Jesus foretold significant developments on earth before ‘the end would come.’ Shortly before that end, the nations will “see the Son of man coming on the clouds of heaven with power and great glory.”—Matthew 24:14, 29, 30.
21 How, though, will people in those nations fare when the Son of man arrives in his glory? Let us find out from the parable of the sheep and the goats, which begins with the words: “When the Son of man arrives in his glory, and all the angels with him, then he will sit down on his glorious throne. And all the nations will be gathered before him.”—Matthew 25:31, 32.
22, 23. What points indicate that the parable of the sheep and the goats did not begin its fulfillment in 1914?
22 Does this parable apply when Jesus sat down in kingly power in 1914, as we have long understood? Well, Matthew 25:34 does speak of him as King, so the parable logically finds application since Jesus became King in 1914. But what judging did he do soon thereafter? It was not a judging of “all the nations.” Rather, he turned his attention to those claiming to make up “the house of God.” (1 Peter 4:17) In line with Malachi 3:1-3, Jesus, as Jehovah’s messenger, judicially inspected the anointed Christians remaining on earth. It was also time for judicial sentence on Christendom, who falsely claimed to be “the house of God.”* (Revelation 17:1, 2; 18:4-8) Yet nothing indicates that at that time, or for that matter since, Jesus sat to judge people of all the nations finally as sheep or goats.
23 If we analyze Jesus’ activity in the parable, we observe him finally judging all the nations. The parable does not show that such judging would continue over an extended period of many years, as if every person dying during these past decades were judged worthy of everlasting death or everlasting life. It seems that the majority who have died in recent decades have gone to mankind’s common grave. (Revelation 6:8; 20:13) The parable, though, depicts the time when Jesus judges the people of “all the nations” who are then alive and facing the execution of his judicial sentence.
24. When will the parable of the sheep and the goats be fulfilled?
24 In other words, the parable points to the future when the Son of man will come in his glory. He will sit down to judge people then living. His judgment will be based on what they have manifested themselves to be. At that time “the distinction between a righteous one and a wicked one” will have been clearly established. (Malachi 3:18) The actual pronouncing and executing of judgment will be carried out in a limited time. Jesus will render just decisions based on what has become evident about individuals.—See also 2 Corinthians 5:10.
25. What is Matthew 25:31 depicting in speaking of the Son of man sitting down on a glorious throne?
25 This means, then, that Jesus’ ‘sitting down on his glorious throne’ for judgment, mentioned at Matthew 25:31, applies to the future point when this powerful King will sit down to pronounce and execute judgment on the nations. Yes, the judgment scene that involves Jesus at Matthew 25:31-33, 46 is comparable to the scene in Daniel chapter 7, where the reigning King, the Ancient of Days, sat down to carry out his role as Judge.
26. What new explanation of the parable comes into view?
26 Understanding the parable of the sheep and the goats in this way indicates that the rendering of judgment on the sheep and the goats is future. It will take place after “the tribulation” mentioned at Matthew 24:29, 30 breaks out and the Son of man ‘arrives in his glory.’ (Compare Mark 13:24-26.)
3. Earlier in his discourse, what did Jesus say would develop immediately after the great tribulation begins?
3 Jesus foretold striking developments to come “immediately after” the outbreak of great tribulation, developments we await. He said that then “the sign of the Son of man” would appear. This will profoundly affect “all the tribes of the earth” who will “see the Son of man coming on the clouds of heaven with power and great glory.” The Son of man will be accompanied by “his angels.” (Matthew 24:21, 29-31)* What of the parable of the sheep and the goats? Modern Bibles put it in Mt chapter 25, but it is part of Jesus’ reply, giving further details about his coming in glory and focusing on his judging of “all the nations.”—Matthew 25:32.
Figures in the Parable
4. What opening mention does the parable of the sheep and the goats make about Jesus, and who else comes into the picture?
4 Jesus begins the parable by saying: “When the Son of man arrives.” You likely know who “the Son of man” is. Gospel writers often applied that expression to Jesus. Even Jesus himself did so, no doubt having in mind Daniel’s vision of “someone like a son of man” approaching the Ancient of Days to receive “rulership and dignity and kingdom.” (Daniel 7:13, 14; Matthew 26:63, 64; Mark 14:61, 62) While Jesus is the principal one in this parable, he is not alone. Earlier in this discourse, as quoted at Matthew 24:30, 31, he said that when the Son of man ‘comes with power and great glory,’ his angels will play a vital role. Similarly, the parable of the sheep and the goats shows angels with Jesus when he ‘sits down on his glorious throne’ to judge. (Compare Matthew 16:27.)
All tribes of earth see him All nations gathered; goats
judged finally (the great