When is the Separation of the Sheep from the Goats?

"Isn’t the Separation of the Sheep from the Goats at the start of the Millennium?"

I received this email on my article Why The Beast and False Prophet Enter The Lake of Fire First:

However, what about the goats that are sent away into the lake of fire in Matthew 25:31-46 when Jesus comes in his glory and all the holy angels with him, he sits upon his throne of his glory and separates the sheep from the goats. Doesn't this scenario also take place before the Millennium begins and not at the great white throne judgement when unbelievers raised from the dead are thrown into the lake of fire if there name is not written in the book of life? The goats in Matthew 25: 31-46 are told by Jesus "Depart from me, ye cursed, into everlasting fire, prepared for the devil and his angels." I always thought this scenario took place at the beginning of the Lord Jesus' reign on earth.

Good question. Let's read that passage and see what it says exactly:

Mt 25:31-33,44-46 - 31 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:

32 And [not necessarily at the start but anytime after his rule commences] before him shall be gathered all nations: and he shall separate them one from another, as a shepherd divideth his sheep from the goats:

33 And he shall set the sheep on his right hand, but the goats on the left.

34 Then the King will say to those on His right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by My Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world.

41 ...Then He will also say to those on the left, ‘Depart from Me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the Devil and his angels!

42 For I was hungry and you gave Me nothing to eat; I was thirsty and you gave Me nothing to drink;

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

First, we need to be clear that this story is not the same as the story of the Tares being judged before the Millennium. Notice when you read this story, it's talking about people who never really got out of their selfish ways so they could have the basic outgoing concern that God shows for us and hopes we all will value and adopt ourselves. These are not the nephilim, these are people. Wicked people, as already covered in the article, are all judged after the Millennium, whereas Nephilim are judged before the Millennium.

As far as the story telling us these humans get judged at the start of the Millennium, notice that verse 32 does not tell us exactly when he will gather all nations to judge them. It certainly does not say "immediately after" he sits on his throne will he gather all nations. We know "immediately" is a word in Jesus' vocabulary because, for example, he used it earlier in the Olivet Discourse explaining when the rapture is: "immediately after the tribulation of those days" (Mt 24:29).

So if it does not say here clearly how soon the judgement happens after he sits on his throne, then it would be unsafe to assume it's immediately after. And if these are humans as they clearly are, then the Book of Revelation should be relied on to fill in the specifics of the exact timing of this judgement (post-millennial), which is unimportant to the message of the parable and was left unspecified. If we compare to Revelation 20, we find another gathering of all flesh that fits the "all nations" above with rewards of eternal life and eternal death:

Revelation 20:11-15 (HCSB) — 11 Then I saw a great white throne and One seated on it. ... 12 I also saw the dead, the great and the small, standing before the throne, and books were opened. Another book was opened, which is the book of life, and the dead were judged according to their works by what was written in the books. 13 Then the sea gave up its dead, and Death and Hades gave up their dead; all were judged according to their works. 14 ...This is the second death, the lake of fire. 15 And anyone not found written in the book of life was thrown into the lake of fire.

(Note: The obvious implication left unsaid in Rev 20 is that those who were found in the Book of Life received eternal life.)

So we can see that Jesus in the Sheep and the Goats is not talking about the start of the Millennium but about the judgment sometime after the Millennium is over (also not immediately after either). At that time all flesh will finally have been made accountable to know and do the truth. Those who do not obey will not have the excuse of ignorance or deception that is too common today under Satan's sway (Rev 12:9). They will be in selfish rebellion and kept from disrupting the peaceful and giving way of life that the rest of God's children have chosen.

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