ESV - 40 And the King will answer them, 'Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me.
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The "least of these" are those people who are marginalized by today's society's standards. They are the orphans, widows, elderly, sick and dying, strangers, foreigners, prisoners, unborn, gays and lesbians, deformed, and handicapped. We are called to show compassion to the "least of these" if we want to inherit the kingdom.
These would probably all qualify: Those with the lowest social status. Those least likely to be able to help you in return. Those in the highest degree of need. The smallest or weakest. The poorest in Spirit. The idea being to help those, because it is the Christian thing to do, and because you would be doing so for Christ.
The phrase "the least of these" is completed by the addition of the words "my brethren". The context is the return of Jesus in glory v31 wit h all the angels, and a judgement of gentiles as to how they treated his brethren. The time is the end of the Great Tribulation, (Matt 24: 29-31) and just before the millennial kingdom. Those gentiles who have shown kindness to "the least of these my brethren" are ushered in to the kingdom, and eternal life. (vs 34&46) Those who have neglected "the least of these my brethren" are sentenced to hell v 41 & 46. To understand who "the least" of these refers to, it is necessary to figure out who Jesus "brethren" are. They cannot be any hungry, thirsty, homeless, naked, sick, prisoner from all history. There are many other scriptures that tell christians to care and protect these people. Nor can they be christians from New Testament times to the time of this judgement. The Church, the Bride of Christ has been removed from the earth in an event called the Rapture. Jn 14:3; 1 Cor 15:51-58; 1 Thess 4:13-18; 5:9. and others. Furthermore, it seems unlikely that if this did refer to the church, the gentiles would not be surprised to find that they were brothers of Christ, yet both the sheep group and the goat group express surprise that the "least of these my brethren are indeed associated with the glorious judge. The term my brethren could refer to Jews from all of history since the the promise to Abraham to bless those who blessed him (and his descendants) and to curse those who cursed him (and his descendants). In this case this a judgement upon Anti-Semitism throughout history, from the Abrahamic covenant to the glorious return. A further possibility is that "my brethren" refers to the 144,000 Jews described as bond servants of God, Rev 7:1-8. who are sealed with the mark of God, for some service, perhaps evangelism, during the tribulation. As they have carried out their mission, they have met with acceptance by the elect or persecution from the unrepentant. The mark of God has protected them from death but not from cruel and inhospitable treatment. Personally I lean toward a judgement against Anti-Semitism from the time of the Abrahamic covenant.
The "least of these" also refers to those that are your enemies or those that hate you. Matthew 5:44-46, 44" But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, 45 that you may be children of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. 46 If you love those who love you, what reward will you get?"
I think it means any needy person. The context is this: The extent of our love (1 John 3:16-18) should be that if need be, we should be willing to lay down our lives for others. --Harold Wilmington The apostle John emphasized this aspect of good works. “If anyone has material possessions and sees his brother in need but has no pity on him, how can the love of God be in him? Dear children, let us not love with words or tongue but with actions and truth” (1 John 3:17–18 NIV). https://bethelchurchmuncie.files.wordpress.com/2020/07/wiersbe-commentary-new-testament.pdf But see 1 Jo. 3:14-19 for the full context. 1 John 3:14-19 (English Standard Version): 14 We know that we have passed out of death into life, because we love the brothers. Whoever does not love abides in death. 15 Everyone who hates his brother is a murderer, and you know that no murderer has eternal life abiding in him. 16 By this we know love, that he laid down his life for us, and we ought to lay down our lives for the brothers. 17 But if anyone has the world's goods and sees his brother in need, yet closes his heart against him, how does God's love abide in him? 18 Little children, let us not love in word or talk but in deed and in truth. 19 By this we shall know that we are of the truth and reassure our heart before him;
Another form of least of these is where Yahusha talks about those who have done away with the Old Testament and teach others to do the same.
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