Matthew 25:44
Then shall they also answer him, saying, Lord, when saw we thee an hungred, or athirst, or a stranger, or naked, or sick, or in prison, and did not minister unto thee?
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(44) When saw we thee . . .?—There is, as before, an unconsciousness of the greatness of the things that had been done for good or evil. Men thought that they were only neglecting their fellow men, and were, it may be, thinking that they had wronged no man. It is significant that the sins here are, all of them, sins of omission. As in the case of the parable of the Talents, the opportunities (here those that are common to all men, as there those that attached to some office or ministry in the Church) have simply not been used.

Matthew 25:44-46. Then shall they answer, Lord, when saw we thee a hungered, &c. — So their endeavour to justify themselves will remain with the wicked even to that day! Perhaps, however, it may not be intended here to signify that the wicked shall make this answer in words: it is probably, rather, to be considered as the language of their hearts, which Christ perceiving, shall reply to as in the next verse. Multitudes will, no doubt, remember that they had often heard what reply will be made to such a plea: God grant that none who read it here may be in the number of those to whom it will be made! These shall go away into everlasting punishment — So the word κολασιν properly signifies, and not destruction, or annihilation, as some would understand it; and the righteous into life eternal — Either, therefore, the punishment is strictly eternal, or the reward is not; the very same expression in the original being applied to the former as to the latter. It appears, that the Judge will speak first to the righteous in the audience of the wicked; and then to the wicked, who shall go away into everlasting fire in the sight of the righteous. Thus the damned shall have no view of the everlasting life, but the righteous will see the punishment of the ungodly. It is not only particularly observable here, 1st, that the punishment lasts as long as the reward: but, 2d, that this punishment is so far from ceasing at the end of the world, that it does not begin till then. To conclude, the issue of the judgment, as it is represented in this paragraph, is awful beyond description. If the meaning of this last short sentence were fully understood and duly considered, what an impression would it make upon the minds of men! Everlasting punishment! Eternal life! What is there that is not comprehended in these words? And how miserable are they who dare to venture their souls on the supposition that the important word αιωνιος, which is the same in both places, signifies a limited duration in either!

25:31-46 This is a description of the last judgment. It is as an explanation of the former parables. There is a judgment to come, in which every man shall be sentenced to a state of everlasting happiness, or misery. Christ shall come, not only in the glory of his Father, but in his own glory, as Mediator. The wicked and godly here dwell together, in the same cities, churches, families, and are not always to be known the one from the other; such are the weaknesses of saints, such the hypocrisies of sinners; and death takes both: but in that day they will be parted for ever. Jesus Christ is the great Shepherd; he will shortly distinguish between those that are his, and those that are not. All other distinctions will be done away; but the great one between saints and sinners, holy and unholy, will remain for ever. The happiness the saints shall possess is very great. It is a kingdom; the most valuable possession on earth; yet this is but a faint resemblance of the blessed state of the saints in heaven. It is a kingdom prepared. The Father provided it for them in the greatness of his wisdom and power; the Son purchased it for them; and the blessed Spirit, in preparing them for the kingdom, is preparing it for them. It is prepared for them: it is in all points adapted to the new nature of a sanctified soul. It is prepared from the foundation of the world. This happiness was for the saints, and they for it, from all eternity. They shall come and inherit it. What we inherit is not got by ourselves. It is God that makes heirs of heaven. We are not to suppose that acts of bounty will entitle to eternal happiness. Good works done for God's sake, through Jesus Christ, are here noticed as marking the character of believers made holy by the Spirit of Christ, and as the effects of grace bestowed on those who do them. The wicked in this world were often called to come to Christ for life and rest, but they turned from his calls; and justly are those bid to depart from Christ, that would not come to him. Condemned sinners will in vain offer excuses. The punishment of the wicked will be an everlasting punishment; their state cannot be altered. Thus life and death, good and evil, the blessing and the curse, are set before us, that we may choose our way, and as our way so shall our end be.On the left hand - The wicked.

Ye cursed - That is, you who are devoted to destruction, whose characters deserve everlasting punishment, and who are about to enter into it. "To curse" is the opposite of "to bless." It implies a negation of all the blessings of heaven, and a positive infliction of eternal sufferings.

Everlasting fire - "Fire," here, is used to denote punishment. The image is employed to express extreme suffering, as a death by burning is one of the most horrible that can be conceived. The image was taken, probably, from the fires burning in the Valley of Hinnom. See the notes at Matthew 5:22. It has been asked whether the wicked will be burned in literal fire, and the common impression has been that they will be. Respecting that, however, it is to be observed:

1. that the main truth intended to be taught refers not to the manner of suffering, but to the certainty and intensity of it.

2. that the design, therefore, was to present an image of terrific and appalling suffering - an image well represented by fire

3. that this image was well known to the Jews Isaiah 66:24, and therefore expressed the idea in a very strong manner.

4. that all the truth that Christ intended to convey appears to be expressed in the certainty, intensity, and eternity of future torment.

5. that there is no distinct affirmation respecting the mode of that punishment, where the mode was the subject of discourse.

6. that to us it is a subject of comparatively little consequence what will be the mode of punishment.

The fact that the wicked will be eternally punished, cursed of God, should awe every spirit, and lead every man to strive most earnestly to secure his salvation. As, however, the "body" will be raised, it is not unreasonable to suppose that a mode of punishment will be adopted suited to the body - perhaps bearing some analogy to suffering here, in its various forms of flames, and racks, and cold, and heat, and disease, and ungratified desire, and remorse - perhaps the concentration of all earthly woes, all that makes man miserable here, poured upon the naked body and spirit of the wicked in hell forever and ever.

Prepared for the devil - The devil is the prince of evil spirits. This place of punishment was suited for him when he rebelled against God, Jde 1:6; Revelation 12:8-9.

His angels - His messengers, his servants, or those angels that he drew off from heaven by his rebellion, and whom he has employed as his "messengers" to do evil. The word may extend also to all his followers - fallen angels or people. There is a remarkable difference between the manner in which the righteous will be addressed, and the wicked. Christ will say to the one that the kingdom was prepared for them; to the other, that the fire was not prepared for "them," but for another race of beings. they will inherit it because they have the same character "as the devil," and are therefore suited to the same place - not because it was originally "prepared for them."

41.Then shall he say also unto them on the left hand, Depart from me, ye cursed, &c.—As for you on the left hand, ye did nothing for Me. I came to you also, but ye knew Me not: ye had neither warm affections nor kind deeds to bestow upon Me: I was as one despised in your eyes." "In our eyes, Lord? We never saw Thee before, and never, sure, behaved we so to Thee." "But thus ye treated these little ones that believe in Me and now stand on My right hand. In the disguise of these poor members of Mine I came soliciting your pity, but ye shut up your bowels of compassion from Me: I asked relief, but ye had none to give Me. Take back therefore your own coldness, your own contemptuous distance: Ye bid Me away from your presence, and now I bid you from Mine—Depart from Me, ye cursed!" See Poole on "Matthew 25:45".

Then shall they also answer him,.... As well as the righteous, being likewise astonished at what he had said, but on a different account,

saying, Lord, when saw we thee an hungered or athirst, or a stranger, or naked, or sick, or in prison, and did not minister to thee? Hence it is clear again, that these men were nominal Christians, who had made a profession of Christ: they own him as Lord; and suggest that they had seen him, and known him, though never in such circumstances; for if they had, such was their love to him, and great respect and veneration for him, as they pretend, they would, to be sure, have ministered unto him; and if ever they had seen him in such a case, which they could not call to mind, they could not believe, but they must have supplied him with all things necessary and convenient.

Then shall they also answer him, saying, Lord, when saw we thee an hungred, or athirst, or a stranger, or naked, or sick, or in prison, and did not minister unto thee?
Matthew 25:44. Self-justification, by repelling the accusation as unwarranted.

καὶ αὐτοί] they too; for their answer is in exact correspondence with that of the righteous.

πότεκαὶ οὐ διηκονής. σοι] when saw we Thee hungry, etc., without ministering to Thee? What was the occasion on which, according to Thy accusation, we saw Thee hungry, and did not give Thee food? Such an occasion never occurred; as we have never seen Thee in such circumstances, so can we never have refused Thee our good services. In this self-justification it is assumed that if they had seen Him, they would have shown their love toward Him.

Matthew 25:44 repeats in summary form the reply of the δίκαιοι, utatis mutandis, rapidly enumerating the states of need, and disclaiming, with reference to all, neglect of service, οὐ διηκονήσαμέν σοι; Matthew 25:45 repeats Matthew 25:40 with the omission of τῶν ἀδελφῶν μου and the addition of οὐκ before ἐποιήσατε.

Matthew 25:44. Καὶ αὐτοὶ, κ.τ.λ., they also, etc.) The process is distinctly described: they will answer either altogether or one by one.—πότε, κ.τ.λ., When, etc.) The ignorance of the wicked, and their endeavour to justify themselves, will remain up to that time.

Verse 44. - Then shall they also answer [him]. Not in words, for at that time objection and expostulation would not be allowed, but in thought, "standing at the judgment seat, yet ceasing not to sin." There is a certain self-confidence in their reply, very different from the humility and misgiving of the righteous. When saw we thee, etc.? They put all these neglected duties in a careless summary. They had never thought of Christ in the matter: were they to be condemned for this? Some had never even heard of Christ, never been taught faith in him: was this their fault? This is the line which their self-justification took; there was nothing of love, nothing of humility. Matthew 25:44
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