The Parable of the Ten Virgins
Mat 25:1 Then shall the kingdom of heaven be likened unto ten virgins, which took their lamps, and went forth to meet the bridegroom.
Barnes: Shall be likened – Or shall resemble. The meaning is, “When the Son of man returns to judgment, it will be as it was in the case of ten virgins in a marriage ceremony.” The coming of Christ to receive his people to himself is often represented under the similitude of a marriage, the church being represented as his spouse or bride. The marriage relation is the most tender, firm, and endearing of any known on earth, and on this account it suitably represents the union of believers to Christ. See Mat_9:15; Joh_3:29; Rev_19:7; Rev_21:9; Eph_5:25-32.
Ten virgins – These virgins, doubtless, represent the church – a name given to it because it is pure and holy. See 2Co_11:2; Lam_1:15; Lam_2:13.
Which took their lamps, and went forth to meet the bridegroom – The “lamps” used on such occasions were rather “torches” or “flambeaux.” They were made by winding rags around pieces of iron or earthenware, sometimes hollowed so as to contain oil, and fastened to handles of wood. These torches were dipped in oil, and gave a large light.
Marriage “ceremonies” in the East were conducted with great pomp and solemnity. The ceremony of marriage was performed commonly in the open air, on the banks of a stream. Both the bridegroom and bride were attended by friends. They were escorted in a palanquin. carried by four or more persons. After the ceremony of marriage succeeded a feast of seven days if the bride was a virgin, or three days if she was a widow. This feast was celebrated in her father’s house. At the end of that time the bridegroom conducted the bride with great pomp and splendor to his own home.
This was done in the evening, or at night, Jer_7:34; Jer_25:10; Jer_33:11. Many friends and relations attended them; and besides those who went with them from the house of the bride, there was another company that came out from the house of the bridegroom to meet them and welcome them. These were probably female friends and relatives of the bridegroom, who went out to welcome him and his new companion to their home. These are the virgins mentioned in this parable. Not knowing precisely the time when the procession would come, they probably went out early, and waited until they should see indications of its approach. In the celebration of marriage in the East at the present day, many of the special customs of ancient times are observed. “At a Hindu marriage,” says a modern missionary, “the procession of which I saw some years ago, the bridegroom came from a distance, and the bride lived at Serampore, to which place the bridegroom was to come by water. After waiting two or three hours, at length, near midnight, it was announced, in the very words of Scripture, ‘Behold the bridegroom cometh; go ye out to meet him.’ All the persons employed now lighted their lamps, and ran with them in their hands to fill up their stations in the procession. Some of them had lost their lights and were unprepared, but it was then too late to seek them, and the cavalcade moved forward to the house of the bride, at which place the company entered a large and splendidly illuminated area before the house, covered with an awning, where a great multitude of friends, dressed in their best apparel, were seated upon mats. The bridegroom was carried in the arms of a friend, and placed in a superb seat in the midst of the company, where he sat a short time, and then went into the house, the door of which was immediately shut and guarded by sepoys. I and others expostulated with the doorkeepers, but in vain. Never was I so struck with our Lord’s beautiful parable as at this moment – ‘And the door was shut.’”
The journal of one of the American missionaries in Greece contains an account of an Armenian wedding which she attended; and, after describing the dresses and previous ceremonies, she says that at 12 o’clock at night precisely the cry was made by some of the attendants, “Behold, the bridegroom cometh;” and immediately five or six men set off to meet him.
Bridegroom – A newly-married man.
Benson: shall the kingdom of heaven — The gospel kingdom, or the state of things in the visible church, particularly the character, conduct, and lot of the subjects of that kingdom; be likened unto ten virgins — Or may be represented by the character, conduct, and fate of virgins at a wedding. In order to understand this parable, we must remember that here is an allusion to the customs of the Jewish marriages, as well as those of the other eastern countries. “With them it was usual for the bridegroom to bring home his bride in the evening, sooner or later, as it might happen. And that she might be received properly at his house, his female friends of the younger sort were invited to come and wait with lamps, till some of his retinue, despatched before the rest, brought word that he was at hand; upon which they went forth, with their lamps trimmed and burning, to welcome him, and conduct him with his bride into the house. And for this service they had the honour of being guests at the marriage-feast.” To ten such virgins our Lord compares the candidates for the heavenly kingdom, the complete number of all Christian professors: he mentions ten, because this, it seems, was the general number appointed at their weddings to wait upon the bridegroom. And he compares professors to virgins, to signify the purity required in the Christian character, or perhaps merely because the allusion in the parable so required it. Which took their lamps, &c. — The lamp means a religious profession, and every one may then be said to take up this lamp, when admitted into the outward church by baptism; and went forth to meet the bridegroom — The bridegroom means the Lord Jesus in this parable, as well as in that recorded Mat_22:2, &c.; and every one that professes to expect and prepare for his coming, whether to call men hence by death, or to summon them to his bar. may be said to go forth to meet him.
CTR: Then — Indicating that it was not applicable at once, in the Lord’s day, but sometime in the future. Down at the close of this age. Shortly before the establishment of the Kingdom.
This parable is not applicable at all times and under all conditions. The subject of this parable is the continuation of the subject of Matt. 24, the divisions of the chapter being only the work of the printer.
Taken in connection with the preceding chapter, it is fixed as belonging to the last generation of the church living when the Lord comes.
Kingdom of heaven — In its embryotic condition. The Church–the entire ten virgins.
Be likened unto — This parable shows that in the end of this age is a separation or division in the true Church of Christ.
The object of this parable is twofold: first, the necessity for alertness; second, to show that it is not sufficient to hope and pray for the Kingdom, but the wisest possible preparations must be made for it.
Ten virgins — Pure ones, “holy people,” lovers of the Bridegroom, longing to meet him. Separate from the world, uncontaminated. Only those who have been justified by faith and consecration, because by nature none are pure, none are virgins.
Applies only to the true Church, the virgin class, not even to the nominal church. For a time these will be all together, unseparated.
No mention is made of the bride, but all of the wise virgins are mentioned as those for whom the Bridegroom comes.
While there have been virgins all through the age, this parable refers only to the virgins at the close of this age.
Took their lamps — The Bible. “Thy Word is a lamp unto my feet.” (Psa_119:105)
Went forth — In going, they walked by faith and not by sight.
The bridegroom — Jesus, personally, is the Bridegroom, and not Jesus and the overcomers.
Guzik: Then the kingdom of heaven: Matthew 24 ended with a parable meant to emphasize the idea of readiness for our master’s return. Matthew 25 begins with another parable emphasizing the same principle.
To ten virgins who took their lamps and went out to meet the bridegroom: There were three stages to a Jewish wedding in that day. The first was engagement – a formal agreement made by the fathers. The second was betrothal – the ceremony where mutual promises are made. The third was marriage – approximately one year later when the bridegroom came at an unexpected time for his bride.
Went to meet the bridegroom: In this parable, the first two stages have already taken place. Now the wedding party (the ten virgins) await the coming of the bridegroom for his bride.
Why does Jesus describe ten virgins? Talmudic authorities affirm that there were usually ten lamps in a bridal procession.
JFB: shall the kingdom of heaven be likened unto ten virgins, which took their lamps, and went forth to meet the bridegroom — This supplies a key to the parable, whose object is, in the main, the same as that of the last parable – to illustrate the vigilant and expectant attitude of faith, in respect of which believers are described as “they that look for Him” (Heb_9:28), and “love His appearing” (2Ti_4:8). In the last parable it was that of servants waiting for their absent Lord; in this it is that of virgin attendants on a Bride, whose duty it was to go forth at night with lamps, and be ready on the appearance of the Bridegroom to conduct the Bride to his house, and go in with him to the marriage. This entire and beautiful change of figure brings out the lesson of the former parable in quite a new light.
BSO: In the Bible, the number 10 is used 242 times. The designation “10th” is used 79 times. Ten is also viewed as a complete and perfect number, as is 3, 7 and 12. It is made up of 4, the number of the physical creation, and 6, the number of man. As such, 10 signifies testimony, law, responsibility and the completeness of order.
Mat 25:2 And five of them were wise, and five were foolish.
CTR: Five of them were wise — The little flock, the fully consecrated. In addition to purity, watchfulness and zeal are essential. Full of faith, fervent love and the spirit of prompt obedience.
The fifth chapter of the Song of Solomon gives even fuller suggestions respecting these two classes.
Five were foolish — The Great Company class.
Lacking love and zeal, they are overcharged with the cares and plans of the present life. In that they permitted the things of the present life to balance against the things of the life to come.
Probably in very large number all around us.
Not all the virgins will be acceptable as members of the bride.
In addition to purity, a certain amount of watchful zeal will be required.
The foolish were those who heard the cry and, for want of sufficient light, could not obey the cry.
In the end of this age a division will take place in the true Church. But they are still virgins in the parable, not corrupt or lovers of sin.
Barnes; And five of them were wise – . The words “wise and foolish,” here, refer only to their conduct; in regard to the oil. The one part was “wise” in taking oil, the other “foolish” in neglecting it. The conduct of those who were “wise” refers to those who are “prepared” … – prepared by possessing real piety, and not being merely his professed followers. The conduct of those “without” oil expresses the conduct of those who profess to love him, but are destitute of true grace, and are therefore unprepared to meet him. Nothing can be argued from the number here in regard to the proportion of sincere Christians among professors. circumstances in parables are not to be pressed literally. They are necessary to keep up the story, and we must look chiefly or entirely to the scope or design of the parable to understand its meaning. In this parable the scope is to teach us to “watch” or be ready, Mat_25:13. It is not to teach us the relative “number” of those who shall be saved and who shall not. In teaching us to “watch and to be ready,” our Lord gives great additional interest by the circumstances of this narrative; but there is no authority for saying that he meant to teach that just half of professing Christians would be deceived. The moral certainty is that “nothing like” that number will be found to have been hypocrites.
Gill: The wise virgins are such, who are wise, not in their own conceits, which is the case of natural men, and empty professors; nor in the things of nature, or in the things of the world, of which the saints are oftentimes less knowing than others; nor in notional and speculative knowledge, much less in things that are evil: but they are such who are wise unto salvation; who not only know the scheme of it, but are sensible of their need of it; apply to Christ for it; venture their souls on him, and commit them to him: they trust in his righteousness for justification; in his blood for pardon; in his sacrifice for atonement; in his fulness for daily supplies; in his grace and strength to perform every duty; and expect eternal life in, and from him: they know him, prize him, and value him as their Saviour; rejoice in him, and give him all the glory; and they are such who are also wise in the business of a profession, as well as in the affair of salvation; they are such who take up a profession of religion aright, upon principles of grace, and after mature thought and deliberation; and when they have so done, hold it fast without wavering, walk becoming it in their lives and conversations; and yet do not depend on it, or trust to it:
and five were foolish; not in their own apprehension, in which they might be wise enough; nor in the judgment of others; nor in natural knowledge; or with respect to the things of the world; nor in speculative notions of the Gospel; nor merely so called, because unconverted; every unconverted man being a foolish man: but they were so in the business of salvation; as all are who build their hopes of it on birth privileges; on a carnal descent from good men; on a religious education; on their own righteousness; or on the absolute mercy of God; and not on Christ, the one only, and sure foundation: they are such who know not themselves; the impurity of their hearts, and nature; their impotency to that which is spiritually good; and the imperfection and insufficiency of their own righteousness: they know not Christ, and his salvation, neither the worth, nor want of him, or that; and are altogether strangers to the power of godliness, and spiritual experience: and are also as foolish in the affair of a profession, which they take up without a work of the Spirit of God upon their souls, and without considering the cost and charge of it; and either in a little time wholly drop it, or, if they hold it, they foolishly depend upon it, or lead lives unsuitable to it.
Mat 25:3 They that were foolish took their lamps, and took no oil with them:
Barnes: Oil in their vessels – The five foolish virgins probably expected that the bridegroom would come immediately; they therefore made no provision for any delay. The wise virgins knew that the time of his coming was uncertain, and they therefore furnished themselves with oil. This was carried in “vessels,” so that it could be poured on the torches when it was necessary.
Vessels – Cups, cans, or anything to hold oil.
Clarke: Five of them were wise – Or, provident, φρονιμοι – they took care to make a proper provision beforehand, and left nothing to be done in the last moment.
Five were foolish – Μωροι, which might be translated careless, is generally rendered foolish; but this does not agree so well with φρονιμοι, provident, or prudent, in the first clause, which is the proper meaning of the word.
Guzik: Took their lamps: The five foolish virgins appeared to be prepared for the bridegroom, because they had their lamps. But they really were not prepared, because they took no oil with them.
Mat 25:4 But the wise took oil in their vessels with their lamps.
Benson: And five of them were wise — Prudent and provident; and five foolish — Inconsiderate and careless. These latter took their lamps — Took up a profession of the true religion; but took no oil with them — No more than kept them burning just for the present. None to supply their future want, to recruit their lamps’ decay. …But the wise took oil in their vessels, &c. — Together with the lamp of an external profession, they secured and maintained vital godliness, through the indwelling of the Spirit of God, and living in the Spirit, they walked in the Spirit, seeking daily, a fresh supply of spiritual strength, till their faith was made perfect.
CTR: But the wise — “None of the wicked shall understand; but the wise shall understand.” (Dan_12:10)
Took oil — The holy Spirit of truth, of consecration and obedience.
In their vessels — In themselves, in their hearts.
Only those having a good supply of the spirit of truth will be able to hold out.
Clarke: Took oil in their vessels – They not only had a sufficiency of oil in their lamps, but they carried a vessel with oil to recruit their lamps, when it should be found expedient. This the foolish or improvident neglected to do: hence, when the oil that was in their lamps burned out, they had none to pour into the lamp to maintain the flame.
JFB: But the wise took oil in their vessels with their lamps — What are these “lamps” and this “oil”? Many answers have been given. But since the foolish as well as the wise took their lamps and went forth with them to meet the Bridegroom, these lighted lamps and this advance a certain way in company with the wise, must denote that Christian profession which is common to all who bear the Christian name; while the insufficiency of this without something else, of which they never possessed themselves, shows that “the foolish” mean those who, with all that is common to them with real Christians, lack the essential preparation for meeting Christ. Then, since the wisdom of “the wise” consisted in their taking with their lamps a supply of oil in their vessels, keeping their lamps burning till the Bridegroom came, and so fitting them to go in with Him to the marriage, this supply of oil must mean that inward reality of grace which alone will stand when He appears whose eyes are as a flame of fire. But this is too general; for it cannot be for nothing that this inward grace is here set forth by the familiar symbol of oil, by which the Spirit of all grace is so constantly represented in Scripture. Beyond all doubt, this was what was symbolized by that precious anointing oil with which Aaron and his sons were consecrated to the priestly office (Exo_30:23-25, Exo_30:30); by “the oil of gladness above His fellows” with which Messiah was to be anointed (Psa_45:7; Heb_1:9), even as it is expressly said, that “God giveth not the Spirit by measure unto Him” (Joh_3:34); and by the bowl full of golden oil, in Zechariah’s vision, which, receiving its supplies from the two olive trees on either side of it, poured it through seven golden pipes into the golden lamp-stand to keep it continually burning bright (Zec_4:1-14) – for the prophet is expressly told that it was to proclaim the great truth, “Not by might, nor by power, but by MY SPIRIT, saith the Lord of hosts [shall this temple be built]. Who art thou, O great mountain [of opposition to this issue]? Before Zerubbabel thou shalt become a plain [or, be swept out of the way], and he shall bring forth the head stone [of the temple], with shoutings [crying], GRACE, GRACE unto it.” This supply of oil, then, representing that inward grace which distinguishes the wise, must denote, more particularly, that “supply of the Spirit of Jesus Christ,” which, as it is the source of the new spiritual life at the first, is the secret of its enduring character. Everything short of this may be possessed by “the foolish”; while it is the possession of this that makes “the wise” to be “ready” when the Bridegroom appears, and fit to “go in with Him to the marriage.” Just so in the parable of the Sower, the stony-ground hearers, “having no deepness of earth” and “no root in themselves” Mat_13:5; Mar_4:17), though they spring up and get even into ear, never ripen, while they in the good ground bear the precious grain.
Mat 25:5 While the bridegroom tarried, they all slumbered and slept.
JFB: While the bridegroom tarried — So in Mat_24:48, “My Lord delayeth His coming”;
they all slumbered and slept — the wise as well as the foolish. The world “slumbered” signifies, simply, “nodded,” or, “became drowsy”; while the world “slept” is the usual word for lying down to sleep, denoting two stages of spiritual declension – first, that half-involuntary lethargy or drowsiness which is apt to steal over one who falls into inactivity; and then a conscious, deliberate yielding to it, after a little vain resistance. Such was the state alike of the wise and the foolish virgins, even till the cry of the Bridegroom’s approach awoke them.
CTR: Bridegroom tarried — Seemed to the expectant ones to tarry. The delay of the Bridegroom serves as a test to the virgins invited to go in to the marriage, proving who are the wise and who are the foolish.
Slumbered and slept — Many of them dreamed strange, unreasonable things. A general stupor, uncertainty and drowsiness came over all. During which time the lamps were measurably neglected.
Popular NT: All slumbered and slept. Sleep overcame them, even while trying to keep awake. This probably refers to a gradual forgetfulness of, or ceasing to expect at once, the coming of Christ. It indicates an unconscious giving way to the influence of the world. Christ’s coming will be unexpected by all, even by those who make calculations about it.
Mat 25:6 And at midnight there was a cry made, Behold, the bridegroom cometh; go ye out to meet him.
Barnes: A cry made – Of those who were coming with the bridegroom.
1 Thessalonians 4:16-18 KJV For the Lord himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God: and the dead in Christ shall rise first: 17 Then we which are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air: and so shall we ever be with the Lord. 18 Wherefore comfort one another with these words.
CTR: At midnight — At a fixed hour the Bridegroom set out for the bride; at midnight the Bridegroom came.
Cometh — Omit, not in the oldest Greek manuscripts.
Go ye out — Taking their lamps and following the Bridegroom, representing leaving all else to follow Christ in this time of his presence; equivalent to leaving Babylon, where the virgins had mainly been.
This movement finds exact parallels with Elijah’s movements from leaving Gilgal until he crosses Jordan. (2Ki_2:1-8)
JFB: And at midnight — that is, the time when the Bridegroom will be least expected; for “the day of the Lord so cometh as a thief in the night” (1Th_5:2).
there was a cry made, Behold, the Bridegroom cometh; go ye out to meet him — that is, Be ready to welcome Him.
PNT: But at midnight. At a late, dark season, the most unsuitable too for the foolish virgins to make good their lack.
Mat 25:7 Then all those virgins arose, and trimmed their lamps.
Barnes: Trimmed their lamps – Burning until midnight, the oil was exhausted: they gave a dim and obscure light. They trimmed them by removing the burnt parts of the linen or the torch, so that they would burn clear. It was needful, also, to dip them again in oil, or to pour oil upon them
PNT: Arose, and trimmed their lamps, i.e., trimmed the wick and put on fresh oil, so as to make a brilliant flame. ‘All’ did this; the foolish virgins were not lacking in effort. But mere trimming does little good, if there is no oil.
CTR: All those virgins — While all will be aroused, only those will be led out who have the spirit of the truth in their hearts as well as a knowledge of the Bible–a trimmed lamp.
Arose — All the virgins were to be aware of his presence after he had come. Even the foolish virgins know of the Bridegroom’s presence.
Trimmed their lamps — Trim away every vestige of error as fast as it becomes apparent to us so that the pure light of truth may shine out through the medium of a clear and transparent character. Have clearer enlightenments from the Word of God.
Mat 25:8 And the foolish said unto the wise, Give us of your oil; for our lamps are gone out.
CTR: The foolish said — The foolish were the first to know and confess their lack.
Give us of your oil — Your spirit of consecration.
There is only one way to get the holy Spirit, that is from the Lord and on his own terms. We need to look well to our covenant with the Lord and our zeal for him and the truth.
We wish we could be as earnest at Bible study as you are. Tell us how you know these things, why you feel so sure about them.
Lamps are gone out — We are not able to appreciate and apply the Scriptural prophecies relative to Christ’s second coming. They fail to get clear light on the subject of the Bridegroom’s presence.
Though all the virgin class trim their lamps, all cannot see. Only those who have oil, the fully consecrated, can get the light from their lamps and appreciate the facts.
“None of the wicked shall understand, but the wise shall understand.” (Dan_12:10)
JFB: And the foolish said unto the wise, Give us of your oil; for our lamps are gone out — rather, as in the Margin, “are going out”; for oil will not light an extinguished lamp, though it will keep a burning one from going out. Ah! now at length they have discovered not only their own folly, but the wisdom of the other class, and they do homage to it. They did not perhaps despise them before, but they thought them righteous overmuch; now they are forced, with bitter mortification, to wish they were like them.
Guzik: Without the Holy Spirit, the no one is ready for the return of Jesus.
i. No one can be a true Christian without the indwelling Holy Spirit – now if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he is not His (Rom_8:9). These virgins had the appearance of readiness, but they lacked the critical ingredient.
ii. How can be sure of our own readiness as we ask for the Holy Spirit (Luk_11:13), and walk in the Spirit.
Luk 11:13 If ye then, being evil, know how to give good gifts unto your children: how much more shall your heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to them that ask him?
CTR: While it is entirely out of harmony with God’s Word to pray for another baptism of the holy Spirit, it is right to pray to be kept filled with the holy Spirit.
The one thing for which we should specially seek and specially pray is the holy Spirit–the spirit of holiness, the spirit of God, the spirit of Christ, the spirit of the Truth, the spirit of a sound mind, the spirit of love.
If we merely pray for the Spirit and do not use the proper means to obtain the Spirit of truth, we will continue to be at most only “babes in Christ.”
Ask for more and more of the holy Spirit–a disposition more and more fully in harmony with his Spirit.
Mat 25:9 But the wise answered, saying, Not so; lest there be not enough for us and you: but go ye rather to them that sell, and buy for yourselves.
CTR: But the wise — They will not be in darkness that that day shall overtake them as a thief. (2Th_5:4)
Saying, Not so — The spirit of consecration, and its attendant light, cannot be communicated from one virgin to another. One person could no more consecrate himself for another person than he could transfer either his natural or his spiritual life to another person.
Not enough for us — None can secure too great a supply of the holy Spirit. Not an ungenerous spirit; it was just that they had none too much themselves.
To them that sell — To the market of experience in the great time of trouble.
Go to God who “giveth liberally.” (Jam_1:5)
Buy for yourselves — Each virgin must buy for herself. The fruits and graces of the holy Spirit cannot be had for the asking; they must be bought in the market place of experience.
There is only one way to obtain the light, and that is through a patient, persevering study of the divine Word under the guidance of the holy Spirit. In order to receive a fresh supply of oil we need to look well to our covenant with the Lord and to our zeal for him and the truth. It will cost some of them considerable self- sacrifice and humiliation to learn their lessons. This costs something of time and study, and of neglect of the things of this life. The waking up of the Great Company to go out and purchase the oil is the latter part of the harvest work.
Clarke: Lest there be not enough for us and you – These had all been companions in the Christian course, and there was a time when they might have been helpful to each other; but that time is now past for ever – none has a particle of grace to spare, not even to help the … dearest relative!
Go ye rather to them that sell, and buy – By leaving out the particle δε, but, (on the indisputable authority of ABDGHKS, and HV, of Matthai, with sixteen others, the Armenian, Vulgate, and all the Itala but one), and transposing a very little the members of the sentence, the sense is more advantageously represented, and the reading smoother: Rather go to them that sell, and buy for yourselves, lest there be not enough for us and you. Beza, Mill, Bengel, and Griesbach, approve of the omission of the particle δε.
JFB: But the wise answered, Not so; lest there be not enough for us and you — The words “Not so,” it will be seen, are not in the original, where the reply is very elliptical – “In case there be not enough for us and you.” A truly wise answer this. “And what, then, if we shall share it with you? Why, both will be undone.”
but go ye rather to them that sell, and buy for yourselves —Also, when the parable speaks of “selling” and “buying” that valuable article, it means simply, “Go, get it in the only legitimate way.” And yet the word “buy” is significant; for we are elsewhere bidden, “buy wine and milk without money and without price,” and “buy of Christ gold tried in the fire,” etc. (Isa_55:1; Rev_3:18).
Thought: Rev 3:18 I counsel thee to buy of me gold tried in the fire, that thou mayest be rich; and white raiment, that thou mayest be clothed, and that the shame of thy nakedness do not appear; and anoint thine eyes with eyesalve, that thou mayest see.
Could there be a correlation between the eye salve and the oil? The light of the oil aids in seeing to get to the bridegroom. Could these three things that Laodiceans have to buy correspond to the oil in this parable?MHCC: Some wanted oil to supply their lamps when going out. Those that take up short of true grace, will certainly find the want of it one time or other. An outward profession may light a man along this world, but the damps of the valley of the shadow of death will put out such a light. Those who care not to live the life, yet would die the death of the righteous. But those that would be saved, must have grace of their own; and those that have most grace, have none to spare. The best need more from Christ. … This comes of having oil to buy when we should burn it, grace to get when we should use it. Those, and those only, shall go to heaven hereafter, that are made ready for heaven here. The suddenness of death and of Christ’s coming to us then, will not hinder our happiness, if we have been prepared. The door was shut. Many will seek admission into heaven when it is too late. The vain confidence of hypocrites will carry them far in expectations of happiness. The unexpected summons of death may alarm the Christian; but, proceeding without delay to trim his lamp, his graces often shine more bright; while the mere professor’s conduct shows that his lamp is going out.
Mat 25:10 And while they went to buy, the bridegroom came; and they that were ready went in with him to the marriage: and the door was shut.
Clarke: While they went to buy, the bridegroom came – What a dismal thing it is, not to discover the emptiness of one’s heart of all that is good, till it is too late to make any successful application for relief! God alone knows how many are thus deceived.
And they that were ready – They who were prepared – who had not only a burning lamp of an evangelical profession, but had oil in their vessels, the faith that works by love in their hearts, and their lives adorned with all the fruits of the Spirit.
CTR: They went to buy — If it is not already too late to go to buy the oil, it soon will be.
Went in — The entering in to the marriage …The dead by resurrection, and the living by translation or change.
Beautifully illustrated by the happy bridal procession which escorted the Jewish bride to her husband’s home with music, lighted lamps and every demonstration of joy.
To the marriage — “To the nuptial feasts.” (Diaglott).
And the door — To the marriage feast; not the door of mercy, but the door to the high calling. All opportunity to become of the wise virgin class by engaging in the harvest work.
Was shut — The closing of the narrow way of this Gospel age.
“I am he that shutteth and no man openeth.” (Rev_3:7)
We should lose no time dreaming that the door is shut. Evidently the door is not yet shut, but who can say how soon.
Will be forever closed when the full predestinated number of the Bride of Christ has been found faithful. The door will close because the full number elected will have attained the necessary character-likeness to Christ and will have stood the necessary testings. Marking the full end of all opportunity for even the called ones thereafter to attain the prize of the high calling.
No one else will ever be of the Bride class. Not merely is the world shut out, but the foolish virgins also.
After the door is shut there will be no more begetting to the spirit nature. The deliverance of the last member of the Body will follow shortly after this.
Barnes: Went in with him to the marriage – The “marriage-feast.” The marriage ceremony took place before the bride left her father’s house, but a feast was given at the house of her husband, which was also called the “marriage,” or a part of the marriage solemnities. This part of the parable doubtless represents the entrance of those who “are ready,” or prepared, into the kingdom of God, when the Son of man shall come. They will be ready who have repented of their sins; who truly believe on the Lord Jesus; who live a holy life; and who wait for his coming. See Mar_16:16; Joh_5:24; Act_3:19; Rev_22:11; 2Pe_3:11-12; 1Ti_6:17-19; 2Ti_4:6-8.
The door was shut – No more could be admitted to the marriage-feast. So, when the truly righteous shall all be received into heaven, the door will be closed against all others. There will be no room for preparation afterward, Rev_22:11; Ecc_11:3; Ecc_9:10; Mat_25:46.
Gill: And while they went to buy,…. The foolish virgins so far took the advice of the wise, as to go forth to buy oil for themselves: they not only had some thoughts about it, and resolutions to do it, but they really did go out to buy; which may design their attendance on the word and ordinances.
the bridegroom came; to raise the saints that were dead, to change the living ones, to espouse them all openly, and take them all to himself, and to judge the world; for this must be understood of his second and personal coming:
and they that were ready; not by a mere profession of religion, or submission to Gospel ordinances, or by an external righteousness, or negative holiness, and abstinence from the grosser sins of life, or an outward humiliation for them, or by a dependence on the absolute mercy of God; but through being clothed with the wedding garment, washed in the blood of Christ, being regenerated and sanctified, and having the oil of grace in their hearts, a spiritual knowledge of Christ, faith in him, and interest in him: such are ready for every good work, and to give a reason of their faith and hope, to confess Christ, and suffer for his sake; and are ready for death and eternity, and to meet the bridegroom, and for the marriage of the Lamb, to enter into the new Jerusalem. The Jews say (s), that
“the Jerusalem of the world to come, is not as the Jerusalem of this world: the Jerusalem of this world, everyone may go into it that will; but the Jerusalem of the world to come, none may go into it, but המזומנין לה, “those that are prepared for it”.”
went in with him to the marriage: the Syriac reads it, “into the wedding house”, and the Persic, “the nuptial parlour”; the marriage chamber, where the bridegroom and bride celebrated their marriage; kept their marriage feast; and where were received the bridemaids, and friends of the bridegroom, called in Talmudic language, בני עלייה, “the children of the bridechamber” (t). will go in with Christ, and be for ever with him, and never return more.
And the door was shut: Christ himself is called a door, Joh_10:7, he is the door into the church and into the blessings of grace, and into heaven itself; and which stands open in the ministry of the word, to receive sinners, but will now be shut; Christ will be no more preached, and held forth in the word, as God’s salvation: and there is the door of faith, Act_14:27, which is the Gospel, so called, …and this will be shut when Christ comes; there will be no more preaching; and there is also the door of hope, Hos_2:15, which now stands open, whilst the Gospel church state lasts: whilst Christ is preached, the word and ordinances administered, and whilst there is life, and Christ not yet come.
Mat 25:11 Afterward came also the other virgins, saying, Lord, Lord, open to us.
CTR: Afterward — After they get the oil and recognize that the end of the age has come.
After the door is shut, but apparently before the marriage takes place. Christ harvests the earth before he makes open manifestation of his presence.
Came also — They had gotten the experience, development, knowledge and the light, and they came. Having gotten a clearer enlightenment from the Word of God.
The other virgins — Although foolish, still virgins, not impure. Made wise by getting the oil they previously lacked.
Saying, Lord, Lord — Knocking at the door in prayer.
Open to us — We desire also to be of the Bride class.
RWP: Afterward (husteron). And find the door shut in their faces.
Lord, Lord, open to us (Kurie, Kurie, anoixon hēmin). They appeal to the bridegroom who is now master whether he is at the bride’s house or his own.
Mat 25:12 But he answered and said, Verily I say unto you, I know you not.
Barnes: I know you not – You were not in the company of those who attended me to the marriage-feast, and are unknown to me. … I do not approve of you, or delight in you, or admit that you are my friends. The word “know” is often used in the sense of approving, loving, acknowledging as real friends and followers. See Mat_7:23; Psa_1:6; 2Ti_2:19; 1Th_5:12.
CTR: I know you not — As the Bride class; but they all belong to the company of virgins, the Bride’s companions who follow after her.
I do not recognize you; my Bride is complete. They lost the great prize. They will then realize they have failed to make their calling and election sure. All outsiders are treated as strangers, as unknown.
There is nothing in the parable to indicate that the foolish virgins will be aware of their foolishness until the opportunity of going into the feast has passed by.
RWP: I know you not (ouk oida humās). Hence there was no reason for special or unusual favours to be granted them. They must abide the consequences of their own negligence.
Mat 25:13 Watch therefore, for ye know neither the day nor the hour wherein the Son of man cometh.
Mat 24:40 Then shall two be in the field; the one shall be taken, and the other left.
Mat 24:41 Two women shall be grinding at the mill; the one shall be taken, and the other left.
Mat 24:42 Watch therefore: for ye know not what hour your Lord doth come.
Guzik: Watch therefore, for you know neither the day nor the hour in which the Son of Man is coming: The point of this parable is simple – be ready. We see that if we are not ready, no one else can help us. No one else can “give” us their “oil.”
Watch therefore; for ye know neither the day nor the hour wherein the Son of man cometh — This, the moral or practical lesson of the whole parable, needs no comment.
Barnes: Watch, therefore … – This is the scope or design of the whole parable. This is the great truth that Christ wished to inculcate, and all parts of the parable are to be interpreted in reference to this admonition. Like the virgins, many are professedly going to meet the Bridegroom – the Lord Jesus Christ. Like the coming of the bridegroom, his advent will be sudden. It will be to many at an unexpected time. Many, even professing Christians, will be engaged in the business of the world; thoughtless about eternity; not expecting his approach, and not prepared. They will only profess to know him, but in works they will deny him. … They that are ready will enter in, and heaven will be closed forever against all others. The “coming” of the Saviour is certain. The precise time “when” he will come is not certain. As the virgins should all have watched and been ready, so should we. They who are Christians should be ever watchful; and they who are not should lose no time to be ready, for in such an hour as they think not the Son of man shall come.
The Son of man cometh – This refers, doubtless, to his coming in the day of judgment. The circumstances of the parable do not seem at all to apply to his coming to destroy Jerusalem, but are aptly expressive of his advent to judge the world.
CTR: Watch therefore — How absurd it would be to tell them to watch for a thing, and in the same breath assure them that the watching would be useless because none would ever know!
The virgins alone, not the world, are called upon to watch and wait for the Lord from heaven, the Bridegroom.
Because, if watching faithfully, they will know of his second coming. It will be distinctly announced.
Ye know neither — Although the time of the Master’s coming could not be known in the past, nevertheless it would be known to all the virgin class in due time.
Wherein the Son — These words, to the end of the verse, are not in any of the oldest Greek manuscripts.
The Parable of the Talents
Mat 25:14 For the kingdom of heaven is as a man travelling into a far country, who called his own servants, and delivered unto them his goods.
CTR: Kingdom of heaven — The Revised Version notes that these words are not found in the ancient manuscripts, but it is the kingdom of heaven in embryo, the church, that is discussed.
Is as — We are not to confound the parable of the pounds with the parable of the talents. They teach different lessons. The parable of the pounds and the parable of the talents are companion parables, illustrating from different standpoints the responsibilities of the stewardship of God’s people.
A talent is sixty times as valuable as a pound. In the parable of the pounds, each got one pound; but in this parable the number given varied.
This parable illustrates the fruits of labor. The ratio of increase is the same with both of the faithful servants, and the same approval is expressed to each. Illustrating the different abilities of God’s people, their accountability according to ability, and that the same results are not required of all, but simply faithfulness by each in the use of what he possesses.
A man — The Lord Jesus.
Into a far country — Heaven itself. For investiture in authority to be the great King of earth.
To appear in the presence of God to present on behalf of mankind the sacrifice for sins and, incidentally, to be crowned, highly exalted and honored.
Gives the thought of a considerable time to elapse between the Master’s leaving and his return.
His own servants — Not the world in general, only the consecrated; not even the general household of faith. All who would become his disciples throughout the Gospel age down to his second advent.They had all engaged to serve him, and he had a right to expect of them a sincere and faithful interest in the work.
Addressing those who will be alive at his second advent, and speaking as if they were the representatives of all his faithful followers throughout the Gospel age.
A number of servants is implied, yet only a sample illustration of three is given as representative of the whole.
Unto them his goods — Upon consecration, he appoints us his stewards over the things we have–our all–time, influence, talents. Certain blessings, privileges, opportunities. All of his interests and affairs. Entrusting various stewardships of wealth, influence, talent and opportunity.
In the day of reckoning the Lord will ignore the affairs of our lives which preceded our consecration, and merely judge us according to our use or misuse of our consecrated time, influence, talents, etc.
Barnes: His own servants – That is, such of them as he judged to be worthy of such a trust. These represent the apostles, Christian ministers, professing Christians, and perhaps all people. The going into a far country may represent the Lord Jesus going into heaven. He has given to all talents to improve, Eph_4:8; Eph_2:12.
His goods – His property representing the offices, abilities, and opportunities for doing good, which he has given to his professed followers.
PNT: As when a man going into another country, ‘going abroad.’ Here Christ is represented as a man of wealth; in Luke as a nobleman gone to receive a kingdom.
His own servants, the professed followers of Christ, not merely the ministry.
Gill: into a far country; by which heaven is designed, and is so called, not only because of its great distance from the earth, and which is very great indeed; but because the better country and land afar off, is out of sight; and what views we have of it, are very distant ones; and is afar off, in respect of our state of pilgrimage in this world, in which, whilst Christ was here, he was a pilgrim and a stranger too; who might be said to be as a “man travelling”, whilst he was in it, and when going out of it, and ascending to heaven: he came from thence, and stayed here a while, walking up and down, and doing good; and when he had finished what he came about, he ascended on high, went to his God and Father, entered into heaven, where he is received until the times of the restitution of all things:
who called his own servants; before he took his journey, to commit some things to their trust and management; and to give them some instructions how to behave during his absence:
And delivered unto them his goods; the Gospel, that rich treasure of divine truths, the dispensation of it, and gifts to preach it; all which are Christ’s goods and his gifts, and not man’s; and which was in a very eminent manner done, when Christ ascended on high, and received gifts for, and gave them unto men. Just before it, as he was ready to go, he gathered his disciples together; he renewed and enlarged their commission to preach the Gospel; and quickly after it, gave them greater and larger gifts of the Spirit than before; and has been ever since giving ministerial gifts to men, to some more, others less, and which are signified by the talents following.
Mat 25:15 And unto one he gave five talents, to another two, and to another one; to every man according to his several ability; and straightway took his journey.
Guzik: . To one he gave five talents, to another two, and to another one: A talent is not an ability (though this parable has application to our abilities), but a unit of money, worth at least $1,200 in modern terms.
i. In the application of this parable, it is valid to see these talents as resources in our lives – such as time, money, abilities, and authority.
b. To each according to his own ability: The servants were given different amounts of money according to their ability. One of the servants only received one talent, yet we should see that this was not an insignificant amount. Some received more, but everyone received something, and that something was not insignificant.
Gill: And unto one he gave five talents,…. By these talents, special grace is not meant; for the parable speaks not of what was wrought in these servants, but of what was committed to their trust, and of what might lie useless by them, and be taken away from them; … but outward gifts are designed by the talents; and these not merely the gifts of natural knowledge and riches, the gifts of nature and of providence; nor the external ministry of the word, Gospel ordinances, and opportunities of enjoying them; but ministerial gifts, such as fit and qualify men to be preachers of the Gospel, as appears from their name, “talents”: they being the greatest gifts for usefulness and service in the church, as talents were the greatest of weights and coins among the Jews; from the nature of them, being what may be improved or lost, and for which men are accountable; from the persons to whom they were delivered, the servants of Christ; from the time of their delivery, when Christ went into a far country, to heaven, when he ascended on high, and received gifts for men, and gave them to them; and from the unequal distribution of them, being given to some more, and others less; all which perfectly agree with ministerial gifts: for it follows,
JFB: And unto one he gave five talents, to another two, and to another one — While the proportion of gifts is different in each, the same fidelity is required of all, and equally rewarded. And thus there is perfect equity.
to every man according to his several ability — his natural capacity as enlisted in Christ’s service, and his opportunities in providence for employing the gifts bestowed on him.
Barnes: Five talents – See the notes at Mat_18:24. The word “talents” here is used to denote indefinitely “a large sum,” and is designed to refer to the endowments conferred on people. We have retained in our language the word “talent” as referring to the abilities or gifts of men.
According to his several ability – According to the ability of each one. According as he saw each one was adapted to improve it. So in the church and the world. God gives people stations which he judges them adapted to fill, and requires them to fill them. He makes “distinctions” among people in regard to abilities, and in the powers and opportunities of usefulness, requiring them only to occupy those stations, and to discharge their duties there, 1Co_4:7.
CTR: And unto one — Each is a steward and should individually, not collectively, as a commune, manage his own affairs and render his own account.
Gave five talents — Can be viewed from two standpoints, both true: our natural talents or our spiritual qualities; or the two views can be combined.
All those things and opportunities which are over and above what we need for the necessary and reasonable maintenance of ourselves or our families.
Represents our opportunities for service according to our several abilities.
Some might have a talent for private conversation, another for public service, another for writing. Wealth, influence, intellectual power, education, public utterance, time, opportunities.
There are not many five-talented people in the world; the world, the flesh and the devil bid so high for their services that most of those who become the Lord’s people are of the lower classes.
In some respects all God’s people have one common footing, as represented by the pound. In another respect their opportunities, privileges and advantages vary, as represented by the talents.
“The manifestation of the Spirit [a portion, at least one talent] is given to every man [in this consecrated Church] to profit withal.” (1Co_12:7) The more talents possessed, the greater the responsibility.
The man with the five talents would have more difficulty in keeping them fully employed, fully devoted and fully separated from worldly ambitions than would the man who had fewer. The man of five talents would have the danger of being puffed up, heady and high-minded.
To another two — Would have a natural advantage, he would be neither so likely to be discouraged nor to be puffed up.
Those consecrated with no families and a reasonable degree of health have at least two talents–time and health.
“Give me neither poverty nor riches.” (Pro_30:8)
To another one — Many of small talents increase them by use and become quite proficient in the truth.
To every man — Every one in the Body of Christ has some talent, some ability and opportunity for service. Some fear that they have no talents useful and needful to the service of the body; and some, possessing several talents, use and seek to cultivate the lowest of these rather than the highest.
His several ability — “God hath set the members in the body.” (1Co_12:18)
“If there be first a willing mind it is accepted according to what a man hath, and not according to what he hath not.” (2Co_8:12) Opportunities for the service of God along the lines of such abilities as we possess–education, influence, money, good health, time, tact or genius. The duty and privilege of every member of the body is to soberly and honestly judge of his abilities, neither in pride overrating them, nor in false humility underrating them. Some in one service and some in another.
We, today, have special opportunities and privileges for ministering the truth to others. Our responsibility is correspondingly large, and our faith, love and zeal should be correspondingly shown.
Mat 25:16 Then he that had received the five talents went and traded with the same, and made them other five talents.
Mat 25:17 And likewise he that had received two, he also gained other two.
CTR: The five talents — Seeking to use every one of these as fully, as thoroughly and as constantly as possible.
And traded — Used them in preaching, teaching, etc.
Possessions or personal qualifications are to be released from the service of worldly ambition, not for aimless inactivity, but to be utilized in an opposite direction, in the service of God. Left free to exercise his best abilities. So, too, we are not specially hampered by directions as to how we shall use our consecrated talents and opportunities.
It is a steward’s place to seek and find places where he can dispose of the talents and moneys consecrated to the Lord, to find best advantage, as his sanctified judgment, under the guidance of the Lord’s Word, may dictate.
It is a part of our privilege and duty to study how we may best invest our talents in order to secure the largest results; just as necessary in investing for the Lord as in investing money for financial profit.
With the same — With all his talents, not part of them. As a rule, people are either hot or cold in spiritual things.
Some with five talents may use three faithfully and bury the other two in business, but we question the probability of this happening.
Made them other five — Five-talent people amongst the Lord’s servants are not to measure themselves with others and to say, I have done enough.
Benson: and made them other five talents — Thus he who endeavours to use the gifts of God according to the design of the giver, is sure to find them increased; and that both because the exercise of any power or ability, gift or endowment, has a natural tendency to increase it, and because the divine blessing never fails to crown human diligence, when that diligence is used in the fear of God, in obedience to His will, and with a single eye to His glory. “He who lives not solely to his own profit,” says Theophylact, “but whether he have prudence, or riches, or power, or whatever influence or art he hath, endeavours thereby to serve and be useful to others, ο τοιουτος διπλασιαζει το δοθεν αυτω, this is the man who doubles that which is given to him.” Likewise he that had received two, &c. — He went immediately and traded with the talents he had received, and his improvement was in the same proportion; he gained other two
Gill: went; it denotes immediate application to business, and signifies that such servants went according to their commission, preached the Gospel to every creature, and administered the ordinances to proper subjects; they went directly, as soon as they had their talents; they did not stay to consult with flesh and blood, whether it would be for their interest and credit or not; they did not stick at any difficulties and discouragements, nor were deterred by the cross, reproaches, and persecutions; but went forth with courage and boldness, not in their own name and strength, but in the name and strength of Christ, who sent them, and promised them his presence and assistance, on which they depended:
Mat 25:18 But he that had received one went and digged in the earth, and hid his lord’s money.
Expositors: The offence here is not, as in the first of the four pictures of judgment, painted in dark colours. There was no beating of fellow-servants or drinking with the drunken, no conduct like that of the unjust steward or the unmerciful creditor who took his fellow-servant by the throat-it was simple neglect: “I was afraid, and went and hid thy talent in the earth.” The servant had such a modest estimate of his own abilities that he was even afraid he might do mischief in trying to use the talent he had, so he laid it away and let it alone. The excuse he makes (Mat_25:24-25) is very true to nature. It is not modesty after all that is at the root of the idleness of those who hide their talent in the earth; it is unbelief. They do not believe in God as revealed in the Son of His love; they think of Him as a hard Master; they shrink from having anything to do with religion, rather wonder at those who have the assurance to think of their serving God, or doing anything for the advancement of His kingdom. They know not the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and therefore it is that they hold aloof from Him, refusing to confess Him, declining to employ in His service the talents entrusted to their care.
At this point there is an instructive contrast between the parable of the virgins and the one before us. There the foolish virgins failed because they took their duties too easily; here the servant fails because he thinks his duties too hard. Bearing this in mind, we recognise the appropriateness of the Lord’s answer. He might have found fault with his excuse, showing him how easily he might have known that his ideas of his Master were entirely wrong, and how if he had only addressed himself to the work to which he was called, his difficulties would have disappeared and he would have found the service easily within his powers; but the Master waives all this, accepts the hard verdict on Himself, admits the difficulties in the way, and then points out that even at the worst, even though he “was afraid,” even though he had not courage enough, like the other servants, to go straightway to the work to which he was first called, he might have found some other and less trying form of service, something that would have avoided the risks he had not courage to face, and yet at the same time have secured some return for his Lord (Mat_25:26-27). The Master is ready to make all allowance for the weakness of His servants, so long as it does not amount to absolute unfaithfulness; so long as by any stretch of charity it is possible to call the servant “good and faithful.” In this case it was not possible. Not faithful, but slothful, was the word: therefore good it cannot be, but-the only other alternative-wicked: “thou wicked and slothful servant.”
PNT: Went away, in carelessness.
Digged in the earth and hid his lord’s money.—Not an active ill-doer, like the wicked servant of Mat_24:48, but simply neglectful of the blessing given him. He buried his spiritual gift in what is earthly, fleshly; ‘the napkin’ in the other parable means idleness in office. The man with the one (spiritual) talent is negligent, not because he has little natural capacity, but from envy, or false ideas of human inability (Mat_25:24), etc. The one talent may represent the general influences of the Spirit of God. In our history as Christians, this one may be changed to five.
Wesley: He that had received one – Made his having fewer talents than others a pretence for not improving any. Went and hid his master’s money – Reader, art thou doing the same? Art thou hiding the talent God hath lent thee?
JFB: But he that had received one went and digged in the earth, and hid his lord’s money — not misspending, but simply making no use of it. Nay, his action seems that of one anxious that the gift should not be misused or lost, but ready to be returned, just as he got it.
Barnes; Digged in the earth … – This represents the conduct of those who neglect the abilities that God has given, and fail to do what he has required. This is done often:
1. On the plea that they do not occupy a high station.
2. That they have slender abilities, and can do little good.
3. As it was in this case, that God had not given them as much as he did others, and they will therefore do nothing.
These pleas are without foundation; because:
1. God does not require us to do as much as those who have greater abilities; but this is not a reason why we should do nothing, 2Co_8:12.
2. Any situation is honorable, and may be useful, where God has placed us; and though humble, yet in that we may do much good, 1Co. 12:11-31.
3. People of slender abilities may often do more good in the world than people of much greater talents. It is rather a warm heart than a strong head which is required to do good. A humble Christian, by his life, example, and conversation, may often do much more good than “is” done by those in more elevated stations and with far greater gifts.
We are not to suppose by this, however, that our Saviour meant to teach that only those of feeble talents neglected their duty. The parable does not require us to do this; and the Fact is, perhaps, that those most highly endowed are the farthest from properly improving their talents.
CTR: That had received one — Not that one-talented people are more likely to neglect and misuse the talents, but to show the responsibility to those who have least that they, too, must be faithful.
In the earth — The opportunities and abilities consecrated to the Lord are being buried in earthly interests, earthly affairs. In the service of self and mammon. Or in a billiard parlor, or in business, or in pride and show. Burying the talents in business, pleasure or sloth; thus showing lack of love and appreciation, and consequently unworthiness of the Kingdom.
Are your money or business talents largely swallowed up in a superabundance of the good things of this life for either self or family?
And hid — Perhaps under cares and responsibilities. By wasting consecrated time upon science, philosophy, music or art; or upon business, politics or pleasure; or in pampering pride or appetite.
Had the servant with the one talent been as faithful as the others, he would have received the very same commendation.
Mat 25:19 After a long time the lord of those servants cometh, and reckoneth with them.
Romans 14:10-12 But why dost thou judge thy brother? or why dost thou set at nought thy brother? for we shall all stand before the judgment seat of Christ. 11 For it is written, As I live, saith the Lord, every knee shall bow to me, and every tongue shall confess to God. 12 So then every one of us shall give account of himself to God.
CTR: After a long time — In the end of the Gospel age, at the Lord’s second advent. They were not to expect him to return in a very few days, a few months or a few years.
It was doubtless best every way that the exact time for the ending of the Gospel age and the beginning of the Millennial age not be made known until the time of the reckoning.
The lord — We are not to be judged by human judgment, but by him who called us and drew us to himself.
Of those servants — The Church.
Cometh — At our Lord’s second advent. To take possession of his Kingdom. Manifestly prior to any outward manifestation of the King in his glory, because the worthy ones are to share with the Master in his glorious manifestation.
Reckoneth with them — Even before his enemies are conquered.
During the harvest period the Lord has been judging amongst his people.
His first work is with the Church: “Judgment must begin with the house of God.” (1Pe_4:17)
We, the Church, “must all appear before the judgment seat [tribunal] of Christ.” (2Co_5:10)
He will judge us according to the spirit, our minds, our intentions, our efforts.
This work of judging the servants is totally distinct from the judging of the world.
God, who is no respecter of persons, requires faithfulness on the part of female as well as male stewards in the use of all their talents.
Benson: After a long time — Namely, of trial and long-suffering, and at an hour when they thought not of it; the lord of those servants cometh — Returned and summoned them to give an account of their several trusts. Thus, though the heavens have received the Lord Jesus till the time of the restitution of all things, he will surely come and reckon with his servants, and require of them a strict account of the use which they have made of their privileges and advantages, gifts and endowments; and will say to each of them, Give an account of thy stewardship, for thou mayest be no longer steward.
MacLaren: A third principle here is that the right use of His gifts increases them in our hands. ‘Money makes money.’ The five talents grow to ten, the two to four. The surest way to increase our possession of Christ’s grace is to try to impart it. There is no better way of strengthening our own faith than to seek to make others share in it. Christian convictions, spoken, are confirmed, but muffled in silence are weakened. ‘There is that scattereth and yet increaseth.’ Seed heaped and locked up in a granary breeds weevils and moths; flung broadcast over the furrows, it multiplies into seed that can be sown again, and bread that feeds the sower. So we have in this part of the parable almost the complete summary of the principles on which, the purposes for which, and the results to faithful use with which, Christ gives His gifts.
Mat 25:20 And so he that had received five talents came and brought other five talents, saying, Lord, thou deliveredst unto me five talents: behold, I have gained beside them five talents more.
Benson: So he that had received five talents — brought other five — Having doubled his blessings and gifts by the proper use of them; saying, Lord, thou deliveredst unto me, &c. — He acknowledges, (as did also the second, to whom two talents had been delivered,) that from the Lord only had proceeded his blessings and advantages; that they were the Lord’s talents; and that, of consequence, he was accountable to the Lord for his use of them, and for all their increase, and was to depend on the Lord’s bounty for all his reward. Observe, reader, this is the main thing on which the fidelity of us all depends: for if we do not acknowledge God’s property in us and whatever we have or are; — if we think we have an independent right to dispose of ourselves or talents just as we see fit, without reference to the great Lord of all, we do as much as we can toward divesting him of his absolute sovereignty and supremacy; we disclaim his service, and set up for ourselves; presume, impudently presume, to trade upon our own bottoms, even with the very privileges and talents with which our Lord himself hath intrusted us for his own glory. This is a much greater evil than it may be at first suspected, and far more common than we in general apprehend.
Behold, I have gained five other talents — Thy gifts have been wonderfully increased by being used according to thy direction and for thy glory. Here we have a second mark of fidelity in a true servant of Christ. As he acknowledges the Lord’s absolute propriety in him, so he diligently improves the talents intrusted to him. And this he perseveres to do, notwithstanding all the inconveniences, difficulties, and impediments he meets with, or even the long absence of his Lord. Still he keeps his eye intent upon his business, and still applies himself diligently to his work, never weary of this well doing, for he knows in due season he shall reap if he faint not; and that he must be faithful unto death if he would receive the crown of life. But these proofs of fidelity will always be attended with a third, namely, a readiness to give up his account. When a man is assured that he has acted with a single eye to his master’s advantage, it is with satisfaction that he submits his account to his master’s inspection, as thereby his honesty is proved, and fidelity clearly manifested. And so it is with the sincere Christian: it is with joy that he goes to meet his Master, and to give up his account, as having the testimony of his conscience that it has been his desire and endeavour to be faithful to his trust in the use and improvement of his talents, and that with simplicity and godly sincerity he has had his conversation in the world. Then with delight he hears of his lord’s return, and, not doubting of his approbation, goes forth with joy to meet him.
JFB: Lord, thou deliveredst unto me five talents; behold, I have gained besides them five talents more — How beautifully does this illustrate what the beloved disciple says of “boldness in the day of judgment,” and his desire that “when He shall appear we may have confidence, and not be ashamed before Him at His coming!” (1Jn_4:17; 1Jn_2:28).
Gill: And so he that had received five talents,…. Or the greatest gifts: as this man is the first to whom his Lord gave any talents, and the first that went and traded with them; he is also the first that is reckoned with; who
came and brought other five talents: he came freely and cheerfully, with a holy confidence and intrepidity of mind, and gave in his account very readily, both of what he had received, and of what he had gained;
saying, Lord, thou deliveredst unto me five talents, behold I have gained besides them five talents more. True ministers of the Gospel frankly own, that what gifts they have are delivered to them by Christ; and such are willing that he should have all returned to him, principal and increase: it is not to be imagined that this will be said in so many express words by them, nor will there be any need thereof; for Christ will not be ignorant of what they have been doing, and of what use they have been of; but the sense is, that as all will be manifest to Christ the searcher of hearts, with whom they have to do, so the account will stand fair and open; and it will be seen and known by all, that such and such faithful ministers of Christ have behaved in this agreeable manner, and have been thus and thus serviceable in his interest.
Mat 25:21 His lord said unto him, Well done, thou good and faithful servant: thou hast been faithful over a few things, I will make thee ruler over many things: enter thou into the joy of thy lord.
CTR: His lord said — In the first resurrection.
Unto him — He who had been faithful with five talents was to have a special commendation, while the other faithful ones, who had a lesser number of talents, were to be dealt with proportionately.
Well done — The verdict if you overcome. Approval suggests the thought of having measured up to some standard. Here, the standard is the Word, the standard of the Lord’s own character, which is right and true and good. Let each keep patiently and perseveringly on in the way of self-denial until his course is finished.
Faithful servant — Those who at heart are overcomers.
Hast been faithful — Gladly spent themselves zealously in the service of the Lord; faithful unto death. In proportion as one confesses his faith, that same faith grows, and the blessings and privileges connected with it grow.
In no case have we seen one drift from the truth into the snares of these perilous times who was very active and fully enlisted in the Lord’s work.
Over a few things — The Lord’s method is to advance only him whose zeal, faithfulness and patient perseverance in well doing has shown itself in little things. Faithful to the covenant of self-sacrifice.
You have used the favorable opportunities which showed the intentions of your heart.
Make thee ruler — Sharing the great honor with the Master of ruling the world. This giving of the dominion to his faithful servants signified their sharing with him in his kingdom at the time of its establishment at his second coming. His assistants in the great Millennial work of teaching and helping the world in their great fight. With the end of the Millennium, the time for all such ruling will be at an end; hence the parable is a strong lesson in support of the pre-Millennial coming of our Lord.
Over many things — Faithfulness in using the few talents of the present will bring great opportunities for blessing the world in the next age. The service of the present life is but an insignificant one in comparison to the glorious service which awaits the Lord’s faithful people in the future.
How abundantly the Lord rewards all of our little efforts in the service of truth and righteousness, whatever our talents, few or many.
Enter thou into — Each one, as soon as examined, is caused to “enter into the joys of his Lord,” before he receives the dominion promised.
The joy of thy Lord — A clear view of the coming Kingdom and glory and the great work of the Millennial day. The first resurrection change. A share in his favor. The throne of his glory.
Not merely enter into joys, but shall share the joys of his Lord.
Mat 25:22 He also that had received two talents came and said, Lord, thou deliveredst unto me two talents: behold, I have gained two other talents beside them.
Mat 25:23 His lord said unto him, Well done, good and faithful servant; thou hast been faithful over a few things, I will make thee ruler over many things: enter thou into the joy of thy lord.
Guzik: You have been faithful over a few things, I will make you ruler over many things: The reward was the same for both servants, even though one was given five talents and the other was given two talents. Each performed the same according to the resources they received.
b. Well done, good and faithful servant: What did the master look for? Goodness and faithfulness in His servants. Whatever financial success these servants enjoyed came because they were good and faithful. The master looked first for these things, not the “bottom line.”
JFB: He also that had received two talents came … good and faithful servant: thou hast been faithful over a few things, I will make thee ruler over many things — Both are commended in the same terms, and the reward of both is precisely the same. (See on Mat_25:15). Observe also the contrasts: “Thou hast been faithful as a servant; now be a ruler – thou hast been entrusted with a few things; now have dominion over many things.”
enter thou into the joy of thy lord — thy Lord’s own joy. (See Joh_15:11; Heb_12:2).
CTR: Well done — All faithful ones will receive a blessing; nevertheless, those who have been most earnest, most zealous, most devoted, will be the nearer to the Master in his throne.
Some have less ability and some more, but the Lord’s approval will be in proportion as we have endeavored to accomplish his will.
Faithful servant — This was said of both the five-talented and the two-talented.
Over a few things — Only a few things are committed to any of us, and the Lord is seeking merely to note our disposition and to reward us accordingly. From the Lord’s standpoint, all of the affairs of this present life are little in comparison with the future things. General faithfulness to principle, even in small things, gives evidence of the disposition and character which may be entrusted with the great responsibilities of the Kingdom.
Make thee ruler — Everyone who is faithful would get the same general reward.
Joy of thy Lord — These have an equally good opportunity of entering into the joys of the Lord as they that had five or ten talents.
Mat 25:24 Then he which had received the one talent came and said, Lord, I knew thee that thou art an hard man, reaping where thou hast not sown, and gathering where thou hast not strawed:
Mat 25:25 And I was afraid, and went and hid thy talent in the earth: lo, there thou hast that is thine.
Meyer: Let those who are entrusted with one talent only be specially on the watch, for they are most exposed to the temptation of saying, “We can do so little, we will do nothing.” What you can do best, and which most accords with your circumstances, is probably your talent. If you cannot do much yourself, work with your church and under the direction of your pastor, Mat_25:27.
Guzik: I knew you to be a hard man, reaping where you have not sown: The servant who merely buried his talent tried to excuse himself because of his master’s great power. In fact, he believes his master to be sort of omnipotent: reaping where you have not sown, and gathering where you have not scattered seed.
CTR: Received the one — Having become a consecrated believer in the Lord, he had received a talent of privilege or opportunity in the Master’s service which he neglected to use. Not only the great talents, large abilities, opportunities or means, are noted by the Lord, but also the small things are never overlooked by him.
Applicable to the larger proportion of his people, for not many wise, learned, rich or noble according to the course of this world, but rather the poor, rich in faith, hath God chosen. (1Co_1:26-28)
It is possible for the person having the one talent to be faithful, and equally possible for those having two or more talents to be unfaithful.
I knew thee — Cause of failure–presumptuousness.
Thou art an hard man — The failure of the wicked servant was due to his lack of love. His heart was filled with fear instead of love for the Lord; for he thought of his Lord as unjust, hard, unmerciful, unloving, exacting. He had a bad theology.
Those who know God and his plan of the ages cannot be afraid of the Lord, nor believe him unjust.
I was afraid — One difficulty with many of us in the past has been fear of the Master.
Would you recommend a man of means to dispose of his business and go colporteuring, living on his interest, or perhaps on his principal? Why not?
In the earth — A talent which is unused is soon buried by the tide of life. Buried under a weight of worldly cares or encumbrances which might be avoided or set aside; or under worldly ambitions for either self or family. In banks, store-houses and investment securities, to enrich and cultivate the spirit of pride in friends or children and for them to quarrel over after you are dead.
That is thine — He evidently wanted to be considered a servant still, and probably thought he was worthy of commendation and reward for not perverting the Lord’s money to other uses.
Not wicked, simply an idler; willing to draw a servant’s approval and compensation, but lacking any real, active interest in his master’s business.
Strictly honest; he had not wasted his talent in ministering to the flesh or riotous living of any kind. He had kept it safe.
While faithful in that he did not squander it or repudiate his Master, he did not have the higher faithfulness of earnest, self-sacrificing zeal in the Master’s cause.
Mat 25:26 His lord answered and said unto him, Thou wicked and slothful servant, thou knewest that I reap where I sowed not, and gather where I have not strawed:
Mat 25:27 Thou oughtest therefore to have put my money to the exchangers, and then at my coming I should have received mine own with usury.
Guzik: You wicked and lazy servant, you knew that I reap where I have not sown: However, the sovereignty of the master never excused the laziness of the servant. It condemned that laziness all the more.
i. Those who don’t work for the Lord, or pray, or evangelize because “God is sovereign” condemn themselves by their laziness. By their actions (or lack of action), they show that they, like the wicked servant in the parable, do not know their Master’s heart at all.
ii. The charge against this servant who merely buried his talent is that he was wicked and lazy. We rarely see laziness as a real sin, something that must be repented of before the Lord.
CTR: Wicked and slothful — As a faithless, slothful servant, he was really a covenant-breaker, and therefore wicked.
It is required of stewards that they be found faithful. (1Co_4:1-2)
If the one-talented man, misusing his, was disapproved, it goes without saying that the two- or five-talented would be even more reprehensible in the sight of the Lord. A man’s condemnation corresponds with his misuse of his talents.
Thou oughtest therefore — The very object of the parable is to arouse us to a sense of our shortcomings and recover us from our lethargy by reminding us of our responsibilities. Diligence in seeking and finding ways and means to dispose of our consecrated talents to God’s glory and to the advancement of the truth is essential to faithful stewardship; any other course is a violation of covenant.
To have put my money — Some get the mistaken idea that a steward is not expected to spend that committed to his care unless circumstances demand it of him.
At my coming — Evidently a master would not expect a settlement until he had come, not while on the journey coming. We should therefore translate the Greek erkomai as “on my arrival.”
Mine own with usury — Interest on a business loan is quite proper. The words interest and usury once had the same meaning; now interest is a just payment and usury is an unjust and extortionate charge.
Barnes: Slothful – Indolent, lazy, who had done nothing. God will judge people not merely for doing wrong, but for not “doing” right. See Mat_25:45. That servant was “wicked,” because he had such an opinion of his master; he had shown that he was slothful by not making good use of the talent, Mat_25:27.
Thou knewest … – This should be understood, and might have been translated, as a question. If you knew that I was Such a man you ought to have acted accordingly, so as to have escaped punishment. Didst thou know that I reap, etc.? Then thou shouldst have given my money to the exchangers, etc. This is not intended to “admit” that he was such a man, but to convict the slothful servant of guilt and folly in not having been prepared to meet him.
The exchangers – The “exchangers” were persons who were in the habit of borrowing money, or receiving it on deposit at a low rate of interest, to be loaned to others at higher interest. They commonly sat by “tables” in the temple, with money ready to exchange or loan. See Mat_21:12. This money was left with the servant, not to exchange, nor to increase it by any such idle means, but by honest industry and merchandise; but since he was too indolent for that, he ought at least to have loaned it to the exchangers, that his master might have received some benefit from it.
With usury – With interest, increase, or gain. The word “usury,” in our language, has a bad signification, meaning unlawful or exorbitant interest. This was contrary to the law, Exo_22:25; Lev_25:36. The original means “gain,” increase, or lawful interest.
Benson: Thou wicked and slothful servant — Wicked, because slothful. Observe well, reader, slothful servants are wicked servants, and will be reckoned with as such by their Master: for he that is slothful in his work, and neglects to do the good that God has commanded, is brother to him that is a great waster, by doing the evil that God has for bidden, Pro_18:9. He that is careless in God’s work, is near akin to him that is busy in the devil’s work: Satis est mali nihil fecisse boni. It is evil enough to have done no good. Omissions of duty are commissions of sin, and must come into judgment as such. Slothfulness makes way for wickedness, and when the house is empty, the unclean spirit takes possession of it.
Thou knewest — I reap where I sowed not? — That I require impossibilities! This is not an allowing, but a strong denial of the charge. Thou oughtest therefore, &c. — On that very account, on thy own supposition, to have improved my talent, as far as was possible.
To have put my money to the exchangers, &c. He mentions this instance of good management, because it was the lowest that could be, and was attended with the least trouble; to intimate that, though the servant had not pursued that particular sort of trade in which he ought to have employed the talent, yet if he had been at any pains at all to improve it, though it had been little, his lord would have accepted it.
And then I should have received mine own with usury — Συν τοκω, with interest, or produce. “Anciently, the import of the word usury was no other than profit, whether great or small, allowed to the lender for the use of borrowed money. As this practice often gave rise to great extortion, the very name at length became odious. When Christian commonwealths judged it necessary to regulate this matter by law, they gave to such profit as does not exceed the legal, the softer name of interest; since which time, usury has come to signify solely extravagant profit disallowed by law; and which, therefore, it is criminal in the borrower to give, and in the lender to take. As it is not this kind of profit that is here meant, the word usury is now become improper.” — Campbell.
Observe, reader, though the parable represents but one in three unfaithful; yet, in a history that answers the parable, we find the disproportion quite the other way; when ten lepers were cleansed, nine of the ten hid the talent, and only one returned to give thanks, Luk_17:18-19. The unfaithful servant was he that had only one talent, but doubtless there are many that have five talents, and bury them all; great abilities, great advantages, and yet do no good with them: but Christ would intimate to us, 1st, that if he that had but one talent was reckoned with thus for burying that one, much more will they be accounted offenders that have more, that have many, and bury them. If he that was but of small capacity was cast into outer darkness, because he did not improve what he had as he might have done, shall those be spared that trample under foot the greatest advantages?
2d, That often those who have least to do for God, do least of what they have to do.
3d, That the hard thoughts which sinners have of God will be so far from justifying their slothfulness, that they will rather aggravate and add to their guilt; so that in the day of final accounts, they will be left quite without excuse; all frivolous pleas will be overruled, and every mouth will be stopped.
MacLaren: His excuse is his reason. He did think hardly of his lord, and, even though he had His gift in his hand to confute him, he slandered Him in his heart as harsh and exacting. To many men the requirements of religion are more prominent than its gifts, and God is thought of as demanding rather than as ‘the giving God.’ Such thoughts paralyse action. Fear is barren, love is fruitful. Nothing grows on the mountain of curses, which frowns black over against the sunny slopes of the mountain of blessing with its blushing grapes. The indolence was illogical, for, if the master was such as was thought, the more reason for diligence; but fear is a bad reasoner, and the absurd gap between the premises and the conclusion is matched by one of the very same width in every life that thinks of God as rigidly requiring obedience, which, therefore, it does not give! Still another error is in the indolent servant’s words. He flings down the hoarded talent with ‘Lo, thou hast thine own.’ He was mistaken. Talents hid are not, when dug up, as heavy as they were when buried. This gold does rust, and a life not devoted to God is never carried back to Him unspoiled.
The lord’s answer again falls into three parts, corresponding to that to the faithful servants. First comes the stern characterisation of the man. As with the others’ goodness, his badness is defined by the second epithet. It is slothfulness. Is that all? Yes; it does not need active opposition to pull down destruction on one’s head. Simple indolence is enough, the negative sin of not doing or being what we ought. Ungirt loins, unlit lamps, unused talents, sink a man like lead. Doing nothing is enough for ruin.
Mat 25:28 Take therefore the talent from him, and give it unto him which hath ten talents.
Mat 25:29 For unto every one that hath shall be given, and he shall have abundance: but from him that hath not shall be taken away even that which he hath.
CTR: Take therefore — These gifts are not inalienable; by neglect to use them, or by their abuse, they may be lost. If we fail to use, or fail to use for the Lord’s glory, or use for self-glory, our place can readily be filled by another.
The talent from him — Implies that he can have neither part nor lot in the Kingdom. He deserved to be punished because he did not use that which his Lord had entrusted to him. The loss of the opportunity and privilege of service as a co-laborer with the Lord.
Not because he never was a real servant; but because, being really a servant, he proved unfaithful.
There is nothing in this parable to indicate eternal torment for this class of unfaithful servants.
Give it unto him — Their neglected opportunities for more abundant service will go as a reward to those who are already earnest and active.
That hath — Through use of his talents.
Shall be given — Following this just principle, the Logos, who had always proved faithful in all things, was offered the headship of the new creation.
Hath not — Hath not increased. From neglect of his talents.
Shall be taken — The opportunity will be taken from him. He will have it no more; neither will he have any share in the reward given to the overcomers.
That which he hath — Losing the Lord’s approval and the light they once enjoyed.
Benson: Take therefore the talent from him — Ye angels, the ministers of my will, take from him the blessing which he has thus abused, and give it unto him which hath ten talents — As a further token of my acceptance and favour. The master, who in disposing of the talents at first acted as an absolute owner and bountiful benefactor, now acts as a judge, and takes the talent from the unfaithful servant to punish him, and gives it to him that was eminently faithful, to reward him. And this may be applied, 1st, To any of the blessings of this life, such as wealth, honour, authority over others, health, strength, &c. Men are intrusted with these, that they may use them for the glory of God, and the good of their fellow-creatures: and he that conscientiously uses them for these ends, (which is signified in the next verse by having them; that is, having them to a good purpose,) shall have abundance, perhaps, of these things themselves, but if not, abundance of comfort in them, and of better things;
but from him that hath not — That is, that hath these things as if he had them not, not doing good with them; they shall be taken away. Giving to the poor, and in other ways doing good with our talents, is trading with what we have, and the returns will be rich. The meal in the barrel, and the oil in the cruise will be multiplied, 1Ki_17:14; but those that are uncharitable will find that those riches which are so acquired and hoarded, Will perish by evil travail, or are kept by the owners thereof to their hurt, Ecc_5:13-14. And it often happens that Providence strangely transfers property from those that do not do good with it to those that do. And other gifts and endowments are frequently taken from those who do not employ them according to the design of the great Master, and are given to others who are disposed to make a better use of them.
2d, We may apply it to the means of grace. They who are diligent in improving the opportunities and advantages they have, may expect to have them continued and increased; but they who know not and improve not the day of their visitation, shall have the things that belong to their peace hid from their eyes. In proof of this, see what God did first to Shiloh, and then to Jerusalem, and to the churches of the Lesser Asia, mentioned Revelation 2., 3. 3d, We may apply it to spiritual gifts. He that hath these, and doth good with them, shall retain them and find them greatly enlarged, for they will improve by exercise, and brighten by use: but as to those who stir not up the gift that is in them, who do not exert themselves according to their capacity, their gifts rust and decay, and die away like a neglected fire.
Barnes: For unto every one that hath shall be given – See the notes at Mat_13:12. This seems to be a proverbial expression. It means, whosoever rightly improves what is committed to him shall receive more, or shall be rewarded; but he that misimproves what is committed to him shall not be rewarded. In pecuniary matters in the literal sense of this parable they who improve their money by industry or merchandise increase it. They who do not who are indolent or vicious lose what they did possess, and it goes into the hands of the faithful and industrious. In the spiritual sense of the parable it means that they who are faithful shall be rewarded – not, however, that anything shall be taken from the unfaithful and given to them; and it means also that the unfaithful and indolent shall be taken away from their privileges and punished.
Mat 25:30 And cast ye the unprofitable servant into outer darkness: there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth.
Guzik: Cast the unprofitable servant into the outer darkness: Because he was wicked and lazy, the third servant demonstrated that he was not a true servant of his master at all. It is fitting that he (and those who show the same heart) are cast forever out of the master’s presence.
d. The main point of this parable is clear: our readiness for Jesus’ return is determined by our stewardship of the resources that He has given us.
i. Some think that “readiness” for Jesus’ return is a rather mystical thing. It really isn’t – it is a matter of being about our business for the Lord. In light of this parable, we must ask ourselves: what have we done with our knowledge? Our time? Our money? Our abilities? The sins of omission may ultimately be more dangerous than the sins of commission.
Barnes: And cast … – See the notes at Mat_8:12. The spiritual meaning of the parable may be thus summed up:
1. The servants of God are not all endowed with equal gifts and talents.
2. All, whatever may be their ability, are bound to employ their talents in promoting his honor, and in a proper improvement of them.
3. By employing their talents in a proper manner, they improve and strengthen them.
4. They will be judged according to the improvements which they have made.
5. All sinners look on God as a hard master, and as unreasonable and tyrannical.
6. People will be judged not merely for “doing wrong, but for neglecting to do right.”
7. If the servant who kept the talent entire without injuring it, and who returned it to his master as he received it, was nevertheless judged, condemned, and cast away, what must they expect who abuse their talents, destroy by drunkenness and lust the noble faculties conferred on them, and squander the property that might be employed in advancing the interests of morals and religion!
CTR: Cast ye — Not a case of being liable to get into outer darkness, into error; it is a case of must. The Master’s orders are peremptory and decisive. Not because of murder, theft or blasphemy; not through immoralities; but because of neglected opportunities of service. None can be of the anointed body except they be preachers to the extent of their ability and talent.
Unprofitable servant — A Christian, not a worldling, stranger, alien, foreigner to the divine promises.
Into outer darkness — It is possible to lose what light, privilege and appreciation of spiritual matters had been previously enjoyed. The darkness of error and ignorance concerning God’s plans and ways envelops the world in general.
There shall be — In the time of trouble with which this age will close.
Weeping — Grief is indeed implied, but not one word about an eternity of grief and pain.
Gnashing of teeth — Sorrow, disappointment and chagrin in every sense. In the great time of trouble with which this age will close.
Wesley: Cast ye the unprofitable servant into the outer darkness – For what? what had he done? It is true he had not done good. But neither is he charged with doing any harm. Why, for this reason, for barely doing no harm, he is consigned to outer darkness.
He is pronounced a wicked, because he was a slothful, an unprofitable servant. So mere harmlessness, on which many build their hope of salvation, was the cause of his damnation!
There shall be the weeping – Of the careless thoughtless sinner; and the gnashing of teeth – Of the proud and stubborn. The same great truth, that there is no such thing as negative goodness, is in this chapter shown three times: In the parable of the virgins; In the still plainer parable of the servants, who had received the talents; and In a direct unparabolical declaration of the manner wherein our Lord will proceed at the last day. The several parts of each of these exactly answers each other, only each rises above the preceding.
The Final Judgment
Mat 25:31 When the Son of man shall come in his glory, and all the holy angels with him, then shall he sit upon the throne of his glory:
Come with Angels
Mat 13:39 The enemy that sowed them is the devil; the harvest is the end of the world; and the reapers are the angels.
Mat 13:40 As therefore the tares are gathered and burned in the fire; so shall it be in the end of this world.
Mat 13:41 The Son of man shall send forth his angels, and they shall gather out of his kingdom all things that offend, and them which do iniquity;
Mat 16:27 For the Son of man shall come in the glory of his Father with his angels; and then he shall reward every man according to his works.
Mat_24:31 And he shall send his angels with a great sound of a trumpet, and they shall gather together his elect from the four winds, from one end of heaven to the other.
Matthew 25:31-32 KJV
31 When the Son of man shall come in his glory, and all the holy angels with him, then shall he sit upon the throne of his glory: 32 And before him shall be gathered all nations: and he shall separate them one from another, as a shepherd divideth his sheep from the goats:
Mar 13:27 And then shall he send his angels, and shall gather together his elect from the four winds, from the uttermost part of the earth to the uttermost part of heaven.
Mar 8:38 Whosoever therefore shall be ashamed of me and of my words in this adulterous and sinful generation; of him also shall the Son of man be ashamed, when he cometh in the glory of his Father with the holy angels.
Luk 9:26 For whosoever shall be ashamed of me and of my words, of him shall the Son of man be ashamed, when he shall come in his own glory, and in his Father’s, and of the holy angels.
1 Thessalonians 3:13 Weymouth Thus He will build up your characters, so that you will be faultlessly holy in the presence of our God and Father at the Coming of our Lord Jesus with all His holy onesG40.
2Th 1:7 And to you who are troubled rest with us, when the Lord Jesus shall be revealed from heaven with his mighty angels, 8 In flaming fire taking vengeance on them that know not God, and that obey not the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ:
Jude 1:14-15 KJV And Enoch also, the seventh from Adam, prophesied of these, saying, Behold, the Lord cometh with ten thousands of his saintsG40, 15 To execute judgment upon all, and to convince all that are ungodly among them of all their ungodly deeds which they have ungodly committed, and of all their hard speeches which ungodly sinners have spoken against him.
Jude 1:14 ASV And to these also Enoch, the seventh from Adam, prophesied, saying, Behold, the Lord came with ten thousands of his holy onesG40,
(ERV) Enoch, the seventh descendant from Adam, said this about these people: “Look, the Lord is coming with thousands and thousands of his holy angels
(RV) And to these also Enoch, the seventh from Adam, prophesied, saying, Behold, the Lord came with ten thousands of his holy ones,
JFB: Mat_25:31-46. The last judgment.
The close connection between this sublime scene – peculiar to Matthew – and the two preceding parables is too obvious to need pointing out.
When the Son of man shall come in his glory — His personal glory.
and all the holy angels with him — See Deu_33:2; Dan_7:9, Dan_7:10; Jud_1:14; with Heb_1:6; 1Pe_3:22.
then shall he sit upon the throne of his glory — the glory of His judicial authority.
Deu 33:2 And he said, The LORD came from Sinai, and rose up from Seir unto them; he shined forth from mount Paran, and he came with ten thousands of saints: from his right hand went a fiery law for them.
Daniel 7:9-10 I beheld till the thrones were cast down, and the Ancient of days did sit, whose garment was white as snow, and the hair of his head like the pure wool: his throne was like the fiery flame, and his wheels as burning fire. 10 A fiery stream issued and came forth from before him: thousand thousands ministered unto him, and ten thousand times ten thousand stood before him: the judgment was set, and the books were opened.
Come in Clouds
Matthew 24:30 KJV And then shall appear the sign of the Son of man in heaven: and then shall all the tribes of the earth mourn, and they shall see the Son of man coming in the clouds of heaven with power and great glory. 31 And he shall send his angels with a great sound of a trumpet, and they shall gather together his elect from the four winds, from one end of heaven to the other.
Mat 26:64 Jesus saith unto him, Thou hast said: nevertheless I say unto you, Hereafter shall ye see the Son of man sitting on the right hand of power, and coming in the clouds of heaven.
Mar 13:24 But in those days, after that tribulation, the sun shall be darkened, and the moon shall not give her light,
Mar 13:25 And the stars of heaven shall fall, and the powers that are in heaven shall be shaken.
Mar 13:26 And then shall they see the Son of man coming in the clouds with great power and glory.
Mar 13:27 And then shall he send his angels, and shall gather together his elect from the four winds, from the uttermost part of the earth to the uttermost part of heaven.
Mar 14:62 And Jesus said, I am: and ye shall see the Son of man sitting on the right hand of power, and coming in the clouds of heaven.
1 Thessalonians 4:16-17 For the Lord himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God: and the dead in Christ shall rise first: 17 Then we which are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air: and so shall we ever be with the Lord.
Dan 7:13 I saw in the night visions, and, behold, one like the Son of man came with the clouds of heaven, and came to the Ancient of days, and they brought him near before him.
Dan 7:14 And there was given him dominion, and glory, and a kingdom, that all people, nations, and languages, should serve him: his dominion is an everlasting dominion, which shall not pass away, and his kingdom that which shall not be destroyed.
CTR: The Son of man — Christ, the Seed of Adam through Eve, in the same sense that he was the seed of David; while his life proceeded forth from God. A title of high honor, showing his obedience unto death, by which he secured the title to all his prospective honor and glory.
Come in his glory — Not another coming, but another step or development during the same coming or presence.
“Then shall ye also appear with him in glory.” (Col_3:4)
Angels with him — The saints, his holy messengers. “The Lord cometh with ten thousand of his saints.” (Jud_1:14)
“When Christ who is our life shall appear, then shall ye [the Church, the sheep of the present age] also appear with him in glory.” (Col_3:4)
Sit upon the throne — This parable corresponds exactly to the picture of Rev_20:11, “I saw a great white throne and him that sat on it.”
Gill: And all the holy angels with him; which splendid retinue will add to the glory of his appearance; and who will accompany him not merely, or only as his attendants, to make the solemnity more grand, pompous, and magnificent; but as ministering spirits, who will be employed by him in gathering all before him, separating the wicked the good, and conducting each to their several apartments of bliss or woe: and when he thus appears,
Romans 14:10 But why dost thou judge thy brother? or why dost thou set at nought thy brother? for we shall all stand before the judgment seat of Christ.
JFB: stand before the judgment-seat of Christ — All the most ancient and best manuscripts read here, “the judgment-seat of God.” The present reading doubtless crept in from 2Co_5:10, where “the judgment-seat of Christ” occurs. But here “the judgment-seat of God” seems to have been used, with reference to the quotation and the inference in Rom_14:11, Rom_14:12.
Mat 25:32 And before him shall be gathered all nations: and he shall separate them one from another, as a shepherd divideth his sheep from the goats:
Who are the sheep and goats?
Sheep: 1) lost sheep of house of Israel (doesn’t seem Israel itself is the sheep, but there are sheep in Israel)
2) Jesus is the shepherd and door and has it own flock who hear his voice and follow him.—Christians are sheep.
There are no scriptures that I found that identify goats as a class outside of this parable.
Mat_10:6 But go rather to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.
Mat_10:16 Behold, I send you forth as sheep in the midst of wolves: be ye therefore wise as serpents, and harmless as doves.
Mat_15:24 But he answered and said, I am not sent but unto the lost sheep of the house of Israel.
Mat_26:31 Then saith Jesus unto them, All ye shall be offended because of me this night: for it is written, I will smite the shepherd, and the sheep of the flock shall be scattered abroad.
Mar_6:34 And Jesus, when he came out, saw much people, and was moved with compassion toward them, because they were as sheep not having a shepherd: and he began to teach them many things.
Mar_14:27 And Jesus saith unto them, All ye shall be offended because of me this night: for it is written, I will smite the shepherd, and the sheep shall be scattered.
Joh_10:2 But he that entereth in by the door is the shepherd of the sheep.
Joh_10:3 To him the porter openeth; and the sheep hear his voice: and he calleth his own sheep by name, and leadeth them out.
Joh_10:4 And when he putteth forth his own sheep, he goeth before them, and the sheep follow him: for they know his voice.
Joh_10:7 Then said Jesus unto them again, Verily, verily, I say unto you, I am the door of the sheep.
Joh_10:8 All that ever came before me are thieves and robbers: but the sheep did not hear them.
Joh_10:11 I am the good shepherd: the good shepherd giveth his life for the sheep.
Joh_10:14 I am the good shepherd, and know my sheep, and am known of mine.
Joh_10:15 As the Father knoweth me, even so know I the Father: and I lay down my life for the sheep.
Joh_10:16 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.
Joh_10:26 But ye believe not, because ye are not of my sheep, as I said unto you.
Joh_10:27 My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me:
Joh_21:16 He saith to him again the second time, Simon, son of Jonas, lovest thou me? He saith unto him, Yea, Lord; thou knowest that I love thee. He saith unto him, Feed my sheep.
Joh_21:17 He saith unto him the third time, Simon, son of Jonas, lovest thou me? Peter was grieved because he said unto him the third time, Lovest thou me? And he said unto him, Lord, thou knowest all things; thou knowest that I love thee. Jesus saith unto him, Feed my sheep.
Heb_13:20 Now the God of peace, that brought again from the dead our Lord Jesus, that great shepherd of the sheep, through the blood of the everlasting covenant,
1Pe_2:25 For ye were as sheep going astray; but are now returned unto the Shepherd and Bishop of your souls.
gathered all nations:
1) a multitude (whether of men or of beasts) associated or living together
1a) a company, troop, swarm
2) a multitude of individuals of the same nature or genus
2a) the human family
3) a tribe, nation, people group
4) in the OT, foreign nations not worshipping the true God, pagans, Gentiles
5) Paul uses the term for Gentile Christians
Part of Speech: noun neuter
A Related Word by Thayer’s/Strong’s Number: probably from G1486
Mat 21:43 Therefore say I unto you, The kingdom of God shall be taken from you, and given to a nation bringing forth the fruits thereof.
1Pe 2:9 But ye are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, an holy nation, a peculiar people; that ye should shew forth the praises of him who hath called you out of darkness into his marvellous light:
Scofield: And before him
This judgment is to be distinguished from the judgment of the great white throne. Here there is no resurrection; the persons judged are living nations; no books are opened; three classes are present, sheep, goats, and brethren; the time is at the return of Christ (Mat_25:31); and the scene is on the earth. All these particulars are in contrast with Rev_20:11-15.
The test in this judgment is the treatment accorded by the nations to those whom Christ here call “my brethren.”
Gill: And before him shall be gathered all nations….. That is, all that have professed the Christian religion in all the nations of the world, whether Jews or Gentiles, high or low, rich or poor, wise and foolish, such as have had greater or lesser talents; though it is also true of every individual of mankind of every nation, tribe and family, of every sex, age, and state, that ever has been, is, or will be. Yet Christian professors seem only here intended, as the following distinction of them, their final state, and the reasons of it show. This collection of them before Christ, the righteous judge, will be made by the holy angels, who will come with him for this purpose; and being mighty, as they are, will be able to accomplish great a work; and especially as being under the direction, influence, and authority of so divine, glorious, and illustrious a person, as the son of man will then to all appear to be,
And he shall separate them one from another, as a shepherd divideth his sheep from the goats: they shall be gathered before him, as they were together in their visible church state, as being all under a profession of religion; some wise, some foolish virgins; some sheep, and others goats; some industrious, diligent, faithful, and laborious servants; others wicked, slothful, and unprofitable ones; many of whom pass undistinguished and undiscovered now: but then the judge, who is of quick understanding, will easily discern the one from the other; such as have the oil of grace in the vessels of their hearts, together with their lamps, from such as have only the outward visible lamp of a profession, but destitute of the grace of God; and good and faithful servants, who have made a right use of their gifts, from such who have been negligent, careless, and remiss; and though these have been folded together, sheep and goats, in the sheepfold of the church, where they have all bore the character of the sheep of Christ; yet now when the chief shepherd appears, who knows his own sheep, and calls them by name, he will as easily separate the one from the other, and more so, than any shepherd, among men, can part a flock consisting of sheep and goats. Hypocrites in Zion shall now be no more, nor sinners stand any longer in the congregation of the righteous, nor both together as one body, and on one side in judgment.
Mat 25:33 And he shall set the sheep on his right hand, but the goats on the left.
Mat 25:34 Then shall the King say unto them on his right hand, Come, ye blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world:
Is the world of mankind “blessed of the Father”? Do they inherit the kingdom? Was this prepared for them before the foundation of the world?
Ephesians 1:4-5 KJV According as he hath chosen us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before him in love: 5 Having predestinated us unto the adoption of children by Jesus Christ to himself, according to the good pleasure of his will,
Rom 8:29-30 For whom he did foreknow, he also did predestinate to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brethren. 30 Moreover whom he did predestinate, them he also called: and whom he called, them he also justified: and whom he justified, them he also glorified.
Mat 19:29 And every one that hath forsaken houses, or brethren, or sisters, or father, or mother, or wife, or children, or lands, for my name’s sake, shall receive an hundredfold, and shall inherit everlasting life.
Eph 1:11 In whom also we have obtained an inheritance, being predestinated according to the purpose of him who worketh all things after the counsel of his own will:
Gal 4:7 Wherefore thou art no more a servant, but a son; and if a son, then an heir of God through Christ.
Galatians 5:21 KJV Envyings, murders, drunkenness, revellings, and such like: of the which I tell you before, as I have also told you in time past, that they which do such things shall not inherit the kingdom of God.
Mat_5:5 Blessed are the meek: for they shall inherit the earth.
1Co_15:50 Now this I say, brethren, that flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God; neither doth corruption inherit incorruption.
Rev_21:7 He that overcometh shall inherit all things; and I will be his God, and he shall be my son.
Clarke: Ye blessed of my Father – This is the king’s address to his followers; and contains the reason why they were found in the practice of all righteousness, and were now brought to this state of glory – they were blessed – came as children, and received the benediction of the Father, and became, and continued to be, members of the heavenly family.
Inherit – The inheritance is only for the children of the family – if sons, then heirs, Gal_4:7, but not otherwise. The sons only shall enjoy the father’s estate.
Prepared for you – That is, the kingdom of glory is designed for such as you – you who have received the blessing of the Father, and were holy, harmless, undefiled, and separated from sinners.
Barnes: Inherit the kingdom – Receive “as heirs” the kingdom, or be received there as the sons of God. Christians are often called heirs of God, Rom_8:17; Gal_4:6-7; Heb_1:14; 1Jn_3:2.
Prepared for you … – That is, “designed” for you, or appointed for you. The phrase “from the foundation of the world” is used to denote that this was appointed for them in the beginning; that God has no new plan; that the rewards which he will now confer on them he always intended to confer. Christ says to the righteous that the kingdom was prepared for “them.” Of course, God meant to confer it on “them.” They were individuals, and it follows that He intended to bestow His salvation on them as individuals. Accordingly, the salvation of His people is universally represented as the result of the free gift of God, according to His own pleasure, bestowed on individuals, and by a plan which is eternal, Rom_8:29-30; Eph_1:4-5, Eph_1:11-12; 2Th_2:13; 1Pe_1:2; Joh_6:37.
Mat 25:35 For I was an hungred, and ye gave me meat: I was thirsty, and ye gave me drink: I was a stranger, and ye took me in:
Mat 25:36 Naked, and ye clothed me: I was sick, and ye visited me: I was in prison, and ye came unto me.
Mat 25:37 Then shall the righteous answer him, saying, Lord, when saw we thee an hungred, and fed thee? or thirsty, and gave thee drink?
Mat 25:38 When saw we thee a stranger, and took thee in? or naked, and clothed thee?
Mat 25:39 Or when saw we thee sick, or in prison, and came unto thee?
James 2:15-18 KJV If a brother or sister be naked, and destitute of daily food, 16 And one of you say unto them, Depart in peace, be ye warmed and filled; notwithstanding ye give them not those things which are needful to the body; what doth it profit? 17 Even so faith, if it hath not works, is dead, being alone. 18 Yea, a man may say, Thou hast faith, and I have works: shew me thy faith without thy works, and I will shew thee my faith by my works.
Romans 12:10-15 KJV Be kindly affectioned one to another with brotherly love; in honour preferring one another; 11 Not slothful in business; fervent in spirit; serving the Lord; 12 Rejoicing in hope; patient in tribulation; continuing instant in prayer; 13 Distributing to the necessity of saints; given to hospitality. 14 Bless them which persecute you: bless, and curse not. 15 Rejoice with them that do rejoice, and weep with them that weep.
Hebrews 13:1-3 KJV Let brotherly love continue. 2 Be not forgetful to entertain strangers: for thereby some have entertained angels unawares. 3 Remember them that are in bonds, as bound with them; and them which suffer adversity, as being yourselves also in the body.
1Jn 3:18 My little children, let us not love in word, neither in tongue; but in deed and in truth.
Hebrews 3:13 Weymouth On the contrary encourage one another, day after day, so long as To-day lasts, so that not one of you may be hardened through the deceitful character of sin.
Hebrews 10:25 Weymouth not neglecting–as some habitually do–to meet together, but encouraging one another, and doing this all the more since you can see the day of Christ approaching.
1 Thessalonians 5:11 Weymouth Therefore encourage one another, and let each one help to strengthen his friend, as in fact you do.
Mat 25:40 And the King shall answer and say unto them, Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me.
Guzik: Because the righteous were not aware that they were helping Jesus when they helped the least of His brethren, it shows that their motives were pure. It was a simple response of love from the heart.
Inasmuch as you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to Me: The charge against these lost ones does not concern any flagrant violation of a moral code, but their indifferent attitude toward Jesus (and His people). Their indifference seals their doom. Throughout this chapter, the point has been emphasized: the price of indifference is too high to pay.
• We cannot afford to be indifferent towards Jesus and His return.
• We can’t afford to be indifferent towards the Holy Spirit who makes us ready for the return of Jesus.
• We can’t afford to be indifferent towards the resources that God gives us.
• We can’t afford to be indifferent towards the needy people all around us.
• We can’t afford to be indifferent towards lost humanity that will stand in judgment.
Who are the Lord’s brethren?
Hebrews 2:11 KJV For both he that sanctifieth and they who are sanctified are all of one: for which cause he is not ashamed to call them brethren,
Matthew 12:49-50 KJV And he stretched forth his hand toward his disciples, and said, Behold my mother and my brethren! 50 For whosoever shall do the will of my Father which is in heaven, the same is my brother, and sister, and mother.
Matthew 28:10 KJV Then said Jesus unto them, Be not afraid: go tell my brethren that they go into Galilee, and there shall they see me.
Mat 25:41 Then shall he say also unto them on the left hand, Depart from me, ye cursed, into everlasting fire, prepared for the devil and his angels:
Mat 25:42 For I was an hungred, and ye gave me no meat: I was thirsty, and ye gave me no drink:
Mat 25:43 I was a stranger, and ye took me not in: naked, and ye clothed me not: sick, and in prison, and ye visited me not.
Mat 25:44 Then shall they also answer him, saying, Lord, when saw we thee an hungred, or athirst, or a stranger, or naked, or sick, or in prison, and did not minister unto thee?
Mat 25:45 Then shall he answer them, saying, Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye did it not to one of the least of these, ye did it not to me.
Act_22:7 And I fell unto the ground, and heard a voice saying unto me, Saul, Saul, why persecutest thou me?
Act_26:15 And I said, Who art thou, Lord? And he said, I am Jesus whom thou persecutest.
Mat 25:46 And these shall go away into everlasting punishment: but the righteous into life eternal.
Does the world of mankind go into second death in the Kingdom, because of the way they treated Jesus’ brethren in this age?
1 John 3:14-17 KJV We know that we have passed from death unto life, because we love the brethren. He that loveth not his brother abideth in death. 15 Whosoever hateth his brother is a murderer: and ye know that no murderer hath eternal life abiding in him. 16 Hereby perceive we the love of God, because he laid down his life for us: and we ought to lay down our lives for the brethren. 17 But whoso hath this world’s good, and seeth his brother have need, and shutteth up his bowels of compassion from him, how dwelleth the love of God in him?
Expositors: “The Son of man shall come in the glory of His Father, with His angels; and then shall He reward every man according to his works”; (Mat_16:27) and especially the earlier reference to the same event in this discourse, in that portion of it which we have spoken of as the prophecy proper, where the mourning of all the tribes of earth, and the gathering together of the elect from the one end of heaven to the other, are connected with one another and which the coming of the Son of man. (Mat_24:30-31)
The Final Separation. (Mat_25:31-46)
As in the Sermon on the Mount, and again in the last discourse in the Temple, so here, the language rises into a strain of great majesty and sublimity as the prophecy draws to a close. No one can fail to recognise it. This vision of judgment is the climax of the teaching of the Lord Christ. Alike for magnificence and for pathos it is unsurpassed in literature. There is no departure from His wonted simplicity of style. As little here as everywhere else do we recognise even a trace of effort or of elaboration; yet as we read there is not a word that could be changed, not a clause that could be spared, not a thought that could be added with advantage. It bears the mark of perfectionit is most human in its tenderness. “Truly this was the Son of God.” Truly this was the Son of man.
The grandeur of the passage is all the more impressive by contrast with what immediately follows: “And it came to pass, when Jesus had finished all these sayings, He said unto His disciples, Ye know that after two days is the feast of the passover, and the Son of man is betrayed to be crucified.”
Into such an abyss was the Son of man looking when in language so calm, so confident, so majestic, so sublime, He spoke of sitting on the throne of His glory as the Judge of all mankind. Did ever man speak like this Man?
It is significant that even when speaking of the coming glory He still retains His favourite designation, “the Son of man.” In this we see one of the many minute coincidences which show the inner harmony of the discourses recorded in this Gospel with those of a different style of thought preserved by St. John; for it is in one of these we read that “He the Father hath given Him authority to execute judgment, because He is the Son of man.”
Nothing could be more impressive than the picture set before us of the throne of glory, on which is seated the Son of man with all the angels around Him and all nations gathered before Him.
This view of the passage is supported by every reference to the same subject throughout this Gospel, notably the parables of the Tares and the Net, (see Mat_13:39-43; Mat_13:47-50) the general declaration at Caesarea Philippi; “The Son of man shall come in the glory of His Father, with His angels; and then shall He reward every man according to his works”; (Mat_16:27) and especially the earlier reference to the same event in this discourse, in that portion of it which we have spoken of as the prophecy proper, where the mourning of all the tribes of earth, and the gathering together of the elect from the one end of heaven to the other, are connected with one another and witch the coming of the Son of man. (Mat_24:30-31)
It seems quite certain, then, that whatever subsequent unfoldings there may be in the later books of the New Testament as to the order in which judgment shall proceed, there is no intention here of anticipating them. It is true that the preceding parables have each given a partial view of the judgment, -the first as affecting those in office in the Church, the second and third as applied to the members of the Church; but just as those specially contemplated in the first parable are included in the wider scope of the second and third, so these contemplated in the second and third are included in the universal scope of the great judgment scene with which the whole discourse is fitly and grandly concluded.
In this great picture of the final judgment the prominent thought is separation: “He shall separate them one from another, as a shepherd divideth his sheep from the goats: and He shall set the sheep on His right hand, but the goats on the left.” How easily and with what unerring certainty the separation is made-as easily and as surely as the shepherd divideth the sheep from the goats! Nothing eludes the glance of that all-searching Eye. No need of pleading or counter-pleading, of prosecutor or prisoner’s counsel, no hope from legal quibble or insufficient proof. All, all is “naked and opened unto the eyes of Him with Whom we have to do.” He sees all at a glance; and as He sees, He divides by a single dividing line. There is no middle position: each one is either on the right or on the left.
The dividing line is one entirely new. All nations are there; but not as nations are they divided now. This is strikingly suggested in the original by the change from the neuter (nations, εθνη) to the masculine (them, αυτους), indicating as by a sudden flash of unexpected light that not as nations, but as individuals, must all be judged. The line is one which crosses all other lines that have divided men from one another, so that of all ranks and conditions of men there will be some on the right and some on the left. Even the family line will be crossed, so that husband and wife, parents and children, brothers and sisters, may be found on opposite sides of it. What, then, is this new and final line of separation? The sentence of the King will mark it out for us.
It is the first and only time that Jesus calls Himself the King. He has displayed His royalty in His acts; He has suggested it in His discourses and His parables; He has claimed it by the manner of His entry into His capital and His Temple; He will afterwards assent when Pilate shall ask Him the plain question; but this is the only place where He uses the title in speaking of Himself. How significant and impressive is this! It is as if He would once for all before He suffered disclose the fulness of His majesty. His royalty, indeed, was suggested at the very beginning by the reference to the throne of His glory; but inasmuch as judgment was the work which lay immediately before Him, He still spoke of Himself as the Son of man; but now that the separation is made, now that the books have been opened and closed, He rises above the Judge and styles Himself THE KING.
We must think of Him now as all radiant with His royal glory-that visage which, was “so marred more than any man” now shining with celestial light-that Form which was distorted “more than the sons of men,” now seen to be the very “form of God,” “the chiefest among ten thousand” of the highest angels round Him, “altogether lovely,” the personal embodiment of that glorious kingdom He has been preparing through all the centuries from the foundation of the world-disclosed at last as the answer to every longing soul, the satisfaction of every pure desire, -THE KING.
All this we must realise before we can imagine the awful gulf which lies between these simple words, “Depart” and “Come.” That sweet word “Come”-how He has repeated and repeated it through all these ages, in every possible way, with endless variations! Spoken so tenderly with His own human lips, it has been taken up and given forth by those whom He. has sent in His name: the Spirit has said “Come”; the Bride has said “Come”; the hearers have said “Come”; whosoever would, has been invited to come. The music of the word has never died away. But now its course is nearly run. Once more it will ring out; but with a difference. No longer now to all. The line of separation has been drawn, and across “the great gulf fixed” the old sweet word of grace can reach no longer. It is to those on the right, and these alone, that now the King says “Come.” To those on the left there remains the word, a stranger to His lips before, the awful word, “Depart from Me.”
In the contrast between these two words, there already is involved all that follows: all the joy of the welcome-“Come, ye blessed of My Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world”; all the horror of the doom-“Depart from Me, ye cursed. into everlasting fire, prepared for the devil and his angels.”
Still the great question remains unanswered, What is the dividing liner Inasmuch as this belongs to the hidden man of the heart, to the secrecy of consciousness and conscience, the only way in which it could be made to appear in a picture parable of judgment such as this, is by the introduction of such a conversation as that which follows the sentence in each case. The general distinction between the two classes had been suggested by the simile of the sheep and the goats-the one white, the other black, the one obedient, the other unruly; but it is made much more definite by this dramatic conversation. We call it dramatic, because we regard it as extreme bondage to the letter to suppose this to be a prediction of the words that will actually be used, and therefore look upon it simply as intended to represent, as nothing else could, the new light which both the righteous and the wicked will then see suddenly flashed upon their life on earth, a light so full and clear and self-interpreting that there cannot but be unquestioning acquiescence in the justice of the final award.
There are those who, looking at this conversation in the most superficial way, find in it the doctrine of salvation by works, and imagine that they are warranted on the strength of this passage to set aside all that is written in other parts of Scripture as to the necessity of change of heart, to dismiss from their minds all concern about creed or worship, about doctrine or sacraments or church membership. Be kind to the poor-that will do instead of everything else.
In answer to such a perversion of our Lord’s language it should surely be enough to call attention to the fact that all is made to turn upon the treatment of Christ by the one class and by the other. Kindness to the poor comes in, not as in itself the ground of the division, but as furnishing the evidence or manifestation of that devotion to God as revealed in Christ which forms the real ground of acceptance, and the want of which is the sole ground of condemnation. True it is that Christ identifies Himself with His people, and accepts the kindness done to the poorest of them as done to Himself; but there is obviously implied, what is elsewhere in a similar connection clearly expressed, that the kindness must be done “in the name of a disciple.” In other words, love to Christ must be the motive of the deed of charity, else it is worthless as a test of true discipleship. The more carefully the whole passage is read, the more manifest will it be that the great question which determines the separation is this: “How have you treated Christ?” It is only to bring out more clearly the real answer to this question that the other is added: How have you treated Christ’s poor? For according to each man’s treatment of these will have been his treatment of Christ Himself. It is the same principle applied to the unseen Christ as the apostle applies to the invisible God: “He that loveth not his brother whom he hath seen, how can he love God Whom he hath not seen?”
Philanthropy can never take the place of faith; and yet no words ever spoken or written on this earth have done so much for philanthropy as these
The scroll of this grand prophecy is finished with the awful words: “These shall go away into eternal punishment; but the righteous into eternal life” (R.V). It is the final judgment; it is the final separation; and scarcely with more distinctness could the awful letters have been traced, “Leave every hope behind, all ye who enter here.” “These shall go away into eternal punishment; but the righteous”-none but the righteous-“into eternal life.”