The Judgment Of The Nations

Death and Judgment


(Matthew 25:31-46)

TREMENDOUS JUDGMENT upon the nations of the earth, certain and sudden, has long been predicted by Israel’s prophets. Quite a number of passages in the Greek Scriptures (New Testament) are concerned with this theme as well. The time is coming, when the day of the Lord begins to unfold, when men will say, “Peace and security.” Yet it is at that very time when extermination will be standing by them unawares—“even as a pang over the pregnant, and they may by no means escape” (1 Thess.5:2,3).

The Lord’s words in Luke 21:24-27 direct us to this period as well: “And they shall be falling by the edge of the sword and shall be led into captivity into all nations. And Jerusalem shall be trodden by the nations, until the eras of the nations may be fulfilled. And there shall be signs in the sun and the moon and the constellations, and on the earth pressure of nations in perplexity, at the resounding of the sea and the shaking, at the chilling of men from fear and apprehensiveness of that which is coming on the inhabited earth, for the powers of the heavens shall be shaken. And then they shall be seeing the Son of Mankind coming in a cloud with power and much glory.”

Similarly, let us also note Matthew 24:7-9: “For roused shall be a nation against a nation, and a kingdom against a kingdom, and there shall be famines and quakes in places. Yet all these are the beginning of pangs. Then shall they be giving you up to affliction, and they shall be killing you, and you shall be hated by all of the nations because of My name.”

Incredible as it may seem, in due time, near the consummation of the eon, man’s wickedness and blindness will have become so intensified that the earth’s armies will be mobilized against God’s Christ. This will occur at the place called, in Hebrew, Armageddon (Rev.16:16). This is at the city of Megiddo, about 60 miles north of Jerusalem. Here is what will happen, as recorded by the apostle John:

“And I perceived heaven open, and lo! a white horse. And He Who is sitting on it is called ‘Faithful and True,’ and in righteousness is He judging and battling. Now His eyes are a flame of fire, and on His head are many diadems, having names written of which no one except Himself is aware, and He is clothed in a cloak dipped in blood, and His name is called ‘The Word of God.’ And the armies in heaven, dressed in cambric, white and clean, followed Him on white horses. And out of His mouth, a sharp blade is issuing, that with it He should be smiting the nations. And He will be shepherding them with an iron club. And He is treading the wine trough of the fury of the indignation of God, the Almighty. And on His cloak and on His thigh He has a name written: ‘King of kings and Lord of lords . . . .’

“And I perceived the wild beast and the kings of the earth and their armies, gathered to do battle with Him Who is sitting on the horse and with His army. And the wild beast is arrested, and with it the false prophet who does the signs in its sight, by which he deceives those getting the emblem of the wild beast, and those worshiping its image. Living, the two were cast into the lake of fire burning with sulphur. And the rest were killed with the blade[1] which is coming out of the mouth of Him Who is sitting on the horse. And all the birds are satisfied with their flesh” (Rev.19:11-21).

This terrible event is spoken of much earlier by Jeremiah (25:30-33): “Yahweh is roaring from the height, and is giving forth His voice from His holy habitation . . . .Yahweh has a contention with the nations. He enters into judgment with all flesh. The wicked He gives to the sword . . . . They shall not be bewailed, nor gathered, nor entombed. They shall become for manure on the surface of the ground.”

Similarly, Zechariah 14:12: “And this shall come to be the stroke with which Yahweh will strike all the peoples who mustered their hosts against Jerusalem: Putrefied is their flesh, yet they are standing on their feet, and their eyes shall putrefy in their holes, and their tongue shall putrefy in their mouths.” Also, Isaiah 63:2-4: “‘For what reason is there red on Thy clothing, and Thy garments are as the treader’s in a wine trough?’ ‘The winepress I trod alone, and of the peoples there is no man with Me, and I am treading them in My anger, and trampling them in My fury, and their gore is spattering on My garments, and all My clothing I sully. For the day of vengeance came for them, and the year of My redeemed has come.’” And, Revelation 6:16,17: “And they are saying to the mountains and to the rocks, ‘Fall on us and hide us from the face of Him Who is sitting on the throne, and from the indignation of the Lambkin, for the great day of Their indignation came, and who is able to stand?’”

Humanity will be at the depths of its depravity, for all dwelling on the earth will be worshiping Satan: “ . . . the whole earth marvels after the wild beast. And they worship the dragon, seeing that it gives authority to the wild beast. And they worship the wild beast, saying, ‘Who is like the wild beast?’ and ‘Who is able to battle with it?’” (Rev.13:3b,4). Yet in the destruction which follows, when the armies of the earth prepare for battle against God, they are obliterated before they can even move into position. Subsequently, the wild beast and the false prophet are cast into the lake of fire. Satan himself is chained and cast into the abyss and imprisoned there a thousand years (Rev.20:3). Thus all opposition to the establishment of the Messiah’s kingdom is silenced. Then it is that the seventh messenger trumpets: “And loud voices occurred in heaven, saying, ‘The kingdom of this world became our Lord’s and His Christ’s, and He shall be reigning for the eons of the eons! Amen!’” (Rev.11:15).

References may be found even in the Psalms to the One Who someday will judge all the nations (e.g., Psa.67:4; 82:8). The prophet Zephaniah gave this warning in 3:8: “Wherefore, tarry for Me (averring is Yahweh), for the day of My rising to testify, seeing that My judgment is to gather the nations, to convene the kingdoms, to pour out My menace upon them, all the heat of My anger, for, by the fire of My jealousy, the entire earth shall be devoured [subjected to widespread ruin and devastation].”

The prophet Joel gives further details: “For, behold, in those days, and in that season, when I shall turn back the captivity of Judah and Jerusalem, I will also convene all the nations and bring them down to the vale of Jehoshaphat. And I enter into judgment with them there concerning My people, and My allotment, Israel, whom they disperse among the nations, and My land which they apportion” (Joel 3:1,2). “Proclaim this among the nations! Hallow a war! Rouse the masters! All the mortals of war shall come close and ascend. Pound your mattocks into swords and your pruning hooks into lances! The defeatist shall say, A master am I! Mobilize and come, all nations from round about! And they are convened. There, Yahweh, settle Your masters! All the nations shall rouse and ascend to the vale of Jehoshaphat. For there will I sit to judge all the nations from round about. Send forth the sickle, for the harvest is ripe. Come, tread, for the wine trough is full, the wine vats run over, for great is their evil. Throngs, throngs in the vale of decision! The sun and the moon are somber, and the stars gather in their brightness. And Yahweh shall roar from Zion, and from Jerusalem shall He give forth His voice, and the heavens and the earth shall quake. Yet Yahweh is a refuge for His people, and a stronghold for the sons of Israel” (Joel 3:9-16).

dotred08.gif (215 bytes)


Finally, after the kingdom is established, comes the judgment of the nations themselves by the Son of Mankind before the throne of His glory. “Now, whenever the Son of mankind may be coming in His glory, and all the holy messengers with Him, then shall He be seated on the throne of His glory, and in front of Him shall be gathered all the nations. And He shall be severing them from one another even as a shepherd is severing the sheep from the kids. And He shall be standing the sheep, indeed, at His right, yet the kids at the left” (Matt.25:31-33).

The mere fact that this revelation is given in Matthew and concerns nations should settle the question of its application. Matthew is the kingdom account. It is intensely national. Matthew’s account is devoted especially to the King and contains the kingdom charter (cf Matt.5-7). Here Christ quotes Isaiah (42:1-3) to the effect that judging shall He be reporting to the nations (Matt.12:18). Isaiah goes right on to say (42:4) that He shall continue until He shall place judgment in the earth, and for His law, the coastlanders (“nations,” Septuagint) will wait. It is the nations of the earth themselves which are figured by the sheep and the kids, and it is the nations, as such, which take part in these judgments.

It is well to note that the names or even the genus of those spoken of here as His “holy messengers” is not revealed. It is enough to know that they are “holy” messengers, ones of high station themselves, for they are the retinue of the Son of Mankind, the very Sovereign of the universe.

By this time all opposition from the nations has been obliterated. Their leaders along with their military forces have been destroyed. A new political order needs to be established, a government under the headship of God’s people Israel.

Under the new covenant, God will put His spirit into the people of Israel. This will soften their hearts and cause them to walk in His law (Jer.31:31-34; Ezek.36:25-28). Then this nation of “priests” (Ex.19:6; SACRED-[one]s), chosen because of God’s love for their fathers (Deut.4:37; 7:7,8; 10:15), will hearken to the voice of Yahweh their Elohim, to observe and to keep all His instructions. And He will give them supremacy over all the nations of the earth (cp Deut.28:1). All the blessings promised by Moses will finally be their own—“all these blessings will come on you and overtake you in case you should hearken to the voice of Yahweh your Elohim” (Deut.28:2). “So Yahweh will make you to be the head and not the tail, and you will surely be above, and you shall not be below” (Deut.28:13a).

In order to commence the establishing of the kingdom, the King, the Son of Humanity, will gather all the nations before the throne of His glory. Perhaps the way this will occur is through representatives, as will evidently be the case when “All flesh shall come to worship before Me in Jerusalem, says Yahweh,” as often as the new moon comes in its monthly time, and as often as the sabbath comes in its sabbath cycle (Isa.66:23).

After all the nations are gathered before Him, He will be “severing them from one another even as a shepherd is severing the sheep from the kids” (Matt.25:32).

And He shall be standing the sheep, indeed, at His right, yet the kids at the left.

Then shall the King be declaring to those at His right, “Hither, blessed of My Father! Enjoy the allotment of the kingdom made ready for you from the disruption of the world. For I hunger and you give Me to eat; I thirst and you give Me drink; a stranger was I and you took Me in; naked and you clothed Me; infirm am I and you visit Me; in jail was I and you come to Me.”

Then the just will be answering Him, saying, “Lord, when did we perceive Thee hungering and nourish Thee, or thirsting and we give Thee drink? Now when did we perceive Thee a stranger and took Thee in, or naked and we clothed Thee? Now when did we perceive Thee infirm, or in jail, and we came to Thee?”

And, answering, the King shall be declaring to them, “Verily, I am saying to you, In as much as you do it to one of these, the least of My brethren, you do it to me.”

Then shall He be declaring to those also at His left, “Go from Me, you cursed, into the fire eonian, made ready for the adversary and his messengers. For I hungered and you do not give Me to eat; I thirst and you do not give Me drink; a stranger was I and you did not take Me in; naked and you did not clothe Me; infirm and in jail and you did not visit Me."

Then shall they also be answering, saying, “Lord, when did we perceive you hungering or thirsting, or a stranger, or naked, or infirm, or in jail, and we did not serve you?” Then shall He be answering them, saying, “Verily, I am saying to you, In as much as you do it not to one of these, the least, neither do you it to Me.” And these shall be coming away into chastening eonian, yet the just into life eonian (Matt.25:33-46).

“Obadiah actually gives us an example of this judgment recorded in Matthew. Speaking of Edom, he says: ‘Because of wrong done to your brother Jacob, shame shall cover you, and you shall be cut off for the eon’ (Obadiah 1:10). The basis of the judgment is found in these words (Obadiah 15,18): ‘For near is the day of Yahweh over all the nations, Just as you do, it shall be done to you. Your requital shall return on your own head . . . . And the house of Jacob shall become a fire, and the house of Joseph a blaze, and the house of Esau for straw, and they shall flare among them and devour them. And there shall not be a survivor for the house of Esau, for Yahweh speaks.’

“Perhaps Esau will receive the most severe judgment of any in that day. Yahweh has spoken of no other as he did of Jacob’s brother: ‘Esau I hate.’ In that day judgment will be executed by the ruling nation; hence we read that Jacob is a fire and Joseph a blaze. Once poor Jacob trembled before his more warlike brother; but then the tables will be turned. Esau will be as straw, devoured by the fiery judgments of that day. Edom was continually antagonistic to Israel, so will have no power in the kingdom. They depart into ‘the fire made ready for the adversary and his messengers.’ As a nation, Edom will be consumed by the judgment. Esau slandered and opposed Israel as no other; consequently, this judgment was prepared for him and other adversaries like him.

“The nations in the kingdom, during the millennium and in the new earth, will be allotted a place corresponding to their previous political treatment of Israel. Some will receive special blessings because they were kind to them. Others will be most severely disciplined because they had made no effort to alleviate their lot. ‘These shall be coming away into chastening eonian, yet the just into life eonian.’ Such is the only possible import of these much-abused words, when they are kept connected with their context, and viewed within the scope of the account which contains them. Matthew continues and completes the kingdom testimony of the prophets, and is in perfect agreement with it. As Son of Mankind, our Lord will adjudicate among the nations. All the debts of Israel must be paid. All wrongs must be recompensed.”[2]

It is evident—and propitiously so for the “sheep” nations at His right—that they will not be judged solely for their acts in the time of the end when they were under Babylon’s influence, otherwise none would be blessed. For during their great affliction Israel will be hated by every nation (Matt.24:9); the nations, without exception, will be angered (Rev.11:18), and all will be in the toils of Babylon (Rev.14:8). Therefore it must be the respective nations’ characteristic disposition toward Israel throughout all the eras of the nations which forms the basis of their judgment. It was during this long interval that the Jews were scattered among all nations and suffered the persecution by the left-hand nations. Likewise, it was during this same extensive period that the right-hand nations received their opportunities to provide the Jews with food and clothing, drink, and shelter. Thus all the contacts of the nations with Israel are included, which have varied greatly from time to time.

In the figure “kids,” we have the nations who declined to aid God’s people Israel in their distress. In a context dealing with nations, the Son of Mankind’s “brethren” (Matt.25:40), can be none other than the nation of Israel. It is they who are His brethren, His relatives according to the flesh (cp Rom.9:3,4). The nations will be judged according as they have treated God’s nation, and they, not individuals, will receive eonian chastening and eonian life.

Those nations who helped Israel—the “sheep” of this passage—are invited into the glorious eonian kingdom. That will be “life” indeed! The rest are pruned off, and, in the figurative language used, sent away “into the fire eonian.” Under strict “eonian chastening” (the parallel expression), though mortal life will continue, these nations will be excluded from the privileges which are centered upon Israel and which the nation of Israel will enjoy. With these contextual thoughts in view, we can better understand these special usages appearing before us of, “eonian life,” and “eonian chastening.”

dotred08.gif (215 bytes)


Perhaps the most common objection we receive concerning the eons is the argument that if “everlasting punishment” should ever come to an end, then “life eternal” (Matt.25:46, AV) would do the same. This popular assertion, however, is fallacious. The fact that such a claim should so long endure and conquer, is proof of the power of deception. If, on some grounds, it is true that those spoken of here as the recipients of a certain life will indeed, eventually, be the recipients of endless life, it does not follow that the life spoken of here speaks of the endless life into which they will one day enter. Similarly, it does not follow, if the judgment here is eonian and therefore the life is eonian as well, that when this period of life for those in view ends, all life for those in view ends. Such a notion is as foolish as would be the notion that when one’s teen-age years come to an end doubtlessly one’s life comes to an end.

Instead of the usual rendering, these words should be translated “chastening eonian” and “life eonian.” By its ending, -sis, kolasis (“chastening”) refers not to a state, but to an action continuing on. And it has in view[3] an action performed not as a penal infliction, but one with a view toward amendment or rectification. Since God is love, and wills to save all, His ultimate purpose in even His most severe judgments could never be the “eternal punishment” of anyone. He cannot deny Himself.

Indeed, it is well known that even the secular usage of kolasis had in view not some kind of terrible vindictive punishment, but acts done for the sake of betterment or correction.[4] In the Scriptures, in Acts 4:21, the Jews released John and Peter, “finding nothing how they should be chastening them.” Did they not aim to reform them? Was not their “chastening” with a view toward their returning to the unbelieving Jewish fold? From their standpoint, the word was certainly used to convey the idea of reformation. To show that it had this meaning in Greek usage, we cite Plato: “For if, O Socrates, you will consider what is the design of punishing kolazein the wicked, this of itself will show you that men think virtue something that may be acquired; for no one punishes kolazei the wicked looking to the past only, simply for the wrong he has done—that is, no one does this thing who does not act like a wild beast, desiring only revenge, without thought—hence he who seeks to punish (kolazein) with reason, does not punish for the sake of the past wrong deed, but for the sake of the future, that neither the man himself who is punished, may do wrong again, nor any other who has seen him chastised. And he who entertains this thought must believe that virtue may be taught, and he punishes (kolazei) for the purpose of deterring from wickedness.”[5]

It must be kept in mind that the words kolasin aionion (“chastening eonian”) in Matthew 25:46 are in reference to national judgments which the Son of Mankind will make in the day of the Lord, “whenever [He] may be coming in His glory” (Matt.25: 31). These judgments concern the kingdom of the heavens, and are to be implemented in the coming eon. This judgment of God, in no small part, is prompted by the unworthy way in which many of the living nations will treat the people of Israel in the time of her great affliction, in the conclusion of this present eon. Concerning the judgments of that day, Isaiah declares, “For as a light are Your judgments to the earth [O Yahweh], the dwellers of the habitance learn righteousness” (Isa.26:9b). Instead of suffering “the eternal torments of the damned,” the nations will “learn righteousness”!

James Coram

[1] These “supreme sinners . . . shall be tormented until they die . . . . some of them by the blade (Rev.19:21)” (CONCORDANT COMMENTARY, p.397).

[2] A. E. Knoch, UNSEARCHABLE RICHES, vol.35, pp.268-271

[3] This is not to say that “eonian chastening” does not entail penalty (i.e., punishment or penalization), but that it speaks of a judgment imposed with a view to the amendment of its subjects.

[4] e.g., cf John Wesley Hanson: EON, EONIAN, Northwestern Universalist Publishing House (1875), pp.50-55; F. W. Farrar: ETERNAL HOPE, pp. 199-201; MERCY AND JUDGMENT, pp.407-409

[5] *Hanson, op. cit., p.53; quotation from Protag., Sec.38, vol.1, p.252

This publication may be reproduced for personal use
(all other rights reserved by copyright holder).