[forthright] The Great Separation

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From: Randal Matheny <randalm@...>
Date: Sun, 08 Dec 2002 13:03:33 -0200
Forthright Magazine

Today's article is a tad longer than normal, but
hang in there with Randal. Until the end.

The Great Separation
by Randal Matheny

Brazilians have a phrase that often pops up in
conversations, "Let's separate things properly."
The idea is to make the proper distinctions in
analyzing an issue.

God wants to separate things properly as well. And
he has a definite timetable to do just that.

We like to think of eternal life as the final and
complete union with God. And rightly so. But the
Lord also describes the moment at which time
dissolves into eternity as a great separation.

All of life is a separation. Jesus said, "Do you
suppose that I came to grant peace on the earth? I
tell you, no, but rather division; for from now on
five members in one household will be divided,
three against two and two against three" (Luke
12:51-52, NASV). Father against son. Son against
father. Mother against daughter. Daughter against
mother. The gospel brings not merely peace with
God and man, but division and separation from
those who refuse repentance.

In fact, the concept of holiness starts with

That separation continues at death, when we are
not only separated from those we love, but from
all evil or from all good, depending upon how we
choose to live in this life. Jesus' story of the
rich man and Lazarus establishes the "great chasm
fixed" that prevents crossing over from torment to
Paradise (Luke 16:26).

So it is not surprising that Jesus describes the
end of time as one Great Separation.

In Matthew 13, he tells two parables to this end,
the tares and the dragnet.

In the parable of the tares (read verses 24-30 and
36-43), the separation process is only partial in
this life. The godly effort to remove evil is
worthy, necessary, and spiritual (see 2
Corinthians 6:14-18, for example), but incomplete.
Only God can add the last chapter to this saga.
Jesus conceives of the end of the age as a harvest
(verse 39).

And in this process, good is not always seen for
what it is. Or, even worse, evil is not recognized
as evil.

But when the end comes (verse 40), the evil ones
will be thrown into the furnace of fire. Only then
will it be possible for God's devoted ones to be
seen for what they are, "THEN the righteous will
shine forth as the sun in the kingdom of their
Father" (verse 43).

Because of that, the gospel is worth any price. So
say the parables of the hidden treasure and the
costly pearl (verses 44-46). Then Jesus returns to
the subject of "the end of the age" in the parable
of the dragnet (verses 47-50).

Here, the figure is of the fishermen casting their
dragnet and pulling in all kinds of fish. Once on
shore, the selection process begins. But not
before then.

The parable's point: don't expect God to
anticipate his final work now. The present is not
a time of separation, but gathering in. Preach the
gospel, remembering that the great division will
soon occur.

These two parables make several truths clear.

First, this is God's job. Yes, the church removes
the unrepentant sinner from its midst (1
Corinthians 5:1-13), and those who are spiritual
can recognize trespasses and sins among them
(Galatians 5:1), but the final accounting and
eternal sentencing are divine tasks, performed by
the Lord at the hand of his ministering angels.

What a relief for the saints of God! His power,
his omniscience, his holiness will burn the way
clear to show complete justice and full glory.

Second, the great separation at the end of the age
will be a joyful and wonderful event. Not only
will God be seen for who he is, but the his people
will seen as the right-doers.

This is a great comfort, since Christians are
persecuted in this world and people "falsely say
all kinds of evil" against them, because of Jesus'
exclusive claims and non-negociable demands
(Matthew 5:11).

Third, while we await the end of the age, we
should be sowing and fishing. Preaching and
teaching. Telling others that the Great Separation
is coming soon. And that repentance is necessary
to avoid being thrown into the furnace of fire.

Let's "separate things properly" now, as the
Brazilians say. And prepare for God's Great
Separation. Because we're nearing the end of the