Albert N. Martin
Turn please to Matthew 25. Here they are glorified already. They are gathered with the assembled nations in their glorified bodies and in their perfected spirits. We have seen from the previous passages: He will take care of His dead saints and then His living saints. Then they will be bright before Him at the Judgment Seat.
Verse 31: “But when the Son of man shall come in his glory, and all the angels with him, then shall he sit on the throne of his glory; and before him shall be gathered all the nations. [Now notice], and he shall separate them one from another, as the shepherd separates the sheep from the goats; and he shall set the sheep on his right hand, and the goats on the left.”
What is the imagery? The Lord Jesus sits upon His throne, looks over the mass of humanity, and He openly identifies His own and says: “You’re a sheep; you’re a sheep; you’re a sheep; you’re a sheep.” And all the sheep He sets at His right hand. As surely as any competent Eastern shepherd was able to identify sheep from goats, and even distinguish among his own sheep, as surely as any competent Eastern shephard could separate sheep from goat, so will the Son of Man identify and openly, publicly separate His own.
The Bible makes it clear that we are not able, infallibly, to discern who are really the sheep of Christ. Jesus said in the Day of Judgment there will be many who appear not only as sheep, but were recognized by the sheep as their public shepherds. “Many will say to Me in that day, ‘Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in Your name? Lord have we not in Your name cast out demons and in Your name done many mighty works?’” While on earth they bamboozled everyone. “Why, look at the power of God when he preaches! Look at the amazing work of God in casting out demons! Why, look, there are people who have been healed by His instrumentality!” Jesus says, “I will say to them, ‘Depart from Me. I never knew you, you that work iniquity. What you were outwardly was religiously kosher and active, and you had what appeared to be the Spirit’s validation upon your identity as true sheep, but I do not know you! Go with the goats.’”
Jesus knows His own. He said in John 10:27: “My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me and I give unto them eternal life, and they shall never perish, neither shall any man pluck them out of My hand.” He said, “I know them.”
2 Timothy 2:19, “The foundation of God stands sure, having this seal, ‘The Lord knows them that are his,’” and only the Lord infallibly knows those that are His.
There are many of you, as I look out into your faces, I believe if push came to shove, I‘d be willing to spill my blood for you in the confidence that you are my brother, that you are my sister. A man ought to lay down his life for his friends, but I may be wrong. You could be wrong in your assessment of me; I could be wrong in my assessment of you. We may, in the judgment of charity, recognize one another as sheep, but our recognition is not infallible, and thank God it is not determinative of our eternal destiny. His will be infallible. His will be determinative of your destiny, and of mine. Then shall He sit upon the throne of His glory! The very One of whom it is said in John 2, “He needed not that any should testify of men, for He knew what was in man.”
He knows what’s in you. He knows whether what you project yourself to be, as a sheep, is a projection of who and what you really are, or a projection of what you hope others think you are! But He knows His own infallibly, and in that assize, that great gathering before the Judgment Seat of Christ, those who are truly His own will be openly identified by Christ, and He will say: you’re one of My sheep! Get over here with My sheep! It will not do to hastily grab a felt marker and a piece of cardboard and write on it “Hey Jesus, I’m a sheep, don’t forget me!” Your placard will do you no good! No good! He knows infallibly who are His sheep.
It’s very interesting that in several passages dealing with the return of Christ and His sitting in Judgment, the wretched possibility of coming to the Judgment as a hypocrite or self-deceived—these things are highlighted in those very passages.
In the Matthew 25:1-13 passage, the Parable of the Ten Virgins, all of them seem to be associated with the bridegroom! All of them seemed to be attached to Him in some degree of loyalty and affection. The people you and I choose to the attendance at our weddings are not our enemies or strangers; they are our friends! Jesus says, “The kingdom of heaven shall be likened unto ten virgins, who took their lamps, and went forth to meet the bridegroom.” If you found any of them on their way and asked them “Where are you going?” “Oh, we’re going to meet the bridegroom.” “Who’s the bridegroom?” “Well, he’s my close friend; he’s my first cousin; he’s my older brother.” They all seem to be attached to him by some ties of more than casual association, but by the time the Bridegroom comes half of them are shown to be sham.
It’s in conjunction with the Lord’s Second Coming! Because He says in verse 13 the clincher of the whole passage, “Watch therefore, for you know not the day nor the hour.” What day or hour? The one He’s been talking about in all of His discourse in the previous chapter: the day and the hour of His Coming! And He says the time of His Coming will be the exposure of the hypocrite who has the name, a profession, but has no life, no vital union with Christ. What he is outwardly is not the extension into the stuff of life, of what he really is inwardly. It’s the plastic, the order, the structure, the theatrical playing of a role, exposed in that day.
Likewise in the Luke 13 passage, where the Lord says, agonized to enter the narrow gate, “For many will seek to enter and will not be able, when once the master of the house is risen up, and shut the door.” He says that’s in conjunction with His Coming, because later on in the passage He says many shall come from east and west and north and south and, “Shall sit down with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob in the Kingdom, and yourselves cast out.”
1 Timothy 5:24—a very searching text that I had not thought of for a long time, until in preparation for the ministry of this morning. Look at these searching words in 1 Timothy 5:24: “Some men’s sins are evident, going before unto judgment..” Some people make no profession, or if they make a profession, their sinful lifestyle absolutely counters and negates it before the eyes and in the judgment of anyone who knows his Bible. “Oh yeah, I trusted in Jesus. I was born again ten years ago.” Born again, but still a drunkard, still a covetous man, still a thief, still a curser and a swearer. Ridiculous. “Some men’s sins are evident, going before unto judgment..” Everyone sees their sins are leading them to the Judgment throne, and there they will answer not only for what we’ve seen, the evident ones, but the ones that only God sees.
Now, notice the next statement: “And some men also they follow after.” They follow after. We see them die and we say, “Surely, absent from the body is present with the Lord!” He knows something we don’t: the sins that they willfully, deliberately, continually indulged, while all the while openly having the semblance of the righteous and the godly and the Christian. Those sins will follow after and will meet them in the Day of Judgment.
Hence the language of 2 Corinthians 5:10: “For we must all”—it doesn’t say we must all simply appear or stand—“we must all be made manifest.” I mentioned that earlier. It’s the verb phaneoó, which means ‘to be openly displayed.’ We shall all be made manifest! It will be made clear, and it’s a passive: we shall be manifested for what we really are.
That’s the wonder of being a true child of God and being able to say, “Oh God! With all my sins, with all my failures, with all my shortcomings, oh God, do know what I know: that I’m not a hypocrite. I’m not playing games. Lord, I mourn the evil thoughts that only You know and I know. I mourn the pride that only You see and I know. I mourn the hypocrisy that I know and You know. Oh God, I mourn the lack of love for You that I know and that You know! Oh God, I mourn that I don’t serve you more devotedly.”
Can you look into the face of the very God Whom you’ll encounter in the Day of Judgment and say: “Oh God, You know what I know, that I have more than a mere profession”? “Lord Jesus, I can’t wait for the day when You will, as the righteous Judge, openly identify me as one of Your sheep!”
Bible References: Matthew 25:31-33; John 10:27-28; 2 Timothy 2:19; John 2:24; Matthew 25:1-13; Luke 13:24; 1 Timothy 5:24; 2 Corinthians 5:10