Jun 30, 2008

Q & A

By Ed Hindson

Q. Could you explain what Jesus meant in Matthew 25 by helping "the least of these my brethren?" Is this a mandate for us to take care of the poor?

A. The scriptures referred to here occur in the Olivet Discourse, and particularly, the account of the Judgement of the Nations that will follow Jesus' return at the end of the Tribulation and precede the beginning of His Millennial Kingdom. At that Judgement, the nations, or Gentile peoples of the world who have survived to the end of the Tribulation, will be evaluated. The evaluation is based upon how they helped Jesus' "brethren," the Jews, during that period when they came under such severe persecution from the rest of the world.

During that difficult period, when a person receives Christ, he or she will understand that the Lord will have a special plan for the Jews when He returns, and that person will treat the Jews accordingly. Those who persist in persecuting the Jews will give proof by their actions that they remain unsaved. Interestingly, Jesus equates the Gentiles' treatment of the Jews during the tribulation as their treatment of Him Himself (Matthew 25:40, 45). Thus, at this Judgment, those Gentiles who survived the Tribulation and were saved will go into the Millennial Kingdom (Matthew 25:34). Those who survived and were unsaved will go to Hades, there to await the Great White Throne Judgment at the end of the Millennium (Matthew 25:41). The Jews themselves will almost universally accept Christ (Zechariah 12:10; 13:1). So, there will be no unsaved people going into the Millennial Kingdom.

Often, preachers will use the text about being kind to "the least of these my brethren" as a reminder to care for the poor now, during the Church age. Although this is not a proper interpretation of the passage, it is, of course, good advice. After all, we are told that all Scripture is given for our benefit (2 Timothy 3:16, 17). Further, we are frequently reminded elsewhere in scripture to take care of the poor among us (Psalm 41:1; Proverbs 14:21; Galatians 2:10). But in the final analysis, our salvation is not based on our treatment of the poor; it is based on our acceptance of Christ as Savior. As the Holy Spirit comes to live within us as Christians, He will convict us to do what we can, when we can, for those whom the Lord brings our way for help.