This question is not about what the sheep and goats judgment means. It is not about identifying who the sheep and goats are, or when it takes place. The question is why it logically follows on the passages before it.

In the final passages of Matthew 24 and continuing through Matthew 25 with the wise and foolish virgins and good and wicked servants, Jesus gives us examples of being ready and watchful for His coming back.

But this passage on the sheep and goats is a departure from his earlier purpose. There's nothing here to tell us how to be ready or watchful. In my theology, these sheep and goats are neither the church, which is in heaven at this time, nor the Jews. Accepting this presupposition, why is this section here? What is it's purpose?

  • For clarity, are you asking why Matthew 25.31-46 is situated in its current position, as opposed to somewhere earlier or later in the book?
    – user2910
    May 25, 2018 at 17:44
  • If you wish your presupposition to be accepted it would be helpful if it was known what it is. You have told us what it is not. So, what it is it ?
    – Nigel J
    May 25, 2018 at 17:52
  • @MarkEdward That's a fair way to put it. It's just that the subject matter has seemingly jumped to a new direction It is related to what went before, or not?
    – Steve
    May 25, 2018 at 20:00
  • @Nigel It is: " In my theology, these sheep and goats are neither the church, which is in heaven at this time, nor the Jews."
    – Steve
    May 25, 2018 at 20:00
  • 1
    @Nigel They are the Gentiles left on earth after the wrath of God was complete. The sheep are the Gentiles who cared for the Jews under persecution and the goats are the Gentiles who did not help when they could have.
    – Steve
    May 25, 2018 at 20:52

6 Answers 6


The purpose of the entire Olivet discourse, including the sheep and goat judgment is to prepare Israel in advance of the tribulation that will some day come in the future. The purpose specifically of the sheep and goat judgment section is to ask the question are you ready for His return? Are you among the Sheep or are you among the goats?

The sheep will enter the kingdom and the goats will enter into everlasting fire.

That simple take on the issue is based on a literal hermeneutic that treats the entire Olivet Discourse in Matthew's account as pointing to the seven year tribulation.


It Logically Follows The previous parables and illustrations of Matthew 24:36-25:30 are the second section of the Olivet Discourse. These deal with the End of the World (That Day). Jesus was admonishing believers to be alert, ready, living holy lives...so they would not be "caught unawares" (living an ungodly, sinful life).

Judgment Next So what happens when Jesus returns (that Day)? It is the General Resurrection, and the Great Judgment of all people. All the nations will be gathered to Him (25:32). So this scene of the sheep and goats is a LOGICAL sequence to the previous parables, and deserves to be exactly where it is placed by Matthew.

Confusion comes by the appeal to your PRESUPPOSITIONS. (The modern Darby schematic?). When we do an exposition of this passage, we see that there is no exclusion of the Church or Jews. ALL NATION are mentioned. The Kingdom prepared is what believers in the Church will enjoy. (V.34). "The brothers" who were aided (people mentioned in verse 40) has to be taken as Christians. So the interaction was with them on earth.

Earlier Purpose There is no DEPARTURE FROM AN EARLIER PURPOSE. The "purpose" of Jesus was to warn everyone that He is coming back. And that he is coming back without prior notice. AND that everyone will be held accountable for their conduct on earth when He does come. (See Mtt. 6:1-4, 10:42, 1 cor. 15:58, Eph. 6:8, 2 John 1:8, Heb. 6:10, 10:35, 11:6, Jer. 31:16, Luke 6:35) This illustration of the sheep and goats is most applicable, relevant, and purposeful. This was all part of the overall message of Jesus in His Olivet Discourse.


I recently found a relevant paragraph from Mathew Henry’s Bible Commentary (written 1706) on Matthew chapter 25.

This chapter continues and concludes our Saviour's discourse, which began in the foregoing chapter, concerning his second coming and the end of the world. This was his farewell sermon of caution, as that, Jn. 14:15, 16, was of comfort to his disciples; and they had need of both in a world of so much temptation and trouble as this is. The application of that discourse, was, Watch therefore, and be ye also ready.

Now, in prosecution of these serious awakening cautions, in this chapter we have three parables, the scope of which is the same—to quicken us all with the utmost care and diligence to get ready for Christ's second coming, which, in all his farewells to his church, mention was made of, as in that before he died (Jn. 14:2), in that at his ascension (Acts 1:11), and in that at the shutting up of the canon of the scriptures, Rev. 22:20. Now it concerns us to prepare for Christ's coming;

I. That we may then be ready to attend upon him; and this is shown in the parable of the ten virgins (v. 1-13). II. That we may then be ready to give u our account to him; and this is shown in the parable of the three servants (v. 14-30). III. That we may then be ready to receive from him our final sentence, and that it may be to eternal life; and this is shown in a more plain description of the process of the last judgment (v. 31-46). These are things of awful consideration, because of everlasting concern to every one of us.

Source: https://www.christianity.com/bible/commentary/matthew-henry-complete/matthew/25


This is the Mashiach’s prophecy about how He will be going about to select from amongst the remaining gentiles (who survive the 7 year Yaaqob’s tribulation and Mashiach’s glorious intervention to defeat all the armies of the nations that came against Yerushalayim) to enter His Millenial Kingdom on the re-generated earth. The sheep are those gentiles who (in their life) gave help to the Israelite kinsmen of the Mashiach-King, especially during the time of Yaaqob’s trouble. The goats are those who did not.


Jesus talked about the Sheep and Goats judgement in Matthew 25:31-46 was no coincident. Although it is unclear whether Matthew intentionally to arrange the narrative (Olivet Discourse) in a structure that somewhat similar to Ezekiel 33-34.

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A similar background of both scripture is, there were Jews who saw Ezekiel/Jesus as prophet only in interest to hear the words of God but not intended to put them into practice (Ezekiel 33:32). The Lord rebuked the Leaders of Israel, that Jesus alluded to the Pharisees and the leaders of the Jews in His parable, that their judgement was;

51 He will cut him to pieces and assign him a place with the hypocrites, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.

The above judgement was made to the leaders/shepherds. It followed with a judgement amongst the flock of which the Lord defined them as rams and goats, that Jesus used the same in His parable. There is a minor variation in between Ezekiel and Matthew. In Ezekiel, the wicked were described as 'fat', didn't specific they were rams or the goats. In Matthew, the wicked were the goats.

Perhaps, it is more interesting in the dialogue between the sheep and goats with their master (Matthew 25:34-46). It indicates the sheep and goats had no idea what their master talking about. The sheep did not know where they did right, and the goats did not know where they did wrong. It brings forward a reality that when the sheep listen to the Lord and bring His words into practice, it becomes a norm in their daily lives without hesitation. On the other hands, the goats with wicked mind went to another direction, though they have ears, but not listening.

It also explains what is meant by watchfulness/readiness/preparedness that focus in the Olivet Discourse. Like the sheep, it requires to put the words of the Lord in practice as a norm in the daily lives, that it becomes a routine without hesitation and doubt.


In scriptures, the terms 'sheep and goat' are generic symbols for the righteous and the wicked, respectively. One example being

Zechariah 10:3; Mine anger was kindled against the shepherds, and I punished the goats: for the LORD of hosts hath visited his flock the house of Judah, and hath made them as his goodly horse in the battle.

The logic that Christ followed concerned the day of judgment. It is written that he spoke to multitudes ever in parables, and in none other way.

And so, just as he used various approaches in expounding the nature of the kingdom of God, one of which choices having been the mustard seed, so it is that the symbolism of beings not human, or any element forming the day judgment, being it victims of the day-the wicked, or benefactors from it--the righteous, their depiction can take on any 'names' apparently arbitrary in the context.

That's why 'sheep and the goats' are perfectly logical terms in that respect, and appropriate in the context, as to what preceded them or what follows.

The symbolism of a 'goat' appears many times in unfavorable contexts concerning those it depicts, portraying them as wayward. Whereas the symbolism of a sheep is largely about those that are 'obedient' as to be led, albeit not in the right path by blind shepherds, and in which case they fair no better than the 'natural goats', and thereby depicted as having become 'fat'.

Ezekiel 34 And as for you, O my flock, thus saith the Lord GOD; Behold, I judge between cattle and cattle, between the rams and the he goats And so both the 'goat and the sheep' are used in the bible more often than not, in the context of righteousness.

Isaiah 34:6 [KJV] The sword of the LORD is filled with blood, it is made fat with fatness, and with the blood of lambs and goats, with the fat of the kidneys of rams: for the LORD hath a sacrifice in Bozrah, and a great slaughter in the land of Idumea.

In these cases, and many that are similar, was the basis for the logic that Christ put forth concerning judgement of 'sheep and the goats come that day...

I hope that helps as to the relevance of these terms in the context.

  • Jesus spent the last chapter and a half telling His disciples about being ready for His coming, then He talks about the Sheep and Goats judgment, which isn't about the believers. Why is this teaching here? Is it a natural followup in some way?
    – Steve
    Jun 15, 2018 at 21:40
  • @Steve It is a follow up. But, using a device unique to elements on judgement day, and which day concerns all creatures, both angels and man. God gave a way of existence unique to each, so to veer from which meets with judgments. This is why the apostles write about both man and angels going astray. And so, false believers who walk contrary to the course set for man in the precepts of Christ also meet with judgement. It is written that judgement starts with the house of God, that means believers will be weighed, for good or for worse; we must all appear before Christ concerning the same... Jun 16, 2018 at 9:24

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