In Matthew 25:31-46 King Jesus sits on his throne of glory and gathers the nations before Him, separating them into two groups, the Sheep and the Goats.
31 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:
32 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:
33 And he shall set the sheep on his right hand, but the goats on the left. (Mt. 25:31-33 KJV)
Matthew 25:31-46 doesn’t state how long this judgement of the nations will take, only that it begins at Christ’s coming to establish His Kingdom on earth with His holy angels. Its reasonable to think this will take some time, and we could infer that follows from the act of shepherds separating sheep from goats, depending on the size of the flock that takes some time.
Also present is a third group the Church, but they are standing with Christ watching this judgement as His kings and priests (Rev. 1:6; 5:10). These were gathered to Christ earlier (1 Th. 4:14-18; 2 Th. 2:1; 1 Cor. 15:51-58; Rev. 14:14-16) and didn’t go into judgement because they had “passed from death into life.” (Jn. 5:24)
As this judgement happens when Christ returns and sits on His throne of glory, it follows all these being judged are survivors of the end time plagues and wars that killed many of mankind. Evidently these are being judged on how well they treated the church during their time of need, when the world and later the Antichrist Beast persecuted them.
Christ addresses the Sheep first, citing how they responded to the church Christ’s “brethren” when they were in need, deeming any act of charity as if it performed directly to Him:
37 Then shall the righteous answer him, saying, Lord, when saw we thee an hungred, and fed thee? or thirsty, and gave thee drink?
38 When saw we thee a stranger, and took thee in? or naked, and clothed thee?
39 Or when saw we thee sick, or in prison, and came unto thee?
40 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. (Mat 25:37-40 KJV)
The goats don’t fare as well, even though it not said they harmed Christ’s brethren, neither did they do anything to help Christ’s brethren:
41 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:
42 For I was an hungred, and ye gave me no meat: I was thirsty, and ye gave me no drink:
43 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.
44 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?
45 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.
46 And these shall go away into everlasting punishment: but the righteous into life eterna (Mat 25:41-46 KJV)
Some point to this context claiming it proves salvation is by works and not grace. However, salvation is always by grace alone (Eph. 2:8-9), “through faith.” Their deeds vicariously indicated if they would have received Christ, if only they had known Him. It didn’t pay for salvation. This illustration makes that distinction clear:
Two attitudes among these drowning are manifest. Some have faith rescuers will come see their frantic works waving and crying for help, and save them. They aid others drowning, knowing judgment of their actions may follow. Others have no faith rescue will come so they do nothing, these also ignore the cries of others. When rescuers appear these hasten to save all indicating they want to be saved, ignoring the rest thinking them dead. There is no quid pro quo, no service for payment received, the frantic waving and cries their helping others, none of that paid for a seat in the boat. These were saved by the undeserved kindness of the rescuers, who did all the work because they wanted to, by grace. As for those who drowned, their lack of faith doomed them.
While it follows from the context none of the followers of the Beast are present being judged, they are a particularly vile group. Many of these once professed to be Christians but had followed the Man of Sin when he morphed into the Beast Son of Destruction declaring he was above every human definition of God in the Temple of God the Church (2 Th. 2:3-4).
Jesus said “in that day” (last Judgment) many would appeal to their former Christian profession, calling Him “lord lord” implying they still felt affection for Him. They are pleading He not cast them into the eternal flame.
They cite the many powerful works they once did in His Name before their conversion to the Son of Destruction; surely that merited something? But Christ replies, “I never knew you” thereby denying the wonders they did were by the Spirit of Christ, therefore it was by the “energy of Satan” they did wonders:
22 “Many will say to Me in that day,`Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in Your name, cast out demons in Your name, and done many wonders in Your name?’
23 “And then I will declare to them,`I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness!’ (Matt. 7:22-23) NKJ
Prophecies indicate not many will survive the Day of the LORD to appear in this judgment. After the deaths during the seals, trumpets and vials, do billions remain?
Isaiah 13:1-22 alone argues against that, it concerns the time of the Seventh Vial, just before Armageddon when the sign of the Son of man appears in the heavens (Mt. 24:30; Rv. 19:11). All possible islands and mountains of refuge flee from those gathered at Armageddon now gripped with terror realizing the awesome power of Almighty God soon to confront them. Darkened sun moon stars signify evil envelopes the earth, massive earthquake levels city government worldwide to signify law and order has ceased (Rv. 16:18). Rwandan like Genocidal madness overtakes all including those who fled Armageddon to their homes (cp. 2 Chr. 20:22-25). Soon people are as scarce as fine gold (Isa. 13:12).