“Then He will answer them, saying, ‘Assuredly, I say to you, inasmuch as you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to Me.’ And these will go away into everlasting punishment.’” Matthew 25:45-46a
Some religious people teach that the Judgment of the Sheep and Goats (Matthew 25:31-46) says you must give to the needy to be saved from everlasting punishment. But this understanding ignores the context of the passage (Matthew 24:1-25:46) and contradicts the clear teaching of the New Testament about salvation by grace through faith alone in Christ alone apart from any good works (John 1:12; 3:15-16, 36; 4:10-14; 5:24; 6:40, 47; 11:25-27; 20:31; Acts 16:31; Romans 6:23b; 4:5; Galatians 2:16; Ephesians 1:13-14; 2:8-9; I Timothy 1:16; I John 5:13; Revelation 22:17; et al.). Matthew 25:31-46 is about the judgment of people who lived during the Tribulation period after the Rapture of the Church (Matthew 25:31-32; cf. Revelation 6-19).
The “sheep and the goats” in this passage represent Gentiles (“all the nations” – 25:32) who survive the Tribulation period and will be judged by King Jesus according to their response to Jesus’ Jewish “brethren” who are the 144,000 evangelists during the last half of the Tribulation period (Matthew 25:35-40, 42-45; Revelation 7:1-8; 14:1-5). Since no one who takes the mark of the beast gets saved during the Tribulation period (cf. Revelation 14:9-11), no unbeliever will help the Jewish evangelistic “brethren” of Christ. The Gentile believers who survive the Tribulation physically have endured faithfully for Christ (Matthew 24:13-14, 22) and helped His Jewish brethren, so they will “inherit” the kingdom or reign with Christ in His Kingdom on earth (Matthew 25:34; cf. 19:27-29; 2 Timothy 2:12; Revelation 2:25-27).
The New Testament distinguishes “entering” the kingdom from “inheriting” the kingdom. We enter the kingdom of God by faith alone in Christ alone (Matthew 18:3; 19:14; Mark 10:15; John 3:5, 15-16), but we “inherit” the kingdom of God through faithful, sacrificial service and suffering for Christ (Matthew 19:27-29; Romans 8:17b; I Corinthians 6:9-10; Galatians 5:19-21b; Ephesians 5:3-5; Colossians 3:23-24; Hebrews 1:2, 5, 9, 13-14; 6:12, 17; 9:15; Revelation 2:25-27).
For example, entering my house is different than inheriting my house. Entrance into my house is free. But if you want to inherit or possess my house, you must pay for it. When you pay for it, then you are entitled to certain privileges or authority. When you inherit my house, you can decide how to arrange the furniture and what colors to paint on the walls. But if you just enter my house, you don’t have those privileges. The same is true in the spiritual realm. You enter the kingdom of God through faith alone in Jesus Christ alone. But you will not have all the privileges or authority that come with inheriting the kingdom. You must earn those privileges through faithful service to Jesus.
The “goats” in Matthew 25:31-46 represent unbelieving Gentiles who are judged and cast into the everlasting fire of hell. The “sheep” represent faithful believing Gentiles who will enter “into eternal life” and be transformed because you cannot “inherit” or rule in the Kingdom without being a transformed believer (Matthew 25:46; cf. I Corinthians 15:50). So this passage is not teaching that salvation is given to those who help the needy. Rather it is teaching that rewards will be given to believers who faithfully endure for Christ in the Tribulation period.
Prayer: Lord Jesus, although Matthew 25:31-46 refers to people in the Tribulation period, it does apply to me now. Lord God, Your salvation from hell has always been absolutely free through faith in You alone and always will be. But in this passage, You are talking about how to earn Your inheritance rewards that grant more authority and privileges in Your coming Kingdom. Oh my precious Lord, please grant me the grace to faithfully serve You until the end of my life on earth so I may receive Your inheritance rewards in the future. With those rewards, I will be able to bring You more glory and honor in Your coming Kingdom. Thank You my Lord and my God for hearing my prayer. In Jesus’s name. Amen.