IS MATTHEW 25:31-46 A PLAN FOR OUR SALVATION UNTO ETERNAL LIFE?
by Shawn Brasseaux
Concluding His renowned Olivet Discourse (end-times prophecy), the Lord Jesus Christ said in Matthew chapter 25: “ 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:  And before him shall be gathered all nations: and he shall separate them one from another, as a shepherd divideth his sheep from the goats:  And he shall set the sheep on his right hand, but the goats on the left.
“ Then shall the King say unto them on his right hand, Come, ye blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world:  For I was an hungred, and ye gave me meat: I was thirsty, and ye gave me drink: I was a stranger, and ye took me in:  Naked, and ye clothed me: I was sick, and ye visited me: I was in prison, and ye came unto me.  Then shall the righteous answer him, saying, Lord, when saw we thee an hungred, and fed thee? or thirsty, and gave thee drink?  When saw we thee a stranger, and took thee in? or naked, and clothed thee?  Or when saw we thee sick, or in prison, and came unto thee?  And the King shall answer and say unto them, Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me.
“ Then shall he say also unto them on the left hand, Depart from me, ye cursed, into everlasting fire, prepared for the devil and his angels:  For I was an hungred, and ye gave me no meat: I was thirsty, and ye gave me no drink:  I was a stranger, and ye took me not in: naked, and ye clothed me not: sick, and in prison, and ye visited me not.  Then shall they also answer him, saying, Lord, when saw we thee an hungred, or athirst, or a stranger, or naked, or sick, or in prison, and did not minister unto thee?  Then shall he answer them, saying, Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye did it not to one of the least of these, ye did it not to me.  And these shall go away into everlasting punishment: but the righteous into life eternal.”
Dear Roman Catholics, and various other precious “good works people,” appeal to the above passage as proof that God certainly rewards us on the basis of our good deeds. They point especially to verses 34 and 46: “ Then shall the King say unto them on his right hand, Come, ye blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world:…  And these shall go away into … life eternal.”
In summary, they say that if we help the poor and visit the sick, God will reward us with eternal life and let us enter His kingdom. While the passage surely stresses good works resulting in eternal life, there is something very important that we need not overlook (as they do). Just because a verse is in the Bible, that does not mean that verse is to or about us. Who is the audience of these verses? We do not appeal to Jesus Christ’s earthly ministry to see how salvation unto eternal life works for us today. After all, Saint Paul is God’s spokesman to us Gentiles: “For I speak to you Gentiles, inasmuch as I am the apostle of the Gentiles, I magnify mine office” (Romans 11:13). Saint Paul is our apostle.
Contrariwise, Jesus Christ said that His ministry was not to us Gentiles. He especially commanded His 12 Apostles (Peter included) not to preach to us Gentiles. Therefore, when we seize upon Matthew chapter 25 as applicable to us, we mishandle God’s Word. “These twelve Jesus sent forth, and commanded them, saying, Go not into the way of the Gentiles, and into any city of the Samaritans enter ye not: But go rather to the lost sheep of the house of Israel. And as ye go, preach, saying, The kingdom of heaven is at hand” (Matthew 10:5-7). “But he [Jesus] answered and said, I am not sent but unto the lost sheep of the house of Israel” (Matthew 15:24). Saint Paul said in Romans 15:8: “Now I say that Jesus Christ was a minister of the circumcision [Jews] for the truth of God, to confirm the promises made unto the fathers:….” There are no Gentiles in these verses!!
Returning to Matthew chapter 25, verse 40: “And the King shall answer and say unto them, Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me.” In light of the fact that Jesus Christ was sent to the nation Israel, that means that His “brethren” in this passage are none other than Jews, believing Jews. Verse 32 says that “all nations” (Gentiles) will come before Jesus Christ when He sits on the throne of His glory (yet future from us), and they will give account to Him for whether or not they blessed Israel with material goods. This is in perfect accordance with the Abrahamic Covenant. God stipulated in Genesis 12:1-3: “ Now the LORD had said unto Abram, Get thee out of thy country, and from thy kindred, and from thy father’s house, unto a land that I will shew thee:  And I will make of thee a great nation, and I will bless thee, and make thy name great; and thou shalt be a blessing:  And I will bless them that bless thee, and curse him that curseth thee: and in thee shall all families of the earth be blessed.”
Matthew 25:31-46 can be recapitulated as follows. The Gentiles who blessed Israel in the seven-year Tribulation (prior to the Second Coming of Christ), these nations will enter the subsequent Millennium of Revelation 20:1-6. They will be “blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world… life eternal” (Matthew 25:34,46). Those Gentiles who cursed Israel, these nations will be cast into Hell—“ye cursed, everlasting fire, prepared for the devil and his angels… everlasting punishment” (Matthew 25:41,46). This is a national judgment, the Judgment of the Nations, rather than individuals (although individuals are obviously involved). Matthew 25:31-46 in no way applies to us for the following reasons.
Firstly, Saint Paul says that Israel is currently fallen. Salvation is coming to the Gentiles without national Israel. Romans 11:11-14: “ I say then, Have they stumbled that they should fall? God forbid: but rather through their fall salvation is come unto the Gentiles, for to provoke them to jealousy.  Now if the fall of them be the riches of the world, and the diminishing of them the riches of the Gentiles; how much more their fulness?  For I speak to you Gentiles, inasmuch as I am the apostle of the Gentiles, I magnify mine office:  If by any means I may provoke to emulation them which are my flesh, and might save some of them.” (Did you see Paul’s ministry in verse 13? Rather than God’s Word coming to us through Israel, His message comes to us through Paul!)
If there is no Israel today in the Dispensation of Grace, then it is impossible to bless or curse Israel today. Romans chapter 11 goes on to say that Israel is temporarily blinded: Israel has no spiritual standing before God today. God considers her just another Gentile nation: “ For I would not, brethren, that ye should be ignorant of this mystery, lest ye should be wise in your own conceits; that blindness in part is happened to Israel, until the fulness of the Gentiles be come in.  And so all Israel shall be saved: as it is written, There shall come out of Sion the Deliverer, and shall turn away ungodliness from Jacob:  For this is my covenant unto them, when I shall take away their sins.  As concerning the gospel, they are enemies for your sakes: but as touching the election, they are beloved for the father’s sakes.”
Secondly, we do not have a works message from God delivered us through Saint Paul the Apostle. Those of the aforementioned “good works” crowd go around bragging that James chapter 2 says we need faith and works to be justified. They will then use Matthew chapter 25 as a supplement: “We show our faith by our works. As Jesus said, we help the poor, orphans, widows, infirm, elderly, and so on.” Friends, this is certainly not faith. Faith is defined as believing what God said to you. God never told us (or them) that we have to fulfill Matthew chapter 25 to obtain eternal life. The message God has to tell us Gentiles without Israel’s rise to kingdom glory, is that we do not work for salvation.
Look at what God through Saint Paul tell us Gentiles in Romans 3:19-28: “ Now we know that what things soever the law saith, it saith to them who are under the law: that every mouth may be stopped, and all the world may become guilty before God.  Therefore by the deeds of the law there shall no flesh be justified in his sight: for by the law is the knowledge of sin.  But now the righteousness of God without the law is manifested, being witnessed by the law and the prophets;  Even the righteousness of God which is by faith of Jesus Christ unto all and upon all them that believe: for there is no difference:  For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God;  Being justified freely by his grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus:  Whom God hath set forth to be a propitiation through faith in his blood, to declare his righteousness for the remission of sins that are past, through the forbearance of God;  To declare, I say, at this time his righteousness: that he might be just, and the justifier of him which believeth in Jesus.  Where is boasting then? It is excluded. By what law? of works? Nay: but by the law of faith.  Therefore we conclude that a man is justified by faith without the deeds of the law.” Is there anything about blessing Israel? Helping the poor? Visiting the sick? Nothing!
Saint Paul also penned in Romans chapter 4: “ What shall we say then that Abraham our father, as pertaining to the flesh, hath found?  For if Abraham were justified by works, he hath whereof to glory; but not before God.  For what saith the scripture? Abraham believed God, and it was counted unto him for righteousness.  Now to him that worketh is the reward not reckoned of grace, but of debt.  But to him that worketh not, but believeth on him that justifieth the ungodly, his faith is counted for righteousness.” Again, is there anything about blessing Israel? Helping the poor? Visiting the sick? Nothing!
Dear friends, how silly it is to ignore God’s Word to us (Pauline doctrine), then grab something in the Bible that is not to or about us, and finally pretend it is to or about us! In the case of the Gentiles in Matthew chapter 25, they have faith and works because their message from God requires faith and works. If they believe God’s Word—that Israel is God’s special nation (Genesis 12:1-3)—then they will have works to prove their faith. God tells them (not us but them) to bless Israel. If they curse (mistreat, ignore) Israel, they will not have eternal fellowship with God. These cursers of Israel will be tossed into Hell whereas the blessers of Israel will enter the Millennial Reign of Jesus Christ. That will be the ultimate fulfillment of the Abrahamic Covenant—blessed because they blessed Israel or cursed because they cursed Israel. Again, through Israel, God will bless all nations.
Let us look at James chapter 2 for a few moments: “ What doth it profit, my brethren, though a man say he hath faith, and have not works? can faith save him?  If a brother or sister be naked, and destitute of daily food,  And one of you say unto them, Depart in peace, be ye warmed and filled; notwithstanding ye give them not those things which are needful to the body; what doth it profit?  Even so faith, if it hath not works, is dead, being alone.  Yea, a man may say, Thou hast faith, and I have works: shew me thy faith without thy works, and I will shew thee my faith by my works.  Thou believest that there is one God; thou doest well: the devils also believe, and tremble.  But wilt thou know, O vain man, that faith without works is dead?  Was not Abraham our father justified by works, when he had offered Isaac his son upon the altar?  Seest thou how faith wrought with his works, and by works was faith made perfect?  And the scripture was fulfilled which saith, Abraham believed God, and it was imputed unto him for righteousness: and he was called the Friend of God.  Ye see then how that by works a man is justified, and not by faith only.  Likewise also was not Rahab the harlot justified by works, when she had received the messengers, and had sent them out another way?  For as the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without works is dead also.”
Dear friends, before we yank this passage too as though it is written to or about us, we had better look at James 1:1. James says he is writing “to the twelve tribes scattered abroad.” This is not Gentiles. This is the nation Israel, for Israel alone has 12 tribes. Since Israel is God’s literal, physical, visible, earthly people; He wants them to have literal, physical, visible, earthly works. Gentiles who have faith in Israel’s program will have works to show their faith as well. See Rahab’s example of blessing Israel noted in James 2:25 (historically, this occurred in Joshua 2:1-24 and Joshua 6:17-25). After all, these people have a works message from God. Faith is first and foremost, trusting God is first and foremost, but works follow (prove) their faith.
In the case of us in the Dispensation of Grace, this is not true. We do not have a works message from God. Our message is grace, and grace says not to work! Jesus Christ did that work at Calvary to please God and make us acceptable to Him. “Christ died for our sins, He was buried, and He rose again the third day” (1 Corinthians 15:3-4). This is what we have to trust—place our faith in—in order to have eternal life today. We do not have to worry about what God told Israel or Gentiles in her prophetic program. They are not us and we are not them!
Let us go now to Romans 11:6: “And if by grace, then is it no more of works: otherwise grace is no more grace. But if it be of works, then it is no more grace: otherwise work is no more work.” Israel did not learn this lesson; hence, they crucified Jesus Christ (see Romans chapters 9 and 10 quoted below). Her message from God was faith and works; instead, she stayed in unbelief and tried to substitute faith with works, rather than having faith and then works.
Romans chapters 9 and 10: “[9:30] What shall we say then? That the Gentiles, which followed not after righteousness, have attained to righteousness, even the righteousness which is of faith. [9:31] But Israel, which followed after the law of righteousness, hath not attained to the law of righteousness. [9:32] Wherefore? Because they sought it not by faith, but as it were by the works of the law. For they stumbled at that stumblingstone; [9:33] As it is written, Behold, I lay in Sion a stumblingstone and rock of offence: and whosoever believeth on him shall not be ashamed. [10:1] Brethren, my heart’s desire and prayer to God for Israel is, that they might be saved. [10:2] For I bear them record that they have a zeal of God, but not according to knowledge. [10:3] For they being ignorant of God’s righteousness, and going about to establish their own righteousness, have not submitted themselves unto the righteousness of God.”
Today’s aforementioned works-religion people are in the same satanic trap. Self-righteousness has consumed them, just as it did Israel of old. They can quote the Bible all they want, and still wind up in Hell! How critical it is for them to learn this verse: “Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth” (2 Timothy 2:15). We must separate God’s Word to us (Paul’s epistles, Romans through Philemon) from the rest of Scripture. It is a matter of getting the right Gospel message out of the Bible that applies to us. How dangerous it is to grab verses out of context, especially verses that have absolutely nothing to do with us!!
Saint Paul the Apostle, when asked about salvation unto eternal life, replied as follows: “And they said, Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved, and thy house” (Acts 16:31). Romans 3:22 says: “Even the righteousness of God which is by faith of Jesus Christ unto all and upon all them that believe: for there is no difference:…” First Corinthians 1:21: “For after that in the wisdom of God the world by wisdom knew not God, it pleased God by the foolishness of preaching to save them that believe.” Galatians 3:22: “But the scripture hath concluded all under sin, that the promise by faith of Jesus Christ might be given to them that believe.” Once more, there is nothing here about works. Faith and faith alone is the issue today as pertaining to justification unto eternal life, forgiveness of sins, a home in Heaven. That is “the Gospel of the Grace of God” committed to Saint Paul’s trust and our trust (Acts 20:24).
Now, dear friends, let it be clearly understood we do good works as Christians, but not to become Christians. Thanks to religious tradition, there is great confusion here—and there should not be. We are saved by grace through faith without works, but that does not mean that God does not care how we live. He saves us in order to do good works in and through us; we are not saved to continue in sin.
Romans 6:14-15: “ For sin shall not have dominion over you: for ye are not under the law, but under grace.  What then? shall we sin, because we are not under the law, but under grace? God forbid.”
Ephesians 2:8-10: “ For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God:  Not of works, lest any man should boast.  For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them.”
Titus 2:11-15: “ For the grace of God that bringeth salvation hath appeared to all men,  Teaching us that, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly, in this present world;  Looking for that blessed hope, and the glorious appearing of the great God and our Saviour Jesus Christ;  Who gave himself for us, that he might redeem us from all iniquity, and purify unto himself a peculiar people, zealous of good works.  These things speak, and exhort, and rebuke with all authority. Let no man despise thee.”