how to tell the biblical story in a way that makes a difference

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Matthew 25:31-46 describes a judgment of the nations according to how they have treated Jesus’ disciples, the least of these his brothers. Those Gentiles who tend to the physical needs of the disciples in their sufferings will be invited to share in the life of the restored kingdom (Matt. 25:34). Those who neglect the disciples will suffer the destruction of the age represented by the fire. They will not have a share in the life of the age to come, following the restoration of Israel.

Eventually the devil and his angels will suffer the same destruction: “and the devil who had deceived them was thrown into the lake of fire and sulphur where the beast and the false prophet were, and they will be tormented day and night forever and ever” (Rev. 20:10).

This is Jesus’—or Matthew’s—way of saying, on the one hand, that righteous Gentiles will be rewarded, and on the other, that the persecution and suffering that will be an inevitable part of the experience of the disciples in this period would come to an end.