev. 20:11-15). On that day God’s judgment of the unbeliever will be perceived as “righteous” because He will “render to each one according to his deeds” (Rom. 2:6). 

Those who patiently continue doing good would receive eternal life (Rom. 2:7). It must be noted, however, that Paul later shows that no human being on earth will do that (Rom. 3:10-12, 23), and therefore, would need to be justified by God through faith alone in Christ alone (Rom. 3:22-5:9a). Why? Because Jesus Christ is the only Doer of the Law (Matt. 5:17, 48; Rom. 8:3-4). Jesus never broke the law and He never will. So guess what happens when you put your faith in Christ who kept all of the Law?  You are made “perfect forever” through His sufficient sacrifice on the Cross (Heb. 10:10, 14). There will be no charges or condemnation against the Christian to determine his or her destiny in eternity (John 5:24; Rom. 8:31-34) because God has already declared him righteous (Rom. 3:22-4:5). 

So in that context of Romans 2:5-11, the meaning of verse 7 is that “if he continues in doing good, and no one does, he would receive eternal life.” On the other hand, “those who are self-seeking and do not obey the truth, but obey unrighteousness—indignation and wrath, tribulation and anguish, on every soul of man who does evil, of the Jew first and also of the Greek; but glory, honor, and peace to everyone who works what is good, to the Jew first and also to the Greek. For there is no partiality with God” (Romans 2:8-11). The emphasis of this paragraph (Rom. 2:5-11) is stated at the beginning and the end, namely, that God will judge everyone equally and without partiality. 

If anyone continues to seek good (and no one does – Rom. 3:10-12), he will receive eternal life. If anyone continues in disobedience (and all will – Rom. 3:23), he will fall under God’s wrath. So each one will receive what he deserves. Hence, the self-righteous moralist must repent or change his mind and understand that God will judge him or her righteously according to what they have truly done or not done. Not what they hoped or intended to do. But according to what they actually did or did not do. Therefore, the self-righteous moralist is just as deserving of condemnation as the worst sinner because he or she falls short of the glory of God. The solution to this problem is to trust in Jesus Christ Who alone was a Doer of the Law and could pay the full penalty for our sin (John 19:30; Rom. 4:5; 5:8; I Cor. 15:3-6). 

Failure to understand these verses in their rightful context leads to misinterpretation such as all true believers will persevere in good works. Or those who profess faith in Christ but fail to persevere in good works were never genuinely saved. That is not what the text says in this context.  

How can I prepare to face God as my Judge?

“These things you have done, and I kept silent; you thought I was altogether like you; but I will rebuke you.” Psalm 50:21

Asaph refers to God as “the Mighty One” who has come “out of Zion” to call “the earth” to stand before Him as a witness “that He may judge His people,” Israel (50:1-6). He was not rebuking Israel for offering animal sacrifices as He had prescribed, but He does remind them that He did not need their sacrifices because He already owned everything they presented to Him (50:7-13). What God wanted from His people was what the giving of their animal sacrifices represented, namely their “thanksgiving” to Him (50:14). He wanted them to “glorify” Him by calling upon Him to “deliver” them “in the day of trouble” (50:15). He was not interested in a ritualistic form of worship from them. He wanted a vital relationship with them whereby they looked to Him to meet all their needs. 

Although Israel presented animal sacrifices as God had instructed them, they loved what God hated by participating in the sins of the wicked (50:16-20). It seems as though Israel concluded that it did not matter to God that they had lived hypocritical lives because He had “kept silent” about their sins up to now (50:21a). But the truth was their sins did not matter to them. So God says to them, “You thought that I was altogether like you; but I will rebuke you, and set them in order before your eyes” (50:21b).

God graciously warns His people, “Now consider this, you who forget God, lest I tear you in pieces and there be none to deliver: Whoever offers praise glorifies Me; and to him who orders his conduct aright I will show the salvation of God” (50:22-23). Sincere gratitude and obedience toward God would glorify Him and bring about His “salvation” or deliverance from His coming judgment. But going through the motions of formalistic worship while at the same time participating in the sins of the wicked would invite His wrath. 

All people, saved and unsaved, will eventually face God as their Judge after death (Hebrews 9:27). There are no second chances after death. For those who do not believe in Jesus for His gift of eternal life (John 3:36b), they will face God as their Judge to determine their degree of punishment in the Lake of Fire (Revelation 20:11-15). Those who do believe in Jesus (John 3:36a) will also face Him as their Judge to determine their degree of rewards in His coming Kingdom on earth (I Corinthians 3:11-15; 2 Corinthians 5:10). Knowing this is intended to motivate people now to prepare to face Christ as their Judge in the future. 

Going through the motions of worship and using religious words does not prepare unbelievers or believers to face Christ as their Judge. If you have not believed in Jesus yet, it is important to understand that your thoughts, words, and actions are all stained with sin (Isaiah 64:6). No amount of formalistic worship or pious speech can save you from your sins. Only Jesus is qualified to save you from your sins because He alone, being God, is without sin (John 1:1; 2 Corinthians 5:21; Hebrews 4:15). He paid the full penalty for your sins when He died on the cross and then rose from the dead (John 1:29; 19:30; I Corinthians 15:3-6) so that “whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life” (John 3:16). He invites you right now to believe or trust in Him alone to save you from your sins and give you everlasting life. The moment you do, He guarantees to save you forever from hell and give you everlasting life (John 3:16; Acts 16:31).

For those who do believe in Jesus for eternal life, you can prepare to face Him as your Judge by living to please Him now (2 Corinthians 5:9-11). As you yield to the control of His Holy Spirit daily (Ephesians 5:18), He will give you the power to live a victorious Christian life (Romans 8:1-17) so you can face Christ with boldness instead of shame at the Judgment Seat of Christ (I John 2:28-3:3).