“into the wilderness of the peoples.” This is the wilderness through which Israel passed on their way from Egypt to the Promised Land. Jesus Christ will enter the Promised Land from the south, from Edom, when he comes to conquer in the same way that Israel came out of Egypt into the Promised Land (Isa. 63:1). After the conquest, he will set up his throne in the “wilderness of the people” and separate them there into Sheep and Goats (Matt. 25:31-46). The “sheep,” the godly people, will be let into his kingdom, but the “goats” will not get to go into the Promised Land (Ezek. 20:38) but will be destroyed (Ezek. 34:16); they will be thrown immediately into Gehenna (Matt. 25:41, 46).
This “wilderness” (or “desert”) of the people” is not the desert between Babylon and Israel to gather the people coming back from the Babylonian Captivity, because this gathering is after Armageddon as the context shows (cp. esp. Ezek. 20:38). This gathering of God’s people has some important similarities to the Exodus. At the Exodus, God took Israel from their bondage in Egypt and judged them in the wilderness (Ezek. 20:36). In the future, God will take Israel from the nations where they have been scattered due to their sin and will again judge them in the wilderness (Ezek. 20:35). Israel will be judged by God; it will be put under His “rod” and the flock separated into good and bad before the good are allowed to enter the Promised Land and the bad people destroyed (Ezek. 20:38; 34:16). Jesus spoke of this in Matthew 25, and it is referred to as the “Sheep and Goat Judgment” (Matt. 25:31-46). Also, in the future Israel will meet God “face to face” and be judged in the “wilderness” (Ezek. 20:35) just as Israel met God “face to face” after the Exodus (cp. Moses meeting God “face to face” (Exod. 33:11; Deut. 34:10)), the Israelite leaders personally seeing God (Exod. 24:9-11), and Israel meeting God “face to face” at Mount Sinai (Deut. 5:4) and hearing His voice (see commentary on Exod. 20:1).