Mark 13b (Matthew 25)
Matthew 25:11-13… “Lord, lord! Let us in!” 12 But [Jesus] replied, “I tell you the truth, I do not know you!” 13 Therefore stay alert, because you do not know the day or the hour.
When Jesus comes again in the future to mete out his wrath and justice upon the people of the earth he describes what that will look like in reference to those who will accompany him into his eternal kingdom: “At that time, the kingdom of heaven will be like ten virgins who took their lamps and went out to meet the bridegroom” (v. 1). This parable compares Christ’s second coming with a wedding where ten virgin (bridesmaids) are awaiting the arrival of the groom. Jewish weddings had three phases. First, the parents of the bride and groom would sign a contract guaranteeing the future union of the couple far in advance. Second, the couple would come together in a betrothal ceremony where vows were taken. It served as an engagement of sorts, but the union was not sexually consummated until the final stage. Finally, the groom would come to get his bride, accompanied by his friends, and the marriage would be solidified with a marriage feast. Then the couple would be left alone, and the union would be consummated. In Jesus’ parable here the third stage of the wedding, the feast and consummation, is illustrated.
Of the ten who awaited the arrival of the groom, in Matt 25:2-10, five of them were wise, five were foolish. The wise ones took oil for their lamps, but the foolish ones did not. The lamps were used at weddings to identify the members of the wedding party – the invited guests. Now because the groom was delayed in his arrival all the bridesmaids fell asleep. But when his arrival was announced at midnight, unexpectedly, only the ones who were prepared – those who brought oil for their lamps – were ready for his arrival. Matthew 25:8-10 says, “The foolish ones said to the wise, ‘Give us some of your oil, because our lamps are going out.’ ‘No,’ they replied. ‘There won’t be enough for you and for us. Go instead to those who sell oil and buy some for yourselves.’ But while they had gone to buy it, the groom arrived, and those who were ready went inside with him to the wedding banquet. And the door was shut.” Then, despite their efforts, they could not get into the banquet because the groom didn’t know them (vv. 11-13).
The bridegroom represents Jesus Christ, and the wedding represents his second coming which is depicted as a marriage supper feast (cf. Rev. 19:7-10). The ten virgins symbolize professed Christians, and their lamps signify their outward identity as believers. The wise and foolish virgins represent the church today that embodies both the wise and the foolish. Wise, or true, Christians eagerly await Christ’s coming, and their outward faith is a testimony to their salvation. The foolish virgins looked like the wise ones, but they were foolish in that they were not prepared – they were not on the alert – for Christ’s coming. Their lamps looked just like the others, but they had nothing to burn in them. And as a lamp without oil is useless, so too is professed faith in Christ without faith expressing itself in works – in an eager longing for His return. The foolish virgins had a form of godliness, but they had no power because they were not true children of God. It is painfully clear here that a large portion of professed Christians aren’t.
The bridesmaids fell asleep – both the wise and the foolish, but this illustrates the attitude of believers and non-believers. Believers don’t know exactly when Christ will return, but they’re ready when he does. False believers also don’t know, and they’re not ready when he does.
Food for Thought
This is the most sobering Scripture in the Bible because it describes those who think they are believers but who are not. True believers are ready, and they prove their salvation with a faith that expresses itself in worship of God and godly living. When Christ gets here, they’re ready!
Matthew 25:30… “And throw that worthless slave into the outer darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.”
Jesus told another parable concerning his second coming. It is like a man who set out on a journey and entrusted his property to his servants to care for in his absence. He gave the first servant a large sum of money, and the servant doubled what was given to him. He gave a second servant a smaller sum of money, and he too doubled what was given to him. He gave a third servant an even smaller sum of money, but this servant hid his money because he was afraid to lose what was given to him. He buried it in the ground to protect it from being stolen. He feared his master because he knew him as a hard man who reaped from fields where he had not sown.
When the landowner returned from his journey he summoned his servants. The first and second servants came forward with excitement and shared with their master how they had doubled what he had given them. The landowner responded to his faithful servants, “Well done good and faithful servant! You have been faithful in a few things, so I will put you in charge of many things. Enter into the joy of your master” (Matt. 25:21, 23). Then the third servant was summoned, and instead of having something to offer his master he insulted him with his excuse for not doing anything with the money given to him. Upon being summoned and questioned he answered, “Sir, I knew that you were a hard man, harvesting where you did not sow, and gathering where you did not scatter seed, so I was afraid, and I went and hid your money in the ground. See, here’s your money” (25:24-25). And contrary to the joy the master shared with the previous two servants, he answered the unfaithful servant, “You evil and lazy servant!” (25:26). Then he went on the berate him for not at least putting his money in the bank so that it could have been returned to him with some nominal interest (first century Roman banks are believed to have produced up the 6% interest on deposits).
The landowner here is Jesus, and his journey concerns his ascension from the earth into the heavens following his resurrection from the dead. He told the disciples that he was going to the Father but that he would return. The three servants depicted here represent true Christians and those who think they’re Christians. In all churches today there are believers and unbelievers. Many unbelievers think that they’re Christians and that when Christ comes he will take them with him. They live among the redeemed community of believers, they hear the Bible taught regularly, and they enjoy the fellowship of the Christians they attend church with. In spite of all this, they make no attempt to put their faith in action and give no evidence of being true believers in Christ through true worship. They are basically useless in the church because they render no fruitful service but remain on the sidelines – at times critiquing those who are taking part.
The last servant represents professed believers who fail to understand God for who He really is. Their false assumptions about God serve as proof that they have no true knowledge of Him. They are the unregenerate church attenders who lack real spiritual fruit in contrast to the previous two servants in the parable who seized their opportunity to serve their master while he was away. The false servant was rebuked and thrown into outer darkness (v. 30) – a euphemism for hell, because he demonstrated his worth in his actions – or lack thereof.
Food for Thought
Churches today have unbelievers who do many good works, and they have supposed believers who do none. Only God knows who is genuine. Let us be reminded that those who trust in Christ will gain everything and share their Master’s joy. Those who don’t will lose everything.
Matthew 25:31-40… When the Son of Man comes in his glory and all the angels with him, then he will sit on his glorious throne. 32 All the nations will be assembled before him, and he will separate people one from another like a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. 33 He will put the sheep on his right and the goats on his 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 something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, 36 I was naked and you gave me clothing, I was sick and you took care of me, I was in prison and you visited me.” 37 Then the righteous will answer him, “Lord, when did we do these things…” 40 And the king will answer, “Truly, just as you did it for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did it for me.”
Contrary to Mark’s Gospel where Jesus is depicted as the suffering servant, Matthew depicts Jesus as the King of kings, and in this picture of him he sits on his throne judging God’s true children at his second coming. Those children, by virtue of being blessed by God from the foundation of the world, will enter into Christ’s millennial kingdom on earth after the tribulation.
When Jesus does come back to earth, all parables aside, he explains what he’ll actually do in the days that follow. Revelation 11:2-3; 12:14 and Daniel 12:11 (cf. 7:25; 9:27) both state that there will be 3.5 years (also 42 months; 1,260 days) from the time that the abomination of desolation is set up in the Jewish temple until the time of the end (Christ’s return). Daniel 12:11 adds 30 days to what Revelation says will be 1,260 days making it 1,290 days. And Dan. 12:12 says, “How blessed is he who keeps waiting and attains to the1,335 days.” The 1,260 days, 1,290 days, and the 1,335 days are all 3.5 years. But the variations seem to be explained in Matt. 25:31-46. They are judgment days, and those still standing at the end of those judgments are blessed.
Matthew 25:31-46 pictures Jesus’ coming as one of judgment. According to Mark 13:26 Jesus will appear in the clouds, and the “sign of the Son of Man will appear in the sky” (Matt. 24:30). He will appear in the sky after the 1,260 following the abomination of desolation in the temple. But that will only be the beginning of the final judgment. The next 30 days will be Jesus and his holy angels, along with his raptured and glorified saints, gathering the nations together for judgment. This might account for Daniel’s extra 30 days in 12:11. Matthew 25:31 says that Jesus will sit on his throne and look out over all the peoples he and his holy ones have separated. They will be separated as sheep and goats – the sheep on his right hand side and the goats on his left. Jesus will look at the sheep, who represent true believers who have lived through the horrors of the Tribulation, and congratulate them. He calls them, “blessed are you by my Father,” and he tells them to enter into the kingdom that God had prepared for them from all eternity (the earthly millennial kingdom). Jesus assures them that they belong there, first and foremost because they are blessed by the Father, and second because their actions on earth (feeding the hungry, helping the sick, clothing the naked, etc.) proved their blessedness. He will tell them that everything they did for those they to help on the earth in the tribulation were actually deeds for Jesus Himself.
Food for Thought
When Christ appears in the sky it will take him 30 days to descend to the Mount of Olives (Zech. 14:4), thus fulfilling Daniel 12:11. Those who are still alive following the horrors of the Tribulation will then be judged over a 45 day period, thus fulfilling Daniel 12:12. Those still standing after the 1,335 days are blessed indeed. They will have endured severe persecution of the worst kind, and yet they will have continued to love Christ as evidenced by their readiness.
Matthew 25:41-46… Then he will say to those on his left, “Depart from me, you accursed, into the eternal fire that has been prepared for the devil and his angels! 42 For I was hungry and you gave me nothing to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink. 43 I was a stranger and you did not receive me as a guest, naked and you did not clothe me, sick and in prison and you did not visit me.” 44 Then they will answer, “Lord, when did we see do these things…?” 45 Then he will say, “Truly, just as you did not do it for one of the least of these, you did not do it for me.” 46 And these will depart into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life.”
After commending the sheep (true believers) on his right hand side, Jesus will then turn to the goats on his left hand side. Sheep are considered to be compliant and unassuming animals. Goats, however, are typically boisterous and uncontrollable. Shepherds would very often separate the two animals so that they could graze and sleep accordingly without hindering the other. Jesus will separate people in this same manner upon returning to earth the second time. The sheep will go into the Millennium where Christ reigns on that earthly kingdom along with his saints of all ages past and the angels because they, the sheep, were “blessed of the Father” (25:34). The goats, on the other hand, represent those who rejected Christ throughout the Tribulation. They are the ones who took the mark of the beast, worshipped his image, and slandered Christ’s name all the while his gospel was being preached during the Tribulation.
The goats, upon hearing that they never fed Jesus, visited him in prison, clothed him when he had no clothes, nor ever gave him a drink when he was thirsty, answered Jesus in confusion. They will ask, “When did we ever not feed you, clothe you, visit you, or not give you a drink?” And Jesus will answer them the same way he answered the sheep when they asked. Each time they missed an opportunity to help anyone in need they missed an opportunity to serve Christ. Even though he wasn’t physically present with them during the Tribulation, they will show their true colors by failing to serve the many who will need physical help, and thus fail to indirectly give to Jesus Christ. For this they will be judged with the most extreme judgment.
It must not be assumed that Matthew 25:31-46 teaches that salvation is by works – that a person gains eternal life by doing good deeds in serving others. Good deeds never gain favor with God to the point of earning points to go to heaven. This idea is completely heretical and foreign to the text of Scripture. Keep in mind that the sheep entered the kingdom because they were “blessed of the Father.” Their good deeds were the fruit of their blessedness not the grounds for such. The goats, however, are not cursed because they aren’t blessed; they are cursed and judged based upon their works alone. Their rejection of Christ is the root of their lack of works. For this they will be judged, and all of their deeds are recorded in books (cf. Rev. 20:12).
Whereas in 25:34 Jesus invites the sheep into the millennial kingdom, in v. 46 he sends the goats (unbelievers) “into eternal punishment.” This is the same place where the lazy servant in the parable of the talents went (“into outer darkness where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth”). It’s important to note that the latter part of v. 46 states that the righteous are to enter into “eternal” life while the wicked are to enter into “eternal” punishment. The same word used for both heaven and hell indicates that both will endure forever. There is no annihilation in hell.
Food for Thought
J. MacArthur notes, “It is significant that the marks of lostness Jesus mentions here are not gross sins committed but rather simple acts of kindness NOT committed.” Equally, the five foolish bridesmaids were locked out by simple virtue of not being prepared. Are you?
U The parable of the virgins (Matt. 25:1-14) focuses attention on the Christian’s being ready as they eagerly wait for Jesus to return. The parable of the talents (Matt. 25:15-30) focuses attention on the Christian’s readiness in their work as they wait for Jesus to return. These two parables present a balance of how the Christian should be ready as he waits for Christ to return and what he is supposed to be doing while he awaits Christ’s return.