By: Dr. Hank Lindstrom
“When the Son of man shall come in his glory, and all the holy angels with him, then shall he sit upon the throne of his glory: And before him shall be gathered all nations: and he shall separate them one from another, as a shepherd divideth his sheep from the goats (Matthew 25:31-32).”
Much confusion has surrounded the passage of Scripture in Matthew 24:31-46. The judgement of the nations is an event that will occur seven years after the rapture, immediately following Armageddon and the Second Coming of Jesus Christ to the earth. As Jesus Christ sets up His earthly (1,000 year kingdom), His first order of business is to judge the nations and eliminate the unsaved from entering the millennium.
Dr. C.I. Scofield reference Bible says, “This judgement is to be distinguished from the great white throne. Here there is no resurrection; the persons judged are living nations; no books are opened; three classes are present, sheep, goats, and brethren; the time is at the return of Christ; and the scene is on the earth. All these particulars are in contrast with Revelation 20:11-15.”
Let’s take a look again at the scripture in Matthew 25:31-33. “When the Son of man shall come in his glory, and all the holy angels with him, then shall he sit upon the throne of his glory: And before him shall be gathered all nations: and he shall set the sheep on his right hand, but the goats on the left.”
To the sheep Jesus will say, “Enter the earthly 1,000 year kingdom.” To the goats Jesus will say, “Depart into everlasting fire.” Notice Matthew 25:34, “Then shall the king say unto them on his right hand, Come, ye blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world:.” Also notice Matthew 24:41, “Then shall he say unto them on the left hand, “Depart from me ye cursed, into everlasting fire, prepared for the devil and his angels.”
In the Bible the sheep represent the saved and the goats represent the lost. The sheep are believers and the goats are unbelievers. Notice what Jesus said in John 10:25, “But ye believe not, because ye are not of my sheep, as I said unto you.” And again, “I am the good shepherd, and know my sheep, and am known of mine. (John 10:7,14).” Therefore, Jesus said in John 10:26, “But ye believe not, because you are not of my sheep as I said unto you.”
Sheep are sheep by birth and goats are goats by birth. I say this because some try to imply works for salvation in Matthew 25 by pointing to the works of the goats and sheep. Thereby, they imply that one becomes a sheep or a goat by works and not by birth. The goats picture the unsaved, unregenerate lost, whose best works are filthy rags according to Isaiah 64:6. The sheep picture the believer in Jesus Christ, born again by the Spirit of God, who are now able to build works on the foundation of Jesus Christ, to be rewarded one day (I Corinthians 3:11-15).
Notice the phrase “the righteous” in verses 37 and 46. In Matthew 25:46 we read, “the righteous (shall go) into life eternal”. Please note Romans 3:10 where we read, “As it is written, there is none righteous, no, not one.” We know that the believer is not righteous and cannot obtain righteousness by his deeds. Romans 3:20 says, “Therefore by the deeds of the law there shall no flesh be justified in his sight: for by the law is the knowledge of sin.” So we learn that “even the righteousness of God which is by faith in Jesus Christ unto all and upon all them that BELIEVE (Romans 3:22).” The only way for one to become “righteous” in God’s sight is by faith. Therefore, “the righteous” in Matthew 25 are believers who are righteous by faith and not by deeds. “Therefore we conclude that a man is justified by faith without the deeds of the law (Romans 3:28).”
This judgement of the nations will be a dark day for all the unsaved on the face of the earth. Listen to the prophet Zephaniah in Chapter 3:8. “Therefore wait ye upon me, saith the Lord, until the day that I rise up to the prey: for my determination is to gather the nations, that I may assemble the kingdoms, to pour out upon them mine indignation, even all my fierce anger: for all the earth shall be devoured with the fire of my jealousy.”
For the saved the judgement of the nations will be a wonderful day. Listen to the prophet Zephaniah 3:17, “The Lord thy God in the midst of thee is mighty; he will save, he will rejoice over thee with joy; he will rest in love, he will joy over thee with singing.” In Matthew 24:41,46, we have the awful condemnation of the unsaved. “Then shall he say also unto them on the left hand, depart from me ye cursed, into everlasting fire, prepared for the devil and his angels:” and “…these shall go away into everlasting punishment: but the righteous into life eternal.”
The “brethren” in Matthew 25 are the Jewish remnant that has preached the gospel to the nations during the tribulation. During the tribulation God is going to revert to using the Jewish people as His witnesses to the gospel (Isaiah 43:10). Those who respond to the message and become saved will love the Jew for bringing them the message of salvation (Romans 10:15) and therefore, they will not mistreat the “brethren”.
God tells us (believers) in II Corinthians 2:15,16, that “we are unto God a sweet savour of Christ, in them that perish: to the one we are the savour of death and to the other the savour unto life.”
The sheep will love and help the brethren because they appreciate the message of the gospel brought to them by the “brethren”. The goats, who reject the message of the gospel, will show indifference and hatred toward the “brethren”.
The sheep are believers. The goats are unbelievers. What are you? “He that believeth on Him is not condemned, but he that believeth not is condemned already because he hath not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God (John 3:18).”
“Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and thou shalt be saved (Acts 16:31).”