Excursus 04 - Is there a judgment upon living nations?



The judgment before the glorious throne.

The judgment in the valley of Jehoshaphat.


The judgment before the glorious throne.

The text.

The following three passages from the Bible are put forward by the supporters of a "judgment upon nations" as proof to be found in the Scriptures. According to this view all living peoples shall be gathered before the Millennium (that is to say there is no Resurrection!) and Christ and the congregation from the First Resurrection will judge them.

All the nations will be gathered before the Son of Man.

Mt 25,31 "When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, then he will sit on his glorious throne. 25,32 Before him will be gathered all the nations, and he will separate them one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats, 25,33 and he will place the sheep at his right hand, but the goats at the left.

25,34 Then the King will say to those at his right hand, ‘Come, O blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world; Mt 25,31-34;

I will gather all the nations and bring them down to the valley of Jehoshaphat.

Joel 3,1 "For behold, in those days and at that time, when I restore the fortunes of Judah and Jerusalem, 3,2 I will gather all the nations and bring them down to the valley of Jehoshaphat, and I will enter into judgment with them there, on account of my people and my heritage Israel, because they have scattered them among the nations, and have divided up my land, Joel 3, 1- 2;

For there I will sit to judge all the nations round about.

Joel 3,12 Let the nations bestir themselves, and come up to the valley of Jehoshaphat; for there I will sit to judge all the nations round about. 3,13 Put in the sickle, for the harvest is ripe. Go in, tread, for the wine press is full. The vats overflow, for their wickedness is great. 3,14 Multitudes, multitudes, in the valley of decision! For the day of the LORD is near in the valley of decision. Joel 3,12-14;

The argumentation.

In order to analyze the arguments speaking for an assumption of a "judgment upon nations", we would like to quote here one of the most well-known supporters of this line of interpretation. Erich Sauer summarized his view of the things in his book "Der Triumpf des Gekreuzigten" ("The triumph of the crucified Christ") quite well and writes on page 166 and the following pages, under the title "The judgment upon nations in the valley of Jehoshaphat":

"The Son of Man will sit on his glorious throne and judge all nations of the earth. They all will be gathered before him, and he will separate them one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats (Matth. 25,31;32). The one will go away into eternal punishment, the others into the kingdom which is prepared for them from the foundation of the world (Matth. 25,35;46). This is the great judgment upon nations at the beginning of the Millennium (Matth. 25,31-46; Dan 7,9-14; Rev 20,4).“


First of all, we should check the fundamental plausibility of this last statement above. As the author quotes correctly, it says in Mt 25,41:

Depart from me, you cursed, into the eternal fire.

Mt 25,41 Then he will say to those at his left hand, ‘Depart from me, you cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels; Mt 25,41;


So, those who are found guilty in this judgment, the "cursed", go to final damnation, into the eternal fire. Now we know that at the end of the world, at the Last Judgment, all dead come to life again in the Universal Resurrection, and also there the cursed go into the eternal fire.

Therefore we have to ask ourselves why should a condemnation of the then living cursed take place already here, at the beginning of the Millennium, a thousand years before the Final Judgment? Over and above that when we know from Rev 20,7-8 that even at the end of the Millennium there will be an enormous number of people – "like the sands of the sea" – who will be adherents of Satan and who will therefore be added to the cursed. And if this judgment were to take place, why are not also the dead judged, on this occasion – in a similar way as it is the case in the Final Judgment?

The same questions arise, of course, also in connection with the righteous. As it says in Mt 25,34:

Come, O blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom.

Mt 25,34 Then the King will say to those at his right hand, ‘Come, O blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world; Mt 25,34;


Now one can still argue here, seen from the point of view of the advocates of a "judgment upon nations", that the statement in Mt 25,34: "inherit the kingdom" refers to the Millennium. However, we realize then, some verses later on, at the end of this prophecy, where both judgments are once again pronounced quite clearly that in both cases – in the case of the cursed as well as in the case of the righteous – the definite and final judgment is meant.

And they will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life.

Mt 25,46 And they will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life." Mt 25,46;

So, just as the cursed go away into the eternal fire, the righteous go into eternal life. And eternal life just happens to be – according to the testimony of the Scriptures – not the Millennium, where men will get very old indeed but however still have to die (Jes 65,18-23), but the eternal kingdom of the Father in the New Creation.

Here it becomes already evident that the time of this judgment must be dated not at the beginning, but at the end of the Millennium. But there are even more concrete arguments for that.

The thesis of a "judgment upon nations" at the beginning of the Millennium is even illogical in itself. For only those people would be judged, who live at that time, on that special day. So, all those, who died up to the day before, would not take part in this judgment. And irrespective of whether these people are dead righteous, who cannot enter into the kingdom, or cursed, who do not have to go into the eternal fire yet: How should this be explained now and where would be the justice of this judgment?

The third problem, which would arise as a result of this advanced judgment, is the fact that then there would be all of a sudden two judgments for the wicked. The one would be the "judgment upon nations" passed upon the living peoples, the other one would be the regular Last Judgment at the end of the world.

And also here the proof can be furnished that the Scriptures does not know anything like that.

It is appointed for men to die once, and after that comes judgment.

Hbr 9,27 And just as it is appointed for men to die once, and after that comes judgment, 9,28 so Christ, having been offered once to bear the sins of many, will appear a second time, not to deal with sin but to save those who are eagerly waiting for him. Heb 9,27-28;


In the Epistle to the Hebrews 9,27 we learn that men has to die once, but that after that judgment comes. So, here the possibility that men – at least the unfaithful - could be judged during their lifetimes is obviously excluded.

The next verse tells us also that Christ will appear a second time not to deal with sin but to save those who are eagerly waiting for him. That means after all that there will not be a judgment upon the wicked, but only a judgment for the righteous when the Lord will appear a second time. And this is the "judgment of reward" for the martyrs out of the raising and the Rapture and not the "judgment upon nations" passed upon the living people.

Flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God.

1Cor 15,50 I tell you this, brethren: flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God, nor does the perishable inherit the imperishable. 1Cor 15,50;


Also in his First Epistle to the Corinthians Paul argues that flesh and blood - that is to say living people - cannot inherit the kingdom of God. The "kingdom of God" is eternal life. Men can only enter into eternal life when they have been judged before.

And men can only be judged - as we have seen above - after they have died (and have resurrected). However, according to the theory of the "judgment upon nations" the men who are judged here would be living people and no dead people! So, the text from Mt 25,46: "And they will go away (…) the righteous into eternal life" must refer to the Last Judgment and not to a "judgment upon nations" passed upon living people at the beginning of the Millennium. Therefore it applies also here: no judgment upon living men or peoples.

Now the facts are after all that the advocates of a "judgment upon nations" do not doubt the Last Judgment at all. They cannot even do that, for this Last Judgment that takes place after the Universal Resurrection at the end of the world, is quite unequivocally documented in the Scriptures.

But with that these people have got a further problem. For if there were a judgment upon the living nations, these would have been already judged and might not come before the Last Judgment any more. And that would quite unambiguously be inconsistent with the statement of Heb 9,27, that "it is appointed for men to die once, but after that comes judgment". They would be judged before their death. But as we can realize here below, in Mt 13,25-30, the Lord does not have the slightest intention to judge the wicked earlier than at the Last Judgment.

Let both grow together until the harvest; and then gather the weeds first.

Mt 13,25 But while men were sleeping, his enemy came and sowed weeds among the wheat, and went away. 13,26 So when the plants came up and bore grain, then the weeds appeared also. 13,27 And the servants of the householder came and said to him, ‘Sir, did you not sow good seed in your field? How then has it weeds?’ 13,28 He said to them, ‘An enemy has done this.’ The servants said to him, ‘Then do you want us to go and gather them?’

13,29 But he said, ‘No; lest in gathering the weeds you root up the wheat along with them. 13,30 Let both grow together until the harvest; and at harvest time I will tell the reapers, Gather the weeds first and bind them in bundles to be burned, but gather the wheat into my barn.’" Mt 13,25-30;


And according to Mt 13,29 it is just the wicked who shall not be judged before the "harvest", that is to say at the end of the world, in order to offer all people up to the last day the possibility to change sides and to "mutate" from weeds to wheat. So, the Lord wants to avoid an earlier judgment upon those who turned away from him in order not to judge maybe also those who in the meantime would have perhaps returned to God.

Because he has fixed a day on which he will judge the world.

Acts 17,30 The times of ignorance God overlooked, but now he commands all men everywhere to repent, 17,31 because he has fixed a day on which he will judge the world in righteousness by a man whom he has appointed, and of this he has given assurance to all men by raising him from the dead." Acts 17,30-31;

(See also Chapter 13: “The Last Judgment.”)

So, only one single day is fixed on which the whole world will be judged. And the fact that that day will not be the day of an advanced "judgment upon nations", but Judgment Day, the Day of (the Last) Judgment (Doomsday), can also be gathered from the following statement of the Lord:

Who believes in the Son should have eternal life; and I will raise him up at the last day.

Jn 8,38 For I have come down from heaven, not to do my own will, but the will of him who sent me; 6,39 and this is the will of him who sent me, that I should lose nothing of all that he has given me, but raise it up at the last day. 6,40 For this is the will of my Father, that every one who sees the Son and believes in him should have eternal life; and I will raise him up at the last day." Jn 6,38-40;


As we can see, according to the Scriptures, there is only one day of judgment for the "earth" on which – apart from the righteous, who enter into eternal life - the wicked are thrown into eternal fire, and that is the day of the Last Judgment or Doomsday.

In his further argumentation the author of the book mentioned above now tries to work out the differences between this Last Judgment and the assumed advanced "judgment upon nations". He writes:


"It (the judgment upon nations at the beginning of the Millennium) has to be distinguished very well from the Last Judgment before the Great White Throne (Rev 20,11-15).

1. The place: It does not take place after the decline of the old earth (Rev 20,11), but on the soil of the old earth, namely in the valley of Jehoshaphat (Joel 3,12; Mt 25,31)."


As the arguments against the use of Joel 3 are, however, a little bit extensive in this connection, and as the flow of argumentation should not be interrupted here by a second subject, we will deal with it subsequent to this subject.

"2. The time: It will not be held only after the end, but already at the beginning of the earthly kingdom of glory (Rev 20,11 comp. 7-10; Mt 25,31)."


Whereas with Rev 20,7-11 the Last Judgment is quoted which is completely correct, the only thing to be concluded from Mt 25,31 is that the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him and that he will sit on his glorious throne. So, in this text there is no hint at the fact when this event is to take place and there is even no hint at all that it takes place "at the beginning of the Millennium". It is quite imaginable that for instance Rev 20,7-11 and Mt 25,31 and the following verses are speaking just as well of one and the same event.

"3. The persons: It does not judge the 'dead', that means, those who have been brought back to life again in the second (Universal) Resurrection (Rev 20,12;13), but those who are living at that time and who have been left from the judgment catastrophes without death and Resurrection (Mt 24,32)."


Here we have to ask ourselves how we have to imagine these "dead" in the Final Judgment. As we learn from the First Resurrection in Rev 20,4 and also from the text of the "Little" Resurrection after the death of Jesus, below, in Mt 27,50-52, these dead came to life again. They came to life again and went into Jerusalem where they were seen by many people.

So, it is living men and not "dead" men who will stand before the throne of judgment after the Universal Resurrection. And they are what they were during their lifetimes: peoples, tribes, and nations. That means when it says in Rev 20,12, "And I saw the dead, the great and the small, standing before the throne", there are "peoples" standing before the great, white throne just as they are standing in Mt 25,31-32 before the glorious throne.

And there are probably also even more things in common than there are differences between the "glorious throne" in Mt 25,31 and the "great white throne" in Rev 20,11. Both thrones are great and glorious, on both thrones the Lord Jesus is sitting and judging, and before both thrones the peoples are standing in order to be judged.

So, also here, no clear distinction can be made between Rev 20,7-11, the Last Judgment, and Mt 25, the assumed "judgment upon nations".

"4. The decision: The question is not: perdition or solely eternal, heavenly kingdom (compare 2 Tim. 4,18), but: perdition or for the time being earthly kingdom of glory (Mt 25,34; 46b).

However, as it seems the judgment upon nations at the  b e g i n n i n g  of the Millennium is viewed in one synopsis – according to the law of the prophetic perspective – together with the  L a s t Judgment, so that prejudgment and final judgment, partial judgment and overall judgment merge together to become one single, gigantic comprehensive picture where the individual judgments are penetrating each other, just as already in former times the first coming of the Messiah was viewed in a synopsis with his second coming by the prophets of the Old Testament (for instance Isa 61,1-3 compare Lk 4,18;19) in a similar way and just as in the prophecies of Jesus himself the two Resurrections, one before and one after the Millennium – which do not coincide in time according to Paul and John (Rev 20,5;12; 1. Cor 15,23;24) – are linked together to become one single, great prophecy, which does not point out these differences in time any further (Jn 5,28; 29 compare Dan 12,2;3).“


We see in the above statements that the author has realized quite well certain incompatibilities of his interpretation with the text from the Scriptures, but that he does not question or analyze them any further, but that he simply attributes them to the "prophetic perspective".

Although the view of a prophetic perspective is absolutely justified in the case of some texts of the Scriptures, we have to ask ourselves, if it can be applied precisely here, to this text of the Scriptures. Here – indirectly - the reproach is raised that the “differences in time" were not pointed out any further in Jn 5,28-29.

Here, in Mt 25, the Son of Man, Jesus Christ, the Messiah and Son of God is speaking, who said at the beginning of the Creation " "let there be" and who will judge the world at its end. And now we come and think that he simply was not able to tell the things apart correctly. He would have "viewed both in one synopsis". And even if we speak of this alleged "picture which is viewed in one synopsis" as one "single great prophecy", it cannot obscure the fact that we are herewith blaming the Lord for having represented here a misleading, if not even false view of the things.

In fact, however, we are the ones who view here quite a few things "in one synopsis". We are often too lazy, too superficial, and maybe even too presumptuous, to study these texts thoroughly over and over again which are not identical with other texts of the Scriptures, in the firm conviction that they cannot contain any mistakes, and that they even must not contain any mistakes, otherwise we would have to envisage this possibility also with all other statements of the Lord.

Let us therefore have a look now at the text in question from Jn 5,28-29:

All who are in the tombs will hear his voice.

Jn 5,28 Do not marvel at this; for the hour is coming when all who are in the tombs will hear his voice 5,29 and come forth, those who have done good, to the resurrection of life, and those who have done evil, to the resurrection of judgment. Jn 5,28-29;


Here the Lord is speaking quite unequivocally of the Universal Resurrection at the end of the world! It says explicitly, "all who are in the tombs". Those who want to see here the First Resurrection before the Millennium "in one picture", did not read the text properly.

If we now take a look at the statements some verses before, we see quite a different connection.

And those who will hear the voice of the Son of God, will live.

Jn 5,25 "Truly, truly, I say to you, the hour is coming, and now is, when the dead will hear the voice of the Son of God, and those who hear will live. Jn 5,25;


In this "hour" which is prophesied here, men will rise from the dead, too. However, not all of them, as it is the case in verse 28, but only "those who will hear it" – namely the voice of the Son of God.

So we realize that the Son of God did not at all see two resurrections in "one picture" in Jn 5,28, but that the text from Jn 5,28 was wrongly interpreted as an identical statement with Jn 5,25, which actually is not the case.

If one takes the effort to analyze this text more accurately, one will realize that altogether three "hours" are concerned here and consequently also three different resurrections.

In the first statement, in Jn 5,25 the Lord prophesies that he will call into the realm of the dead, and those who will hear his voice will live. So, on this occasion not all dead, who are in the tombs, will rise, but only those who will hear his voice.

This special resurrection takes place at two different times, in two "hours".

The first hour.

It says here, "The hour is coming, and now is". The "now" must, of course, be the time of Jesus. In concrete terms the Lord means here the "Little" Resurrection, which took place after his death according to Mt 27,50-52.

The tombs also were opened, and many bodies of the saints who had fallen asleep were raised.

Mt 27,50 And Jesus cried again with a loud voice and yielded up his spirit. 27,51 And behold, the curtain of the temple was torn in two, from top to bottom; and the earth shook, and the rocks were split; 27,52 the tombs also were opened, and many bodies of the saints who had fallen asleep were raised, 27,53 and coming out of the tombs after his resurrection they went into the holy city and appeared to many. Mt 27,50-53;

The second hour.

Also here the Lord will call into the realm of the dead, and also this time not all of the dead will hear his voice, but only those dead "in Christ" who according to 1Cor 15,50-55 and 1The 4,15-17 are raised from the dead and then subsequently caught up into the air to the Lord together with the living elect. This event is generally known as “raising of the dead” and "Rapture".

The dead will be raised imperishable, and we shall be changed.

1Cor 15,50 I tell you this, brethren: flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God, nor does the perishable inherit the imperishable. 15,51 Lo! I tell you a mystery. We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed, 15,52 in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised imperishable, and we shall be changed. 15,53 For this perishable nature must put on the imperishable, and this mortal nature must put on immortality. 1Cor 15,50-53;

And the dead in Christ will rise first.

1The 4,15 For this we declare to you by the word of the Lord, that we who are alive, who are left until the coming of the Lord, shall not precede those who have fallen asleep. 4,16 For the Lord himself will descend from heaven with a cry of command, with the archangel’s call, and with the sound of the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first; 4,17 then we who are alive, who are left, shall be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air; and so we shall always be with the Lord. 1The 4,15-17;

The third hour.

And only then comes the third "hour" from verse 28, which refers to the Universal Resurrection before the Last Judgment, and in which all who are in the tombs will hear the voice of the Son of God and will resurrect.

The hour when all who are in the tombs will hear his voice.

Jn 5,28 Do not marvel at this; for the hour is coming when all who are in the tombs will hear his voice 5,29 and come forth, those who have done good, to the resurrection of life, and those who have done evil, to the resurrection of judgment. Jn 5,28-29;


As can be recognized easily, in the first two "hours" there is no resurrection for punishment, that is to say there are no cursed. On the occasion of these resurrections only those "in Christ" come to life again (that is to say those who will hear his voice), who will therewith be given eternal life and upon whom the second death will not have any hold any more.

At the third "hour", however, that is to say at the Universal Resurrection at the end of the world when the Last Judgment takes place, all who are in the tombs, that is to say those who have done good and those who have done evil, will hear his voice and resurrect, the one to the resurrection of life, the others to the resurrection of punishment.

The analysis.

Let us now try to make a similarly detailed analysis for Mt 25 in order to find out where this prophecy has to be fit in time. Here once again the most important passages from the Scriptures:

Then he will sit on his glorious throne.

Mt 25,31 "When the Son of man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, then he will sit on his glorious throne. 25,32 Before him will be gathered all the nations, and he will separate them one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats, 25,33 and he will place the sheep at his right hand, but the goats at the left.

25,34 Then the King will say to those at his right hand, ‘Come, O blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world; Mt 25,31-34;

Depart from me, you cursed, into the eternal fire.

Mt 25,41 Then he will say to those at his left hand, ‘Depart from me, you cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels; Mt 25,41;

And they will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life.

Mt 25,46 And they will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life." Mt 25,46;


As already explained above in detail, it is not even possible to do anything else but attributing the text from Mt 25,41 and 46 to the Last Judgment before the great, white throne.

So, what remains is the text from Mt 25,31-34, and here in particular the main message of this passage from the Scriptures, namely the gathering of all nations before the throne and the separation of those who have done good and those who have done evil.

In quite a similar description, in Mt 13,47-50, the Lord mentions in a parable explicitly that this will be the "end of the world", that is to say the time of the Universal Resurrection and the Last Judgment.

At the end of the world the angels will come out and separate the evil from the righteous.

Mt 13,47 "Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a net which was thrown into the sea and gathered fish of every kind; 13,48 when it was full, men drew it ashore and sat down and sorted the good into vessels but threw away the bad. 13,49 So it will be at the end of the world. The angels will come out and separate the evil from the righteous, 13,50 and throw them into the furnace of fire; there men will weep and gnash their teeth. Mt 13,47-50;


Also here a "gathering" takes place, namely in the nets. And also here a "separation" takes place, namely a separation of the righteous from the evil. And also here it says of the evil that they will be thrown into the furnace of fire.

This corroborates the view that this "separation" must be an event at the end of the world, that is to say at the Universal Judgment. And there the righteous will then enter into eternal life with their bodies of resurrection, the cursed, however, will - likewise with these bodies of resurrection - die the second death by being thrown into the lake of fire. This is also confirmed by the above verses Mt 25,41 and 46, where the cursed are thrown into the eternal fire for punishment, the righteous, however, enter into eternal life.

Bearing in mind that in the case of a "judgment upon nations" at the beginning of the Millennium both groups will have still a thousand years ahead of them, no matter where their whereabouts may be, a "going away" into eternal punishment or into eternal life is not understandable at all for many reasons. According to Rev 20,14 also the realm of the dead will come to its end (death and Hades were thrown into the lake of fire) and is therefore not suitable for the completion of an "eternal punishment" as it says in Mt 25,46. As for the rest we can proceed from the assumption that all passages speaking of "eternal punishment", "eternal fire" or "lake of fire" are unambiguously related to the Last Judgment.

However, if one sees this address of the Lord concerning the last days in Mt 25,31-46 as what it actually is, namely as the description of the events at the Universal Judgment at the end of the world, everything is quite correct here. The resurrected nations are judged, the cursed are thrown into the lake of fire, the righteous enter into the eternal life of the New Creation.

A further hint is given to us by the designation of the Lord as "king" in Mt 25,34. For this means that he is already reigning - that is to say in the Millennium and/or here at the end of the Millennium. For before and/or at the beginning of the Millennium - where an advanced "judgment upon nations" would have to be dated - the Lord is not yet king and after the Millennium he is not king any more, because he subjects himself and the entire First Creation to his Father, so that everything is in God. (1Cor 15,28)

Then the king says to the blessed of his Father, "Inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world". If we interpret this passage as a judgment upon nations before the Millennium, the "kingdom" mentioned here would have to be the Millennium. And here it is not understandable at all why only those faithful who are living at that time shall "inherit" the kingdom and all brothers and sisters who have died up to that time shall not have any share in it.

On the other hand, if we want to proceed from the assumption that this "kingdom" would be heaven, an even larger problem arises: We know that in the Millennium the earth will be populated by many people – faithful and unfaithful. If now here, at the judgment upon nations at the beginning of the Millennium, all living unfaithful go away into the eternal fire and all faithful vanish away into heaven, finally not a single man remains to populate the earth.

In the same context – Mt 13 – we also find the parable of the weeds among the wheat.

At the end of the world the angels will throw all evildoers into the furnace of fire.

Mt 13,38 the field is the world, and the good seed means the sons of the kingdom; the weeds are the sons of the evil one, 13,39 and the enemy who sowed them is the devil; the harvest is the end of the world, and the reapers are angels. 13,40 Just as the weeds are gathered and burned with fire, so will it be at the end of the world.

13,41 The Son of man will send his angels, and they will gather out of his kingdom all causes of sin and all evildoers, 13,42 and throw them into the furnace of fire; there men will weep and gnash their teeth. 13,43 Then the righteous will shine like the sun in the kingdom of their Father. He who has ears, let him hear. Mt 13,38-43;


And also here we have the parallels to Mt 25: The Son of Man sends his angels in order to execute the judgment, in order to throw all evildoers into the furnace of fire. This means, however, that the Lord passed judgment upon them before on the great white throne. He has carried out the separation by his judgment, as in Mt 25,32, and the angels execute this judgment now. And also here the righteous enter into the kingdom of their Father – as in Mt 25,34 - where they shine like the sun.

And as already explained above, also Jn 5,26-29 is speaking of this event.

Who have done good, to the resurrection of life, and who have done evil, to the resurrection of judgment.

Jn 5,26 For as the Father has life in himself, so he has granted the Son also to have life in himself, 5,27 and has given him authority to execute judgment, because he is the Son of man. 5,28 Do not marvel at this; for the hour is coming when all who are in the tombs will hear his voice 5,29 and come forth, those who have done good, to the resurrection of life, and those who have done evil, to the resurrection of judgment. Jn 5,26-29;


All people who have resurrected in the Universal Resurrection at the end of the world, that is to say the "nations", are now standing before this Last Judgment. Those "at his left hand" are thrown into the furnace of fire, those "at his right hand" will inherit the kingdom and will shine like the sun in the kingdom of their Father.

(See also Chapter 12: “The Resurrection.”)

So, it is pretty certain that the text from Mt 25,31-46 deals with the Last Judgment at the end of the Millennium, at the end of the world and not with an advanced "judgment upon nations" passed upon living people at the beginning of the Millennium.

The apparent reason why the idea of a "judgment upon nations" occurs to some exegetes here, is the fact that the "nations" are mentioned in Mt 25,32. This leads them to see here the living nations. Having a more thorough knowledge of the happenings around the Last Judgment and especially in connection with the resurrection of the dead, we see that it is these resurrected "nations" who are standing before the Lord here. These resurrected are, of course, also material. They have a body of resurrection. And that all resurrected have this body of resurrection, the righteous as well as the wicked.

Seen from their nature, however, they are still what they all are - or rather - what they were during their lifetimes, namely people of all languages and tribes and nations. And all these resurrected nations are now gathered and are standing with their body of resurrection before their judge on Judgment Day / at the Last Judgment.

(See also Excursus 07: “The resurrection body.”)

Before him will be gathered all the nations.

Mt 25,31 "When the Son of man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, then he will sit on his glorious throne. 25,32 Before him will be gathered all the nations, and he will separate them one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats, 25,33 and he will place the sheep at his right hand, but the goats at the left. Mt 25,31-33;


The Lord will separate them one from another, as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats.

And this is also the point where this coming of the Lord after the Millennium, where he comes for the Last Judgment, differs from his second coming before the Millennium, where he comes for the raising and the Rapture of the dead "in Christ". He comes to the Last Judgment to deal with sin, to the Rapture, however, "to save those who are eagerly waiting for him", as the Epistle to the Hebrews formulates it so fittingly.

He will appear not to deal with sin but to save those who are waiting for him.

Hbr 9,27 And just as it is appointed for men to die once, and after that comes judgment, 9,28 so Christ, having been offered once to bear the sins of many, will appear a second time, not to deal with sin but to save those who are eagerly waiting for him. Heb 9,27-28;


So, we see, you can look at the matter from whatever angle you like, a "judgment upon nations" does not make any sense.

(See also Table 13: “The judgment upon the resurrected nations.”)

This leads us to the second text, which is put forward by the advocates of a "judgment upon nations" as proof to be found in the Scriptures.

The judgment in the valley of Jehoshaphat.

It looks as if precisely the use of Joel 3 in the theory of a "judgment upon nations" at the beginning of the Millennium is based on the simple thinking: here are crowds of people, there are crowds of people, here judgment is passed, there judgment is passed, therefore both events must belong together.

We want to prove here now that completely different events are described in Mt 25,31-46 and Joel 3,1-21.

Judgment and judgment is not the same thing.

First of all, it is necessary to clarify the definition of the term "judgment". For this word has – at least in German - two quite different meanings. The best way to show the differences is to illustrate the result.


1. The court pronouncing judgment.

In this court a state of affairs is conferred about and as a result a judgment is pronounced. It is necessary to give evidence and the result can be positive or negative. This is the "court of justice", as it is described above, in Mt 25,31-34, and those concerned by it,

"they come before the court".

An example of that is the text from Mt 25,32-33 which was just analyzed here.

Mt 25,32 Before him will be gathered all the nations, and he will separate them one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats, 25,33 and he will place the sheep at his right hand, but the goats at the left. Mt 25,32-33;


This text is definitely about a court pronouncing judgment in terms of the above definition. We have on the one hand the nations standing before the throne, and on the other hand a court, where judgment is pronounced upon "the good" and "the evildoers".


2. The punishing court.

Here a judgment is not necessary any more. The judgment has already been pronounced and has turned out negatively. What is at issue here is only the execution. This is the "punishing court", as below in Joel 3,1-2 and 12-14, and those who are affected by it,

"upon those judgment will come".

An example of that is given to us in Mal 3,5:

I will draw near to you for judgment against those who oppress the hireling in his wages.

Mal 3,5 "Then I will draw near to you for judgment; I will be a swift witness against the sorcerers, against the adulterers, against those who swear falsely, against those who oppress the hireling in his wages, the widow and the orphan, against those who thrust aside the sojourner, and do not fear me, says the LORD of hosts. Mal 3, 5;


This is a punishing court in terms of the above definition and it comes at best after the court pronouncing judgment, but it is under no circumstances identical with it.

Hence the following conclusion can be drawn: Mt 25,31-46 and Joel 3,1-21 cannot describe one and the same event for purely formal reasons alone.

The text.

Here now the complete passage of the text from Joel 3,1-21.

God’s judgment on the nations, Israel’s salvation.

Joel 3,1"For behold, in those days and at that time, when I restore the fortunes of Judah and Jerusalem, 3,2 I will gather all the nations and bring them down to the valley of Jehoshaphat, and I will enter into judgment with them there, on account of my people and my heritage Israel, because they have scattered them among the nations, and have divided up my land, 3,3 and have cast lots for my people, and have given a boy for a harlot, and have sold a girl for wine, and have drunk it.

3,4 "What are you to me, O Tyre and Sidon, and all the regions of Philistia? Are you paying me back for something? If you are paying me back, I will requite your deed upon your own head swiftly and speedily.

3,5 For you have taken my silver and my gold, and have carried my rich treasures into your temples. 3,6 You have sold the people of Judah and Jerusalem to the Greeks, removing them far from their own border.

3,7 But now I will stir them up from the place to which you have sold them, and I will requite your deed upon your own head. 3,8 I will sell your sons and your daughters into the hand of the sons of Judah, and they will sell them to the Sabeans, to a nation far off; for the LORD has spoken."

3,9 Proclaim this among the nations: Prepare war, stir up the mighty men. Let all the men of war draw near, let them come up. 3,10 Beat your plowshares into swords, and your pruning hooks into spears; let the weak say, "I am a warrior."

3,11 Hasten and come, all you nations round about, gather yourselves there. Bring down your warriors, O LORD.

3,12 Let the nations bestir themselves, and come up to the valley of Jehoshaphat; for there I will sit to judge all the nations round about.

3,13 Put in the sickle, for the harvest is ripe. Go in, tread, for the wine press is full. The vats overflow, for their wickedness is great.

3,14 Multitudes, multitudes, in the valley of decision! For the day of the LORD is near in the valley of decision. 3,15 The sun and the moon are darkened, and the stars withdraw their shining. 3,16 And the LORD roars from Zion, and utters his voice from Jerusalem, and the heavens and the earth shake. But the LORD is a refuge to his people, a stronghold to the people of Israel.

3,17 "So you shall know that I am the LORD your God, who dwell in Zion, my holy mountain. And Jerusalem shall be holy and strangers shall never again pass through it. 3, 1 "And in that day the mountains shall drip sweet wine, and the hills shall flow with milk, and all the stream beds of Judah shall flow with water; and a fountain shall come forth from the house of the LORD and water the valley of Shittim.

3,19 "Egypt shall become a desolation and Edom a desolate wilderness, for the violence done to the people of Judah, because they have shed innocent blood in their land.

3,20 But Judah shall be inhabited for ever, and Jerusalem to all generations.

3,21 I will avenge their blood, and I will not clear the guilty, for the LORD dwells in Zion." Joel 3, 1-21;

The analysis.

Even on a merely superficial examination we realize that this text is about the other type of court of judgment. It is not the kind of court of judgment where judgment is pronounced upon the good and the evildoers, but this is a punishing court. To be more precise a punishing court upon the "Gentiles round about", because they have scattered Israel among the nations and have divided up the land.

I will enter into judgment with them there, on account of my people and my heritage Israel.

Joel 3,1 "For behold, in those days and at that time, when I restore the fortunes of Judah and Jerusalem, 3,2 I will gather all the nations and bring them down to the valley of Jehoshaphat, and I will enter into judgment with them there, on account of my people and my heritage Israel, because they have scattered them among the nations, and have divided up my land, 3,3 and have cast lots for my people, and have given a boy for a harlot, and have sold a girl for wine, and have drunk it. Joel 3, 1- 3;

Come, all you nations round about, gather yourselves there. Bring down your warriors, O LORD.

Joel 3,9 Proclaim this among the nations: Prepare war, stir up the mighty men. Let all the men of war draw near, let them come up. 3,1 Beat your plowshares into swords, and your pruning hooks into spears; let the weak say, "I am a warrior."

3,11 Hasten and come, all you nations round about, gather yourselves there. Bring down your warriors, O LORD.

3,12 Let the nations bestir themselves, and come up to the valley of Jehoshaphat; for there I will sit to judge all the nations round about.

3,13 Put in the sickle, for the harvest is ripe. Go in, tread, for the wine press is full. The vats overflow, for their wickedness is great. Joel 3, 9-13;


In Joel 3,11 we realize that this text is about a battle. A battle between the armies of the Gentiles and the army - the "mighty men" - of God. And it is also God who calls upon them to prepare themselves for the "holy war".

Here the background becomes now quite clear. In the Battle of Armageddon the Antichrist will face combat with his armies and fight against the Lord Jesus with his saints and his entire army of heaven and will be defeated by him, as we learn in Rev 19,11-18.

He will tread the wine press of the fury of the wrath of God the Almighty.

Rev 19,11 Then I saw heaven opened, and behold, a white horse! He who sat upon it is called Faithful and True, and in righteousness he judges and makes war. 19,12 His eyes are like a flame of fire, and on his head are many diadems; and he has a name inscribed which no one knows but himself. 19,13 He is clad in a robe dipped in blood, and the name by which he is called is The Word of God.

19,14 And the armies of heaven, arrayed in fine linen, white and pure, followed him on white horses.

19,15 From his mouth issues a sharp sword with which to smite the nations, and he will rule them with a rod of iron; he will tread the wine press of the fury of the wrath of God the Almighty. 19,16 On his robe and on his thigh he has a name inscribed, King of kings and Lord of lords.

19,17 Then I saw an angel standing in the sun, and with a loud voice he called to all the birds that fly in midheaven, "Come, gather for the great supper of God, 19,18 to eat the flesh of kings, the flesh of captains, the flesh of mighty men, the flesh of horses and their riders, and the flesh of all men, both free and slave, both small and great." Rev 19,11-18;

Multitudes, in the valley of decision! For the day of the LORD is near in the valley of decision.

Joel 3,14 Multitudes, multitudes, in the valley of decision! For the day of the LORD is near in the valley of decision. 3,15 The sun and the moon are darkened, and the stars withdraw their shining. 3,16 And the LORD roars from Zion, and utters his voice from Jerusalem, and the heavens and the earth shake. But the LORD is a refuge to his people, a stronghold to the people of Israel.

3,17 "So you shall know that I am the LORD your God, who dwell in Zion, my holy mountain. And Jerusalem shall be holy and strangers shall never again pass through it. 3,18 "And in that day the mountains shall drip sweet wine, and the hills shall flow with milk, and all the stream beds of Judah shall flow with water; and a fountain shall come forth from the house of the LORD and water the valley of Shittim.

3,19 "Egypt shall become a desolation and Edom a desolate wilderness, for the violence done to the people of Judah, because they have shed innocent blood in their land.

3,20 But Judah shall be inhabited for ever, and Jerusalem to all generations. 3,21 I will avenge their blood, and I will not clear the guilty, for the LORD dwells in Zion." Joel 3,14-21;


We also recognize from the statement in Joel 3,14, "The day of the Lord is near in the valley of decision" that here the Battle of Armageddon must be meant.

(See also Chapter 07: “The Battle of Armageddon.”)

In verse 15 we have the hint at the great darkness at the beginning of the Day of the Lord with the statement "The sun and the moon are darkened, and the stars withdraw their shining".

(See also Chapter 04: “The Great Darkness.”)

And in verse 16 the appearance of the Lord is described, which will then be followed by the punishing court, the reorganization of heaven and earth with worldwide earthquake catastrophes being the preparation for the Millennium, where "the LORD roars from Zion and utters his voice from Jerusalem, and the heavens and the earth shake. But the LORD is a refuge to his people, and a stronghold to the people of Israel."

(See also Chapter 05: "The Day of the Lord“.)

(See also Chapter 08: “The reorganization of heaven and earth.”)

And finally we find in the verses 17 to 20 quite an unambiguous description of the Millennium, which in turn will follow upon this punishing court on the Day of the Lord.

(See also Chapter 10: “The Millennium.”)

So, we have here a precise description of all the events which will follow upon the Battle of Armageddon. However, the Battle of Armageddon is only one event of the time before the Millennium which is relatively well documented in the exegesis, and does not have anything to do with a "judgment upon nations" upon the good and the evildoers.