Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Don't Be A Goat

In Matthew 24, Christ outlines several of the signs of his Second Coming. This chapter is significant enough to our day that the Joseph Smith translation of Matthew 24 is published in the Pearl of Great Price as Joseph Smith--Matthew.

The very next chapter, Matthew 25, contains three parables used to teach the same principle of preparedness. Just as we see Matthew 24 as a significant chapter at least partially because of its repetition, the repetition of the principles taught in Matthew 25 should be seen as an indication that these principles are significant to our salvation.

The first of these parables is the parable of the ten virgins. Elder Oaks pointed out in 2004 that these virgins were all invited to the feast, an indication that these virgins are symbolic of the members of the Church prior to the Second Coming of Christ. Of ten virgins waiting for admittance to a wedding feast, only five of the virgins in the parable were prepared with enough oil for their lamps to enter the feast when the bridegroom came. The other five, who had gone to get more oil, were denied entrance upon their return. This parable concludes with the warning to, "Watch therefore, for ye know neither the day nor the hour wherein the Son of man cometh" (Matthew 25:13).

The second parable is the parable of the talents. In this parable, a man gives each of his three servants a respective number of talents. When he returns, he is pleased to find that two of his servants have doubled their allotment. The third, unprepared servant had done nothing with the talents he had been given and is chastised for not even collecting the interest on the investment given to him. The talent of the third servant is then given to the first with the warning that unprofitable servants will be cast into outer darkness.

Finally, we read that Christ shall come again he will divide the sheep from the goats. The sheep, as metaphors for the faithful who were prepared for Christ at his coming, will then inherit the kingdom of God while the unfaithful, unprepared goats will go away into everlasting punishment (v. 34, 46).

In the third parable encouraging us to be prepared for the Second Coming, Christ teaches us what we must do. That is, Christ teaches us how to be a sheep instead of a goat. After teaching that he will separate the sheep from the goats and put the sheep on his right hand, he says:

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. 

This is, then, the key. Service to Christ is how we can be prepared for the wedding feast, multiply our talents and be counted with the sheep. To be absolutely clear, Christ continues:

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.

The point here is one with which we are all familiar. Those who will be saved in the Kingdom of God will not be the selfish, but the servants. As we are willing to serve Christ by serving those around us, we will be prepared for the Second Coming of Christ and will be on his right hand. This is a task that is within our grasp-- if you just have the wisdom to not be a goat.

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