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Philo-Semitism and the Gospel of the Kingdom
Matthew Lesson #162
May 7, 2017
“Our Father, we’re thankful that we can study Your Word, that we can spend time reflecting upon it. That we each have our own copies of Your Word, and that we in many cases have many copies—unlike the vast majority of Christians alive today or throughout the history of Christianity—we have this privilege.
We have more available to us today in terms of Your Word, than any believer in any other time in history, and yet, Father, far too many of us take it lightly. We take it for granted. And Father, we do not place it as a priority in our life to read, to know, to study Your Word, to internalize it, and make it a part of the way we think, and the way we live.
Father, as we study Your Word today, may God the Holy Spirit use it to challenge us, to teach us, and to remind us how Your Word needs to be at the center of our life.
And we pray this in Christ’s Name. Amen.”
Open your Bibles with me to Matthew 25. Today we will begin our study of this last section of the Olivet Discourse in Matthew 25:31-46. There’s so much in this section. As I put my notes together today, it occurred to me when I finished that I just might not be able to cover this in one class.
There is so much here, there are so many implications and abuses. In fact, we should realize that this passage, many people believe, is the most difficult passage to interpret in Scripture, probably because they don’t come at the Scripture from a presupposition that this is the Word of God, and it’s talking about the future, but that’s part of what we will see.
I think if you look at what’s out there, there are at least—one commentator has identified—at least 32 different interpretations of this teaching of our Lord, this narrative at the end of the Olivet Discourse.
One of the most common interpretations that you will find—and if you are knowledgeable and you can keep in this text and the reference in the forefront of your mind—when you listen to a lot of politicians and you listen to a lot of various groups that are involved in social action and feeding the poor and the impoverished and jail ministries, many of which are good, but they quote from this passage, which indicates a poverty of biblical understanding.
It is a passage that is commonly used to promote a so-called “Christian” view of liberal social justice. Terms like “social justice” are code words for socialism and Marxism, which is the avowed enemy of biblical Christianity.
Those who interpret the passage that way interpret the word that should be translated “Gentiles” as “nations,” that this is talking about government—about government responsibility—to feed the hungry, and to have social programs for those who are in jail and in prison, and all sorts of other socially active programs.
That comes out of a Marxist framework that is read into the passage and usually the passage is just ripped right out of context, has nothing to do with what Jesus has been teaching or is teaching here in the Olivet Discourse.
So this is probably the central biblical text that people will go to support a socialistic idea from the Bible. But as I said, that has nothing to do with the context, and there’s nothing that you can go to here to justify such a position.
Now a second major view—or part of many views; it’s not just a second major view, but it’s an element that is part of many other views—is an attempt to emphasize a connection between faith and works: that those who enter the kingdom are those who have works, not just faith.
So they emphasize this connection that they see between faith and works that presupposes the idea that some sort of works are the inevitable and necessary outworking of true saving faith. We’ve spent a lot of time on that in the past.
If you want some lessons that specifically address the relationship of faith and works as emphasized in James 2:14 and following, then you can go back and listen to the lessons in James, lessons # 45 to #47: that there is no necessary connection between faith and works.
James is not talking about a test of knowing whether you’re saved or not by the works that are in your life, he’s talking about the fact that a faith that doesn’t result in application is a faith that isn’t doing you any good.
He’s not saying that that faith is nonexistent or was nonexistent or that you’re not saved. He is saying that once you are justified by faith alone, the next decision in life is to decide whether you’re going to learn the Word and apply it; and the challenge in James is to believers to apply what they’re learning.
It is not saying if you don’t have works you weren’t really saved. That is a backdoor way of introducing works into the gospel. It is called Lordship salvation and is the complete opposite of teaching grace, because under that theology, the only way you know if you’re saved is if you have works.
Well, who’s the fruit inspector? Who of us can go look at works to say, is this a good deed that is the product of a regenerate nature, or is this just a good deed that any unbeliever can imitate as well?
The Scripture is very clear, we’re saved and our assurance is based on the promise of God, not any evidence of works in our life. That doesn’t mean that we’re justified in just saying, okay, I believe in Jesus and go do whatever we want to. God will—now that we’re a child of God—definitely discipline us if that’s our mentality.
But this passage has raised the question because it does appear if you are not paying attention to a lot of details in the context in the whole of Scripture, it looks as if those who enter into the kingdom do so because of what they’ve done and not because of faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. So that’s certainly part of what we have to address here.
The issue here, as we will see, is how they treat those that Jesus describes as “my brethren,” and that’s an important term. That is the hermeneutical key to understanding this passage. People who think that “my brother” is just all mankind because God is the Father of all mankind, demonstrate right away that they’re against the Bible. They never understood the Bible; they come from pure liberalism, thinking in terms of a doctrine called the universal fatherhood of God, and that is not a biblical teaching.
Biblical teaching is that we are—as Jesus said of the Pharisees—the children of the devil. We have followed in his rebellion against God until we are reborn, until we move from spiritual death to spiritual life by faith in Jesus Christ as our Savior. The instant we trust in Him as our Savior, at that point with that new birth, we are adopted into God’s royal family. Then He becomes our Father.
So when Jesus is talking about “my brethren,” He is talking about first and foremost of those who are ethnically related to Him. The term brethren, as we will see, is a term that’s used to refer to Jesus’ literal physical brothers in the Scripture.
Secondly, it is used to refer to those who are believers in Him. When you put that together, you realize that this is talking about those who are Jewish believers in the tribulation period. He’s not talking about just being Jewish—and that’s a common interpretation from certain pro-Israel factions today.
It is not just talking about Christians. He’s talking about those who are His brethren: that is, spiritually alive Jews in the kingdom. This is talking about Philo-Semitism. That may be a new word for you. It’s the opposite of anti-Semitism.
Philo is a Greek word for love, and someone who is Philo-Semitic is someone who loves and supports the Jewish people because they’re under the Abrahamic Covenant of God. People who are pro-Israel, pro-Jewish are Philo-Semites. That’s the technical term—the correct term—for someone who is not anti-Semitic. We’re looking at Philo-Semitism and the gospel of the kingdom.
As we look at this, we need to address certain questions, as I’ve been doing through this study.
1. Review: what is going on here? What have we learned so far?
Because so much of the interpretive problems here are a result of not paying attention to context.
2. We need to address the issue of the connection to the previous three parables, and also addressing the question, is this a parable?
3. We need to address the meaning of some key terms, such as “Son of Man” and “throne of His glory” or glorious throne, which is seen in this passage.
4. Which judgment is this? Is this the Great White Throne judgment?
(A view that many people take—even a couple of dispensationalists take that view.)
Is it the Judgment Seat of Christ?
(Now a number of dispensationalists will take that view, mostly those associated are influenced by Grace Evangelical Society.)
Or is it referring to something else?
5. Are the sheep saved by works? That is the critical question here.
6. What are the implications for us?
What’s the context? How did we get here? Key question is understanding what the disciples are asking. Jesus is answering their question. I don’t believe He is answering something else or giving them other information that doesn’t pertain to the question. The question sets the context.
They’re asking, “When will these things be?” in reference to the destruction of the temple, as Jesus has just announced that that the temple would be destroyed. No stone would be left on another, in Matthew 24:2, so they asked this question, when’s that going to take place? When will the temple be destroyed? And secondly, what will be the sign of Your coming and of the end of the age?
In Jewish thought at that time: there was the present age; then the Messiah would come; and then there was a messianic age. It is very simple, and there hasn’t been any revelation yet of the mystery doctrine of the church age. You don’t have any information yet on the Rapture that’s been given, and there’s hardly anything other than just the mention of the word “church” but no real content about what that is that’s been given in the Gospel of Matthew.
The other Gospels don’t even mention the word “church,” and it’s not until the night before Jesus goes to the cross in the upper room in John 13-17 that Jesus really begins to teach the disciples church age doctrine as He teaches about the coming of the Holy Spirit.
The key word is the word “coming,” which is the Greek noun PAROUSIA, and according to the primary Greek English lexicon, the first meaning that’s often used is the state of being present. It’s a noun, so He’s saying, what will be the sign of your presence? The second meaning is an emphasis on the idea of arrival as the first stage of the present.
They are really asking the same question the disciples ask in Acts 1:6, “When are you going to establish a kingdom? Is it now or later? What’s going on here?”
As we review what’s happening, let’s just remind ourselves of a few things.
a. Jesus is addressing Jews about a Jewish issue: the destruction of the Temple and the arrival of the kingdom; and He’s announcing temporal judgment on Israel at that time.
I ran across this quote from Tom Constable, who taught in the Bible department at Dallas Seminary for many years and he gives a string of verses there that should be left on the screen for a few minutes so people who are watching can write all those verses down. It is a list of all the passages in Matthew that talk about judgment.
Matthew is a book that emphasizes judgment. There is a judgment that’s going to come on those who reject the offer of the king, the offer of the kingdom. There’s a judgment coming on those who reject the king as the Savior.
This is a major sub-theme throughout the book of the Gospel of Matthew. He says, “It’s not surprising, therefore, that Jesus concluded this discourse that reveals events leading up to the inauguration of the kingdom by explaining the judgment that will precede it.”
It’s about judgment and this brings His public teaching ministry and private teaching ministry, to a close in Matthew.
b. The analogy with Noah focuses on two groups, believers and unbelievers, Matthew 24:37-42.
Which clearly talks about one taken, one left behind. Whatever view you take, everybody agrees that one of them is a believer, and one of them is not a believer. So there’s a contrast there between believer and unbeliever.
He is not talking about different kinds of believers: obedient versus disobedient, spiritual versus carnal, that’s not anywhere in the context. It’s talking about something that is going to happen to an unbeliever. Then in the three subsequent parables there’s a judgment that comes at the end of each one of those: one is judged and goes to eternal punishment; the other goes into the kingdom.
c. The context, we’re reminded, is on Israel, not the church. There are four distinct entities that must be distinguished: Jews, Gentiles, Church Age believes, Tribulation saints.
In the church there’s neither Jew nor Greek, we’re all one in Christ. That’s in the church age only. When the church is raptured, then we go back to Jew or Gentile, and those who are saved in the tribulation, Jew or Gentile, are referred to as Tribulation saints.
d. The passage is talk about Jesus’ coming, His presence, the PAROUSIA, to establish the kingdom.
It’s all about the kingdom, folks. It’s about the establishment of the Millennium. It’s not about the Rapture, it’s not about Church Age believers or the Judgment Seat of Christ.
e. The Rapture and the Second Coming must be understood as distinct events, separated by seven years.
Finally, in terms of the review, we’ve seen that what controls the Olivet Discourse interpretation from the time that Jesus articulates it in Matthew 24:32-34,
f. The parable of the fig tree was to teach the Jewish Tribulation saints to be watching and prepared for the coming of the Messiah, Matthew 24:32-35.
It’s about watching for that coming. We will get back to the idea of the coming as we go through our study.
Second question is what is the connection with the three previous parables?
Two points I want to emphasize here. First of all, as we look at the text, the New King James version starts off in Matthew 24:30 saying “when the Son of Man comes in His glory.”
There are actually two words at the beginning of that verse. The second word is the conjunction—it’s always second in any sentence—and it indicates continuation from what has been said before. Sometimes that continuation is a slight contrast, sometimes it’s just continuing the story here.
This is a slight contrast which is why the New American Standard translates it “but when.” Most English translations ignore the word that is there, but it clearly shows this flows out of and is connected to that which is previous.
What we see is that the preceding context involves three parables. A parable talks in general terms. If we look back at those parables, they talked about master/servant; talked about ten bridesmaids; it talked about the bridegroom. And these are not specific people; they’re not named there and not identified as such.
It talked about servants and masters: wicked servant, the righteous servant. They are stories that are metaphorical in nature and designed to teach spiritual truths through some sort of common understood story.
We have specifics here, beginning in Matthew 24:31, “The Son of Man;” that’s not a metaphor. “The angels;” that’s not a metaphor. The treatment of “My brethren” is not a metaphor. Those are all specific terms.
They are identified as sheep or goats; that is metaphorical. But the whole episode is not a parable. This is not a parable; it is a narrative describing one other aspect of judgment at the end of the tribulation period.
The other thing to note is that the parables preceding it are parables of the kingdom. From my study of the parables in Jesus’ ministry, they are all about the kingdom. Therefore, they are all about: a) Israel; b) Gentiles; c) the church? Pop quiz. They are all about a) Israel.
They’re not about the church. There are a lot of people who take these and try to interpret them as in relation to the church, but the parables make sense. When we think that these three preceding parables are kingdom parables, then it’s all about Israel.
Now we’re going to talk about the Gentiles, and Jesus started talking in parables about who? When did He start talking in parables? Matthew 13. Matthew 12, the religious leadership accused Him of performing His miracles in the power of Satan. He called it the blasphemy of the Holy Spirit, and after that He said I’m not going to talk openly anymore, I’m going to start teaching only in parables.
What it did He give us? He gave us a parables related to the kingdom in Matthew 13. So parables are related to the kingdom, and they are designed to cloak what He is teaching from the hardened hearts of the Jews who have rejected Him.
But when He talks about Gentiles, He talks openly. And that’s the same pattern that we see here: He’s talking specifically about what is going on.
Third question, we have to understand the significance of two key terms in Matthew 25:31: the term “Son of Man,” the title “Son of Man” that is used of the Messiah. It’s a Messianic title from the Old Testament. Also the phrase “throne of his glory” or “His glorious throne,” depending on how you want to translate it, either one is fine.
Matthew 25:31 states, “When the Son of Man comes in His glory, and all the holy angels with Him, then He will sit on the throne of His glory.”
Now this imagery here is the same that we see in Matthew 16:27, which states, “For the Son of Man will come in the glory of His Father with His angels, and then He will reward each according to his works.”
Both of these passages are talking about the second coming. They’re not talking about the Rapture. At the Rapture, Jesus comes for his saints, the church. There is no mention in 1 Thessalonians 4—the other passage—that He’s coming with all of His angels. But that imagery is consistently there when Jesus comes at the second coming.
When he is coming to the earth, He will come in His glory with all of His angels. Matthew 25:31 states the same thing, “When the Son of Man comes in His glory, and all the holy angels with Him...”
The first question we need to address is what does this term, “the Son of Man” mean? What does that tell us? Where does that come from?” There is only one place that it is used in the Old Testament. Ezekiel refers to himself as the son of man. That’s a totally different issue; he’s just referring to himself as a human. But as a title, it is used one time in the Old Testament, and that’s in Daniel.
Daniel 7:13-14, Daniel has a vision related to the end times. As part of that vision, he sees two individuals. The first is the Ancient of Days; the second is the Son of Man. The Ancient of Days is God the Father. The Son of Man is the Messiah who is viewed in the passage as being deity, as being fully divine.
Daniel records in Daniel 7:13-14, “I was watching in the night visions, and behold, one like the Son of Man, coming with the clouds of heaven.”
If you study the metaphorical use of clouds in the Old Testament, you’ll discover that that is often associated with the angels. What we see here is the same thing that Jesus is talking about in Matthew 24, the Son of Man coming with His angels. That’s what he sees. So this is a summary statement.
For those of you have been around a long time, you know that in Hebrew there is often a summary statement, then the details come after that. That’s typical Hebrew style. This is a summary. We’re talking about a big event, Son of Man comes with the clouds of heaven. What’s involved in that event?
We get some detail in the next sentence, “He came to the Ancient of Days.” That’s not the coming with the clouds of heaven. That’s talking about what immediately preceded His coming with the clouds of heaven.
His coming with the clouds of heaven is at the second coming, when He comes to the earth to establish His kingdom. What is it that immediately precedes that? That’s a very important question. What immediately precedes it, is that the Son of Man comes to the Ancient of Days, and He is given the kingdom. He is not given the kingdom a long time before. He’s only given the kingdom right before He returns to the earth.
The idea in Amillennialism, which was picked up by Progressive Dispensationalism is the idea that at the ascension Jesus went to heaven, and He is now seated on a spiritual throne of David, and He is ruling His kingdom. If you listen attentively, you’ll hear all kinds of very loose talk where people say, “Well, we’re doing XYZ for the kingdom. This is the kingdom; that’s the kingdom,” and they believe that there’s some kind of kingdom today.
Folks, the Messianic Kingdom doesn’t arrive until Jesus arrives and sets up His throne in Jerusalem. That hadn’t happened yet. And the curse is rolled back, and I haven’t noticed the curse being rolled back lately. People still get sick people still die people still sin tremendously. Jesus isn’t on His throne in Jerusalem. We’re not in any form of the Kingdom, period.
This verse tells us that in the order of events, there is no kingdom given to the Son of Man. Then, at the time that He is given the kingdom, Daniel 7:14—the dominion, the glory, and the kingdom—at that time is when He returns with the clouds of heaven.
What happened when Jesus ascended to Heaven? After He died on the Cross, He’s put in the tomb, He is resurrected. He spends 40 days with the disciples, and then He ascends to Heaven.
Does He sit on the throne of David in heaven? That is the claim made by Amillennialists and Progressive Dispensationalists, but Psalm 110:1 says, “The Lord said to my Lord, ‘Sit at my right hand, till I make Your enemies Your footstool.’ ”
He’s in a position of waiting: it’s at the right hand, which is a position of honor, but He is in a position of waiting.
In Daniel 7:13, the wait is over. When the wait is over, He comes to the Ancient of Days, and the Ancient of Days gives Him the Kingdom. So from the time He ascends and sits at the session at the right hand of the Father, until just before He descends to the earth at the second coming, He is seated at the right hand of the Father, not on David’s throne, not even on His throne. He is seated on His Father’s throne.
Now how do we know that? Revelation 3:21, Jesus promises to Church Age believers who live a victorious life, “To him who overcomes I will grant to sit with Me on My throne as I also overcame and sat down with My Father on His throne.”
You have two thrones mentioned: “My throne,” which is Jesus’ throne; and the Father’s throne. What He says in the second half of the verse is when He overcame—that is at the ascension—He sat down with the Father on the Father’s throne. He didn’t sit down with the Father on His own throne. He sits down at the right hand of the Father on the Father’s throne.
But in the future He will have a throne, and when He has that throne and comes in His glory, as we see described here in Revelation 3:21, then He will grant for us to sit with Him on His throne, for the overcomers to sit with Him on His throne.
All that tells us that as Matthew 25:31 begins, “When the Son of Man comes in His glory,” that is talking about His arrival at the second coming. See, this fits the whole context. I have a hard time understanding folks, and I know a lot of them, I appreciate a lot of them, I’ve benefited from a lot of people’s ministry.
But as I pointed out, there’s about five or six different variations of views that do not see all of the second half of Matthew 24 talking about the second coming. They slip the rapture in there, but look at the context.
If we go back to Matthew 24:27—I told you we would get back to talking about PAROUSIA—“For as the lightning comes from the east and flashes to the west, so also will the coming of the Son of Man be.”
Nobody debates this. Everybody who is a futurist dispensationalist believes that in verse 27 Jesus is talking about the coming, this presence of the kingdom that comes quickly. It comes like lightning flashing from the east to the west. And it’s talking about the event—that’s why it uses a noun—the event of His arrival, His presence, establishing the Kingdom.
We know from the context of Matthew 24 that PAROUSIA is a descriptor of the Second Coming, but it’s not always used that way. It’s sometimes used of the Rapture, it’s sometimes used of the Second Coming. But in Matthew 24 from the beginning question, it has to be consistent because that’s the question.
Jesus isn’t going to shift the meaning of the terms in the middle of the instruction, in the middle of the answer without informing people that He has changed the meaning. That’s just absurd. He’s not playing some sort of guessing game with the disciples.
It’s talking about the Second Coming, the question was about the Second Coming, when’s He going to arrive with the Kingdom. He’s describing what that’s going to be: as the lightning flashing from the east to the west.
In Matthew 24:30 He said, “Then the sign of the Son of Man will appear in heaven, and then all the tribes of the earth will mourn, and they will see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of heaven with power and great glory.”
Now it shifts to the verb here because the verb describes the action of His progress from Heaven to earth. The noun emphasizes the state or the event of His establishing the kingdom. The verb is emphasizing His progress: the movement from Heaven to earth.
Then we have the episode that occurs prior to Matthew 24:37, where it talks about the parable of the fig tree, and then the key verse that the Rapture guys all go to is Matthew 24:36, “of that day and hour no one knows.” The Rapture, we don’t know. That could refer to that, if it weren’t for the context. But there’s also a sense in which the Second Coming isn’t going to be precisely known, and I’ve gone through that quite a bit. But for those who want to shift that, the question—in the very next verse, Matthew 24:37—connected to it says, “But as the days of Noah were.”
That “but” tells us that verse 37 comes right out of the thought of verse 36 and is using the “time of Noah” as an analogy to help us understand the PAROUSIA of Jesus, “…as the days of Noah were, so also will the PAROUSIA of the Son of Man be.”
“Son of Man” is a term that relates to what? His Messianic coming as the King. This is talking about Second Coming. So if verse 37 is talking about the Second Coming, then verse 36 should be talking about the Second Coming. However, there are a lot of folks— really bright folks—who get confused over that.
Matthew 24:39 continues, those who are alive at the time of Noah, they “did not know until the flood came and took them all away, so also will the coming of the Son of Man be.”
Again, it uses the word PAROUSIA. It’s talking about the coming. It can’t be that all the way up to verse 37, it’s talking about the second coming, and now in verse 37 He’s talking about the Rapture. Nothing in the context, nothing Jesus says would indicate He’s not talking about what the disciples were asking Him about.
Matthew 24:44 says, “Therefore, you also be ready, for the Son of Man is coming.” That’s talking about the action, the process; so He uses the verb ERCHOMAI. He is coming “… at an hour you do not expect.”
All that answers the third question: “What’s the significance of the term “Son of Man”? It is talking about the fact that He is the Messianic King who receives the kingdom just before He returns. The “throne of His glory” refers to His earthly throne—the throne of David, that is set up in Jerusalem—from which He will rule His Kingdom on the earth as the Son of Man.
That just covers the first verse; now let’s look at what the story’s about.
Matthew 25:32-33, “All the nations will be gathered before Him, and He will separate them one from another, as a shepherd divides his sheep from the goats. And He will set the sheep on His right hand, but the goats on the left.”
The right hand is the side of honor. Those folks are on the left, well that’s the side of dishonor. You can apply that however you wish.
The question that comes up here is, which judgment is this? If you read most commentaries and most people on this, they don’t have a futurist view of it at all. If they do they’ll put it at the Great White Throne Judgment, so they misidentify it. But even among dispensational premillennialists, there are some who believe that this is a Great White Throne Judgment.
I ran across an outline of most of this in Stan Toussaint’s book on Matthew, and I thought that I would just show you the differences. First of all, in the sheep and the goat judgment there is no mention of a resurrection, only living Gentiles.
David Turner, who is a commentator and supposedly dispensational—he’s gone progressive dispensationalist—argues that this passage is Great White Throne. And he assumes a resurrection “because it evidently assumes rather than mentions a resurrection.”
So for it to fit into his theology, he’s got to assume that the people who are being judged here have been raised from the dead. Scripture doesn’t say that, but that’s what passes for exegesis today.
In the Great White Throne Judgment, the dead are said to stand before the throne and are judged. There is a clear resurrection preceding the Great White Throne Judgment of all the unsaved dead.
At the sheep and the goat judgment there are three classes of people mentioned: the Jews, the Gentiles, and “my brethren”.
In the Great White Throne Judgment, the only people before the Great White Throne Judgment in Revelation 20 are the unsaved.
Third distinction is that at the judgment here, the sheep and the goat, the sheep enter the kingdom; the goats are condemned to eternal fire. So there’s a distinction. You have believers and unbelievers, but at the Great White Throne Judgment, all are cast into the lake of fire because they don’t have the right kind of works to get into Heaven. They don’t have perfect righteousness.
Fourth distinction is, at the sheep and the goat judgment, the basis of evaluation is on their treatment of “my brethren,” Philo-Semitism. At the Great White Throne Judgment, they’re evaluated on the basis of their works: have they accumulated enough righteousness to equal God’s righteousness? None have, so they are destined for the lake of fire.
Fifth is the timing. The sheep and the goat judgment occurs at the end of the Tribulation because that’s what we’re talking about. It happens when the Son of Man comes with His angels. That’s at the end of the tribulation. The Great White Throne Judgment in Revelation 20 comes at the end of the Millennial Kingdom.
So we’re talking about a distinct judgment that occurs at the same time that these other judgments in the parables are mentioned for those who survive the Tribulation. Surviving Jews are evaluated for their eternal destiny in the three parables, and in the sheep and the goat judgment, the Gentiles are evaluated for their eternal destiny.
Matthew 25: 32, says, “All the nations will be gathered before Him, and He will separate them one from another, as a shepherd divides his sheep from the goats.”
This has led some people to think that this is some sort of national judgment, and that’s easy to see why you would arrive at that. The word that is translated “nation” is the word ETHNOS, and it can have the meaning of “nation.” It can have the meaning of “people,” and it frequently has the meaning of just “Gentiles,” meaning anyone who is not a Jew, anyone who is not a descendent of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.
Since all nations are made up of individuals, this is not talking about the nations, it’s talking about individuals. Nations are not sent to the lake of fire. Individuals within a nation would have their destiny at the lake of fire. So this should be translated “Gentiles.” It is the evaluation of Gentiles who have survived the tribulation period.
They are separated; they are separated into two groups, sheep and the goats. Only a shepherd can do this. If you’ve ever been to Israel and you see the flocks on the hillsides, I would challenge you as an American to distinguish the sheep from the goats, because the breed of sheep that you find in the Middle East looks an awful lot like what we think of as a goat, but it’s a sheep. So the shepherd needs to know the distinction, and only the shepherd can distinguish between the sheep and the goats.
Now this judgment that occurs is a judgment that was predicted in the Old Testament in Joel. If you wish, you can turn with me to Joel 3, and we will look at the Old Testament prediction. Joel 3:1-3 is the passage that talks about the judgment of the nations, the judgment of the Goyim, the Gentiles, in the Old Testament.
It comes immediately after the Day of the Lord. Remember the Day of the Lord is a day when the sun is dark, the moon doesn’t give its light, and this is when the Lord, the Messiah, returns and destroys the enemies of Israel. That’s described at the end of Joel 2.
Joel goes on, he says, “For behold, in those days and at that time”—that is, at the time of the Day of the Lord—“when I bring back the captives of Judah and Jerusalem.”
When the Lord Jesus Christ restores, He’s not talking here specifically about all Jews, but the captives of Judah and Jerusalem. These are those who fled when they saw the abomination of desolation. These are those who have been imprisoned and tortured because of their Messianic faith and because they’re Jewish, and now they are going to be restored.
At that time the Messiah says, “I will also gather all nations…” It’s the same issue in the Hebrew, the word goy can be nations, it can be people or can be Gentiles. “I will gather all the Gentiles”—these are those who survived the Tribulation—“and I will bring them down to a place called the Valley of Jehoshaphat, and I will enter into judgment with them there on account of my people.”
So that’s going to be the basis for this judgment, just as it is with the sheep and the goat judgment in Matthew 25:31 and following. “… My heritage Israel”—so that’s the issue, how they’ve treated Israel—“whom they have scattered among the nations …” So there’s this persecution among the nations; and “… they have also divided up My land.”
That word “also” is important and indicates there are two issues here. One is the scattering among the nations. That’s what’s been going on through the Diaspora, through the Church Age, as Judah’s scattered among the nations. The other is they have also divided up My land.
I’ve taken this in the past to relate to the division as we see today: you have the West Bank, Israel. That’s possible; but the more I think about this contextually, this is not really talking about the current state of dividing up Israel.
There are a lot of Christian Zionists who take this view, and for that reason, any talk of a two nation solution or anything like that to them is just blasphemy. I think that’s wrong. The people who really emphasize that really don’t have a well thought out consistent eschatology either.
I think this is talking about what the antichrist does within the Tribulation period. This is what is taking place against Israel, the anti-Semitism that is taking place during the Tribulation period, when anti-Semitism just goes on steroids and the antichrist is seeking to destroy any and every ethnic Jew on the planet.
It goes on to talk about how horrible this will be at that time. “They have cast lots for my people, they have given a boy as payment for a harlot, and sold a girl for wine, that they may drink.” Just the horrors! And that’s what’s described in the sheep and the goat judgment, when it talks about those who are hungry, those were put in prison.
Why does Jesus talk about it in this way? Of course the liberal progressives come along and say, “Well, we have to have social justice.” That doesn’t do justice at all to the context.
Jesus tells the story this way because He’s telling us something about the horrible persecution of Jewish believers in the Tribulation period. They’re going to be starving to death. They’re going to be incarcerated. They’re going to be tortured. All of these things are going to happen to them. And the only help that they get is from Gentile believers who recognize their importance.
Before we leave Joel 3: there’s a mention of the Valley of Jehoshaphat. There are basically three views that are set forth on this. One is the view that there is no place known as the Valley Jehoshaphat. But just south of Jerusalem, about 15 miles, there’s a valley where the Israelites defeated the Moabites under Jehoshaphat that was called the Valley of Blessing or the Valley of Barachah in Hebrew. That’s identified in 2 Chronicles 20:26, so some people think that may be the Valley of Jehoshaphat.
Others think that it’s the valley that is right there by the Temple Mount, separating the Temple Mount from the Mount of Olives, and I think that’s a very likely view. The problem with the Valley of Barachah as the Valley of Jehoshaphat is that it’s far removed from Jerusalem, and it seems like the judgment that is taking place is taking place by the King on his glorious throne right there in Jerusalem on the Temple Mount.
So that valley is too far removed. The Kidron Valley is right there. It’s right there at the Temple Mount, and that seems to make a lot more sense geographically, and that’s view a lot of people take.
Then there’s another view that’s based on Zechariah 14:4 that says that when Jesus’ feet stand on the Mount of Olives, the Mount of Olives will split into from east to west making a large valley, and so there is the thought that that is the valley, that it becomes the Valley of Jehoshaphat.
The problem with that is, it’s never called the Valley of Jehoshaphat, and that again is just speculation. I think there’s not a whole lot more weight on the second view, but what little information we have, that seems to be a little stronger, but not a whole lot.
What we’ve done today, as we looked at the first four questions, and we’re stopping before we get to the fifth question: Are the sheep saved by works? That is a critical question that people say, because it looks that way. They are saved on the basis of how they treat “My brethren.” You will hear many people say if you’re going to be saved, then you have to have social justice, you have to take care of the poor. You have to feed the hungry.
There are many others that would say, “Well, it’s dependent on these works because if you don’t have real faith, you won’t have real works.” So there’s a misunderstanding.
But what we see in the passage is that the sheep are then called the righteous in Matthew 25:37. How did they get righteous? They get righteous because they’ve received the perfect righteousness of Christ. It’s imputed to them.
Genesis 15:6: Abraham was declared righteous because he believed in Yahweh. That’s how they’re saved is because they possess perfect righteousness. In addition—not in addition to what is required for salvation, but I think as part of that—they are going to be extremely pro-Jewish, and we will come back next time to find out what that means and how to understand that in terms of the gospel.
“Father, we thank You for this opportunity to study these things this morning and to come to understand how Your Word integrates with itself, how Old Testament passages give information that is the background and helps us to understand the New Testament. How what Jesus teaches in the Olivet Discourse is a direct outgrowth of all that had been revealed from the prophets in the Old Testament.
But He is showing how it focuses upon Him, and what will take place just before He arrives to establish His Kingdom, and what happens when He arrives to establish His kingdom.
Father, we are reminded that salvation is always by grace through faith, that faith is in the object, the power of faith is not in faith itself, but in the object of faith, which is the Lord Jesus Christ and His death on the cross for our sins.
We pray that if there is anyone listening or watching, anyone here that has never trusted in Christ the Savior that they would recognize that that is the only path to salvation. To believe that the Lord Jesus Christ died on the cross for their sins, and that by faith in Him, not of works, we have everlasting life, because He paid it all.
He completed the payment, and there’s nothing we can add to it. In fact, to attempt to add to it is blasphemy and negates the whole transaction. It’s faith alone in Christ alone.
Father, we pray that you would help us to think through and understand what we have studied because it helps to challenge us as believers that we need to be living today in light of eternity.
“We pray this in Christ’s name, amen.”