of Matthew 25:34-45
Interpretations from religious texts
Matthew 25:34-45 contains the sheep and goats passage that
discusses Jesus' judgment of "all nations."
Some alternative interpretations found in religious books:
We scanned many Evangelical Christian dictionaries of theology, Bible
handbooks, Bible commentaries, etc. and found that many did not refer to this
passage in Matthew. Those that did mention this passage came up with various
alternate interpretations that allow them to retain their belief in salvation by
faith, not works:
Separating the sheep from the goats on the basis of good works would then
produce the same results as separating them on the basis their salvation
status status. This
interpretation takes a very dim view of the behavior of hundreds of millions of unsaved Christians,
the millions of members of non-Christian religions, and the many tens of
millions of persons unaffiliated with any religion in North America alone.
This interpretation does not appear to correspond with public opinion
polls. All of the major religions
teach a version of the Golden Rule. Our experience as a multi-faith
group is that those who do not identify themselves as members of an organized
religion or who are non-Christians or are non-saved Christians are as caring as born-again Christians.
Thus, separating humans according to their behavior towards others would
result in many born-again Christians going to Hell and many of the others going to
The New Jerome Biblical Commentary agrees that the crowd gathered
before Jesus "refers to all nations, Israel included, not just the
Gentiles." They further state that this passage has been:
"...overinterpreted to say that neither faith in Christ nor
membership in the church is necessary for salvation, but in fact, it is
addressed to Christian disciples and discipleship is understood in a
very bold way as identical with care of the needy. This is not a denial
of faith; it is the essence of faith." 3
A mainline Christian resource, Harper's Bible Commentary, states
that "all nations" actually refers only to the Christian church i.e.
"...those who have been made his disciples as a result of the church's
mission." Although the writers do not say so, this implies that some who
have become disciples of Christ and are in the Church will actually be sent
to Hell for eternal torture because of their lack of good works. 4
The following information sources were used to prepare and update the above
essay. The hyperlinks are not necessarily still active today.
Philip Comfort, Ed., "New Commentary on the Whole Bible,"
Tyndale House, (1990), Page 89-90.
Harold Willmington, "Bible Handbook," Tyndale House,
(1997), Page 544.
Raymond Brown, et al., "The New Jerome Biblical
Commentary," Geoffrey Chapman, (1990), Page 669.
Harper's Bible Commentary," Harper and Row, (1988),
Copyright © 2006 to 2008 by Ontario Consultants on Religious
Originally written: 2006-AUG-26
Latest update: 2017-FEB-20
Author: B.A. Robinson