Are There Three Classes of People at the Judgment?

At the Judgment, all the nations are gathered before Christ (Mt 25:32), and He commissions His brethren (1 Cor 6:2) to separate the nations into two classes:  the sheep (the approved) and the goats (the condemned).  Christ pardons the sheep (Mt 25:34) and consigns the goats to torment (Mt 25:41, 46) after His brethren have finished the separation into the groups of the sheep and goats.  This shows that there are three classes of people at the Judgment:  the lost, the nations, and the elect brethren of Christ. 

The logic of Christ’s promise to the faithful that they will rule with Him (Rev 3:21) requires that a servant class must exist.  Likewise, the five foolish virgins simply being locked out but not punished implies they will be in a servant class in eternity (Mt 25:12).  The one talent man simply having his talent taken away from him (Lk 19:24), but not being punished further implies he will be relegated to the servant class.  The ignorant man that did things worthy of stripes, but who was only punished with few stripes (Lk 12:48) implies there is forgiveness for some sinners at the judgment, for the punishment of some is limited to a temporary punishment of few stripes, but an outcome where punishment is temporary is different from what happens to the wicked among the nations at the Judgment who are told, “Depart from me, ye cursed, into everlasting fire” (Mt 25:41).  These people with few stripes also suffer temporal punishment after death in Hades (Lk 16:24, 28), but their outcome is different from the sons of God that go heaven when they die (II Cor 5:8-9, Php 1:22-23).  These differences imply there is a servant class in eternity.

The Bible deals mainly with how to become a Christian and how to please God, and so it is understandable that the two-state theology (you go either to heaven or hell) has emerged, because there is no instruction given as to how one might choose to be only good enough to just inherit the earth.  Given the fact that Christianity generally teaches a two-state theology, that limited outcome causes men to question the justice of God and in an attempt to justify His punishing ignorant sinners, it causes men to question the literal reality of hell.  Among believers who wonder about God’s justice in condemning the ignorant, you often hear the question, “But what about those people that never heard about God?”  If you accept a three eternal destinies theology, it satisfactorily answers the question of “what about those that never heard”.

Sometimes people object to God saving those that never heard, for salvation (eternal life) is conditioned upon belief in Christ, for Christ said, “No man cometh unto the Father, but by me.”  However, if men see the power of God when He comes, and believe He is the true and living God, and believe they have been wrong, God is justified in saving these believers, for Christ died for all (II Cor 5:15).  Enoch says that God will be just and graciously grant those that did not know about Him the chance to believe in Jesus at His coming,

The righteous shall be victorious in the name of the Lord of Spirits: And He will cause the others [those that are not the righteous] to witness (this) That they may repent And forgo the works of their hands.

3 They shall have no honour through the name of the Lord of Spirits,
Yet through His name shall they be saved,
And the Lord of Spirits will have compassion on them,
For His compassion is great.
4 And He is righteous also in His judgment,
And in the presence of His glory unrighteousness also shall not maintain itself: At His judgment the unrepentant shall perish before Him.
5 And from henceforth I will have no mercy on them, saith the Lord of Spirits. (I Enoch 50:2-4)

The Bible teaches the three state theology, but it is subdued, because you cannot consciously choose to just be good enough to inherit with the nations (the sheep, Mt 25:34).  God’s grace places men among the sheep, and an individual cannot determine the miniumum amount required to receive just enough grace to inherit the earth, and even the effort to do so might prove fatal to the plan (Mt 25:25-30).  The sheep are those that failed to do good enough to inherit with God’s sons (Mt 25:12), and those that knew not the master’s will, but did things worthy of stripes (Lk 12:48) and who are willing to believe when they find out better (1 En 50:2).  Paul also implies the three-state theology when He says, “Do ye not know that the saints shall judge the world?” (I Cor 6:2).  Jesus likewise implies it when He says, “To him that overcometh will I grant to sit with me in my throne” (Rev 3:21).  Obviously, Christ and the elect must have subjects over whom to rule.  In the world to come, the kings of the earth (the elect, 2 Ti 4:8) are permitted entry into New Jerusalem (Rev 21:24), but the saved of the nations may not enter into it (Rev 21:24). John admonishes his readers to so live that they might receive a full reward.  He implies it is possible to receive a reward that is less than full (II Jn 1:8), which would imply that some just receive a lesser reward, such as inheriting the earth.

Matthew 25:31-46 speaks of the Judgment of the nations.  In these verses the nations are judged.  Someone separates the nations into two classes: the sheep, and the goats.  Jesus then addresses the sheep and bids them enter His kingdom based on their kindness they showed toward Him.  The sheep reply they don’t remember ever seeing Him.  He then replies, “Truly I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me.”  In this verse are three entities: “I”, “you” and “these”.  You can see the situation Jesus describes in pictorial form in the diagram.  The picture shows that while there are two destinies for the nations, there are three possible destinies for those that would serve God. 

Traditional theology is right about there being the saved and the lost.  The saved rise from the dead and never die.  The lost may or may not rise from the dead, but are cast into hell, the Lake of Fire, which is the second death.  However, there are two classes among the saved: the sons of God and the nations.  These are the antitype of the Jew/Gentile dichotomy that has prevailed on earth since Moses.  When you consider the two states of the saved, you see there are a total of three possible outcomes.  The chart below lays out the various possible states:

Servants of God Can: References
Be adopted as God’s sons (Mt 25:10, Gal 4:5, Rom 8:23, Col 3:24)
Inherit the earth (Mt 25:10-12, Mt 5:5)
Be cast into the Lake of Fire (Mt 25:30)
The Nations Can:  
Inherit the earth (Mt 25:34, Mt 5:5)
Be cast into the Lake of Fire (Mt 25:46, Rev 20:15)


Matthew 25 describes all five possible conditions, and these conditions are illustrated in the drawing. 

The sheep and the goats at the Judgment

By having three eternal destinies, you explain how the elect are said to rule when Jesus has promised all of the elect that they will receive the reward of being rulers (II Ti 4:8), because the elect will have the nations over which to rule.  The three eternal destinies solution also explains how God can be just and save people that never even heard of Him until He comes again (Rom 3:26, En 50:2).  If they believe in Christ when He comes and are willing to repent, God will grant them grace, but no glory (1 En 50:2-3).  It works much better than the two-state theology, and it is more faithful to the scriptures.

About James Johnson

Bible student for 60 years. Preacher of the gospel for over 40 years. Author of commentary on Revelation, All Power to the Lamb. Married with children. Worked in aerospace and computer engineering for over 40 years.
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