The Other Sheep
by Pastor Paul M. Sadler
“And other sheep I have, which are not of this fold: them also I must bring, and they shall hear my voice; and there shall be one fold, and one shepherd.” — John 10:16
A short time ago I made a passing reference to the “other sheep” which generated a lot of interest among our readers. Some were under the impression that this phrase had to do with the reunification of the divided kingdom. Others had been taught that the “other sheep” is the Church, the Body of Christ. Having been in the ministry for many years, it has been my experience that when someone has a question such as this, there are normally twenty standing in the wings wondering the same thing. So, with God’s help I shall do my best to shed additional light on the matter.
Those who are Acts 2 dispensationalists normally hold the position that the ones who “are not of this fold” are the members of the Body of Christ. This is an unfortunate dispensational oversight, but it is understandable since they do not consistently rightly divide the Word of truth. Once again, we must ask ourselves the question: To whom was our Lord speaking, and at what time? The discourse on the Good Shepherd was delivered by Christ when He was on the earth at least two years before the Apostle Paul was given his special revelation.
Inasmuch as Paul was the first to receive the truth of the One Body, the “other sheep” in the above context could in no way be the Body of Christ.
But there’s more. None of the Apostle Paul’s Gentile epistles contain a reference to the members of Christ’s Body being sheep, much less a sheepfold. However, these metaphors are found throughout the pages of prophecy, which serves as another distinguishing factor between the two programs of God.
THE HOUSES OF ISRAEL
“Behold, the days come, saith the Lord, that I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel, and with the house of Judah” (Jer. 31:31).
Under the reign of Rehoboam the kingdom was divided in Israel. The division proved to be devastating as the ten northern tribes, which came to be called the house of Israel, appointed Jeroboam as their King. He, of course, destroyed the religious unity of the nation when he erected altars at Dan and Bethel and caused the children of Israel to offer sacrifices unto the gods of Egypt (I Kings 12:16-31).
On the other hand, the house of Judah (tribes of Judah and Benjamin) followed in the ways of the Lord and continued to offer their sacrifices in Jerusalem, thus obeying the Law and the prophets. They remained in the Lord’s favor in spite of the fact that He allowed them to be carried off into the Babylonian captivity for their lapse of faith. These two tribes were by far the more spiritual tribes in Israel, not to mention that it was in Bethlehem of Judaea where the Prince of Peace chose to be born.
Consequently, some believe that the “other sheep” are the ten northern tribes who will be brought back into the fold at the Second Coming of Christ. Hence, there will be one fold and one Shepherd. We surely concur that there will be a reunification of the tribes of Israel as represented by the binding of the two sticks in Ezekiel 37:15-28.
This, however, must not be confused with the sheepfold. Israel is the sheep of God, whether they were of the northern or southern tribes. The Lord would have never called His chosen people the “other sheep.” They are the sheep and therefore the primary fold.
If we say that the ten northern tribes are the “other sheep,” then what about the kingdom Gentiles — where do they fit into the picture?
It is often overlooked, but God had made a provision in prophecy for the Gentiles to be saved through Israel. Thus, they are also said to be joined to the Lord. And Isaiah goes on to add, “Even them [the Gentiles] will I bring to my holy mountain, and make them joyful in my house of prayer…” (Isa. 56:6,7). Insofar as the Gentiles are the last non-Jewish converts to be reached under the Great Commission, the classification “other sheep” fits them perfectly. But some are sure to inquire: “Are the Gentiles ever called sheep in prophecy?” Indeed they are, please read prayerfully Matthew 25:31-46.