The Judgment of the Nations
Dr. Joe Temple

Introduction

Open your Bibles, please, to Matthew, chapter 25. We have been studying prophecy for some time and particularly, of late, the judgments related to prophecy–that is, the judgments which are yet future. In Matthew, chapter 25, we find the description of one of these judgments. We will begin with verse 31:

Matthew 25

31When 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:
32And before him shall be gathered all nations: and he shall separate them one from another, as a shepherd divideth his sheep from the goats:
33And he shall set the sheep on his right hand, but the goats on the left.
34Then 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:
35For 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:
36Naked, and ye clothed me: I was sick, and ye visited me: I was in prison, and ye came unto me.
37Then shall the righteous answer him, saying, Lord, when saw we thee an hungred, and fed thee? or thirsty, and gave thee drink?
38When saw we thee a stranger, and took thee in? or naked, and clothed thee?
39Or when saw we thee sick, or in prison, and came unto thee?
40And 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.
41Then 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:
42For I was an hungred, and ye gave me no meat: I was thirsty, and ye gave me no drink:
43I was a stranger, and ye took me not in: naked, and ye clothed me not: sick, and in prison, and ye visited me not.
44Then 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?
45Then 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.
46And these shall go away into everlasting punishment: but the righteous into life eternal.

Two Totally Separate Judgments

You will remember that in the study of the judgments related to prophecy we have already discussed two of them–the Judgment Seat of Christ and the Judgment of Israel. We have followed a five-point outline in each study. We will continue to consider the “people,” “period,” “place,” “principle,” and “pronouncement” relating to each judgment.

Before we do, however, I think it would be wise for us to fix in our minds that there is no connection between Matthew, chapter 25, and Revelation, chapter 20. I would like to establish that, because in most churches you will hear these two passages of Scripture treated as though they were one and the same.

Keep a marker in Matthew and turn, please, to Revelation, chapter 20, and let us read what is described there. Later we will be looking at this judgment as it is one of the judgments related to the future, so let us not at this time be concerned about understanding all the details, but let us get a broad view of it. In Revelation, chapter 20, in the paragraph beginning with verse 11, John says:

Revelation 20

11And I saw a great white throne, and him that sat on it, from whose face the earth and the heaven fled away; and there was found no place for them.
12And I saw the dead, small and great, stand before God; and the books were opened: and another book was opened, which is the book of life: and the dead were judged out of those things which were written in the books, according to their works.
13And the sea gave up the dead which were in it; and death and hell delivered up the dead which were in them: and they were judged every man according to their works.
14And death and hell were cast into the lake of fire. This is the second death.
15And whosoever was not found written in the book of life was cast into the lake of fire.

No General Judgment

I repeat: Matthew, chapter 25, and Revelation, chapter 20, are used together by those who proclaim what is commonly known as a general judgment. Even some of our hymnology has been based upon this error in teaching. You sing, in some churches, “There's a great day coming, there's a great day coming by and by, when the saints and sinners shall be parted right and left. Are you ready for that day to come?” There is no such day coming when the saints and sinners shall be parted right and left. There is no judgment day when saints and sinners shall stand at the judgment bar of God waiting with fear and trembling to find out whether they are going to Heaven or to Hell. Beloved, your eternal destiny was settled at the Cross. It is settled personally for you the very moment you receive the Lord Jesus Christ as your Savior so that you can rest upon the promise found in Romans, chapter 8, verse 1:

Romans 8

1There is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit.

So, settle whether you are in the Lord Jesus Christ or out of the Lord Jesus Christ. If you're in Him, then there is no judgment for you. If you're out of Him, then there is judgment, for the Bible very plainly declares it.

Differences In the Two Judgments

Having said that, I would suggest, from the brief emphasis we have placed upon these two passages of Scripture up to this point, that you notice the differences. In Matthew, chapter 25, the living are judged; in Revelation, chapter 20, the dead are judged. In Matthew, chapter 25, the judgment is upon the earth; in Revelation, chapter 20, both the heavens and the earth have already passed out of existence. In Revelation, chapter 20, there are books and “the book”; in Matthew, chapter 25, there is no mention of a book or books. In Revelation, chapter 20, everything above the earth and under the earth, etc. is being judged; in Matthew, chapter 25, only those who are then walking on the earth. These are enough differences, I think, to tell you that not by the farthest stretch of poor preaching could you confuse these two passages. But if Matthew, chapter 25, and Revelation, chapter 20, are not speaking about the same thing, of what are they speaking?

May I suggest that Matthew, chapter 25, is describing the Judgment of the Nations and Revelation, chapter 20, is describing the Judgment of Wicked Dead. Let us go back to Matthew, chapter 25, following the little outline we have suggested, and notice verse 32:

Matthew 25

32And before him shall be gathered all nations: and he shall separate them one from another, as a shepherd divideth his sheep from the goats:

Only Living Nations Affected

The people who will be judged at this particular time are designated as “all nations.” Let us be a little bit more specific than that and suggest that as there is no mention of the resurrection of the dead, it would have to be all the nations living at the particular time that the judgment occurs–not the nations that have passed into forgotten history, but those still existing. I would like to be even more specific, because usually there is a problem in the minds of people when we talk about the Judgment of the Nations. They often say, “How can an entire nation be judged?”

Well, in the sense in which they are speaking, we would say it would be an impossible thing. But, lest we be misunderstood, let us say that God has judged nations in the past, and He can judge nations even today. He judged Sodom and Gomorrah; He judged Moab; He judged Edom. He threatened judgment upon Ninevah, but withheld it by His mercy. He can bring judgment upon entire nations by pouring out His wrath when they are disobedient to His revealed will and plan. But in the light of all the Scriptures–and we should never interpret one Scripture alone–this judgment is related to individuals and not to ethnic groups. In one Scripture, the Apostle Paul says, “Every man shall give an account of himself to God” (Romans 14:12). In the light of this Scripture, it would be impossible for God to save or condemn nations wholesale without recognition of individual responsibility.

Importance of Individual Responses

Again, because the proclamation of the Gospel (and we will find that the proclamation of the Gospel is very closely related to this judgment) is such that it demands an individual response. This judgment must be on an individual basis.

For example, if the Gospel be preached to a nation and the leader of the nation says, “Now we will all become Christians,” God does not let it go at that. It demands an individual response. A father cannot, upon hearing the Gospel, effectively say, “I and all my family will become Christians.” There must be an individual response to the preaching of the Gospel.

Now, there is still another reason why we know that the judgment here is related to individuals, even though the word “nations” is emphasized. And that reason is found by looking at some passages of Scripture. Turn with me first to Matthew, chapter 6, verse 31, as we suggest to you that the Greek word, ethnos , can be translated to refer either to groups, such as “Americans” or “Italians” or “Scandinavians” or the “British” or to individuals.

Worrying About Necessities of Life

The Lord Jesus Christ says in Matthew, chapter 6, verse 31:

Matthew 6

31Therefore take no thought, saying, What shall we eat? or, What shall we drink? or, Wherewithal shall we be clothed?
32(For after all these things do the Gentiles seek:) for your heavenly Father knoweth that ye have need of all these things.

Notice the word “Gentiles.” It is the translation of the same Greek word ethnos , which in Matthew 25 is translated “nations,” and here it definitely refers to individuals. The Lord Jesus Christ is addressing individuals and He says, “Now, don't be worried about what you are going to eat, how you are going to clothe your body, and what kind of a house you are going to live in.” Every individual in the world naturally thinks along these same lines, but not all of them have the Lord on whom they can depend.

Turn to the Gospel of Matthew, chapter 20, for a like illustration, as we attempt to establish the fact that the people who are judged, though they are referred to as nations are actually individuals. In Matthew, chapter 20, verse 17:

Matthew 20

17And Jesus going up to Jerusalem took the twelve disciples apart in the way, and said unto them,
18Behold, we go up to Jerusalem; and the Son of man shall be betrayed unto the chief priests and unto the scribes, and they shall condemn him to death,
19And shall deliver him to the Gentiles to mock, and to scourge, and to crucify him: and the third day he shall rise again.

Christ Delivered to the Gentiles

Notice the word “Gentiles.” To whom was the Lord Jesus Christ delivered? He was delivered to a handful of individuals. If we are going to insist that every time we see this word “nations,” it has to include the entire nation without the will of the people represented, then we must assume that when the Lord Jesus Christ was delivered into the hands of the Gentiles, God called all the Gentile nations together–it doesn't say that here–and delivered Him to all those nations. The Lord Jesus Christ was delivered to individuals.

Now, look at Matthew, chapter 28, verse 29, which is commonly referred to as the Great Commission, which will be fulfilled during the Tribulation and is actually not the commission for this present age. We read:

Matthew 28

19Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost:
20Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world. Amen.

We see the word “teach” in verse 19. “Go ye therefore, and teach all nations”–literally, “make disciples of all nations.” This commission has been followed by the Christian church for nearly two thousand years, by and large. Do you know any nation that has been completely discipled and baptized during these two thousand years? I don't, and there will never be such; yet individuals within these nations have come to know the Lord by virtue of their individual response to the Gospel.

So, as we go back to Matthew 25, let me suggest again that the people who are judged at the Judgment of the Nations are nations, but these consist of individuals representative of those nations.

For example, I might say to my audience, “We have several nations present with us.” Then I might ask individuals of those nations to stand and declare their nationality. You would not assume that I meant that every citizen of these several nations was here, would you? So you see, individual will is not left out of the matter.

Between the Tribulation and the Millennium

To learn the period in which this judgment will occur, let us read Matthew 25, verse 31:

Matthew 25

31When 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:

This judgment will occur when the Lord Jesus Christ returns to this earth. If we should take time to notice the timetable which is included in Matthew 24 and 25, in order to be more specific about the period of time, we would simply say that it will occur after the Tribulation and before the Millennium begins. It occurs after the Tribulation because it is related to something that happens during the Tribulation, and it occurs before the Millennium because it determines which of those nations will be represented on the earth during the millennial reign of Christ. So you see, it is scheduled to coincide with the Second Coming of the Lord Jesus Christ.

Occurring In the Valley of Jehoshaphat

Where is the place where this judgment will occur? We know from reading the above passage of Scripture that it will be on the earth, for the Lord Jesus Christ will return to this earth; so it is not going to occur in Heaven. It will not occur in Hell. It is going to occur on this earth.

Turn with me, please, to the book of Joel, chapter 3, in the Old Testament, to see if we can be even a bit more specific about the location of this judgment. As we look at this passage of Scripture in the book of Joel, I think we will be able to pinpoint almost the exact geographical location of this judgment.

Joel 3

1For, behold, in those days, and in that time, when I shall bring again the captivity of Judah and Jerusalem [that is, when all of Israel has been gathered back to the land] ,
2I 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.

Now, look down at verse 11:

Joel 3

11Assemble yourselves, and come, all ye heathen, [a better word would be nations–all ye nations] and gather yourselves together round about: thither cause thy mighty ones to come down, O LORD.
12Let the heathen be wakened, and come up to the valley of Jehoshaphat: for there will I sit to judge all the heathen round about.
13Put ye in the sickle, for the harvest is ripe: come, get you down; for the press is full, the fats overflow; for their wickedness is great.
14Multitudes, multitudes in the valley of decision: for the day of the LORD is near in the valley of decision.

Location of This Valley

We're talking about the time when the Lord Jesus Christ returns to the earth and sets up His throne for the Judgment of the Nations. Here we are told that the nations of the world will be gathered in a valley called Jehoshaphat. In the book of Zechariah, chapter 14, we are told that when the Lord Jesus Christ returns to this earth and His feet actually stand upon the Mount of Olives, the Mount of Olives will be cleft in twain and a great valley–a great valley of undetermined dimensions–will be formed. This could very well be called at that time, the valley of Jehoshaphat, where all the nations will be gathered together for the Judgment of the Nations.

The Principle of This Judgment

Let us now go back to Matthew, chapter 25, and check the points we are following in our outline. We have discussed the people, the period, the place; now the principle. What is the principle; what is the basis of this particular judgment? Look at verse 40:

Matthew 25

40And 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.

Related to the Treatment of the Jew

Notice the phrase, “one of the least of these, my brethren.” The basis of this judgment is the way the nations of the world have treated a group of people whom the Lord Jesus Christ has called His brethren. In one sense of the word, the Jewish nation is the brethren, or represents the brethren, of the Lord Jesus Christ and is so referred to in the Scriptures. But, as we mentioned earlier in our discussion, we are not talking about a judgment of all the nations that have ever existed. We are talking about the judgment of the nations that will occur at the time when the Lord Jesus Christ returns. By the same principle, the brethren referred to in this passage of Scripture are not all the Jews who have ever lived, but those who will be living at the time He returns.

Now, of course I believe in the truth of Genesis 12; I believe in the truth of Genesis 15; I believe that any nation which is friendly to Israel will be blessed of God and that any nation which is unfriendly to Israel can expect the chastening hand of God to rest upon it. That is a general principle taught in the Word of God, and I hope that our nation will never take any position other than one friendly to Israel. If we have any claim upon the mercy of God this is it, and I think this can stave off judgment better than anything else.

A Special Group of Jews

But we are specializing now, so we are going to say that God is not here considering the nation of Israel as a whole, existing down through the years, but that portion of it which will be existing when the Lord Jesus Christ returns. I think we can be even more specific than this. It is true that during the Tribulation the Jewish nation will be persecuted as no other nation of the earth has been persecuted. Every person living on the earth will endure terrible tribulation during the seven-year period, but the Jewish nation will suffer as no other nation suffers. And that is the reason you can expect to find them as described in verse 35 of Matthew 25–hungry and thirsty, a stranger, naked, in need. These people will certainly be in this general, sad condition.

Preaching to All Nations

Do you remember that I said in the beginning of our discussion, that the Gospel is very closely related to this judgment? Turn, please, to Matthew, chapter 24, and notice verse 14:

Matthew 24

14And this gospel of the kingdom shall be preached in all the world for a witness unto all nations; and then shall the end come.

I must tread very carefully here because I don't want to be misquoted and I don't want it to be considered that I am opposed to missions. I believe in missions. I don't think the Bible makes a distinction between foreign missions and domestic missions; I believe that it is our responsibility to get the Gospel to the whole world, but this passage of Scripture should not be used to beat people over the head to make them more missionary-minded. This Gospel being preached to all nations before the Lord Jesus Christ comes does not refer to the dispensation in which we now live. I have often heard people say, “The Lord Jesus Christ cannot come back for His Church until the whole world has heard the Gospel.” It is true that the whole world has not, and I am ashamed of what the Church of the Lord Jesus Christ has done in relation to it. But, Beloved, the whole world doesn't have to hear the Gospel before the Lord Jesus Christ returns. And the whole world will not in this present dispensation hear the Gospel.

That is the reason the Lord Jesus Christ is going to set the Church aside. He will take out of the hands of the Church the privilege of preaching the Gospel, because we have failed so miserably; He will give it into the hands of the Jews during the Tribulation. The Jews will then preach the Gospel to the entire world in less than seven years.

When you have time, read chapter 7 of the book of Revelation and compare it with chapter 14. In Revelation, chapter 7, there is described the ordination or commissioning service for 144,000 Jewish evangelists who will go throughout the whole world preaching the Gospel. Revelation, chapter 14, describes the results of their ministry. They reach the whole world; some from every tribe and nation and kingdom will stand before the throne of grace as a result of their ministry. On the basis of that, I would suggest that “brethren” in Matthew 25 refers not only to the Jewish nation living at the time the Lord Jesus Christ returns, but specifically to these Jewish evangelists who go throughout the whole world preaching the Gospel.

Treatment of These Jewish Missionaries

The principle of this judgment is how these Gentiles treat these Jewish evangelists. You see where the Gospel comes in. When these Jewish evangelists go about preaching the Gospel, if you were a Jew and received their message and accepted their Savior, surely you would feed them if they were hungry, wouldn't you? You would clothe them if they were naked. If they were in prison for the sake of the Gospel, wouldn't you go to see them and minister to them in whatever way you could? Of course, you would. On the other hand, if you refused to hear their message and refused to accept the Christ they proclaimed, then you would have absolutely nothing to do with them. So you see, even though the principle upon which this judgment is based is the manner in which the nations of the world treat the brethren of the Lord, it should by no means be interpreted as a judgment on the basis of works as opposed to salvation by grace.

The Pronouncement

That leads us to the last point we want to consider in relation to the judgment–the pronouncement. We considered the people, the place, the period, and the principle; now the pronouncement. What will be the result of this judgment? Well, look at Matthew, chapter 25, verse 34, and listen to the Savior as He says:

Matthew 25

34Then 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:

Being Part of the Earthly Kingdom

“Oh,” you say, “that means they go to Heaven, doesn't it?” No, it means they enter the kingdom that was prepared for them from the foundation of the world. And what kingdom is that? The kingdom of God on earth, for that is what was promised to the Jews. Now, you and I have been promised a home in Heaven. Oh yes, we will be participating in this reign on the earth, but that is not our home. Our home is in Heaven. But the Jews have never been promised Heaven in the sense that the Church has. The Jews have been promised a kingdom on the earth. And this is it. Those individuals who have received their Savior are permitted to enter the millennial reign of Christ upon the earth. Keep in mind that they will still be human beings on the earth, going about their life in the same manner as they have always lived it, with the difference that life on the earth will no longer be hampered by Satan.

Look at verse 41 for the other part of the pronouncement:

Matthew 25

41Then 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:

And where do these people go? They go into the lake of fire prepared for the Devil and his angels. This is their eternal punishment because they refused the Savior. In refusing the Savior, they have refused the messengers who brought the message. This is the Judgment of the Nations.

Faith Manifested In Action

Now, turn with me, please, to the book of James so that you will have understanding concerning whether these nations are to be judged for their actions or for their faith. They are to be judged for their faith, their faith being manifested in their action. The book of James is a portion of the Word of God that is very, very practical–so practical that some folk think it teaches works and nothing else. In chapter 2, we have a story that may help us to understand what James does teach. Look at James, chapter 2, starting with verse 20:

James 2

20But wilt thou know, O vain man, that faith without works is dead?
21Was not Abraham our father justified by works, when he had offered Isaac his son upon the altar?
22Seest thou how faith wrought with his works, and by works was faith made perfect?
23And the scripture was fulfilled which saith, Abraham believed God, and it was imputed unto him for righteousness: and he was called the Friend of God.
24Ye see then how that by works a man is justified, and not by faith only.

Justified Before Men

To understand this passage of Scripture, you have to understand two other passages of Scripture. You have to understand Genesis, chapter 12, and Genesis, chapter 22. In Genesis, chapter 12, God told Abraham He would give him a son and from that son would come a nation who would bless the whole world. Abraham said, “I believe it.” Then God said, “You are righteous.” He counted it unto him for righteousness because he believed the message. You see, that message was related to the Lord Jesus Christ. So even Abraham was saved by faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, just as you and I are saved by faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. Abraham looked forward to Him. We look back to Him. That is the only difference. Now in chapter 22 of the book of Genesis, God said to Abraham, “I want you to take your son up on the mountain. I want you to kill him.” And Abraham said, “All right.” His neighbors might well have said, “You know, he talked about believing God. I wonder if he really does now?” But when they heard about Isaac on the altar, with Abraham's hand upraised, he was justified before men. they said, “His faith is real.” In Genesis, chapter 12, Abraham was justified before God. In Genesis, chapter 22, Abraham was justified before men. So it isn't a matter of faith plus works to please God. It's a matter of faith plus works to please God and man.

Justification of Rahab

Notice another illustration in James, chapter 2, verse 25:

James 2

25Likewise also was not Rahab the harlot justified by works, when she had received the messengers, and had sent them out another way?

I always hate to read that word in connection with Rahab. It does her a great injustice. She really was an innkeeper. She was not a prostitute; she managed a hotel; that is all she did.

James 2

25Likewise also was not Rahab the harlot [innkeeper] justified by works, when she had received the messengers, and had sent them out another way?

She was justified by works? When? When she took the messengers that came from Joshua and hid them under a bed of flax until the kings' soldiers were gone and then let them down over a wall so that they could go on their way.

But Rahab was justified by faith before that. Do you know when? She heard the sound of the marching armies of Israel and she listened to the news of how the God of Israel was defeating all the gods of the surrounding nations and she got alone and she said, “God, I want you for my God. I'm not going to have faith in these other gods any more. You are my God.” She was justified by faith as soon as she said it. But when the messengers of this God came to her home, she took them up on the roof top and covered them over with flax. She was not only justified by faith, she was justified by works.

Conclusion

So it will be with these nations who enter into the Millennial Kingdom after the Judgment of the Nations. When the 144,00 Jews declare the message of the Gospel, many will believe it. And when they have a chance to minister to these ministers, they prove it. That is the basis of the judgment.

The Judgment of Nations, we say in conclusion, is that judgment that will determine which nations over whom you and I will have the privilege of ruling during the millennial reign of Christ.


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