Sheep and Goat Judgment — What’s It All About?
The Sheep and Goat Judgment, detailed in Matthew 25, naturally spurs questions because the Lord does not judge the people who undergo this judgment based on faith in response to the gospel of Christ but rather by their good works — specifically, how they treated Christians. Did they feed them? Give them something to drink? Show them hospitality? Clothe them? Take care of them when they were sick? Visit them in prison? Those who did so are blessed with eternal life whereas those who didn’t are condemned to the lake of fire and the corresponding eternal punishment (not eternal punishing; there’s a difference, as this article shows).
When I was in my 20s I remember asking a subordinate pastor at the assembly I was attending specific questions about this particular judgment and he just wrote them off with the conclusion that “we can’t get dogmatic about it [the Sheep and Goat Judgment].” I found this “answer” thoroughly unsatisfying and lost a little respect for the man. How so? Because he clearly didn’t have answers so he should’ve just been honest and admitted it rather than writing off Jesus’ elaboration on the Sheep and Goat Judgment as unimportant, wholly dismissing my questions in the process.
The passage is a fairly long one and it was given by Jesus Christ, the Living Word who is the truth (John 14:6). As such, this curious judgment fits somewhere in the puzzle of end time events. It’s not something to write off on the grounds that “we can’t get dogmatic about it” (whatever that means).
Let’s read the passage:
31 “When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, he will sit on his glorious throne. 32 All the nations will be gathered before him, and he will separate the people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. 33 He will put the sheep on his right and the goats on his left.
34 “Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. 35 For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, 36 I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’
37 “Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? 38 When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? 39 When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’
40 “The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’
41 “Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. 42 For I was hungry and you gave me nothing to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink, 43 I was a stranger and you did not invite me in, I needed clothes and you did not clothe me, I was sick and in prison and you did not look after me.’
44 “They also will answer, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or needing clothes or sick or in prison, and did not help you?’
45 “He will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me.’
46 “Then they will go away to eternal punishment, but the righteous to eternal life.”
The very beginning of this passage shows that this “Sheep and Goat Judgment” takes place after Christ’s return at the end of the Tribulation and before the Millennium, which is when He judges the living nations—i.e. the people around the globe who survive the Great Tribulation. This explains why the Sheep and Goat Judgment is also known as the Judgment of Living Nations or the Pre-Millennial Judgment of Christ (as I often call it). It’s important to understand the timing & place of this judgment because this reveals its context and “Context is King,” which is a hermeneutical rule (see this article for details on proper Bible interpretation).
With this understanding, the Sheep and Goat Judgment is not the Great White Throne Judgment where dead unregenerated people are resurrected from Sheol (i.e. Hades) to be judged (Revelation 20:11-15). Nor does it refer to the Judgment Seat of Christ, which is for believers or anyone who was in the kingdom of God at some point (2 Corinthians 5:10-11, Romans 14:10,12 & 1 Corinthians 3:10-17 & 4:5).
It’s important to point this out because people have been known to remove the Sheep and Goat Judgment from its context and misapply it to a wholly different judgment, which naturally results in false doctrine.
It’s also important to point out that Jesus’ elaboration on the Sheep and Goat Judgment is not a parable. I stress this because some ministers say it’s a parable, a symbolic story, on the grounds that Christ’s other two teachings from Matthew 25 are parables — The Parable of the Ten Virgins and The Parable of the Bags of Gold. While this is true it doesn’t make his commentary on the Sheep and Goat Judgment a parable. Rather, it’s a prophetic teaching. This can be seen in Jesus’ opening words: “When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, he will sit on his glorious throne. All the nations will be gathered before him, and he will separate the people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats.” You see? This is a prophecy of a future event that will take place when Christ returns to the Earth and judges survivors of the Great Tribulation from all nations. Remember, Jesus is “the prophet” whom the Israelites were expecting since the time of Moses (Deuteronomy 18:15).
I should add that the Lord will judge the people at the Sheep and Goat Judgment as individuals, one nation at a time. I say this because each person is responsible for his or her own sin or obedience (see Ezekiel 18).
Proof that the Sheep and Goat Judgment Applies to Living Unbelievers at the End of the Tribulation, Not Believers
Revelation 20:4-6 speaks of the third stage of the resurrection of the righteous, which is called “the First Resurrection.” This stage of the First Resurrection takes place around the same time as the Sheep and Goat Judgment. Here’s a diagram explaining the three stages of the Resurrection of the Righteous; as well as the Resurrection of the Unrighteous:
(click image for enlargement and clarity)
The third stage of this resurrection is detailed in Revelation 20:4-6 and will be similar to the second stage, which takes place at the time of the Rapture: Living believers will receive their resurrection bodies and believers who died during the Tribulation (mentioned in Revelation 6:9-11 and 7:9-15) will receive their glorified bodies. For details on the resurrections go here.
I point this out to show that those judged at the Sheep and Goat Judgment are not born-again believers, but rather the people of the world — unbelievers — who survive the Tribulation after Christ wipes out the Antichrist’s army with a mere word (Revelation 19:21). I’ll provide more support momentarily.
What is the Sheep and Goat Judgment All About?
This judgment is all about judging these living, mortal unsaved people to determine who will suffer immediate damnation and who will receive eternal life and be allowed to enter into the Millennium as mortals, yet born-again spiritually, just like genuine believers in our era have eternal life while still physically mortal (John 3:36 & 1 John 5:11-12) and are promised a future resurrection with immortal, glorified bodies (1 Corinthians 15:42-44).
Those judged at the Sheep and Goat Judgment are all non-Christians. Yet it will be certain to them at this juncture that Jesus is Lord because he has literally returned to the Earth, taken authority of the situation, and is now standing before them. Thus the criteria Christ will use at this judgment is not belief in Christ, that is, the gospel (which will be preached during the Tribulation via the 144,000 Hebrew evangelists and their converts, not to mention an angel, as Revelation 14:6 shows).
So how does the Lord judge them? Those designated “sheep” will receive eternal life via spiritual rebirth (just like us today) and will be allowed to enter the Millennium — as mortals — because they assisted persecuted/needy believers during the Tribulation, which will include the aforementioned 144,000 and their millions of converts.
Not being part of the one-world Babylonian system, such believers during the Tribulation will naturally face hunger, thirst, outcast status, unjust imprisonment and need for clothes/shelter. Christ will judge the living nations as to how they treated him — his body, the Body of Christ — during the Tribulation. This is in line with the “cup of cold water” principle:
“And if anyone gives even a cup of cold water to one of these little ones who is my disciple, truly I tell you, that person will certainly not lose their reward.”
The fact that Jesus says “Truly I tell you, whatever you [unbelievers] did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine [believers], you did for me” (verse 40) shows that he’s talking about how these people treated the body of Christ during the Tribulation. This is similar to what Jesus said to Paul when unbelieving Saul persecuted the church:
Meanwhile, Saul was still breathing out murderous threats against the Lord’s disciples. He went to the high priest 2 and asked him for letters to the synagogues in Damascus, so that if he found any there who belonged to the Way (i.e. Christianity), whether men or women, he might take them as prisoners to Jerusalem. 3 As he neared Damascus on his journey, suddenly a light from heaven flashed around him. 4 He fell to the ground and heard a voice say to him, “Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me?”
5 “Who are you, Lord?” Saul asked.
“I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting,” he replied.
This shows beyond any shadow of doubt that the “living nations” whom the Lord judges at the Sheep and Goat Judgment are all unbelievers; that is, unsaved non-Christians. I say “living” nations because Jesus says nothing about resurrecting the dead from Sheol at this judgment, as will be the case with the Great White Throne Judgment; and, furthermore, Matthew 25:31-32 specifically says: “When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, he will sit on his glorious throne. All the nations will be gathered before him.” It’s referring to people of all nations still alive at Christ’s Second Coming. Again, this is the context.
This answers a point a minister made about this judgment:
Jesus won’t be saying to the sheep on His right, “Enter into the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world, because your doctrinal positions were spot on.”
What this brother says is true because the people Christ evaluates at this judgment aren’t even believers to begin with; so it’s unlikely that they would know much, if any, biblical Christian doctrine, let alone be held accountable for it. The Lord will judge these people solely based on how they treated Christ’s “brothers and sisters” during the Tribulation, which — again — is in line with the “cup of cold water” principle of Matthew 10:42.
As for judging people for their doctrinal positions, this will happen to believers at the Judgment Seat of Christ. James 3:1 says point blank that those who teach God’s Word will be “judged more strictly,” which shows that they will be judged according to the true or false doctrinal positions they spread. This will even include any bible-themed Facebook & Twitter posts, etc. Whoever teaches from the Scriptures will be judged for it and rewarded or penalized accordingly, depending on if what they conveyed was true or false or (in some cases) somewhere in between. You can read more about the Judgment Seat of Christ here.
While you can certainly teach important principles from the Sheep and Goat Judgment (aka the Judgment of Living Nations), like how the Lord wants us to meet the immediate needs of suffering believers and people in general, this judgment is only applicable to the unregenerated living nations at the time of Christ’s Second Coming to the Earth. To take the Sheep and Goat Judgment and apply it to the Judgment Seat of Christ is a case of misapplying a passage. It’s not even applicable to the Great White Throne Judgment because that judgment comprises resurrected unbelievers from throughout history and at least half of them would never have even met a Christian, which means it would be impossible for Christ to judge them based on how they treated Christ’s “brothers and sisters” or anyone else in covenant with God, like Old Testament saints.
We’ll get back to the Sheep and Goat Judgment shortly. It’s necessary at this point to briefly touch on some related issues…
The Salvation Equation
While genuine believers’ works will be evaluated at the Judgment Seat of Christ they’re not saved by their works, as Paul declared: “at the present time there is a remnant chosen by grace. And if by grace, then it cannot be based on works; if it were, grace would no longer be grace” (Romans 11:5-6) and, of course, Ephesians 2:8-9: “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— not by works, so that no one can boast.”
So we are saved by God’s grace—His graciousness—through faith and not by works (deeds). This is a foundational truth and it’s absolutely imperative to grasp it, but some people have gotten off-balanced and misinterpreted it to mean that works/deeds are next to meaningless when nothing could be further from the truth. True faith always automatically produces works and this is obviously what James meant in James 2 in light of the clarity of the above passages:
You see that a person is considered righteous by what they do and not by faith alone… 26 As the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without deeds is dead.
With this data in mind, if we were to come up with a biblical equation to correspond to salvation in Christ (like 2 + 2 = 4) how would we phrase it? Here it is:
True Faith = Salvation (+ Fruit + Works)
All this equation means is that genuine faith results in eternal salvation and also fruit of the spirit & the corresponding works. You’re not saved by works; you’re saved by faith; and true faith produces fruit, which — in turn — produces works (deeds).
We already know by the above passages that faith naturally results in works or deeds. So let me explain why I added ‘fruit’ to the equation and how it ties into our topic.
Genuine faith will naturally produce the fruit of the spirit (Galatians 5:19-23) as the believer learns to put off the old self and live according to his/her new nature with the help of the Holy Spirit (Ephesians 4:22-24). Such believers will automatically start to produce the various fruits of the spirit, including love, kindness and goodness. This, in turn, results in good works, which means deeds or actions, if you look up the Greek word.
Here are a couple examples: I love some brothers who are in prison and so I sacrifice the time in order to write, phone & visit them periodically; or you may buy a sister a new pair of glasses because she lacks the funds. Such good works spring from the fruit we’re already bearing because we’re spirit-controlled and not flesh-ruled. This explains Paul’s prayer for the Colossian believers to “bear fruit in every good work” (Colossians 1:10), which shows that it’s possible to do a work without bearing fruit of the spirit. Meaning: We can do good works in the flesh; that is, produce good works while controlled by the sinful nature. Quasi-Christian religionists (e.g. Mormons & the Jehovah’s False Witnesses), Muslims and Sciencefictionologists do this all the time. This explains Paul’s observation in the love chapter: “If I give all I possess to the poor and give over my body to hardship that I may boast, but do not have love, I gain nothing” (1 Corinthians 13:3).
This all ties into something Christ taught:
15 “Watch out for false prophets. They come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ferocious wolves. 16 By their fruit you will recognize them. Do people pick grapes from thornbushes, or figs from thistles? 17 Likewise, every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit. 18 A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, and a bad tree cannot bear good fruit. 19 Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. 20 Thus, by their fruit you will recognize them.
21 “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. 22 Many will say to me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name and in your name drive out demons and in your name perform many miracles?’ 23 Then I will tell them plainly, ‘I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!’ ”
As you can see, the Messiah said we can recognize false ministers by their fruit or lack thereof. These religionists who come before Jesus to be judged are proud of their good works and, incredibly, boast of them (it’s what proud religionists do). But the Lord says he never knew them because they were “evildoers” (i.e. “workers of iniquity”). Since Christ does not dispute their good works—prophesying, exorcising demons and performing miracles—we can assume that they really performed these religious deeds. The problem is that they were “evildoers” who practiced iniquity, which shows they were flesh-ruled with no care to “keep in repentance” (Matthew & Luke 3:8). In other words, their regular sinful actions testified against them despite their good works. We’re talking about people like the Pharisees who regularly performed good works (mostly as a show to convince themselves and others how “godly” they supposedly were) while unrepentantly living in the flesh in secret.
The “Sheep” Who Are Allowed to Enter the Millennium
Let’s get back to the Millennium and the “sheep” who are allowed to enter it as born-again believers: These mortals will breed throughout the thousand years all over the world and, despite the completely righteous government of Christ, many of their descendants will be susceptible to the devil’s deception when he’s released from the Abyss at the end of the Millennium to “deceive the nations in the four corners of the earth” (Revelation 20:7-8). Satan coerces them through deception to, amazingly, attack Christ and his righteous government in Jerusalem. These deceived descendants of the original “sheep” illustrate that they’re not truly believers and therefore not spiritually regenerated (even if they genuinely were at one point), just like there are confessing Christians in our midst who just go through the motions but aren’t actually born of Christ’s seed (1 Peter 1:23 & 1 John 3:9). Thankfully, this won’t be the case in the eternal age-to-come because there won’t be any mortals with ungodly natures.
While life during the Millennium will be a veritable utopia compared to our current age because of (1.) the righteous government of Christ and (2.) the absence of the devil and his filthy spirits to deceive people, there will still be sin because mortals will yet have sinful natures, which explains why many of them will be open prey to Satan’s deceptions when he’s released from the Abyss at the end of the thousand years. There will also be aging, pain and death despite the return of longer lifespans. Not to mention the earth and universe will yet be burdened by the bondage to decay, which is entropy.
For more on the Millennium go here.
“Produce FRUIT in keeping with repentance”
The Greek for ‘fruit’ in Matthew 7:15-23 (quoted above) is the same word for ‘fruit’ in Galatians 5:22-23 (karpos) and so refers to the fruit of the spirit, which of course includes holiness (as there are more than just nine fruits of the spirit and Ephesians 4:24 shows that holiness is one of ’em). One could even make the argument that holiness is the whole of the fruits of the spirit, indicating that the believer is spirit-controlled with the help of the Holy Spirit rather than flesh-ruled. You can read more about this here.
The “false prophets” Jesus refers to in Matthew 7:15-23 obviously weren’t naïve young believers, but rather seasoned people who proposed to speak for God in their “ministry” on earth. Yet Christ condemns them. Despite their great religious works and the boasting thereof, they will be damned. This passage shows that good works by themselves won’t save people.
While I suppose it could be argued that they were unbelievers all along, it’s more likely that they started out sincere, but were corrupted at some point, which is possible in light of clear passages like Galatians 5:21, Hebrews 10:26-27 and 2 Peter 2:20-21.
This, of course, begs the question: How long can a genuine believer walk in known sin without care of repentance before the Lord cuts him/her out of the kingdom? The Parable of the Barren Fig Tree shows us:
“But unless you repent, you too will all perish.”
6 Then he told this parable: “A man had a fig tree growing in his vineyard, and he went to look for fruit on it but did not find any. 7 So he said to the man who took care of the vineyard, ‘For three years now I’ve been coming to look for fruit on this fig tree and haven’t found any. Cut it down! Why should it use up the soil?’
8 “ ‘Sir,’ the man replied, ‘leave it alone for one more year, and I’ll dig around it and fertilize it. 9 If it bears fruit next year, fine! If not, then cut it down.’ ”
The symbolism in the parable is obvious: The owner of the vineyard represents God, the fruitless fig tree represents an individual in covenant with God who’s not bearing fruit, and the caretaker represents Jesus, the mediator between the owner and the fig tree. The owner (God) wants to cut the fig tree down because it hasn’t produced fruit in three years, but the caretaker (Jesus) intercedes and convinces the owner to give the tree one more year wherein the caretaker will do everything he can to get it to be fruitful. If the tree still hasn’t produced fruit by the end of the fourth year the owner and caretaker agree to cut it down and remove it from the vineyard. ‘Fruit,’ by the way, is the same Greek word Karpos (kar-POS) as above.
What we see in this story is patience, mercy and grace: The owner of the vineyard and the caretaker, who represent the heavenly Father and Jesus, are willing to give the tree a total of four years to be fruitful before ultimately removing it from the vineyard, if they must. The story is figurative so we can’t take it strictly literal, i.e. that God will pluck someone out of the kingdom if they’re fruitless for exactly four years. What we can get from it, however, is that God’s patience, mercy and grace are awesome and He will do everything He can to get us to be fruitful. He’s invested in us greatly and understandably wants us to be productive. Another thing we can get from the parable is that when the Lord’s mercy ends His judgment begins and he’ll cut off when/if necessary.
The New Testament teaches that we only “produce fruit (as we) keep with repentance” (see Matthew & Luke 3:8 where ‘fruit’ is the same Greek word karpos). We produce fruit, of course, by walking in the spirit—i.e. being spirit-controlled rather than flesh-ruled. The book of Ephesians calls this “walking as children of the light” and adds “for the fruit of the light consists in all goodness and righteousness and truth” (Ephesians 5:8-9).
The reason I point this out is important: Believers who stop “keeping with repentance” of known sin automatically stop producing legitimate fruit to God because they’re flesh-controlled and cut off from God’s grace. Only when believers genuinely repent after being convicted will God forgive them and cleanse them from all unrighteousness (1 John 1:8-9). This is walking in God’s grace (favor).Those who stubbornly resist repenting, however, automatically stop producing fruit to God because they’re in a state of non-grace due to the fact that their sin in question isn’t forgiven and they’re not purged of the corresponding unrighteousness. When believers backslide into this fruitless mode the Parable of the Barren Fig Tree applies: After a generous “grace period” these arrogant, fruitless, unrepentant ‘believers’ will be cut out of the kingdom, just like the fruitless fig tree is rooted out of the vineyard. Such people would include the false ministers addressed in Matthew 7:15-23, detailed above.
The Judgment Seat of Christ—The Judgment of Believers
Speaking of Matthew 7:15-23, this passage is likely a reference to the Judgment Seat of Christ, which I’ll explain momentarily. As already established, the Judgment Seat of Christ is where believers will stand before the Lord and give an account (2 Corinthians 5:10-11, Romans 14:10,12 & 1 Corinthians 3:10-17 & 4:5).
The basis for eternal salvation at the Judgment Seat is not good works; if it were, the believing thief on the cross wouldn’t be saved. It all comes down to whether a person is in Christ or not in Christ—that is, in the kingdom on not. This explains The Parable of the Wedding Banquet from Matthew 22 where the person without “wedding clothes” is rejected and condemned, like the fruitless “prophets” of Matthew 7:15-23. Believers are either “clothed with Christ” or not. Those who aren’t are in for a rude awakening when they stand before the Lord because they’re no longer even believers, as far as God is concerned. They’ve been “rooted from the vineyard.” While good works and the motive for them will be evaluated at the Judgment Seat, and believers will be rewarded or penalized accordingly, their good works don’t determine their salvation.
Another Example of Misapplying the Sheep and Goat Judgment
As already covered, James statement in James 2:24 was later clarified by Paul—clearly the greater apostle—in Romans 11:5-6, Ephesians 2:8-9 and Colossians 1:10. Scripture interprets Scripture; and nowhere in the epistles do we see good works being the criteria for salvation. For instance, when Paul encourages believers to “excel in the grace of giving” he doesn’t add “because, if you don’t, you’re a wicked goat condemned to the lake of fire!” (2 Corinthians 8:7). In the same context of giving to needy believers he says “Whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows generously will also reap generously” (2 Corinthians 9:6). Once again, he doesn’t link donating money to eternal damnation or salvation. While giving to the poor is important and obviously a focal point of some ministries it’s not the all-and-end-all of Christianity.
In the same context Paul says “Each of you should give what you have decided in your heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver” (2 Corinthians 9:7). The LORD only wants believers to give out of a giving heart that’s happy to give; he doesn’t want believers to give reluctantly or under compulsion—which includes being coerced by ministers preaching condo. There’s no condo in Paul’s request for funds for needy Christians in this section of Scripture (2 Corinthians 8-9). He shares the need, encourages the Corinthians to give, stresses that they’ll be rewarded, and then adds that they should only give what they decide to gladly give. This is the only way they’ll be blessed for their giving; otherwise they’d be giving from the flesh to earn salvation or whatever, which is what Hindus, Muslims, et al. do.
Another thing we can get from this passage is that Paul didn’t view believers as pawns to fund ministry projects that he considered important, including altruistic ones. He respected and loved the believers where they were spiritually and permitted them to make up their own minds as led of the Spirit (or not led of the Spirit).
I bring this up because I’ve heard the Sheep and Goat Judgment misapplied by some ministers for the purpose of manipulating believers into giving money for their altruistic ministry projects. These projects may be wonderful, but it doesn’t condone the practice of using condo by misapplying a passage in order to twist believers’ arms into donating money.
Of course it’s true that faith without deeds is dead, which would mean that the believer who lacks good works also lacks fruit of the spirit since authentic good works are always a natural extension of the fruit of the spirit and therefore any other good work is a dead work because it stems from the flesh. But, I should stress, a fruitless believer isn’t kicked out of the kingdom immediately; he/she is given a gracious time period to produce fruit because God is merciful & patient and greatly desires for them to be productive, as the Parable of the Barren Fig Tree shows.
The fact that good works are not the basis for salvation for believers at the Judgment Seat of Christ is further proof that the people judged at the Sheep and Goat Judgment are all unbelievers because they are all judged by their works.
Unbelievers aren’t judged according to the gospel because they never received it; as such, God judges them “according to what they had done as recorded in the books” where “their consciences (will) bear witness, and their thoughts will either accuse or excuse them” (Roman 2:12-16 & Revelation 20:11-15). “What they had done” would include rejecting (or, at least, ignoring) the message of Christ for those of whom this applies.
The False Prophets of Matthew 7:15-23 and the Judgment Seat of Christ
As stated earlier, it’s likely that Matthew 7:15-23 is a depiction of the Judgment Seat of Christ even though the Lord rejects the false ministers. How so? These people confess Jesus as Lord and illustrate that they performed great works, like prophesying, exorcizing demons and miracles, which implies that they functioned within church circles. The Lord doesn’t deny that they did these good works, but condemns them. The implication is that these confessing “Christians” are shocked by Christ’s rejection. We can therefore assume that the Judgment Seat is for anyone who confesses Jesus as Lord or were in the kingdom at some point. With this understanding, notice that Jesus doesn’t judge them by their good works because they had good works; instead he judges them by their fruit or lack thereof, which indicates that they were flesh-ruled “evildoers” despite their good works! This is in contrast to the Sheep and Goat Judgment where Christ judges the people solely on the basis of their good works; and, more specifically, by how they treated persecuted believers during the Tribulation.
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