Why Goatlike Ones Fail to Inherit the Kingdom
1. In the parable of the sheep and the goats, how does the King address himself to those separated to his left?
WHAT disposition, however, is to be made of those people of “all the nations” who are likened to “goats” and who are separated to the King’s left hand? Jesus continues on in his parable of the sheep and the goats to say: “Then he will say, in turn, to those on his left, ‘Be on your way from me, you who have been cursed, into the everlasting fire prepared for the Devil and his angels. For I became hungry, but you gave me nothing to eat, and I got thirsty, but you gave me nothing to drink. I was a stranger, but you did not receive me hospitably; naked, but you did not clothe me; sick and in prison, but you did not look after me.’”—Matthew 25:41-43.
2. What does being under the “curse” mean for the goatlike ones?
2 The King Jesus Christ points out that the people like “goats” failed to do the things that the “sheep” class did. For such failure he tells them to get away from him. He does not want them as earthly subjects during his reign of a thousand years. They are “cursed” persons. They are under the divine curse rather than under the blessing that the sheeplike persons gained from the King’s heavenly Father. This means that the divine judgment, as foretold in the Bible prophecies, pronounces bad things to come upon them. They are under the divine curse, and there is no provision to lift that curse from them as was the case with the natural circumcised Jews who were under the curse of Jehovah’s Law covenant with them. (Galatians 3:13) They are cursed, just as Satan the Devil and his demon angels are. Hence, they deserve an everlasting future like that of the Devil and his angels—“the everlasting fire prepared for the Devil and his angels.”
3. (a) What do the churches of Christendom claim that the “fire prepared for the Devil and his angels” means for the “goats”? (b) What does the Revelation itself explain the ‘lake burning with fire and sulphur’ to mean?
3 Does this mean everlasting conscious torment in a firelike element in the invisible realm (the spirit realm) where Satan and his demon angels are? This is what religious churches of Christendom have taught for centuries. They will refer to Revelation 20:10 as a support of their teaching, for in that Bible verse it is written: “And the Devil who was misleading them was hurled into the lake of fire and sulphur, where both the wild beast and the false prophet [already were]; and they will be tormented day and night forever and ever.” However, sulphur or brimstone does not exist in the spirit realm where Satan and his demon angels are. The language is evidently figurative, just as the “wild beast” and the “false prophet” are. So the “lake of fire and sulphur” is figurative of what? The fourteenth verse of the same chapter Re 20:14 explains, saying: “And death and Haʹdes were hurled into the lake of fire. This means the second death, the lake of fire.” Revelation 21:8 repeats this explanation of the “lake that burns with fire and sulphur,” saying: “This means the second death.”
4. How does this agree with Hebrews 2:14 as to what is to be done to the Devil?
4 This agrees with the plain literal language of Hebrews 2:14, which speaks in no figurative way, saying: “Therefore, since the ‘young children’ are sharers of blood and flesh, he [Jesus] also similarly partook of the same things, that through his death he might bring to nothing the one having the means to cause death, that is, the Devil.” In God’s due time the once dead but now resurrected and glorified Jesus brings Satan the Devil “to nothing”; that is, he annihilates that wicked, murderous one. He brings about the destruction of the Devil. The once bruised Jesus, who is primarily the “seed” of God’s “woman,” is God’s appointed one to bruise the Serpent in the head.—Genesis 3:15; Romans 16:20.
5. (a) So what is the “everlasting fire” reserved for the Devil and his angels, and into which the goatlike class are sent? (b) Why does the goats’ not doing direct injury to Christ’s brothers not put them in a neutral position?
5 Consequently, the “second death” is what is reserved for the Devil and his angels, and it is this same everlasting destruction, symbolized by “everlasting fire,” into which the delinquent “goat” class of people go away from the King Jesus Christ. In his condemnation of these, the King does not say that they directly persecuted and did direct hurt to his spiritual “brothers.” But even though they took a negative attitude toward Christ’s “brothers,” they were taking the side of the Devil and his angels. Jesus, when on earth as a perfect man preaching the good news of God’s Messianic kingdom, said: “He that is not on my side is against me, and he that does not gather with me scatters.” (Matthew 12:30) The Devil is not on Jesus’ side, and so the goatlike people who do nothing helpful to the reigning King Jesus Christ are against him and are on the Devil’s side. There is no neutral side in the time of Christ’s presence or parousia.
6. What is the attempted defense of themselves that is implied in what the “goats” answer back to Jesus the King?
6 The goatlike people might try to defend themselves and say that if they had seen Jesus Christ himself in person in such needy straits as he describes, they would have come to his help. Such an attempted defense is implied in their response to the King. “Then they also will answer with the words, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison and did not minister to you?’”—Matthew 25:44.
7. Why would the goatlike ones’ seeing and identifying Jesus be no assurance that they would have ministered to him in a helpful way?
7 However, their seeing him personally in the flesh and recognizing who he was would be no assurance that they would minister to him in a helpful way. Nineteen hundred years ago Jesus Christ was actually visible in flesh on earth and was engaged in God’s foreordained work for the Messiah, and yet the majority of Jesus’ own people, the natural Jews, did not minister to him nor to his twelve apostles. Rather, before the Roman governor, Pontius Pilate, they howled for Jesus to be put to death on a torture stake, or they sided with those who took the direct responsibility to have him put to such an agonizing death. Accordingly, the goatlike people of the present time cannot excuse themselves on the ground that they did not know, forasmuch as they did not see him directly when they refused help with respect to him.
8. What is it that counts for or against one when another individual is personally absent but has a representative visibly present with one?
8 A person does not have to see another individual directly in person in order to decide whether to help him or refuse him help. A person does not need to behold another individual directly in front of him in order to determine whether he is in favor of that one or against him. A person can decide and show how he stands with reference to that one by the manner in which he treats someone who acts as a visible representative for that one. The representative identifies himself as acting for the one who is not visibly present to the view of the person with whom he is talking or dealing. This enables the person to make his decision as to whether he wants to help or not, to show favor or not, to take his stand with or against the individual whose personal representative is visibly before him. In this way the person betrays his personal attitude, and this is what counts with the absent, unseen individual just as much as if he were actually there in person.
9, 10. How did Jesus make that very point in the parable by the way that the King answers the goatlike ones on his left?
9 This is the point that Jesus makes when in his parable he tells how the king answers the self-excusing “goats” at his left hand:
10 “Then he will answer them with the words, ‘Truly I say to you, To the extent that you did not do it to one of these least ones, you did not do it to me.’”—Matthew 25:45.
11. Why is not even the least important one of Christ’s spiritual brothers to be disrespected by those in touch with them?
11 Hence, it does not matter how unimportant one of Christ’s spiritual “brothers” may be. Although being the least important, he is, nevertheless, a “brother” of the King Jesus Christ and is a spirit-begotten son of God, an heir indeed of God and a joint heir with Christ. (Romans 8:17) This is the serious thing about the situation. Not one of Christ’s spiritual “brothers” is one of the great, important, prominent ones of this world, either in the political field or in the religious clerical field of Christendom, for Christ’s true “brothers” are no part of this world, even as he himself was no part of it. (1 Corinthians 1:26-31; John 15:19; 17:14, 16) But this is no reason for those of the goatlike people to look down upon them. They should be respected in view of whom they represent and what Biblical message they are proclaiming. If they are not respected for this vital reason, then the disrespectful ones disclose that they do not respect the heavenly Brother of these either.
12. (a) In addressing the King as “Lord,” why are the “goats” hypocritical? (b) Since the end of World War I, why has there been no excuse for mistaking whom the King’s “brothers” are?
12 Oh, yes, the goatlike self-excusers may call the King Jesus Christ “Lord,” but that is just a hypocritical form of address on their part. If they had really appreciated him as their “Lord,” they would not have refused to lend any assistance to his spiritual “brothers,” not even to the lowliest one of these “brothers.” These “brothers” did not go around incognito like spies or like those who are trying to pull a fast trick at the expense of the people. Particularly since the end of World War I in 1918 and their resuming of public activities in the year 1919, the remnant of Christ’s spiritual brothers have been obeying his prophetic command: “This good news of the kingdom will be preached in all the inhabited earth for a witness to all the nations; and then the end will come.” (Matthew 24:14) They have publicized Christ’s invisible presence or parousia in his established heavenly kingdom. Especially since the year 1926 they have been making known the name of the heavenly Father of the King Jesus Christ, even going to the extent of embracing the name “Jehovah’s witnesses” in the year 1931. So there has been no excuse for mistaking who they are.
13. (a) Is it because of what Christ’s “brothers” are in themselves personally as humans that the “goats” refuse them help? (b) Why is it that the “goats” get God’s curse instead of his blessing?
13 Consequently, the symbolic “goats” refuse to give aid to these when they are literally hungry, thirsty, naked, without lodging, sick or in prison not because of whom these spiritual “brothers” of Christ are in themselves personally. No, but they withhold help from them, if they do not positively persecute them, because of what these represent. There is an issue involved, and the “goats” make an intelligent decision over this issue! This issue with which the “goats” are confronted by the preaching and disciple-making activity of this remnant of Christ’s “brothers” is the means by which the invisibly present King Jesus Christ separates the “goats” from the “sheep” today, particularly from the year 1935 onward. There is no in-between or neutral class respecting this universal issue. Either they are for Jehovah’s Messianic kingdom in the hands of the Lord Jesus Christ or they are against it. The “goats” take their stand against it. For this they cannot have the blessing of the heavenly Father of Christ. The only thing for them to receive is His curse, the opposite of His blessing.
WHEN THE “GOATS” GO OFF TO THEIR PUNISHMENT
14, 15. (a) When is it that the “goats” will enter into the “everlasting fire prepared for the Devil and his angels”? (b) How does Paul picture the destruction by means of the same element in 2 Thessalonians 1:7-10?
14 Jesus declares that what awaits these symbolic “goats” at his left hand of cursedness is the “fire prepared for the Devil and his angels.” They have given no moral support to God’s Messianic kingdom and have thereby proved themselves to be a part of this world of which Satan the Devil is the invisible “ruler.” (John 12:31; 14:30; 16:11) This wicked world under Satan the Devil is doomed to destruction in the “great tribulation” that is just ahead. The “goats” will enter into that “fire” of destruction when they get into that “great tribulation such as has not occurred since the world’s beginning until now, no, nor will occur again.” (Matthew 24:21; Mark 13:19) They refuse to acknowledge and recognize God as Jehovah, whose name presents itself thousands of times in the inspired Hebrew Scriptures of the Holy Bible, and they refuse to obey or conform to the good news about the Lord Jesus Christ. At the revelation of the power and authority of the invisibly present Christ in the “great tribulation,” the “goats” will experience what the apostle Paul foretold, in 2 Thessalonians 1:7-10:
15 “The revelation of the Lord Jesus from heaven with his powerful angels in a flaming fire, as he brings vengeance upon those who do not know God and those who do not obey the good news about our Lord Jesus. These very ones will undergo the judicial punishment of everlasting destruction from before the Lord and from the glory of his strength, at the time he comes to be glorified in connection with his holy ones,”—his spiritual “brothers.”
16. In closing the parable, Jesus says the “goats” go away into what, and the “sheep” into what?
16 Thus there is fulfilled upon the symbolic “goats” what Jesus foretold in the closing words of his parable of the “sheep” and the “goats,” with which also Jesus’ prophecy on the “sign” of his presence or parousia concludes, according to Matthew’s account: “And these shall go away into everlasting punishment: but the righteous into life eternal.”—Matthew 25:46, Authorized Version.
17. Why does the everlasting punishment of the “goats” not mean everlasting conscious torment in an invisible spirit realm?
17 Let us not jump to a mistaken conclusion respecting what befalls the symbolic “goats” of the parable. Jesus does not say that “these shall go away” into everlasting conscious torment in an invisible spirit realm. For these to suffer eternal torment consciously in any form would require that they gain everlasting life, for without life there is no consciousness of either torment or pleasure. Jesus plainly says that it is only the symbolic sheep, “the righteous,” who go “into life eternal.” So the “everlasting punishment” into which the unrighteous “goats” go away is the direct opposite of the “life eternal” of the righteous “sheep,” namely, death eternal. Because this death lasts eternally it is an “everlasting punishment.” Similarly when an earthly judicial court of today punishes a proved criminal with the sentence of death, the death executed on the convicted criminal is an “everlasting punishment.” It does not mean everlasting torment for the executed criminal. Only God Almighty can terminate that everlasting punishment by the resurrection of the unjust. An earthly court of justice cannot do so.—Acts 24:15.
18. How do the Diaglott and the New World Translation translate the Greek word for “punishment,” and why is this translation appropriate?
18 In agreement with that logical and Scriptural understanding of the matter, The Emphatic Diaglott, by Benjamin Wilson (1864 edition), renders Matthew 25:46 as follows: “And these shall go forth to the aionian cutting-off; but the righteous to aionian Life.” The New World Translation of the Holy Scriptures (1971 edition) reads similarly: “And these will depart into everlasting cutting-off, but the righteous ones into everlasting life.” On the word “cutting-off” this translation gives the following footnote: “Literally, ‘pruning’; hence a curtailing, a holding in check. See 1 John 4:18.” How appropriate this translation, for the unrighteous “goats,” by suffering everlasting death, are cut off from life in any realm everlastingly. Eternal conscious torment is therefore impossible in their case. They are annihilated, just as the Devil and his demon angels eventually will be. After the “great tribulation” the Devil and his angels will be hurled into the “abyss.” But after the end of Christ’s thousand-year reign, they will be let loose for a little while to test out restored mankind, after which they will be forever destroyed.
19. How will the righteous “sheep” class be rewarded, as indicated in Revelation 7:14?
19 As for the “righteous” sheeplike persons who do good to Christ’s spiritual “brothers” down till the outbreak of the “great tribulation,” the reigning King Jesus Christ will express his approval of them then. (Matthew 25:34) Like a loving Shepherd toward his “sheep,” he will protect them during the “great tribulation” in order that they may enter into the thousand-year period of his blessed reign. As it was said of the “great crowd,” in Revelation 7:14, it will be said of these sheeplike survivors of the “great tribulation”: “These are the ones that come out of the great tribulation.”
20. Immediately after what event does Christ’s millennial reign begin, and, in the case of the surviving “sheep,” this marks the start of what?
20 Immediately after the “great tribulation” the “Devil and his angels” are bound as in chains and are hurled into the “abyss” of imprisonment. Then the glorious millennial reign of the Shepherd King, Jesus Christ, begins. The “righteous” sheeplike survivors will become the obedient earthly subjects of Christ’s millennial kingdom. They will now begin to experience physically and mentally the restorative powers of Christ’s kingdom, and this will mark the start for them on the way to perfect human life forever.
21. For whose special encouragement now was this parable included in his prophecy on the “sign,” and what prospect does it set before them?
21 For the particular encouragement of the “righteous” sheep class the Lord Jesus Christ included this parable in his prophecy on the “sign” of his presence and of the conclusion of the system of things. What a joy-inspiring prospect this parable sets before these present-day doers of good to Christ’s spiritual “brothers”! Their steadfast continuance in such well-doing will pave the way for them to hear those welcoming words of the King: “Come, you who have been blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the founding of the world.”—Matthew 25:34.