My pastor preached from the gospel lesson, Matthew 25:31-46 this past Sunday, and reminded me of something important. Though this is called a parable, it is really much more of an apocalyptic vision, presenting the scene of judgment day.
Besides the differences in the way one would understand a vision and a parable, this provides a good context for connecting the various texts. Consider the visions around the throne for example in Revelation 4 & 5, or even other theophanies such as Ezekiel 1 or the second coming scene in Daniel 7.
What does it mean to stand before God? How will we feel when we do so? Frequently we speak of “being in the presence of God” in our worship services, but the presence of God is never so casual a thing in scripture.
In our texts we have the question of the shepherds that God is going to replace because they haven’t been feeding his people in Ezekiel 34:11-16, 20-24. God’s judgment in that case involves removal from a position but if we tie it in to the view of the sheep and the goats, who are asked whether they cared for one another, then the failure of the shepherds takes on a new–and final–meaning.
Psalm 100 is the most positive of these texts in that it is a Psalm of praise. In the one sense it’s entirely positive, but it references the “sheep of God’s pasture” (v. 3) which might give a slightly different view if connected with the shepherds of Ezekiel 34 and the goats of Matthew 25!
I think it will be very hard to teach or preach from this passage without centering in some way on the final judgment.