Matthew 25:41-46 (ESV)
41 “Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. 42 For I was hungry and you gave me no food, I was thirsty and you gave me no drink, 43 I was a stranger and you did not welcome me, naked and you did not clothe me, sick and in prison and you did not visit me.’ 44 Then they also will answer, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison, and did not minister to you?’ 45 Then he will answer them, saying, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to me.’ 46 And these will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life.”
Jesus let his followers know what will happen to those on his left, the goats, who are not in a relationship with him. Instead of hearing “enter in” from Jesus, they will be told to “depart.” They are sentenced to the eternal fire, which was prepared for Satan and his evil angels. It’s worth noticing that those who are believers will go to the kingdom prepared for them from the beginning of the world (25:34), but those who have rejected Jesus will be sent to the place not made ready for them, but for Satan. (v. 41) Jesus then goes through the same list he outlined with the earlier group. Even though these people did not know Jesus, he still holds this group responsible for not providing food, drink and hospitality to strangers, or taking care of someone’s financial needs, or visiting them when they were sick or imprisoned. In fact, he explains to them that when they didn’t do these things for others, they didn’t do these things for him. These people were shocked. They questioned, “When did we not do these things for you Jesus?” They didn’t realize loving other people was so important to God.
Many think God is only concerned about their bad behavior. They may protest, “But I am not doing anything wrong!” When they say this, they don’t realize that God requires people to refrain from wrong and to do what is right. Both are essential. Loving and serving others is a necessary byproduct of a right relationship with Jesus. If you are a follower of Jesus today, you will look for and meet needs in other people. Now there are and will be people who don’t know Jesus, yet they live sacrificially. Even though they may do well, if they are lacking the right motive, gratitude for the work Jesus has done in saving them, their good deeds will come up short. We all need the forgiveness of God and truly can’t afford to leave earth without it. This was Jesus’ final teaching to his followers in Matthew’s gospel. His last sentence was, “And these will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life.” Take some time to meditate on the word “eternal.” As you will discover, eternity is a really, really long time. Ask God to help you make decisions today that are appropriate to one who possesses eternal life.