When the Son of man shall come in his glory, and all the holy angels with him, then shall he sit on the throne of his glory:
It has been well observed by Dr. Doddridge that our Lord here proceeds to speak of the great day of retribution, in a description which is one of the noblest instances of the true sublime anywhere to be found. Portions of the description are undoubtedly parabolic, the intention evidently being to give prominence to certain important principles; but otherwise it is a solemn anticipation of what will one day become history. We may consider -
I. THE ARRANGEMENT OF THE COURT. And conspicuous here is:
1. The appearance of the Judge.
(1) "The Son of man." Under this title the Lord comes to us as the Divine Word or Truth made flesh, and so accommodated to our apprehension. In this quality God reveals himself as our Redeemer and Saviour; and in this quality he will appear as our Judge. Accordingly, we learn, "Neither hath the Father" - the Godhead as distinct from the manhood - "judged any man, but he hath given all judgment unto the Son." Again, "And because he is the Son of man" (cf. John 5:22, 27; Acts 17:3!; Romans 2:16).
(2) But it is the "Son of man in his glory. He came to redeem us in his humiliation. In his second advent his humanity will be beatified. This was anticipated in the vision of the Transfiguration (see John 1:14). The Deity of the Son of man will then be more gloriously visible.
(3) And all his angels with him." Angels rather shade than enhance the glory of the Lord. They are the "clouds" in which elsewhere the Son of man is described as coming (see Daniel 7:13; ch. 24:30; 26:64; Revelation 1:7). They come to moderate the effect of that face, the fire of which will kindle the final conflagration (cf. 2 Peter 3:7; Revelation 20:11).
(4) "Then shall he sit upon the throne of his glory," or "glorious throne." Agreeably to this he speaks as "the King" (ver. 34). Surely it is impossible, in the light of this Scripture, were there no other, to doubt the proper Deity of our blessed Lord.
2. The vast assembly.
(1) "And before him were gathered all the nations." Though the particular illustration which follows has reference to those only from among them who had heard the gospel, yet these words imply that the whole human race will congregate there (see Acts 17:31). Witness, then, all the men from every clime, and all the generations of the ages.
(2) Such a congregation presupposes a general resurrection. Elsewhere we are taught that this will take place (cf. Daniel 12:2; John 5:28, 29). So the dead, small and great, stand before the throne Revelation 20:12).
(3) Added to the vast aggregate of humanity, "all the angels" are present. This doubtless brings prominently before us the holy angels; but their presence suggests also that of the fallen. And we read further on of the "everlasting fire prepared for the devil and his angels (ver. 34). They were probably the first judged. They were the first in transgression, the first cursed, and so likewise the first doomed (see Revelation 20:1-3).
3. The solemn discrimination.
(1) All nations are assembled before the King for his inspection. The process of the inspection is not here described; but elsewhere we are assured that every one of us shall give account of himself unto God" (Romans 14:12). Neither is time here specified which the inspection may occupy. It will probably extend throughout the great period of a thousand years described by John (see Revelation 20.).
(2) The discrimination eventuates in separation (ver. 32). The sheep is the symbol of peaceableness and innocency. The goat, on the contrary, a quarrelsome, lascivious, and ill-scented creature, describes the impure. The sheep pass to the "right hand," a position which, according to the rabbins, expresses approbation and eminence. The goats pass to the "left," which, they say, expresses disapprobation and rejection. The Romans recognized a similar distinction (see 'AEn.,' 6:540).
(3) The angels will be employed as instruments in this great service (see Matthew 13:80, 39-43). Note: Men who can agree in matters of worldly business, and even in matters of morals, will yet separate when they come to the higher plane of religion. The spirituality of the future state is the touchstone.
II. THE AWARD OF THE RIGHTEOUS.
1. They are commended.
(1) Because they showed kindness to the disciples of Christ They gave meat to the hungry, drink to the thirsty; clothing to the naked; hospitality to the stranger; attention to the sick; encouragement to the prisoner.
(2) Because they did all this from the pure motive of love to Jesus. So he takes it home. "I was hungry," etc.; "ye did it unto me. What dignity does this stamp upon the lowliest offices and acts (see Ephesians 6:5-7; Colossians 3:17; Hebrews 6:10)]
(3) Therefore are they greeted as blessed of the Father." Such acts of kindness evince them to be the children of that blessed Father who "maketh his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sendeth rain on the just and the unjust" (see Matthew 5:43 48). "It is more blessed to give than to receive." It is more God-like.
2. They are promoted.
(1) "Come, ye blessed [children] of my Father;" come nearer to me, the "Son of man," the" King" of glory. "My brethren" (ver. 40). Jesus never directly calls his disciples his brethren until after his resurrection. Jesus glorified is more nearly related to the men regenerated than Jesus unglorified to men unregenerated. It is when the Lord is glorified in us that we become truly those whom he acknowledges as his brethren (cf. Matthew 28:10; John 13:1, margin Revised Version; 20:17). Yet is there a becoming reverence which prevents the disciple from speaking thus familiarly of the Lord. Even James does not presume to call himself "the Lord's brother," neither does Jude, who distinguishes himself rather as "the brother of James" (cf. James 1:1; Jude 1:1).
(2) "Inherit the kingdom." This implies the crown (2 Timothy 4:8); the throne (Revelation 3:21); the sceptre (Revelation 2:26, 27).
(3) "Prepared for you from the foundation of the world," viz. in the terms of the everlasting covenant which promises rewards to the obedience of faith. "For you," viz. who have done the works which prove the genuineness of faith. Note: The disavowal by the righteous of the virtue ascribed to them is designed to show the absence of all idea of merit from true righteousness. The good do good for its own sake - for the Lord's sake who is goodness itself.
(4) All this is summed up as "eternal life." This is union with Christ, who is that Life (see 1 John 5:12, 20).
III. THE DOOM OF THE WICKED.
1. They are convicted.
(1) They are impeached with want of sympathy with Christ. "Ye gave me no meat," etc. They would not consider Christ in his disciples.
(2) Special pleading will be of no avail before the judgment seat of Christ. "When saw we thee," etc.? Sinners are more ready to lay claim to virtues to which they have no right, than to confess the evils of which they are guilty. But they will get their answer. "Forasmuch," etc. Note: Virtue cannot receive the slightest wound of which Jesus does not instantly feel the smart (see Acts 9:4, 5).
(3) The offences here alleged are negative. This does not say that positive wickedness shall escape. The murderer, the adulterer, the thief, the liar, the blasphemer, - every sinner will have his sinfulness brought home to him.
2. They are degraded.
(1) "Depart from me" - from your last hope of mercy and salvation. "Ye cursed." In departing from me whom you refused to accept as your Curse bearer (אלוה), bear now your own deserved execration.
(2) Depart "into eternal fire." This is afterwards described as "eternal punishment." Hell is that horrid centre in which all the lines of sin and misery meet. The Greek word construed "eternal" is to be understood in the New Testament, not so much in the light of its etymology as in that of its usage. When applied to the world, it has no limit except the duration of the world (see Romans 16:25, Revised Version; Jude 1:7). When applied to the world to come, it has no limit (see Mark 9:43; see also Isaiah 33:14; Daniel 12:2; 2 Thessalonians 1:9; Revelation 14:11; Revelation 20:10).
(3) "Prepared for the devil and his angels." Note: There is a ringleader among devils. "What must be the nature and misery of a confinement with those powerful, active, sagacious beings, whose minds are all malice, fraud, and cruelty, and whose endless being is a succession of rage, revenge, and despair?" (Dwight).
(4) "And these shall go away," etc. Those who refused to accept the invitation to "come," will have to obey the order to "go." "Every word has a terror in it, like that of the trumpet of Mount Sinai, waxing louder and louder" (Henry). - J.A.M.
Parallel VersesKJV: When the Son of man shall come in his glory, and all the holy angels with him, then shall he sit upon the throne of his glory: