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“When the Son of man shall come in his glory, and all the holy angels with him, then shall he sit upon the throne of his glory: And before him shall be gathered all nations: and he shall separate them one from another, as a shepherd divideth his sheep from the goats: And he shall set the sheep on his right hand, but the goats on the left.
“Then shall the King say unto them on his right hand, Come, ye blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world: For I was an hungred, and ye gave me meat: I was thirsty, and ye gave me drink: I was a stranger, and ye took me in: Naked, and ye clothed me: I was sick, and ye visited me: I was in prison, and ye came unto me. Then shall the righteous answer him, saying, Lord, when saw we thee an hungred, and fed thee? or thirsty, and gave thee drink? When saw we thee a stranger, and took thee in? or naked, and clothed thee? Or when saw we thee sick, or in prison, and came unto thee? And the King shall answer and say unto them, Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me.
“Then shall he say also unto them on the left hand, Depart from me, ye cursed, into everlasting fire, prepared for the devil and his angels: For I was an hungred, and ye gave me no meat: I was thirsty, and ye gave me no drink: I was a stranger, and ye took me not in: naked, and ye clothed me not: sick, and in prison, and ye visited me not. Then shall they also answer him, saying, Lord, when saw we thee an hungred, or athirst, or a stranger, or naked, or sick, or in prison, and did not minister unto thee? Then shall he answer them, saying, Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye did it not to one of the least of these, ye did it not to me. And these shall go away into everlasting punishment: but the righteous into life eternal” (Matthew 25:31-46).
“I beheld till the thrones were cast down, and the Ancient of days did sit, whose garment was white as snow, and the hair of his head like the pure wool: his throne was like the fiery flame, and his wheels as burning fire. A fiery stream issued and came forth from before him: thousand thousands ministered unto him, and ten thousand times ten thousand stood before him: the judgment was set, and the books were opened. ... I saw in the night visions, and, behold, one like the Son of man came with the clouds of heaven, and came to the Ancient of days, and they brought him near before him. And there was given him dominion, and glory, and a kingdom, that all people, nations, and languages, should serve him: his dominion is an everlasting dominion, which shall not pass away, and his kingdom that which shall not be destroyed” (Daniel 7:9-10, 13-14).
The Preparation for the Judgment
“As therefore the tares are gathered and burned in the fire; so shall it be in the end of this world. The Son of man shall send forth his angels, and they shall gather out of his kingdom all things that offend, and them which do iniquity; And shall cast them into a furnace of fire: there shall be wailing and gnashing of teeth. Then shall the righteous shine forth as the sun in the kingdom of their Father. Who hath ears to hear, let him hear” (Mat. 13:40-43).
“So shall it be at the end of the world: the angels shall come forth, and sever the wicked from among the just, And shall cast them into the furnace of fire: there shall be wailing and gnashing of teeth” (Mat. 13:49-50).
It appears from these prophecies that the angels divide of mankind at Christ’s return. They will sever the wicked from among the just. It’s a little difficult to understand the exact timeline of these events and how they fit together, but this is how it appears.
The activity of the angels as described in Matthew 13 must be associated with the judgment described in Matthew 25. If these things were unconnected, it would be difficult to see how they could be reconciled, because we are told that the angels will gather the wicked from among the nations and cast them into hell fire. If this is not associated directly with Christ’s judgment of the nations, then there would be no “goats” for Him to judge. How could there be two separations of the wicked from the just at Christ’s return?
Therefore, we believe that it is the angels who will sever the sheep from the goats as described in Matthew 25 in preparation for the judgment of the nations.
It appears that the angels know a lot about individual men, their identities, their location, their character. Under the Lord’s direction, they will severe the unjust from the just.
“The Son of man shall send forth his angels, and they shall gather out of his kingdom all things that offend, and them which do iniquity” (Mat. 13:41).
Multitudes of those who believe the Tribulation preaching will be martyred and ushered into the presence of Christ in heaven, as described in Revelation 7.
“After this I beheld, and, lo, a great multitude, which no man could number, of all nations, and kindreds, and people, and tongues, stood before the throne, and before the Lamb, clothed with white robes, and palms in their hands; And cried with a loud voice, saying, Salvation to our God which sitteth upon the throne, and unto the Lamb. And all the angels stood round about the throne, and about the elders and the four beasts, and fell before the throne on their faces, and worshipped God, Saying, Amen: Blessing, and glory, and wisdom, and thanksgiving, and honour, and power, and might, be unto our God for ever and ever. Amen. And one of the elders answered, saying unto me, What are these which are arrayed in white robes? and whence came they? And I said unto him, Sir, thou knowest. And he said to me, These are they which came out of great tribulation, and have washed their robes, and made them white in the blood of the Lamb. Therefore are they before the throne of God, and serve him day and night in his temple: and he that sitteth on the throne shall dwell among them. They shall hunger no more, neither thirst any more; neither shall the sun light on them, nor any heat. For the Lamb which is in the midst of the throne shall feed them, and shall lead them unto living fountains of waters: and God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes” (Rev. 7:9-17).
These will return to earth with Christ when He comes in His glory, as part of the armies in heaven that follow Him on white horses (Rev. 19:14).
After Christ’s return, the martyred saints from the Tribulation will be joined by those who believed the kingdom gospel but were not martyred. This will occur when the angels sever the believing from the unbelieving or the sheep from the goats.
The Basis of the Judgment
The basis of the judgment is the nation’s response to the gospel of the kingdom that will be preached by Jewish evangelists throughout the earth.
“And this gospel of the kingdom shall be preached in all the world for a witness unto all nations; and then shall the end come” (Mat. 24:14).
The Jews will be hated of the Antichrist and bitterly persecuted (Mat. 24:15-21). As in the days of Hitler, they will be hunted by the Antichrist gestapo.
The judgment of the nations is only recorded in the Gospel of Matthew, the Gospel that pertains particularly to the Jews.
Compare Joel 3:1-8.
“For, behold, in those days, and in that time, when I shall bring again the captivity of Judah and Jerusalem, I will also gather all nations, and will bring them down into the valley of Jehoshaphat, and will plead with them there for my people and for my heritage Israel, whom they have scattered among the nations, and parted my land. And they have cast lots for my people; and have given a boy for an harlot, and sold a girl for wine, that they might drink. Yea, and what have ye to do with me, O Tyre, and Zidon, and all the coasts of Palestine? will ye render me a recompence? and if ye recompense me, swiftly and speedily will I return your recompence upon your own head; Because ye have taken my silver and my gold, and have carried into your temples my goodly pleasant things: The children also of Judah and the children of Jerusalem have ye sold unto the Grecians, that ye might remove them far from their border. Behold, I will raise them out of the place whither ye have sold them, and will return your recompence upon your own head: And I will sell your sons and your daughters into the hand of the children of Judah, and they shall sell them to the Sabeans, to a people far off: for the LORD hath spoken it.”
The judgment is based on God’s promise to Abraham, that He would bless them that bless him and curse them that curse him (Gen. 12:1-3). This was emphasized by the prophets, as follows:
“The horn of Moab is cut off, and his arm is broken, saith the LORD. Make ye him drunken: for he magnified himself against the LORD: Moab also shall wallow in his vomit, and he also shall be in derision. For was not Israel a derision unto thee? was he found among thieves? for since thou spakest of him, thou skippedst for joy” (Jer. 48:25-27).
“Son of man, set thy face against the Ammonites, and prophesy against them; And say unto the Ammonites, Hear the word of the Lord GOD; Thus saith the Lord GOD; Because thou saidst, Aha, against my sanctuary, when it was profaned; and against the land of Israel, when it was desolate; and against the house of Judah, when they went into captivity” (Eze. 25:2-3).
“Thus saith the Lord GOD; Because that Edom hath dealt against the house of Judah by taking vengeance, and hath greatly offended, and revenged himself upon them” (Eze. 25:12).
“Thus saith the Lord GOD; Because the Philistines have dealt by revenge, and have taken vengeance with a despiteful heart, to destroy it for the old hatred” (Eze. 25:15).
“Son of man, because that Tyrus hath said against Jerusalem, Aha, she is broken that was the gates of the people: she is turned unto me: I shall be replenished, now she is laid waste” (Eze. 26:2).
“Because thou hast had a perpetual hatred, and hast shed the blood of the children of Israel by the force of the sword in the time of their calamity, in the time that their iniquity had an end” (Eze. 35:5).
“And thou shalt know that I am the LORD, and that I have heard all thy blasphemies which thou hast spoken against the mountains of Israel, saying, They are laid desolate, they are given us to consume. Thus with your mouth ye have boasted against me, and have multiplied your words against me: I have heard them. Thus saith the Lord GOD; When the whole earth rejoiceth, I will make thee desolate. As thou didst rejoice at the inheritance of the house of Israel, because it was desolate, so will I do unto thee: thou shalt be desolate, O mount Seir, and all Idumea, even all of it: and they shall know that I am the LORD” (Eze. 35:12-15).
“For thy violence against thy brother Jacob shame shall cover thee, and thou shalt be cut off for ever. In the day that thou stoodest on the other side, in the day that the strangers carried away captive his forces, and foreigners entered into his gates, and cast lots upon Jerusalem, even thou wast as one of them. But thou shouldest not have looked on the day of thy brother in the day that he became a stranger; neither shouldest thou have rejoiced over the children of Judah in the day of their destruction; neither shouldest thou have spoken proudly in the day of distress. Thou shouldest not have entered into the gate of my people in the day of their calamity; yea, thou shouldest not have looked on their affliction in the day of their calamity, nor have laid hands on their substance in the day of their calamity; Neither shouldest thou have stood in the crossway, to cut off those of his that did escape; neither shouldest thou have delivered up those of his that did remain in the day of distress” (Oba. 1:10-14).
That the basis of the judgment of the nations is how they treat the Jews during the Tribulation is evident by Jesus’ words in Matthew 25:40.
“And the King shall answer and say unto them, Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these MY BRETHREN, ye have done it unto me.”
Christ’s brethren don’t consist of all people indiscriminately. In this church age, His brethren are those who are saved through the preaching of the gospel (Rom. 8:29). We become children of God through faith in Christ (John 1:12; Gal. 3:26). In the Great Tribulation, Jesus’ people on earth will be the Jews who receive Him as their Messiah and those who are converted through their preaching. When Jesus says, “I was an hungred, and ye gave me no meat: I was thirsty, and ye gave me no drink: I was a stranger, and ye took me not in: naked, and ye clothed me not: sick, and in prison, and ye visited me not” (Mat. 25:42-43), He is referring to the persecuted Jews and Jewish proselytes of the Tribulation period.
This is evident in the book of Revelation. After chapter three, we don’t see the churches on earth. The promise to the church of Philadelphia and to every other true New Testament church that keeps God’s Word will be fulfilled when the New Testament saints are taken away at the Rapture.
“Because thou hast kept the word of my patience, I also will keep thee from the hour of temptation, which shall come upon all the world, to try them that dwell upon the earth” (Rev. 3:10).
During the Tribulation, God will regenerate Israel and 144,000 Jewish evangelists will preach the gospel of the kingdom and announce the soon return of Christ. As a result, multitudes will be saved out of every nation and tongue. This is described in Revelation 7.
Further, the two Jewish witnesses will preach in Jerusalem for three and a half years and perform miracles (Revelation 11:1-6).
This same period is described by Jesus in Matthew 24:9-14. The gospel of the kingdom will be preached throughout the world during the Tribulation in the midst of great persecution. The gospel of the kingdom is the gospel that Jesus preached when He presented Himself to Israel as the Messiah. Both John the Baptist and Jesus preached, “Repent: for the kingdom of heaven is at hand” (Mat. 3:2; 4:17). This was the announcement of the kingdom promised to David’s Son (Isaiah 9:6-7).
The Jews rejected their Messiah and His kingdom (John 1:11; 19:15), and He warned them that the kingdom would be taken from them because of their rebellion and given to another (Mat. 21:42-26). Jesus came unto His own people, Israel, and was rejected (John 1:11-12), and this was prophesied in Scripture (e.g., Isaiah 53:3). He then said, “I will build my church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it” (Mat. 16:18). In this present church age Christ is calling out a people for His name from among the Gentile nations while Israel is blinded, but when this dispensation is finished God will fulfill His covenants with Israel.
“For I would not, brethren, that ye should be ignorant of this mystery, lest ye should be wise in your own conceits; that blindness in part is happened to Israel, until the fulness of the Gentiles be come in. And so all Israel shall be saved: as it is written, There shall come out of Sion the Deliverer, and shall turn away ungodliness from Jacob: For this is my covenant unto them, when I shall take away their sins” (Romans 11:25-27).
At the end of the first three and a half years of the Tribulation, the Antichrist will come to power and reign over the earth with cruelty (Rev. 13:15-18). He will overcome the Jewish evangelists in Jerusalem and they will die, and after three and a half days they will be raised up and ascend to heaven (Rev. 11:7-12). After this, the Antichrist will overcome Israel (Rev. 13:7-10) and the remnant will flee into the wilderness where they will be protected by God (Rev. 12:12-17). In Daniel, the Antichrist is called a king of fierce countenance and a vile king, and we are told that he will overcome the Jews (Dan. 7:21-25; 8:23-25; 11:32-34).
The people of the earth will see these things and will have a choice of whether to help the Jews or curse them, similar to the choice they had during World War II under Hitler’s regime, and at the end of the Tribulation Jesus will judge the people of the nations on the basis of their treatment of persecuted Israel.
During the Nazi Holocaust, many individuals aided the Jews, oftentimes to their own destruction. Those who do this type of thing during the Tribulation apparently will be proclaimed as “sheep.”
In fact, one entire European nation stood out as a helper of the Jews during the Holocaust. This was Denmark.
“The attitude of the Danes toward the Jews was in marked contrast to that of almost all the rest of Europe, where most citizens either cooperated in the roundup of Jewish citizens, or remained indifferent to their fate. In Denmark the police refused to participate in rounding up the Jews: King Christian X encouraged the pro-Jewish forces by announcing that all Danish citizens were one ... [The country sent] virtually the entire Jewish community by boat into Sweden ... The rescue was carried out over three weeks, and when the Nazis came to deport the Jews on October 1-2, 1943, they found only about four hundred who had not yet escaped. ... Thus, only about 2 percent of Danish Jewry perished during the Holocaust, less than one fortieth of the percentage of Jews killed in much of Europe. At the war’s end, when the Danish Jews came back from Sweden, most found their property intact” (Joseph Telushkin, Jewish Literacy, pp. 424-425).
Is this salvation by works?
Paul says in Romans 4 that salvation has always been by grace through faith.
“What shall we say then that Abraham our father, as pertaining to the flesh, hath found? For if Abraham were justified by works, he hath whereof to glory; but not before God. For what saith the scripture? Abraham believed God, and it was counted unto him for righteousness. Now to him that worketh is the reward not reckoned of grace, but of debt. But to him that worketh not, but believeth on him that justifieth the ungodly, his faith is counted for righteousness. Even as David also describeth the blessedness of the man, unto whom God imputeth righteousness without works, Saying, Blessed are they whose iniquities are forgiven, and whose sins are covered. Blessed is the man to whom the Lord will not impute sin” (Rom. 4:1-8).
Abraham before the law and David under the law and believers in the New Testament dispensation are all saved by grace without works.
Paul explains that if men could be saved by their works, it would allow them to boast. “Where is boasting then? It is excluded. By what law? of works? Nay: but by the law of faith” (Rom. 3:27).
We know therefore that those who are received into Christ’s kingdom who survive the Tribulation will be saved by grace through faith and not by their works. Their works will be the evidence of their faith in God, just as Abraham’s works were the evidence of his faith (Jam. 2:21-22).
“This passage has puzzled expositors because there is no preaching of the Cross, there is no statement of the Gospel as necessary for salvation, and all the passage speaks of is the contrast of the works of the sheep and the goats. The answer to this problem, however, is not a denial that salvation is based on faith and grace alone (Rom. 3:10-12, 21, 28). The passage can be seen in the light of James 2:26 which declares, ‘faith without works is dead.’ What is here presented is not the ground of salvation but the fruit of salvation” (John Walvoord, Every Prophecy of the Bible, pp. 399, 401).
“During the seven years of the Tribulation, everyone on this earth will hear the truth of the gospel of Christ (Matthew 24:14). ... The internal, spiritual condition of the Gentiles is revealed externally by the way they treat Israel during the Great Tribulation. This is valid proof of true righteousness because of the intense persecution that Israel will endure during the second half of the Tribulation period. Jews forced to flee death and destruction will have no means of caring for themselves. The righteous Gentiles, at great risk to themselves, will provide food and shelter for the covenant people and will show many other acts of kindness. ... They are righteous because they were saved by grace, but they expressed their righteousness through their care for Jesus’ ‘brothers’ during those terrible days. In like manner, the deeds of the unrighteous (‘goats’) reveal their true spiritual condition. Their unbelief of the gospel message is seen by their anti-Semitism” (Tim LaHay and Ed Hindson, The Popular Encyclopedia of Bible Prophecy, p. 175).
The Result of the Judgment
“Then shall the King say unto them on his right hand, Come, ye blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. ... Then shall he say also unto them on the left hand, Depart from me, ye cursed, into everlasting fire, prepared for the devil and his angels” (Mat. 25:34, 41).
The ones who are rejected by Christ will be cast into the same lake of fire where the Antichrist and his false prophet are cast at Christ’s return.
“And the beast was taken, and with him the false prophet that wrought miracles before him, with which he deceived them that had received the mark of the beast, and them that worshipped his image. These both were cast alive into a lake of fire burning with brimstone” (Rev. 19:20).
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