Matthew Chapters 24 and 25, Part 4
by Karl Kemp
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We will start with Matt. 25:1 here in Part 4 of this verse-by-verse study of Matthew chapters 24 and 25.
MATTHEW CHAPTER 25.
The parable of the ten virgins in Matt. 25:1-13 and the parable of the talents in 25:14-30 both continue with the theme of Matt. 24:36-51 that each Christian of each generation must become faithful, and stay faithful, to Christ until He returns (or until death), always being ready for His return, including being ready for a lengthy delay in His return. Matthew 25:1-13 continue with the thought of 24:36-51 that one reason we always need to be ready is that we don't know the time of His return (see 25:13). The parable of the ten virgins (the virgins represent born again Christians in that they are called virgins and they all have oil in their lamps, which have been are burning but are going out [cf. Matt. 25:8]) shows that the prudent/wise virgins, who are ready for Christ's return when He comes, will be rewarded with entrance to God's eternal kingdom; those not ready will be excluded from the kingdom.
In one sense God's eternal kingdom doesn't begin until after the millennial kingdom; in another sense, it is clear that believers enter the glory of eternal life and of God's kingdom at the time Christ returns. (It is also clear that born-again Christians have already entered into eternal life and God's kingdom in a preliminary, very real sense.) Matthew chapter 25, including 25:31-46, deals with entrance into, or exclusion from, God's eternal kingdom, not just the millennial kingdom (cf. Matt. 25:41, 46).
The parable of the talents covers much of the same ground as the parable of the ten virgins, using a different picture, but emphasizing the same basic truth that each Christian must be faithful to Christ until He returns, or until death. Those who are found faithful will be rewarded; they will be rewarded, not only with entrance into God's eternal kingdom, but also with the privilege of exercising authority in that kingdom. And, again, those not found faithful are denied entrance into the kingdom. Both of these parables deal with the end-of-the-age judgment of all "Christians" (the faithful and the unfaithful). There is a very definite limit to how unfaithful a "Christian" can be and still be a true Christian.
After dealing with the judgment of CHRISTIANS in Matt. 24:45-51 and 25:1-30, the Lord Jesus turns to the judgment of THE NATIONS (the rest of mankind) in Matt. 25:31-46. It is somewhat surprising (based on most of the content of the New Testament) that these verses seem to teach (I cannot be dogmatic regarding this interpretation) that many of these people (the sheep) will be shown to be among the elect of God (their names will be found in the Lamb's book of life). Apparently, however, the sheep (the nations) will forever be distinct from God's true Israel, the woman of Revelation chapter 12, in God's eternal kingdom.
We see the nations enter God's eternal kingdom in Revelation chapters 21 and 22, right after the great-white-throne judgment of Rev. 20:11-15. Revelation 21:27 shows that those from the nations who gain access into God's eternal kingdom will enter through the Lamb of God, and it seems rather clear that the nations will be distinguished from true Israel in the eternal state. For one thing, true Israel will forever reign with the Lord Jesus Christ (and God the Father and the Holy Spirit), which undoubtedly includes reigning over the nations (Rev. 2:26, 27; 5:10; and 20:6 show that we will reign over the nations in the millennial kingdom); the nations won't reign. We discussed the salvation of the nations somewhat under Matt. 24:30, 31, and we'll discuss it at length as we continue. These people who are the elect of the nations, assuming that there are such people, which I do assume, would not be people who had rejected the gospel after God had dealt with them about submitting to the gospel.
God's ultimate salvation of "the nations" is discussed in my book, "The Mid-Week Rapture" under Rev. 15:2-4 (pages 244-246) and in Note 3 on pages 338-341. See under Rev. 20:3; under Rev. 20:11-21:4; and under Rev. 21:24-22:3 in my paper on Revelation chapters 20-22 that is on this Christian article site. Also see my paper titled "More Regarding God's Salvation Plans for the Nations" on my internet site (Google to Karl Kemp Teaching), and my papers on selected eschatological passages from the books of Psalms, Isaiah, and Jeremiah that are on my internet site have much to say on this topic.
Now Matt. 25:1.
"Then the kingdom of heaven will be comparable to ten virgins [[The virgins represent Christians (cf. 2 Cor. 11:2, 3), born-again Christians; all of them had some oil; their lamps had all been burning (Matt. 25:8). However, as we'll see, some of them don't make faithfulness to God top priority, and when Christ returns, they aren't ready for His coming. The primary message of the parable is that each Christian must make their salvation top priority; they will, thereby, make sure they are always faithful and fully ready for Christ's return, or for the time of their death, whichever comes first. By speaking of ten virgins (ten, by the way, can symbolize completeness, the complete number) instead of the one bride of Christ, the Lord Jesus was able to include both prudent/wise and foolish virgins.]], who took their lamps [Their lamps represent their lives; their lives must be full of light through submission to God and His Word and through maintaining a walk in the grace of God and in the Holy Spirit, the One who enables Christians to walk in God's light (which includes His truth, His righteousness, and His holiness). Our lamps/lives give light by the saving grace of God in Christ. The oil in the lamps symbolizes the grace/Spirit of God.], and went out to meet the bridegroom. [[The bridegroom represents the Lord Jesus Christ (cf. Matt. 9:15; John 3:29). In a very real sense, each Christian of each generation is on a pilgrimage to meet Christ, either at death, or at the time of His return. I remind the reader that in the early days of the Christian church, Christians were thinking that Christ was probably coming soon. It seems that God wanted them (and the Christians of subsequent generations) to think that way (cf., e.g., Matt. 24:24; Rev. 1:3; 3:11; 22:7, 1-12, 20). Thinking that way will help motivate us to be alert and stay ready for His return all the time. It is very clear that God requires each Christian of each generation to always be ready for Christ's coming.)]] (2) And five of them were foolish, and five were prudent [wise]. [The KJV, NKJV, and NIV have "wise" instead of "prudent" here, and in 25:4, 8, and 9. The Greek adjective translated prudent here is also used in Matt. 24:45, translated "sensible" by the NASB, and "wise" by the KJV, NKJV, and NIV. I prefer "wise" in all five verses.] (3) For when the foolish took their lamps, they took no oil with them [[As I mentioned, they had some oil in their lamps (25:8), but they didn't make adequate provision for the future by making God and the things of God top priority, things like learning God's Word and being doers of the Word, and like learning to walk in/by/after the Holy Spirit in humility, righteousness, and holiness on a continuous basis. (Oil symbolizes the grace/Spirit of God here. We walk in the grace/Spirit of God by faith.) They didn't do all that was required of them to be faithful to their Master, who demands that we make Him our top priority and to always be faithful and ready for His return, no matter when He comes. Cf. Luke 12:35-40.]], (4) but the prudent [wise] [This prudence/wisdom isn't a matter of having a high IQ; it's a matter of submission to God, His Word, and His Spirit in humble faith, making Him top priority. The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom. For one thing, we are supposed to be afraid to sin against God and to get off of the straight and narrow path that leads to heaven.] took oil in flasks along with their lamps. [[The prudent/wise took God's Word seriously (including the need to understand His Word), and they made it a top priority item to do what they must do today, so they could always be faithful and ready for tomorrow, including being prepared for a delay in Christ's coming, even a lengthy delay (even a two-thousand year delay). Delay, or no delay, signs of His near return, or no signs, we have been commanded, and enabled, to always be ready for His return. It is not enough to have a good beginning, we must appropriate God's sufficient grace (through a humble, obedient faith) so we can have a good ending. That's what the wise virgins do.]] (5) Now while the bridegroom was delaying, they all got drowsy and began to sleep. [[On a delay in His coming, cf., e.g., Matt. 24:48 (The Greek verb [actually it is a participle here in Matt. 25:5] translated "while [the bridegroom] was delaying" here was also used in Matt. 24:48, "is not coming for a long time"); and Luke 19:11-27, especially verse 11.
In the viewpoint of this parable, apparently there is nothing wrong with sleeping (physically); the wise virgins were sleeping too; but it is mandatory that we don't sleep spiritually (cf., e.g., Matt. 24:42-44 [see under these verses]; 1 Thess. 5:4-8. It is clear that we must be prepared for a delay in Christ's coming; we must always be ready for His coming, no matter when He comes.)]] (6) But at midnight there was a shout, 'Behold, the bridegroom! Come out to meet him.' (7) Then all those virgins rose, and trimmed their lamps. [Trimming the lamps means putting them in order, including trimming the wicks and adding oil.] (8) And the foolish said to the prudent [wise], 'Give us some of your oil, for our lamps are going out.' [[It is clear that the lamps of the foolish had been burning. This fact, along with the fact that all ten were called virgins, indicates that all ten virgins had become born-again Christians - they all had, at least to some extent, a good beginning. We must make it a top priority to do everything we are required to do to be ready for the Lord's return, so we can have a good ending, for our sake and for the glory of God. See my paper, "Once Saved, Always Saved?" on this Christian article site.]] (9) But the prudent [wise] answered, saying, 'No, there will not be enough for us and you too; go instead to the dealers and buy some for yourselves.' [[There is no idea here of the prudent/wise being stingy, selfish, or unloving. There are some things that one person can't do for another; we are all responsible before God to be prepared for the return of Christ. This parable makes it quite clear that we can't just wait until the last minute to try to get ready - we must get ready, and stay ready, by the grace of God in Christ, with a top priority. Anything less is very dangerous, and the Lord Jesus has forewarned us.]] (10) And while they were going away to make the purchase, the bridegroom came, and THOSE WHO WERE READY [my emphasis. Again, we must always be ready!] went in with him to the wedding feast [This is comparable to being taken in the rapture/to entering God's eternal kingdom. On the "wedding feast," cf. Matt. 22:1-14; Rev. 19:7-9.]; and the door was shut. (11) And later the other virgins also came, saying, 'Lord, lord, open up for us.' [Compare Matt. 7:21-27 (Note that Matt. 7:24-27 use the word wise for those who act upon the words of Jesus and the word foolish for those who don't.); Luke 6:46-49; and 13:22-30.] (12) But He answered and said, 'Truly I say to you, I do not know you.' [[These are words that no Christian ever wants to hear; we must be ready for Christ's return. Matthew 7:23 has, "Then I will declare to them, 'I never knew you; DEPART FROM ME, YOU WHO PRACTICE LAWLESSNESS.' " (Matthew 7:23 seems to be somewhat different than 25:12 in that it carries the idea that those "Christians" never were known by Christ.)
Does Christ teach here in 25:1-13 that it is totally impossible for any of the foolish who miss the rapture to repent, get ready, and eventually make it into God's eternal kingdom? If all we had was this parable, we would have to answer yes to this question, and I don't want to minimize the seriousness of not being ready for Christ's coming when He comes; however, I wouldn't say that it is totally impossible that such a Christian could become faithful to Christ and live for Him throughout the very difficult days of the second half of Daniel's 70th week and eventually enter God's eternal kingdom. As discussed under Matthew chapter 24, we only learn details like the fact that many people will be saved after the rapture through subsequent revelation, especially through the book of Revelation. Most of the people who are saved after the rapture will undoubtedly be people that He didn't deal with much, if at all, before the rapture. Anyway, no Christian has any business ever being unready for Christ's return; it is an extremely dangerous place to be.
It is very important to see that in Matt. 7:23 the Lord Jesus made it clear that, along with the fact that He never knew them, they were people characterized by lawlessness, not the imputed and imparted righteousness of God, which is required of Christians, as they walk in accordance with His Word (including His commandments) and walk by His Spirit, by grace through faith. And here in Matt. 25:12, it is very important to see that the five foolish virgins are not being denied a place in God's kingdom over a trivial detail, like forgetting to buy more oil. They had gotten to a backsliden state, one way, or another, where they were not being faithful to God in the Christian basics, like walking in the truth, righteousness and holiness of God, by walking in/by the Holy Spirit. Christians are required to walk by the Spirit on a continuous basis (Gal. 5:16-25; Rom. 8:4; cf. Rom. 13:14).]] (13) Be on the alert then, for you do not know the day nor the hour. [Compare Matt. 24:36-46, especially 24:42; see under that verse. The same Greek verb ("gregoreo") is used for being on the alert in Matt. 24:42 and 25:13.] (14) For it is just like a man about to go on a journey, who called his own slaves [The KJV, NKJV, and NIV translate "servants."], and entrusted his possessions to them. [[Cf. Matt. 24:45-51; Luke 19:11-27. The master represents the Lord Jesus Christ; He was leaving to go back to heaven, after His death and resurrection. His slaves/servants represent Christians; they must be faithful to Him in His absence; they must be faithful to all that He requires of them (by His grace through faith) until He returns (which proves to be "after a long time" [Matt. 25:19]). Christians who are always faithful are always ready for Christ's return, no matter when He returns. When He returns there will be a day of reckoning for all Christians (based on what they have, or have not done, which demonstrates what was in their hearts). Those who walk in faith and by the Holy Spirit will have righteous lives by the grace of God in Christ.]] (15) And to one he gave five talents, to another, two, and to another, one, each according to his own ability; and he went on his journey. [[It is difficult to assign a monetary value to the talent that Jesus spoke of here (the estimates cover a wide range), but it was a substantial amount of money, at least the equivalent of several thousand U.S. dollars. In this parable faithfulness is measured in terms of being faithful to use the master's money in a way that will benefit the master, accomplishing His will and purposes. All had the "ability" to be faithful to the Master (according to the Master's evaluation); for one thing, His grace is sufficient; He gives us the grace to be, and to do, all that He requires of us; He gives us the grace to be faithful to Him in every way. We appropriate, and walk, in God's sufficient grace by faith, in accordance with His Word.
It is true, of course, that we Christians are required to be faithful with (to rightly use) the money that comes to us, but that is only a small part of our responsibility to be faithful to our Master. We must be faithful in every area of our lives. Leon Morris ("Gospel According to Matthew" [Inter-Varsity Press, 1992]) points out, "From this parable we have derived the use of 'talent' to indicate abilities of various kinds, but we should be clear that the word had no such associations for Jesus and his hearers. It was simply a unit of weight."]] (16) Immediately [[This word helps demonstrate that this slave/servant with the five talents (and the slave/servant with the two talents, who functioned "in the same manner" [25:17] as this slave/servant with the five talents) made faithfulness to his master top priority, as is required of slaves/servants. Christians are slaves/servants of God, as many verses of the New Testament show (and they are sons, etc.), but this slavery/servanthood brings the only true freedom, which is the opposite of bondage.]] the one who had received the five talents went and traded with them, and gained five more talents. (17) In the same manner the one who had received the two talents gained two more. (18) But he who received the one talent went away and dug in the ground, and hid his master's money. [As we'll see, this behavior manifested total unfaithfulness, and there was no legitimate excuse for it.] (19) Now after a long time the master of those slaves [servants] came and settled accounts with them. (20) And the one who had received the five talents came and brought five more talents, saying, 'Master, you entrusted five talents to me; see, I have gained five more talents.' (21) His master said to him, 'Well done, good and faithful slave [servant]; you were faithful with a few things, I will put you in charge of many things, enter into the joy of your master.' [[Hearing words like these from the Lord Jesus at the end is all that really matters; we must live our lives in the light of the day of reckoning (in accordance with God's Word, by grace, through faith. (Thankfully we don't have to wait until the day of reckoning to know if heaven will be our destiny. We can, and we should, have total assurance of our salvation now [cf., e.g., John 5:25; Rom. 8:16, 17; and 1 John 5:13]. However, we should not have an assurance of salvation if we are not committed to, and living in line with God's Word by His grace through faith. For one thing, see my paper titled, Once Saved, Always Saved? on my internet site.)
To "enter into the joy of [our] master" is to enter the joy/rejoicing of God's eternal kingdom, the joy that comes with experiencing the fulness of eternal life and reigning with the Lord Jesus Christ in glory. Christians can, of course, have substantial joy during this present age (cf., e.g., Luke 10:17; John 15:11; Rom. 14:17; and Gal. 5:22), but I am quite sure the joy of the next age will be very much greater. Note that Matt. 25:21, 23 speak of the future state of joy for those who are faithful and ready for Christ's return. A primary cause for rejoicing now (during this present age) is the anticipation of the eternal state of glory waiting for us. (Cf., e.g., Matt. 5:12; Luke 10:20; Rom. 12:12; Col. 1:27; 1 Pet. 1:6, 8; and 4:13. The Greek noun ["chara"] translated joy was derived from the verb ["chairo"] translated rejoice.)
This is "the joy of [our] master" in that this joy/this state of joy comes from Him. (Everything good comes from God.) As I mentioned, part of the reward for faithfulness in this parable is our being given authority in God's eternal kingdom. All those who make it to heaven as part of God's true Israel will reign. (See under "thrones were set up" of Dan. 7:9, including the section titled "A More Detailed Look at Those Who Will Reign with the Lord Jesus Christ and the Time They Will Begin to Reign" on pages 72, 73 of "The Mid-Week Rapture"; also see Rev. 22:5.) Apparently, however, some will have greater authority than others (not that one is better than the other); see Matt. 24:45-47; see under Dan. 12:3 on pages 161, 162 of my book, "The Mid-Week Rapture"; and see under 1 Cor. 15:41 in my paper on 1 Corinthians chapter 15 on this Christian article site.]] (22) The one also who had received the two talents came up and said, 'Master, you entrusted to me two talents; see, I have gained two more talents.' (23) His master said to him, 'Well done, good and faithful slave [servant]; you were faithful with a few things, I will put you in charge of many things; enter into the joy of your master.' [[This slave/servant, like the first one, was faithful to his master; he did all that was required of him. Will this slave have less authority than the first one in God's eternal kingdom? It could be, but I don't believe we have enough information to answer this question with any assurance; however, we can be fully confident that God does/will do all things well, and there won't be any complaints. There had better not be any complaints, or any superiority complexes, or inferiority complexes, etc.]] (24) And the one also who had received the one talent came up and said, 'Master [He called him Master (this same Greek word is normally translated Lord), but he didn't serve him/Him as master/Lord. Cf., e.g., Matt. 7:21-23; Luke 6:46. Talk is cheap, but God looks at the heart and at the works, which demonstrate what is in the heart.], I knew you to be a hard man, reaping where you did not sow, and gathering where you scattered no seed. [[The NASB supplied the word "seed" in italics. Many understand the words "you scattered" here to refer to winnowing, where the chaff (not seed) is scattered. Either way, this "Christian" had a very wrong view of God. It is easy to have a wrong view of God. Just listen to the devil and his spokespeople. Eve was the first person to make that very serious mistake.
Sin (including unbelief and rebellion) often correlates with a wrong view of God, a view derived from the lies of the devil. This started for man in the Garden of Eden with Satan attacking the truthfulness and character of God - and Eve listened to him; and, at least to some extent, she agreed with him. We can always find something to complain about, if we allow ourselves to. Even in the Garden you could find something to complain about, something that could be looked at in a [faulty/sinful] way that seemed to demonstrate that God must have done/be doing something wrong. Who is God to make Adam work in the Garden? Why doesn't He work in the Garden Himself? Why did He give Adam more responsibility than he could handle? Why such a wife? Why did God permit the serpent to come? Why did He create the serpent to begin with? Why did He let Satan rebel? Why didn't He just destroy Satan after He rebelled? Why did God allow free will? Didn't He know what would happen? If He didn't know, why not? If He did know, then He must be responsible for our sin! This must be His fault! Why did He put that tree, with its deadly fruit, in the Garden? This must be man abuse! What a sad place to be, only one really good thing in the Garden and man can't have it! We must be very careful who, and what, we listen to. And we must be very careful we don't leave any room for thoughts against God, thoughts of unbelief and rebellion, to take root in our hearts. By the way, we're the ones on trial, not God.
The attitude of the slave/servant in this parable regarding his master apparently carries the idea that there's something wrong with the master gaining benefit from work he didn't personally do, as if such work necessarily means the exploitation of others. He didn't respect the master; he didn't love the master; and we can undoubtedly say he didn't want to benefit the master; his master certainly didn't deserve it, he thought.
A slave, a servant, a worker, a Christian can always find a way to look at things in a way that causes dissatisfaction (and the devil will give us as much help as much as we'll take); however, in the case of people's dealings with God, the complaints are always totally inappropriate, and sinful. A master, an owner, a boss, etc. have some rights, but they can, and sometimes do, abuse their rights; God certainly has rights over us (He is God; He is our Creator, our Savior, our Sustainer, and our Judge), but He doesn't abuse His rights. In most ways it would be wrong to say that God is "hard" (He is loving, generous, quick to forgive when His slaves/servants repent, etc.), BUT HE DOES DEMAND FAITHFULNESS - that is a dominant point in this parable. And the Bible frequently speaks of His wrath against those who continue to rebel against Him.]] (25) And I was afraid [[This wasn't a genuine, healthy, Biblical fear of God; such a fear would have led to obedience; he wasn't afraid to be unfaithful to his master. (On the fear of the Lord, see the discussion under Phil. 2:12 in my paper "The Christian, the Law, and Legalism" that is on this Christian article site.) The master totally rejected his excuses, and he pointed out what the real problem was in the next verse.]], and went away and hid your talent in the ground; see, you have what is yours.' (26) But his master answered and said to him, 'You WICKED [my emphasis], lazy slave [servant], you knew that I reap where I did not sow, and gather where I scattered no seed. (27) Then you ought to have put my money in the bank, and on my arrival I would have received my money back with interest. [The Old Testament did not permit the Israelites to charge interest to one another (cf. Ex. 22:25; Lev. 25:35-37; Deut. 23:19; Psalm 15:5; and Ezek. 18:8); Deut. 23:20, however, permitted charging interest to foreigners.] (28) Therefore take away the talent from him, and give it to the one who has the ten talents.' [We would push the details of this parable too far if we were to think of more being given to the slave/servant who now has ten talents but more not being given to the faithful slave/servant who now has four talents. See the next verse.] (29) For to everyone who has shall more be given, and he shall have an abundance; but from the one who does not have, even what he does have shall be taken away. [[Compare Matt. 13:12; Mark 4:25; and Luke 8:18. This concept is easy to understand: The one who loves the things of God (like the balanced truth of His Word, righteousness, holiness, and the fruit and gifts of the Spirit) will rightly use them for the glory of God. Those who don't love and appreciate what they have from God won't use it, and eventually what little they have will be taken away. This last slave/servant had clearly demonstrated that he wasn't going to rightly use the talent he had been given, and the more basic problem was that he didn't love, respect, of submit from his heart to God.]] (30) And cast out the worthless slave into the outer darkness; in that place there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth. [[The "outer darkness" is only mentioned in Matthew (also Matt. 8:12; 22:13, but cf., e.g., 2 Pet. 2:4 [The NASB has, "For if God did not spare angels when they sinned, but cast them into hell and committed them to pits of darkness, reserved for judgment." I believe the BAGD Greek Lexicon's "[held them] captive in Tartarus" is better that the NASB's "cast them into hell."]; 2 Pet. 2:17; and Jude 1:13.) The words "weeping and gnashing of teeth" are also found in Matt. 8:12; 13:42, 50; 22:13; 24:51; and Luke 13:28. (As I mentioned Matt. 8:12; 22:13 also mention the "outer darkness." Matthew 13:42, 50 combine the "weeping and gnashing of teeth" with being cast into the furnace of fire.)
Ultimately there are two possible destinies for people: To have a place in God's eternal kingdom of life and light, or to be excluded from that kingdom. The expressions "outer darkness" and Gehennah, the lake of fire (cf. Matt. 25:41, 46; 13:42, 50; and Rev. 20:14, 15) apparently speak of the same basic reality: eternal separation from God, bearing the penalty for (unrepented of) rebellion against Him. God is a God of light, and His kingdom is a kingdom of light. (God's light, understood in a full sense, includes truth, divine order, peace, love, righteousness, holiness, and health.) To be separated from Him and His kingdom means separation from the light, and the resultant darkness.]]
We will continue this verse-by-verse study of Matthew chapters 24 and 25 in Part 5, starting with Matt. 25:31.
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