Bible Verse Explanations and Resources


Matthew 25:46

Albert Barnes
Notes on the Whole Bible

And these shall go away - These “persons.” Many, holding the doctrine of universal salvation have contended that God would punish sin only. Christ says that “those on his left hand,” shall go away - not “sins,” but “sinners.” Besides, sin, as an abstract thing, cannot be punished. Sin is nothing but an “act” - the act of a transgressor, and, to be reached at all, it must be reached by punishing the offender himself.

Into everlasting punishment - The original word translated here as “punishment” means torment, or suffering inflicted for crime. The noun is used but in one other place in the New Testament - 1 John 4:18; “Fear hath ‹torment.‘” The verb from which the noun is derived is twice used - Acts 4:21; 2 Peter 2:9. In all these places it denotes anguish, suffering, punishment. It does not mean simply a “state or condition,” but absolute, positive suffering; and if this word does not teach it, no word “could” express the idea that the wicked would suffer. It has been contended that the sufferings of the wicked will not be eternal or without end. It is not the purpose of these notes to enter into debates of that kind further than to ascertain the meaning of the language used by the sacred writers. In regard to the meaning of the word “everlasting” in this place, it is to be observed:

1. that the literal meaning of the word expresses absolute eternity - “always belong,” Matthew 18:8; Matthew 19:16; Mark 3:29; Romans 2:7; Hebrews 5:9.

2. that the obvious and plain interpretation of the word demands this signification in this place. The original word - αἰώνιον aionion- is employed in the New Testament 66 times. Of these, in 51 instances it is used of the happiness of the righteous; in two, of God‘s existence; in six, of the church and the Messiah‘s kingdom; and in the remaining seven, of the future punishment of the wicked. If in these seven instances we attach to the word the idea of limited duration, consistency requires that the same idea of limited duration should be given it in the 51 cases of its application to the future glory of the righteous, and the two instances of its application to God‘s existence, and the six eases of its appropriation to the future reign of the Messiah and the glory and perpetuity of the church. But no one will presume to deny that in these instances it denotes unlimited duration, and therefore, in accordance with the sound laws of interpretation and of language itself, the same sense of unlimited duration must be given it when used of future punishment - Owen, in loc.

3. that, admitting that it was the Saviour‘s design always to teach this doctrine, this would be “the very word” to express it; and if this does not teach it, it could not be taught.

4. that it is not taught in any plainer manner in any confession of faith on the globe; and if this may be explained away, all those may be.

5. that our Saviour knew that this would be so understood by nine-tenths of the world; and if he did not mean to teach it, he has knowingly led them into error, and his honesty cannot be vindicated.

6. that he knew that the doctrine was calculated to produce “fear and terror;” and if he was benevolent, and actually used language calculated to produce this fear and terror, his conduct cannot be vindicated in exciting unnecessary alarms.

7. that the word used here is the same in the original as that used to express the eternal life of the righteous; if one can be proved to be limited in duration, the other can by the same arguments. “The proof that the righteous will be happy forever is precisely the same, and no other, than that the wicked will, be miserable forever.”

8. that it is confirmed by many other passages of Scripture, 2 Thessalonians 1:7-9; Luke 16:26; Revelation 14:11; Psalm 9:17; Isaiah 33:14; Mark 16:16; John 3:36.

Life eternal - Man by sin has plunged himself into death, temporal, spiritual, eternal. Christ, by coming and dying, has abolished death, and brought life and immortality to light, 2 Timothy 1:10. “Life” is the opposite of death. It denotes, here, freedom from death, and positive holiness and happiness forever.

Matthew Henry
Concise Bible Commentary
This is a description of the last judgment. It is as an explanation of the former parables. There is a judgment to come, in which every man shall be sentenced to a state of everlasting happiness, or misery. Christ shall come, not only in the glory of his Father, but in his own glory, as Mediator. The wicked and godly here dwell together, in the same cities, churches, families, and are not always to be known the one from the other; such are the weaknesses of saints, such the hypocrisies of sinners; and death takes both: but in that day they will be parted for ever. Jesus Christ is the great Shepherd; he will shortly distinguish between those that are his, and those that are not. All other distinctions will be done away; but the great one between saints and sinners, holy and unholy, will remain for ever. The happiness the saints shall possess is very great. It is a kingdom; the most valuable possession on earth; yet this is but a faint resemblance of the blessed state of the saints in heaven. It is a kingdom prepared. The Father provided it for them in the greatness of his wisdom and power; the Son purchased it for them; and the blessed Spirit, in preparing them for the kingdom, is preparing it for them. It is prepared for them: it is in all points adapted to the new nature of a sanctified soul. It is prepared from the foundation of the world. This happiness was for the saints, and they for it, from all eternity. They shall come and inherit it. What we inherit is not got by ourselves. It is God that makes heirs of heaven. We are not to suppose that acts of bounty will entitle to eternal happiness. Good works done for God's sake, through Jesus Christ, are here noticed as marking the character of believers made holy by the Spirit of Christ, and as the effects of grace bestowed on those who do them. The wicked in this world were often called to come to Christ for life and rest, but they turned from his calls; and justly are those bid to depart from Christ, that would not come to him. Condemned sinners will in vain offer excuses. The punishment of the wicked will be an everlasting punishment; their state cannot be altered. Thus life and death, good and evil, the blessing and the curse, are set before us, that we may choose our way, and as our way so shall our end be.
Adam Clarke
Bible Commentary

And these shall go away into everlasting punishment - No appeal, no remedy, to all eternity! No end to the punishment of those whose final impenitence manifests in them an eternal will and desire to sin. By dying in a settled opposition to God, they cast themselves into a necessity of continuing in an eternal aversion from him.

But some are of opinion that this punishment shall have an end: this is as likely as that the glory of the righteous shall have an end: for the same word is used to express the duration of the punishment, κολασιν αιωνιον, as is used to express the duration of the state of glory: ζωην αιωνιον . I have seen the best things that have been written in favor of the final redemption of damned spirits; but I never saw an answer to the argument against that doctrine, drawn from this verse, but what sound learning and criticism should be ashamed to acknowledge. The original word αιων is certainly to be taken here in its proper grammatical sense, continued being, αιειων, Never Ending. Some have gone a middle way, and think that the wicked shall be annihilated. This, I think, is contrary to the text; if they go into punishment, they continue to exist; for that which ceases to be, ceases to suffer. See the note on Genesis 21:33, where the whole subject is explained.

A very good improvement of the parable of the wise and foolish virgins is made by Salvian, a very pious writer of the fifth century, (Epist. ad. Ecclus. Cath. lib. ii)., the substance of which, in Mr. Bulkley's translation, is as follows: -

Ego unum scio, etc. "One thing I know, that the lamps of the foolish virgins are said to have gone out for want of the oil of good works; but thou, whoever thou art, thinkest that thou hast oil in abundance, and so did they; for, if they had not believed themselves to have had it, they would have provided themselves with it; for since afterwards, as the Lord says, they would gladly have borrowed, and sought it so eagerly, no doubt they would have done so before, had they not been deceived by the confidence of having it. Thou thinkest thyself wise, and these did not imagine themselves to be foolish: thou thinkest that thy lamp has light, and they lost their light because they thought they should have it. For why did they prepare their lamps if they did not think they should be lighted? In a word, their lamps, I suppose, must have afforded some degree of light; for since we read of their being afraid that their lamps should go out, they certainly had something which they feared would be extinguished. Nor was it a groundless fear; their lamps did go out, and that pure light of virginity which appeared profited them nothing, for want of a supply of oil. From whence we understand that what is but a little, is in a manner nothing. You have therefore need of a lamp plentifully filled, that your light may be lasting. And if those which we light up here for a short time so soon fail, unless copiously supplied with oil, how much must thou stand in need of that thy lamp may shine to eternity?"

This writer was a priest of Marseilles, in 430. He bewailed the profligacy of his times so much, and so pathetically, that he has been styled the Jeremiah of the fifth century. Were he still upon earth, he would find equal reason to deplore the wickedness and carelessness of mankind.

From what our Lord has here said, we may see that God indispensably requires of every man to bring forth good fruit; and that a fruitless tree shall be inevitably cut down, and cast into the fire. Let it be also remarked that God does not here impute to his own children the good works which Jesus Christ did for them. No! Christ's feeding the multitudes in Judea will not be imputed to them, while persons in their own neighborhood are perishing through want, and they have wherewithal to relieve them. He gives them a power that they may glorify his name by it and have, in their own souls, the continued satisfaction which arises from succouring the distressed. Let it be farther remarked, that Christ does not say here that they have purchased the eternal life by these good deeds. No! for the power to work, and the means of working, came both from God. They first had redemption through his blood, and then his Spirit worked in them to will and to do. They were therefore only workers together with him, and could not be said, in any sense of the word, to purchase God's glory, with his own property. But though God works in them, and by them, he does not obey for them. The works of piety and mercy They perform, under the influence and by the aid of his grace. Thus God preserves the freedom of the human soul, and secures his own glory at the same time. Let it be remarked, farther, that the punishment inflicted on the foolish virgins, the slothful servant, and the cursed who are separated from God, was not because of their personal crimes; but because they were not good, and were not useful in the world. Their lives do not appear to have been stained with crimes, - but they were not adorned with virtues. They are sent to hell because they did no good. They were not renewed in the image of God; and hence did not bring forth fruit to his glory. If these harmless people are sent to perdition, what must the end be of the wicked and profligate!

Ellen G. White
Testimonies for the Church, vol. 2, 445

Perfection, holiness, nothing short of this, would give them success in carrying out the principles He had given them. Without this holiness the human heart is selfish, sinful, and vicious. Holiness will lead its possessor to be fruitful and abound in all good works. He will never become weary in well-doing, neither will he look for promotion in this world. He will look forward for promotion to the time when the Majesty of heaven shall exalt the sanctified ones to His throne. Then shall He say unto them: “Come, ye blessed of My Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world.” The Lord then enumerates the works of self-denial and mercy, compassion and righteousness, which they had wrought. Holiness of heart will produce right actions. It is the absence of spirituality, of holiness, which leads to unrighteous acts, to envy, hatred, jealousy, evil surmisings, and every hateful and abominable sin. 2T 445.1

I have tried in the fear of God to set before His people their danger and their sins, and have endeavored, to the best of my feeble powers, to arouse them. I have stated startling things, which, if they had believed, would have caused them distress and terror, and led them to zeal in repenting of their sins and iniquities. I have stated before them that, from what was shown me, but a small number of those now professing to believe the truth would eventually be saved—not because they could not be saved, but because they would not be saved in God's own appointed way. The way marked out by our divine Lord is too narrow and the gate too strait to admit them while grasping the world or while cherishing selfishness or sin of any kind. There is no room for these things; and yet there are but few who will consent to part with them, that they may pass the narrow way and enter the strait gate. 2T 445.2

The words of Christ are plain: “Strive [agonize] to enter in at the strait gate: for many, I say unto you, will seek to enter in, and shall not be able.” Not all professed Christians are Christians at heart. There are sinners in Zion now, as there were anciently. Isaiah speaks of them in referring to the day of God: “The sinners in Zion are afraid; fearfulness hath surprised the hypocrites. Who among us shall dwell with the devouring fire? who among us shall dwell with everlasting burnings? He that walketh righteously, and speaketh uprightly, he that despiseth the gain of oppressions, that shaketh his hands from holding of bribes, that stoppeth his ears from hearing of blood, and shutteth his eyes from seeing evil; he shall dwell on high: his place of defense shall be the munitions of rocks: bread shall be given him; his waters shall be sure.” 2T 446.1

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Ellen G. White
Testimonies for the Church, vol. 3, 186


Brethren C and D failed in some respects in their management of church matters at Battle Creek. They moved too much in their own spirit and did not make God their whole dependence. They failed of doing their duty by not leading the church to God, the Fountain of living waters, at which they could supply their want and satisfy their soul hunger. The renewing, sanctifying influence of the Holy Spirit, which would give peace and hope to the troubled conscience, and restore health and happiness to the soul, was not made of the highest importance. The good object they had in view was not attained. These brethren had too much of a spirit of cold criticism in the examination of individuals who presented themselves for church membership. The spirit of weeping with those who weep and rejoicing with those who rejoice was not in the hearts of these ministering brethren as it should have been. 3T 186.1

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Ellen G. White
Testimonies for the Church, vol. 3, 518

There is more meant by “being on the Lord's side” than merely saying so in meeting. The Lord's side is ever the side of mercy, pity, and sympathy for the suffering, as will be seen by the example given us in the life of Jesus. We are required to imitate His example. But there are some who are not on the Lord's side in regard to these things; they are on the side of the enemy. In giving to His hearers an illustration of this subject, Jesus said: 3T 518.1

“Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these My brethren, ye have done it unto Me. Then shall He say also unto them on the left hand, Depart from Me, ye cursed, into everlasting fire, prepared for the devil and his angels: for I was an hungered, and ye gave Me no meat: I was thirsty, and ye gave Me no drink: I was a stranger, and ye took Me not in: naked, and ye clothed Me not: sick, and in prison, and ye visited Me not. Then shall they also answer Him, saying, Lord, when saw we Thee an hungered, or athirst, or a stranger, or naked, or sick, or in prison, and did not minister unto Thee? Then shall He answer them, saying, Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye did it not to one of the least of these, ye did it not to Me. And these shall go away into everlasting punishment: but the righteous into life eternal.” 3T 518.2

Here in His sermon Christ identifies Himself with suffering humanity and plainly impresses upon us all that indifference or injustice done to the least of His saints is done to Him. Here is the Lord's side, and whoever will be on the Lord's side, let him come over with us. The dear Saviour is wounded when we wound one of His humble saints. 3T 518.3

Righteous Job moans because of his afflictions and pleads his own cause when unjustly accused by one of his comforters. He says: “I was eyes to the blind, and feet was I to the lame. I was a father to the poor: and the cause which I knew not I searched out. And I brake the jaws of the wicked, and plucked the spoil out of his teeth.” 3T 518.4

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Ellen G. White
Christian Service, 268

Every act, every deed of justice and mercy and benevolence, makes music in heaven. The Father from His throne beholds and numbers the performer of them with His most precious treasures. “And they shall be Mine, saith the Lord of hosts, when I make up My jewels.” Every merciful act to the needy or the suffering is as though done to Jesus. Whoever succors the poor, or sympathizes with the afflicted and oppressed, and befriends the orphan, brings himself into a more close relationship to Jesus.—The Review and Herald, August 16, 1881. ChS 268.1

Christ regards all acts of mercy, benevolence, and thoughtful consideration for the unfortunate, the blind, the lame, the sick, the widow, and the orphan, as done to Himself; and these works are preserved in the heavenly records, and will be rewarded.—Testimonies for the Church 3:512, 513. ChS 268.2

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Ellen G. White
Testimonies for the Church, vol. 2, 24-30

From what has been shown me, Sabbathkeepers are growing more selfish as they increase in riches. Their love for Christ and His people is decreasing. They do not see the wants of the needy, nor feel their sufferings and sorrows. They do not realize that in neglecting the poor and the suffering they neglect Christ, and that in relieving the wants and sufferings of the poor as far as possible, they minister to Jesus. 2T 24.1

Christ says to His redeemed people: “Come, ye blessed of My Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world: for I was an hungered, and ye gave Me meat; I was thirsty, and ye gave Me drink; I was a stranger, and ye took Me in: naked, and ye clothed Me: I was sick, and ye visited Me: I was in prison, and ye came unto Me. 2T 24.2

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