The Judgment of the Living Nations

 •  3 min. read  •  grade level: 8
We would now consider for a few moments the well-known passage in Matt. 25:31 to end; namely, the judgment of the sheep and the goats. Hundreds of God's people read this chapter under the impression that it teaches, as they say, the doctrine of the general judgment. Let us examine it in dependence upon the Spirit of God.
It is very commonly supposed that this is the description of a scene which will take place at the end of the world's history, when all shall stand before God to be judged for their sins, the sheep being, it is said, the Christians, and the goats the unconverted.
Now, in order the better to understand this passage, we would call the reader's serious attention to the most important subject of the second coming of Christ. Deeply interesting as this subject is, we cannot do more than refer to it now, in order to remind the Christian reader that in the New Testament this great and solemn event is spoken of in two ways: in the first place Jesus will come into the air for His saints, in order to take them home to Himself to His Father's house (John 14:2,3; 1 Thess. 4:13 to end); and, secondly, He will come with His saints to the earth to judge the world. We may here mention that in the Old Testament while the coming of the Lord is frequently spoken of, it is always His corning with His saints in judgment to the earth. His coming for His saints into the air is never once referred to in the Old Testament. (Jude 14,15 Zech. 14:1-6.) These are not exactly two events, but two stages of the same event, separated by an interval of time.
The first of these may take place at any moment. (1 Cor. 15:51-55; Rev. 22:20) When He comes for His saints, He comes not as their judge, but as their Savior. (Phil. 3:20,21.) He comes not to execute vengeance on them, but to receive them to Himself in the Father's house. (John 14:2,3.) Those that have slept through Jesus shall be raised in glory (1 Thess. 4:13-18; 1 Cor. 15:43,52), and the living saints (you and I, perhaps, dear fellow-believer) shall be changed in a moment, and "be like Him, for we shall see Him as He is." (Phil. 3:21; 1 John 3:2.) Moreover, when He comes for His saints, He comes not to the earth, but into the air. (1 Thess. 4:17.)
On the other hand, when He comes with His saints, He comes to execute judgment on the ungodly. (2 Thess. 1:7-11; Jude 14,15.) He then comes to the earth; "His feet shall stand in that day upon the mount of Olives... and the Lord my God shall come, and all the saints with Thee." (Zech. 14:1-6.) While there is nothing to hinder His coming for His saints this very day, there are many prophecies yet to be fulfilled, and many events yet to take place, before He comes with them in judgment. And we may also add that much will take place on the earth between His coming for His saints and His coming with them.
Now, returning once more to Matt. 25:31, we shall easily see that it is to the second of these stages that the Lord Jesus refers. It is very helpful in understanding the passage to notice that from Matt. 24:32 to Matt. 25:31 may be treated as a parenthesis. The early part of Matt. 24, is a remarkable prophecy of events that are yet to take place in connection with the Jews. As we have before observed, the Lord may come at any moment for His saints, and then, when we are at home in the Father's house in glory, God will once more begin to deal with the Jewish nation on the earth.