ON the SHEEP and the GOATS
A response to the article by A.E.Knoch concerning Matt.
First of all, it seems to me that the passage in view is the
conclusion of a body of the sayings of Jesus, begun in ch. 24:3
when "the disciples came to Him privately." The CLNT, and
rightly so, I think, puts this entire passage in quotes. Then
ch. 26:1 indicates a break, or a change of context, with the words,
"when Jesus finishes all these sayings."
Immediately prior to this Jesus had spoken words against the
scribes and Pharisees in ch. 23, ending that discourse speaking of
their undergoing the judging of Gehenna (vs. 33), and then speaking
of Jerusalem as a whole (vs. 37-39) saying, "left is your house to
you desolate." Note that here He spoke of many times wanting
to assemble them "in the manner a hen is assembling her brood under
her wings." That would have been an assembling for care and
protection. But this was not to be.
Instead we see the prediction of the demolishing of the buildings
of the sanctuary, which we all know happened in A.D. 70.
Instead of an assembling as a brood, we see the prediction of their
fleeing and taking flight (ch. 24:16-21). Did this not also
occur? I am wondering if "the consummation" spoken of in
24:14 was speaking of "the end" of their system of worship, with
the destruction of the sanctuary and of Jerusalem . By this
time the evangel of the kingdom had been heralded in that whole
inhabited area. But to press this point is not the intent of
From 24:23 to the end of the chapter Jesus gives various
descriptions and characteristics regarding "the presence of the Son
of Mankind." Vs. 31 speaks again of an assembling through the
use of messengers with a trumpet (a figure of a "message").
This assembling is of His people.
In vs. 37-42 we see examples of the suddenness of His
judgment. The chapter ends with an example of His coming "in
an hour which you are not supposing" (vs. 44), and "on a day for
which he is not hoping and in an hour which he knows not"
(vs.50). I suggest that in all of these, He is referring to
coming to His people. In the days of Noah there was not yet
the distinction of "Jews and non-Jews." A few were righteous,
most were unrighteous.
The point of this example is the suddenness, the unexpectedness, of
His visitation in judgment. The two in the field would not
likely be the one a Jew, the other a Gentile. I suggest that
these are both His people, but one suffers His judgment and is
"taken" as were those who were taken by the deluge. The
example of the "faithful and prudent slave," as compared to "that
evil slave," is set within the same lord's house. Note that
the slave who is cut asunder is appointed his part "with the
hypocrites" -- the same term Jesus had just been applying to the
scribes and Pharisees, who were still His people!
Now we come to ch. 25, and we see the same line of thinking
Some were ready for the coming of the
bridegroom, some were stupid and unprepared. But all were
"virgins," all were part of the same society: His people.
Next He gives the example of "a man traveling," who "calls his own
slaves" and gives money for them to work with, then he is returning
"and settling accounts with them." The faithful slaves are
rewarded, the "wicked and slothful slave" suffers loss and is cast
into outer darkness where he laments and gnashes his teeth -- along
with the hypocrites of ch. 24:51. What happened to him?
He simply lost his job and was removed from his position in the
household, or business. He was now homeless and
jobless. But he is still a part of the same society, one of
Now we come to the wonderful (for I suggest that this is
part of the "good news") passage in vs. 31-46.
we suppose that all of a sudden Jesus has changed the format or the
setting or the subject matter of this long discourse? I
suggest that the problem lies in the translation of ta eqnh as "the
nations." May I quote from Kittel's Theological Dictionary of
the New Testament, Vol. II, p. 369: "'ethnos'" in the NT.
1. This word, which is common in Gk. from the very first,
probably comes from 'ethos,' and means 'mass' or 'host' or
'multitude' bound by the same manners, customs or other distinctive
features. Applied to men, it gives us the sense of people;
but it can also be used of animals in the sense of 'herd' or of
insects in the sense of 'swarm' .... In most cases 'ethnos' is used
of men in the sense of 'a people'."
It seems to me that since Jesus is speaking in terms of sheep and
kids, that the words "herds" or "multitudes" may be more
appropriate for this passage. All along, up to this point in
these sayings, He has been referring to His people, His
household. A kid was a clean animal and could be used in a
sacrifice. He was not severing the sheep from the dogs or the
swine. I submit that this gathering is the same assembling
spoken of in ch. 24:31. If you insist on the word being
translated "nations," then I suggest a word of clarity be added and
it read, "gathered [from] all the nations." This sense seems
consistent to the entire passage.
Further, it would seem from the picture being drawn that
since the "Shepherd" is severing one species from another, that it
is evident that both up to this point have been a part of His
Jesus is here using this figure to once again show
that when He is coming He makes a distinction, such as between the
wise and the stupid, or between the faithful and the useless.
This is a time of reward, or the suffering of loss. Knoch has
well pointed out the absence of believing as being an ingredient in
this figure. All that is discussed is good works, or the
But let us look further, at the terms "sheep" and "brethren."
In John 10:24-27 we see Jesus saying to the Jews (vs. 26), "But you
are not believing, seeing that you are not My sheep, according as I
said to you." These were Israelites, Jews, but they were not
His sheep. Vs. 27 gives a designation of sheep, "My sheep are
hearing My voice, and I know them, and they are following
Me." Recall Matt. 25:12 where the bridegroom said to the
stupid virgins, "I am not acquainted with you."
In a broad sense, Israel was figured as sheep (e.g. Ps. 100:3; Isa.
53:6; Jer. 50:6; etc.). However, we see Jesus making a
distinction here in John 10:26, as He did between virgins and
servants in Matt. 24 & 25. Perhaps this is what Paul was
referring to in Rom. 11:7 where he said, "yet the chosen
encountered it. Now the rest [of Israel ] were calloused
..." This would fall in line with Lu. 12:32 , "Do not fear,
little flocklet, for it delights your Father to give you the
kingdom." Matt. 13:11 gives further light, where Jesus says
to the disciples, "To you has it been given to know the secrets of
the kingdom of the heavens, yet to those [the ones who were not
disciples] it has not been given."
In Lu. 8:21 Jesus makes this statement: "My mother and My brethren
are these who are hearing the word of God and doing it." Paul
refers to this same group when he speaks of those "who are called
according to purpose, because whom He foreknew, He designates
beforehand, also, to be conformed to the image of His Son, for Him
to be Firstborn among many brethren." (Rom.8:28,29) Paul uses
the term "brethren" throughout his letters to refer to those of the
body of Christ. Thus, how you treat His "body" is how you
To differentiate between the body of Christ and the Israelites in
general, Paul inserts the qualifying phrase "my relatives according
to the flesh" when he calls Israelites "brethren" in Rom.
9:3. In Rom. 10:1 Paul distinguishes between Israel, who he
had just been talking about in the previous verses, and his
brothers in Christ when he says, "Indeed, brethren, the delight of
my heart and my petition to God for THEIR sake [or, "on behalf of
them;" some later MSS read "on behalf of Israel"] is for
salvation." Thus, to assume that the phrase "the least of My
brethren" refers to the nation of Israel , in Matt. 25:40, is, I
What is the difference between the sheep and the
The sheep produced the fruit of the Spirit -- Love --
without ever taking note of it. They were not aware of this
fruit. It was the automatic produce of the mature life of
Christ that was within them. It was evident that they were
disciples ("By this all shall be knowing that you are My disciples,
if you should be having love for one another." John
13:35). Their good works were just a mature outflow of His
life. Their reward was to "enjoy the allotment of the
What of the kids?
They were just still "kids." --
pardon the pun. There was no fruit of the Spirit in their
lives. To change the metaphor, they just needed to be pruned
to produce fruit. As you know, the word translated
"chastening" in the CLNT is the noun "kolasis," from the verb
"koladzo," which Thayer lists as, "1. prop. to lop, prune, as
trees, wings. 2. to check, curb, restrain." Among the
meanings Kittel lists are "to cut short," "to lop," "to
trim." Consider the metaphor in John 15:1-2, "I am the true
Grapevine, and My Father is the Farmer. Every branch in Me
bringing forth no fruit, He is taking it away, and every one
bringing forth fruit, He is cleansing it [with eonian fire?], that
it may be bringing forth more fruit." Changing the
metaphor again, let us look at Heb. 12:5-7, "My son, do not be
neglecting (giving little care to) the Lord's discipline
(education, child-training), neither be exhausted (dissolved) being
continually convicted (exposed, reproved, put to the test) under
Him, for whom the Lord is loving (continuously loves), He is
continuously disciplining (child-training), and He is repeatedly
scourging every son whom He is taking alongside with His hands
(accepting, receiving). If you are remaining under discipline
(child-training), God is continuously being brought (offered)
toward you as sons. For what son exists whom a father is not
disciplining?" (Mitchell version) So these kids are not ready
to enjoy the allotment of the kingdom -- YET! But Christ is
treating them as sons!
Returning to the metaphor of a branch being lopped off, we see in
John 15:2 & 6 that "Every branch in Me bringing forth no fruit,
He is taking away .... If anyone should not be remaining in Me, he
is (or, was -- aor.) cast out as a branch, and is withered (or, it
withered). And they are gathering them, and into the fire are
they casting them, and they are being burned." This seems
quite similar to the figure of the kids being sent from Him "into
the fire eonian" in Matt. 25:41.
But let's look to Romans, where Paul uses the "branch" metaphor in
ch. 11:17, "Now if some of the boughs are broken out ..."
What happens to a bough when it is broken out of a tree? It
withers, doesn't it? Is it true, then, that these too are
being gathered into the fire and are being burned? Has this
not happened, both literally and figuratively, to the Jews
throughout history ever since? But the hope is found in vs.
23, "Now they also, if they should not be persisting in unbelief,
will be grafted in, for God is able to graft them in again!"
I suggest that this same principle applies to the kids that are
pruned in Matt.
Here you must observe that the passage is a
parable; and that the parable is concerning nations, not individual
men, as our Lord Himself tells us at the very onset (verse 32):
And before Him shall be gathered all
nations, and He shall separate them one from another, as a shepherd
divideth his sheep from his
Goats Dear As Sheep
You must also
remember, if you intend to found any conclusion on the parable, or
to infer from words spoken of nations conclusions which touch the
lot and fate of individual men, that the Judge is here set forth in
the tender and familiar form of a Shepherd: that to the Eastern
shepherd his goats are well-nigh, if not quite, as dear as his
sheep; and that the left hand of a Judge or Ruler is the next best
place to his right hand. Nay, more, you must mark--and this is a
point which does not appear in our Authorized Version--that our
Lord speaks in a certain gentle and kindly, even in a pitiful and
caressing tone, of those who are ranged on the left hand of the
Judge. The words he uses for them is not "goats." In verse 32, he
speaks of the Shepherd as dividing his sheep, not from His goats,
but from his "kids"; and in verse 33, he takes a still tenderer
tone, and speaks of the Shepherd-Judge as setting His sheep on His
right hand, but His "kidlings" - diminutive of kids, and, like all
such diminutives, an expression of affection - on His left.
These considerations, these hints of mercy and compassion, may well
make us careful as to the conclusions we deduce from this great
passage. And even when the veil of parable falls aside, and
when we seem to get clear and distrinct statements, at least on the
fate of nations, if not on that of their individual units, we have
still to remember that the Judge is depicted as rendering to
everyone the due reward of his deeds, and of all his deeds.
It is implied that if anyone has so much as given a cup of cold
water to the least of Christ's brethren, he, though himself not a
brother, shall in no wise lose His reward.
This Age & That Which Is To Come
we have to examine the terms in which these future rewards are
expressed. To those who stand on His left hand, the Judge is
represented as saying, "depart from me, ye cursed [self-cursed],
into the aeonial fire." Now I have no wish to abate the
impressive sadness, the awful severity of these words. "The
wrath of the Lamb" of God must be very terrible. And to hear
Him whose gracious lips have always hitherto said,"Come unto me"
say "depart from Me" will be an experience so sad, a surprise so
terrible, as that I can well believe every man who hears that
rebuff from His meek and gracious lips will wish that he had never
been born; yes, and wish he had never been born even though he
understands that he is banished from the presence of Christ only
for an age, only that the age-long fire may consume his sins and
burn out his unrighteousness. But to say that those who have
rejected Christ in this present age are to be doomed to an
everlasting banishment from His mercy is to contradict Christ
himself, who expressly tells us that all manner of blasphemy
against the Son of Man may be forgiven both in this age and in that
which is to come. And, moreover, it is to import a new
meaning into the meaning "aeonial", which, as we have seen, means
"age-long," and to import it quite unnecessarily, since if we take
our Lord as meaning that a rejection of Him in this age will be
punished by banishment from Him in the age to come, we find a very
good and sufficient sense in His words; whereas if we take Him as
meaning that to reject Him in this brief life is to be excluded
from His love forever, we not only strike a note utterly discordant
with the tender and pitiful tone He speaks throughout the parable,
but we also introduce that vast, unreasonable, unjust disproportion
between our deeds here and their results hereafter from which
reason and conscience alike revolt.
And what are we to say to the closing words
[verse 46] of the parable? "These shall go away into aeonial
punishment, but the righteous into life eternal." Well, we
may say this, take the phrase "aeonial life" to mean here, as
elsewhere, life in Christ, the spiritual life distinctive of the
Christian aeons, and "aeonial punishment" to mean here, as
elsewhere, the discipline, the punishment distinctive of the
Christian aeons, the punishment which those inflict on themselves
who adjudge themselves unworthy of that life, and the words make a
very good and reasonable sense, a sense so reasonable that we need
to search for no other. And mark, in this case at least, we
cannot put a darker sense into the words of Christ except by
trifling with them, and implying that we know what He meant better
than He did Himself. For the word rendered "punishment"
[kolasis] is a very peculiar one. In its primary use, when it
is applied to natural processes, it means "pruning," i.e., pruning
bushes and trees in order that they may bring forth more
fruit. When it is used figuratively, when it is applied to
moral processes, it means corrective discipline, discipline by
which character is pruned and made more fruitful in good
works. The Greek has two words for "punishment", kolasis, the
word used by our Lord and timoria, a word also used in the New
Testament [Hebrews 10:29]: and the distinctive meanings of
these two words are defined by Aristotle himself.
The one word, that used by
Christ, denotes, He says, that kind of punishment which is intended
for improvement of the offender; while the other denotes that kind
of punishment which is intended for the vindication of law and
justice. And even the advocates of endless torment admit that
the word selected by Christ means, according to the Greek meaning,
remedial discipline, punishment designed to reform and improve men,
to prune away their defects and sins. Archbishop Trench,
[Synonyms of the New Testament, pp. 23, 24], for example, after
adverting to the well known distinction between the two words,
confesses that while the latter is used to indicate "the vindictive
character of punishment, the former indicates punishment as it has
reference to the correction and bettering of the offender."
And I do not know where we shall find a sadder instance of the way
in which good men suffer their theories and traditions to warp
their judgment than may be found in the fact that, after thus
defining the original and proper sense of the word used by Christ,
this good and learned man proceeds to say that it would, however,
be "a very serious error" to take the word in its proper sense
here. We, on the contrary, maintain that it would be
something worse than an error to take it in any but its usual and
proper sense and, therefore, we conclude that our Lord meant
precisely what He said; viz., that the wicked should go away from
his bar to be pruned, go away into an age-long discipline by which
they should be castigated for their sins, yea, and saved from their
sins by the corrective discipline of His loving wrath. For
that would not be a corrective discipline which left man unimproved
forever; that would be a strange sort of "pruning", which was not
at least designed to produce fruit.
*Literally "for the banished to not be
We Get The Parables Of Jesus
I'd like you to think about these two parables
of Jesus, and the reason why is because most of the time we get the
parables of Jesus wrong. We pick them up, and we think that Jesus
is telling us what we ought to do. You know, they're sort of
lessons in loveliness. If we can master the lesson in the parable,
we can turn out to be perfect peaches or something else. But the
point is that parables are not first of all about us. The parables
of Jesus are first of all about how God works in this world - the
mysterious, strange, bizarre, odd way that God deals with us,
because the parables are very strange things. Jesus is a genius of
story-telling, and what you have to watch most of all with Jesus in
his parables are the small twists, the little turns and the details
you don't notice. I can have read a parable for twenty-five years,
preached on it twenty-five times, and in the twenty-sixth year all
of a sudden see something I never saw before; and it has been
buried there all along.
Three Parables About Lostness
So I'm going to start
in on the parable of the lost sheep. This is in the 15th chapter of
St. Luke's Gospel. And that chapter, incidentally, contains three
parables about lostness: the lost sheep, the lost coin, and the
lost son, the great parable of the prodigal son. The first thing
that Luke says when this parable begins, is that the tax collectors
and the sinners were drawing near to Jesus to hear him. The scribes
and the pharisees grumbled about this. They complained about this
and they said, "This man welcomes sinners, and he eats with them,
and therefore he's a bad person."
Not Much Of A Messiah
Now, obviously Jesus, by many
people's minds, was thought to be a perfect candidate to be the
promised Messiah who would fulfill God's will for Israel and do all
sorts of wonderful things in the world. People like the scribes and
the pharisees didn't think that Jesus was much of a Messiah
candidate if he could associate with tax collectors and sinners.
Tax collectors were mostly crooks in those days, and sinners meant
what it means now. Everyone's favorite sin is something sexual, and
the sinners most likely were prostitutes. Jesus spent a lot of time
welcoming those people, eating with them, talking with them,
visiting them, and otherwise consorting with them, so they didn't
like this. It's apropos of this remark: "This fellow eats with
sinners and welcomes them!", that Jesus tells the parables of
Of Course Not
"I want you to imagine that you have
one hundred sheep," he says to the pharisees and the scribes around
him. "I want you to imagine that you have one hundred sheep and
that you lose one of them. Now, wouldn't you, therefore, go out
after the lost one until you find it?" Well, what's the real answer
to that question? The real answer to that question is "of course
not." Nobody in his right mind who's in the sheep business has one
hundred sheep, loses one, leaves the ninety-nine to the wolves and
the coyotes, and goes chasing off after one. You cut your losses,
forget about the lost sheep, and go on with the ninety-nine. So
Jesus' question is perverse. It's odd. It's ironic. Who among you
would do this? Who among you wouldn't go out and do this? Everybody
wouldn't! They wouldn't go out and do this sort of thing. And,
therefore, then he says, "And when you find that, what would you do
with the sheep if you'd actually done this?" You would put the
sheep on your shoulder, and then notice what Jesus says. He doesn't
say, "Then he goes back to the ninety-nine and gives this little
sheep back to his mother sheep," or something else. What Jesus says
is that he puts the lost sheep on his shoulders and goes to his
house. He goes home.
Jesus Never Returns To The 99
In this parable, Jesus
never goes back to the ninety-nine sheep. The ninety-nine sheep are
a set-up. Jesus has divided the flock into one sheep and
ninety-nine sheep, and he's not trying to make two different
groups. You know, ninety-nine who don't get lost, and one who does.
I think the real meaning of the one and the ninety-nine is that the
one lost sheep is the whole human race as it really is. And the
ninety-nine "found" sheep who never get lost are the whole human
race as we think we are. And the ninety-nine; therefore, are not a
real piece of business in this. The one lost sheep stands for all
of us, and this says that the only thing the shepherdGod, the God
characteris interested in, is going after the lost, and, if
necessary, the shepherd will go out of the sheep ranching business
to find the lost, and God, therefore, will go out of the God
business, of the business of being the kind of God we turn God into
the God who's a bookkeeper, the God who's the divine infinite
"watch-bird" who's keeping records on everybody, and if you don't
do it right, he's not going to bother with you anymore. That's the
business that God goes out of when he goes after the lost because
he only wants to come and find sinners. He doesn't want anything
else. And then Jesus asks the last question in this one, and he
says, "I say to you that there is more joy in heaven over one
sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who need
no repentance." The proof of this is, of course, did you ever meet
any of those ninety-nine righteous persons who need no repentance?
No, you didn't. There isn't one in the whole world. So this proves
the set-up that Jesus is only interested in finding the lost; that
God, in Christ, is only interested in finding the lost.
The Lost Coin
Now, he follows this parable up with
the parable of the lost coin, and Jesus changes the image. The God
character in this parable is not a shepherd. It's a woman. It's a
very strange woman. As the shepherd is sort of crazy to go chase
one sheep and leave ninety-nine to the wolves, so this woman is
even crazier. It says this woman has ten coins, and I like to
think, just to bring it up to date, that what this woman has is ten
Susan B. Anthony dollars in a nice wooden case with red velvet
lining and little recessed partitions for each of the ten Susan B.
Anthony dollars. And every morning she gets up, and she looks in
there and pats them and polishes them and puts them back down
again. She gets up one morning, and one of her precious Susan B.
Anthony dollars is missing so what does this woman do? She is as
crazy as the shepherd, if not crazier, because she stops her entire
life. She stops anything she had to do that day. She stops whatever
housework she was going to do, and she lights a light, and goes
into all the dark corners. She sweeps, and sweeps, and sweeps, and
looks under everything for the whole day until she finds this coin.
And what does she do when she finds it? Interestingly enough, like
the shepherd Jesus never says she puts it back in the box. It says
she gets on the phone to her friends and her neighbors and says,
"Come on over, I'm going to have a party. I found my lost
And now I'm sure that these friends and neighbors say,
"Gertrude, you found a coin, right? And we're supposed to
She says, "Yes. I have cream soda, and I have ring dings, and
you're going to come over, and we're going to celebrate my lost
Certainly they'd say, "Yes, Gertrude, we'll come." But they are not
that enthusiastic. But the point is, she is. And this woman proves
something. In the lost sheep, you can develop some pity for the
poor, little lost sheep. You can feel bad, you know, that it's
injured or hurt or fearful and all that. But you can't work up any
pity for a lost coin. A lost coin never knows it's lost. One place
is as good as another. The point is that what these two parables
put together say is that what governs God's behavior to us is not
our sins. It's not our problems. It's his need to find us. These
parables go by the need of the finder to find, not about the need
of the lost to be found. That's obvious. We always knew that. We
could have gone to our graves knowing that. The great thing is that
the universe is driven by the need of the finder to find all of us
in our lostness. And that, of course, is the beginning.
The Lost Son
And the last of the three parables in
this chapter is the lost son, which commonly goes by the name of
the prodigal son because we misname these parables. Interestingly
enough, obviously this parable should be called the parable of the
forgiving father. Now, what I want to do is set-up the parable a
little bit, and tell it to you quickly. I'm not going to go through
the whole thing, just because I hope it's familiar. But a man has
two sons, and the youngest son comes to him and says, "FatherDadput
your will into effect and split up the entire inheritance right now
between me and my brother." You know what that is in so many words?
That's: "Drop dead, Father." He's suggesting that the father put
his will into effect. And the father does it. He gives all the cash
that's loose to the younger son. He gives the entire property, like
South Fork, in "Dallas,"some big spreadto the elder brother, and
the father sits on the porch for the rest of the parable, at least
for a little bit of it, and retires from things.
Wine, Women & Song
The younger son takes the
money and goes to a far country. He has wine, women, and song;
blows all his money, ends up feeding pigs, and sits there and says
one day, "Oh, as I think of my father's servants, they eat better
than I do. I'm going to go home, and say, 'Father, I've sinned
against heaven and against you. I'm not worthy to be your son. Make
me a hired servant.'" Now, that is not a sinner who was repentant,
yet. Because what he's said: "Father, I'm a no-good son," and
"Father, I've sinned against heaven and before you," is true.
That's fine. That's pretty good for repentance. But "Make me a
hired servant" is not a repentance. That's a plan for life. That's
a plan to con his father into accepting him back instead of coming
back as a no-good son. So he comes home. He comes down the road and
when he's a half mile off, his father sees him. He runs down the
road, falls on his neck and kisses him, and after the forgiveness
and the father's kiss, the son makes his confession. He says,
"Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you. I'm not
worthy to be your son." And he leaves off the hired servant
business. The father then goes immediately to the thing that ended
the other parables. He goes to the party. He calls for the rings on
his fingers, the shoes on his feet, and says: "Kill the fatted
calf, and let us eat and be merry. My son was dead, and he's alive,
was lost, he's found." And they have a party, and there's music and
dancing and everything else. Then Jesus brings in the other lost
son. He's the ninety-nine. He's the nine other coins in the box. He
thinks he's found. He comes in, and he's whining.
All These Years I Have Been Such A Good Boy
"All these years I have been such a good boy, and done your will
and done all these wonderful things, and you never even gave me a
goat to have a party with my friends. But when this son of yours
who has wasted his substance with whores comes home, then you give
him the fatted calf." And he won't go in. What this son has
donethough he thinks he's a found character and he's a wonderful
bookkeeper and has got everything else rightwhat he has done, is
come into the courtyard of the house, with a party inside, and he
has brought hell with him. He is the hell of his own bookkeeping,
the hell of his own complaining. He has brought hell with him.
What Does The Father Do?
What does the father do?
The father's the God character. What does the father do? The father
goes out into the courtyard once again, like the shepherd, like the
woman, to seek the lost. The need of the finder to find. He goes
out there, and he talks to his son, and he says, "Look, son,
Arthur, everything I have belongs to you. You could have had fatted
calf three nights a week if you wanted. All you had to do was build
the stalls. You have the money. You have no imagination, Arthur.
You know what I would like you to do, Arthur? I would like you to
shut up, go inside, kiss your brother, and have a drink." And the
wonderful thing about this parable is that Jesus, genius of a
storyteller that he is, has ended it so that it doesn't end.
It Has Never Ended
At the end of the parablesuppose
you saw it in a filmyou have the music and the sounds of the
feasting and the laughter inside the house. You have the father and
the elder brother standing in the courtyard, and the way the film
ends is, it ends with a freeze frame: father, elder brother, joyful
music over in the back. And for two thousand years this has been
read in the church, every year people have read it in the Bible
endlessly, endlessly. For two thousand years, that's where the
story has ended. It has never ended. The father always seeks the
lost son, and the lost son is not just the prodigal, it is at the
end, the prodigal's already found now, he's home free, but the
other one is not, because he won't come into the party.
Consequently, the other thing you could say about this, it's not
only for two thousand years that that parable has stood with that
freeze frame, it will stand there forever because God will forever
stand. We say Jesus, between when he died and when he arose,
descended into hell. He descended to the lost. This is the last
truth of the parable of the prodigal son, that for all eternity God
still seeks those in hell. If I go down into hell, Thou art there
with me. We cannot get away from the love that will not let us go
because God, who in all these parables represented by the shepherd,
and the woman, and the father, never ceases to seek and to find the
Greek has a
word and an expression that means "eternal", but aion is not one of
them. Aion is an age (singular). The punishment in St. Matthew 25,
comes from the word "kolasis" which means to prune and is used
in a disciplinary sense and not a penal one. "Moreea" would
be used in a penal (vengeance) sense, not kolasis which means
correction and is rooted in kolazo leading to the same result:
purging and pruning.
Thayers Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament defines
"kolasis" as "CORRECTION, punishment, penalty"
Vulgate translated " aionion" as
"aeternus" from which we get the English words eternal and
eternity. The KJV translators, instead of going back to the Greek,
went to the Latin Vulgate and translated "aeternus". Translating
that as "eternal" is based on Latin theology (Roman Catholicism).
It was absolutely essential to Augustinian theology with its
blightening emphasis on the doctrine of predestinarianism to
mistranslate the Greek adjective "aiwnion
" and put on it a meaning which the Greek will not for
a moment allow in its respective applications to salvation and
The Greek word for "everlasting" is
Remember, "eternal" means without beginning or end. Only
God is eternal. Everlasting means without end. aiwnion
means age, but aidiois (plural) means "everlasting" or
perpetual. The other way of saying "everlasting" is eis toys aiwnas
twn aiwnwn. One is an adjective that means "everlasting", the other
is a noun.
Scripture talks about everlasting life, but when it's talking about
"aionian" life, that's not it. This passage is talking about
age-lasting life and age-lasting punishment (chastisement).
Sheep & Goats
Numbers 18:17 "But the firstling
of a cow, or the firstling of a sheep, or the firstling of a goat,
thou shalt not redeem; they are holy: thou shalt sprinkle their
blood upon the altar, and shalt burn their fat for an offering made
by fire, for a sweet savour unto the LORD."
Goats are clean animals. If you look in the OT, consistently it
makes statements such as the one in Exodus 12:5: "Your lamb shall
be without blemish, a male of the first year: ye shall take it out
from the sheep, or from the goats:"
The lamb for the sacrifice could come from sheep or goats. Goats
are clean. If goats are a clean animal that doesn't need redeeming
throughout Scripture, why would He suddenly change His mind that
they are unclean in this one instance?
I know of few serious Biblical scholars that recommend Strong's for
serious study. Strong's is better than nothing, though. Dana and
Mantey's "A Manual Grammar of the Greek New Testament" is a good
work. Moulton and Milligan's "The Vocabulary of the Greek New
Testament" is good. "The Analytical Greek Lexicon" is good. William
D. Ramey's series is excellent. Griesbach, Tischendorf, and any of
a number of serious Greek students that have no pre-conceived
agenda to push are good.
Accurate translations are available, although some are pricey.
Rotherham's is quite nicely translated, but not quite as readable.
Young's is good. Weymouth's is good. Green's is nicely written, but
translates along the KJV instead of the Greek.
www.inthebeginning.org has some excellent resources.
www.concordant.info has an excellent freeware program that
concordantly translates the NT, without pre-conceived bias.
Comparing the papyrii, Aristotle, Plato, Hericlitus and others are
also good ways to get a grasp on the language itself.
Even in the original language, there are minor differences between
serious scholars, but why add to the confusion with mis-translating
words and making them say something that the Greek will not at all
accept? aiwnion cannot by any sane reason
(other than general concensus based on Catholicism) be translated
as "eternal". Unless the Holy Spirit made a mistake when the
writers were told what to write, this passage is not referring to
eternal life or everlasting life. We know it's not referring to
eternal life; only God is eternal.
Jesus Christ draws distinction between sheep and goats. Sheep and
goats are both clean animals. The sheep are righteous and the goats
aren't, but they are both groups of believers. Those on the right
hand go to age-lasting reward, those on the left to age-lasting