When the Son of Man comes in His glory, and all the holy angels with Him, then He will sit on the throne of His glory. All the nations will be gathered before Him, and He will separate them one from another, as a shepherd divides his sheep from the goats, And He will set the sheep on His right hand, but the goats on the left. Then the King will say to those on His right hand, “Come, you blessed of My Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you before the foundation of the world” (Matthew 25:31-35; New King James Version).
Many people have interpreted such verses as Matthew 25:31-35 as referring exclusively to individual salvation, but the language of the text indicates God’s judgment of collectives, not just individual souls. The text indicates institutional salvation, meaning national restoration. To restrict the meaning of salvation of the human soul is to misread Scripture.
The passage is clear: the sheep and the goats are symbolic terms for saved and lost nations. “All the nations will be gathered before Him, and He will separate them one from another, as a shepherd divides his sheep from the goats. And He will set the sheep on His right hand, but the goats on the left.” He will separate nations, one from another. People will enter the resurrected kingdom of Christ as members of nations, just as they enter it as members of racial and cultural groups. History does have meaning in eternity.
And the city had no need of the sun or of the moon to shine in it, for the glory of God illuminated it, and the Lamb is its light. And the nations of those who are saved shall walk in its light, and the kings of the earth bring their glory and honor into it. Its gates shall not be shut at all by day (there shall be no night there). But there shall by no means enter it anything that defiles, or causes an abomination or a lie, but only those written in the Lamb’s Book of Life (Revelation 21:22-27).
This has to refer to the post-resurrection kingdom, though it may also refer to the present preliminary manifestation of the new heaven and new earth. There are only saints in the city. But these saints are referred to as members of nations: “And the nations of those who are saved shall walk in its light.”
Those who confess Christ at judgment day make up one group of nations. Those who refuse to confess Him as savior make up the other group. Note that there are only two possible confessions (“lip”= confession of faith: Gen. 11:1)–Christ or Satan–but there are numerous nations. There is one kingdom of God, but numerous national representatives of His kingdom.
This points to God’s covenantal dealing with mankind as members of nations. The division of tongues (languages) at the Tower of Babel is a permanent phenomenon in history. Mankind remains divided into recognizable cultural groups even after the resurrection. Most of us accept this implicitly. We expect to meet relatives beyond the grave. We expect them to resemble whoever they had been on earth. When families are reunited, the children of white caucasians will not be orientals, and the children of blacks will not be eskimos.
This means that some elements of our historical experience are permanent, just as God’s rewards to us for our earthly performance are permanent (I Corinthians 3:11-14). It means that some aspects of nationhood persist beyond the grave–not geographical boundaries, but common cultural experiences and presumably also common memories.
Nations slowly change, borders change, but nations will always be part of history. While some humanists emphasize the need for internationalism–the ideology of the Tower–and other humanists emphasize nationalism–a development of the last two centuries–both internationalism and nationalism are biblically legitimate.
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