The Background and Timing of the Judgment of the Sheep and Goats -- By: Eugene W. Pond

Journal: Bibliotheca Sacra
Volume: BSAC 159:634 (Apr 2002)
Article: The Background and Timing of the Judgment of the Sheep and Goats
Author: Eugene W. Pond

The Background and Timing
of the Judgment of
the Sheep and Goats*

Eugene W. Pond

* This is article one in a three-part series, “A Study of the Judgment of the Sheep and Goats in Matthew 25.”

Eugene W. Pond is Director of Institutional Research and Planning, and Assistant Professor of Bible Exposition, Dallas Theological Seminary, Dallas, Texas.

Matthew 25:31–46, which records the judgment of the sheep and goats, presents in a solemn tone the eternal judgment of men and women by the Son of Man. The scene has often been described as “the Last Judgment,” purported to describe the general final judgment of all humankind.1 According to many writers the basis of the judgment—the extent to which believers helped those in need who are “the least” of Christ’s brothers—summarizes Christian duty or even the gospel itself.2 Mother Teresa, for example, based her life of dedication to the poorest in India on this passage.3 Because Jesus identified Himself with “the least,” Green says this passage is the strongest intimation of the

doctrine of the body of Christ in the Synoptic Gospels.4

Seven facts about this passage indicate its importance. First, the pericope appears nowhere else in the four Gospels. With no parallel passages the interpreter’s data is limited to its context in Matthew and allusions elsewhere in Scripture to the event described.5 Second, its position in the argument of Matthew is climactic, being the final pericope of Jesus’ Olivet Discourse. Third, the passage presents some features of a parable, but it lacks the elements of a typical parabolic story. Fourth, the passage follows two parables that also culminate in judgment of unfaithful persons. Fifth, this is Jesus’ most thorough description of coming judgment by the Son of Man. Sixth, the identity of those being judged (πάντα τά ἔθνη, v. 32) is debated. Does the phrase refer to all people, all national groups, all existing nations, all living Gentiles, or some other peoples?6 Seventh, several interpretations have been proposed for the identity of “the least of these brothers of mine”...

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