In Matthew 25: 31-46, our Lord paints a vivid picture of what shall transpire at His second advent, when He sits on the throne of David. It is written that “all nations” shall be gathered before Him to be judged (Matt. 25: 32). What does this mean?
Most expositors view this scene as the “General Judgment,” a time when all men will be raised from the dust, that their eternal destiny may be decided. But if we look at the passage, not a word is said about any resurrection. What the Lord is talking about is the time of His return, when He and His saints will “rule all nations with a rod of iron” (Psalm 2: 8-9; Rev. 2: 26-27) Preparatory to this Millennial reign, the nations, or Gentiles, will be gathered before His throne to be judged. This is known as the “throne of glory judgment.”
Part of the misunderstanding of this passage arises from the translation of “ta ethne” as “the nations.” While this is an acceptible translation, we should note that the word “ethne” occurs 150 times in the New Testament. It is translated 92 times as “the Gentiles,” 10 times as “the nations,” and 5 times as “the heathen.” Had the translators simply rendered “ta ethne” as “the Gentiles,” much confusion would have been cleared up. As it stands, such can be the only meaning of the passage under consideration. When Christ returns to sit on the throne of David, all the Gentiles will be gathered before Him.
This, then, excludes either the Jews or the Church of God from being among those who are judged. For during the present dispensation, God is visiting the Gentiles, to take out of them a people for His name (Acts 15: 14). And it is expressly written that the Jews “shall not be reckoned among the nations” (Numbers 23: 9). Thus, the “nations” who stand before Christ to receive judgment are neither Christians nor Jews. They are the Gentiles who shall be living on earth when Christ comes to reign.
The ground of their judgment is clearly stated in verses 35-43. The Gentiles will be judged in regard to their treatment of Christ’s brethren. Who are Christ’s brethren? They surely include those who are conformed to Christ’s image, who is the “first-born” among them (Romans 8: 29). In its truest sense, Christ’s brethren are “they which hear the word of God, and do it” (Luke 8: 21).
Therefore, we must concede that the “brethren” mentioned by Christ are His spiritual people, the church. It has been somtimes alleged that these brethren are saved Jews only. However, the mistake arises from the doctrine of a pre-trib rapture, which will supposedly occur at the commencement of Daniel’s 70th week. Modern rapturists teach that the church will be “caught up” before the tribulation, leaving only Jews to carry on the ministry of the Word. However, we believe that the church will be present to the very end, and will be composed, as it is today, of both saved Jews and Gentiles.
See Revelation 7: 4-15, where the first-fruits of the Jewish national conversion are ranked alongside Gentile converts from “all nations.” This argues the perpetuity of the Gospel church until at least the vials are poured out upon the ungodly. My personal position concerning the rapture is that it will be “pre wrath” in its timing.
When Christ comes, the Gentiles will be judged according to how they treated the saints during this “time of trouble.” When Christ returns from heaven, He will grant rewards to them who received His witnesses and ambassadors. This is intimated in Matt. 10: 42, where the Lord declares that “whosoever shall give to drink unto one of these little ones, a cup of cold water only, in the name of a disciple, verily I say unto you, he shall in no wise lose his reward.”
The reward to be gained is declared in v. 34. It is entrance into the “kingdom prepared from the foundation of the world.” The Lord is not talking about the eternal kingdom, which was prepared “before the foundation of the world” (Eph. 1: 4; John 17: 24; 1 Peter 1: 20). For entrance thereinto is based entirely on the grace of God, flowing from His immutable decree of election, and cannot be merited by works. When Christ speaks of the “kingdom prepared from the foundation of the world,” He is referring to an earthly kingdom, the same mentioned in Daniel 7: 27 as “the kingdom under the whole heaven” –not above the heavens. It is the earthly Millennial kingdom to which Christ refers.
This kingdom is the special subject of Old Testament prophecy, and is dispensational in its duration. It occupies the whole of the “Seventh Day,” and will give place to the eternal and heavenly kingdom, in which all things will be made new (Rev. 21: 5).
It is the Sabbatical day, in which the Second Adam and His bride (the church) shall reign over a renewed creation. Then shall all nations come yearly to Jerusalem to worship JESUS CHRIST and keep the feast of tabernacles (Zech. 14: 16). But it is only those who are “left of the nations” that will have this privilege. The throne of glory judgment grants some entrance into the kingdom, while it casts others out.
I realize, of course, that some consider this doctrine of the Millennium a mere “fairy tale.” They deny that any such end-time events as written in John’s Apocalypse will take place, or that any “man of sin” will arise to afflict the earth prior to the “time of the end.” They write articles and books, run websites and blogs, in which their sole purpose seems to be to cultivate unbelief in the doctrine of Christ’s second coming.
The real question, however, is not what men believe concerning fulfillment, but whether those who despise Christ’s advent will one day be reckoned among the “sheep” or the “goats.” If those who mock now do not listen to us, will they listen to those witnesses who will bear testimony during the Great Tribulation? Of this we are not sure. But God has many ways of softening the hearts of them that are opposed to His teachings. Let us pray that hearts be softened, that ears be opened, and that these may have their portion among the blessed.