What does Matthew 25:41 mean?
ESV: "Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels.
NIV: "Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels.
NASB: Then He will also say to those on His left, ‘Depart from Me, you accursed people, into the eternal fire which has been prepared for the devil and his angels;
CSB: "Then he will also say to those on the left, ‘Depart from me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels!
NLT: Then the King will turn to those on the left and say, ‘Away with you, you cursed ones, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his demons.
KJV: 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:
NKJV: “Then He will also say to those on the left hand, ‘Depart from Me, you cursed, into the everlasting fire prepared for the devil and his angels:
Verse Commentary:
After a time on earth of great suffering and tribulation (Matthew 24:21–22), Jesus has finally returned as the King and the Judge (Matthew 25:31–32). Sitting on His throne, He has gathered people before Him and divided them into two groups, labelled as "sheep" and "goats" (Matthew 25:33) The reason for this symbolism is simply that of separating two similar-but-different sets of people. Those hearing Christ's words in person would have been familiar with shepherding; splitting up sheep and goats when bringing them in for the night was apparently a standard practice.

The group known as the "goats," on the King's left hand, have listened as Jesus has welcomed the other group, the sheep, to accept their rightful places in His kingdom on earth. He has described that group as blessed by His Father and declared that He has received every act of kindness they have done for the least of His brothers, other believers, as being done for Him personally (Matthew 25:34–40).

Turning to the second group, Christ delivers a very different message. He calls them cursed and banishes them to the same eternal destination as Satan and his demons. Unlike the first group, these people were clearly not believers in Jesus—proven by the fact that they were not faithful to Him while He was away. Upcoming verses will explore the same dynamic as Jesus explained to saved believers: that their service to others, in obedience to Him, was proof of the legitimacy of their faith (John 13:31–35; 14:15; 1 John 3:11).

In the Bible, demons are angels who joined Satan in His rebellion against God. During His earthly ministry, Jesus cast many demons out of afflicted people (Mark 1:34). His description of them here shows Satan is ultimately responsible for the hordes of fallen angels who serve with him against God. They are all destined for an eternal fire (Mark 9:48), which is the same place human souls who rejected Christ will inhabit (Mark 9:43).
Verse Context:
Matthew 25:31–46 describes Jesus' epic judgment, to take place when He returns as King with His angels and takes His place on the throne. He will divide those judged into two groups: "sheep" and "goats." The sheep will be welcomed and praised for serving those in need. The goats will be sent away from Jesus to eternal fire and condemned for not serving those in need. This comes at the end of the Olivet Discourse, which began when disciples asked Jesus about the end days (Matthew 24:3). This passage is notoriously difficult to interpret, making it especially important to handle with caution. Though it is referred to as a "parable," thanks to the use of shepherding terms, the situation it describes seems to be very real.
Chapter Summary:
Jesus uses two additional parables to illustrate a state of constant readiness for His return after He has gone. His followers should be working for Him while they wait. They must not be like the foolish young women who missed a wedding feast because they forgot oil for their lamps. They must be like the servants who doubled their harsh master's investments while He was away. Jesus concludes with a third descriptive passage, showing how He will judge between the righteous and evil when He returns as King.
Chapter Context:
Matthew 25 concludes the "Olivet Discourse:" Jesus' teaching to the disciples about future things as they sit on the Mount of Olives. This follows His dire predictions about the Temple and Jerusalem in chapter 24. He gives two more parables to emphasize that they must be prepared for His return. Finally, Jesus describes the moment of His return, after a time of tribulation, when He will judge all who live on earth at the beginning of His kingdom. This leads into Matthew's account of Jesus' Last Supper, betrayal, and arrest in chapter 26.
Book Summary:
The Gospel of Matthew clearly shows the influence of its writer's background, and his effort to reach a specific audience. Matthew was one of Jesus' twelve disciples, a Jewish man, and a former tax collector. This profession would have required literacy, and Matthew may have transcribed some of Jesus' words as they were spoken. This book is filled with references to the Old Testament, demonstrating to Israel that Jesus is the Promised One. Matthew also includes many references to coins, likely due to his former profession. Matthew records extensive accounts of Jesus' teaching, more than the other three Gospels.
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