The Source of the Millennial Inhabitants
Copyright 2010 by Raul E. Lopez, MD, MDiv
One of the arguments used against the post tribulational rapture is that if (1) only redeemed people enter the millennium, and (2) all redeemed people are raptured right before the beginning of the millennium, then (3) there is nobody left to repopulate the Earth during the millennium. In fact, it is possible that one of the main driving forces behind the formulation and propagation of the pretribulational rapture theory was its seeming ability to explain the source of the millennial inhabitants. Pretribulationalism postulates that those who enter the millennium are the ones who were saved during the tribulation. However, the two premises (statements 1 & 2) presented in the first sentence of this paragraph are likely incorrect.
The first assumption is that only redeemed people enter the millennium. This is based on the apparent chronology of a certain passage, but this chronology is assumed, not stated. The passage is the so called judgment of the nations described in the olivet discourse. "When 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: And before him shall be gathered all nations: and he shall separate them one from another, as a shepherd divideth [his] sheep from the goats: And he shall set the sheep on his right hand, but the goats on the left. (Matthew 25:31-33). The main issue here is whether this judgement occurs immediately after the second coming of Christ or some time later. In other words, must the word ‘when' mean immediately after or can it mean something else.
A look through the New Testament demonstrates that the word ‘hotan' translated ‘when', has more of a conditional meaning than temporal meaning. In other words, it does not necessarily mean "immediately after" but rather "as a result of." An example is found in the beatitudes where the Lord says "Blessed are ye, when [men] shall revile you, and persecute [you], and shall say all manner of evil against you falsely, for my sake." (Matthew 5:11). This statement means that there is a relationship between persecution and being blessed. It does not mean that the blessing immediately follows the persecution. In fact, here, the blessing is probably not even a direct result of being persecuted, but, rather, persecution is likely the result of a character trait that produces both blessing and persecution. Therefore, the persecution is more like a sign which indicates that this character trait is being exhibited. Since this character trait also produces blessing, the persecution is a sign that the blessing is coming. Jesus confirms this in the next verse when He says "Rejoice, and be exceeding glad: for great [is] your reward in heaven: for so persecuted they the prophets which were before you." (Matthew 5:12). The persecution is not the blessing, the reward in heaven many years from now is the blessing. Therefore, the word ‘hotan' indicates a logical result or connection, not necessarily an immediate temporal sequence.
Furthermore, prophecy is notorious for juxtaposing together events which are separated by long periods of time but are logically related. In other words, prophecy often uses a thematic organization, rather than a chronological organization. That is because the purpose of prophecy is not simply to satisfy people's curiosity about he future, but to motivate them to obey God. Prophecies are theological sermons, not history textbooks. In prophecy, events which are logically connected often seem to be chronologically superimposed even though they are often separated by large periods of time.
Prophetic passages exhibit what can be called a lack of chronological depth perception. Human vision behaves in a similar way, the further away an object is located the flatter it appears to be. If one hold a marble at arms length it appears to be a sphere. However, the moon, which is also a sphere and which, because of its distance, appears to be the same size as the marble (that is, has the same angular dimension) seems to be flat because it is far away. So too, mountains which may be many miles farther than the foothills may seem to be right behind them because both are far away. As prophecy comes closer to its fulfillment the chronology becomes more apparent. We suspect this is true of New Testament prophecy because clear example of this phenomena occur in Old Testament prophecy. We know this is true of Old Testament prophecy because there are examples where part of a passage has already been fulfilled but the rest has not. An example of this telescoping effect in prophecy is found in the Lord's teaching in a synagogue in Nazareth. He said: "The Spirit of the Lord [is] upon me, because he hath anointed me to preach the gospel to the poor; he hath sent me to heal the brokenhearted, to preach deliverance to the captives, and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty them that are bruised, To preach the acceptable year of the Lord. And he closed the book, and he gave [it] again to the minister, and sat down. And the eyes of all them that were in the synagogue were fastened on him. And he began to say unto them, This day is this scripture fulfilled in your ears. (Luke 4:18-21). The Old Testament scripture He quoted says: "The Spirit of the Lord GOD [is] upon me; because the LORD hath anointed me to preach good tidings unto the meek; he hath sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to [them that are] bound; To proclaim the acceptable year of the LORD, and the day of vengeance of our God; to comfort all that mourn;" (Isaiah 61:1-2)
Here Old Testament prophecy juxtaposes the preaching of salvation by Jesus in His first coming with His role as executor in His second coming. However, as Jesus was preaching, He stopped in the middle of the verse because only the first half was being fulfilled at that time. Therefore, it would not be outside of customary usage for the second coming of Christ to be logically juxtaposed to an event which occurs a thousand years later but is a logical consequence of the first.
Since the word translated ‘when' in the passage describing the so called judgment of the nations, denotes a logical rather that a temporal relationship, the timing of this judgement must be determined by the character of the judgment itself and its similarity to other judgments in scripture.
In general, this is not an easy passage to interpret under any theological system and it contains a number of interpretational difficulties. For example, one of these difficulties is the conditions stated for entrance into salvation or damnation. It seems to teach a works based salvation. This will be discussed later, but it shows how the interpretation of the passage might not be as simple as some make it seem.
Nevertheless, the view held by most pretribulationalists, that this is a judgment of the gentiles which takes place before the millennium adds even more interpretational difficulties to the passage. Perhaps the most important difficulty is that the New Testament seems to strongly imply that as long as a person is physically alive he has an opportunity to be saved. The writer of Hebrew said "And as it is appointed unto men once to die, but after this the judgment:" (Hebrews 9:27). However, in the passage we are looking at in Matthew, many of the plaintiffs are being sent biologically alive into eternal condemnation. "And these shall go away into everlasting punishment: but the righteous into life eternal." (Matthew 25:46). This fact argues that these are not humans in their mortal bodies. Furthermore, these are not being sent into hades or Gehenna, which is the hell where the wicked dead reside at this time. Instead, these are being sent into everlasting punishment. This implies something more permanent than hell. Hell is temporary, John says that hell will be emptied, its occupants judged, and then sent into the lake of fire where they will spend eternity. John says "And 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. And 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. And 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. And death and hell were cast into the lake of fire. This is the second death. And whosoever was not found written in the book of life was cast into the lake of fire. (Revelation 20:11-15).
Some extremely wicked people in the Bible have repented and been converted after a special encounter with the Lord. At least one of these was converted as he was dying. The thieves on the cross were probably guilty of armed robbery and murder. Yet one of them turned to Jesus for mercy and He promised Him a place in paradise. "And one of the malefactors which were hanged railed on him, saying, If thou be Christ, save thyself and us. But the other answering rebuked him, saying, Dost not thou fear God, seeing thou art in the same condemnation? And we indeed justly; for we receive the due reward of our deeds: but this man hath done nothing amiss. And he said unto Jesus, Lord, remember me when thou comest into thy kingdom. And Jesus said unto him, Verily I say unto thee, To day shalt thou be with me in paradise." (Luke 23:39-43). This man was not a nice guy, he had earlier been mocking Jesus just like the other thief and like the rest of the crowd, but he had a change of heart at the last minute and God forgave him.
One of the most evil persons who ever lived was transformed into the apostle Paul after receiving a special private vision of the glorified Jesus. We often do not take Paul's evaluation of himself seriously, but if the Bible means what it says then Paul was the greatest of sinners. "This [is] a faithful saying, and worthy of all acceptation, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners; of whom I am chief. Howbeit for this cause I obtained mercy, that in me first Jesus Christ might shew forth all longsuffering, for a pattern to them which should hereafter believe on him to life everlasting. (I Timothy 1:15-16). Paul says that God forgave and transformed such a wicked man as himself as an example to give hope to any who might want to be saved. This is the equivalent of someone like Fidel Castro or Ahmadinejad, the president of Iran getting saved and becoming a devout Christian missionary. Now, it is certainly possible that God simply will stop the work of the spirit which is an essential ingredient in any conversion, so that these sentenced individuals will stand before the glorified Savior in their un-resurrected bodies with hardened hearts refusing to be converted, but that simply does not seem to follow the pattern of Biblical revelation on the matter. It seems that as long as a person is alive he has a chance to be saved.
In case that someone might argue that God only saves wicked people in the dispensation of grace, the Old Testament also has some examples of wicked people being converted. "But there was none like unto Ahab, which did sell himself to work wickedness in the sight of the LORD, whom Jezebel his wife stirred up. And he did very abominably in following idols, according to all [things] as did the Amorites, whom the LORD cast out before the children of Israel. And it came to pass, when Ahab heard those words, that he rent his clothes, and put sackcloth upon his flesh, and fasted, and lay in sackcloth, and went softly. And the word of the LORD came to Elijah the Tishbite, saying, Seest thou how Ahab humbleth himself before me? because he humbleth himself before me, I will not bring the evil in his days: [but] in his son's days will I bring the evil upon his house." (II Kings 21:25-29) It is not absolutely certain that Ahab repented to the point of being saved, but God does say that Ahab humbled himself before God, and that God forgave the punishment on him as an individual. Humility and forgiveness are signs associated with salvation. God also forgave Nebuchadnezzar, a gentile ruler, after He humbled him with sickness.
These passages and examples seem to strongly indicate that as long as a person is biologically alive he has a chance to be saved, and they seem to indicate that God would not send people to hell as long as they are biologically alive. After all, as long as someone is alive his name is still in the book of life. This name seems to be erased once the unsaved person dies. The only exception to this principle are the AntiChrist and the false prophet, but they are sent straight to the lake of fire, not to hell. "And the beast was taken, and with him the false prophet that wrought miracles before him, with which he deceived them that had received the mark of the beast, and them that worshipped his image. These both were cast alive into a lake of fire burning with brimstone. And the remnant were slain with the sword of him that sat upon the horse, which [sword] proceeded out of his mouth: and all the fowls were filled with their flesh." (Revelation 19:20-21) The others who fought against Christ were killed the normal way and sent to hell to wait for the Great White Throne Judgement.
The judgment of the sheep and the goats bears some resemblance to the Great White throne judgment described towards the end of the book of Revelation and mentioned a few paragraphs earlier in this book. If this identification could be made, it would support a post tribulational rapture. Some Bible scholars believe that the judgement of the nations is simple the Great White throne judgement. However, in all honesty there are also some difficulties making this identification. The difficulty lies in the surprise expressed by the righteous.
34 Then 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:
35 For 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:
36 Naked, and ye clothed me: I was sick, and ye visited me: I was in prison, and ye came unto me.
37 Then shall the righteous answer him, saying, Lord, when saw we thee an hungred, and fed [thee]? or thirsty, and gave [thee] drink?
38 When saw we thee a stranger, and took [thee] in? or naked, and clothed [thee]?
39 Or when saw we thee sick, or in prison, and came unto thee?
40 And 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. (Matthew 25:34-40).
They are surprised to be told that the reason they can enter into the kingdom is that they ministered seemingly directly to Jesus. This statement is surprising even to us now. As evangelical Protestants we believe that we are saved by faith, not by works. The apostle Paul clearly states "For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: [it is] the gift of God: Not of works, lest any man should boast. (Ephesians 2:8-9). However, many of us forget that salvation must be evidenced by good works. A person who claims to be saved but shows no evidence of a transformed life, needs to reevaluate the basis of his claim to salvation. We often quote the words of Paul just as they appear above, stopping at verse nine. However, the next verse is equally important. It says "For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them. ( Ephesians 2:10). It is possible that the surprise expressed by the righteous at this judgement is exactly the same surprise expressed by us at this time. We are surprised that God would use our feeble good works as evidence of salvation. If this interpretation is valid, then the judgement of the sheep and the goats is simply the great white throne judgment where all the living and the dead, the righteous and the unrighteous will be judged.
However, there are several problems with that view as well. First of all, the passage does not actually say that their service for Christ is the evidence of salvation, but the cause for being allowed into the kingdom. The king says, "come . . . inherit . . . because I was hungered and you fed me, etc." Their treatment of the brethren of the King, that is, the royal family, is the reason these people are offered entrance into the kingdom. Furthermore, a careful look at the question made by both the righteous and by the unrighteous shows that the object of their surprise is different than ours when we look at that passage. We are surprised by the role which works play in the final outcome, they are surprised that Jesus identifies Himself so closely with His brethren, whoever they might be. In effect they ask: "When did we minister to you directly?" It seems evident to us that resurrected believers or righteous millennial inhabitants would not ask such a question, especially if they have ever studied this passage in the past. We know that one of the most important ways we obey the first commandment to love the Lord is by obeying the second commandment to love our neighbor as ourselves.
Neither view satisfactorily resolves these difficulties. I believe that the best solution is to see this passage as a parable. This passage concludes a larger passage which contains two stories which are clearly parables. These are the parable of the unwise virgins, and the parable of the talents. It seems consistent that this last lesson would also be a parable. As fundamentalists we are committed to a literal interpretation of the Bible. However, it is also essential to not interpret symbolical passages literally or we can end up teaching error. An important example of this is the Lord's supper. The Roman Catholic Church has built a whole false doctrinal edifice on their literal interpretation of a symbol. In so doing that organization has turned Jesus into a piece of bread, a piece of bread into an idol, and has sent millions to hell (which it calls purgatory) and it has made itself rich and powerful.
Jesus said "And as they were eating, Jesus took bread, and blessed [it], and brake [it], and gave [it] to the disciples, and said, Take, eat; this is my body. (Matthew 26:26). Luke records additional information "And he took bread, and gave thanks, and brake [it], and gave unto them, saying, This is my body which is given for you: this do in remembrance of me. (Luke 22:19). Just because the Lord's supper serves as a memorial does not mean it is merely a symbol. In fact, nothing could be more effective at focusing our remembrance than to think that every time we observe the Lord's supper that the body of Jesus is in some way actually present in the bread. This event is recorded four times in the New Testament and there is nothing in the immediate context of the four passages which would indicate that the words of Jesus should not be taken literally. Evidence for this is that even the reformers interpreted these sayings with some degree of literalness. The reason Baptists and many Evangelicals take these words to be symbolic is because of the theological consequences of a literal interpretation. These theological consequences seem to contradict other passages of scriptures.
The same thing is true of the passage in Matthew we are analyzing. A completely literal interpretation of this passage seems to contradict the general tenor of scripture. However, if this passage is a parable, then it is necessary to find out what principles and events it is teaching. In order to do so it is important to look at some Old Testament background. The passage which Peter quoted from Joel on the day of Pentecost continues to describe a judgment of the nations (Joel 2:28-3:16):
28 And it shall come to pass afterward, [that] I will pour out my spirit upon all flesh; and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, your old men shall dream dreams, your young men shall see visions:
29 And also upon the servants and upon the handmaids in those days will I pour out my spirit.
30 And I will shew wonders in the heavens and in the earth, blood, and fire, and pillars of smoke.
31 The sun shall be turned into darkness, and the moon into blood, before the great and the terrible day of the LORD come.
32 And it shall come to pass, [that] whosoever shall call on the name of the LORD shall be delivered: for in mount Zion and in Jerusalem shall be deliverance, as the LORD hath said, and in the remnant whom the LORD shall call.
1 For, behold, in those days, and in that time, when I shall bring again the captivity of Judah and Jerusalem,
2 I 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.
3 And they have cast lots for my people; and have given a boy for an harlot, and sold a girl for wine, that they might drink.
4 Yea, and what have ye to do with me, O Tyre, and Zidon, and all the coasts of Palestine? will ye render me a recompence? and if ye recompense me, swiftly [and] speedily will I return your recompence upon your own head;
5 Because ye have taken my silver and my gold, and have carried into your temples my goodly pleasant things:
6 The children also of Judah and the children of Jerusalem have ye sold unto the Grecians, that ye might remove them far from their border.
7 Behold, I will raise them out of the place whither ye have sold them, and will return your recompence upon your own head:
8 And I will sell your sons and your daughters into the hand of the children of Judah, and they shall sell them to the Sabeans, to a people far off: for the LORD hath spoken [it].
9 Proclaim ye this among the Gentiles; Prepare war, wake up the mighty men, let all the men of war draw near; let them come up:
10 Beat your plowshares into swords, and your pruninghooks into spears: let the weak say, I [am] strong.
11 Assemble yourselves, and come, all ye heathen, and gather yourselves together round about: thither cause thy mighty ones to come down, O LORD.
12 Let the heathen be wakened, and come up to the valley of Jehoshaphat: for there will I sit to judge all the heathen round about.
13 Put 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.
14 Multitudes, multitudes in the valley of decision: for the day of the LORD [is] near in the valley of decision.
15 The sun and the moon shall be darkened, and the stars shall withdraw their shining.
16 The LORD also shall roar out of Zion, and utter his voice from Jerusalem; and the heavens and the earth shall shake: but the LORD [will be] the hope of his people, and the strength of the children of Israel.
This is a rather long passage, however, notice, first of all, the order of the passage. This order is probably somewhat chronological although there is also probably a topical aspect to its organization. The Holy Spirit is poured out in verses 2:28-29. Then there will be signs in the heavens in verses 2:30-31. These signs mark the end of the tribulation. After this, verse 2:32 talks about deliverance, most likely the rapture of believers. After this verses 3:1-11 describes the Lord gathering the nations into the valley of Jehoshaphat and the selling of the Jews into slavery. This probably occurs throughout the great tribulation but climaxes at the second coming of Christ. Verses 3:12-16 describes a great judgment of the nations. Notice the imagery used is similar to that in the olivet discourse. In verse 3:12 it says that the Lord will sit in judgment there. In verse 2:14 the valley of Jehoshaphat is called the valley of decision. This can only mean that those who are participating in this attack have an important decision to make. Their participation in this attack will determine their eternal destiny. Those who participate will be doomed to eternal damnation. This destruction, which results in eternal death, is described in verse 13 as a harvest of grapes just as it is described in the book of Revelation (verse 14:18). There it calls the area where the battle occurs as the valley of Armageddon.
On the other hand, Isaiah describes the fate of those who do not participate in the attack. (Isaiah 66:15-21)
15 For, behold, the LORD will come with fire, and with his chariots like a whirlwind, to render his anger with fury, and his rebuke with flames of fire.
16 For by fire and by his sword will the LORD plead with all flesh: and the slain of the LORD shall be many.
17 They that sanctify themselves, and purify themselves in the gardens behind one [tree] in the midst, eating swine's flesh, and the abomination, and the mouse, shall be consumed together, saith the LORD.
18 For I [know] their works and their thoughts: it shall come, that I will gather all nations and tongues; and they shall come, and see my glory.
19 And I will set a sign among them, and I will send those that escape of them unto the nations, [to] Tarshish, Pul, and Lud, that draw the bow, [to] Tubal, and Javan, [to] the isles afar off, that have not heard my fame, neither have seen my glory; and they shall declare my glory among the Gentiles.
20 And they shall bring all your brethren [for] an offering unto the LORD out of all nations upon horses, and in chariots, and in litters, and upon mules, and upon swift beasts, to my holy mountain Jerusalem, saith the LORD, as the children of Israel bring an offering in a clean vessel into the house of the LORD.
21 And I will also take of them for priests [and] for Levites, saith the LORD.
It appears that those who are not destroyed in the great battle of Armageddon are given a chance to convert and it seems that the majority do so. This conversion takes place after the Lord returns. Two facts make this plain. First of all, those who are given this chance are those who remain after the Lord return and slays many in verse 16. Secondly the Lord is the one who sends a remnant of Jewish missionaries to the nations which remain. It says that many of these nations are those who have never heard of the glory of God. This means that they are unsaved as they enter the millennium, but they also did not participate in the battle against Jerusalem. Not only that, but these are the nations to which the people of God fled during their time of persecution. Therefore, these nations, in general, harbored the jews and other persecuted believers, and did what they could to mitigate their persecution. It is interesting that even during WWII not all Nazi administrators treated their subjects equally. There were administrator in parts of occupied Eastern Europe who interpreted the Nazi philosophy differently, gave their subjects greater freedom, and were much less aggressive in their participation in the Nazi attempts to exterminate the Jews. Hitler often gave very vague directives and left it up to his subordinates to decide what he meant.
It is significant that some of the nations mentioned here also are mentioned in another passage as being opposed to the invasion of Jerusalem. This is the passage which describes the invasion of Gog and Magog. "Son of man, set thy face against Gog, the land of Magog, the chief prince of Meshech and Tubal, and prophesy against him, And say, Thus saith the Lord GOD; Behold, I [am] against thee, O Gog, the chief prince of Meshech and Tubal:" (Ezekiel 38:2-3). Several nations seem to question this invasion but are powerless to prevent it. "Sheba, and Dedan, and the merchants of Tarshish, with all the young lions thereof, shall say unto thee, Art thou come to take a spoil? hast thou gathered thy company to take a prey? to carry away silver and gold, to take away cattle and goods, to take a great spoil?" (Ezekiel 26:13).
Even though this battle probably precedes the seventieth week, this seems to imply a division of the world into blocks which might be difficult to reconcile. Not all nations will participate equally in the persecutions and battles of the seventieth week. Some nations will be unwilling hostages to the world government and will be constantly resisting it. They probably will not send troops to the final battle of Armageddon. It is similar in a way to the old Soviet block. Russia was the core of the communist system. The other soviet republics were the next most oppressed, then followed the three Baltic nations which were quasi-independent members of the Soviet Union, then the eastern block nations. Among the eastern block nations East Germany and especially Yugoslavia, were the most independent. Finally, Finland tended to follow the lead of the Soviet Union because of their proximity but was a socialist, not a communist state.
The battle of Armageddon presents the nations of the world with a decision. They must answer the question raised by Tarshish and her allies. Are you as nations and individual going to go up against a defenseless but prosperous country in order to take her people, her land and her possessions and in that way participate in the genocide of God's people? Or, are you simply going to stay home and sit this battle out? The way that nations and individuals answer this question will determine their eternal future. The Lord will sit to judge them at the valley of Jehoshaphat. Those who answer the question incorrectly will die in battle and end up in hell. Those who answer correctly will live and enter, perhaps unwillingly, into the kingdom of Jesus Christ where they will get a chance to voluntarily believe in Jesus Christ for salvation. The nation of Israel herself, the victim of this battle will also be converted after the second coming of Jesus Christ.
Therefore, the parable of the sheep and the goats teaches that it is often the case that the way that an unbeliever treats the people of God, who serve as God's messengers, determines whether or not he will receive salvation. Those who oppose and avoid God's people will probably never receive a chance to hear the gospel. Those who associate with God's people, who befriend them and who accede to go to their church activities are the ones who often take the next step and become a child of God themselves. The Samaritan woman at the well was willing to give Jesus some water and as a result many in her town were saved, but the Gadarenes cared more about their pigs than about the health of a poor demon possessed boy and passed up a great opportunity to receive salvation. Often this decision is made for people by others, by a parent or by a government. Some German princes protected Luther for political and humanitarian reasons and the Gospel had a chance to flourish in Germany and in the countries of Northern Europe. On the other hand, the Spanish king persecuted the Spanish reformers and for many centuries doomed Spain, Latin America and Southern Europe to the darkness of idolatrous post reformation Roman Catholicism.
Therefore, it is possible that this judgment is a representation, in the form of a parable, of the outcome of the battle of Armageddon. It is important to emphasize that this parable is somewhat different from others in that it does not just represent general principle, it also describes an actual literal event. It simply does not reveal all the details associated with that event, but, rather, focuses on the principles at play. Nevertheless, one must remember that there are three reasons why it seems that this passage should be taken as a parable and not as a full representation of events as they actually occur. First of all, taking the passage as a full literal representation of events seems to create some theological problems, implying that grace is not available to all people as long as they are still in their biological bodies. Secondly, the context within the passage is that of teaching which take the form of parables. In other words, the larger context contains several parables. Finally, other passages which deal with this period of time, that immediately following the second coming of Christ, use similar terminology to refer to the battle of Armageddon.
Paul, in a similar passage condenses all the end time judgments into one verse. He says, "I charge [thee] therefore before God, and the Lord Jesus Christ, who shall judge the quick and the dead at his appearing and his kingdom;" (II Timothy 4:1). Here the judgment of the living which takes place before the beginning of His Earthly kingdom is combined with His judgment of the dead which takes place after the millennium before the beginning of the Lord's eternal kingdom at the Great White Throne Judgment. The parable of the sheep and the goats seems to be doing the same thing.
Therefore, the millennial kingdom will be populated by the remnant of the nation of Israel and by people who did not collaborate in the slaughter of God's people. In general, these are people who are members of people groups who, as a whole, gave the persecuted people of God succor and harbor to the best of their abilities. These might include groups who were in open rebellion against the world regime, since the Lord's prediction of wars and rumors of war implies a time of constant warfare, civil war, and rebellion against the central government. It is interesting that the reward is entrance into a kingdom which was prepared in eternity past, but they are not themselves promised eternal life. "Then 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: (Matthew 25:34). Eternal life comes only as a result of expressing faith in the redeeming work of Christ. This they will have a chance to do during the next thousand years.
The wicked, on the other hand go up to the valley of decision as a result of their wrong, selfish, wicked decision. There the Lord slaughters these armies of unconverted people and sends them to their death. Since they died in their sin, as witnessed by their actions, they are now condemned to eternal damnation like anyone else who dies in a state of rebellion to God in this age. Their eternal destiny is settled by their death, but that of the righteous, mentioned above, is not yet settled. "Then 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: The wicked will finally hear their sentence personally and perhaps try to argue their case when they stand before God at the Great White Throne Judgment a thousand years later.
top of page