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Judging the Nations

In the gospel of Matthew chapter 25 we are given a prophecy from the Lord about when He "sits on His glorious throne" and has "the nations" brought before Him. This is the place where Jesus talks about, "if you did this to the least of these my brethren you did it to Me". Many take this to refer only to the end of the world and Judgment Day. Although there are certain aspects that are similar, that is not really the only subject of which Jesus is speaking here.

At the end of the world there will be no "nations" being judged, but only individual people--as Scripture says many times. Furthermore, the standard that is used on Judgment Day is all the deeds we have done, not the limited description about how the nations treated Jesus' "brethren". Finally, Judgment Day always has reference to Jesus' "judgment seat" and not His "glorious throne". A typical "judgment seat" was a technical reference in the first century and always had a judicial aspect to it. A throne was the normal place that a monarch would rule his kingdom. Yes, a monarch would make "judgments" from his throne, but they were different in character.

So then, what is this passage referring to? It is referring to Jesus' being seated at God's right hand in the present! It is telling us about the intercessory work of Christ in the current age which flows into the final Judgment Day, and fits exactly with what St. Paul tells us (see especially, 1 Corinthians 15) about Jesus' authority in the current age where He is "placing His enemies under His feet" (which is a very different image from judging people and sending them to eternity). There is an eternal judgment mentioned in this passage, of course, but it is showing us that this is not the only way that Jesus brings judgment. There is also the temporal judgment in the present age wherein our Lord decides the fate of the nations as a normal part of His ruling the world. There is a clear distinction made in Matthew 25 between the "separation" of the nations into "sheep" and "goats" and "then" (later) the eternal destiny of the individual people in those nations (cf. Matthew 25:34, 45).

This other type of judgment is referred to many times in the Old Testament in the prophecies of the Kingdom of Christ after the Ascension. The Psalms speak of Jesus punishing nations that rebel against His commands (2:8-9), as well as Him judging between different nations (109:6). Isaiah tells about the "judgments" of Christ being what the nations will use as a rule of survival (51:4). The Prophet Joel describes the spread of the gospel after the Day of Pentecost simply as, nations coming before Christ to be judged by Him (3:11-12). The Prophet Micah uses similar imagery (4:3). There is also a New Testament prophecy (Revelation 15:4) that tells us that nations will realize the judgments of Christ make clear how to worship God. All these point to the same thing: entire nations must obey Christ the King of kings. Their fate is not determined by their own wisdom or abilities but by their response to the kingship of Christ.

This is what makes this passage in Matthew chapter 25 all the more amazing. Jesus right now is judging every nation and deciding whether they are allowed to continue or not. What is the standard of His judgment on the nations (including America)? The nations are judged by how they treated the "brethren" of Christ (remember: eternal judgment is based on whether we love all our neighbors, this is just on how we treat Jesus' "brethren"). In other words, those nations that treat Catholics well are allowed to be with the sheep (i.e. because they treated the Catholic Church well, they are allowed to continue to exist and remain in the presence of the Church). Those who do not care for Catholics (or especially those who persecute them) are punished and sent off with the goats (i.e. because they treated the Catholic Church poorly, they are sent the way of the devil and his angels).

Maybe someone should find a way to communicate this message to the leaders of our nation. It might do them some good if they will actually listen to it.


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