The Gentile Sheep and Goats
When Messiah Jesus returns, He will judge the Gentiles to determine who among them will enter the Messianic Kingdom.
The prophet Joel identified those being judged using the Hebrew word goyim (“nations”), a word still used for “Gentiles” today (Joel 3:12). Jesus said all nations will be gathered before Him (Mt. 25:32), establishing the connection to Joel’s prophecy. In the Gospel of Matthew, the Greek word for “nations” refers to Gentiles who survive the Tribulation’s cataclysmic events.
As a shepherd divides sheep from goats, the Messiah will divide these non-Jews: The righteous will “inherit the kingdom prepared for [them] from the foundation of the world,” while the unrighteous will be condemned to “everlasting fire prepared for the devil and his angels” (vv. 34, 41).
Jesus spelled out the criterion He will use to distinguish the righteous from the unrighteous:
For I was hungry and you gave Me food; I was thirsty and you gave Me drink; I was a stranger and you took Me in; I was naked and you clothed Me; I was sick and you visited Me; I was in prison and you came to Me. Assuredly, I say to you, inasmuch as you did it to one of the least of these My brethren, you did it to Me (vv. 35–36, 40).
Thus He will identify Gentile survivors of the Tribulation as righteous by their attitude toward His “brethren.” These brethren belong to neither the sheep nor the goats. Furthermore, they are distinct from the nations, or goyim. So the word brethren can only refer to one other group of people: the Jewish people—Jesus’ Jewish kinsmen.
That fact should not be surprising. The Bible consistently teaches that God notices how Gentiles treat His Chosen People and that He holds them accountable. At this judgment, compassionate treatment of the Messiah’s brethren is not the basis of salvation but, rather, evidence of genuine faith. And only people with genuine faith in the Messiah of Israel will enter His Messianic Kingdom.