Kingdom of Christ Now — [Matthew 25:31-46]

 

All Scriptures are from the 1901 American Standard Version unless otherwise noted.

 

Matthew 25:31-46

 

In identifying the Kingdom of Christ, this is an extremely important passage. If accepted as it’s plainly stated, the nature of this judgment (as presented in this passage) is easy to identify. Premillennialism only complicates it. The reason I’m an amillennialist is because it deals with the texts in a natural and honest manner. To a greater degree, the amillennial position doesn’t require us to try and figure out how to fit passages into an already established eschatological position. On the contrary, in the NT Scriptures, the amillennial position falls into place quite naturally and consistently, thereby establishing the position for us.

 

Premillennialism views this passage as referring to a Judgment that is separate from the Judgment of Revelation 20:11-15. It views this as a Judgment that takes place after a 7 year tribulation period and before a 1000 year earthly kingdom. In this view, believers who survive the tribulation will enter this millennial kingdom, while unbelievers will go into everlasting punishment. Then after this 1000 year period, there will be another Judgment, the Judgment of Revelation 20:11-15.

 

However, there isn’t any biblical basis for two Throne Judgments, where Jesus judges the world two different times. We certainly see only one Judgment in the book of Revelation. There is only one Day of Judgment. This will become more and more apparent as we continue this study.

Premillennialism presents a very confused and complicated picture: multiple resurrections; multiple judgments; a return of Christ that’s in two stages — first in the Rapture (pre-trib or mid-trib rapture), and then at the end of the tribulation period; and adds a kingdom that the New Testament doesn’t support. That’s the purpose of this whole series on the Kingdom of Christ, to show the non-existence of this millennial earthly kingdom.

Since Premillennialism is the position most Christians hold to, it’s important that we keep it in the discussion. If Christians aren’t shown the shortcomings of this eschatological position, they’re not getting the whole picture.

Before we get into our text, a comparison between this one in Matthew 25 and a few others will provide ample evidence that the Judgment pictured for us here in Matthew 25 is indeed the one and only Judgment, which is the final Judgement of Rev 20:11-15. What you’ll see is a smooth flow and easy harmony of these passages. Each one supports and confirms the other. Please read these passages. It’s more important that you read and compare the passages than it is to hear what I have to say.

Just so we’re clear, the book of Revelation reveals the Great White Throne Judgment of Rev 20:11-15 as being the last event of human history before we go into the Eternal Kingdom. Premillennialists agree with that. However, they insert a 1000 year earthly kingdom before this Judgment, based on their interpretation of Revelation 20:1-6. Amillennialism interprets this 1000 years as referring to the Church age, that this kingdom is NOW, and that this 1000 years is symbolic for a long period of time, and not a literal thousand year period.

As we’ve seen up to this point in this series, the passages we’ve looked at don’t support the idea of a future millennial kingdom. The passages we’ll look at in this study continues to confirm that.

 

First, the viewpoint and order of events of Amillennialsim:

  1. The Kingdom of Christ is now, the Church age.
  2. Jesus returns at the end of the Church age.
  3. Resurrection of both believers and unbelievers.
  4. Rapture of believers is part of the Resurrection.
  5. Jesus destroys His enemies.
  6. The Final Judgment.
  7. New Heaven and New Earth.
  8. The Eternal Kingdom.

 

Again, Premillennialism inserts a 1000 year kingdom right before the Judgment of Rev 20. How that position views the events up to this Judgment is quite confusing. As the amillennial position shows, the closing events of history are quite orderly and uncomplicated, because that’s the way God’s Word presents it.

 

Passages for Comparison:

 

Revelation 20:11-21:2

11 And I saw a great white throne, and him that sat upon it, from whose face the earth and the heaven fled away; and there was found no place for them. 12 And I saw the dead, the great and the small, standing before the throne; and books were opened: and another book was opened, which is the book of life: and the dead were judged out of the things which were written in the books, according to their works. 13 And the sea gave up the dead that were in it; and death and Hades gave up the dead that were in them: and they were judged every man according to their works. 14 And death and Hades were cast into the lake of fire. This is the second death, even the lake of fire. 15 And if any was not found written in the book of life, he was cast into the lake of fire.

21:1 And I saw a new heaven and a new earth: for the first heaven and the first earth are passed away; and the sea is no more. 2 And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, made ready as a bride adorned for her husband.

 

This is a picture of the Day of Judgment. Those who are not “found written in the book of life,” will be cast into the lake of fire. Those who are found in written in the book of life, will go into the Eternal Kingdom, which is the “New Jerusalem.” Compare this with Matthew 25:31-34,41,46. Language is the same. Should be obvious that these two judgments are one and the same.

This Revelation passage provides a guide for all other passages dealing with The Judgment. Once a person is judged, they either go into the eternal torments of the lake of fire, or into everlasting life in the presence of the Lord.

 

2 Thessalonians 1:5-10

5 which is a manifest token of the righteous judgment of God; to the end that ye may be counted worthy of the kingdom of God, for which ye also suffer: 6 if so be that it is a righteous thing with God to recompense affliction to them that afflict you, 7 and to you that are afflicted rest with us, at the revelation of the Lord Jesus from heaven with the angels of his power in flaming fire, 8 rendering vengeance to them that know not God, and to them that obey not the gospel of our Lord Jesus: 9 who shall suffer punishment, even eternal destruction from the face of the Lord and from the glory of his might, 10 when he shall come to be glorified in his saints, and to be marvelled at in all them that believed (because our testimony unto you was believed) in that day.

ESV — “6 since indeed God considers it just to repay with affliction those who afflict you, 7 and to grant relief to you who are afflicted as well as to us, when the Lord Jesus is revealed from heaven with his mighty angels…”

 

In verses 6 and 7, and verses 9 and 10, Paul identifies The Judgment to be at the time of the return of Christ: “When he shall come to be glorified in his saints.”

There is but One judgment, which occurs at the coming of the Lord. Therefore, if The Judgment occurs at the return of Christ, and we go into eternity at that point, where is there room for a 1000 year kingdom?

 

John 5:25-29

25 Verily, verily, I say unto you, The hour cometh, and now is, when the dead shall hear the voice of the Son of God; and they that hear shall live. 26 For as the Father hath life in himself, even so gave he to the Son also to have life in himself: 27 and he gave him authority to execute judgment, because he is a son of man. 28 Marvel not at this: for the hour cometh, in which all that are in the tombs shall hear his voice, 29 and shall come forth; they that have done good, unto the resurrection of life; and they that have done evil, unto the resurrection of judgment.

 

In 1 Corinthians 15:20-23 Paul states plainly that the “Resurrection” occurs at the time of Christ’s return:

 

1 Corinthians 15:20-23

20 But now hath Christ been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of them that are asleep. 21 For since by man came death, by man came also the resurrection of the dead. 22 For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ shall all be made alive.23 But each in his own order: Christ the firstfruits; then they that are Christ’s, at his coming.

 

(Also 1 Th 4:14-17)

 

Notice the words, “the hour” in John 5:28. This is singular. Jesus doesn’t say, “the hours come….” Meaning, there is one Resurrection of both the righteous and unrighteous, who will immediately stand before Christ at the one Day of Judgment (verse 27): “shall come forth; they that have done good, unto the resurrection of life; and they that have done evil, unto the resurrection of judgment. Compare this to Matthew 25:31-34,41,46. There is one resurrection and one Day of Judgment.

Believers go into everlasting life after standing before Christ. Unbelievers go into everlasting torment after standing before Christ. Thus, Jesus refers to it as the “resurrection of life” for believers, and the “resurrection of judgment” for unbelievers. As we saw in 2 Thessalonians, this all takes place at the time of Christ’s return. From there we go immediately into the Eternal Kingdom of Rev 21 and 22.

 

Matthew 13:37-43

37 And he answered and said, He that soweth the good seed is the Son of man; 38 and the field is the world; and the good seed, these are the sons of the kingdom; and the tares are the sons of the evil one; 39 and the enemy that sowed them is the devil: and the harvest is the end of the world; and the reapers are angels. 40 As therefore the tares are gathered up and burned with fire; so shall it be in the end of the world. 41 The Son of man shall send forth his angels, and they shall gather out of his kingdom all things that cause stumbling, and them that do iniquity, 42 and shall cast them into the furnace of fire: there shall be the weeping and the gnashing of teeth. 43 Then shall the righteous shine forth as the sun in the kingdom of their Father. He that hath ears, let him hear.

 

(Mt. 13:38) – 38 and the field is the world; and the good seed, these are the sons of the kingdom; and the tares are the sons of the evil one;

 

We have pictured here the whole world, both believers and unbelievers. The “kingdom” mentioned here, refers to the Kingdom of Christ, as verse 41 confirms.

 

(Mt. 13:39) – 39 and the enemy that sowed them is the devil: and the harvest is the end of the world; and the reapers are angels.

 

Mention of “the harvest,” is singular. There is only one harvest of mankind. Only one Resurrection and only one Judgment. This occurs at the end of this current world (or age) when Jesus returns and sends forth His angels.

 

(Mt. 13:40) – 40 As therefore the tares are gathered up and burned with fire; so shall it be in the end of the world.

 

The “tares” are unbelievers who will stand before Christ at the Judgment, and then “burned with fire.” That is, thrown into the lake of fire (Rev 20:15).

 

(Mt. 13:41) – 41 The Son of man shall send forth his angels, and they shall gather out of his kingdom all things that cause stumbling, and them that do iniquity, 42 and shall cast them into the furnace of fire: there shall be the weeping and the gnashing of teeth.

 

When does Jesus “send forth His angels?” At His coming (Matt 25:31-33; Matt 13:49-50). What happens at His coming? The Resurrection (1 Cor 15:20-23). What happens at the time of the Resurrection? The Judgement (Jn 5:28-29; Rev 20:11-15). Those who aren’t found written in the “book of life” will be cast “into the furnace of fire.”

 

“Shall gather out of his kingdom.”

 

If the Resurrection occurs at the time of Christ’s return, and The Judgment follows immediately after, and that we go into the Eternal Kingdom from there, then how can there be a millennial kingdom? There can’t be! Passages like 1 Cor 15:20-23 simply don’t allow for it.

Therefore, when Jesus says that His angels “shall gather out of His kingdom all things that cause stumbling, and them that do iniquity,” that puts His kingdom in the present, which is the Church age.

 

 

(Mt. 13:43)43 Then shall the righteous shine forth as the sun in the kingdom of their Father. He that hath ears, let him hear.

 

In verse 42 we see the unrighteous standing before Christ in judgment, and in this verse we see the righteous also standing before Christ, but not for judgment. The names of the unrighteous will not be found in the book of life. The names of the righteous will be found in the book of life. The unrighteous will be cast into the lake of fire, and the righteous will be escorted into “the kingdom of their Father.”

 

“the kingdom of their Father.”

 

This kingdom can be none other than the Eternal Kingdom of the New Heaven and New Earth, the New Jerusalem (Rev 21:1-2), as 1 Corinthians 15:20-26 confirms.

What I Corinthians 15:20-26 confirms is that Jesus is reigning now in His kingdom, in the present. At the end of the Church age when He returns, and all have been resurrected and have stood before Christ, then Jesus will “deliver up the kingdom” to His Father. At that point we go into the Eternal Kingdom: “the kingdom of their Father.”

 

Matthew 13:47-50

47 Again, the kingdom of heaven is like unto a net, that was cast into the sea, and gathered of every kind: 48 which, when it was filled, they drew up on the beach; and they sat down, and gathered the good into vessels, but the bad they cast away. 49 So shall it be in the end of the world: the angels shall come forth, and sever the wicked from among the righteous, 50 and shall cast them into the furnace of fire: there shall be the weeping and the gnashing of teeth.

 

“kingdom of heaven”

 

If you look up every reference to the “Kingdom of Heaven” (all in Matthew), you’ll discover that it’s usually mentioned in the context of Heaven (within passage or chapter). Furthermore, the Judgment is often mentioned in the same context too. There should be no doubt that the Kingdom of Heaven is exactly what the name implies, that it’s a reference to Heaven. I don’t think we should make this more complicated than what it is.

The mention of the Judgment in those contexts is important to see, because at The Judgment believers go into the Eternal Kingdom, and unbelievers go into the lake of fire. The Eternal Kingdom is the equivalent of Heaven, as we see the New Jerusalem coming down out of Heaven in Rev 21:2, which is a merging (probably symbolic) of Heaven with the New Earth, where we will spend eternity.

It’s important to bring this out, because we have to put this Matthew 13 passage in its proper context. We have many other passages that place this event at the return of Christ and The Day of Judgment, before we enter into the Eternal Kingdom, but this discussion about the Kingdom of Heaven adds further confirmation. I would encourage you to check out all references to the Kingdom of Heaven within the immediate context, and the context of the chapter given, and I think you’ll see that we are indeed talking about Heaven here. In other words, that the Judgment of this passage places it right before we go into the Eternal Kingdom of Rev 21 and 22. Which makes no room for a millennial kingdom. It’s not there.

Premillennialists, of course, view this passage as a Judgment that takes place after a seven year tribulation period and prior to a 1000 year kingdom. They see two different judgments of the world. The final Judgment, in their view, will be at the end of that kingdom. I think we’ve seen enough biblical evidence to demonstrate the weakness of that view. When you put everything together and just let the Bible mean what it says, the only way to interpret Matthew 25:31-46 as they do, it’s necessary for them to assume that a millennial kingdom follows this judgment. Since they already hold this position, that’s the conclusion they must come to.

 

“gathered of every kind” (Matt 13:47)

“when it was filled” (Matt 13:48)

 

I think these descriptions suggests a final Judgment, that there is only one Judgment. Filled with every kind, suggests that everyone is accounted for.

 

(Matt 13:49) – 49 So shall it be in the end of the world: the angels shall come forth, and sever the wicked from among the righteous, 50 and shall cast them into the furnace of fire: there shall be the weeping and the gnashing of teeth.

 

This “severing of the wicked from among the righteous,” and “casting them into the furnace of fire,” is the same language used by John in Rev 20:11-15 and Matt 25:31-34,41,46. There’s no good reason to assume that we’re looking at two different events here.

 

We now return to our primary text:

With all of the previous passages providing us with a foundation, we can now properly identify this event here in Matthew 25:31-46 — which we’ve been doing all along, but this will seal it.

 

[I’m only showing the verses that most pertain to our subject: 31-34, 41, 46]

 

Matthew 25:31-46

31 But when the Son of man shall come in his glory, and all the angels with him, then shall he sit on the throne of his glory: 32 and before him shall be gathered all the nations: and he shall separate them one from another, as the shepherd separateth the sheep from the goats; 33 and he shall set the sheep on his right hand, but the goats on the left. 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:

41 Then shall he say also unto them on the left hand, Depart from me, ye cursed, into the eternal fire which is prepared for the devil and his angels:

46 And these shall go away into eternal punishment: but the righteous into eternal life.

 

First, “the nations” of verse 32 should not be viewed as countries, but as individuals of those nations. This is confirmed by the mention of “sheep” and “goats.”  The sheep and goats are individuals. It’s individuals who go into “eternal life” or “eternal punishment.” Therefore, this is the same Judgment of Rev 20:11-15.  

“When” Jesus returns, then shall he sit on the throne of his glory” (vs. 31). To be clear, this is Christ’s throne of judgment, not His throne of reign over His people. This is in harmony with the last passage we looked at (2 Th 1:5-10). Furthermore, it’s in harmony with what we learned in our study of 1 Corinthians 15:21-26 and 15:50-54 (previous post), 1 Corinthians 15 doesn’t allow for a millennial kingdom. The very language of this whole passage of Matthew 25 identifies this as the Day of Judgment.

This scene pictured for us here is the same scene that we see in Matthew 13:37-43 and 13:47-50, and in Revelation 20:11-15. All four passages are alike. I think it’s unreasonable that these events refer to anything but to the Day of Judgment that we see in Revelation 20, prior to going into the Eternal Kingdom, as verse 34 refers to: “Come, ye blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world.”

The kingdom that we look forward to is the same kingdom that the writer of Hebrews spoke of:

 

(He 13:14) – 14 For we have not here an abiding city, but we seek after the city which is to come.

(He 12:22-23) –  22 but ye are come unto mount Zion, and unto the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, and to innumerable hosts of angels, 23 to the general assembly and church of the firstborn who are enrolled in heaven, and to God the Judge of all, and to the spirits of just men made perfect,

 

Compare:

 

(Rev 21:1-2) – 1 And I saw a new heaven and a new earth: for the first heaven and the first earth are passed away; and the sea is no more. 2 And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, made ready as a bride adorned for her husband.

 

The kingdom prepared for us “from the foundation of the world” (Matt 25:34), can be no other than the Eternal Kingdom or the “New Jerusalem.”

It’s important to note that the writer of Hebrews was addressing Jewish Christians. In that whole book, there is no hint of an earthly kingdom, only the Eternal Kingdom. Jews were looking forward to an earthly kingdom, as they still do today. But in the book of Hebrews, I believe the writer is correcting the understanding they had about that kingdom.

I believe it’s significant, also, that in Hebrews 12:22-23, the “heavenly Jerusalem, the church, Heaven, and the Judgment (“judge of all”), are all spoken in the same context. The Church, the Judgement, and the New Jerusalem, are all in the same view, which strongly suggests that there is NO earthly 1000 year kingdom that Premillennialism teaches. It’s simply not in view here…..nor in any other passage we’ve looked at.

In other words, there’s the Church Age, the return of Christ, the Resurrection, the Judgement, and then the Eternal Kingdom. That’s it! There is no millennial kingdom.

 

(Matt 25:41) – 41 Then shall he say also unto them on the left hand, Depart from me, ye cursed, into the eternal fire which is prepared for the devil and his angels: 46 And these shall go away into eternal punishment: but the righteous into eternal life.

 

Let’s compare these verses with the following passages:

 

(Rev 20:11-15) – 11 And I saw a great white throne, and him that sat upon it, from whose face the earth and the heaven fled away; and there was found no place for them. 12 And I saw the dead, the great and the small, standing before the throne; and books were opened: and another book was opened, which is the book of life: and the dead were judged out of the things which were written in the books, according to their works. 13 And the sea gave up the dead that were in it; and death and Hades gave up the dead that were in them: and they were judged every man according to their works. 14 And death and Hades were cast into the lake of fire. This is the second death, even the lake of fire. 15 And if any was not found written in the book of life, he was cast into the lake of fire.

 

(John 5:28-29) – 28 Marvel not at this: for the hour cometh, in which all that are in the tombs shall hear his voice, 29 and shall come forth; they that have done good, unto the resurrection of life; and they that have done evil, unto the resurrection of judgment.

 

(Matt 13:41-43) – 41 The Son of man shall send forth his angels, and they shall gather out of his kingdom all things that cause stumbling, and them that do iniquity, 42 and shall cast them into the furnace of fire: there shall be the weeping and the gnashing of teeth. 43 Then shall the righteous shine forth as the sun in the kingdom of their Father. He that hath ears, let him hear.

 

(Matt 13:49-50) – 49 So shall it be in the end of the world: the angels shall come forth, and sever the wicked from among the righteous, 50 and shall cast them into the furnace of fire: there shall be the weeping and the gnashing of teeth.

 

How are all these passages not a picture of the very same event as we see in Matt 25:31-46? Which is: the Great White Throne Judgment that takes place right before we go into the Eternal Kingdom.

Not only is the biblical evidence overwhelming for the absence of an earthly millennial kingdom, but the problems that that idea poses for this passage (Matt 25:31-46) is overwhelming.

 

Consider the following:

 

If this passage (Matt 25:31-46) is about a judgment that takes place before a 1000 year kingdom, a judgment that determines who goes into this kingdom and who doesn’t, then that requires that the righteous who go into “eternal life” and the unrighteous who go into “eternal punishment” (verses 34, 41 and 46), be taken from their places to stand before Christ again to be judged again at the Judgment of Revelation 20. Which of course makes no sense.

 

Conclusion

 

Return of Christ = The Resurrection/Rapture

[1 Corinthians 15:20-26]

 

Return of Christ = The Judgment

[2 Thessalonians 1:5-10]

 

The New Testament makes no allowance for a millennial kingdom between the return of Christ and Eternal Kingdom of Rev 21 & 22. Jesus returns, we stand before Him at The Judgment, then we go into our eternal dwelling from there.

 

Compare what Jesus says in the following two verses from Matthew 25:

 

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:

46 And these shall go away into eternal punishment: but the righteous into eternal life.

 

Jesus equates “the kingdom” of verse 34 to the “eternal life” of verse 46. Therefore, is it not really clear that Jesus is referring to the Eternal Kingdom of Revelation 21 & 22? And not a limited kingdom of only 1000 years?

The idea that there is an earthly kingdom, where Jesus rules over this present world after His return, is an idea that must be assumed by premillennialists, based on an Old Testament understanding — but which the New Testament does not support. I cannot overstress the importance of allowing the NT writers to interpret the OT writers. The NT fulfills the OT. Therefore, we must allow the light of the NT to shine upon and interpret the OT Scriptures.

The only reasonable conclusion we can come to is that the Kingdom of Christ is now, that He reigns over His people now, which is His Church, for whom He died (Eph 5:22-27).