In the Fulness of Time/Part 143

By: Dr. Thomas O. Figart; ©2011
In one way, this section may seem out of place, since up to this point the Olivet Discourse has been dealing the future of the Jews. However, in that same regard, it serves to complete the answers to the question of the disciples: “What shall be the sign of thy coming, and of the end of the age?”

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Plan of the Future for the Gentiles. Matthew 25:31-46

In one way, this section may seem out of place, since up to this point the Olivet Discourse has been dealing the future of the Jews. However, in that same regard, it serves to complete the answers to the question of the disciples: “What shall be the sign of thy coming, and of the end of the age?” (Matthew 24:3). If Jesus had not added this teaching concerning the Gentiles, the destiny of the largest segment of humanity would have been left unanswered (cf. 1 Corinthians 10:32).

In light of the Abrahamic Covenant, the promises included blessing to: “all families of the earth” (Genesis 12:3). This exact promise was confirmed in Genesis 22:19 when Abraham offered up Isaac, reiterated to Isaac in Genesis 26:4, and to Jacob in Genesis 28:14. Later, in 35:11 God promised Jacob that: “kings shall come out of thy loins,” and finally, in 49:10 that the kingly line would come from the tribe of Judah: “The scepter shall not depart from Judah nor a lawgiver from between his feet, until Shiloh come, and to him shall the gathering of the people be.”

This rehearsal of promises from the book of Genesis is supported throughout Scripture, showing that the Kingdom of Messiah will include all the nations. Though the holocaust of the Great Tribulation will be most severe, many saved Gentiles will survive, and it will be necessary for Christ to separate them as sheep from goats (believers from unbelievers), just as in previous sections of the Olivet Discourse He prophesied that He will separate believers from unbelievers among the Jews who survive the horrors of the Great Tribulation.

The Situation: Time and Place of the Judgment. Matthew 25:31

Mt. 25:31 “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.”

As mentioned previously, all the time-sequence indications of the Olivet Discourse which point to the coming of the Son of man are all at the end of the seven years of Tribulation. Here in verse 31 three specific indications are given: He shall come in His glory, all the holy angels will come with Him and He will sit upon His own throne of glory. In Revelation 3:21 He said that He was not yet on His throne, but is sitting with His Father in the Father’s throne. The Messianic Kingdom cannot begin until He returns to earth with the angels and sits on His throne of glory and completes the judgment of unbelievers.

The Separation of the Sheep from the Goats. Matthew 25:32-33

Mt. 25:32-33 “And before him shall be gathered all the 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.”

As Revelation 7:9 clearly demonstrates, a numberless multitude “from all nations” will survive the Tribulation and stand “before the throne and before Lamb.” The term panta ta ethna, “all the nations” occurs in a number of contexts with various meanings. In Romans 16:26 it refers to the gospel being made known “to all the nations.” In Revelation 15:4 “all nations shall come and worship before the Lord.” Such usage includes the entire human race. In other passages the same phrase is used to contrast Gentiles from Jews. In Luke 21:24, the Jews “shall be led away captive into all nations (panta ta ethna) and Jerusalem shall be trodden down by the Gentiles (hupo ethna).” This same contrast can be noted in Romans 3:29; 9:27; Galatians 2:12.

These Gentiles will be separated “one from another,” as a shepherd divides his sheep from his goats. Obviously, therefore, it will not be one nation as distinguished from another nation, but will be on an individual basis. It is hardly possible that every person in a given nation will be saved, nor that every individual in another nation will be lost.

The Commendation of the Sheep. Matthew 25:34-40

Mt. 25:34-40 “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 hungry and ye gave me food; 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 hungry 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.”

The sheep are called “the righteous” (verse 37) and are assured of entrance into the kingdom prepared for them from the foundation of the world. The promise that all nations shall be blessed was traced through Genesis and need not be repeated here. One question which remains is the identification of “these my brethren” (verse 40). The time and place mentioned in verse 31 eliminates any reference to the Church saints, since they will have been raptured before the Tribulation. Indeed, the Church saints will be part of the King’s entourage when He returns “with all His saints” (1 Thessalonians 3:13). This will also be true of the Old Testament saints who will be raised after the Tribulation and appear with Him in their glorified bodies (Daniel 12:1-3).

The 144,000 who were sealed early in the Tribulation (Matthew 24:14) will doubtless be part of His “brethren” and possibly many other Jews saved through their testimony during those seven years. The “righteous” Gentiles will be concerned about such Jews who suffer all the persecutions and privations mentioned by the Lord, but because of their righteous character, will not consider these deeds of kindness as especially heroic or unusual. They will perform such acts out of the intrinsic goodness of their hearts. William Kelly has put it this way: “Their last lesson was the first that Paul learned on the road to Damascus—the truth that startled his soul: ‘I am Jesus whom thou persecutest’” (Kelly, William, Lectures on the Gospel of Matthew. New York: Loizeaux Brothers, Inc. 1950, page 484). The only difference is that these saved Gentiles did not know that they were doing good toward (not persecuting) Christ when they aided His “brethren.

The Condemnation of the Goats. Matthew 25:41-45

Mt. 25:41-45 “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 hungry, and ye gave me no food; 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, or in prison, and ye visited me not. Then shall they also answer him, saying, Lord, when saw we thee hungry, or thirsty, 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 unto one of the least of these, ye did it not unto me.”

At first it seems inconceivable that anyone could go through a period of Tribulation and witness the sufferings of believers without helping them, but when the Apostle Paul is remembered, he thought he was doing God a favor by persecuting believers. In Acts 26:9-11 he said: “I verily thought within myself, that I ought to do many things contrary to the name of Jesus of Nazareth, Which thing I also did in Jerusalem; and many of the saints did I shut up in prison, having received authority from the chief priests. And when they were put to death, I gave my voice against them. And I punished them often in every synagogue, and compelled them to blaspheme; and being exceedingly mad against them, I persecuted them even unto foreign cities.” Fortunately for Saul of Tarsus, he was informed directly by Christ that he was persecuting Him, and Saul became Paul before it was eternally too late.

One significant thing about the punishment pronounced by the Lord; He said that the “everlasting fire” was not double predestination; rather, it was “prepared for the devil and his angels,” not for the unsaved. Jesus reminded us that man is condemned already, not because he was predestined to this, but: “because he hath not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God” (John 3:18). The Apostle John made it clear that: “This is his commandment that we should believe on the name of his Son, Jesus Christ” (1 John 3:23). God can never be held responsible for the sin of man which results in eternal punishment.

The Destination of the Sheep and the Goats. Matthew 25:46

Mt. 25:46 “And these shall go away into everlasting punishment, but the righteous into life eternal.”

Jesus closes His discourse with a brief summary statement of the two destinies; the goats go away into everlasting punishment, and the sheep into life eternal. This judgment is not a general judgment, as some suppose. After this there is the thousand-year Messianic Kingdom, (Revelation 20:1-6) and there will be children born to those “righteous ones” who enter the kingdom in normal bodies, not yet glorified. They will bear children, build houses; they will live long lives, and enjoy the kingdom (Isaiah 65:20-23). But at the end, there will be another judgment, since those born during those thousand years will either believe in Christ or reject Him; and those who reject Him will either be killed during the kingdom, or will be judged after the kingdom “in the fulness of time” at the Great White Throne Judgment (Revelation 20:11-15).

Read Part 144

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