The Judgment of the Unsaved Sheep and Goats At Christ’s Return

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31 “When the Son of Man comes in His glory, and all the holy angels with Him, then He will sit on the throne of His glory.
32 “All the nations (1484 ἔθνος ethnos) will be gathered before Him, and He will separate them one from another, as a shepherd divides his sheep from the goats.
33 “And He will set the sheep on His right hand, but the goats on the left. (Matt. 25:31-33 NKJ)

Most commentaries say “all the nations (1484 ἔθνος ethnos)” in Matthew 25:32 “refers to all the people of the world and not to the nations as such”.- Abernathy, D. (2015). An Exegetical Summary of Matthew 17–28 (p. 191). SIL International.

We can shrink the reference further by noting “all the people” can only be all those who interacted with “Christ’s brethren” (Mt. 25:40, 45), and NOT everyone who survived Armageddon and had no dealings with “Christ’s brethren”.

Confirming only “unsaved Christians” are “the sheep and the goats” are Christ’s words to the sheep, they are invited to “inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world”. That can only be said to Christians and the Elect of God (Eph. 1:4-8).

Moreover, it would violate Christ’s principle that those who did not know God’s will to receive severe punishment of eternal flame (Lk. 12:47-48; Mt. 25:41-45).

Context provides the strongest evidence the Sheep and Goats are “unsaved Christians”, non-Christians can never be called “faithful or unfaithful servants” (Mt. 25:13-30).

Therefore, the Sheep and the Goats were “professed Christians” who were “left behind” when the Church was raptured (1 Th. 4:15-17; 2 Th. 2:1; 1 Cor. 15:52; Rev. 14:14-16)—they failed to commit in time, but having survived Armageddon, judgment begins first with the house of God (1 Pt. 4:17).

This is the older view of the text:

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.-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). T&T Clark.

So the Sheep join “Christ’s brethren” seated there with Christ, all the Christians who were raptured at Christ’s coming and now serve as Christ’s Kings and Priests (Rev. 1:5-6; 5:10). Its implied they were “translated” like Enoch (Heb. 11:5) “; changed” “in the twinkling of an eye” (1 Cor. 15:51-52).

Then the goats are cast into the lake of fire to join the Beast and False Prophet (Mt. 25:41, 46; Rev. 19:20; Compare Mt. 25:30).

The rest of the earth who had no connections to “Christ’s brethren” (which implies they had not heard the gospel preached sufficiently to incur liability for not believing it), enter the 1000-year kingdom of Christ. They marry and populate the earth resulting in billions more of humanity to enter the New Heavens and New Earth of God’s Kingdom (Rev. 21:1-8) if they pass the final test of the earth (Rev. 20:7-15).

Their judgment is ongoing. If anyone sin during the Millennial Kingdom they are cast off accursed, which means tossed into the lake of fire:

19 I will rejoice in Jerusalem, And joy in My people; The voice of weeping shall no longer be heard in her, Nor the voice of crying.
20 “No more shall an infant from there live but a few days, Nor an old man who has not fulfilled his days; For the child shall die one hundred years old, But the sinner being one hundred years old shall be accursed.
21 They shall build houses and inhabit them; They shall plant vineyards and eat their fruit.
22 They shall not build and another inhabit; They shall not plant and another eat; For as the days of a tree, so shall be the days of My people, And My elect shall long enjoy the work of their hands.
23 They shall not labor in vain, Nor bring forth children for trouble; For they shall be the descendants of the blessed of the LORD, And their offspring with them.
24 “It shall come to pass That before they call, I will answer; And while they are still speaking, I will hear.
25 The wolf and the lamb shall feed together, The lion shall eat straw like the ox, And dust shall be the serpent’s food. They shall not hurt nor destroy in all My holy mountain,” Says the LORD. (Isa. 65:19-25 NKJ)

END
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