A Study of the Judgment of the Gentiles. Matthew 25:31-46

"But when the Son of Man comes in His glory, and all the angels with Him, then He will sit on His glorious throne. All the nations will be gathered before Him; and He will separate them from one another, as the shepherd separates the sheep from the goats; and He will put the sheep on His right, and the goats on the left." Matthew 25:31-33

The Temple Mount from the Mount of Olives

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The Judgment of the Gentiles

Matthew 25:31-46

Jesus' Prediction of His Judgmental Return
(From the Olivet Discourse)


The section of Matthew from Matt. 24:1-25:46 is sometimes called Jesus' Olivet Discourse, for Jesus gave this lengthy speech while sitting on the Mount of Olives, looking across the valley at the marvelous temple buildings across the way (Matt. 24:3). The occasion of this speech, which was both prophetic and eschatological, was the disciples' pointing out to Him the beauty of the buildings in the Temple Compound (Matt. 24:1). Their appreciation of the temple's beauty was shaken by Jesus' comment immediately thereafter, "Do you not see all these things? Truly I say to you, not one stone here will be left upon another, which will not be torn down" (Matt. 24:2)! Jarred by this revelation, the disciples came to Him privately, saying, "Tell us, when will these things happen, and what will be the sign of Your coming, and of the end of the age?" (Matt. 24:3). The disciples asked three questions: (1) When will the temple be torn down? (2) What will be the sign of Your coming? (3) What will be the sign of the end of the age? Technically, Jesus does not here answer the first question. He answered it specifically in Luke 21:20-24. The great bulk of Matt. 24-25 amounts to Jesus' answer to questions (2) and (3). We might entitle these two chapters as "The King's Prediction of His Judgmental Return."

Without going into excessive detail we might outline these two chapters as follows: A. Jesus' prediction of the judgmental destruction of the Temple (Matt. 24:1-2). B. Jesus' prediction of the signs of the Tribulation (Matt. 24:3-28). C. Jesus' prediction of His return to earth in great power and glory (Matt. 24:29-51). D. Jesus' prediction of the judgments at His return (Matt. 25:1-46). Matt. 25:1-46 can be subdivided as follows: (1) Jesus prediction of the Judgment of the Nation of Israel (Matt. 25:30). He is specifically addressing His judgment of Jewish people who survive the terrible Tribulation period. He discussed this judgment under two metaphors: (a) The analogy of the wedding (Matt. 25:1-13); and (b) The analogy of the journeying slave-owner (Matt. 25:14-30). (2) The final section of Matthew 25:31-46 constitutes Jesus' prediction of His judgment of those from among the nations of the earth who survive the Tribulation period.

It is important to identify the different people groupings in this prediction of judgment. We have already indicated that the best identification of the people judged in Matt. 25:1-30 is Jewish people who have survived the Tribulation. Those who pass the judgment are Jewish people who are permitted to enter the Kingdom which Jesus will inaugurate almost immediately concluding His judgment of all the survivors of the Tribulation. We could call these "believing" Jews or "Messianic Jews." They are like the five wise virgins prepared to meet the Bridegroom when He comes for His wedding (Matt. 25:1-10). The five foolish virgins symbolize Jews who are unprepared to meet the King awaiting His wedding. Sadly, they are excluded from the wedding, and excluded from the Kingdom (Matt. 25:11-12). It goes without saying that these five wise virgins are not the Church. It is the Church that constitutes the Bride. These Jewish virgins represent the people of Israel who are invited to attend the wedding, but they are not the Bride. The five wise virgins are the believing among Jewish people. That should give us some clue as to the identification of Jesus' "brothers" (Matt. 25:40, 45).

In short, in Matt. 25:1-46 we have two kinds of Jewish people – Jewish people who have survived the Tribulation and are ready for Christ's Kingdom and are permitted to enter it; and a second group of Jewish people who have survived the Tribulation but are unready for Christ's Kingdom, and thereby excluded from it (Matt. 25:1-30). In Matt. 25:31-46, we have only non-Jewish people, the nations, also known as Gentiles, who are judged by the King. Once again, these are Gentiles who have survived the Tribulation. They are sorted out as either "sheep" or "goats" depending on how they treated Christ's "brothers" (Matt. 25:40), also identified as "the least of these" (Matt. 25:40, 45). Ascertaining the identity of these "brothers" is critical to understanding this passage. Preliminarily, Jesus describes His "brothers" as "these," using the near demonstrative pronoun. Evidently they are standing nearby. That should assist us as we look at the details of this critical prophetic chapter.

A. The Son of Man will Separate the Sheep from the Goats from among the Nations. Matt. 25:31-33

1. The Setting of the Judgment (Matt. 25:31).
  • "But when the Son of Man comes" (Matt. 25:31). The text is clear that this event will take place "when the Son of Man comes in His glory." The term "Son of Man" is unquestionably a Messianic term that Jesus frequently used of Himself with complete self-awareness. The nature of Jesus' return is the event when He will come (Aorist Subjunctive of the verb érchomai, 2064, the most common verb for "go" or "come"). So this event is the Second Coming of the Messiah.
  • "in His glory" (Matt. 25:31). The emphasis here is on the style or nature of His coming. It is the event when He will come in His glory, the noun dóxa (1391). This word carries with it in this context a visible manifestation of light, radiance, brilliance, and splendor as a physical manifestation of great power and authority. There is a tacit contrast here between Jesus' First Advent and His Second Advent. There were occasional manifestations of Jesus' glory during His First coming, but on the whole His glory was muted. Not so when He comes the Second time. Jesus has already stated that when merely the sign of the Son of Man appears in the sky, "all the tribes of the earth will mourn" (Matt. 24:30). This will be a mourning of abject terror, as in "what is He going to do to us?!!!" The reader should be aware that I see Jesus' Second Coming in two phases. That is not so preposterous as some would have it seem. After all, we already have a precedent. The coming of the Messiah is already in two phases. His First Advent took place 2000 years ago, and we are still awaiting His Second Advent. The First Stage of Jesus' Second Coming is when He returns to rescue His Bride, the Church from the Great Tribulation and take her to His Father's House and prepare her for their Marriage. We popularly call this phase of Christ's Second Coming the "Rapture." The emphasis is on Reunion. The Second Phase of Jesus' Second Coming includes the event Jesus describes here in Matt. 24-25. The emphasis is on Retribution, followed by Reign. It will include a judgment of all those who survive the horrific Tribulation. This judgment will separate the evil from the good. The evil will be banished into eternal torment, while the good will be spared alive to enter Jesus' Kingdom here on earth. Jesus will reign in power and great glory over all the earth (Zech. 14:9). The earth will be filled with the knowledge of the LORD as the waters cover the sea (Isa. 11:9)!
  • "and all the angels with Him" (Matt. 25:31). "Angels" is the plural of the noun ággelos (32), which means here, simply "messengers." The reader must determine from the context if these are human or supernatural, celestial messengers. Obviously the latter is meant here. Several comments are in order.
    • This is not a small contingent of messengers. The text states "and all the messengers with Him" (translation and emphasis mine).
    • The connotation here is militaristic. This is the Great King returning to earth in power and glory to root out all opposition and apathy and establish His Kingdom in righteousness and purity. He brings his Army with Him.
    • A multitude of the army (stratía, 4756) of heaven announced the birth of the King to the shepherds (Luke 2:13). It is not surprising that the King is accompanied by His army at His Second Coming. They are not here in Matt. 25:31 labeled as an army, but that is their function, as seen from other passages. See the Glossary entry, "Yahweh of Troops."
    • At His nocturnal arrest, Jesus told Peter to put away his sword. He said that He could appeal to His Father, and at once have at His disposal more than twelve legions (3003) of messengers (angels) (Matt. 26:53). At that time a Roman legion consisted of between 5,000 and 6,000 troops.
    • Jesus repeatedly linked celestial messengers (angels) with the end of the age, and with His Second Coming to establish His Kingdom (Matt. 13:39, 41, 49; 16:27; 24:31; 25:31; Mark 8:38; 13:27; Luke 9:26; 12:8-9.
    • Other writers link heavenly messengers (angels) with the end of the age and the Second Coming of Christ (2 Thess. 1:6-10; Rev. 21:11-14). I believe that the armies in heaven consist of armies of messengers (angels), though the text does not explicitly identify them as such.
    • My point is that Jesus' reference here in Matt. 25:31 to his Second Coming in glory accompanied by "all the angels" reflects a consistent picture.
  • "then He will sit on His glorious throne" (Matt. 25:31). Literally, "then He will sit upon the throne of His glory." "Throne" is thrónos (2362), "a raised seat with a footstool, used by rulers (Luke 1:52)" (Friberg). Jesus added that this throne was the throne of His glory, dóxa (1391). It is certainly telling that Jesus described this event as the time when He would come in His glory and sit on the throne of His glory (Matt. 16:27; 19:28; 24:30; 25:31). The context indicates that this throne is not the throne on which Jesus is presently seated, which is at the right hand of God in the heavens (Heb. 8:1; 12:2). Rather, it is the throne of His father, David (Luke 1:32), and will necessarily be located here upon earth, where David ruled (Matt. 19:28). Jesus connected this throne with His rule over the nation of Israel, assisted in governing and ruling by His twelve Apostles, who would rule over the Twelve Tribes of Israel (Matt. 19:28; Luke 22:30). This refers, undoubtedly, to Jesus' rule over Israel and the world (Zech. 14:9) in His glorious Thousand-Year Reign (Rev. 20:1-6).
2. Those appearing before the Son of Man. Matt. 25:32
  • "All the nations will be gathered before Him" (Matt. 25:32). Jesus, in the preceding chapter, has just described the horrific events of the Tribulation. The decisive moment in this seven-year event is the appearance of "the Abomination of Desolation which was spoken of through Daniel the prophet, standing in the holy place (let the reader understand), then those who are in Judea must flee to the mountains" (Matt. 24:15-16; 2 Thess. 2:3-4). He continued, "For then there will be a great tribulation, such as has not occurred since the beginning of the world until now, nor ever will" (Matt. 24:21). He added, "Unless those days had been cut short, no life would have been saved; but for the sake of the elect those days will be cut short" (Matt. 24:22). This is not speaking of spiritual salvation, but of the salvation of one's physical life. This is speaking about sheer physical survival in a terror-filled world.
  • Those appearing before the King (Matt. 25:32) are individuals from among the earth's nations (éthnē, the Nominative Plural of éthnos, 1484) who have somehow managed to survive the horrific tribulation. That will not be an easy feat since the Fourth Seal judgment will destroy a fourth of the earth's population (Rev. 6:8), and the Sixth Trumpet judgment will destroy a third of the remainder (Rev. 9:18). Other plagues will doubtless kill millions of people.
  • It is important to observe that those appearing before the King here are from among the nations. That is, they are Gentiles, not Jewish. The people of the nation of Israel, regardless of from what nation they have come, will have already been judged by the King as depicted under the analogy of the Wedding and the Ten Virgins (Matt. 25:1-13) and the analogy of The Journeying Slave-Owner (Matt. 25:14-30).
  • "will be gathered before Him" (Matt.25:32). "Will be gathered" is the 3rd Person Plural Future Passive Indicative of the verb sunágō (4863), which means "to gather together." The Passive voice indicates that all surviving individuals of all the nations of the world will involuntarily be gathered together to appear before the King. They have no choice in the matter. They will, at some point in the future, irresistibly be gathered together to appear before the Messiah. The text does not specify who does the gathering. That was not Jesus' point.
3. The Sorting Action of the Son of Man (Matt. 25:32-33)
  • "And He will separate them from one another" (Matt. 25:32). Jesus the Messiah, seated upon the throne of His Glory, will actively separate all the surviving Gentiles from among the earth's nations into two categories. The post-modern, post-Christian Left, in Western Civilization abhor being classified into strata of which they do not approve. For example, they are Marxists, and they detest rich people having advantages over poor people (unless, of course, they themselves happen to be wealthy). And so they seek to implement a Marxist utopian society in which there are no winners and losers, for all contribute "from each, according to his ability, to each according to his needs." But in this future sorting event, they will have no choice in the matter. They will be separated from one another by the Messiah, presiding from the throne of His glory. He will not ask them their preferences or their wishes. His decision will rule.
  • "as the shepherd separates the sheep from the goats" (Matt. 25:32). Just as in that agrarian society, in which there were often times flocks of sheep and goats mingled among one another, and the shepherd would sort them out, perhaps for the purposes of marketing or shearing, so it will be at that future judgment. The Messiah, acting as the authoritative Shepherd, will sort out the sheep from the goats. I myself have participated in sorting out cattle. Sometimes a cow or calf or steer will not care to be sorted out, and will resist. But its resistance is useless. In the end, the farmer/rancher and his helpers always win. The cattle go where the owner wants them to go. So it will be at this future judgment.
  • "and He will put the sheep on His right, and the goats on the left" (Matt. 25:33). In this livestock sorting, the Shepherd has already made his decision. He has already decided who are the winners and who are the losers. The sheep are the winners. They have survived the test by which the King sorts out these surviving Gentiles. They are placed on the Shepherd/King's right hand. The Goats are the losers. They are placed on the left (2176), the place of infamy.

Judgment of the Gentiles, Page 2

(Scripture quotation taken from the NASB.)

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Posted January 16, 2020