When Christ and His angels come in glory and He gathers all nations to judge the Goats and the Sheep (Matthew 25:31-46), who are they?
Today pre-millennialists believe these represent earth’s population from all nations, goats unbelievers and sheep believers who are judged worthy of entering the Millennial Kingdom. A more ancient view of Matthew 25:33’s goats and sheep is that these goats and sheep grazing together are the Tares sown among the Wheat, Christians from all nations. Which is correct?
Its revealed in Christ’s words, notice the Kingdom the sheep inherit, it was prepared for them before the “foundation of the world”. That “everlasting kingdom” (2 Pt. 1:11) replaces Christ’s Millennial Kingdom, after Judgment Day (Rev. 20:7-15) when New Jerusalem comes down to earth and God dwells with mankind (Rev. 21:1-7):
“Then the King will say to those on His right hand, `Come, you blessed of My Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world: (Matt. 25:34 NKJ)
That is an “everlasting kingdom” (2 Pt. 1:11; Rev. 21:1-7) prepared for God’s Elect chosen before the foundation of the world (Eph. 1:4), His “beloved” (Rom. 8:28). Therefore, the “sheep” must be God’s Elect, the “goats” professing Christianity are actually Tares sown among the wheat:
37 He answered and said to them: “He who sows the good seed is the Son of Man.
38 “The field is the world, the good seeds are the sons of the kingdom, but the tares are the sons of the wicked one.
39 “The enemy who sowed them is the devil, the harvest is the end of the age, and the reapers are the angels.
40 “Therefore as the tares are gathered and burned in the fire, so it will be at the end of this age.
41 “The Son of Man will send out His angels, and they will gather out of His kingdom all things that offend, and those who practice lawlessness,
42 “and will cast them into the furnace of fire. There will be wailing and gnashing of teeth.
43 “Then the righteous will shine forth as the sun in the kingdom of their Father. He who has ears to hear, let him hear! (Matt. 13:37-43 NKJ)
47 “Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a dragnet that was cast into the sea and gathered some of every kind,
48 “which, when it was full, they drew to shore; and they sat down and gathered the good into vessels, but threw the bad away.
49 “So it will be at the end of the age. The angels will come forth, separate the wicked from among the just,
50 “and cast them into the furnace of fire. There will be wailing and gnashing of teeth.” (Matt. 13:47-50 NKJ)
17 For the time has come for judgment to begin at the house of God; and if it begins with us first, what will be the end of those who do not obey the gospel of God?
18 Now “If the righteous one is scarcely saved, Where will the ungodly and the sinner appear?” (1 Pet. 4:17-18 NKJ)
Matthew 25:31-46 Context:
Context confirms this section is about believers (Mt. 24:45-51; 25:1-30), the goats and the sheep are Christians of all nations, grazing together until Christ comes in His glory and begins separating the TARES from the WHEAT.
Also confirming is the normal meaning of the inheriting “eternal life” (ζωὴν αἰώνιον). It refers to everlasting destinies (Mat. 25:46), compare Matt. 19:16, 29; Mk. 10:17, 30; Lk. 10:25; 18:18, 30; Jn. 3:15-16, 36; 4:14, 36; 5:24, 39; 6:27, 40, 47, 54; 10:28; 12:25; 17:2; Acts 13:48; Rom. 2:7; 5:21; 6:22; Gal. 6:8; 1 Tim. 1:16; 1 Jn. 3:15; 5:11, 13; Jude 1:21).
If, after all this, we cannot suppose that a judgment of non-Christians is here meant, we may even go still further, and say that non-Christians are not included at all, and so we must also reject the view usually adopted, since Chrysostom and Augustine, that what is here exhibited is a judgment of all men, believers and unbelievers alike. For, so far from the mention of the divine ἐκλογή, ver. 34, or the idea of the δίκαιοι, ver. 37, or what Jesus says at ver. 35, or the answer of those assembled before the Judge, vv. 37 and 44, or the entire omission generally of any distinction between belief and unbelief, harmonizing with the notion of a mixed body consisting of Christians and non-Christians, they entirely exclude the latter. We should therefore return to the very old view (Lactantius, Instit. vii. 20; Jerome, Euthymius Zigabenus), which, though it had been neglected in consequence of the prevalent eschatology, was preserved by Grotius, the view, namely, that what Jesus is here depicting is the judgment of Christians: περὶ τῶν Χριστιανῶν δὲ μόνων ὁ λόγος ἐνταῦθα, Euthymius Zigabenus, who proves this, above all, from vv. 35, 36. All the points previously adduced as arguments against the other explanations combine to favour this view. It is confirmed by the whole fundamental idea on which the Judge’s sentence turns (the determining principle being the love manifested toward Jesus), by the figure of the shepherd and his sheep, and finally, and at the same time somewhat more definitely, by the fact that those who are being judged are called πάντα τὰ ἔθνη. For the latter words are not intended to limit the reference expressly to the Gentiles, but they are to be taken as assuming the realization of the universality of Christianity. by the time of the advent when all the nations of the earth (ἔθνη, as expressing the idea of nation, does not exclude the Jews; comp. 28:19, 24:9, and see on John 11:50) will have heard the gospel and (to a proportionable degree) received Christ (24:14; Rom. 11:25). Jesus, then, is here describing the universal judgment of those who have believed in Him, in whom, as they will be gathered around His throne, His prophetic glance beholds all the nations of the world (28:19). Comp., for the judgment of Christians, 2 Cor. 5:10; Rom. 14:10.-Meyer, H. A. W. (1884). Critical and Exegetical Handbook to the Gospel of Matthew. (W. Stewart, Ed., P. Christie, Trans.) (Vol. 2, pp. 178–179). Edinburgh: T&T Clark.
Unsaved survivors of Armageddon enter the Millennial Kingdom, and still bear children:
16 And it shall come to pass that everyone who is left of all the nations which came against Jerusalem shall go up from year to year to worship the King, the LORD of hosts, and to keep the Feast of Tabernacles.
17 And it shall be that whichever of the families of the earth do not come up to Jerusalem to worship the King, the LORD of hosts, on them there will be no rain.
18 If the family of Egypt will not come up and enter in, they shall have no rain; they shall receive the plague with which the LORD strikes the nations who do not come up to keep the Feast of Tabernacles.
19 This shall be the punishment of Egypt and the punishment of all the nations that do not come up to keep the Feast of Tabernacles. (Zech. 14:16-19 NKJ)
Clearly, the same free will respecting God who said “Come now, and let us reason together” (Isa. 1:18 NKJ) who desires all come to repentance and be saved (2 Pet. 3:9), uses gentle discipline like a Father and reason to make His case. Not tyranny.
Evangelization still occurs:
22 Yea, many people and strong nations shall come to seek the LORD of hosts in Jerusalem, and to pray before the LORD.
23 Thus saith the LORD of hosts; In those days it shall come to pass, that ten men shall take hold out of all languages of the nations, even shall take hold of the skirt of him that is a Jew, saying, We will go with you: for we have heard that God is with you. (Zech. 8:22-23 KJV)
3 And many people shall go and say, Come ye, and let us go up to the mountain of the LORD, to the house of the God of Jacob; and he will teach us of his ways, and we will walk in his paths: for out of Zion shall go forth the law, and the word of the LORD from Jerusalem.
4 And he shall judge among the nations, and shall rebuke many people: and they shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruninghooks: nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war any more. (Isa. 2:3-4 KJV)
In Isaiah’s telescoped prophecy which begins looking backward from New Jerusalem (Isa. 65:17-19; Rev. 21:1-4), in the Millennial Kingdom (Isa. 65:20-25; Rev. 20:4-7) old age is a thing of the past. But those who turn to sin die “unaged” but are considered “accursed” (Isa. 65:20). That implies they have died the “second death” just as did the goats in Matthew 25:46.
Once the full number of God’s Elect are born and saved, then Judgment Day (Rev. 20:11-15):
25 For I do not desire, brethren, that you should be ignorant of this mystery, lest you should be wise in your own opinion, that blindness in part has happened to Israel until the fullness of the Gentiles has come in.
26 And so all Israel will be saved, as it is written: “The Deliverer will come out of Zion, And He will turn away ungodliness from Jacob.- (Rom. 11:25-26 NKJ)
This explains why Gog and Magog hyperbolically cover “the breadth of the earth” (Rev. 20:9) after the 1,000 years of Utopia has ended. A 1,000 years of procreation without death would result in a population of billions. Extrapolating from the analogy of free will angels to man, where 1/3 rebel against God (Rev. 12:4), Gog and Magog attacking Jerusalem would easily cover “the breadth of the earth” if watching from surrounded Jerusalem.
Therefore, billions of people would be left who did NOT join Gog and Magog’s rebellion. As they played no role in the rebellion, they are not mentioned.
7 And when the thousand years are expired, Satan shall be loosed out of his prison,
8 And shall go out to deceive the nations which are in the four quarters of the earth, Gog and Magog, to gather them together to battle: the number of whom is as the sand of the sea.
9 And they went up on the breadth of the earth, and compassed the camp of the saints about, and the beloved city: and fire came down from God out of heaven, and devoured them. (Rev. 20:7-9 KJV)
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