Summary: Are you prepared for the return of the King?
The Return of the King
Matthew 25: 31-46
As some of you may know, I am a great fan of Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings. I have always enjoyed the books, but the release of the three films over the last few years really brought the books to life for me in a tremendous way.
Although a great proportion of the story is focused on Frodo Baggins and Sam Gamgee and their mission to ensure the destruction of the ring of power, there is a sub plot to the story. There is a continuing story running underneath. And that’s the story of Aragorn. And over the course of the three books we come to realise that Aragorn is the heir to the throne of the kingdom of Gondor. And the victory that is won by Frodo with the destruction of the Ring will not have its earthly realization until Arargorn is crowned king.
In the same way, although much of the Bible focuses on Jesus, and his redeeming work of salvation on the cross there is nevertheless a sub plot. There is underlying much of what is recorded in the Bible another story. For the victory that is won by Jesus with the destruction of the power of death has its ultimate realization when Jesus returns as king of all.
Now you may be wondering about the relevance of this in the week before Christmas. Well, if you were here last week, you will remember that in the time before Christmas which we call advent, we are encouraged to have both short vision and long vision. We are to look forward to the immediacy of Christmas, but also to take the long view and look forward to the return of the king, to the return of Jesus as the king.
Over the last couple of weeks we have been looking at three chapters from Matthew’s gospel which look forwards to the return of the king. This week, we are looking at Matthew chapter 25. Once again, for the benefit of the reader, we’ve only had part of it read, but I will be referring to the whole chapter, so you may wish to the look at it in the pew Bibles with me.
The Return of the King will happen
The first thing to note is that return of the king will happen. There is a certainty about the return of the king. In v31 we read ’When the Son of Man comes in his glory’. The Son of Man is another way of describing Jesus. And the keyword is here is ‘when’. It says ‘when’ not ‘if ‘. There is certainty about the return of the king.
What is not certain is when it will be. You will recall that we talked about this last week when we thought about not knowing when the king would come back. And an additional illustration to make the point is provided earlier in chapter 25, with the parable of the wise and foolish girls. The parable concludes in v13 with a phrase ‘Watch therefore, for you know neither the day nor the hour.’ So the return of the king is certain – but we do not know when. The timing is uncertain.
The Return of the King will bring judgement
What we do know is something of what will happen when the king returns. For we need to note that the return of the king will bring judgement. As I mentioned a fortnight ago, it may not be politically correct to talk about judgement, but it is undoubtedly spiritually correct to do so. For it is here very much in front of us this morning. The clear statement of this passage is that the return of the king will bring judgement. We know from elsewhere in the Bible that God has given the job of judgement to Jesus. John 5:22 ff .’The Father judges no-one but has given all judgment to the Son.’ In v32 we see this judgement illustrated as we see that Jesus separates the people as a shepherd separates the sheep and the goats.
Now I don’t know about you, but I find this passage a little confusing. Just what is the basis upon which the sheep and the goats are separated? With Jesus as the judge, just what is the evidence upon which the decision is made?
I think we need to take the big view here. It’s very easy to look at the parables and get tied up in the detail. But I think there are three key points here.
Lets go back to the beginning of the chapter. The first piece of evidence that is considered comes from the parable of the wise and silly girls. Now girls all looked the same, but they were not. Only half of them were ready when the bridegroom came. But why were they not ready? Why were they shut out? Well, the answer lies in v 12. For the bridegroom says ‘Truly I say to you, I don’t know you’.