Bible Studies
Written by Jim Jordal   
Monday, 25 October 2004

Christ's teaching on His judgment of the nations is a powerful account of how kingdom judgment is rendered based upon attitude and action regarding the downtrodden of society. It is vital that individuals, churches, and nations today heed this advice, since it appears that concern for the oppressed and poor of society is rapidly diminishing among much of our leadership.

by Jim Jordal

But when the Son of Man comes in His glory, and all the angels with Him, then He will sit on His glorious throne.  And all the nations will be gathered before Him; and He will separate them from one another, as the shepherd separates the sheep from the goats; and He will put the sheep on His right, and the goats on the left.  Then the King will say to those on His right, “Come, you who are blessed of My Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world.  For I was hungry, and you gave Me something to eat; I was thirsty, and you gave Me drink; I was a stranger, and you invited Me in; naked, and you clothed Me; I was sick, and you visited Me; I was in prison, and you came to Me.”  Then the righteous will answer Him, saying, “Lord, when did we see you hungry, and feed You, or thirsty, and give you drink?  And when did we see You a stranger, and invite You in, or naked, and clothe You?  And when did we see You sick, or in prison, and come to You?”  And the King will answer and say to them, “Truly I say to you, to the extent that you did it unto one of these brothers of Mine, even the least of them, you did it to Me."
                                                                                                                                Matthew 25:31-40 (NASB)

      This powerful and somewhat scary teaching of Christ brings us face-to-face with the reality that judgment based upon our treatment of the poor and oppressed will occur when Christ takes up His earthly kingdom.  Unfortunately, most Bible teachers individualize this passage by claiming that it applies only to individuals, not nations or other large groups.  I’m not against such usage, since if it helps bring people to Christ, or helps them treat their fellows better, I’m all for it.  But I think there is an equally useful alternative explanation.
      The logic goes like this.  The word nation comes from the Greek ethnos, meaning tribe, group, or nation.  Thus, it would seem that more than individuals are being judged.  Second, the same word and meaning is used elsewhere in the New Testament where the context clearly means nations in the political and social sense. Third, the standard for judgment in this case is behavior, or works; not faith or grace as it is when Christians are judged.
      So if we are speaking of nations being judged, then there must exist something we could call national sin as a separate entity from individual sin.  Sociologists speak of a national ethos (not ethnos), loosely meaning national character; developed from values, ethics, religion, and national experience. Nations as well as individuals have varying characters, some generally good, and some lacking in compassion, altruism, and mercy in their treatment of unfortunate persons.
      What is national sin, and what standards does the Almighty use to judge it?  National sin exists when the policies and practices of a nation violate the laws of God as found in Scripture.  Refresh your memory with those Old Testament passages relating to God’s displeasure with Israel over her national sin.
      The chief national sins of ancient Israel were idolatry, sexual immorality, and economic injustice coupled with oppression.  The only thing different today is that the venue is larger.  But back then Israel had prophets who thundered against economic injustice; today we religious leaders more concerned with filling pews, raising money, and providing crumbs of charity than with advocating for the poor. Certainly the Religious Right is unaware of and unconcerned about poverty or issues of economic justice, except as they might benefit the rich.
      And what criteria will God use in judging nations?  According to the above parable, it will be what they have done to feed, nurture, clothe, minister, and visit hungry, alienated, suffering, oppressed, sick, bound persons on the margins of society. 
      Now put ethos, or national character, back into the equation, and ask yourself what nations have an ethic of such altruism and concern.  Who is there when disaster strikes?  Who sends aid even to their enemies? Who spends billions for charity? Who even considers that there is anything wrong with a society that fails to care for its own, not to mention strangers?
      If you can answer these questions, then you’ll know the differences between sheep and goat nations. You’ll also know whom it is that God plans to bring into His kingdom.
      One more thing.  If you confuse the “sheep” heart of America with the ruling power structure, which often exhibits “goat” behavior, don’t be dismayed.  Remember that God sees the heart, and promises to overturn those elements in society refusing His word and His way.  Count on it!

Last Updated ( Sunday, 20 November 2005 )