The Sheep and the Goats

The Sheep and the Goats

Matthew 25: 31-46

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 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.

34 “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:

35 ‘for I was hungry and you gave Me food; I was thirsty and you gave Me drink; I was a stranger and you took Me in;

36 ‘I was naked and you clothed Me; I was sick and you visited Me; I was in prison and you came to Me.’

37 “Then the righteous will answer Him, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see You hungry and feed You, or thirsty and give You drink?

38 ‘When did we see You a stranger and take You in, or naked and clothe You?

39 ‘Or when did we see You sick, or in prison, and come to You?’

40 “And the King will answer and say to them, ‘Assuredly, I say to you, inasmuch as you did it to one of the least of these My brethren, you did it to Me.’

41 “Then He will also say to those on the left hand, ‘Depart from Me, you cursed, into the everlasting fire prepared for the devil and his angels:

42 ‘for I was hungry and you gave Me no food; I was thirsty and you gave Me no drink;

43 ‘I was a stranger and you did not take Me in, naked and you did not clothe Me, sick and in prison and you did not visit Me.’

44 “Then they also will answer Him, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see You hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison, and did not minister to You?’

45 “Then He will answer them, saying, ‘Assuredly, I say to you, inasmuch as you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to Me.’

46 “And these will go away into everlasting punishment, but the righteous into eternal life.” NKJV

Many people use this passage to try and prove various theological and doctrinal errors, such as that Jesus is in everyone, or that we can be saved by good works, or that everyone is part of the family of God, and will be saved in the end (universal reconciliation). However, this passage teaches none of these things.

First of all, this is an eschatological (end times) passage that deals with the judgment of nations at the time of the Second Coming of Jesus Christ. It is not the same as the Great White Throne Judgment described in Revelation 20:11-15, which takes place after the Millennial Kingdom (Revelation 20:1-10). Matthew 25:31-46 deals with the judgment of Gentile nations (ethnicities) and how individuals within those nations treated believing Jews during the Great Tribulation period (Revelation 11-14). Matthew 25:40 says, “And the King will answer and say to them, ‘Assuredly, I say to you, inasmuch as you did it to one of the least of these My brethren, you did it to Me.’” Not all human beings are the brethren of Jesus Christ, but only those who have trusted Him for salvation through faith.

It is true that every human being is in the image and likeness of God, but that image has been marred by sin. Yet, while the image of God is in everyone, the presence of God does not abide in every person, but only in those who are saved. Therefore, this passage cannot be dealing with our general responsibility to minister to others, especially the poor, the widows, and orphans (2 Corinthians 9:1-15; Galatians 2:10; James 1:27). It specifically refers to those who minister to the persecuted Jews during the Great Tribulation period. So, Christians need to stop saying that Jesus is in everyone because that IS NOT true. Minister to the needs the Lord brings to your attention as best you are able, but tell them about Jesus while you do. Otherwise, we send them to hell with their thirst quenched, their bellies full, their minds educated, and their health improved.

Second, this passage does not mean that all will be saved in the end. In fact, verses 41 and 46 clearly state that those who did not care for the needs of Jesus’ brethren during this time will be sent to everlasting punishment.

41 “Then He will also say to those on the left hand, ‘Depart from Me, you cursed, into the everlasting fire prepared for the devil and his angels: 42 ‘for I was hungry and you gave Me no food; I was thirsty and you gave Me no drink; 43 ‘I was a stranger and you did not take Me in, naked and you did not clothe Me, sick and in prison and you did not visit Me.’ 44 “Then they also will answer Him, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see You hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison, and did not minister to You?’ 45 “Then He will answer them, saying, ‘Assuredly, I say to you, inasmuch as you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to Me.’ 46 “And these will go away into everlasting punishment, but the righteous into eternal life.” NKJV.

The obvious reason for their refusal to minister to these needs is that they are unbelievers. Sadly, we are seeing a trend in the Western world even now where unbelievers are becoming ever more belligerent toward believers in Jesus Christ. While this attitude has been pervasive in most of the world for most of the history of the Church of Jesus Christ, it is a relatively new phenomenon in the West. This attitude is also experiencing a resurgence in areas that had been fairly tolerant of Christians until recently, which is largely the result of the resurgence of fundamental Koranic Islam. Again, we should minister to the needs the Lord brings to our attention as best we are able, but let’s tell them about Jesus while we do. Otherwise, we send them to hell with their thirst quenched, their bellies full, their minds educated, and their health improved. Let’s not fail to give them the Gospel of Jesus Christ, whether a government likes it or not.

For more information than I can put into this short post, see the following sources:

The Bible Exposition Commentary. Copyright © 1989 by Chariot Victor Publishing, and imprint of Cook Communication Ministries

AN INTERPRETATION OF MATTHEW 24-25: Part 39 – Matthew 25:31-46 Christ’s Glorious Coming and Judgment, by Thomas Ice

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