“What’s the Bottom Line?”
The Rev. Lou Tiscione, Pastor, Weatherford Presbyterian Church (PCA)
You may hear folks say, “What’s the bottom line?” in discussing concerns of life. The term is used to describe that which is the primary or the most important aspect of whatever topic is under consideration. Another way of saying the same thing is, “How does this affect me?”
One of the most frequent themes of Jesus’ teaching was judgment. Jesus said that there will be a final accounting given to God, Matthew 11:20-24. He instructed His disciples to fear the One who can destroy both body and soul in hell, Matthew 10:28. This is the ultimate bottom line applicable for everyone!
Jesus was a master teacher. He used parables to teach about the Kingdom of God. He used parables to confuse those destined to perish, Matthew 13:10-17 and Isaiah 6:9-10. The parables of Jesus have a cumulative effect. That is, each one builds upon the previous. The final parable, Matthew 25:31-48 is about judgment. It is undeniable to all who read the Bible that God is holy, and He will judge the world. Judgment has been given to the Risen Lord Jesus. When He returns, He will put an end to all evil.
We would do well to examine the final parable referred to as the “The Sheep and the Goats”. For the sake of brevity, I want to draw attention to the beginning and the end of the parable.
Jesus gave the time of judgment. He said, “When the Son of Man comes in His glory”, Matthew 25:31, not specifying the exact date, but, clearly declaring the day of judgment. It is what the prophet Joel and the Old Testament Prophets referred to as “the Day of the LORD”. The Apostle John was given a vision of that day, “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.” Revelation 20:11
Jesus used the title “Son of Man” when speaking of Himself. This was a familiar Old Testament description of the Messiah, the King of Righteousness. Jesus said that He would come in His glory. That is, when He returns, He will not come as the Savior, but as the King who has all glory and honor and power. He will come sitting on His glorious throne. This is figurative language describing the absolute power and authority that Jesus possesses and will exercise.
The initial actions of King Jesus are clearly stated. Jesus said that He will have all nations gathered before Him. No one will escape this divine appointment. Immediately, Jesus said that He will separate the sheep and the goats. The sheep are described as those “who are blessed by My Father”, Matthew 25:34. They are said to inherit the kingdom that was prepared for them from the foundation of the world. In other words, the sheep are those whom God chose in eternity to be in Christ, Ephesians 1:4-6.
In the parable, Jesus described characteristics of sheep. The sheep discovered that as they ministered to Jesus’ brothers, they were ministering to Jesus. The sheep’s behavior was not a checklist of reasons for being “sheep”. It was a declarative statement that described their behavior that was simply part of being sheep.
The Bible teaches that those who are in Christ live differently by God’s grace in the Holy Spirit. In the context of the Parable of the Sheep and the Goats, sheep live like sheep. James wrote about the genuineness of saving faith. “So also, faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead”, James 2:17. The Apostle Paul also wrote concerning the lives of “sheep” (believers). “But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh.” Galatians 5:16
The Parable ends with the fact of an eternal hell. Jesus said, “Depart from Me, you cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels.” The horror of hell is to receive the outpouring of God’s wrath for eternity. The “goats” are commanded by Jesus to depart from Him. Their eternal home was prepared by God for the devil and his angels. The goats will share this residence forever. The bottom line is the reality of heaven and hell. God has chosen those who will live with Him forever. This truth may not tickle men’s ears, but it is the bottom line!