The Sheep and the Goats
“But when the Son of Man comes in His glory, and all the angels with Him, then He will sit on His glorious throne. And all the nations will be gathered before Him” (25:3-32a). This passage is the fitting conclusion to the Olivet Discourse in which Jesus has revealed His coming at the end of the age at which time He will gather the elect and judge the wicked. Cf. Last Judgment: Zech. 14:5; Matt. 16:27; 19:28; 2 Thess. 1:7; Jude 14,15; Rev. 3:21; 20:11)
What will be the basis on which Jesus will separate the righteous from the wicked of the nations for their eternal destinies and what will be the nature of those eternal experiences?
Ideological: the basis of judgment
The return of the Son of Man (31-33)
The reward for the sheep (34-40)
Their identity: “blessed of My Father”
Their inheritance: “inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world”
Their qualification: a right response to Christ as evidenced by their treatment of “these brothers of Mine, even the least of these”
The retribution for the goats (41-45)
Their identity: “accursed ones”
Their punishment: “depart from me ... into eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels”
Their qualification: a rejecting response to Christ as evidenced by their treatment of “one of the least of these”
The respective destinies (46)
goats - accursed ones: eternal punishment
sheep - righteous: eternal life
The Central Truth
When Christ returns to assume His glorious throne, all the nations of the earth will be gathered for a judgment which will result in either eternal life or to eternal fire, the basis of which will be their response to Jesus Christ as evidenced by their response to His “brothers”.
The Relationship to the Kingdom
This passage is very helpful in clarifying the perspective in the Gospels in that inheriting the kingdom is defined in this passage as entrance into eternal life. Only the righteous inherit the kingdom and enter into eternal life. All unrighteous are destined for the reality of an eternal punishment of fire.
The glorious throne
The identity of the “brothers” and when they are helped
Works as the basis of judgment
Eternal separation in Matthew: 3:12; 13:30, 49, 50; 25:2, 30
- The good works which the righteous perform are not the root but the fruit of the grace.
- James 2:15-17
- The judgments of God are final and unalterable.
- One’s response to the Word of God even as expressed through others is viewed as synonymous with one’s response to God.
These parables have often been mis-interpreted in the past because people do not look at the context. The context is the tribulation and the second coming of Christ.
The parable of the fig tree tells us that when people see the signs of the tribulation, they need to recognize that the Lord will return soon to judge the earth.
The parables of the watchful owner and the watchful doorkeeper teach that the proper response to recognizing these signs is to believe that the Lord is about to return. Those people who rejected Christ during the church age, or didn’t hear about Him will have a second chance to believe. (Some teach that there are no second chances for those that rejected in the church age. Only those who hear about Christ for the first time will have a chance. It is possible, but I’m not sure.)
The parable about the faithful servant shows that there will even be rewards given in eternity for those who not only believe but who also are faithful.
The parable of the Virgins shows that each person must have their own faith to enter the kingdom. Just like they couldn’t borrow oil from their friends, those in the tribulation must have their own faith.
The parable of the talents shows that faithfulness for those who believe will be rewarded and those with out knowledge of the Master (no faith) will be barred from the kingdom.
The parable of the sheep and the goats shows that one’s treatment of God’s people in the tribulation will be a demonstration of one’s faith in God which is the key to entrance into the kingdom.
These parables don’t apply directly to us, but they do teach that even with all the signs of the tribulation, the second coming will be unexpected. If that is true, then how much more so with the Rapture.
We need to look to ourselves and see if we believe. I’m not saying we need to doubt our salvation. We just need to be sure. Have we just been going to church all our lives because our parents went and never placed our personal faith in Jesus Christ’s death on the cross for our sins?
Perhaps we need to think about making tracts and have plans for their distribution after we are raptured so that people will get the message during the tribulation. But we don’t need to wait until the tribulation to witness.