Your Theory about the Goats... Is it Really Possible? Matthew 25:31-46

READER>> I like what you have written, but question your theory about the goats on Jesus' left being fallen angels only.  Is it really possible?

ME>> Thank you for asking and join me in reconsidering.

Who are the goats?  It is a simple question with a simple answer assumed. Unbelievers of course! However, many times a simple observation is missed and we are misled by our assumptions. Consider, ever since 1492 whenever the word Indian is used we need to clarify whether we mean American Indian or Asian Indian. Columbus taught us long ago that accurate understanding requires an accurate knowledge of our frame of reference! Five hundred years later, even in our advanced era, NASA and Lockheed Martin lost a $125 million satellite to outer space because unknowingly one used Metric and the other English measurements. Oops! They remind us that compatible dialogue needs a compatible use of terms and measures. Michelangelo's famous Moses statue wears a set of horns because in Exodus 34 the Latin Vulgate translation wrongly says horns instead of glow, two very similar Hebrew words. So truthful conclusions can only come from accurate sources. Even the atheist Friedrich Nietzsche adds a point saying, "The text has disappeared under the interpretation." Thus Bible study is the hardest interpretive work there is, for one must mercilessly imprison a thousand traditions and silence a million voices to see the text of Scripture. May God give us the wisdom to consider every observation of others, but the clear sight to see his Word.

So who are the goats condemned by Jesus in Matthew 25:31-46? I propose that the goats on Jesus' left at the Sheep and Goat Judgment are the fallen angels. Matthew 25:41 (WEB) says, "Then he will say also to those on the left hand, 'Depart from me, you cursed, into the eternal fire which is prepared for the devil and his angels." My defense of the victory of grace for all mankind at DGJC.ORG/OPTIMISM includes this understanding. The Scriptures explicitly say that the aionian fire is prepared for the Devil and his angels. Correspondingly, I understand that it is not prepared for mankind, not even unbelieving mankind. My conclusion has been challenged by Christians from various traditions, including Universalists.  Yet it should give us all pause to consider that the Scripture explicitly states that these fires are prepared for the Devil and his angels.  Do you and traditional theologies factor this observation into your conclusions?  Perhaps I am wrong. In fact I am already corrected on one point because I may have argued in the past that human beings were never referred to as goats in the Christian Scripture. However, Jeremiah 50:8 and 51:40, Ezekiel 39:18, and Zechariah 10:3 all use goats as a metaphor for Israel and Israel's leaders. So I must reconsider the identity of the goats, and also consider whether being wrong about the identity of the goats at the Sheep and Goat Judgment undermines my larger conclusion about the victory of God's grace for all mankind.

In the following article I invite you to weigh the evidence with me as I reconsider my conclusions about the Sheep and Goat Judgment. In the following paragraphs I list the major views of eschatology, disclose my own view of prophecy, list my previous articles on the subject, note the use and meaning of the Greek word ethnos, consider the impact of possible time frames, identify the Sheep on the right, prove the presence of fallen angels at the final future judgment, review the significance of Tartarus and Thalaasa, compare and contrast the Sheep and Goat Judgment with the Great White Throne Judgment, consider the redemption of fallen angels, examine Revelation 20:8 again, add further thoughts about redemptive ages beyond the Great White Throne Judgment in Revelation 21 and 22, note the promised end of death and Hades, reconsider the identity of the Goats on the left, and conclude whether Biblical proof about the victory of God's grace for all mankind is made uncertain because of uncertainty about Matthew 25:31-46 or any particular view of prophecy.

Various views of eschatology include: 1) Dispensational Pre-Millennialism, future, 2) non-Dispensational Pre-Millennialism, future, 3) A-Millennialism, present, 4) realized Post-Millennialism, past, 5) Post-Millennialism, future, 6) variations of the previous, and 7) full Preterism which understands that all prophecy is fully realized with no future return of Christ forecast. Preterist is the word used to describe prophetic statements that were future at the time the prophecy was written, but the events are now are past. Most Christians recognize that some New Testament prophecy is already fulfilled, but full Preterism asserts that all Biblical prophecy is completely fulfilled. I more fully explain each of these views and their relevancy to mankind's salvation in my articles Eschatology is the Study of Future Good News and Eschatology is the Study of Future Good News Part 2 with Grudem Riddlebarger Chilton Summers Ewing.

Further, within these views there are both common and uncommon understandings of the timing and purpose of the Sheep and Goat Judgment explained in Matthew 25:31-46. Various understandings include that the Sheep and Goat Judgment happened or happens 1) metaphorically on the cross dividing believer and unbeliever, 2) visibly when Christ judged Jerusalem in 70 A.D. and later Rome, 3) invisibly in the first century by Christ in Heaven, 4) visibly in the future at the rapture of the church before the Millennial epoch, and 5) visibly in the future at the rapture and Christ's second coming after the Millennial church age epoch, thus synonymous with the Great White Throne Judgment. So we have differences, yet I hope we can all agree gladly with the following statement;

Being right or wrong in our understanding about the Sheep and Goat Judgment and prophecy will not change the final destiny of the redeemed people of God in the least, though present understanding and joy may be impacted temporarily.

Many Christian teachers are private about their theological positions beyond the fact that Christ is the divine promised Messiah and that he is coming again for his own along with other essentials. There is wisdom in this discretion. Secondary theology and speculation often divides rather than unites. However, disclosure of my views online has been a helpful for me to think aloud to vet ideas and grow in understanding. Even so, if we meet in person I hope that our conversation remains focused on practical Christian living and loving instead of any puffed-up theories.

Yet prophecy has attracted my attention because the study of grace and mankind's salvation must be consistent with the things the Bible reveals about the future. Developing a consistent model of understanding is no small undertaking as two thousand years of theological conflict show. My own view of prophecy is simply a variation of the traditional A-Millennial view that the 1,000 year epoch revealed in Revelation 20:1-7 is the entire church age between Christ's first and Second Advent. Thus we wait for the final battle with Satan to be followed immediately by Christ's second coming and final judgment at the Great White Throne. At that time the redemption of mankind will be finally and fully manifest with every tear wiped away, sin and brokenness removed forever, and Satan's rebellion crushed as he and his demonic followers are sentenced to the Lake of Fire which is prepared for them. This is just as God promised to Adam and Eve so long ago in the garden, Genesis 3:15 (WEB), "I will put hostility between you and the woman, and between your offspring and her offspring. He will bruise your head, and you will bruise his heel."

My previous articles on prophecy include:

Now the passage under discussion, Matthew 25:31-46 (WEB), reads as follows,

31) But when the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the holy angels with him, then he will sit on the throne of his glory. 32) Before him all the nations will be gathered, and he will separate them one from another, as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. 33) He will set the sheep on his right hand, but the goats on the left. 34) Then the King will tell those on his right hand, "Come, blessed of my Father, inherit the Kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world; 35) for I was hungry, and you gave me food to eat. I was thirsty, and you gave me drink. I was a stranger, and you took me in. 36) I was naked, and you clothed me. I was sick, and you visited me. I was in prison, and you came to me." 37) Then the righteous will answer him, saying, "Lord, when did we see you hungry, and feed you; or thirsty, and give you a drink? 38) When did we see you as a stranger, and take you in; or naked, and clothe you? 39) When did we see you sick, or in prison, and come to you?" 40) The King will answer them, "Most certainly I tell you, because you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me." 41) Then he will say also to those on the left hand, "Depart from me, you cursed, into the eternal fire which is prepared for the devil and his angels; 42) for I was hungry, and you didn't give me food to eat; I was thirsty, and you gave me no drink; 43) I was a stranger, and you didn't take me in; naked, and you didn't clothe me; sick, and in prison, and you didn't visit me." 44) Then they will also answer, saying, "Lord, when did we see you hungry, or thirsty, or a stranger, or naked, or sick, or in prison, and didn't help you?" 45) Then he will answer them, saying, "Most certainly I tell you, because you didn't do it to one of the least of these, you didn't do it to me." 46) These will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life.

First we consider the use of the Greek word ethnos in verse 32, translated as nations above. Previously I have said that we most naturally assume that when Jesus gathers the nations before him that he is talking about only human beings and human nations. The Greek word ethnos could be understood to mean "a multitude of individuals of the same nature or genus, for example the human family." Thus when Jesus divides the people into their categories of sheep and goats, we naturally conclude that believing humans are sheep while the remaining unbelieving humans are the goats. So it is commonly understood that only part of humanity is saved from the Lake of Fire while the rest are lost eternally. Arminians and Calvinists Christians both agree on this point, though curiously they disagree as to how people are saved. Further, most Christian Universalists also agree with this understanding, but conclude that all humanity is finally saved in redemptive ages beyond the Great White Throne Judgment and beyond the Lake of Fire. I understand the motivation for these views, but I still feel there is a more consistent model.

We should not conclude too quickly that ethnos means human ethnic groups. Etymology shows that the English word ethnic has a restricted meaning compared to its Greek origins. Perhaps the modern English meaning was wrongly influenced by the traditional understanding of this very passage. Instead note that the Greek word ethnos is also used to mean "the people, in contrast to their king." The first denotation in the Vines dictionary also indicates, "a multitude (whether of men or of beasts) associated or living together: a company, troop, swarm." These alternate denotations must also be considered as eligible when interpreting this passage. The main point is that one cannot say that fallen angels are not at this judgment based on the meaning of the word ethnos, particularly since ethnos can mean "people in contrast to their king" and "a multitude of men or of beasts." Do not forget that angels are also God's subjects and are people with names, minds, wills, and emotion, though they are not human beings created in God's image. So the Greek ethnos would be the perfect word to describe a mixed gathering of humans and fallen angels arraigned before Jesus their king. That much all must agree. Also as an aside it is noted that the same Greek word ethnos is found in Revelation 20:8 in close proximity to the Great White Throne Judgment. Perhaps that is no coincidence.

Defense of the presence of fallen angels at The Sheep and Goat Judgment is important in my view because of my understanding that the Sheep and Goat Judgment and the Great White Throne Judgment are the same final judgment. If I understand that these judgments are the final judgment and the goats are unbelieving mankind, then they are sentenced to the Lake of Fire. However, we are considering and reconsidering the proposition that the goats are not human beings, but in fact are the fallen angels. Now those who think that the Sheep and Goat Judgment is before the Millennial epoch could alternatively still hold that all mankind avoids the Lake of Fire if unbelieving humans were sentenced to aionian fire in temporal Hades during the Millennial epoch and then finally saved when extracted from Hades at the Great White Throne Judgment. I initially held this view myself, combined with a non-Dispensational Pre-Millennial view of prophecy. Though, I have since moved to an A-Millennial understanding. In contrast to both of these ideas, the majority of Christian Universalists hold that unbelieving mankind is actually sentenced to the Lake of Fire at the Great White Throne Judgment, but then finally saved in yet later redemptive ages. However, I feel that this view misses the concluding nature of Revelation 21 and 22 and misses the simpler chronology taught in the Bible, Hebrews 9:27 (WEB), "Inasmuch as it is appointed for men to die once, and after this, judgment." I wonder if those holding to redemptive ages beyond the Great White Throne Judgment would acknowledge that their strained interpretation may be motivated by the desire to save people from the Lake of Fire when it should be reconsidered whether human beings are ever sent there in the first place.

Further debate could be encouraged to consider the plausibility of the various proposed time frames of the Sheep and Goat Judgment. For example to suggest that this judgment is the invisible judgment at the cross neglects the real dialogue portrayed between Christ and his subjects. To suggest that this judgment happened in Heaven invisibly to us might be possible, but then where does it fit on the redemptive timeline shown in the book of Revelation and elsewhere? And the grand picture of Christ gathering all his subjects before him is lost because we were not there along with many others not yet born. Finally, to suggest that this is an intermediate judgment in the future at the rapture before the Millennial Kingdom might also be possible, but requires an acceptance of the Dispensational model.  Hebrews 9:27, quoted above, again points to a simpler understanding that we each die once and there will be one final judgment at the end of the church age before eternity begins. In any case, views that propose that the Sheep and Goat Judgment is not the final judgment minimize the importance of the identity of the goats to maintain a consistent Christian Universalist theology because Christ would still have opportunity to save the goats later, if they are human.  After all, Christ did say that the gates of Hades will not prevail, and, as promised, we see that Hades is emptied at the Great White Throne Judgment.

Again, it is commonly assumed that the goats on the left are unbelievers to be damned for all eternity and the sheep on the right are the believers to be blessed for all eternity. However, before we consider the goats on the left, let's consider the sheep on the right. The sheep may offer further clues about the time frame of this judgment. Many times we miss the obvious by not asking the obvious question. Why do the sheep on the right seem ignorant of gospel basics such as, we serve Christ when we serve the least of his brothers? Why do they seem surprised about their salvation? For those that understand the Sheep and Goat Judgment to be synonymous with the Great White Throne Judgment, then the timing of this final judgment would be just after the rapture of the saints to meet the returning Christ in the air. Christ and his church then descend to earth and this judgment begins. That being the case it is strange to think of the believers rejoicing in the air with Christ and with each other moments before fearful judgment. Review 1 Thessalonians 4:14-18 (WEB).

14) For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so God will bring with him those who have fallen asleep in Jesus. 15) For this we tell you by the word of the Lord, that we who are alive, who are left until the coming of the Lord, will in no way precede those who have fallen asleep. 16) For the Lord himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel and with God's trumpet. The dead in Christ will rise first, 17) then we who are alive, who are left, will be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air. So we will be with the Lord forever. 18) Therefore comfort one another with these words.

It is very awkward to suggest that we believers who understand the gospel and will already be rejoicing with Christ in the air at the rapture will then be arraigned with uncertainties before the Sheep and Goat Judgment. You may have guessed by now that I do not think that the sheep on the right are believers. So then who are the sheep on Jesus' right? They are unbelieving mankind just extracted from Hades! This model of understanding is a perfect match with the attitude and questions that would be expected from the unbelieving redeemed that are extracted from Hades at the final judgment.  I call them unbelieving redeemed because Christ redeemed them at the cross and their sins are already atoned, though they remain unbelieving.  Faith does not cause our redemption and atonement, but instead faith receives our redemption already made certain at the cross.  Unbelievers are punished in Hades not because they are not forgiven, but because they refuse the forgiveness already given at the cross and so reject Christ their savior and King.  God loves and has already forgiven all mankind, but the hearts of unbelievers are not ready to confess their sin and receive forgiveness. They do not yet see the great gift in the gospel and the value of Christian service. Instead unbelievers will spend who knows how long in whatever sufferings Hades brings to the wicked dead. And one day they will be released from their prison in Hades to stand before Christ their King. The responses of the sheep on the right fit this scenario perfectly.  They are lost sheep, then found.  Meanwhile believers, whether standing on the side line or in the midst, are not asking such questions, but have already begun rejoicing that the final victory of grace is at hand.

One objected to this view asking why the Lord commends those extracted from Hades for good things they did. Did they really do good things?  Did the selfish rich man do any good?  Did Hitler do any good? These are good questions with Jesus answering, "whatever you did for the least of these, you did for me." We as believers already know that, but the unbelievers do not know that, and still will not understand until released from punishment in Hades to be judged by Christ. However, even though they do not understand these things now, there still may be many 'decent' secular humanitarians... from an earthly perspective. True, if they do not repent, they will still be sentenced to Hades for disregarding Christ. Yet even so they may have done some good for humanity. Unbelievers can do good things. Perhaps even Hitler did an act of kindness before he became enslaved to Satan's scheme. All mankind, even the unbelieving, are created in God's image, and may at times do good things to help others. Certainly no one does enough good to merit salvation. However, at the Sheep and Goat Judgment Jesus graciously accepts any good done by the unbelieving at this juncture, not because it saves them, but so that eternity begins on a positive note rather than a negative note for these prisoners just released. Another argued that this is not possible because all our righteous deeds are like "filthy rags." Well, that is true of both believer and non-believer alike. So Christ's kind words are undeserved no matter who is the audience! Good parents know to focus on the positive after punishing their children. Even human authorities speak a hopeful future to released prisoners. Would God then begin eternity with a begrudged welcome for those saved out of Hades? No way! God, as the originator of grace, understands better than we about the importance of starting things on a positive note!

Continuing, some have argued that fallen angels will not be present at the final judgment. However, this fact is easily proved. We read in 2 Peter 2:4 (WEB), "For if God didn't spare angels when they sinned, but cast them down to Tartarus, and committed them to pits of darkness to be reserved for judgment." Further, we read Jude 6 (WEB), "Angels who didn't keep their first domain, but deserted their own dwelling place, he has kept in everlasting bonds under darkness for the judgment of the great day." So fallen angels will be present for judgment on that Great Day! This fact must be integrated into our understanding of the final judgment passages.  The fallen angels will be there.

The Great White Throne Judgment recorded in Revelation 20:11-15 (WEB) offers both similar and additional detail of the final judgment when compared with Matthew 25:31-46. We read,

11) I saw a great white throne, and him who sat on it, from whose face the earth and the heaven fled away. There was found no place for them. 12) I saw the dead, the great and the small, standing before the throne, and they opened books. Another book was opened, which is the book of life. The dead were judged out of the things which were written in the books, according to their works. 13) The sea gave up the dead who were in it. Death and Hades gave up the dead who were in them. They were judged, each one according to his works. 14) Death and Hades were thrown into the lake of fire. This is the second death, the lake of fire. 15) If anyone was not found written in the book of life, he was cast into the lake of fire.

Comparing the judgment in Matthew 25:31-46 and Revelation 20:11-15 is helpful to confirm whether these are the same events. However, first note that Revelation 20:13 explains that the subjects of this judgment are extracted from both the sea, Thalaasa in the Greek, and also from Hades. This is at least a curious observation and perhaps a significant observation as it relates to the presence of fallen angels at the final judgment. I have already proved the presence of fallen angels at the final judgment from 2 Peter 2:4 and Jude 6. The Great White Throne Judgment is the last judgment recorded in Scripture and therefore, I believe, the final judgment. Further, we see that the subjects of this judgment are extracted from two locations, Hades and Thalaasa. We know from Luke 16:19-31 that wicked deceased humans are punished in Hades. However, who is located in Thalaasa, the sea? I propose that Thalaasa is either the retreat or the temporary prison of fallen angels.  The sea was commonly understood to be the caustic habitat of demons in the first century. I examine this question at length in my article, Fallen Angels at the Great White Throne Judgment. This article explains possible connections between Thalaasa and the prison for fallen angels, Tartarus, mentioned in 2 Peter 2:4. Thus the presence of fallen angels at the final judgment, just extracted from the sea, is even further confirmed and must be factored into our view of the final judgment.

I have proposed that the Sheep and Goat Judgment is the same event as the Great White Throne Judgment. If I am wrong about this conclusion then between the two events, the Great White Throne Judgment is the better choice for the final judgment because of its placement at the end of the book of Revelation. That being the case fallen angels would still be present then, even if they are not at the Sheep and Goat Judgment. This is safely concluded because of the reference to "the Great Day" in Jude 6 and the emptying of both the prison of Hades and of Thalaasa in Revelation 20:13.  And as already stated, if the Sheep and Goat Judgment is earlier, not the final judgment, and angels are not present there, then Christ would still have opportunity to save the goats later, if they are human, and if Hades is the aionian fires of the Sheep and Goat judgment.  This is true because we see that Hades is emptied at the Great White Throne Judgment.

Consider a detailed comparison of Matthew 25 and Revelation 20.

Comparison Sheep and Goat Great White Throne
Both accounts are from gospel writers. Matthew wrote Matthew John wrote Revelation
All four gospel writers include Jesus' final prophecies, Matthew, Mark, and Luke within their gospel accounts and John not in his gospel account, but with special attention in Revelation. Olivet discourse in Matthew 24-25 Missing in John's gospel, but instead explained in his book of Revelation
Both answer questions about the present and future. 24:3) As he sat on the Mount of Olives, the disciples came to him privately, saying, "Tell us, when will these things be? What is the sign of your coming, and of the end of the age" 1:9) I John, your brother and partner with you in the oppression, Kingdom, and perseverance in Christ Jesus, was on the isle that is called Patmos because of God's Word and the testimony of Jesus Christ. ... 1:19) Write therefore the things which you have seen, and the things which are, and the things which will happen hereafter.
Both depict grand thrones. 25:31) But when the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the holy angels with him, then he will sit on the throne of his glory. 20:11) I saw a great white throne, and him who sat on it, from whose face the earth and the heaven fled away. There was found no place for them.
Both depict Christ summoning his subjects with John providing more detail from where, though without contradiction. 25:32) Before him all the nations will be gathered, and he will separate them one from another, as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. 20:13) The sea gave up the dead who were in it. Death and Hades gave up the dead who were in them. They were judged, each one according to his works.
Matthew notes the separation of sheep and goats. Revelation notes judgment, though there is no contradiction. Many assume no one is saved at the Great White Throne, but only forwarded to the Lake of Fire. Yet, if these events are the same, then at least some of the people extracted from Hades or Thalaasa are saved at the Sheep and Goat Judgment! 25:32) Before him all the nations will be gathered, and he will separate them one from another, as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. 20:12) I saw the dead, the great and the small, standing before the throne, and they opened books. Another book was opened, which is the book of life. The dead were judged out of the things which were written in the books, according to their works.
Matthew records dialogue between Christ and his subjects while Revelation does not, though again there is no contradictory detail. 25:39) "When did we see you sick, or in prison, and come to you?" 40) The King will answer them, "Most certainly I tell you, because you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me."  
Matthew records praise for the good deeds of the sheep while Revelation records judgment based on both works and also whether one's name is in the Lamb's Book. Again there is no contradictory detail. 25:34) Then the King will tell those on his right hand, 'Come, blessed of my Father, inherit the Kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world; 35) for I was hungry, and you gave me food to eat. I was thirsty, and you gave me drink. I was a stranger, and you took me in.' 20:12) I saw the dead, the great and the small, standing before the throne, and they opened books. Another book was opened, which is the book of life. The dead were judged out of the things which were written in the books, according to their works. ... 20:15) If anyone was not found written in the book of life, he was cast into the lake of fire.
Matthew records both the positive destiny of the sheep and the negative destiny of the goats while Revelation records only the negative destiny of those not listed in the Lamb's Book with the positive destiny of those listed only implied. Again there is no contradictory detail. 25:46) These will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life. 20:15) If anyone was not found written in the book of life, he was cast into the lake of fire.
Matthew and John use different terms for the destiny of the wicked, though again without contradiction. aionian fire Lake of Fire

 
The Sheep and Goat Judgment and the Great White Throne Judgment have much in common and so it is both fair and commonly agreed by many to consider these events as synonymous.  Repeating one conclusion from the above chart, if the Sheep and Goat Judgment and the Great White Throne Judgment events are the same final judgment event, then at least some of the people extracted from Hades or Thalaasa are saved at the Great White Throne Judgment!  Since the Great White Throne Judgment only speaks explicitly about those not listed in the Book as being cast in the Lake of Fire, many argue that all the inhabitants of Hades and Thalaasa are simply extracted so they can be sentenced to their permanent destiny in the Lake of Fire. Unfortunately this is a hasty conclusion.  So, if not clear in Revelation's Great White Throne Judgment, it is clear in Matthew's Sheep and Goat Judgment that some are saved at this juncture.  It is also clear that the subjects at the Great White Throne Judgment are from Hades and Thalaasa.  Therefore if the Sheep and Goat Judgment is synonymous with the Great White Throne Judgment, it is proved that at least some are saved from either Hades or Thalaasa.  So if you agree that the Sheep and Goat Judgment and the Great White Throne Judgment are the same event, then you must also agree with me that some from either Hades or Thalaasa are saved.  I would propose that Hades houses unbelieving mankind and they will all be saved because all of their names are written in the Book of Life from the foundation of the world, though they do not yet understand and believe this as Christians do.  And I would l propose that Thalaasa houses the fallen angels and they are not saved because Scriptures says that the Lake of Fire is explicitly prepared for them!

A more thorough study could compare the Sheep and Goat Judgment with other Bible passages that may also refer to the final judgment.  For example, Daniel 12:1-4 is a possible candidate which I discuss further in my articles Daniel 12:1-4 and Your Thought is that Daniel 12:1-4 is the Final Judgment!  My conclusion is that Daniel 12:1-4 corroborates with my thesis here.  Another passage to review is John 5:28-30 which I have considered in my article, John 5:28-30 Offers No Optimism.  Likewise 2 Peter chapter 2, one of the scarier chapters in the New Testament, has grave warnings for false teachers.   However, this chapter also explicitly reminds us that fallen angels will be present at the judgment.  The passage also reminds us that the unbelieving will be punished and then brought to judgment.  However, there is no explicit mention of eternal punishment beyond the final judgment for mankind.  Note that 2 Peter 2:17 (WEB) is translated, "These are wells without water, clouds driven by a storm; for whom the blackness of darkness has been reserved forever."  However, the Greek word underlying "forever" is "aion" which never means infinite chronological time as has been explained numerous times at DGJC.ORG and in Optimism Out of Control.  Instead the meaning is either eonian or entire.  Also see the article, Aion, for further proof.  So 2 Peter chapter 2 corroborates as well.

As mentioned, particular to my model of understanding is the proposition that fallen angels are the goats on Jesus left that are extracted from Thalaasa for their final judgment. These fallen angels are then sentenced to the Lake of Fire which is prepared for them while all mankind is redeemed because Christ has already atoned for the sins of all mankind at the cross, 1 John 2:2 (WEB), "And he is the atoning sacrifice for our sins, and not for ours only, but also for the whole world." Naturally, however, we do not expect everyone to see things the same way. And differences may even be more pronounced among the radical minority that holds to the universal salvation of mankind. One point of debate among Christian Universalists is whether Satan himself and the fallen angels will be redeemed. I mention this because my model of understanding is different than most Universalists. I agree that the grace of Christ will be victorious in the salvation of all mankind. However, I also understand that no human being will ever enter the Lake of Fire because it is not prepared for mankind, but instead for the Devil and his angels, as explicitly stated. So my understanding may revive debate about the possibility of fallen angel redemption.

Most arguments promoting the salvation of Satan focus on passages like Romans 11:32, Colossians 1:20, and Philippians 2:10 which speak about the salvation and redemption of all and worship of every tongue. Weighty arguments can be made from these passages for the redemption of all creation, including Satan. The Holy Spirit's choice of words for the redemption of all creation should especially be noted in Romans 8:21 and 11:32.  However, these passages must also be weighed against Scriptures that say God is not the helper of angels, Hebrews 2:16, and Matthew 25:41 which explicitly states the Lake of Fire is prepared for the Devil and his angels. I discuss this question further in my articles Isaiah 65:25 Says that Even Satan Will Be Restored, Hebrews 2:16 Does Not Say Fallen Angels Are Damned, and Isaiah 66:22-24 Cannot Include Fallen Angels. One might also ask if the goat metaphor is ever used of fallen angels in the Bible beyond my proposal concerning Matthew 25:31-46. It is not to my knowledge. Further, the extra Biblical image of the goat-headed Baphomet offers no proof either.  Those offended by the damnation of Satan and his angels to the Lake of Fire should be reminded that the bottom line argument for the redemption of all mankind should not hinge on the meaning of all and every.  We all understand that these words can be used in general non-absolute ways at times.  Instead the bottom line argument for the redemption of all mankind is the atoning sacrifice of the God-man, Jesus Christ.  Christ's role as the second Adam and new federal head of humanity is the heart of our hope and praise.  Though I do not want to speculate beyond Scripture as to Satan's eternal destiny, but simply observe that Jesus is not his helper, the Lake of Fire is prepared for him and his fallen angels, and there they remain at the last sentence of the Bible.

Suppose I am right and the judgments in Matthew 25 and Revelation 20 are the same event and fallen angels are the goats on Jesus' left, then does the warning in Revelation 21:8 really only apply to fallen angels? Actually, I would say no. This warning applies to both mankind and angel-kind alike.  Revelation 21:8 says, "But for the cowardly, unbelieving, sinners, abominable, murderers, sexually immoral, sorcerers, idolaters, and all liars, their part is in the lake that burns with fire and sulfur, which is the second death." The Holy Spirit is consistent through the whole of Scripture giving severe warning to unbelieving mankind. This is evident in God's condemnation of Nineveh, though God did not destroy Nineveh as he promised, as explained in my article, Jonah 3. This is also evident when God's calls Israel, "not my people", then again, "my people" when they repented, as explained in my article, Hosea 2:23. So the warning in Revelation 21:8 applies to all, but I believe that condemnation to the Lake of Fire will only be applied to the fallen angels and not mankind, not even unbelieving mankind, who will be finally graced with repentance and open eyes on that Great Day.  This is true because God himself already determined the glorious destiny of all mankind when he made atonement for the sins of all mankind.  I discuss this in more detail in my article, How Can You Say Revelation 21:8 Does Not Apply to Humans?

So if we believe the Sheep and Goat Judgment and the Great White Throne Judgment are the same event, the final judgment of men and angels, which I do, and also believe that all mankind will be finally saved, which I do, then we must either defend that the goats on Jesus' left are not human beings, but are in fact the fallen angels, or that the human beings sent to the Lake of Fire will be safely extracted later. We have reviewed the Biblical data above preparing to re-defend the proposal that the fallen angels are the goats on Jesus' left. Now if it were true that human begins were never referred to as goats, then that would provide even one more argument to support my case. However, Jeremiah 50:8 and 51:40, and Ezekiel 39:18 all use goats as a metaphor for Israel and Israel's leaders. So the argument that goat imagery never refers to human beings cannot be used. Yet note that these passages do not distinguish between sheep as good and goats as bad as we find in Matthew 25 and so should not be considered parallel passages.  However, Zechariah 10:2-3, a closer parallel to Matthew 25, does condemn Israel's leaders, the goats, for misleading Israel's people, the sheep.  So if Matthew 25 is parallel to Zechariah 10, then it draws a line of judgement between condemned leaders and misled followers.  But certainly Matthew's Sheep and Goat judgment cuts deeper than a line between leaders and followers, but instead is a division determined before the foundation of creation in the Book of Life, Revelation 20:15. So Matthew 25 appears to be the only place were sheep and goat imagery is used to contrast between those saved from the Lake of Fire and those who are not saved. The final question of this study remains. Is there enough Biblical data to warrant the proposition that the goats on the left are the fallen angels only?

As explained, for most Christian Universalists this is not even an important question because instead most propose that unbelieving mankind, or even all mankind, are scourged of sin in the Lake of Fire and finally saved in redemptive ages beyond the Great White Throne Judgment in Revelation 21 and 22. Revelation 21 and 22 could possibly be understood to portray redemptive ages after the Great White Throne Judgment. For Revelation 20:4 (WEB) says, "He will wipe away every tear from their eyes. Death will be no more; neither will there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain, any more. The first things have passed away." All sin and brokenness appears to be healed. But then beyond that Revelation 22:14-15 (WEB) says, "Blessed are those who do his commandments, that they may have the right to the tree of life, and may enter in by the gates into the city. Outside are the dogs, the sorcerers, the sexually immoral, the murderers, the idolaters, and everyone who loves and practices falsehood." So has sin reentered the world after the Great White Throne Judgment? No. The mistake in this interpretation is to assume that the verses after the Great White Throne Judgment are a sequential chronology of redemptive ages. Instead a better literary analysis would show that the Great White Throne Judgment is the end of the story for this fallen world followed by the commencement of blessed eternity for God's people. Revelation 21 and 22 are then the concluding statements that paint a summary picture of this promised future for mankind, as well as a picture of the New Testament church age until we reach the Great White Throne Judgment.  A good conclusion will address both the present need and the future hope just as the Holy Spirit does in Revelation 21 and 22. Read more about my understanding of this question at Revelation 21:22 The Last Age, the Church, or Eternity?

Christian Universalists that propose escape from the Lake of Fire also use the argument that the end of death is promised in the New Testament and so that must mean escape from the second death in the Lake of Fire. This is a hopeful thought, but only born out of the concern that human beings are sent to the Lake of Fire in the first place. However, the thought is not as precise as needed in attention to detail. Jesus does promise that "the gates of Hades will not prevail against it" in Matthew 16:18 (WEB) as explained in my article, Matthew 16:15-21 Optimism Out of Control. Paul also reinforces the hope in 1 Corinthians 15:55 (WEB) saying, "Death, where is your sting? Hades, where is your victory?" Yet both of these passages point to the good news at the Great White Throne Judgment when Hades is emptied and death is ended for mankind with the beginning of blessed eternity. However, there is no promise in Scripture concerning the end of the second death for the Devil and his angels.  In fact the Holy Spirit uses the expression "second death" in order to make a distinction between those saved from the first death in Hades, that is unbelieving mankind, and those not saved from the second death in the Lake of Fire, that is the Devil and his angels.  These are important observations again supporting the conclusions that unbelieving humans are saved out of Hades, the first death, and that fallen angels are sent to the Lake of Fire which is prepared for them, the second death.

So is there enough Biblical data to warrant the proposition that the goats on the left are only the fallen angels? After further review I continue to believe so. Even though human beings are referred to as goats a few times in Scripture I still think there is enough evidence to hold that fallen angels are condemned and all mankind finally saved.  The fallen angels are condemned to the Lake of Fire at the final judgment while all Christians rejoice with Christ at the rapture and all non-Christians are safely extracted from Hades and surprised to learn that they are finally saved along with all God's people.  The sins of unbelievers are already atoned, the same as the sins of believers, at the cross of Christ!  There are many Scriptures and arguments above that point to this conclusion. I did not even mention the supra-Biblical observation that redemptive history begins with the promise of a deliverer for mankind and the forecast that Satan's head will be crushed in Genesis 3:15. Revelation 20 then finishes the story with the salvation of all mankind and the banishment of Satan and his angels to the Lake of Fire.  This is an important point, so let me say it again.  History begins with the fall of mankind to the schemes of Satan and with God promising future deliverance for his people and the crushing of Satan's rebellion.  And the history of this fallen world will end with the sentencing of Satan to the Lake of Fire and the redemption of all God's people to blessed eternity. These are the two perfectly matching bookends for the history of redemption!  The Bible is the story of the most awesome victory of grace for mankind and the final defeat of Satan our adversary!

Even so, for me, the essential facts remain 1) fallen angels will be at the final judgment, 2 Peter 2:4 and Jude 6, 2) the Lake of Fire is explicitly prepared for the Devil and his angels, Matthew 25:41, 3) Christ is not the helper of fallen angels, Hebrews 2:16, 4) Christ promised to defeat Hades, Matthew 16:18 and 1 Corinthians 15:55, 5) Hades is emptied and proven to be temporal punishment for unbelieving mankind, Revelation 20:13, and 6) Christ as the second Adam is the atoning sacrifice for the sins of all mankind, both believing and unbelieving, Romans 5:18 and 1 John 2:1.  These indisputable observations must be integrated into any Biblical view of destiny for mankind and angelkind.

The arguments I propose identifying the goats as the fallen angels seem certain to me. What do you think? However, even so we might ask if Biblical proof of the victory of God's grace for all mankind is made uncertain because of remaining uncertainty about Matthew 25:31-46 or any particular prophecy? Certainly Biblical teaching about future things and final judgments must be compatible with any interpretation about the final destiny of mankind. However, within Christian theology, which is already divided on so many points, the subject of eschatology may be the most divided and confused of all. Biblical passages about judgments and future things can be very difficult to understand and to consistently synthesize with the whole of Scripture. So building a case for the final redemption of all mankind based on a particular view of eschatology may not be the best foundation. (Though curiously, those who oppose the idea of mankind's universal salvation are equally divided over interpretation of prophecy and even their salvation recipes, yet their common foundation is the claim that all mankind will not be saved!  What a terrible foundation!). Instead the foundational argument for the salvation of all mankind is Christ himself as the second Adam and the atoning sacrifice for not only our sins, but the sins of all mankind. Confidence in this fact overrules any uncertainties we may have in interpreting Christ's prophecies. Christ's work on the cross for all mankind is the foundation of hope both for us and for our fellowman.

Finally, while I enjoy these studies, confirming and re-confirming the fact of God's love for all mankind from the Bible, I also consider a graver question.  Will further proofs of Jesus' promises and prophecy help our understanding and prove God's victorious grace to the unbeliever?  Will those already professing Christ be thankful that the grace that saves all mankind is the same grace that also saves them?  Will those who reject the salvation of all mankind recognize their offensive blind hypocrisy in claiming their sins are forgiven at the cross, but the sins of others are not forgiven?  It would be the greatest honor to be used by God to lead another to Christ and his grace for us all.  And God commands us to labor with all our energy testifying to his grace.  He adds our feeble efforts into his master plan.  However, the praise for opening the ears of the dumb, giving sight to the blind, and raising the dead goes to Christ alone.  He alone has the power to conceive born again believers.  Fine arguments alone never persuaded one person to come to Christ.  The Holy Spirit alone breathes life to the dead.

So if further expert defense is rejected after all our efforts, remember Paul's exhortation in 2 Corinthians 10:3-5 (WEB), "For though we walk in the flesh, we don't wage war according to the flesh; for the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh, but mighty before God to the throwing down of strongholds, throwing down imaginations and every high thing that is exalted against the knowledge of God and bringing every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ."  We wage war preaching God's word and praying to Christ while waiting patiently for the Holy Spirit to make the difference!

Thank you for joining my further research. Understanding prophecy has always been difficult for me. Lack of confidence in my position has, at times past, resulted in embarrassment and defensiveness. Helpful teachability was lost in me because confident understanding eluded me even after all my study. Further, I was lost in the dizzying array of interpretive models available. I despaired whether understanding was even possible. The winning recipe for my dilemma was instead to rest confidently in the Lord's love knowing that our promised destiny does not depend upon our understanding, but upon his grace. That is good news! Hopefully this good news lowers our defenses enough to honest that our best explanations are merely models of understanding. History future will give us the certain understanding when that Great Day reveals all. My proposed model of understanding has answered enough questions to satisfy my desire to make consistent sense of the whole. However, I pray that I, or any who agree with my conclusions above, would keep knowledge in its proper place for questions still remain.  One day even the value of knowledge will be eclipsed and pass away with the commencement of glorious eternity. Though knowledge about God's love for you, me, and all mankind will certainly never pass away!

Comments

Thanks for the comment.  If

Thanks for the comment.  If possible it would be nice to engage in deeper conversation than simply lobbing our view points from a distance.  Did you see any point I made in the article above?  For example the Bible says fallen angels will be at the final judgment.  How do you factor this into your own understanding?  Also the Bible says the the 'aionian' fire at the Sheep and Goat judgment is prepared for the Devil and his angels.  How do you factor this into your understanding?

You have not said much above by way of discussion, but I would add one point of correction to your own comment.  You seem to imply that the Greek word 'aionian' can only mean 'pertaining to the age' as in chronological duration.  This is a good point observed by many Universalists.  However, it should also be noted that an equally common and valid denotation is 'complete' or 'entire'.  This is most certainly the meaning in 2 Thessalonians 1:9, that the earthly value of the lives of unbelievers will be completely destroyed at the Lord's coming.  Of course their person is not destroyed, but the value of their earthly endeavors are completely burnt up.  This denotation should also be considered for Matthew 25:41 and 25:46, that the 'aionian' fire prepared for the Devil and his angels is both consuming fire and complete torment.  So the usage of 'aionian' in Matthew 25 may not include the sense of time, but instead entirety.  The Greek would most naturally be understood to mean that the Devil and his angels will be entirely tormented in the fire prepared for them.  Add to that that there is no explicit end of the Lake of Fire ever mentioned in Scripture, but only the end of punishment for unbelieving mankind in Hades.  Hades is emptied in Revelation 20:13, but the Lake of Fire stills burns with the Devil and his angels at the conclusion of Scripture.

I would highly recommend Life Time Entirety by Heleen Keizer for your further review.

P.S. I read your article link referenced above, but found it hard to follow the brief argument being made.