Matthew is the "gospel of the kingdom" and is given to Israel alone. It's theme is ENTRANCE into that kingdom. The three main sections (Sermon on the Mount, Parables of the Kingdom, The Return of the King and the End) all involve entering the kingdom.
We also saw that in this kingdom, God remembers the promise to the Gentiles (the nations), that they would be blessed through Abraham and through Israel. Matthew starts with introducing the King as "the Son of David" (Solomon and the united Kingdom) and as "the Son of Abraham" (Issac, the child of promise born before Jacob and his 12 sons).
"I will give to your descendants all these lands; and in your seed all the nations [gôy, gôy] of the earth shall be blessed."
Psalm 72 is a psalm of the glory of Israel's Messiah:
"His name shall endure forever;
His name shall continue as long as the sun.
And men shall be blessed in Him;
All nations shall call Him blessed.
Blessed be the Lord God, the God of Israel,
Who only does wondrous things!"
Here are the reward and punishment of our parable:
"‘Come, you blessed of My Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world... "
"‘Depart from Me, you cursed, into the everlasting fire prepared for the devil and his angels"-Matthew 25:41
In in The Parable of the Talents the reward for the Lord's "servants" was to rule in the kingdom. Here, the reward is to "inherit" the kingdom. Gentile NATIONS shall be blessed through Israel. In Matthew 5:5, given to the disciples (Jews), the reward is to "inherit the land." The land is for Israel.
Finally, let's look at the Lord's restatement of their fates:
"And these shall go away to punishment age-during, but the righteous to life age-during."-Matthew 25:46 (Young's Literal Translation)
"Life" in Matthew is connected to the kingdom. The theme is entering into this age-life. It is qualifying to enjoy the kingdom and involved the Law and the Commandments. We can never teach this as the gospel of the free grace of God.
"And lo, one having come near, said to him, `Good teacher, what good thing shall I DO, that I may have LIFE AGE-ENDURING?' And he said to him, `Why me dost thou call good? no one [is] good except One -- God; but if thou dost will to ENTER into THE LIFE, keep the commands."
The Lord is not a liar. Many fanciful things and many enslaving things have been taught from this story, but the question is how to ENTER into the Hope of Israel. the Kingdom, made by an individual Jew. (Our parable, concerns "nations.")
We have covered the "fire that is not quenched" in other studies. Suffice it to say, it involves a real fire in the land (Valley of Hinnom, Gehenna, "hell") and "corpses" (Is 66:24). The judgments in Matthew parallel the teaching of the Revelation as well.
On a personal note, Pope Eugene IV "declared" and "affirmed" and "pronounced" that anyone not in the bosom of the Catholic Church (before death, no matter anything else he may do) is slated for the fire of Matthew 25:41. This fate is declared many time over and specifically for ex-Catholics in the current catechism.
They are free to teach what they want to teach. I don't note that as an attack, but rather to give and extreme example of how this parable has been badly and heretically applied.
This is why we must RIGHTLY DIVIDE Israel from the Body, the Land from Above the Heavens, Resurrection Life from Life in the Kingdom, etc. This is why we spent time looking at "comparing things that differ" and "cutting straight" the Word of God (Phil 1:10; 2 Tim 2:15).
Next time we'll look at again at inheriting the kingdom, this time in the Acts Age epistle of 1 Corinthians.