Well, I did it. I went back to the Monday morning men’s bible study. No, nothing has changed, and, six months later, they are still on the same subject. While I have no issue with spending over a year in the book of Revelation there needs to be a pointed purpose, and, the audience should walk away with a firm and decisive grasp on the subject matter; none of those aspects exist here in the Monday morning study.
(Dr. Hugh Ross, of Reasons to Believe [www.reasons.org], recently spoke to the men’s breakfast at the church I go to. There he explained, to make a point, that he had only recently finished teaching a seven-year study on the book of Revelation. Considering the level of intelligence and depth of instruction you would get with Dr. Ross, I can understand. I do not feel that I nor you, have that kind of time.)
After 18 minutes of preliminary discussion, several of which were testimonies and checking on the health of attendees and their wives, we “dove” into Matthew 25:31-46. Since this blog already covers that subject, and I have spoken about it on a previous occasion, I will merely make this opening statement and a few minor adjustments.
I have something I need to talk about. Hopefully, I can keep it short. This has more to do with a question I have repeatedly been asked. I try to answer the question, but, because of tradition, bad teaching, or a lack of desire to pursue the answers, the question keeps coming up.
The question goes something like this, “There are obviously those that make it through the tribulation. Are they saved?”
I thought about it for a second, and then I responded with, what does it mean to be saved? He answered back with,
“You know, saved!”
No, I don’t know. If you are trying to say that these survivors by merit of merely existing to the end are similar to finding salvation in Christ, then the answer is NO. But if you were to be contrasting salvation with pulling someone out of a fire, then, YES, I think they are. How do I liken making it through the hell of the tribulation years to getting pulled out of a fire? They will both kill you.
So the essential question that needs definition is, what does salvation mean? But that is not what you are asking me, is it. You already have this crazy notion of what things look like and want me to validate your misconceptions. Well, that is not going to happen. I am going to try to get you to look at the truth, which happens to be the word of God; but there is a problem in that. The problem is that the answers to your question are not neatly packaged in one place, so this forces both of us to do our homework, and we have to have open minds about the answers we find. Lacking that, you are no better off than a rock.
When I try to respond with an answer, most remove logic from the equation and discard the truth of scripture because it conflicts with their traditions. Having attempted a reply to the question, I referred the person asking to Matthew 25. I did this because he opted to change projected history by putting the great white throne judgment immediately before the 1000 year reign.
He quickly opened the Bible program on his cell phone and with a hostile tone in his voice read,
“When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, then he will sit on his glorious throne. Before him will be gathered all the nations, and he will separate people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats”. So there it is. He gathers the nations before him and judges them.
Yep, it says that.
However, it does not tell you when that takes place, neither does it explain that this throne is the same throne that we see in Revelation 20. There is nothing in Matthew 25 to indicate that these are souls that have died from quite probably Christ’s resurrection forward, we are the ones who make the assumption that they are breathing air; and, it makes no clarification as to who they are or how they got there. The most astonishing and alarming aspect of all is, that contrary to popular belief, they are not all sent to eternal punishment (hell.)
I want you to understand the things involved in the original question: “ those that make it through the tribulation, are they saved?”
Because I told this person to look at Matthew 25, I want you to look there also. Before you jump into Matthew 25, you need to understand that there is a context to what Jesus said.
What we see in Matthew 25 is a continuation of a response that started in Matthew 24:1.
The things that motivated the disciple’s question actually began in Matthew 21 when they placed him upon the colt. Ask yourself why that would be significant.
So what happened between them placing him on the colt and leading him into town in Matthew 21 and the end of Matthew 23, that would prompt them to say, when will these things happen and what will be the sign of your coming as the Messiah we anticipated (My version.)
In Matthew 21, at his direction, the disciples went and took the donkey, and it’s colt. This was finally it. Jesus was going to step up as the Messiah they anticipated for every king triumphantly rode into town like this, but that did not happen. After all the fanfare and adulation Jesus sees the money changers in the outer court of the temple, makes a whip of cords and drives them out. This, of course, brought the wrath of the Chief priests and elders upon him, and he battled with them verbally for two days. We seem to forget that they disciples were right there; they had no place else to go (we assume).
Jesus finally says, let’s go to the mount. It was his favorite place to rest and recover when he was in Jerusalem, and it is only a short distance away from the temple.
The disciples discouraged, disillusioned, fatigued by the intercourse are now probably grateful to get out of harm’s way. Trudging along behind him they try to lighten the mood by pointing out how great the temple was, and at this point, they were making comments about its massive stones. Sadly, Jesus, the true temple, was standing right there and they did not yet realize it. I happen to think this understanding plays a role in how Jesus responds. Thus begins a rather lengthy discourse and the answers to some very Jewish questions.
Matthew 25:31-46 is an aspect of Jesus response, and is to be taken in context. In the context timing is everything, and the timing has everything to do with, when will you come back as the Messiah we were hoping for?
Matthew 25:31-46 ESV “When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, then he will sit on his glorious throne. Before him will be gathered all the nations, and he will separate people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. And he will place the sheep on his right, but the goats on the left. Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to me.’ Then the righteous will answer him, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you drink? And when did we see you a stranger and welcome you, or naked and clothe you? And when did we see you sick or in prison and visit you?’ And the King will answer them, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me.’ “Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. For I was hungry and you gave me no food, I was thirsty and you gave me no drink, I was a stranger and you did not welcome me, naked and you did not clothe me, sick and in prison and you did not visit me.’ Then they also will answer, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison, and did not minister to you?’ Then he will answer them, saying, ‘Truly, I say to you, 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 eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life.”
While I did not quote the verse in rebuttal, there is no doubt that it says, “When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, then he will sit on his glorious throne. Before him will be gathered all the nations,”. If all you ever read was this, you could build a variety of themes around it, and be rather convincing.
Here is one of the aspects that give people trouble: “Before him will be gathered all the nations,”
Do you understand that there are only three people groups (as far as God is concerned) in the Bible narrative? They are:
The Jews – Israel
The nations – Also called the Gentiles. This is literally anyone outside of Christ – those who refuse to follow him.
And, the church. The church is the followers of the Messiah, Jesus Christ. He is not a gentile God, He is God, and he is Jewish. Those of us who have accepted that he paid the price for us have been adopted in; we Gentile believers were at that point grafted into the root stock – Israel. Paul explained that having accepted him, he received us and made us be in Him.
So, God calls all those outside of a relationship with Jesus the nations. (I am comfortable using the name God because in the book of Revelation we find all that happens there a revealing of Jesus.)
What we see here in Matthew 25 has nothing to do with the Bema seat judgment of the church. Considering that we are told that NO evil thing will come into the New Jerusalem, then one must assume that all that junk we tote around with us will be gone somewhere between here and the “pearly gates.” Leave your worries about that crud behind and move forward. I also strongly suggest that you stay out of the arena of judgment since the manner in which you judge is how you will be judged.
I told the person asking the question that Revelation 20 is the same story as we see in Matthew 25. There will be some obvious differences, but I will attempt to explain.
Revelation 20:1-3 ESV Then I saw an angel coming down from heaven, holding in his hand the key to the bottomless pit and a great chain. (2) And he seized the dragon, that ancient serpent, who is the devil and Satan, and bound him for a thousand years, (3) and threw him into the pit, and shut it and sealed it over him, so that he might not deceive the nations any longer, until the thousand years were ended. After that he must be released for a little while.
When does this take place?
After the tribulations of the seven years (it may not be a precise seven-year period.)
Read Revelation 19: 17-21.
There you see Jesus coming back with a mighty army, and where all those who choose to fight against Him are slain.
In Ezekiel, we find that the new Jerusalem comes down out of heaven and the martyred reign with Christ during the thousand years.
Are these seated on the thrones holding judgment over the nations as we see in Matthew’s account? No.
With Satan bound for a thousand years, any evil that is done is entirely the creation of man’s desire, and that will continue to happen. I believe that these judges will be keeping rein over that kind of nonsense.
All oppression shall cease.
Revelation 20:4 ESV Then I saw thrones, and seated on them were those to whom the authority to judge was committed. Also I saw the souls of those who had been beheaded for the testimony of Jesus and for the word of God, and those who had not worshiped the beast or its image and had not received its mark on their foreheads or their hands. They came to life and reigned with Christ for a thousand years.
So let’s address the major point of contention.
The idea that Jesus sets up the great white throne at the beginning of the millennial reign; judges the survivors, and sends them all off to hell.
This is not what is described in Matthew 25, nor do we find this in Revelation 20:11-15.
“Then I saw a great white throne and him who was seated on it. From his presence earth and sky fled away, and no place was found for them. And I saw the dead, great and small, standing before the throne, and books were opened. Then another book was opened, which is the book of life. And the dead were judged by what was written in the books, according to what they had done. And the sea gave up the dead who were in it, Death and Hades gave up the dead who were in them, and they were judged, each one of them, according to what they had done. Then Death and Hades were thrown into the lake of fire. This is the second death, the lake of fire. And if anyone’s name was not found written in the book of life, he was thrown into the lake of fire.” (Revelation 20:11-15 ESV)
Is that what we see here in Revelation 20:4? No.
Revelation 20:4 NASB Then I saw thrones, and they sat on them, and judgment was given to them. And I saw the souls of those who had been beheaded because of their testimony of Jesus and because of the word of God, and those who had not worshiped the beast or his image, and had not received the mark on their forehead and on their hand; and they came to life and reigned with Christ for a thousand years.
Can you see why?
Instead of one throne, there are many.
Instead of one person, Jesus, all the martyred take part in the judgment.
In Matthew, we find a glorious throne instead of the great one we see in Revelation 20.
Matthew 25:32 Before him will be gathered all the nations.
Look at how John describes those standing before him in Revelation 20, “and I saw the dead, great and small, standing before the throne, and the books were opened.
In Revelation 20 the crowd is separated according to their deeds found in the books.
Matthew 25 shows the Son of Man separating them into sheep and goats. We must assume that the sheep are those whose names are found in the books, and the deeds must be expected because of the separation.
This recurring event is intentional and meant to register quickly in the mind of the Jewish reader/hearer. Why?
Because repetition is the standard pattern for prophecy to the Jews, and this book we call the Bible is a very Jewish book.
In Revelation 20:12 we see books opened, and the book of life.
Revelation 20:12 ESV And I saw the dead, great and small, standing before the throne, and books were opened. Then another book was opened, which is the book of life. And the dead were judged by what was written in the books, according to what they had done.
Catch the distinction here: The dead are judged out of the books based on what was written in the books, according to what they had done. When you contrast this to the single book of Life, the contents and impact to the goats are not revealed. However, Revelation 20:15 shows the judged thrown into the lake of fire.
Revelation 20:15 ESV And if anyone’s name was not found written in the book of life, he was thrown into the lake of fire.
I realize this is hard to grasp, but God can and has shown mercy. He has done it too and for me. One of those pieces of evidence was the price His son paid on the cross.