Through the Bible in One Year

Day 38

Matthew 25:1-30

This section of Matthew that we are currently in is Jesus’  great prophetic address from the Mount of Olives.  This prophecy was primarily a reply to the disciples’ question: “What will be the sign of your coming and of the end of the age?”  Jesus gave them: the general signs and a summary of key events leading up to the last days; special warning signs that would announce the final days of the present age, which will be the great tribulation; spectacular signs that will occur when Christ triumphantly returns to earth at the end of the great tribulation “with power and great glory”; a waring for those who have chosen to trust Christ during the horrible tribulation period, calling them to be alert to the signs leading up to Christ’s expected return to end the tribulation; a challenge for believers living before the tribulation to be spiritually ready for the unknown time when Christ will come to take his faithful followers from this world, sparing them from the severe tribulation judgments he will unleash on the earth.  You should note that although Christ will remove his true church from the world prior to the tribulation judgments, some people will come to Christ during the tribulation; but they will do so under great persecution from the antichrist.  Those who survive are the believers that Christ will rescue when he physically returns to earth to end the tribulation and destroy the forces of the antichrist; and a description of the judgement of nations after Jesus’ return to earth.

Notice that many details of Christ’s coming (and the end times in general) are not revealed in Matthew 24.  For that matter, no one has so far been able to interpret or figure out all of the Bible’s prophecies about the end times with complete certainty.  In some cases, the timing or order of events is uncertain; in other instances, the specific details of signs or events are not completely clear.  No doubt, this is in the plan of God, as the New Testament writers and Jesus himself were not trying to reveal all the details about the end times.  Their main concern was to challenge God’s people to “keep watch” and to be ready for Christ’s coming.  For this reason, Jesus’ prophecy contains an element of mystery requiring humility, readiness and a heart focused on the Lord Jesus himself.  We can expect God to give his people additional insight and understanding about end-time events as they unfold.  And that leads us to the first part of today’s passage which is Matthew 25:1-13.

Then the kingdom of heaven will be like ten virgins who took their lamps and went to meet the bridegroom. Five of them were foolish, and five were wise. For when the foolish took their lamps, they took no oil with them, but the wise took flasks of oil with their lamps. As the bridegroom was delayed, they all became drowsy and slept. But at midnight there was a cry, ‘Here is the bridegroom! Come out to meet him.’ Then all those virgins rose and trimmed their lamps. And the foolish said to the wise, ‘Give us some of your oil, for our lamps are going out.’ 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.’ 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. Afterward the other virgins came also, saying, Lord, lord, open to us.’ But he answered, ‘Truly, I say to you, I do not know you.’ Watch therefore, for you know neither the day nor the hour.

This parable points out that all who believe in Christ must constantly examine their own spiritual condition in light of Christ’s coming at an unknown and unexpected time.  We must remain true to our faith in Christ no matter what, so that when the day and hour arrive we will be ready for him and he will receive us when he returns.  Failure to be in a devoted personal relationship with the Lord when he returns will mean being left out of his kingdom.

The difference between the foolish and the wise virgins is that the foolish failed to recognize that the retiring Lord would come unexpectedly, without obvious signs as the time approached.  Christ indicates here and elsewhere that a large portion of the church will be unprepared at the time of his return.  He makes it clear that he will not wait until all churches and professing believers are prepared for his coming.

Notice that all the virgins (both faithful and unfaithful) were taken by surprise at the bridegrooms coming.  This suggests that the parable of the ten virgins applies to believers living before the tribulation and not to those living during the tribulation, who will have adequate signs preceding Christ’s return at the end of the tribulation.  It seems that all the virgins may have at one time been ready for the groom to return, but the foolish failed to prepare for the wait.  Perhaps they planned to take care of things later but instead they fell asleep.  By the time they awoke, it was too late.  This should serve as a challenge to all those who make a decision to follow Christ.  That initial choice is one thing,  but sticking to that decision and staying ready for Christ’s return takes persistence and dedication.  If we as Christians do not stay active and grow spiritually—or if we view his return as being distant—the sense of urgency will easily fade.  However, if we maintain a high level of expectancy, we will be ready at a moments notice.

The fact that both the faithful and unfaithful “fell asleep” does not seem to be an issue in this story.  In fact, if we are spiritually prepared, we can be at peace and enjoy rest in life.  Then, when Jesus returns unexpectedly, we will be ready to go with him.

Now let’s talk a little bit about the oil.  The oil in this parable represents true faith, a right relationship with God and the constant presence of the Holy Spirit.  In scripture, oil is often a symbol of the Holy Spirit’s presence and power in a person’s life.  All true followers of Jesus can enjoy that presence.  If we want to be ready, like the wise virgins, our lives need to be pure and full of the faith and righteousness that come only from God’s Spirit.  And now we come to part 2 of today’s passage which is Matthew 25:14-30.

For it will be like a man going on a journey, who called his servants and entrusted to them his property. To one he gave five talents, to another two, to another one, to each according to his ability. Then he went away. He who had received the five talents went at once and traded with them, and he made five talents more. So also he who had the two talents made two talents more. But he who had received the one talent went and dug in the ground and hid his master’s money. Now after a long time the master of those servants came and settled accounts with them. 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.’ 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.’ 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.’ 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.’ 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, so I was afraid, and I went and hid your talent in the ground. Here, you have what is yours.’ 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? 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. So take the talent from him and give it to him who has the ten talents. 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. And cast the worthless servant into the outer darkness. In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.’

The term “talent” was first used as a measure of weight (about 75 pounds) and then as currency or money.  The parable of the talents warns us that our place and service in heaven will depend on our faithfulness and service on earth.  A talent represents our abilities, time, resources and opportunities to serve God, and others, while on earth.  God has entrusted all of these things to us, and he expects us to use and apply these gifts in the wisest possible way so that Christ can see a return on his investment.  Keep in mind that this parable—-as any parable—is meant to make a point or teach a spiritual lesson.  Not every aspect of the parable is a direct analogy or comparison to something else.  For example, the master represents God, but God is not a hard master who harvests where he has not planted or takes what he has not worked for.  This was the judgment of the foolish servant who did not have a proper understanding and relationship with his master in the first place.  Notice that the master never admitted to the servant’s incorrect judgment of his master, but only repeated the lazy servant’s words back to him in the form of a question.

Remember Jesus here is teaching an important principle about our, as Christians, reward and position in heaven.  What we as followers of Christ receive in the future kingdom of God will depend on how much we lay hold of and pursue God’s purposes now.  What we do to benefit God’s kingdom on earth will affect the “benefit” we receive in the kingdom of heaven.  On the surface, it may seem unfair and unreasonable that the one who had originally received the most was given even more.  However, Jesus is making the general point that our reward in heaven, as Christians, will be in proportion to our present commitment to God and faithfulness to use what we have been given—regardless of whether it seems like a little or a lot.

Tomorrow’s Bible Readings:

Exodus 28, Matthew 25:31-26:13, Psalm 31:9-18 and Proverbs 8:12-13

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