The Separation of the Righteous from the Wicked!

William Nicholson, 1862

"When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, he will sit on his throne in heavenly glory. All the nations will be gathered before him, and he will separate the people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. He will put the sheep on his right and the goats on his left!" Matthew 25:31-33

There are three important days in the existence of man:
the day of his birth,
the day of his death, and
the day when he shall be judged.

At the day of his birth he commences an immortal existence; he enters on a career which will be lengthened out through an endless eternity.

At the day of his death, his seed-time, his probation, and all his works shall end; his body shall return to the dust, and his soul pass into the world of spirits.

At the day of judgment, all his thoughts, motives, and actions, will be scrutinized by the great Arbiter of life and death, and the character of them will decide his everlasting destiny. "For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, that each one may receive what is due him for the things done while in the body, whether good or bad!" 2 Corinthians 5:10

I. The Great and Solemn Convention. "All the nations will be gathered before him!"


1. The time when this convention shall take place. "When the Son of man shall come in his glory."

The day of judgment — the grand assize of the world — the day when the present dispensation shall close — when time shall stop, and eternity begin. The day of rapture to the holy — but the day of overwhelming terror to the ungodly.

2. The grand appearance of the Judge.

He will be invested with all the prerogatives necessary for judging the world. The Majesty of Christ in this respect will be sublimely conspicuous. "He shall come in his glory."

Here he appeared once as the "Son of man," in human flesh, suffered contempt, laceration, and death from man. He suffered from the time of becoming the "Babe of Bethlehem," until, as the "Man of sorrows," he was made perfect through sufferings on the cross.

But now, O how changed! He now comes as the Son of God. "He shall come in his glory" — the glory of the Godhead and the glory of the Mediator combined. He will take the clouds for his chariot; he will come "in the clouds with power and great glory." Matthew 24:30.

Compared with his power — the power of all earthly monarchs is but the power of the moth! And compared with his glory — the splendor of regal pomp is but the glimmering light of the glow-worm!

He shall come with the glory of Omnipotence. That power which he employed to create the universe — he shall bring with him to punish his foes.

He shall come with all the glory of his perfections shining brighter than ten thousand suns. With the glory of his spotless and exalted humanity, and with all the glorious majesty of his divinity. Psalm 50:3, 4, 6.

The attendants at his coming will be glorious. "And all the holy angels with him." An innumerable multitude of celestial spirits will grace his train, and perform his will.

This appearance will be judicial. "Then he will sit on his throne in heavenly glory." May form some idea of this glorious throne by referring to Ezekiel 1:26-28; Isaiah 6:1-4; Daniel 7:9-10.

The nations of the earth shall be gathered before him, or his bar. It will be a judicial throne.

3. The Assembly. "All the nations will be gathered before him!" What a vast assembly!

(1.) They will be raised from the dead, preparatory to the final separation. John 5:28, 29.

The earth and the ocean "will give up the dead which are in them."

Every grave will open, its dust be reanimated, and living forms be seen rising from its dark chambers, over all the surface of the globe.

The sea also, which has engulfed its myriads, shall give up its dead.

And those still alive will undergo, substantially, the same great change as those who have been dead, and both will be invested with incorruptible and immortal bodies. In a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, the globe will be re-peopled, and the whole family of Adam, with their progenitor at their head, will stand up together, to be conducted to the bar of Christ, who will then be recognized as "God the Judge of all."

(2.) This convention, or gathering, will be effected by the ministration of angels. See Matthew 13:41; 24:31; Mark 13:27. They will be irresistibly gathered. All resistance will be vain. All attempts at concealment will be futile. Job 34:22; Amos 9:2.

(3.) This convention will be numerous. "All the nations will be gathered before him!"

There will be characters of all descriptions:
real Christians,
mere professors,
the profane,
the licentious,

There will be people of all ages:
old age.

There will be inhabitants of every nation, kindred, and tongue:
those privileged with the Gospel;
those who have despised and neglected it.

Yes, "all nations," all the inhabitants of the world, from Adam to his last-born son, shall be gathered before the throne!

'Tis here all meet!
The shivering Icelander — and sunburnt Moor;
Men of all climes that never met before,
And of all creeds — the Jew, the Turk, the Christian;
Here the proud prince, and favorite — yet prouder,
His sovereign's keeper, and the people's scourge,
The hard oppressor — and the slave oppressed:
The warrior stern, who fought on fields of blood
To gain an empty fame. The wily statesman,
The unjust judge, must stand before the bar!
The widow and the orphan will be there.
The just, the good — the worthless, and profane,
The downright paiper — and perfectly well-bred,
The fool, the churl, the scoundrel, and the base—
The people of all nations must stand there!

How vast the concourse then to be assembled! "All the nations will be gathered before him!" There is something overwhelming in gazing on large and assembled multitudes. A peculiar sensation must be excited in witnessing a numerous army, equipped and ready for battle. How appropriate the language of the prophet Joel! (3:12-15)

Dr. Dick makes a calculation as to the probable number of the beings who shall stand at the bar of judgment at the last day. The following paragraph is an abridgment of his calculation:

Suppose the earth, at an average, has always been as populous as it is now, and that it contains 8 hundred millions inhabitants, and if we reckon 32 years for a generation, at the end of which period the whole human race is renewed; it will follow that 146 billion, 200 million, of human beings have existed since the creation, reckoning 5846 years from Adam to the present time. Had mankind never died, there would have been nearly 183 times the present number of the earth's inhabitants now in existence. If we suppose that before the close of time as many human beings will be brought into existence, as have already existed in past time, there will be found at the general resurrection, 292,400,000,000 — or 292 billion, 400 million, of mankind.

[COUNTING TO A BILLION. What is a billion? The reply is very simple: a million times a million. This is quickly written, and quicker still pronounced. But no man is able to count it. You count 160 or 170 a minute; even suppose that you count as fast as 200, then an hour will produce 12,000; a day 288,000; and a year, or 365 days, 105,120,000.
Let us suppose now, that Adam at the beginning of his existence had begun to count, had continued to do so, and was counting still — he would not even now, according to the usually supposed age of our globe, have counted enough. For to count a billion, he would require 9512 years, 34 days, 5 hours, 20 minutes, according to the above rule. Now supposing we were to allow the poor counter twelve hours daily for rest, eating, and sleeping — he would need 19,024 years, 69 days, 10 hours, 40 minutes!]

Oh think of this vast convention of immortal beings, compared with which the armies of Waterloo, or those of Xerxes, are but a speck! Think of them all before the throne of the Son of Man, ready to be separated and judged!

II. The Momentous Separation and Its Consequences. "And he will separate the people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. He will put the sheep on his right and the goats on his left!"

1. He will separate them into two classes — the righteous and the wicked, saints and sinners. "And you will again see the distinction between the righteous and the wicked, between those who serve God and those who do not!" Malachi 3:18

These two classes are figuratively represented . . .
  the righteous--and the wicked,
  saved saints--and lost sinners,
  the pure grain--and the chaff,
  the wheat--and the tares,
  the sheep--and the goats.

This latter emblem is very expressive.

Sheep, which have ever been considered as the emblems of mildness, simplicity, patience, and gentleness — represent the genuine disciples of Christ.

Goats, which are naturally quarrelsome, lascivious, and excessively ill-scented, were considered as the symbols of riotous, profane, and impure men. They here represent all who have lived and died in their sins. "I will judge between one sheep and another, and between rams and goats!" Ezekiel 34:17

SEPARATION implies previous union, or at least association. So the righteous and the wicked necessarily mingle together in this world, through secular engagements, family and relative ties, citizenship, etc. — but they shall be separated then. The wicked, actuated by impure motives, now often break through the sacred inclosure of the Church, having only the mask of profession; but then the goats shall be separated from the sheep — the mere pretender from the Israelite indeed.

2. This separation will be exact. Though the multitude will be so vast — yet the character of each will be detected with the greatest precision. Every thought, desire, motive, and action will be known to the infallible Judge. What less than omnipotence and omniscience can effect such a separation of the whole human species!

There will be no mistake of character.

3. This separation will be complete and just. There will be no partiality. He will make the separation in righteousness, according to his perfect law of equity. Isaiah 11:4, 5; Acts 17:31.

"Be not deceived; God is not mocked, for whatever a man sows — that shall he reap!"

The judgment will be so complete, that all will acknowledge the justice displayed in the separation.

To the righteous, the separation will harmonize with their renewed and glorified natures.

To the wicked it will appear as the consequences of their willful rebellion. On earth they could not from the heart associate with the godly and engage in their services, and the same aversion will exist at the judgment-day, and they will therefore feel that they ought to be separated.

4. This separation will be to many most surprising, degrading, and mortifying!

Then the proud and wealthy will be humbled and brought down. Men of talent and genius, "wise men after the flesh," who received the applause of the multitude, will descend from their pinnacle of glory — to contempt and infamy, and see the poor despised Christian infinitely exalted above them!

Kings and princes, who were here flattered and idolized by their courtiers, and feared by the millions whom they governed with cruel and despotic sway — will then find their power and splendor, the pride of distinction, and the incense of homage, forever fled — and themselves degraded lower than the poorest slave who trembled under their frown, was in this world; while probably that poor wretch was saved, and has now cast off his degradation, and risen to distinction and glory inexpressible.

Then the warrior, the conqueror, the spoiler, the murderer of men, and the plunderer of a world — will find himself poorer than the poorest, himself conquered by his own fears and terrors, despised, powerless, sunk, and miserable beyond conception!

Then the self-righteous will find his foundation to be baseless, and incapable of sustaining his deathless spirit amid the fiery ordeal. He may have boasted loudly of his works here — high may be his hopes, but he and the hypocrite, shall find their expectations dispersed like a vapor!

What mortification will the miser feel when he finds his gold so worthless!

What will the worldly objects and pursuits of the ambitious appear then!

How will the votary of of this world, and the lover of pleasure, find themselves undeceived then!

How will they who have rejected Christ, or denied God's existence, open their eyes in astonishment! What surprise when they gaze on him, and hear him say, "But those enemies of mine who did not want me to be king over them — bring them here and kill them in front of me!" Luke 19:27

Then there will be "weeping and gnashing of teeth," such as the world never saw, when the rich, the splendid, the refined, and the noble — behold the Christian pauper, the beggar, and the slave, ready to "sit down in the kingdom of God, with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob — and themselves thrust out!"

5. This separation will, in many cases, be awfully affecting.

What a distinction will then be made in families! Then some parents will ascend to glory everlasting, accompanied, in some cases, by one, two, three, or even by the whole offspring. But, awful thought! some will be accompanied by none!

Some parents themselves will be left behind, and with failing eyes, and bursting hearts, will follow their children rising to the heavens, and bidding them an everlasting farewell.

Brothers and sisters, mutually and tenderly beloved here, will then be parted asunder to meet no more. Those who have believed will be borne on angels' wings to the celestial temple; while those who have believed not will descend to the abodes of the lost.

Lover and friend, husband and wife, who have associated here most affectionately, and endearingly, will find themselves then separated forever!

It will be the case too with ministers and their hearers, with pastors and their flocks.

6. This separation will be eternal. They shall be divided — and never come together again. Great has been the concern when a friend has left his home for foreign service. Long may have been his tarrying away from his friends, but the hope of his return has cheered their hearts, and their friend has returned at last to calm all their anxiety.

But this separation will be forever! There will be no return from perdition; none from paradise, to any common center where parted friends may be reunited.

This separation is not for one, two, or more years, but forever! There will be an impassable gulf fixed. Luke 16:26.

"That word 'forever' breaks the heart!" Thomas Watson


1. What is your state now? As some must then be separated to the right hand, and others to the left — what side do you occupy now?

2. Reconciliation to God through Christ, is the only preparation for the last day.

8. Woe unto the Christ-rejecters and undecided!

"It is appointed for man to die once, and after that comes judgment!" Hebrews 9:27