Dispensationalism

10 - Is the Judgment In Matthew 25 of Nations or Individuals?

By Dr. Paul M. Elliott
Taken as a whole, Scripture never teaches a judgment of nations or ethnic groups, but of individuals, and the basis of judgment is not nations' treatment of the Jews, but individuals' violation of God's holy Law.

From the TeachingtheWord Bible Knowledgebase

 

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. 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. Then the King will say to those on His right hand, "Come, you blessed of My Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world: for I was hungry and you gave Me food; I was thirsty and you gave Me drink; I was a stranger and you took Me in; I was naked and you clothed Me; I was sick and you visited Me; I was in prison and you came to Me."

Then the righteous will answer Him, saying, "Lord, when did we see You hungry and feed You, or thirsty and give You drink? When did we see You a stranger and take You in, or naked and clothe You? Or when did we see You sick, or in prison, and come to You?" And the King will answer and say to them, "Assuredly, I say to you, inasmuch as you did it to one of the least of these My brethren, you did it to Me."

Then He will also say to those on the left hand, "Depart from Me, you cursed, into the everlasting fire prepared for the devil and his angels: for I was hungry and you gave Me no food; I was thirsty and you gave Me no drink; I was a stranger and you did not take Me in, naked and you did not clothe Me, sick and in prison and you did not visit Me."

Then they also will answer Him, saying, "Lord, when did we see You hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison, and did not minister to You?" Then He will answer them, saying, "Assuredly, I say to you, inasmuch as you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to Me." And these will go away into everlasting punishment, but the righteous into eternal life. (Matthew 25:31-46)

There is a teaching, common with some variations among Dispensationalists, that the Judgment of which Jesus spoke in Matthew chapter 25 is a judgment of nations, not of individuals, and that this judgment is based upon the nations' treatment of the Jews. There are said to be three classes of people at the Judgment - the "sheep", the "goats", and "My brethren" who are alleged to be the Jews.

Does Scripture support this teaching? It does not. Taken as a whole, Scripture never teaches a judgment of nations or ethnic groups, but of individuals, and the basis of judgment is not nations' treatment of the Jews, but individuals' violation of God's holy Law.

The Nature of the Judgment

Romans 2:5-10 describes the Day of Judgment as

the day of wrath and revelation of the righteous judgment of God, who "will render to each one according to his deeds": eternal life to those who by patient continuance in doing good seek for glory, honor, and immortality; but to those who are self-seeking and do not obey the truth, but obey unrighteousness - indignation and wrath, tribulation and anguish, on every soul of man who does evil, of the Jew first and also of the Greek [i.e., Gentile]; but glory, honor, and peace to everyone who works what is good, to the Jew first and also to the Greek [Gentile]. (Romans 2:5-10)

Throughout the book of Romans the Holy Spirit through the Apostle Paul is building the case that the judgment of God is the same upon all men, regardless of nationality or ethnicity, and is based upon every human being's violation of God's holy Law.

What then? Are we [Jews] better than they [Gentiles]? Not at all. For we have previously charged both Jews and Greeks that they are all under sin. As it is written [and Paul then quotes several passages from the Old Testament]: "There is none righteous, no, not one; there is none who understands; there is none who seeks after God. They have all turned aside; they have together become unprofitable; there is none who does good, no, not one." "Their throat is an open tomb; with their tongues they have practiced deceit"; "The poison of asps is under their lips"; "Whose mouth is full of cursing and bitterness." "Their feet are swift to shed blood; destruction and misery are in their ways; and the way of peace they have not known." "There is no fear of God before their eyes."

Now we know that whatever the Law says, it says to those who are under the Law, that every mouth may be stopped, and all the world may become guilty before God. Therefore by the deeds of the Law no flesh will be justified in His sight, for by the Law is the knowledge of sin.

But now the righteousness of God apart from the Law is revealed, being witnessed by the Law and the Prophets, even the righteousness of God, through faith in Jesus Christ, to all and on all who believe. For there is no difference; for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, being justified freely by His grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, whom God set forth as a propitiation by His blood, through faith, to demonstrate His righteousness, because in His forbearance God had passed over the sins that were previously committed, to demonstrate at the present time His righteousness, that He might be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus.

Where is boasting then? It is excluded. By what law? Of works? No, but by the law of faith. Therefore we conclude that a man is justified by faith apart from the deeds of the Law. Or is He the God of the Jews only? Is He not also the God of the Gentiles? Yes, of the Gentiles also, since there is one God who will justify the circumcised by faith and the uncircumcised through faith. Do we then make void the Law through faith? Certainly not! On the contrary, we establish the Law. (Romans 3:9-31)

For Christ is the end of the Law for righteousness to everyone who believes. For Moses writes about the righteousness which is of the Law, "The man who does those things shall live by them." But the righteousness of faith speaks in this way, "Do not say in your heart, 'Who will ascend into heaven?' " (that is, to bring Christ down from above) or, " 'Who will descend into the abyss?' " (that is, to bring Christ up from the dead). But what does it say? "The word is near you, in your mouth and in your heart" (that is, the word of faith which we preach): that if you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you will be saved. For with the heart one believes unto righteousness, and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation. For the Scripture says, "Whoever believes on Him will not be put to shame." For there is no distinction between Jew and Greek, for the same Lord over all is rich to all who call upon Him. For "whoever calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved." (Romans 10:4-13)

We Must Not Isolate Matthew 25

Commenting on this point in his famous lecture series on the book of Romans, Dr. Martyn Lloyd-Jones said the following:

There is a teaching, no doubt with which many are familiar, which says that [Matthew 25] is the judgment of the nations, and that the nations of the world are going to be judged as nations in that great day according to their treatment of the Jews... [T]he statement that we are looking together this evening [Romans 2:5-10] is more than a sufficient answer to that.

The apostle...goes out of his way to say that there is no difference between the Jew and Gentile. It is an individual judgment. Nowhere in the Scriptures, apart from that one isolated passage there in Matthew 25, suggests that there is going to be any sort of national judgment. Indeed, the whole of the Scriptures is against this...

He went on to say that the term "all the nations" is clearly a term indicating

"all the peoples". But from that point "nation" isn't mentioned. [The Lord Jesus] immediately goes on then to deal with these individuals who are going to be divided up as sheep and goats. There is nothing anywhere in the Scriptures to suggest that nations are going to be judged as nations, and that the determining factor of their fate will be their treatment of the Jews. Now, a matter of necessity arises at this point because the apostle says that the judgment is going to be "on every soul of man" [Romans 2:9] - not in blocks, not in groups, but individual and personal.

Dr. Lloyd-Jones then went on to address the vital importance of correctly understanding the teaching of the Scriptures regarding the Last Judgment in its entirety, and not isolating certain passages to support a particular false framework such as Dispensationalism's alleged eternal distinction between Jew and Gentile:

But not only is that important in terms of correct exposition of Scripture, but let us all remember that it is therefore something that speaks to us. Go back again and read Revelation 20, and there you will find that the same thing is emphasized: The dead are all going to be judged, those that are in the grave, those that are in the sea, it doesn't matter where they are, they will all arise and have to appear there and listen to this great sentence - all of us, believers as well as unbelievers. And it's because the believers are at that judgment that we are told that this second book appears, which is the Book of Life, in which they are written, and which will announce to them their glorious destiny. But they have to appear in this great judgment. And therefore I say it's important for us always to remember that it is something that is individual and personal...there will be no distinctions recognized whatsoever. [1]

Are You Ready to Face Judgment as an Individual?

With these great facts in view, dear friend, we must each answer the question: Am I ready to appear before the judgment seat of Christ? Will you be among the sheep - believers chosen in Christ from before the foundation of the world, and saved in this present world by the power of the Holy Spirit applying the redemption merited by Christ alone through His atoning death and triumphant resurrection? Or will the Lord, on that Day, say to you, "I never knew you" -

Many will say to Me in that day, "Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in Your name, cast out demons in Your name, and done many wonders in Your name?" And then I will declare to them, "I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness!" (Matthew 7:22-23)

I urge you, if you have never done so, to call upon the name of the Lord and be saved. If you have questions or wish to learn more about how to be saved, we invite you to contact us.

And as it is appointed for men to die once, but after this the judgment, so Christ was offered once to bear the sins of many. To those who eagerly wait for Him He will appear a second time, apart from sin, for salvation. (Hebrews 9:27-28)

 

References:

1. Martyn Lloyd-Jones "The Day of Judgement" in his lecture series on Romans, https://www.mljtrust.org/sermons-online/romans-2-6-10/the-day-of-judgement/

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