Separating the sheep from the goats

 For just as the Father raises the dead and gives them life, even so the Son also gives life to whom He wishes. 22 For not even the Father judges anyone, but He has given all judgment to the Son, 23 so that all will honour the Son even as they honour the Father. He who does not honour the Son does not honour the Father who sent Him. (John5:21-23)

So it is Jesus Christ as Son of Man who is to be the Judge of humanity. God the Father judges nobody but has committed the matter to His Son (v22).   This is confirmed in the Bible’s definitive passage on final judgement – Mt25:31-46. The sheep and goats are defined by whether or not they have exercised compassion to those in need, i.e. whether or not they have responded positively to the natural precepts instilled in their consciences , the Light of Logos provided to all people  considered in my recent posts. It is why religious faith is not so much as mentioned in the sheep/goat passage, or indeed in Romans2:6-15 being Paul’s definitive passage on final judgement.  The apostle’s reference to obeying the truth (v8) being the conscience’s deference to that same Light by which he goes on to say that many Gentiles ignorant of God’s Law nevertheless do by nature the things that according to Paul are effectively its fulfilment (vv14-15): “For the entire law is fulfilled in keeping this one command “Love your neighbour as yourself” (Gal5:14).

Such a perspective will be anathema to many Christians today, but it would not have been so to 2nd/3rd century Church Fathers such as Clement, Justyn Martyr, Irenaeus and Eusebius. The earliest of these will have received the Faith from the apostles’ close successors, yet all affirmed a positive role for natural law. In the anthropological context that pertained to an underlying “common faith”[1] by which an individual – “pays heed to the natural precepts of the law by which a man can be justified”[2] What is more, Eusebius and Irenaeus as respectively historian and surveyor of the worldwide churches indicated that this was the consensus understanding of their day [3].

The Little Book of Providence not only reaffirms these ancient truths but integrates them within a coherent biblical synopsis. That is something that the aforementioned Early Fathers could not accomplish in their day for an agreed canon of Scripture had yet to be compiled. By the time it was (4th/5th century), later theologians, Augustine in particular, had turned such a notion of multi-faceted grace on its head, largely as a result of the latter’s interpretation of Paul’s letters, an interpretation which I believe the Spirit to have shown me is deeply flawed.

Returning to the subject in hand, it follows that the kind of people who were accepted,  sometimes rebuked but clearly loved by Jesus during His earthly ministry will be accepted by Him at that judgement and rewarded according to their works (Rom2:6). The difference will be that when He appears in His unveiled glory those in whom Jesus was profoundly offended will be “consumed with the breath of His mouth and destroyed with the brightness of His coming”. These are the aforementioned “goats” aka the children of the devil, concerning whom John will have more to say in his epistles.

[1] Clement of Alexandria (A.D.153-217) The Stromata Book V chap. 1

[2] Irenaeus against heresies Book IV chap. 13 para 1

[3] Post: “Irenaeus’ Witness to the unity of the 2nd Century Church” with its appendix:  “Church Historian Eusebius’ affirmation of natural law indicating it to be an established doctrine within the third century Church”

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