Judgment To Come Duncan Heaster  
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3-4-1 Sheep And Goats

Two Distinct Groups

The parable of the sheep and goats clearly suggests that after the judgment, the worthy and unworthy will be in two distinct groups to the right and left hand side of the Lord. The group of "sheep" then enter the Kingdom all together, at the same moment. This explains how the Lord will address the faithful and unfaithful as groups (note "ye" in Mt. 25:37,39); how the men of Nineveh stand together in a group, as the men of Sodom and Gomorrah will (Mt. 12:41;  Mk. 6:11). In some way, there will be a collective sense at the day of judgment, as well as an individual one. If there will be a collective sense then, before the presence of His glory...there ought to be now. Other passages support this idea of unity between the sheep:

- "They (dead believers) without us should not be made perfect" (Heb. 11:39,40)- i.e. all the believers are rewarded together, at the same time. Alternatively this may teach that the number of 'the believers' is completed only by our development of faith- implying that the sooner this happens, the sooner the united perfection of the faithful can occur.

- There is the implication in the words of Christ to the angel/reapers that the unworthy will also be destroyed together: "Gather ye together first the tares, and bind them in bundles (i.e. together) to burn them". "First" here may well mean 'most importantly' rather than first in terms of time. It will be our Lord's desire to get the miserable business of destroying willful sinners over and done with as quickly as possible- a far cry from the orthodox belief that Jesus somehow revels in the punishment of sinners. He can then concentrate on the joy of having the wheat gathered (together) into his barn (Mt. 13:30).

- Christ "will appoint (the wicked servant) his portion with the unbelievers" (Lk. 12:46), his portion with the hypocrites (Mt. 24:51), reminiscent of a "goat" in the later parable  being told to go to the group of goats at the left hand side- "the unbelievers", i.e. those responsible but lacking in real faith (the word is used concerning this group in Jn. 20:27; Mt. 17:20; Rom. 11:20; Heb. 3:12; Tit. 1:15; Rev. 21:8).

- Thus "the ungodly shall not stand in the judgment (cp. Dan. 12:13), nor sinners in the congregation of the righteous" (Ps. 1:5)- i.e. the group ("congregation") of sheep at the judgment.

- "In a moment...the dead shall be raised incorruptible (i.e.) we shall all be changed" (1 Cor. 15:52). "The dead" here refers to the group of dead believers who will be found worthy. Their immortality will be granted to them together, as a group, "in a moment".  Yet in a sense we will each receive our reward immediately after our interview with the Lord- another powerful indicator that the meaning of time must be collapsed at the day of judgment. The words of Mt. 25:34 are spoken collectively: "Come, ye (not 'thou', singular) blessed...ye gave me meat...then shall the righteous answer him, saying, Lord, When saw we thee an hungered...". Yet we know that there must be an individual judgment. These words sound as if we are all judged together, at the same time. Again, the reconciliation of this is in appreciating that the meaning of time will be collapsed. In similar vein, the rejected going off to try to get oil and then turning up later at the judgment (Mt. 25:10) probably describes a process that occurs in the minds of the people, rather than something which occurs in real time- although it may feel like real time to them. The existence of these two groups at the judgment explains how the men of Nineveh and Sheba will "rise up in the judgment" and condemn the rejected Jews; if they are in the group of sheep facing the group of goats in which the faithless Jews will be. The wicked will walk naked, and the accepted believers will then see their shame (Rev. 16:15). The rejected will experience "shame and everlasting contempt" at the judgment (Dan. 12:2). Shame and contempt must be in the eyes of others- i.e. the group of 'sheep'? Likewise the words we speak about others in secret will then be spoken for all to hear; and therefore we should be open in our words now, without hypocrisy (Lk. 12:1-3). The RVmg. of Lk. 12:1 makes this warning even more urgent: "First of all beware ye of…hypocrisy". It really is a major feature of the sinful nature which should be watched out for.

-      The man who starts building his spirituality but can't finish is to be "mocked" by those who behold him (Lk. 14:29)- and yet the world rather commends those who renege on their commitment to Christ. Surely this refers to walking naked at the day of judgment, and his shame being seen openly? "Everlasting contempt" suggests that the failure of the rejected and God's condemnation of their sin will be permanently in the consciousness of the faithful throughout the Millennium, or even the entire ages of eternity (cp. Is. 66:23,24). Perhaps it is in this sense that "we shall judge angels" (1 Cor. 6:3)- rejected ecclesial elders, cp. the angels of the churches in Rev. 2,3?

The question arises, In which group will you stand? The eternal chasm between them was foreseen by the Psalmist: "As for such as turn aside unto their crooked ways, the Lord shall lead them forth with the workers of iniquity [cp. the condemned goats]: but peace shall be upon Israel [the sheep, looking on at the rejection of the wicked]" (Ps. 125:5). Those who will want to cross the chasm then will be unable to (Lk. 16:26); the great gulf is fixed. In the context of describing the establishment of the Kingdom, we read that God's servants will eat, drink and rejoice, singing for joy of heart, at the same time as the rejected will be ashamed, hunger and thirst and howl for "breaking of spirit"- all the language of the rejected (Is. 65:13,14,17,18 RVmg.). It seems that this is a picture of the rejected watching the accepted eating with Christ as the Passover is eaten anew. Hence their howling and shame; for shame implies being naked in the presence of others. Thus the rejected will in some sense be in the presence of the accepted.