What is striking as one reads carefully through the gospel accounts is Jesus’ contrasting attitude towards the people He encountered, all of whom were to one degree or another sinful. It might astonish many that in calling His disciples there is little if any reference to their sinfulness. He did not ask His disciples to “acknowledge their lost estate”, simply to follow Him (Mt4:19). Yet these were ordinary working men. Yes, Simon Peter was conscious of his own unworthiness when he became aware of his Lord’s divinity (Lk5:8), but Jesus’s only recorded comment concerning the moral state of His new recruits was a positive one and that concerned Nathanael: “Behold, an Israelite indeed in whom there is no guile”. This cynical joker was by no means perfect (Jn1:46) but those who are perfect such as the incarnate Word, look for the good in people and love and praise them for it (Mk10:19-23).
This reinforces what I was writing about in an earlier blog concerning God’s character and His regard for fallen human beings; in particular whether He ever has a positive regard towards their character or behaviour. Jesus acted towards Nathanael like the good-hearted magnanimous Man that He was yet at the same time we can be sure He acts and thinks like God the Father, being “the exact expression of God’s substance” (Heb1:3). But can such a comparison with the Father be made to Jesus during His earthly ministry? Seemingly so: “Have I been with you so long, and yet you have not known Me, Philip? He who has seen Me has seen the Father; so how can you say, ‘Show us the Father’?” (Jn14:9): the key phrase being “have I been with you so long?” – Jesus is not the compassionate face of God, He is the perfect reflection (Greek: eikon) of God ‘s character as a whole even during His earthly ministry, albeit the true effulgence of His glory was only revealed to a few of His disciples at His transfiguration . And it is to be the God-Man Jesus who will judge humanity “for the Father judges no man but has committed all judgment to the Son” (Jn5:22).
As for Christ’s intelligible justice, He assures us He will apply standards we can well understand: “For with what judgment you judge, you will be judged; and with the measure you use, it will be measured back to you” (Mt7:2). As Matthew also affirmed Christ is benevolent towards those who are benevolent to others – all shall enter His heavenly Kingdom regardless of their indiscretions for which He paid the price on His cross: “Assuredly, I say to you, inasmuch as you did (this act of kindness) to one of the least of these My brethren, you did it to Me” (Mt25:40).
But then, as that same passage affirms, there are the “goats”, or as they are referred to elsewhere “the children of the devil” – Satan’s seed (see earlier post). Part of my task is to demonstrate from Scripture that such a description and the fate associated with these people is not referring to the vast swathe of humanity not predestined to be those, who through a faith that is given and drawn by the Father come to a personal knowledge of Christ in advance of His Apocalypse (cf. Jn6:44; Eph1:11,12; Rev1:7).