1.0 Context

In the context of end-time events there have been some preceding judgments on the Gentile world. These are described in great detail in the book of Revelation under the seals, trumpets, and vials.

In addition, a great judgment takes place according to Revelation 19 on the armies of the world composed of Gentiles who are engaged in the great world struggle at the time of the next coming of Messiah to the earth.

These have already been put to death. The judgment here described in Matthew 25:31-46 comes later in the sequence of events and deals with Gentiles all over the world on whom the preceding judgments have not fallen.

It is obviously necessary to deal with the entire world scene in preparation for the world kingdom which Messiah is introducing to the world at this time.

In the ancient Near East, as in much of that land still today, sheep and goats are frequently herded together. But sheep are docile, gentle creatures, whereas goats are unruly and rambunctious and can easily upset the sheep. Because they do not feed or rest well together, the shepherd often separates them for grazing and for sleeping at night.

In a similar way the Lord Yeshua the Messiah will separate believers from unbelievers when He returns to establish His millennial kingdom. He will put the believing sheep on His right, the place of favor and blessing. But the unbelieving goats He will put on the left, the place of disfavor and rejection.

In Matthew 25:31-46 we read, “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: And he shall set the sheep on his right hand, but the goats on the left. 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: For I was an hungred, and ye gave me meat: I was thirsty, and ye gave me drink: I was a stranger, and ye took me in: Naked, and ye clothed me: I was sick, and ye visited me: I was in prison, and ye came unto me. Then shall the righteous answer him, saying, Lord, when saw we thee an hungred, and fed thee? or thirsty, and gave thee drink? When saw we thee a stranger, and took thee in? or naked, and clothed thee? Or when saw we thee sick, or in prison, and came unto thee? And the King shall answer and say unto them, Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me. 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: For I was an hungred, and ye gave me no meat: I was thirsty, and ye gave me no drink: I was a stranger, and ye took me not in: naked, and ye clothed me not: sick, and in prison, and ye visited me not. Then shall they also answer him, saying, Lord, when saw we thee an hungred, or athirst, or a stranger, or naked, or sick, or in prison, and did not minister unto thee? Then shall he answer them, saying, Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye did it not to one of the least of these, ye did it not to me. And these shall go away into everlasting punishment: but the righteous into life eternal.”

In describing this judgment Yeshua uses the figure of a mingled group of sheep and goats as comprising “all nations” or better translated, “all Gentiles.” According to the passage they are all gathered before Him and the sheep are placed on His right hand and the goats on His left.

A crucial question is the interpretation of the expression, “all nations”. It is frequently used in a secondary sense “for foreigners” and for “Gentile believers” in contrast to Jewish believers. 

Here as in other details in this passage an appeal should be made to the particular context. Actually, in addition to the sheep and the goats a third class is mentioned as “my brethren” (Matthew 25:40) and referred to again as “one of the least of these” (Matthew 25:45).

These are obviously contemporaries of the sheep and the goats and yet are not a part of their number. The only scriptural justification for a third class would be to regard these as Jews in contrast to both saved and unsaved Gentiles.

Inasmuch as there is another judgment for Israel in Ezekiel 20:34-38 in a different place and in different circumstances, the conclusion is supported that the sheep and the goats are Gentiles.

The answer is found in the context of this section. These who are here being judged are those who have survived the great tribulation. According to many Scriptures, the great tribulation will be a time of persecution of the Jew referred to in Jeremiah 30:7 as “the time of Jacob’s trouble.”

In fact, the persecution will be so great that according to Zechariah 13:8 two-thirds of the Jews in the land will die. There will be a death sentence on all faithful Jews who do not worship the world ruler in the end time.

There will be satanic hatred of the Jewish people at that time, and Satan will once again attempt to exterminate them as he has done in so many previous periods in history.

In such a circumstance, for anyone to befriend a Jew to an extent indicated in this passage, that is feed him, clothe him, and even visit him in prison or when he is sick would be extraordinary evidence of works produced by the grace of God.

Accordingly, these works of kindness take on tremendous significance as they would involve extreme danger on the part of the person performing them as well as being executed in a time of great deception and hatred of the Jew.

Accordingly, for a person under these circumstances to befriend “my brethren,” it would indicate true faith in God and in Yeshua the Messiah and the works, while not the ground of salvation, nevertheless become clear evidence of it.

By contrast anyone who puts faith in Yeshua the Messiah and is looking for His next coming to earth and is aware of His special purposes relating to Israel including the promises of Genesis 12:3 certainly would not ignore his duty and his privilege of ministering to these troubled people.

Accordingly, absence of the works indicates lack of salvation just as clearly as presence of the works indicates faith in Yeshua the Messiah.

2.0 Three Groups Involved in This Judgment: sheep, goats, and brethren

a. The Brethren

  • The “brethren” are the believing Jews from the Tribulation period.
  • These are people who will hear the message of the 144,000 and trust Yeshua the Messiah.
  • Since these believing Jews will not receive the “mark of the beast” (Revelation 13:16-17), they will be unable to buy or sell.
  • How, then, can they survive?
  • Through the loving care of the Gentiles who have trusted Messiah and who care for His brethren.

b. The Sheep.

  • The interesting thing about this judgment is that the sheep individuals are surprised at what they hear.
  • They will not remember having seen the Lord Yeshua the Messiah and ministering to His needs.
  • But just as they lovingly ministered to the believing Jews, they did it to Messiah.
  • Their motive was not reward, but sacrificial love.
  • In fact, these Gentiles took their own lives in their hands when they welcomed the homeless Jews and cared for them.
  • Yeshua said to His disciples, “He that receiveth you receiveth Me,” (Matthew 10:40); and surely this would also apply to His brethren.

c. The Goats

  • The individual designated goats were judged because they did not trust Yeshua the Messiah and give evidence of that faith by caring for His brethren.
  • They apparently received the mark of the beast and took care of themselves and their own, but they had no time for the Jewish remnant that was suffering on earth (Revelation 12:17).
  • There are sins of omission as well as sins of commission (James 4:17).
  • Not doing good is the moral equivalent of doing evil.

3.0 Conclusion

The subjects of Messiah’s judgment will be all the nations. Ethna (nations) has the basic meaning of peoples and here refers to every person alive on earth when the Lord returns.

Although He will have taken all believers into heaven at the Rapture, during the following seven years of the Tribulation many other people will come to believe in Him.

During that dreadful time, multitudes of Gentiles (Revelation 7:9, 14), as well as all surviving Jews (Romans 11:26), will be brought to faith in Messiah.

The process of Messiah’s judgment will include the absolute and unerring separation of the saved from the unsaved. When all the nations and peoples of the earth will have been gathered before Him at His return, the Lord Yeshua the Messiah will separate them from one another, as the shepherd separates the sheep from the goats.

Those who are placed on His right will go into the millennial kingdom (Matthew 25:34). This kingdom starts as an earthly kingdom and one-thousand years later transitions into a heavenly kingdom (Revelation 20:2, 4-5; Revelation 21:5-7; 1 John 5;5 and Revelation 2:11). Those on His left will go into eternal punishment which is hell or the Lake of Fire (Matthew 25:46).

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