Does Matthew 25 Teach a “General Judgment?”

 Some scholars teach a “general judgment” based on Matt. 25. Is this what the Bible teaches? As we look at a brief chronology of end time events, the “judgment of nations” found in Matt. 25 will come into focus. While many speculate about the antichrist, it is important to remember that we are not looking for the antichrist – we’re looking for Christ. The next event on the prophetic calendar is the rapture of the church. Christ will come, and we will be caught up to meet Him in the air. Then comes the Tribulation. At the end of the seven years, Christ will return to earth and set up His millenial reign.

Concerning the “judgment of nations” mentioned in Matt. 25, Gaebelein states,

The judgment is not a judgment of the entire human race. None of the dead are here. The dead Saints are raised when He comes in the air to receive His own and the dead martyrs of the tribulation period will also have been raised at the close of that period. The rest of the dead does not live till the thousand years of the Kingdom are ended (Rev. 20:5). Here the living nations are seen judged. The righteous nations who believed will remain on the earth for the Kingdom. The unrighteous will go into everlasting punishment.

Ironside distinguishes between this judgment (of nations) and the Great White Throne, he says,

This sessional judgment is to be distinguished from the judgment of the great white throne of Rev. 20:11-15, that will not take place on the earth at all, but will be the judgment of the wicked dead. Matt. 25:32 refers to a judgment of living nations prior to the millennium when the Son of man will come in the clouds of Heaven with his holy angels and sit on the throne of His glory. The other judgment—that of the great white throne—is after the millennium (the kingdom age) ends and the heavens and earth of the present order have vanished away. These two judgments are separated by a thousand years.

Wiersbe also cautions against confusing these two judgments, saying, “We must not confuse this judgment with the Great White Throne Judgment described in Rev. 20:11-15.” He adds,

Some scholars merge both passages and call this “the general judgment.” The Bible knows nothing of a “general judgment.” The judgment here in Matt. 25 takes place before the kingdom is established on earth, for the saved are told to “inherit the kingdom” (Matt. 25:34). The White Throne Judgment will take place after the 1,000-year reign of Christ (Rev. 20:7ff).

Wiersbe addresses another error that must be avoided. He states,

We must not force this passage to teach salvation by good works. A superficial reading would give the impression that helping one’s neighbor is sufficient to earn salvation and go to heaven. But this is not the message of this passage. Nobody at any time in the history of the world was ever saved by good works. The Old Testament saints were saved by faith (Heb. 11); the New Testament saints were saved by faith in Jesus Christ (Eph. 2:8-10). People today are saved the same way. The gospel of “do good” is not a scriptural message. It is right for believers to do good (Gal. 6:10; Heb. 13:16), but this is not the way unbelievers can be saved.

J. Vernon McGee adds, “During the Tribulation period all nations will have the opportunity to hear and receive God’s message. The gospel of the Kingdom will be preached among all nations. But some will reject God’s messengers, Christ’s brethren, and thereby reject Christ.”

Commenting on Matt. 25, Courson says,

In this parable, Jesus refers to the judgment of nations that will take place at the end of the Tribulation. According to Zech. 14:4, when Jesus comes back to earth, the Mount of Olives will split in half the moment His feet touch down upon it. I found it interesting that contractors were denied a permit to build a hotel on the Mount of Olives because seismological studies indicated a major fault running through it. When Jesus comes, that fault will split the mountain in half, a great valley will open up, and a new stream will begin to flow from the Dead Sea to the Mediterranean. Joel refers to this valley as the valley of decision (Joel 3:14) because those who survive the Tribulation will be brought there to stand before the Lord at the judgment of the nations.

He continues,

You see, midway through the Tribulation, Antichrist’s determination to destroy the Jews will come to light. All over the world, anti-Semitism will run rampant. At that time, however, many will refuse to take the mark of the beast and will help the Jews, even as some did in Nazi Germany. They will visit those in prison. They will hide those in need of protection. They will reach out to those who are hurting. They will go on record, saying, “We will not take the mark of the beast. We will stand with these persecuted people.” Jesus said in so doing, they will demonstrate outwardly their faith in Him.

Matt. 25 is not referring to a “general judgment” but rather the judgment of nations which will take place at the end of the tribulation, and prior to the millenial reign of Christ. Wiersbe concludes his treatment of Matt. 25 saying, “Finally, no matter what view of prophecy we take, we know that Jesus is coming again. As Christians, we must be alert and ready.” Truly, Jesus is coming! And arguably the single most important verse on prophecy is 1 John 3:3 “And every man that hath this hope in him purifieth himself, even as he is pure.”

REFERENCES

 Courson, Jon, Jon Courson’s Application Commentary – Jon Courson’s Application Commentary New Testament, (Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson, 2004), WORDsearch CROSS e-book.

 

Gaebelein, Arno, The Annotated Bible – Volume 6: Matthew to Acts, (New York: Our Hope, 1913), WORDsearch CROSS e-book.

 

Ironside, H. A., H. A. Ironside Commentary – Matthew, (San Diego, CA: Horizon Press, 1948), WORDsearch CROSS e-book.

 

McGee, J. Vernon, Thru The Bible with J. Vernon McGee, (Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson, 1983), WORDsearch CROSS e-book.

 

Wiersbe, Warren, The Bible Exposition Commentary – New Testament, Volume 1, (Colorado Springs, CO: Victor, 2001), WORDsearch CROSS e-book.

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