Let us continue our walk through the Gospel According to Matthew. Last week we worked through Matthew 24.
Last week’s look at Matthew 24 ended with Jesus making it absolutely clear that NO ONE knows the day and the hour of Christ’s return. This is something that Luke records Jesus saying again as part of His last statements made to the disciples before ascending into heaven (Acts 1:1-11). We closed out last week’s study with a general rebuke to modern-day Christianity for giving credence or listening, even fearing, the false-prophets of this current age who are blasphemously declaring the end of the age.
Today, we continue in the same teaching of Jesus in a direct response to their question, “Tell us, when will these things be, and what will be the sign of your coming and of the end of the age?” Let us take a look at the 2 parables and the closing comments on the final judgement.
Matthew 25 (ESV)
Matthew 25:1-13 | The Parable of the Ten Virgins
25 “Then the kingdom of heaven will be like ten virgins who took their lamps and went to meet the bridegroom. 2 Five of them were foolish, and five were wise. 3 For when the foolish took their lamps, they took no oil with them, 4 but the wise took flasks of oil with their lamps. 5 As the bridegroom was delayed, they all became drowsy and slept. 6 But at midnight there was a cry, ‘Here is the bridegroom! Come out to meet him.’ 7 Then all those virgins rose and trimmed their lamps. 8 And the foolish said to the wise, ‘Give us some of your oil, for our lamps are going out.’ 9 But the wise answered, saying, ‘Since there will not be enough for us and for you, go rather to the dealers and buy for yourselves.’ 10 And while they were going to buy, the bridegroom came, and those who were ready went in with him to the marriage feast, and the door was shut. 11 Afterward the other virgins came also, saying, ‘Lord, lord, open to us.’12 But he answered, ‘Truly, I say to you, I do not know you.’ 13 Watch therefore, for you know neither the day nor the hour.
Here, we see a reinforcement of the sudden and unexpected nature of Christ’s return for His Bride, the Church. I’d like to point out here that while half of the virgins wound up outside of the wedding feast, for the LORD did not know them… this isn’t a parable about the unbelievers versus believers. I believe Jesus is making a distinction similar to that of the different soils in the Parable of the Sower (Matthew 13). The soil of the path, where the enemy scoops away the seed of the Kingdom isn’t represented in this parable, for they are not in any way awaiting the bridegroom or the wedding feast. What we are seeing here in the foolish virgins is a combination of the rocky soil and the soil with weeds. There is no depth in their faith, these foolish virgins were excited enough for the bridegroom, but failed to make preparations for the long-haul. As the bridegroom tarried, all of the virgins became drowsy and slept. Once the Bridegroom arrived, there was no time for the foolish virgins to obtain fresh oil, and they couldn’t rely on the provisions of others to light their own lamps. As with the explanation of the parable of the sower, the Word that once excited them now has been choked by the world, or they have grown weary and fallen away from it under trials, tribulation, or persecution.
Matthew 13:18-23 (ESV) | The Parable of the Sower Explained
18 “Hear then the parable of the sower: 19 When anyone hears the word of the kingdom and does not understand it, the evil one comes and snatches away what has been sown in his heart. This is what was sown along the path. 20 As for what was sown on rocky ground, this is the one who hears the word and immediately receives it with joy, 21 yet he has no root in himself, but endures for a while, and when tribulation or persecution arises on account of the word, immediately he falls away. 22 As for what was sown among thorns, this is the one who hears the word, but the cares of the world and the deceitfulness of riches choke the word, and it proves unfruitful. 23 As for what was sown on good soil, this is the one who hears the word and understands it. He indeed bears fruit and yields, in one case a hundredfold, in another sixty, and in another thirty.”
Remember what Jesus said in the last chapter. He has told us that in the great tribulation, many will fall away and hate each other, and the love of many will grow cold. Jesus is reinforcing that with this parable. Many who claim to be Christian, do so in foolishness, not preparing for the long-haul, for waiting on the return of the King. Matt 24:13 But the one who endures to the end will be saved.
Now, this next parable moves slightly ahead leading at least in-part into the Judgement that is to come when Christ returns.
Matthew 25:14-30 | The Parable of the Talents
14 “For it will be like a man going on a journey, who called his servants and entrusted to them his property. 15 To one he gave five talents, to another two, to another one, to each according to his ability. Then he went away. 16 He who had received the five talents went at once and traded with them, and he made five talents more. 17 So also he who had the two talents made two talents more. 18 But he who had received the one talent went and dug in the ground and hid his master’s money. 19 Now after a long time the master of those servants came and settled accounts with them. 20 And he who had received the five talents came forward, bringing five talents more, saying, ‘Master, you delivered to me five talents; here I have made five talents more.’ 21 His master said to him, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant. You have been faithful over a little; I will set you over much. Enter into the joy of your master.’ 22 And he also who had the two talents came forward, saying, ‘Master, you delivered to me two talents; here I have made two talents more.’ 23 His master said to him, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant. You have been faithful over a little; I will set you over much. Enter into the joy of your master.’ 24 He also who had received the one talent came forward, saying, ‘Master, I knew you to be a hard man, reaping where you did not sow, and gathering where you scattered no seed, 25 so I was afraid, and I went and hid your talent in the ground. Here you have what is yours.’ 26 But his master answered him, ‘You wicked and slothful servant! You knew that I reap where I have not sown and gather where I scattered no seed? 27 Then you ought to have invested my money with the bankers, and at my coming I should have received what was my own with interest. 28 So take the talent from him and give it to him who has the ten talents. 29 For to everyone who has will more be given, and he will have an abundance. But from the one who has not, even what he has will be taken away. 30 And cast the worthless servant into the outer darkness. In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.’
This parable is tough… and it is so often twisted into synergism or some sort of works-based righteousness. The central problem in this parable is not the works… it is the lack of faith of the third servant. When this passage gets twisted, it usually begins by eisegeting the reason each was given their allotment of talents. Hijack that silent portion of the parable, and you can more easily manipulate the rest. Remember the parable of the Laborers in the Vineyard (Matthew 20:1-16)? When the laborers hired first complained about getting the same compensation as those laborers who only worked an hour, the Master’s response is “Am I not allowed to do what I choose with what belongs to me? Or do you begrudge my generosity?” Since, in today’s parable, Jesus doesn’t give the reason that each servant obtained a different number of Talents, I am inclined to leave it under the sovereignty and calling of the LORD. Sure, it could be eisegeted via Reformed or Arminian interpretive frameworks, but I’d rather not engage in such speculation. No, the point here is that though the first two were given differing amounts, they acted on faith and bore fruit. The third acted in fear rather than faith, and buried the single talent given him. His lack of faith bore only the fruit of wickedness and sloth. As we see in the Master’s rebuke, had the servant displayed even minimal faith and deposited the talent in a bank, it would have borne some fruit and the servant would have been spared his just fate.
Matthew 25:31-46 | The Final Judgment
31 “When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, then he will sit on his glorious throne. 32 Before him will be gathered all the nations, and he will separate people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. 33 And he will place the sheep on his right, but the goats on the left. 34 Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. 35 For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, 36 I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to me.’ 37 Then the righteous will answer him, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you drink? 38 And when did we see you a stranger and welcome you, or naked and clothe you? 39 And when did we see you sick or in prison and visit you?’ 40 And the King will answer them, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me.’
41 “Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. 42 For I was hungry and you gave me no food, I was thirsty and you gave me no drink, 43 I was a stranger and you did not welcome me, naked and you did not clothe me, sick and in prison and you did not visit me.’ 44 Then they also will answer, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison, and did not minister to you?’ 45 Then he will answer them, saying, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to me.’ 46 And these will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life.”
I still feel like this passage is referring to the unexpectedly separated goats from the sheep. At least, it seems that is the intended focus of this passage. Clearly those who are in open rebellion against the Son of God will be counted among the goats, but I don’t think it is they who will be acting so confused about their judgement. Instead, I think the self-righteous, self-deluded, self-glorified, and self-anointed will be the most surprised at the judgement. Jesus is addressing the disciples, among whom lies a betrayer — Judas Iscariot — who will be exposed soon enough. Whenever this passage gets applied to those of false religions, I cringe, since the rebuke of the goats in this passage do not clearly identify lack of faith in the Son of God. It leaves room for a works-based twisting of scripture into open theism, the idea that as long as we show hospitality, clothe the poor, feed the sick, and visit the imprisoned that it would be enough to enter Heaven. That is clearly not what is being taught here, which is why I am confident that the focus of this parable is on those who make empty professions of faith, lip-service, yet are without faith. I think that it is to this teaching that James is pointing his readers:
James 2:14-26 (ESV) | Faith Without Works Is Dead
14 What good is it, my brothers, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can that faith save him? 15 If a brother or sister is poorly clothed and lacking in daily food, 16 and one of you says to them, “Go in peace, be warmed and filled,” without giving them the things needed for the body, what good is that? 17 So also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead. 18 But someone will say, “You have faith and I have works.” Show me your faith apart from your works, and I will show you my faith by my works. 19 You believe that God is one; you do well. Even the demons believe—and shudder!20 Do you want to be shown, you foolish person, that faith apart from works is useless? 21 Was not Abraham our father justified by works when he offered up his son Isaac on the altar? 22 You see that faith was active along with his works, and faith was completed by his works; 23 and the Scripture was fulfilled that says, “Abraham believed God, and it was counted to him as righteousness”—and he was called a friend of God. 24 You see that a person is justified by works and not by faith alone. 25 And in the same way was not also Rahab the prostitute justified by works when she received the messengers and sent them out by another way? 26 For as the body apart from the spirit is dead, so also faith apart from works is dead.
So, just as one who mistreats the prophecy of the Judgement to suggest that doing the works will get you in, abusing what James wrote to suggest that the answer is to do more works is also to miss the point of the text. Both passages point to faith. If upon self-examination, or loving brotherly reproof, you are found lacking in good works by faith… your focus and attention should be to building up faith in Christ Jesus through the reading/hearing of the Word of Christ. Faith in Christ Jesus bears good fruit, but trying to add good works to increase faith will only reveal our fleshly inadequacy and sinfulness. That is why we who are of the Household of Faith, still desperately need to hear both Law and Gospel on a regular basis. For we are sinful flesh and are called by faith to put to death what is sinful in us so that we might live according to the Spirit.
Until Next Week
Next week we’ll be working through the first half of Chapter 26. We’ll probably have to pause right after the Lord’s Supper and shift Christ’s arrest and trial for the following week. I look forward to continuing our trek through the Gospel According to Matthew. Until then, continue walking in faith and growing in knowledge of Christ through the reading of His Word.
Jude 1:24-25 (ESV) | Doxology
24 Now to him who is able to keep you from stumbling and to present you blameless before the presence of his glory with great joy, 25 to the only God, our Savior, through Jesus Christ our Lord, be glory, majesty, dominion, and authority, before all time and now and forever. Amen.
In Christ Jesus,