Thursday, June 23, 2011

Why the Sheep/Goat Judgment and Great White Throne Judgment Are not the Same Event

Amillennialists, Postmillennialists, and even some Premillennialists view the Sheep/Goat judgment of Matthew 25:31-46 and the Great White Throne judgment of Revelation 20:11-15 as being the same event. But a close examination reveals that these two judgments are not the same judgment.

1.      The timing of the Sheep/Goat judgment happens in connection with the second coming of Christ (see Matt 25:31-32). Jesus comes in glory with His angels, sits on His glorious throne and all the nations are gathered before Him.  The Great White Throne judgment takes place after the return of Christ (Rev 19) and the thousand year reign of Christ with the saints (Rev 20:4-7). After the thousand years are completed (20:7) the Great White Throne judgment takes place (20:11-15).

2.      The purpose of the Sheep/Goat judgment is to see who will inherit the kingdom (Matt 25:34) and who will not (Matt 25:41). The purpose of the Great White Throne judgment is to see who will be sent to the lake of fire (Rev 20:15)

3.      The subjects of the Sheep/Goat judgment are both believers and non-believers—sheep and goats (Matt 25:32). The subjects of the Great White Throne appear to be unbelievers. While Rev 20:11-15 does not exclude the presence of believers at this judgment believers are not mentioned as being at this judgment. But unbelievers who are sentenced to the lake of fire at the Great White Throne judgment are mentioned (Rev. 20:15).

4.      The basis of judgment at the Sheep/Goat judgment is how the nations treated the “brothers” of Christ (Matt 25:40). The basis of the Great White Throne judgment is works (Rev 20:13).

5.      The subjects of the Sheep/Goat judgment appear to be those alive at the time of the second coming of Jesus. There is no mention of a resurrection of the saved and unsaved dead. The Great White Throne judgment says it is the dead who are raised for this judgment (Rev 20:13). The sea and Hades give up their dead for this judgment.

6.      The Sheep/Goat judgment does not mention a “Great White Throne” being present while the Great White Throne judgment does (Rev 20:11).

7.      The Sheep/Goat judgment does not mention the “book of life” being present while the Great White Throne judgment does (Rev 20:12).

8.      The Sheep/Goat judgment does not indicate that death and Hades are thrown into the lake of fire while the Great White Throne judgment does (20:14).

9.      The fact that there are two resurrections separated by a thousand years (see Rev 20:4b-5) strongly suggests that there can be two judgments separated by a thousand years.

(NOTE: Some also argue that the setting of the two judgments is distinct with the Sheep/Goat judgment being on earth while the Great White Throne judgment is in space since heaven and earth have fled away. While this argument is possible my view is that the Great White Throne judgment is also on earth since Rev 20:13 makes reference to the “sea” which still exists. In my estimation, heaven and earth flee away in the sense that they provide no hiding place for the wicked from God.)


  1. Dear brother Mike,

    I am Christian from Slovakia who is following your blog with a great interest. Let me also express appreciation for your other website at – it is full of useful and stimulating resources. Now, before I frame my questions in regards to sheep and goat judgement, let me first share something about me. Around 1999 I discovered doctrines of grace and together with them also the richness of reformed theology that continues to be a blessing to this very day. Before that I only knew dispensational pretrib premillenialism. Through the study of reformed theology, I had learned about other eschatological positions. For a time, I almost became amil but never felt fully at home with it. Recently, I decided to take an all new rigorous look at premil position.
    As of today, I am very sympathetic to premillennial position as it so naturally flows from Revelation 20. I even understand that there are other biblical texts that support premillennial coming of Christ and the position then ultimately does not rest on one single passage. Still, I have a hard time seeing that Mat 25 would refer to some other judgement from Great White throne. Here are mine observations in the form of brief points.

    • The result for those not entering kingdom is twice described as eternal fire (verse 41) and eternal suffering (verse 46). This makes for a strong connection with result of Great White Throne judgement (hereafter GWTJ).
    • Yes, the result of the judgement in Mat 25:34 is described in terms of entering kingdom but it is then paralleled with eternal life in Mat 25:46. This makes for a strong connection with result of Great White Throne judgement where the consequences are eternal. Yes, I am aware that present of believers at GWTJ is a question of itself but I think we can reasonably infer to it from reference to book of life.
    • Regarding your point 4. Can we not see treating of “brothers” as representative subset of works from Rev 20:13? To me, it is entirely natural.
    • In my humble opinion, your points 6, 7 and 8 are not very relevant. By this line of reasoning we can produce separate judgements from Romans 2:6 – 11 2 Peter 3:10 – 12 or Jude 14. Neither these three nor many other judgement passages do not mention all the details of GWTJ.
    • Further, in Mat 24:34 the reception of kingdom is described in terms of “inheritance” which points to something permanent (=eternal state) rather than temporal (=millenium).
    • Overall, it seems to me that approach of Goerge Eldon Ladd who sees this passage as dramatic parable and not so much as a straightforward prophecy does better justice to this text. (See this online resource:

    Feel free to respond. Once again, those are observations from a premil friendly Christian who just does not see it in Mat 25. Keep on the good work for the Lord.

    Joyfully serving my Creator in Slovakia,
    Jan Sichula

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  3. Dear Mike,

    I am adding one more point to my list.

    • Furthermore, your approach in points 6, 7 and 8 cuts both ways. For where does the Mat 25 mention the resurrection of the martyrs or binding of Satan if they are both supposed to correspond to judgment at the start of millennium?

    In His grace,
    Jan Sichula

  4. Mike!

    Excellent work. I just wanted you to know that I have been teaching our College Ministry a series on Eschatology and have been GREATLY blessed by our time in Theo 4 this past Spring semester. May God greatly bless you, your dear family, your ministry and work at TMS.

    One question: What is the relationship between the Sheep and the Goats Judgment and the Battle of Armageddon at Christ's Return?

    Is it that Revelation 19:11–21 happens as a period of time, within which the Lord Jesus judges those who will enter into the Kingdom and those who will enter into the wrath of God the Almighty?

    It would seem backwards if the nations who rebel against Christ (19:15) are all slain and then the Sheep and the Goats Judgment takes place to judge the living Gentiles on the earth.

    Thank you!

    In Christ,

    Kyle Jenison

  5. Hi Jan,

    It seems to me verse 31 is critical to understanding the passage. And it should because it sets the location and time of the judgment. We are told the judgment occurs when Christ sits on "His" glorious throne. Since Christ sits on His throne at the start of the Messianic Kingdom Age, the sheep/goat judgment must occur approximately one thousand years before the Great White Throne judgment. If one misses these type of contextual verses much can be lost in discerning many prophetic passages related to premillennialism and the Parousia.

  6. You said in point 5 that no resurrection is mentioned at the Sheep/goat judgment, but in point 9, you imply that a resurrection is associated with this judgment. Can you clarify please?

    Also, I agree that when details are not mentioned, it should not necessarily mark a distinction or we could probably come up with several resurrections of Christ (exaggerating a bit). Such distinctions are used to denote a pre-trib resurrection from a post-trib resurrection when (imho)they are speaking of the same event.

  7. Mike,

    Rev. 20 clearly said that the rest of the dead did not rise yet. only the beast and the false prophet were thrown in the lake of fire. So how can you say that the sheep and the goat judgement happened at the second advent?

    If you say they are mixture of believers and unbelievers, how can it be possible that the believers were caught dumbfounded when Christ told them that He was the one they are serving when they treat others and need? Do they not know the commands of Jesus about loving your neighbors and doing everything as if it is for the Lord?

    I believe the Sheep and the Goat Judgement is also the White Throne Judgement. If you are hardcore about the doctrine that only those who belong to the First Resurrection are the only ones who will be saved, then it will be hard for you to accept this view.

    Ask a 12 year old what he understood about this particular verse in Rev. 20: "If anyone whose name is not found in the book of Life he will be thrown in the Lake of Fire".

    Ask if the verse means all were not found so all were thrown.


    1. Let's be clear about a few things: The sheep and goat judgement involves "non-wicked" and the wicked. The Great White Throne judgement seems to have only unbelievers. The presence of "non-wicked" shows they are different judgements. Even though the battle of Armageddon will be a slaughter, the whole world will not be there and some of the Anti-Christ's supporters with 666 will be still alive. These are the wicked -- they go to Hades and then eventually the Lake of Fire. The "non-wicked" are not necessarily believers, but could be -- they have to be eligible to accept Christ. If you have the 666 mark -- you are ineligible. I am a post-tribber -- meaning, I believe the rapture happens "after the tribulation" -- but even so, there will still be some believers after the late rapture. How long does it take to accept the Lord Jesus as saviour? Five minutes? -- seconds? The thief on the cross was only there for a few hours, yet he was a believer. Perhaps the people who see the rapture (which will be slow -- like how the Lord Jesus ascended -- not fast -- the change into a resurrection body is in the twinkling of an eye, not the rapture itself) and see the Lord Jesus' sign in the heavens and then believe.