“When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the 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 people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats, and he will put the sheep at his right hand and the goats at the left. Then the king will say to those at his right hand, ‘Come, you that are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world; for I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you gave me clothing, I was sick and you took care of me, I was in prison and you visited me.’ Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when was it that we saw you hungry and gave you food, or thirsty and gave you something to drink? And when was it that we saw you a stranger and welcomed you, or naked and gave you clothing? And when was it that we saw you sick or in prison and visited you?’ And the king will answer them, ‘Truly I tell you, just as you did it to one of the least of these who are members of my family, you did it to me.’ Then he will say to those at his left hand, ‘You that are accursed, depart from me into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels; for I was hungry and you gave me no food, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink, I was a stranger and you did not welcome me, naked and you did not give me clothing, sick and in prison and you did not visit me.’ Then they also will answer, ‘Lord, when was it that we saw you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison, and did not take care of you?’ Then he will answer them, ‘Truly I tell you, just as you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to me.’ And these will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life.”
Jesus is pretty clear on what exactly is going to happen when the Kingdom of Heaven comes. Every single person in the world will be set before Jesus, no exceptions. He will separate them, and then God will judge them. The righteous will receive eternal life, everyone else eternal punishment. It’s written, in back and white (or red and white, I guess…), right there. There can be no doubt about the existence of Hell for anyone who reads this passage.
Now, what I find interesting is how Jesus determines who goes where. He says nothing about being baptized, nothing about accepting Him as Lord and Savior. Instead He says, “You took care of My family. You fed them, you clothed them, and you helped them through times of trouble.” Because that is what being a Christian is all about. It’s not about what you say, what you wear, or what church you go to. It’s about loving others the way you love Jesus. Again, accepting Jesus as your Savior isn’t about saying the words, it’s about your hear, and therefore your lifestyle, being completely changed. It’s about radical love for both Jesus and your neighbor. And when you really love someone, you take care of them. You wouldn’t let your mother or your daughter go hungry or cold. So should be your love for everyone in this world.
We do have to be careful here though. Paul (or is it Timothy?) makes it very clear that we do not earn our salvation through good works. We are all sinners, and no amount of good deed can overcome our sins and tip the scales for us. We NEED Jesus to intercede for us. (So, sorry, atheists who are great humanitarians and loving individuals do not get eternal life. Their good works and love aren’t enough.They need Jesus’s sacrifice, just like the rest of us.) But, as James so eloquently put it, “faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead.” (James 2:17) Jesus has made it clear throughout this entire chapter that true faith inspires you to good works, and it is that combination of faith in Jesus Christ and good works for His family that leads to eternal life.