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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:
When saw we thee a stranger, and took thee in? or naked, and clothed 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 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.

New Defender's Study Bible Notes

25:32 before him. The description of this judgment does not correlate at all with that of the judgment seat of Christ, where only believers are present to be judged for rewards (I Corinthians 3:12-15); neither can it be the great white throne judgment, where only the lost are judged and cast into the lake of fire (Revelation 20:11-15). At this judgment appear both “sheep” and “goats,” and the criterion by which they are examined is their treatment of a group called “my brethren” (Matthew 25:40). No mention at all is made of a resurrection, the implication being that only those living at this time are being judged. The context has been the second coming (this is the terminating section of Christ’s Olivet discourse) and the great tribulation that precedes its final phase. Although multitudes will have been slain during this period—believers by the Antichrist and unbelievers by the great plagues and by Christ at Armageddon—some will survive, and these must be the ones appearing before the Lord for judgment.

25:32 all nations. The word “nations” is also the word for “Gentiles” and can be rendered either way, depending on context. It will be Gentiles who are judged because the Jews finally will all have recognized and accepted Christ as Savior when they see Him at His second coming (Zechariah 12:10–13:1; Romans 11:26). The nations (the Gentiles) will obviously be judged individually, not as national units.

25:34 inherit the kingdom. The “kingdom” here can only be the earthly kingdom centered in Jerusalem, with Messiah as King over all the earth for a thousand years (Revelation 20:6). Christ will rule with righteousness and an iron rod (Psalm 2:6-9; Revelation 19:15). Although the chief nation will be Israel, there will be at least remnant populations left of the Gentile nations also; some of each of these probably are among the “sheep,” and such will all share in Christ’s millennial kingdom.

25:40 my brethren. Christ’s criterion for recognizing “sheep” (the saved—Matthew 25:32) among the living Gentiles at His throne of glory is their treatment of “my brethren” during the terrible tribulation period. The brethren would certainly include the Jews, who were being sought for extermination during this period, the most severe time of persecution ever experienced by the chosen people (Jeremiah 30:7; Daniel 12:1; Matthew 24:15-21; Revelation 12:5-6, 13-16). However, Jesus also indicated that His brethren encompassed all who “do the will of my Father which is in heaven” (Matthew 12:50). The Gentiles who are saved during the tribulation period also will have been marked for execution by the Antichrist. Thus all who try to befriend and care for these refugees during these seven frightful years will be recognized as “sheep” and allowed to continue their natural physical lives into the millennial kingdom. Those who had not done this, turning the refugees away, and perhaps even reporting them to the authorities, will be sent “away into everlasting punishment” (Matthew 25:46). The “sheep” Gentiles would, by their actions, also have been branded as traitors by the authorities and sought for execution. Even though it is not specifically stated, it is implied that these “sheep” Gentiles are at least willing to believe on Christ themselves and have not received the mark of the beast.

25:41 Depart from me. The “goats” will have demonstrated their implacable enmity against God by their attitude toward His suffering “brethren” (Matthew 25:40)l They probably will have received “the mark of the beast” and so are irretrievably lost (Revelation 14:9-11).

25:41 everlasting fire. Those who are offended by the idea of eternal hell-fire as the abode of the lost must at least reckon with the fact that it was Jesus Christ Himself who set forth this doctrine most emphatically of all (see also Matthew 5:29-30; 10:28; 13:41-42,50; 18:8-9; 23:33; etc.). They should also recall that Christ so loved them that He Himself suffered the worst pangs of hell when He died for them on the cross, and they have thus far spurned His infinite love.

25:41 devil. The everlasting fires of hell were actually prepared for the devil, so that those who knowingly or carelessly choose Satan instead of Christ (there is no other choice!) will exist forever with Satan in the lake of fire (Revelation 20:10-15). Since their domain is also called the “outer darkness” (Matthew 8:12; 22:13; 25:30; II Peter 2:17; Jude 13), it may well be that the “lake of fire” is a burning star far out in the blackness of the vast universe created by God, with this particular portion of it prepared for Satan and the rebellious angels.

25:46 righteous. Since no one is “righteous” except those made righteous through Christ (II Corinthians 5:21), and since only these have eternal life (Romans 6:23), we must conclude that these “sheep” either have been—or perhaps, by God’s election and foreknowledge, will be—saved through faith in Christ. That faith has been evidenced by their response to the urgent needs of Christ’s “brethren” during the tribulation period, a response surely endangering their own lives also.

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