Not long ago I had believed Matthew 25:31-46 depicted a time when Jesus would judge the whole world, i.e. every man and woman who ever lived. The problem with this understanding is, it removes it from the context of the rest of the Olivet Discourse. The Olivet Discourse concerns events that would transpire in the Apostles’ expected lifetimes. Remember, the Apostles were troubled over Jesus’ prediction that the Temple would be destroyed (Matthew 23:37-39; 24:1-2). Therefore, later, four of them approached Jesus privately and asked: when these things would take place, and what would be the sign of his coming and the end of the age (Matthew 24:3). For Jesus at this point to then speak of universal judgment, i.e. every man and woman who ever lived, snatches this parable out of the context of the first century AD.
I have been demonstrating that all the events mentioned in the Olivet Discourse referred to matters that occurred in the first century and culminated in Jesus judgment of Jerusalem and the Temple in 70 AD. If Matthew 25:31-46 cannot point to that event, then, however well my argument may have been presented for things prior to verse-31 and following, it must be rejected, because my interpretation depends upon the Olivet Discourse being a single united prophecy.
Matthew 24:30-31 And then shall appear the sign of the Son of man in heaven: and then shall all the tribes of the earth mourn, and they shall see the Son of man coming in the clouds of heaven with power and great glory. (31) And he shall send his angels with a great sound of a trumpet, and they shall gather together his elect from the four winds, from one end of heaven to the other.
Here we have Jesus coming in glory (verse-30), with his angels (verse-31), judgment is implied in that the tribes (of Israel) mourn, and the elect are gathered together. The fact that this occurs at the sound of the trumpet also indicates resurrection (see 1Corinthians 15:52; 1Thessalonians 4:16), which, once again, places the context at the time when the books are opened and the living and the dead are judge out of them (cf. Revelation 20:11-15). Notice, as well, that at this time Jesus sits on his throne (Revelation 20:11), which answers to Jesus sitting on the throne of his glory in Matthew 25:31. All these things I have demonstrated in previous studies concerned Jesus’ coming and his judgment upon Jerusalem and the Temple in 70 AD.
Finally, we could consider once again Jesus’ statement to his Apostles and the crowds with them in Matthew 16. There, Jesus spoke of his suffering and death (Matthew 16:21), and anyone who followed him wouldn’t be treated differently by the authorities of that age (Matthew 16:24-26). Yet, Jesus promised there would come a day of reckoning, a day of judgment of the wicked, and a day of vindication for the righteous. Notice how what Jesus claimed in Matthew 16:27-28 can be compared with what he said in Matthew 25:31:
|Matthew 16:27-28||Matthew 25:31f|
|Coming of the Son of Man (v. 27-28)||Coming of the Son of Man (v. 31)|
|Coming in Glory (v. 27)||Coming in Glory (v. 31)|
|With the angels (v. 27)||With the angels (v. 31)|
|Coming in judgment / reward (v. 27)||Judgment / reward (v. 32-46)|
|Coming in the Kingdom (v. 28)||Then shall he sit on the throne (v. 31)|
|There are some standing here that shall not taste of death until they see the Son of Man coming in his Kingdom (v.28)|
Therefore, there is absolutely no justification whatsoever for removing Matthew 25:31 and following from the context of the rest of the Olivet Discourse. It remains a single, united prophecy about Jesus’ judgment upon Jerusalem and the Temple in 70 AD. At that time and from thenceforth, the nations (Matthew 25:32) would be judged by Jesus for how they received (or rejected) the Gospel.