“inherit the kingdom.” In this verse, the “sheep” get to enter the Millennial Kingdom of Christ. The “sheep” are the people who stayed righteous during the Tribulation period and did not die in the Tribulation or the Battle of Armageddon. Jesus lets them into his kingdom. So from Scripture, we learn that there are three “categories” or “types” of people in the Millennial Kingdom.
There will be no war and plenty of food in the kingdom, so these mortal people will multiply rapidly and will repopulate the earth. In fact, they will multiply to such a degree that by the end of the 1,000 years they will be as numerous “as the sand on the seashore” (Rev. 20:8). This growth in population should not be surprising. In the Old Testament, Israel entered Egypt as a group of 70 people (Gen. 46:27). When they came out they numbered about three million. This significant increase in population occurred under horrible conditions. Even if only a million or so natural people are allowed in at the beginning of the Millennial Kingdom, imagine the growth potential when the prevailing conditions are peace and prosperity!
Prophecies of Christ ruling with an iron scepter are strong evidence that there will be a Millennial Kingdom populated at least in part by unsaved, mortal people. In addition, it should be obvious that these prophecies must apply to the future because they were not fulfilled during Christ’s first coming. In spite of the many clear verses on this subject, there are some people who do not believe that the 1,000-year reign of Christ on earth is literal, and others who do not believe the Kingdom is coming in the future (Some people erroneously believe that the 1,000-year reign of Christ on earth is happening now in a “spiritual sense.”)a If either of these beliefs were correct, then the only people available for Christ to rule with an iron scepter would be the saved believers in the Everlasting Kingdom. Being ruled with an iron scepter is not the way most Christians envision everlasting life. Thankfully, that is not how the Bible portrays it either. It is the unregenerate, “natural” people alive during the Millennial Kingdom who will need to be ruled with an iron scepter.
More evidence that there will be “natural,” mortal people in the Millennial Kingdom is that at the end of the 1,000 years, Satan is loosed from the Abyss and will be able to deceive the nations (Rev. 20:7-9). It is inconceivable that Satan could deceive people who had died and been resurrected to everlasting life—he has to deceive natural people who had not died yet.
The need for the iron scepter is in part due to the fact that these “natural people” still have a sin nature and are therefore prone to be selfish and sinful. Although they will live in Paradise and be surrounded by bounty, many of them will still find reasons to complain. That is not unusual. Both history and the Bible teach that there are many times when people who should be happy because they are healthy, well fed, and financially secure are still unhappy and find reasons to complain constantly.
The presence of these “natural” people in the Millennial Kingdom explains in large part why there will be disputes in the Millennial Kingdom (Isa. 2:4; Mic. 4:3). The Book of Zechariah says that if any nation selfishly decides not to go and worship in Jerusalem, then that nation will have no rain (Zech. 14:17). This is an example of the natural selfishness and “can’t be bothered” attitude prevalent among “natural” people. It is also an example of how Christ will wield the iron scepter.
Some Christians do not believe there will be two literal and distinct kingdoms in the future because, to them, it does not seem possible to have “natural” people (mortals), and immortals alive on the earth at the same time. So they take verses like those cited above and “spiritualize” them by saying they are figurative and not literal. There is no justification for handling these verses in that manner. They are written very clearly and do not have any of the aspects of figurative language. Just because something God says about the future is hard to believe or hard to understand does not mean it is not literal and true.
[For more on Christ’s Millennial Kingdom, see Appendix 3: Christ’s Future Kingdom on Earth. For more on the sheep and goat judgment, see commentary on Matthew 25:32.]