Sheep and Goats (a Bible study)

As we dive into this passage of scripture, I want to draw the distinction between “those on the King’s right” and “those on the King’s left.” The symbolism used here is an obvious contrast of people who will be welcomed into heaven and others who will be forever cursed to an eternity in hell.

Matthew 25:31-46 [NIV]

31 “When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, he will sit on his glorious throne.

32 All the nations will be gathered before him, and he will separate the people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats.

33 He will put the sheep on his right and the goats on his left.

RIGHT vs. LEFT

The position on the right hand of a king is a place of honor, a place often reserved for the righteous and mighty. Why are the “sheep” in good standing with the king while the “goats” are not? We’ll get to that shortly…

34 “Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world.

35 For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in,

36 I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’

37 “Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink?

38 When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you?

39 When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’

40 “The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’

UNDERSTANDING THE SYMBOLISM

Sheep are generally utilized in scripture to represent followers of Christ. We are called His sheep and He our Shepherd. And Jesus Himself is known as the Lamb of God, and the Lamb that was slain for the forgiveness of our sins.

In contrast, the image of the goat is often used to represent the dark or evil one – satan, the devil. Or, as in this passage, the goats represent those who followed after the sinful nature – and so, followed the devil and his ways.

And what does the king say to these “goats?”

41 “Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels.

42 For I was hungry and you gave me nothing to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink,

43 I was a stranger and you did not invite me in, I needed clothes and you did not clothe me, I was sick and in prison and you did not look after me.’

44 “They also will answer, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or needing clothes or sick or in prison, and did not help you?’

45 “He will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me.’

46 “Then they will go away to eternal punishment, but the righteous to eternal life.”

BEING SHEEP, NOT GOATS

The difference is clear. When that day comes and He separates the sheep from the goats, we want to find ourselves on His right and not His left. We want to hear Him say “Well done” rather than “Depart from me!”

But to an untrained eye, sheep and goats look quite similar. And too often, people may look at us (Christians) and see little or no difference in us and your average everyday worldly non-believers. How can we make that distinction clear to everyone?

In John 10, Jesus says:

14 “I am the good shepherd; I know my sheep and my sheep know me—
15 just as the Father knows me and I know the Father—and I lay down my life for the sheep.

One sure way to stand apart from the world is to live like a people known to Jesus. This means following His commands and doing what we ought. Further down in this chapter, He adds:

27 My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me.

28 I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; no one will snatch them out of my hand.

If we know His voice and listen only to Him, our actions will proclaim loudly to everyone that we belong to Jesus. In fact, sheep can only be led by the voice they recognize as that of their shepherd. Other voices are ignored. We can take a lesson from this.

THE VOICE OF THE GOOD SHEPHERD

When we are tuned in to the voice of Christ, no other frequencies overlap. If satan tries to lead us astray while our receivers are tuned into Jesus, the enemy will only register as static. A little fine tuning (through prayer and praise), and that static is gone.

How do we stay tuned in to the right station? Through study and meditation on the Word of God. The more we spend time with Jesus, studying His teachings and learning His ways, the easier it will be to recognize His voice and distinguish it from the background noise generated by the devil.

FINAL THOUGHTS

Put all of this together now – knowing the Lord’s voice, following His commands – and where will it lead us? Every opportunity He brings us to show His love and be a blessing to others will offer us a chance to demonstrate that we are His.

The Bible gives us the blueprint for being like Jesus to the world around us. Follow His example, and you will be a Kingdom Hero. Go back to our original scripture in Matthew 25:

40 “The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’

Meeting the needs of people He puts in your path – whether it’s feeding the hungry, caring for the sick, or whatever – this is the mark of a Kingdom Hero. And that’s just the kind of person a king would have at his right hand in a place of honor. Where will YOU be? On His right, or on His left?

In a world full of goats, I’d much rather be a sheep.

Author: stacemassengill

I'm just a nobody tryin' to tell ev'rybody all about Somebody who saved my soul! Well, I am a blood-bought saint of God - a sinner saved by His amazing Grace! God called me to start Great Commission Ministries online in June of 2011, and that began as a video series called "The GC." After 7 seasons of that web-series, I felt led to expand the ministry to blogs as well as a new video series I call "67 seconds of Encouragement." This site is home to my blogs, and my prayer is that it ministers to everyone who reads it. Please share this ministry with others and help spread the Good News of Christ!

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