“And before him shall be gathered all nations: and he shall separate them one from another, as a shepherd divideth his sheep from the goats:” - Matthew 25:32
Is it possible to interpret eternal life and eternal punishment in the permanent sense if we view the sheep and the goats as nations, without compromising the universalist stance?
Therefore, the sheep nations are those who collectively fed the poor, gave drink to the hungry, visited the sick and in prison, took in strangers, etc. (though I would be unclear as to who catagorically ‘my brethren’ would consitute: Jews, Christians, or the general population, since Christ died for the world and will eventually make everyone brethren ).
The reward, therefore, would be those nations will survive any coming judgement and be granted access to the Messianic Kingdom, as suggested in Rev. 21:24.
“Come, ye blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world:…Verily 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.”
The goat nations, on the other hand, would be cease to be nations as a permanent consequence, thus eternal punishment. Thus would gel with the pronouncements Jesus had with various cities:
“Verily I say unto you, It shall be more tolerable for the land of Sodom and Gomorrha in the day of judgment, than for that city.” - Matthew 10:15
Here, for example, those cities that didn’t receive the disciples (who were commissioned of the Lord to preach the gospel, heal the sick, raise the dead, and cast out demons; you know, freely giving, the sort of things listed in Matt 25) to nor give them peace are to be judged more harshly than Sodom and Gomorrah, for these cities would know better to treat the disciples kindly, whereas Sodom and Gomorrah was rude to begin with.
*"Then began he to upbraid the cities wherein most of his mighty works were done, because they repented not:
Woe unto thee, Chorazin! woe unto thee, Bethsaida! for if the mighty works, which were done in you, had been done in Tyre and Sidon, they would have repented long ago in sackcloth and ashes.
But I say unto you, It shall be more tolerable for Tyre and Sidon at the day of judgment, than for you.
And thou, Capernaum, which art exalted unto heaven, shalt be brought down to hell: for if the mighty works, which have been done in thee, had been done in Sodom, it would have remained until this day.
But I say unto you, That it shall be more tolerable for the land of Sodom in the day of judgment, than for thee." - Matthew 11:20-24 *
Evidently, these are the resulting cities Jesus anticipated in Matthew 10. Particularly interesting is Capernaum’s status: one from being exalted in heaven, to one being brought down to hell. Capernaum, btw, is nothing but a ruined archeological site today, though existed up until 750 A.D.
Now I realize that Jesus was condemning cities within Israel, not nations. However, I tend to look at Israel in the OT before Christ as a microcosm of the world at large after Christ. So the idea extends to the nations of the world in their treatment of Christ’s brethren, whomever that may be (I tend to lean toward the Jews and Israel, specifically, and by extension, Christian nations, but am open to other interpretations). I see a microcosm in the parable of the Good Samaritan as well.
Israel, as an example, have a unique national identity, for with they take pride in, for which they have strong cultural and religious traditions. Likewise, Japan, Spain, France, Great Britain, the Philippines, Kenya, Russia, New Zealand, even the U.S, as diverse as it is. To take that identity away is a tremendous loss for that people. Yet what if this is the very punishment awaiting those nations that do not abide by the criteria of Matthew 25. That all the cultural traditions held dear are ruined, the country destroyed, and the people of those nations have nothing left. They would be refugees, people without anymore identity, no nationality to grasp onto. They are no longer who they were. They would be nothing. Dead as a nation. No longer remembered.
“Depart from me, ye cursed, into everlasting fire, prepared for the devil and his angels:…Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye did it not to one of the least of these, ye did it not to me”
But then, there is the healing of the nations…