The Great Separation
“And these will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life” (Matt. 25:46).- Matthew 25:31–46
Our passage for today’s study is Matthew 25:31–46, wherein Jesus describes the final judgment. When the Savior returns, He will separate the sheep (those who trust Christ and obey Him) from the goats (non-believers). As verse 46 tells us, the destiny of the sheep is eternal life, but the goats will endure eternal punishment.
Notably, the Greek word for judgment is the same word from which we derive the English term crisis. All of the crises we experience in this life pale before the ultimate crisis — the weighing of our hearts and works by the perfect judge of the universe.
Perhaps many people deny hell because all men know what their response would have to be if an omnipotent, omniscient, and righteous judge were to hold them accountable. When Jesus the judge confronts the goats with their lack of service toward Him, they will not be able to defend themselves, because they have failed to honor Him and serve “the least of these” (Matt. 25:41–46). There is no point in trying to deny any wrongdoing, for He will know right away that they are lying. Sinful men will not be able to weasel out of their predicament; the only response they will give is silence. Romans 3:19 makes it clear that everyone who is confronted with God’s perfect law has his tongue stopped because his evident guilt makes any other answer impossible.
All men know their transgressions render them unable to deny the omniscient Lord’s verdict. Ultimately, all people know how much they deserve hell, and so they must deny its existence or believe God will overlook sin in order to continue living a life opposed to the Almighty’s will. Though Scripture is clear on God’s unwillingness to compromise His wrath (Zeph. 1:14–18; Rev. 6:17), hardened sinners must deny hell and embrace a false deity who cares nothing about righteousness if they are to continue living life by their rules.
Christians know it is not an option to deny the righteousness of God’s wrath (see Rom. 3:5–6). Ignoring it does not help us escape it. Instead, all we can do is acknowledge our sins and trust in Jesus, the only One who can save us from the wrath of God (Rom. 5:9).
If we must give an account to God for our careless words, then surely we should seek to be more careful with the words we speak to others (Matt. 12:36–37). Knowing that the Lord is just should make us aware of how we live, for God will not overlook any transgression. As believers, we are saved from His wrath, but we still must be thoughtful about our speech (James 3). Consider your words and try to say only those things that are pleasing to God.
Passages for Further Study