The Great Separation
October 14th, 1962 @ 7:30 PM
THE GREAT SEPARATION
Dr. W. A. Criswell
10-14-62 7:30 p.m.
On the radio you are sharing the services of the First Baptist Church in Dallas. This is the pastor bringing the evening message entitled The Great Separation. In our Bibles we turn to the First Gospel, the Gospel of Matthew, chapter 25, and we begin reading at verse 31 and read to the end of the chapter. And all of us read our Book together. See that Bible right there? Give it to him. All right, everybody, share your Bible. If you are listening on the radio, read it out loud with us. One of the great parables of the kingdom of God, Matthew chapter 25, we begin reading at verse 31. All of us together:
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:
And before Him shall be gathered all nations: and He shall separate them one from another, as a shepherd divideth his sheep from the goats:
And He shall set the sheep on His right hand, but the goats on the left.
Then shall the King say unto them on His right hand, Come, ye blessed of My Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world:
For I was an hungered, and ye gave Me meat: I was thirsty, and ye gave Me drink: I was a stranger, and ye took Me in:
Naked, and ye clothed Me: I was sick, and ye visited Me: I was in prison, and ye came unto Me.
Then shall the righteous answer Him, saying, Lord, when saw we Thee an hungered, and fed Thee? or thirsty, and gave Thee drink?
When saw we Thee a stranger, and took Thee in? or naked, and clothed Thee?
Or when saw we Thee sick, or in prison, and came unto Thee?
And the King shall answer and say unto them, Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these My brethren, ye have done it unto Me.
Then shall He say also unto them on the left hand, Depart from Me, ye cursed, into everlasting fire, prepared for the devil and his angels:
For I was an hungered, and ye gave Me no meat: I was thirsty, and ye gave Me no drink:
I was a stranger, and ye took Me not in: naked, and ye clothed Me not: sick, and in prison, and ye visited Me not.
Then shall they also answer Him, saying, Lord, when saw we Thee an hungered, or athirst, or a stranger, or naked, or sick, or in prison, and did not minister unto Thee?
Then shall He answer them, saying, Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye did it not to one of the least of these, ye did it not to Me.
And these shall go away into everlasting punishment: but the righteous into life eternal.
Now once again, I have divided the sermon into two parts: The Great Separation, one part, how we divide as we listen to the Word of God, as we receive the Word of the Lord, and then the next sermon, The Great Final Ultimate Separation, when these shall go away into everlasting punishment, perdition, damnation, and these into life everlasting, the great separation.
Now this parable, this story, this presentation, this actual coming to pass in its day and in its time has a far deeper meaning than on the surface we might suppose. It seems to be just a very simple thing of altruism, of philanthropy, of compassionate kindness, but there is no such a thing in the Word of God as human destiny being determined by compassionate kindness. There is nothing like that in the Bible. Our great eternal destiny lies in an atonement, in a propitiation, in a way that God hath provided through the veil of His flesh, rent and torn, that we might enter into life everlasting [Hebrews 10:19-20]. Then what is this unusual thing that Christ hath taught us here in this parable?
Now we begin with that first verse, and it is all-important, for it sets the time and the stage and the place of this great final judgment scene. “When the Son of Man shall come in His glory, and all the holy angels with Him” [Matthew 25:31]. “Behold, He cometh with ten thousands of His saints” [Jude 1:14], “Behold, He cometh…and every eye shall see Him, and they also which pierced Him: and the families, and tribes, and nations of the world shall wail because of Him” [Revelation 1:7]. “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” [Matthew 25:31].
Manifest God; the open public appearing of the Lord God Christ when the whole earth shall look upon His face. Then I know exactly when this scene comes to pass. This is the nineteenth chapter of the Book of the Revelation, beginning at the eleventh verse:
And I saw heaven opened, and behold a white horse; and He that sat upon him was Faithful and True…
His eyes were as a flame of fire, and on His head were many crowns…
He was dressed in a vesture dipped in blood: and His name is called The Word of God.
And then is described the armies of God’s saints and the host of glory, God’s angelic creation that follow Him [Revelation 19:14]. “And He hath on His thigh a name written as on His vesture, KING OF KINGS AND LORD OF LORDS” [Revelation 19:16]. So this scene that is described here in the twenty-fifth chapter of the Book of Matthew is that scene, when our Lord comes in glory, when the Son of Man shall come in His glory, and all His holy angels with Him, and He is enthroned as the Lord of Lords and the King of Kings of this whole creation [Matthew 25:31].
Now, the thirty-second verse says, “And before Him shall be gathered all nations: and He shall separate them one from another” [Matthew 25:32].
There is a theological scholar who lives in this city who belongs to another persuasion who said to me, “Such a thing could not possibly be, because you don’t have nations judged. Individual people are judged; you don’t have a great convocation of the nations before God and His Christ, and the nations be judged and separated as the sheep from the goats.”
Well, he just needs to read the Bible, that’s all. He just philosophizes about things that to him may seem this way, and may seem that way, and may seem some other way. But what we want to attune our hearts to is to what God says. Now you will find, just for example, you will find in the Book of Isaiah—and for lack of time I shall not refer to it except just to mention it, you will find Isaiah addressing the Word of God to these nations.
For example, in the thirteenth chapter he will address the great kingdom of the Chaldeans [Isaiah 13:1-13]. And in the fifteenth chapter he will address Moab, the nation of Moab [Isaiah 15:1-9]. And in the seventeenth chapter he will address the nation of Syria [Isaiah 17:1-14]. And in the nineteenth chapter he will address the nation of Egypt [Isaiah 19:1-25]. And in the twenty-first chapter he will address Saudi Arabia, the great deserts toward the south [Isaiah 21:1-17]. And in the twenty-third chapter he will address the Sidonians, Phoenicia [Isaiah 23:1-18].
And that thing is not peculiar. When you turn to the prophet Amos, just for example, in the first chapter he will address Syria and Damascus. And in that same chapter he will address Gaza and Philistia, and he will address Tyre and Phoenicia, and he will address the nation of Edom, and he will address the nation of Ammon [Amos 1:1-15]. And then in the next chapter he will address Moab [Amos 2:1-3], and finally he will address all Israel [Amos 2:6-16].
So it is here in this twenty-fifth chapter when our Lord reveals that great judgment, when the nations are gathered before the Lord God [Matthew 25:31-46]. Now of course, the sentence is always pronounced by each individual, as you find it here in the Word of the Lord [Romans 2:6; Revelation 20:12], but the judgment is as those nations are gathered before the Lord God [Matthew 25:32]. And the Lord addresses Himself in that great final judgment to the nations of the earth [Matthew 25:31-46].
Now this is just at the beginning of the establishment of His millennial kingdom in the earth [Matthew 25:31], and these nations are all gathered before Him upon the eve of that great reign of righteousness established by the coming of the Lord Christ [Matthew 25:32].
Now, what is the basis? What is the basis upon which the Lord divides those people? They are distinctly divided [Matthew 25:32-33]. There is a great separation, some of them into life eternal, some of them into damnation and perdition [Matthew 25:41-46]; some are saved and some are lost, and there is nobody just in between. We are one or the other, and in God’s sight always that. A man is either saved or he is lost; not then, right now [John 3:16-18]. The judgment of God is upon us now, and this is just the time of the great separation [Matthew 25:32-33]. Now in this case, in this judgment—which we’re taking as a revelation of the whole working process of God as He deals with us all in any day and any generation and right now—now, the basis of the judgment here, this is it, this is it: “Verily I say unto thee, Inasmuch as ye did it not unto one of the least of these My brethren, My brethren, ye did it not unto Me” [Matthew 25:45]. That is the key verse in this passage, for this great judgment day stands at the last of that terrible and horrible and indescribable tribulation [Revelation 20:12].
This earth has been in its death throes, and there has reigned over it a man of sin, a final and ultimate Antichrist [2 Thessalonians 2:3-4], the most indescribable, terrible tyrant the world has ever known. And there has been in this world such a violence and such a blasphemy against God as you could not imagine in time or tide, except only as God reveals it here in the Apocalypse, in the Book of the Revelation, and this great judgment scene comes at the end of that tribulation [Revelation 20:12].
Now in the seven years, or however that seven might stand for, we don’t know it in any other way than seven, so we shall call it seven; in those seven years of tribulation [Revelation 7:14], the last half of which is called the great tribulation, does God leave the world without a witness? No. He has down here in this world, according to the seventh chapter of the Book of the Revelation; God has these sealed from Israel. From every tribe of Israel there are these sealed ones, these that belong to the flesh and blood and bone and family of our Lord, His brethren [Revelation 7:4-8].
And in those days of tragic and terrible apostasy, and tribulation, and distress, and agony, and travail; in those terrible days, indescribable with horror; in the days of violent sin when men are without inhibition and without repression, when Satan is loosed and the whole earth is turned over into the hands of the blasphemers, and the apostates, and those who denounce and reject God; in those awful days of trial the world has its witness, the one hundred forty-four thousand sealed from the brethren, from Israel, from the family of our Lord [Revelation 7:3-8].
And in those days they are preaching the gospel of the riches of the grace in Christ Jesus, that even in that terrible time and in that awful hour, if a man will turn he will be saved. Turn ye, repent ye, trust in Jesus, look to God. Those one-hundred forty-four thousand are preaching in that dark and terrible time. And in those days there are those who turn in repentance and in faith to Christ by the uncounted thousands [Revelation 7:9-10].
When He opened the fifth seal He saw under the altar the souls of them that had been martyred in that awful and terrible time [Revelation 6:9]. And in that seventh and following chapter, in that seventh chapter, the apostle John looked and saw that vast throng that no man could number [Revelation 7:9]. And he said, “Who are they?” And the angel replied, “These are they who have come, who are coming out of that great tribulation, and have washed their robes, and made them white in the blood of the Lamb” [Revelation 7:14].
So that great division is first made [Matthew 25:31-33], and this is the sermon tonight, that first great division is made on how they received these brethren of Jesus, these preachers of the gospel of the Son of God, these who have been announcing the good news in Christ—how they received them [Matthew 25:33-40].
They are persecuted, and they are despised, and they are cast out, and they are hounded, and they are hated! [Matthew 10:21-22]. But some received them as angels of mercy, and some took them into their hearts, into their homes, and into the circle of their love and reverential appreciation [Matthew 25:34-40]. And some believed the message that they brought and were saved [Revelation 7:9-10]. That’s the basis upon which the Lord God makes that great separation in that ultimate and final judgment before His millennial kingdom, how they received the messenger of God and the message of salvation that they brought [Matthew 10:40].
Now that is the same and identical thing that God is doing even tonight. The separation the Lord makes among us now is how do we receive the messenger of Jesus, and how do we receive the message of salvation [Matthew 25:40, 45-46].
Now, there are some who receive it lightly. Matthew 22, the Lord tells of those who, when they were invited to the banquet supper of the lord, the great king, made light of it, made light of it [Matthew 22:4-5]. And some of them said, “I’ve got to go to the lake. Man, I’ve got a boat out there. I’ve got to go to the lake.” Another one said, “Why, I’ve got a big dinner; I can’t come.” And another one said, “Well, I’ve got to go to the farm. Man, I’ve got me a place out here.” And another one said, “Listen, I’ve got a party going on.” Another said, “Listen” . . . aw, such stuff as that. “I’m not interested in religion,” and away they go; they made light of it.
Then there are others, like in the fourteenth chapter of the Gospel of Luke, who gave excuses when the lord sent to them, to invite them to a banquet [Luke 14:15-20]. Did you ever notice that in the Bible? Every time God likens His gospel message, it is like to a banquet. It is like to a feast of the Lord. It is something marvelous. It is something great. It is something wonderful to share, and He sent out His messengers, His preachers, His evangelists, and invited them to the banquet of the Lord. “Come and eat manna from heaven [Exodus 16:15], and drink the water of life everlasting” [Matthew 21:6].
And these began to make excuses [Luke 14:15-20]. One said, “I’ve got this kind of school.” One’s got this kind…..another, just like they are today, just like they are today. Some of the most…you just cannot imagine the excuses that you hear today. And listen, the devil has been manufacturing excuses to whisper into your heart ever since the world began. And you will never in this earth be able to answer all the excuses that a man will bring to his heart when he doesn’t want to respond to the invitation of God.
“Why, look at you,” he will say, “look at you. You mean to tell me you are going down that aisle, and you are going to be saved? And you? Well, look at you.” Then the devil will say, “Well, look at others, look at others. Well, look at the hypocrites that are at church. Man, you do not want to be one of them. Look at all the hypocrites that are there in the church.” And then he will say, “Well, look at that plan of salvation. Man, you don’t want to tell me that you need to come down that aisle and give your heart to Jesus and be saved. Why, you could not do it like that. “
And he just whispers all kinds of things to you.
Ah, but there are some, but there are some, as in this story of the great judgment [Matthew 25:31-46], and as today, there are some who will open their hearts to the message of Christ, and they will open their hearts to the invitation and the appeal, and they will open their hearts to the Holy Spirit, and they’re saved [Romans 2:4], just like those in Galatians to whom Paul writes his letter [Galatians 4:14], and just like those at Thessalonica to whom Paul wrote his letter. They received him and his message as an angel of light and an angel of truth, and they were saved [1 Thessalonians 1:6]; they were saved because they received the messenger of Christ and listened to the message that he brought.
Well what is that wonderful message that Paul brought? This is it: first, we are all sinners, all of us. That’s the way he always began. That’s the way he began the great doctrinal treatise in Romans. “All we have gone astray,” said Isaiah [Isaiah 53:6], and Paul would say it, “All we have sinned, and come short of the glory of God,” all of us, all of us alike [Romans 3:23]. It’s not that some of us have sinned and others haven’t, or these have sinned disastrously and we have sinned lightly. No, a sin is a sin is a sin. It’s like a chain, like a chain; you don’t have to break every one of those links for that thing to drop; just break one of those links, and the chain is broken.
That’s what James means when he says if you break one law, one law, you are guilty of all of them, all of them [James 2:10]. That is, you become a sinner, and all of us are sinners alike, all of us, all of us [Romans 3:23]. No need for somebody to stand up over there and point his finger at a fellow on this side. There is no need for somebody on this side to stand up and point his finger over there. For all of us, whether we are sitting on this side, or whether we’re sitting on this side, or whether we’re sitting in the middle, or whether we’re up there on the shelf, all of us are alike. And you don’t need these in the choir to point to you sinners down there, you down there point to these sinners up here in the choir. You don’t to look at one another, on this side of my pulpit stand or on that side of my pulpit stand. There are sinners on this side, and I got sinners on this side. They’re all alike. They’re all alike. All of us alike, we’re just alike [Romans 3:23].
Then Paul said a second thing, “And the wages of sin is death” [Romans 6:23]. And the wages of sin is death, or, as Ezekiel would say, “The soul that sins shall die” [Ezekiel 18:4, 20]. All those sitting up there, they’re a dying people, and all of these before me are a dying people, and all these back of me are a dying people, and on either side, all of us a dying people, a judgment-bound people, all of us.
Now, as I face inevitable death and as I face inevitable judgment—“It is appointed unto men once to die, and after that the judgment” [Hebrews 9:27]—as I face that ultimate and final day, who is going to save me? Who is going to save me?
Well, nobody ever loved a boy in the world more than my mother doted on me. My mother will save me. Ah, bless her heart, there was a year and a half in her illness; she didn’t even know me. Just go out there and see her, and I might as well have been a stranger she never heard of in her life. Her mind was so damaged she didn’t even know me for a year and a half of her life. And now, invalid and ill and in a home, poor, blessed old mother. How are those feeble hands going to save me? How are they? And my father, God bless his memory. How is he going to save me? He is already in the ground and his spirit already in glory. How is he going to save me?
Well, they can’t. So you will, for if ever a church encouraged the pastor, this church from the beginning of my ministry has encouraged me, so you will save me. You will save me. And then I look, why, bless you, one by one by one by one, falling by the way.
I answered the telephone just before I left the house tonight. One of our members has died. Could you hold the service tomorrow? “No,” I said, “I begin a revival meeting in San Antonio tomorrow, but Brother Melvin Carter will,” so they called Brother Carter. And we will have a service tomorrow for one of the fallen of our congregation. You’re not going to be able to, because we are all dying alike, all of us, all of us, just so helpless, just so unable, dying, dying.
Well, if my dear blessed mother and father can’t help me, and if you can’t help me, and if all of us are dying alike, then what are we going to do?
Man, this is the Word of the gospel. I can’t save myself; I’m dying, and I face that inevitable day, and I can’t put it off, when that hour comes known to God. Then somebody else will have to have compassion and love and mercy upon me. O, who could it be? Who could it be?
That’s why it is called the good news, the good news. Man, look, look, “As Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so must the Son of Man be lifted up, that whosoever dying, bitten, whosoever will look, whosoever will look, he be saved, he be saved” [John 3:14-15; Numbers 21:8-9].
There is life for a look at the Crucified One.
There is life at this moment for thee.
Then look, my brother, look.
Then look, my sister, look.
Look unto Him and be saved,
Unto Him who was nailed to the tree.
It’s recorded in His Word, hallelujah.
It is only that you look and live.
Look and live, my brother, live.
Look to Jesus Christ and live.
It’s recorded in His Word, hallelujah.
It is only that you look and live.
[adapted from “Look and Live,” William Ogden]
We are saved by the keeping, able power of God [Romans 1:16]. And it is mediated to us in a moral act, “O, God, I look, I look. Lord, remember me, save me [John 3:14-17]. O God, in the days of my infirmity, be strength for me, and in the days of my death, Lord, be life for me, and in the day when they bury me in the heart of the earth, O God, be resurrection for me” [Luke 23:42-43].
And the Lord’s promise is that, “He that cometh unto Me I will in no wise cast out” [John 6:37]. And the least that trust in Him will God raise from the dead [1 Thessalonians 4:16-17]. “He that liveth and believeth in Me shall never, ever die” [John 11:26]. I came, He heard. In the committal of my life and the trust of my soul to the ableness and adequacy of God, in that am I saved [Romans 19:9-10; 2 Timothy 1:12].
O bless it to your heart, the announcement of the good news that Jesus saves. Jesus saves [Acts 4:12; Romans 10:13].
And on this radio, they have been kind enough to leave it on beyond the hour. On this radio, as you have listened, just somewhere, by a chair, by a bed, on a roadside, stop and give your heart in faith to Jesus [Ephesians 2:8]. And in this throng in the church tonight, somebody you, trusting Jesus, coming to the Lord, “Such as I am, as I am, O God, I come. I deposit my soul and destiny with Thee. I look to Thee. I am trusting Thee” [Acts 16:30-31]. Would you tonight? Would you tonight? In the balcony round, somebody you, “Here I am, preacher, here I come.” On this lower floor, somebody you, into the aisle and down to the front, “Here I come, preacher, and here I am,” as God shall say the word and open the door, make it now, make it tonight, while we stand and while we sing.
The open coming of Christ (Matthew 25:30-31,
Jude 1:14, Revelation 1:7, 19:11-13, 16)
nations gathered before Him (Matthew 25:32,
Isaiah 13:1, 15:1, 17:1, 19:1, 21:1, 23:1, Amos 1:3, 6, 9, 11, 13, 2:1, 6)
The basis of judgment: how they received His brethren (Matthew 25:45)
The time: the terrible tribulation
The reason: the work of the Jewish evangelist
The cost: the martyr (Revelation 6:9, 7:9, 14)
II. How we receive the messenger and
message of God
A. Some receive it
lightly (Matthew 22:5)
B. Some give excuses (Matthew 14:15-24)
C. Some open their
hearts to the message of Christ
1. Like those in
Galatia, Thessalonica to whom Paul wrote
2. His message
a. We all alike are
sinners (Isaiah 53:6, Romans 3:23, James 2:10)
We all alike face judgment (Romans 6:23, Ezekiel
18:4, 20, Hebrews 9:27)
God’s provision (John 3:14, 6:37, 47)