Matthew 25:42-46 says, “For I was an hungred, 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 hungred, 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.”

We will need to go back a little bit to understand who the Lord is speaking to.  We read in Matthew 24:29-30, “Immediately after the tribulation of those days shall the sun be darkened, and the moon shall not give her light, and the stars shall fall from heaven, and the powers of the heavens shall be shaken: And then shall appear the sign of the Son of man in heaven: and then shall all the tribes of the earth mourn, and they shall see the Son of man coming in the clouds of heaven with power and great glory.”

Now let’s read Matthew 25:31-33, “When the Son of man shall come in his glory, and all the holy angels with him, then shall he sit upon the throne of his glory: 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: And he shall set the sheep on his right hand, but the goats on the left.”  The time period that is being spoken of is when the Lord returns in His glory, sets up His throne on the earth, and gathers all nations to Himself to be judged. 

This shows us that the time period being spoken of is after the “tribulation of those days.”  This is speaking of the Tribulation period of the Lord’s judgment upon the earth during that seven-year period.  Before this Tribulation, the church is raptured out and does not go through this terrible time.  It is at the end of this period that we have before us now.  The Tribulation period is over, and the Lord returns to set up His kingdom on the earth.  As we read previously, the Lord gathers all nations to Himself, and separates them into two groups…His sheep and the goats…His sheep on His right hand and the goats on His left.  The portion you asked about (Matthew 25:42-46) is dealing with the goats, or the unsaved.  Verse 41 makes that clear, “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.” 

It is here that the living nations are being judged. The measure for their judgment is the treatment they gave to the last messengers of the King, these are “the brethren” of the King, of the Jewish race. If these nations believed their testimony of the Lord, they would have treated the messengers with kindness and hospitality.  If they rejected this final message, they refused to help the messengers. The righteous nations who believed will remain on the earth for the Kingdom. The unrighteous will go into everlasting punishment.

We see, then, that the ones being addressed in Matthew 25:42-46 are the unrighteous nations at the end of the seven-year Tribulation period.  What a sad eternity for those who have rejected the Lord…”Depart from me, ye CURSED, into EVERLASTING FIRE, prepared for the devil and his angels.”  Notice here that Hell was not created for man, it was created for the devil and the angels who followed him.  Nevertheless, those who refused God’s grace will spend their eternity there.  This applies for all those who have ever lived.  The Lord Jesus said in John 3:36, “He that believeth on the Son hath everlasting life: and he that believeth not the Son shall not see life; but the wrath of God abideth on him.”  (CC)  (500.4)