“Am I a Goat or a Sheep?”
QUESTION: At the end of the church year, I heard a lesson about sheep and goats. I am worried that I am a goat. How can I know?
ANSWER: Jesus told us what would happen on the day of Judgment: “When the Son of Man comes in His glory, and all the holy angels with Him, then He will sit on the throne of His glory. All the nations will be gathered before Him, and He will separate them one from another, as a shepherd divides his sheep from the goats. And He will set the sheep on His right hand, but the goats on the left. Then the King will say to those on His right hand, ‘Come, you blessed of My Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world’” (Matthew 25:31–33).
We should be concerned about being numbered with goats. Goats are people who will not inherit eternal life. They are the condemned. Jesus will pass this judgment on them: “Then He will also say to those on the left hand, ‘Depart from Me, you cursed, into the everlasting fire prepared for the devil and his angels…And these will go away into everlasting punishment, but the righteous into eternal life’” (Matthew 25:41, 46).
Since Adam’s fall into sin, all people born in a natural way deserve to hear this sentence from God. Created in the image of God, Adam passed on his own image to his offspring and all those born after him (Genesis 5:3). Fallen humanity lives under sin’s curse, punishment and death. “The soul that sins, it shall die” (Ezekiel 18:4), “The wages of sin are death” (Romans 6:23), and the Bible teaches, “It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God” (Hebrews 10:31).
God teaches these frightening things to call us to repentance, to sorrow over our sins and to confess them before the almighty Maker. In order to prepare the world for Jesus, John the Baptizer preached this message: “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand!” (Matthew 3:2). Jesus repeated that message as He began His public ministry (see Matthew 4:17).
God does not want anyone to be a “goat.” He does not delight in the death of sinners (see Ezekiel 33:11 and 1 Timothy 2:4). This is why God’s Son was born and revealed as the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world. During Epiphany, we learn how Jesus grew to manhood, the obedient child. As Lent begins, we hear how Jesus perfectly resisted Satan’s temptations. For in a garden, Adam fell. In the wilderness, Adam’s greater Son, Jesus, resisted and conquered temptation.
Jesus did all this for us in our place. He obeyed His Father. He completely resisted all evil. He substituted Himself for us. God applies Jesus’ perfection and His holiness to us by faith.
Furthermore, Jesus suffered the punishment we sinners deserve. Jesus became the Goat when Roman soldiers nailed Him to the cross. He was there in our place. Jesus suffered in full for us all the judgment and punishment that “goats” will endure on Judgment Day.
God makes us His sheep by faith in Jesus. We can live and die, confident that we are forgiven and heaven-bound because of all that Jesus did for us. Indeed, we are already eternal by faith in the Savior.
We repent of our sins by giving them to Jesus. We have saving faith when we know God has applied Jesus’ holiness and sacrifice to our account. “He who believes and is baptized will be saved; but he who does not believe will be condemned” (Mark 16:16). Jesus said this—Believe Him!
Rev. Charles Keeler
Resurrection Lutheran Church
Winter Haven, FL
“Am I a Goat or a Sheep?”