What are the Separation of Sheep and Goats?

A Metaphor from Christ

At Christ’s second coming, all the nations of the world will pass before him to be judged (Matt. 25:32). Jesus described the scene in terms of a separation of sheep and goats. The classification is related to their treatment of those identified by Christ as “these my brethren” (Matt. 25:40, 45).

These brethren may be one of the following three groups.


Some believe Jesus was referring to his fellow Jews. If that is the case, people of those nations which have sought to protect the Jews will be sheep. The others who have sought to harm the Jews or simply ignore their plight will be goats. This interpretation is in keeping with the promise of blessing in the Abrahamic Covenant to those who blessed the seed of Abraham (Gen. 12:1-3; 15:1-3).


Some commentators argue that the brethren of Jesus are really the church. Jesus said, “For whosoever shall do the will of my Father which is in heaven, the same is my brother, and sister, and mother” (Matt. 12:50).

In this case, the treatment of churches and Christians in those churches will be the basis of the judgment.


Throughout the Bible, God is portrayed as a defender of those who cannot defend themselves. Some have suggested God will judge the nations based upon their protection of the oppressed and defenseless members of their society. This would include the very young and very old, the poor and unborn.

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Dr. Elmer Towns is a college and seminary professor, an author of popular and scholarly works (the editor of two encyclopedias), a popular seminar lecturer, and dedicated worker in Sunday school, and has developed over 20 resource packets for leadership education.His personal education includes a B.S. from Northwestern College in Minneapolis, Minnesota, a M.A. from Southern Methodist University in Dallas, Texas, a Th.M. from Dallas Theological Seminary also in Dallas, a MRE from Garrett Theological Seminary in Evanston, Illinois, and a D.Min. from Fuller Theological Seminary in Pasadena, California.He is co-founder of Liberty University, with Jerry Falwell, in 1971, and was the only full-time teacher in the first year of Liberty’s existence. Today, the University has over 11,400 students on campus with 39,000 in the Distance Learning Program (now Liberty University Online), and he is the Dean of the School of Religion.Dr. Towns has given theological lectures and taught intensive seminars at over 50 theological seminaries in America and abroad. He holds visiting professorship rank in five seminaries. He has written over 2,000 reference and/or popular articles and received six honorary doctoral degrees. Four doctoral dissertations have analyzed his contribution to religious education and evangelism.

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