Matthew 25:31
When the Son of man shall come in his glory, and all the holy angels with him, then shall he sit on the throne of his glory:
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)
(31) When the Son of man shall come.—We commonly speak of the concluding portion of this chapter as the parable of the Sheep and the Goats, but it is obvious from its very beginning that it passes beyond the region of parable into that of divine realities, and that the sheep and goats form only a subordinate and parenthetic illustration. The form of the announcement is in part based, as indeed are all the thoughts connected with the final Advent, upon the vision of Daniel 7:13. The “throne of His glory” is that which He shares with “the Ancient of Days,” the throne of Jehovah, surrounded with the brightness of the Shechinah.

Matthew

THE KING ON HIS JUDGMENT THRONE

Matthew 25:31 - Matthew 25:46
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The teachings of that wonderful last day of Christ’s ministry, which have occupied so many of our pages, are closed with this tremendous picture of universal judgment. It is one to be gazed upon with silent awe, rather than to be commented on. There is fear lest, in occupying the mind in the study of the details, and trying to pierce the mystery it partly unfolds, we should forget our own individual share in it. Better to burn in on our hearts the thought, ‘I shall be there,’ than to lose the solemn impression in efforts to unravel the difficulties of the passage. Difficulties there are, as is to be expected in even Christ’s revelation of so unparalleled a scene. Many questions are raised by it which will never be solved till we stand there. Who can tell how much of the parabolic element enters into the description? We, at all events, do not venture to say of one part, ‘This is merely drapery, the sensuous representation of spiritual reality,’ and of another, ‘That is essential truth.’ The curtain is the picture, and before we can separate the elements of it in that fashion, we must have lived through it. Let us try to grasp the main lessons, and not lose the spirit in studying the letter.

I. The first broad teaching is that Christ is the Judge of all the earth.

Sitting there, a wearied man on the Mount of Olives, with the valley of Jehoshaphat at His feet, which the Jew regarded as the scene of the final judgment, Jesus declared Himself to be the Judge of the world, in language so unlimited in its claims that the speaker must be either a madman or a god. Calvary was less than three days off, when He spoke thus. The contrast between the vision of the future and the reality of the present is overwhelming. The Son of Man has come in weakness and shame; He will come in His glory, that flashing light of the self-revealing God, of which the symbol was the ‘glory’ which shone between the cherubim, and which Jesus Christ here asserts to belong to Him as ‘His glory.’ Then, heaven will be emptied of its angels, who shall gather round the enthroned Judge as His handful of sorrowing followers were clustered round Him as He spoke, or as the peasants had surrounded the meek state of His entry yesterday. Then, He will take the place of Judge, and ‘sit,’ in token of repose, supremacy, and judgment, ‘on the throne of His glory,’ as He now sat on the rocks of Olivet. Then, mankind shall be massed at His feet, and His glance shall part the infinite multitudes, and discern the character of each item in the crowd as easily and swiftly as the shepherd’s eye picks out the black goats from among the white sheep. Observe the difference in the representation from those in the previous parables. There, the parting of kinds was either self-acting, as in the case of the foolish maidens; or men gave account of themselves, as in the case of the servants with the talents. Here, the separation is the work of the Judge, and is completed before a word is spoken. All these representations must be included in the complete truth as to the final judgment. It is the effect of men’s actions; it is the result of their compelled disclosing of the deepest motives of their lives; it is the act of the perfect discernment of the Judge. Their deeds will judge them; they will judge themselves; Christ will judge.

Singularly enough, every possible interpretation of the extent of the expression ‘all nations’ has found advocates. It has been taken in its widest and plainest meaning, as equivalent to the whole race; it has been confined to mankind exclusive of Christians, and it has been confined to Christians exclusive of heathens. There are difficulties in all these explanations, but probably the least are found in the first. It is most natural to suppose that ‘all nations’ means all nations, unless that meaning be impossible. The absence of the limitation to the ‘kingdom of heaven,’ which distinguishes this section from the preceding ones having reference to judgment, and the position of the present section as the solemn close of Christ’s teachings, which would naturally widen out into the declaration of the universal judgment, which forms the only appropriate climax and end to the foregoing teachings, seem to point to the widest meaning of the phrase. His office of universal Judge is unmistakably taught throughout the New Testament, and it seems in the highest degree unnatural to suppose that He did not speak of it in these final words of prophetic warning. We may therefore, with some confidence, see in the magnificent and awful picture here drawn the vision of universal judgment. Parabolic elements there no doubt are in the picture; but we have no governing revelation, free from these, by which we can check them, and be sure of how much is form and how much substance. This is clear, ‘that we must all appear before the judgment-seat of Christ’; and this is clear, that Jesus Christ put forth, when at the very lowest point of His earthly humiliation, these tremendous claims, and asserted His authority as Judge over every soul of man. We are apt to lose ourselves in the crowd. Let us pause and think that ‘all’ includes ‘me.’

II. Note the principles of Christ’s universal judgment.

It is important to remember that this section closes a series of descriptions of the judgment, and must not be taken as if, when isolated, it set forth all the truth. It is often harped upon by persons who are unfriendly to evangelical teaching, as if it were Christ’s only word about judgment, and interpreted as if it meant that, no matter what else a man was, if only he is charitable and benevolent, he will find mercy. But this is to forget all the rest of our Lord’s teaching in the context, and to fly in the face of the whole tenor of New Testament doctrine. We have here to do with the principles of judgment which apply equally to those who have, and to those who have not, heard the gospel. The subjects of the kingdom are shown the principles more immediately applicable to them, in the previous parables, and here they are reminded that there is a standard of judgment absolutely universal. All men, whether Christians or not, are judged by ‘the things done in the body, whether they be good or bad.’ So Christ teaches in His closing words of the Sermon on the Mount, and in many another place. ‘Every tree that bringeth not forth good fruit is hewn down, and cast into the fire.’ The productive source of good works is not in question here; stress is laid on the fruits, rather than on the root. The gospel is as imperative in its requirements of righteousness as the law is, and its conception of the righteousness which it requires is far deeper and wider. The subjects of the kingdom ever need to be reminded of the solemn truth that they have not only, like the wise maidens, to have their lights burning and their oil vessels filled, nor only, like the wise servants, to be using the gifts of the kingdom for their lord, but, as members of the great family of man, have to cultivate the common moralities which all men, heathen and Christian, recognise as binding on all, without which no man shall see the Lord. The special form of righteousness which is selected as the test is charity. Obviously it is chosen as representative of all the virtues of the second table of the law. Taken in its bare literality, this would mean that men’s relations to God had no effect in the judgment, mid that no other virtues but this of charity came into the account. Such a conclusion is so plainly repugnant to all Christ’s teaching, that we must suppose that love to one’s neighbour is here singled out, just as it is in His summary of ‘the law and the prophets,’ as the crown and flower of all relative duties, and as, in a very real sense, being ‘the fulfilling of the law.’ The omission of any reference to the love of God sufficiently shows that the view here is rigidly limited to acts, and that all the grounds of judgment are not meant to be set forth.

But the benevolence here spoken of is not the mere natural sentiment, which often exists in great energy in men whose moral nature is, in other respects, so utterly un-Christlike that their entrance into the kingdom prepared for the righteous is inconceivable. Many a man has a hundred vices and yet a soft heart. It is very much a matter of temperament. Does Christ so contradict all the rest of His teaching as to say that such a man is of ‘the sheep,’ and ‘blessed of the Father’? Surely not. Is every piece of kindliness to the distressed, from whatever motive, and by whatsoever kind of person done, regarded by Him as done to Himself? To say so, would be to confound moral distinctions, and to dissolve all righteousness into a sentimental syrup. The deeds which He regards as done to Himself, are done to His ‘brethren.’ That expression carries us into the region of motive, and runs parallel with His other words about ‘receiving a prophet,’ and ‘giving a cup of cold water to one of these little ones,’ because they are His. Seeing that all nations are at the bar, the expression, ‘My brethren,’ cannot be confined to the disciples, for many of those who are being judged have never come in contact with Christians, nor can it be reasonably supposed to include all men, for, however true it is that Christ is every man’s brother, the recognition of kindred here must surely be confined to those at the right hand. Whatever be included under the ‘righteous,’ that is included under the ‘brethren.’ We seem, then, led to recognise in the expression a reference to the motive of the beneficence, and to be brought to the conclusion that what the Judge accepts as done to Himself is such kindly help and sympathy as is extended to these His kindred, with some recognition of their character, and desire after it. To ‘receive a prophet’ implies that there is some spiritual affinity with him in the receiver. To give help to His brethren, because they are so, implies some affinity with Him or feeling after likeness to Him and them. Now, if we hold fast by the universality of the judgment here depicted, we shall see that this recognition must necessarily have different degrees in those who have heard of Christ and in those who have not. In the former, it will be equivalent to that faith which is the root of all goodness, and grasps the Christ revealed in the gospel. In the latter, it can be no more than a feeling after Him who is the ‘light that lighteneth every man that cometh into the world.’ Surely there are souls amid the darkness of heathenism yearning toward the light, like plants grown in the dark. By ways of His own, Christ can reach such hearts, as the river of the water of life may percolate through underground channels to many a tree which grows far from its banks.

III. Note the surprises of the judgment.

The astonishment of the righteous is not modesty disclaiming praise, but real wonder at the undreamed-of significance of their deeds. In the parable of the talents, the servants unveiled their inmost hearts, and accurately described their lives. Here, the other side of the truth is brought into prominence, that, at that day, we shall be surprised when we hear from His lips what we have really done. True Christian beneficence has consciously for its motive the pleasing of Christ; but still he who most earnestly strove, while here, to do all as unto Jesus, will be full of thankful wonder at the grace which accepts his poor service, and will learn, with fresh marvelling, how closely He associates Himself with His humblest servant. There is an element of mystery hidden from ourselves in all our deeds. Our love to Christ’s followers never goes out so plainly to Him that, while here, we can venture to be sure that He takes it as done for Him. We cannot here follow the flight of the arrow, nor know what meaning He will attach to, or what large issues He will evolve from, our poor doings. So heaven will be full of blessed surprises, as we reap the fruit growing ‘in power’ of what we sowed ‘in weakness,’ and as doleful will be the astonishment which will seize those who see, for the first time, in the lurid light of that day, the true character of their lives, as one long neglect of plain duties, which was all a defrauding the Saviour of His due. Mere doing nothing is enough to condemn, and its victims will be shudderingly amazed at the fatal wound it has inflicted on them.

IV. The irrevocableness of the judgment.

That is an awful contrast between the ‘Come! ye blessed,’ and ‘Depart! ye cursed.’ That is a more awful parallel between ‘eternal punishment’ and ‘eternal life.’ It is futile to attempt to alleviate the awfulness by emptying the word ‘eternal’ of reference to duration. It no doubt connotes quality, but its first meaning is ever-during. There is nothing here to suggest that the one condition is more terminable than the other. Rather, the emphatic repetition of the word brings the unending continuance of each into prominence, as the point in which these two states, so wofully unlike, are the same. In whatever other passages the doctrine of universal restoration may seem to find a foothold, there is not an inch of standing-room for it here. Reverently accepting Christ’s words as those of perfect and infallible love, the present writer feels so strongly the difficulty of bringing all the New Testament declarations on this dread question into a harmonious whole, that he abjures for himself dogmatic certainty, and dreads lest, in the eagerness of discussing the duration {which will never be beyond the reach of discussion}, the solemn reality of the fact of future retribution should be dimmed, and men should argue about ‘the terror of the Lord’ till they cease to feel it.Matthew 25:31. When, &c. — The same great truth, that there is no such thing as negative goodness, which was shown, 1st, in the parable of the virgins; 2d, in the still plainer parable of the servants who had received the talents; is here shown a third time, in a direct unparabolical declaration of the manner in which our Lord will proceed at the last day. When the Son of man shall come in his glory, &c. — With what majesty and grandeur does Christ here speak of himself! giving us one of the noblest instances of the true sublime. Indeed, not many descriptions in the sacred writers themselves seem equal to this. We can hardly read it without imagining ourselves before the awful tribunal it describes. He styles himself the Son of man here, because, when he appears as the great Judge, he will appear in the human form, and as very man, as he is, being to judge the sons of men. For by being of the same nature with those whom he judges, and having shared with them in human infirmity, he is the more proper for the office of their judge. But no one that reads this can reasonably suppose that he who speaks thus is a mere man. He is termed the Son of man, too, because his wonderful condescension in taking upon him our nature, and becoming the Son of man, will be recompensed by his exaltation in that day. For he shall come, not only in the glory of his Father, but in his own glory as mediator. His first coming was under a dark cloud of obscurity; but his second will be in a bright cloud of glory. Doubtless if his disciples understood and believed what he here declares concerning his future glory, it would help them to meet with fortitude the offence of the cross, and prepare them for the approaching scene of his humiliation and sufferings. To manifest his glory still more, all the holy angels, who had long been subject to him as his ministering servants, shall now come along with him, and that not only for state, as his attendants, but for service, as ministers of his justice. They shall come to summon the court; to gather together the elect, to sever the wicked from the just, to be witnesses of the saints’ glory, Luke 12:8; and of the sinners’ misery, Revelation 19:10. Then shall he sit upon the throne of his glory — A throne high and lifted up, and conspicuous to the eyes of the whole assembled world; the throne of judgment, very different from the throne of grace, upon which he now sits, with his Father, and to which we may come boldly.25:31-46 This is a description of the last judgment. It is as an explanation of the former parables. There is a judgment to come, in which every man shall be sentenced to a state of everlasting happiness, or misery. Christ shall come, not only in the glory of his Father, but in his own glory, as Mediator. The wicked and godly here dwell together, in the same cities, churches, families, and are not always to be known the one from the other; such are the weaknesses of saints, such the hypocrisies of sinners; and death takes both: but in that day they will be parted for ever. Jesus Christ is the great Shepherd; he will shortly distinguish between those that are his, and those that are not. All other distinctions will be done away; but the great one between saints and sinners, holy and unholy, will remain for ever. The happiness the saints shall possess is very great. It is a kingdom; the most valuable possession on earth; yet this is but a faint resemblance of the blessed state of the saints in heaven. It is a kingdom prepared. The Father provided it for them in the greatness of his wisdom and power; the Son purchased it for them; and the blessed Spirit, in preparing them for the kingdom, is preparing it for them. It is prepared for them: it is in all points adapted to the new nature of a sanctified soul. It is prepared from the foundation of the world. This happiness was for the saints, and they for it, from all eternity. They shall come and inherit it. What we inherit is not got by ourselves. It is God that makes heirs of heaven. We are not to suppose that acts of bounty will entitle to eternal happiness. Good works done for God's sake, through Jesus Christ, are here noticed as marking the character of believers made holy by the Spirit of Christ, and as the effects of grace bestowed on those who do them. The wicked in this world were often called to come to Christ for life and rest, but they turned from his calls; and justly are those bid to depart from Christ, that would not come to him. Condemned sinners will in vain offer excuses. The punishment of the wicked will be an everlasting punishment; their state cannot be altered. Thus life and death, good and evil, the blessing and the curse, are set before us, that we may choose our way, and as our way so shall our end be.When the Son of man ... - This is in answer to the question which the disciples proposed to Jesus respecting the end of the world, Matthew 24:3. That this refers to the last judgment, and not, as some have supposed, to the destruction of Jerusalem, appears:

1. From the fact that it was in answer to an express inquiry respecting "the end" of the world.

2. "All nations" were to be assembled, which did not take place at the destruction of Jerusalem.

3. A separation was to take place between the righteous and the wicked, which was not done at Jerusalem.

4. The rewards and punishments are declared to be "eternal."

None of these things took place at the destruction of Jerusalem.

In his glory - In his own proper honor. With his glorified body, and as the head and king of the universe, Acts 1:11; Ephesians 1:20-22; 1 Thessalonians 4:16; 1 Corinthians 15:24-25, 1 Corinthians 15:52.

The throne of his glory - This means, in the language of the Hebrews, his glorious or splendid throne. It is not to be taken literally, as if there would be a material throne or seat for the King of Zion. It expresses the idea that he will come "as a king and judge" to assemble his subjects before him, and to appoint them their rewards.

Mt 25:31-46. The Last Judgment.

The close connection between this sublime scene—peculiar to Matthew—and the two preceding parables is too obvious to need pointing out.

31. When the Son of man shall come in his glory—His personal glory.

and all the holy angels with him—See De 33:2; Da 7:9, 10; Jude 14; with Heb 1:6; 1Pe 3:22.

then shall he sit upon the throne of his glory—the glory of His judicial authority.

See Poole on "Matthew 25:33". When the son of man shall come in his glory,.... What is before signified in the two preceding parables, is here clearly and distinctly represented without a parable: and it should be observed, that as the foregoing parables only regard the Gospel church state, and the ministers and members of it, good and bad, or all sorts of Christian professors; so this account of the last judgment only concerns them; for though all men that ever have been, are, or shall be in every nation under heaven, from Adam to the last man that will be born, will be judged; yet the part or it here described, though it gives a general and lively idea of the whole, only regards the judgment and final state of such who have made a profession of the Christian religion. The judge himself is first described, who is said to be "the son of man"; a name by which Christ is frequently called, and by which he styles himself in his state of humiliation; expressing both the truth of his human nature, and the meanness of it in that state: but as despicable as he appeared then in human nature, in the form of a servant, a man of sorrows, despised by men, and subject to sufferings and death; yet when he comes again, it will be in another guise manner: he will appear "in his glory"; in the glory of the only begotten of the Father, in the glory of his proper deity, in the glory of all the perfections of the divine nature; which glory was, in a great measure, and from most persons, hid in the days of his flesh, though he was in the form of God, and equal with him. He will also come in his mediatorial glory, which he had with the Father before the world was, and with all the honour, power, and authority of the judge of the whole earth, to execute judgment upon men; and in the glory of his human nature, of which his transfiguration on the mount was a pledge and emblem,

And all the holy angels with him; which splendid retinue will add to the glory of his appearance; and who will accompany him not merely, or only as his attendants, to make the solemnity more grand, pompous, and magnificent; but as ministering spirits, who will be employed by him in gathering all before him, separating the wicked the good, and conducting each to their several apartments of bliss or woe: and when he thus appears,

then shall he sit upon the throne of his glory; or glorious throne, upon the clouds of heaven, where he will sit as judge, and be visible to all.

{3} When the Son of man shall come in his glory, and all the holy angels with him, then shall he sit upon the throne of his glory:

(3) A graphic setting forth of the everlasting judgment which is to come.

EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)
Matthew 25:31 ff. It is unnecessary to suppose that this utterance about the judgment—an utterance taken, like the preceding, from the collection of our Lord’s sayings (λόγια)—should be immediately connected with Matthew 24:30 f. (Fritzsche, de Wette) or with Matthew 24:51 (Ewald). The coming of the Messiah and His judicial dealing with His servants had been portrayed immediately before, and now the prophetic glance extends and takes in the judgment of all nations,—a judgment which is to be presided over by the Lord when He returns in His glory. This is the grand closing scene in which the eschatological predictions are all to be realized, and depicted too with a simplicity and beauty so original that there is but the less reason for imagining that this discourse about the judgment is the product of the apostolic period (Hilgenfeld, Volkmar, Scholten, Wittichen, Keim).

It is usual to understand those who are being judged as representing men generally, Christians and non-Christians alike (see, among modern expositors, Kuinoel, Fritzsche, de Wette, Lange, Weizel, as above, p. 603; Kaeuffer, de ζωῆς αἰων. not. p. 44; Hofmann, Schriftbew. p. 645), Bleek arbitrarily assuming that the evangelists have extended the application of what originally referred only to Christians. On the other hand, Keil (in the Opusc., ed. Goldh. p. 136 ff., and Anal. 1813, III. 177 ff.) and Olshausen, as well as Baumgarten-Crusius, Georgii in Zeller’s Jahrb. 1845, p. 18 f.; Hilgenfeld, Weizsäcker, Volkmar, Keim, Wittichen, Auberlen, Cremer, understand all who are not Christians to be referred to, some of them, however, expressly excluding the Jews. But non-Christians could not have been intended, because it would be improper to say that the Messianic kingdom has been prepared for such, to say nothing of the ἀπὸ καταβολῆς κόσμου, Matthew 25:34, in which the idea of the ἐκλεκτοί is exclusively involved; further, because it would be no less improper to suppose, without more ado, that non-Christians are intended by the οἱ δίκαιοι of Matthew 25:37, which latter we are not at liberty to understand in a generalized sense, but only as equivalent to the elect; again, because those things which Jesus represents (Matthew 25:35-36; Matthew 25:40) as manifestations of love toward Himself cannot possibly be conceived of as done by those who, nevertheless, continued to remain outside the Christian community; finally, because both sides of the assemblage use such language (Matthew 25:37 ff., Matthew 25:44) as compels us to acknowledge their belief in the Judge before whom they now stand. Their language is the expression of a consciousness of their faith in the Messiah, towards whom, however, they have had no opportunity of displaying their love. If the Messianic felicity were here adjudged to pure heathens according to the way in which they may have acted toward Christians (Hilgenfeld), this would be to suppose a “remarkable toleration” (Keim) altogether at variance with the whole tenor of the New Testament, and such as even Revelation 21:24 (see Düsterdieck on that passage) does not countenance,—a humanity which does not need faith, because it compensates for the want of it by its love (Volkmar, p. 546). If, after all this, we cannot suppose that a judgment of non-Christians is here meant, we may even go still further, and say that non-Christians are not included at all, and so we must also reject the view usually adopted, since Chrysostom and Augustine, that what is here exhibited is a judgment of all men, believers and unbelievers alike. For, so far from the mention of the divine ἐκλογή, Matthew 25:34, or the idea of the δίκαιοι, Matthew 25:37, or what Jesus says at Matthew 25:35, or the answer of those assembled before the Judge, Matthew 25:37; Matthew 25:44, or the entire omission generally of any distinction between belief and unbelief, harmonizing with the notion of a mixed body consisting of Christians and non-Christians, they entirely exclude the latter. We should therefore return to the very old view (Lactantius, Instit. vii. 20; Jerome, Euthymius Zigabenus), which, though it had been neglected in consequence of the prevalent eschatology, was preserved by Grotius, the view, namely, that what Jesus is here depicting is the judgment of Christians: περὶ τῶν Χριστιανῶν δὲ μόνων ὁ λόγος ἐνταῦθα, Euthymius Zigabenus, who proves this, above all, from Matthew 25:35-36. All the points previously adduced as arguments against the other explanations combine to favour this view. It is confirmed by the whole fundamental idea on which the Judge’s sentence turns (the determining principle being the love manifested toward Jesus), by the figure of the shepherd and his sheep, and finally, and at the same time somewhat more definitely, by the fact that those who are being judged are called πάντα τὰ ἔθνη. For the latter words are not intended to limit the reference expressly to the Gentiles, but they are to be taken as assuming the realization of the universality of Christianity. by the time of the advent when all the nations of the earth (ἔθνη, as expressing the idea of nation, does not exclude the Jews; comp. Matthew 28:19, Matthew 24:9, and see on John 11:50) will have heard the gospel and (to a proportionable degree) received Christ (Matthew 24:14; Romans 11:25). Jesus, then, is here describing the universal judgment of those who have believed in Him, in whom, as they will be gathered around His throne, His prophetic glance beholds all the nations of the world (Matthew 28:19). Comp., for the judgment of Christians, 2 Corinthians 5:10; Romans 14:10. The judgment of unbelievers (1 Corinthians 15:23; 1 Corinthians 6:2; comp. on Matthew 19:28), who are not in question at present, forms a distinct scene in the universal assize; and hence in the preceding parable also the reference is to His servants, therefore to believers. Neither here nor in the passages from Paul do those different judgment scenes presuppose anything in the shape of chiliastic ideas. The Messianic judgment is one act consisting of two scenes, not two acts with a chiliastic interval coming in between. See, on the other hand, Matthew 13:37 ff.

πάντες οἱ ἄγγελοι] “omnes angeli, omnes nationes; quanta celebritas!” Bengel.

τὰ πρόβατα ἀπὸ τῶν ἐρίφων] sheep and goats (Sir 47:3; Genesis 38:17) are here represented as having been pastured together (comp. Genesis 30:33 ff.). The wicked are conceived of under the figure of the ἔριφοι, not on account of the wantonness and stench of the latter (Grotius), or in consequence of their stubbornness (Lange), but generally because those animals were considered to be comparatively worthless (Luke 15:29); and hence, in Matthew 25:33, we have the diminutive τὰ ἐρίφια for the purpose of expressing contempt.

For the significance attached to the right and left side (Ecclesiastes 10:2), see Schoettgen and Wetstein on our passage. Hermann, Gottesd. Alterth. § xxxviii. 9 f. Comp. Plat. Rep. p. 614 C; Virg. Aen. vi. 542 f.Matthew 25:31-46. The Judgment programme.—Much diversity of opinion has prevailed in reference to this remarkable passage; as to the subjects of the judgment, and the authenticity of this judgment programme as a professed logion of Jesus. Are the judged all mankind, Christian and non-Christian, or Christians only, or non-Christian peoples, including unbelieving Jews, or the Jewish people excluded? Even as early as Origen it was felt that there was room for doubt on such points. He says (Comm. in Ev. M.): “Utrum segregabuntur gentes omnes ab omnibus qui in omnibus generationibus fuerint, an illae tantum quao in consummatione fuerint derelictae, aut illae tantum quae crediderunt in Deum per Christum, et ipsae utrum omnes, an non omnes, non satis est manifestum. Tamen quibusdam videtur de differentiâ eorum, quae crediderunt haec esse dicta.” Recent opinion inclines to the view that the programme refers to heathen people only, and sets forth the principle on which they shall be judged. As to the authenticity of the logion critics hold widely discrepant views. Some regard it as a composition of the evangelists. So Pfleiderer, e.g., who sees in it simply the literary expression of a genial humane way of regarding the heathen on the part of the evangelist, an unknown Christian author of the second century, who had charity enough to accept Christlike love on the part of the heathen as an equivalent for Christian faith (Urchristenthum, p. 532). Holtzmann, H. C., also sees in it a second-hand composition, based on 4 Esdras 7:33–35, Apoc. Bar. 83:12. Weiss, on the other hand, recognises as basis an authentic logion of Jesus, setting forth love as the test of true discipleship, which has been worked over by the evangelist and altered into a judgment programme for heathendom. Wendt (L. J., p. 186) thinks that the logion in its original form was such a programme. This seems to be the most probable opinion.Matthew 25:31. Ἐν τῇ δόξῃ Αὐτοῦ, in His glory) concerning which so many things have been foretold.—καὶ πάντες οἱ ἅγιοι ἄγγελοι μετʼ Αὐτοῦ, and all the holy angels with Him) We must not here suppose ἔλθωσι, shall come, to be understood; but the nominative must be taken absolutely according to the Hebrew idiom, and rendered, all the angels accompanying Him.—πάντες, all) Add all nations from Matthew 25:32. All angels; all nations. How vast an assembly!—τότε, then) As has been foretold. The disciples thought that this would take place immediately.Verses 31-46. - The final judgment on all the nations. (Peculiar to St. Matthew.) Before entering upon the exposition of this majestic section, which is a prophecy, not a parable, we have to settle the preliminary question as to who are the subjects of the judgment here so graphically and fearfully delineated. Are they only the heathen, or Christians, or all mankind without exception? The Lord's present utterance is plainly the development of the account of the parousia in Matthew 24:30, 3l. There those that are gathered are "the elect," nothing being said concerning the rest of mankind; here we have the forecast completed, both righteous and unrighteous receiving their sentence. "All the nations" usually represent all Gentiles distinguished from the Jews. But there is nothing to indicate separate judgment for the Jew and Gentile. Equally unlikely is the notion that the transaction is confined to the heathen, whether the opinion is grounded on a supposed extension of the mercies of Christ to those ignorant of him, but having lived according to the laws of natural religion; or whether it assumes as certain that believers will not be judged at all (an erroneous deduction from John 5:24). It seems, on the one hand, incongruous that persons who have never heard of Christ should be addressed as "blessed of my Father," etc., ver. 34: and it seems, on the other hand, monstrous that such, having failed through ignorance and lack of teaching, should be condemned to awful punishment. That Christians alone are the persons who are thus assembled for judgment is not likely. Is there, then, to be no inquisition held on the life and Character of non-Christians? Are they wholly to escape the great assize? If not, where else does Christ refer to their case? What reason can be given for the exclusion of this great majority from the account of the proceedings at the last day? It appears, on the whole, to be safest to consider "all the nations" as meaning the whole race of men, who, dead and living, small and great, Jew and Gentile, shall stand before God to be judged according to their works (Revelation 20:11-13). This is not a parable, but a statement of future proceedings by him who himself shall conduct them. It is not a full account of details, but an indication of the kind of criteria which shall govern the verdicts given. Verse 31. - When (ὅταν δὲ, but when). The particle, unnoticed in the Authorized Version, indicates the distinction between this section and the preceding parables, the latter exemplifying the judgment specially on Christians, this setting forth the judgment on the whole world. Son of man. With his glorified body, such as he was seen at his Transfiguration (Acts 1:11). In his glory. The term occurs twice in this verse, as elsewhere (Matthew 16:27; Matthew 19:28; Matthew 24:30, where see notes) denoting that then his humiliation will have passed away, and he will appear as he is. All the holy angels with him. "Holy" is probably a transcriber's addition, which has crept into the later text. The Vulgate omits it. At this time all the family of heaven and earth shall be assembled (Matthew 16:27; Deuteronomy 33:2). Of angels and men none shall be wanting. "Omnes angeli, omnes nationes. Quanta celebritas!" (Bengel). Then shall he sit, etc. He shall take his seat as Judge on his glorious throne trey. 20:11), surrounded by the angels and the saints (Jude 1:14; Revelation 19:14). Observe, this was spoken three days before his death (comp. Matthew 26:53, 64).
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