37 "Then the righteous will answer him, saying,
39 When did we see you sick, or in prison, and come to you?’
40 "The King will answer them, ‘Most assuredly I tell you,
inasmuch as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me.’
44 "Then they will also answer, saying,
and didn’t help you?’
45 "Then he will answer them, saying, ‘Most assuredly I tell you,
inasmuch as you didn’t do it to one of the least of these, you didn’t do it to me.’
This teaching is the end of a set of teachings concerning the second coming, which he started in response to his disciples question in Matthew 24:3 As he sat on the Mount of Olives, the disciples came to him privately, saying, "Tell us, when will these things be? What is the sign of your coming, and of the end of the age?"
Matt 24:30,31 and then the sign of the Son of Man will appear in the sky. Then all the tribes of the earth will mourn, and they will see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of the sky with power and great glory. He will send out his angels with a great sound of a trumpet, and they will gather together his chosen ones from the four winds, from one end of the sky to the other.
However, for it to be the Great White Throne judgment, the phrase in Matt 25:31 "When the Son of Man comes in his glory" would have to be understood to incorporate not simply the last trumpet, but rather the time all the way through the Millenial Kingdom, which is not unreasonable given the forms of expression and generalizations he often uses in expressing what occurs in the last days.
As such, the sheep on the right must have had their names written in the book of life, and those on the left did not. But what Matt 25 brings out is the correlation between one's salvation status and one's behavior. Is this teaching salvation by works? Indeed we might come to that conclusion if we hadn't read the rest of the Bible. In reality what happens is that those who have been born of God naturally love the children of God. This is not performance based salvation, but salvation based performance. One's works are an effect of (and therefore indication of) one's salvation status, rather than being a cause of one's salvation.
Notice how love for other Christians is an indication of one's salvation status:
1 John 3:10 This is how we know who the children of God are and who the children of the devil are: Anyone who does not do what is right is not a child of God; nor is anyone who does not love his brother.But why doesn't Jesus mention about the book of life here? Probably because he didn't want people to have the sort of concept of Eternal Security not uncommonly found in the Christian community today in which people assume they are saved but make no correlation to their behavior. Paul exhorts: "Examine yourselves to see whether you are in the faith; test yourselves. Do you not realize that Christ Jesus is in you-- unless, of course, you fail the test?" 2Cor 13:5 But today many simply presume they are "in Christ" and don't question that fact, wheras the Bible advocates there being an inevitable correlation between one's behavior and one's salvation status. (See the 1st John study for an elaboration)
1 John 3:14 We know that we have passed from death to life, because we love our brothers.
1 John 5:1 Everyone who believes that Jesus is the Christ is born of God,
and everyone who loves the father loves his child as well.
John 13:35 By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.