Sometimes I need a wake-up call. Sometimes it is easy to be so caught up in the minutia of everyday life that the big picture, the only important picture is lost. The big picture is that every single person alive now, every person that has ever lived, and every person not yet born has one of two destinies. Every single person will be going to Heaven to be forever with Jesus; or to Hell for eternal torment. That is not my theory on what happens after death, it is what Jesus Himself said happens after death.
In Matthew 25 we find the parable of the sheep and the goats. Jesus told this parable to describe what happens after his return.
Matthew 25:31-33 “When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with Him, He will sit on His glorious throne. 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. He will put the sheep on His right and the goats on His left.”
So we see here that there are only two groups, the sheep and the goats; just as there are only two destinations for all people.
The first group, the sheep, Jesus said are greeted by the King (vs 34) “Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world.” He then goes on to describe the evidence of their being sheep.
Matthew 25:35-36 “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, 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.”
In the parable the sheep are confused, they don’t understand when they saw their Lord in need and came to His aid. He explains this to them in vs 40 “…Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.”
The second group, the goats, has the evidence presented of the fact that they are indeed goats. Just like the sheep, the goats don’t understand, they don’t understand when they saw the Lord in need and did not come to His aid. Jesus’ answer is slightly different for them.
Matthew 25:45-46 “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.’ Then they will go away to eternal punishment, but the righteous to eternal life.”
It is pretty easy as a Christian to read those words and be filled with gratitude for being a sheep. However, we all started out as goats; that eternal punishment is what we deserve. It is only the trans-formative power of Jesus’ atonement for our sins that can take a natural goat like me and make a new creation as a sheep.
The wake-up call I mentioned earlier came the day before New Year’s Eve. That was the day I found out that another friend had died, had passed from life to one of the two eternal destinies. Over the last year and a half or so, it feels like I have seen a lot of death. I am not sure if this is a natural occurrence due to getting older, or an unusual spike. The biggest difference in the death of a friend, though, is the not knowing if they were saved, if they were one of the sheep. In this case I had spent time with this friend, helped him with projects, given him rides when he did not have a vehicle available, and in all that time spent together I never once asked him if he knew Jesus.
That simple realization is what has been keeping me awake. In the amount of time we got to spend together, never once did I approach the only question that matters, and yet I had the nerve to consider myself a friend. How could this be? How could a former goat, look at anyone and not have a burning desire to at least know if a friend is a fellow sheep, or a goat in need of transformation? Why would any social consideration, any nod to “politeness” override the urgency of the situation. How could it override the simple fact that not one of us has any guarantee of tomorrow? There is no guarantee of another day for a person to turn to Jesus and be rescued; nor is there any guarantee that we will have another chance to speak into someone’s life, to be a living gospel in a broken world.
Hebrews 9:27-28 “Just as people are destined to die once, and after that to face judgement, so Christ was sacrificed once to take away the sins of many; and He will appear a second time, not to bear sin, but to bring salvation to those who are waiting for Him.”
There is a practice called “personalization” where you can substitute your name, or someone else’s name for a generic noun in a scripture verse. By doing this myself the first part of the verse would read, “Just as people (Zach) is destined to die once…”. This helps drive home the point that there is an appointed day, and death is inevitable. However, it can be equally helpful to insert a friend’s name here, or a person that you are having a hard time loving. Every person has one appointed moment in time when they will transition from life to eternal destiny.
It is the norm in our society to live our lives looking to the future, to be planning for retirement, or the next vacation, or whatever else we see as important on our life calendar. Do we ever stop to consider though that today might be it? Jesus addressed just such a situation.
Luke 12:16-21. And He told them this parable: The ground of a certain rich man yielded an abundant harvest. He thought to himself, “What shall I do? I have no place to store my crops.” Then he said, “This is what I’ll do. I will tear down my barns and build bigger ones, and there I will store my surplus grain. And I’ll say to myself ‘You have plenty of grain laid up for many years. Take life easy; eat, drink, and be merry.’” But God said to him, “You fool! This very night your life will be demanded from you. Then who will get what you have prepared for yourself?” This is how it will be with whoever stores up things for themselves but is not rich toward God.
So this brings me to the questions I have been asking myself. “Am I living life like today might be the only day I have left?” I do not mean to live recklessly, for God does tell us to have a plan for the future and be a good steward today. My question to myself is directed at spiritual things. “Am I living today like I may never get another chance to be the gospel lived out to the people I interact with, and like they may never get another chance to hear the gospel?”
Is my heart’s desire to throw social norms to the wind and live today for the sole purpose of proclaiming the gospel of Christ, that other goats may be transformed by Jesus into sheep?
I would urge you in your quiet time with God to ask Him to show you your heart. Then as we start on a new year, consider this. What if every single person who claimed Christ as Lord and Savior lived each day like they may never have another chance to tell someone the Good News? What might God do with devotion like that? How many lives would He transform? What would happen to our homes, cities, and states if we all lived like we actually believed what the Bible says? (ESV) “It is appointed for man to die once, and after that comes judgement.”
Do you dare to try living life instead of looking to retirement rather living today like you are dying, like the person you meet on the street is dying? Do you dare to live sold out for the gospel? These are the questions I am asking myself.