Matthew 25


‘At that time the kingdom of heaven will be like ten virgins who took their lamps and went out to meet the bridegroom. Five of them were foolish and five were wise. The foolish ones took their lamps but did not take any oil with them. The wise ones, however, took oil in jars along with their lamps. The bridegroom was a long time in coming, and they all became drowsy and fell asleep. “At midnight the cry rang out: ‘Here’s the bridegroom! Come out to meet him!’ “Then all the virgins woke up and trimmed their lamps. The foolish ones said to the wise, ‘Give us some of your oil; our lamps are going out.’ “‘No,’ they replied, ‘there may not be enough for both us and you. Instead, go to those who sell oil and buy some for yourselves.’ “But while they were on their way to buy the oil, the bridegroom arrived. The virgins who were ready went in with him to the wedding banquet. And the door was shut. “Later the others also came. ‘Lord, Lord,’ they said, ‘open the door for us!’ “But he replied, ‘Truly I tell you, I don’t know you.’ “Therefore keep watch, because you do not know the day or the hour.’ Matthew 25:1-13

The Parable Of The Ten Virgins

Jesus says to His followers, ‘Ready or not I am coming!’ Jesus isn’t talking about how His followers were to be prepared for the Destruction of Jerusalem in A.D. 70. He’s telling the whole world to be ready because He is coming back sometime in the future.

Jesus shares three things that, ‘we cannot do’.

1. We cannot neglect preparation and be ready for His coming.

Jesus wastes no time in getting straight to the point after sharing this parable. Now the keyword in Matthew 25:13 is the word ‘Watch’. But what does it mean to watch? And in what way are Christians to watch for Christ’s return?

Well, it certainly doesn’t mean what His disciples were doing in Acts 1:7-11. You see “watching” doesn’t mean intently looking up into the sky 24hrs a day, every day, waiting for a first glimpse of His glorious appearance. It also doesn’t mean that we’re to talk about nothing else but His coming.

Christians must ‘watch’ with more than their eyes and their tongues, Colossians 3:1-2. To watch is to have some forethought of the future. It means to make some prior precautions, to make some preliminary preparation, and continue in that preparation.

And why is this preparation so important? Well, this was the very thing the foolish virgins failed to do, Matthew 25:1-3 / Matthew 25:8. In other words, they had their lamps, they had their oil and they began to wait eagerly, but they didn’t have enough oil.

It never entered their minds that the bridegroom might delay and it’s because of this that Jesus called them ‘foolish’. And notice they weren’t ungodly or immoral, they weren’t even hypocrites.

They were simply foolish because they didn’t allow for the possibility of delay. In short when the Lord returned they were unprepared.

One of the most inescapable lessons from life is the necessity of being prepared. Practically everything that is done requires preparation. It’s true or reading, writing and arithmetic. It’s true of buying and selling, sowing, reaping, winning and keeping friends.

There are certain things in life, which cannot be done at the last minute. If you ever go on holiday you will understand just how much preparation is needed before you go.

Preparation is essential for knowledge, just ask any teacher. And they would tell you if only the children studied and worked as hard throughout the whole year as they do the night before a final exam. In other words, the time of examination is not the time of preparation.

When the foolish virgins realised they didn’t have enough oil, they asked the wise virgins for some of theirs, but they refused because they didn’t have enough, and told them to go and buy some of their own, Matthew 25:9-10.

It is necessary for everyone to make preparations for the greatest examination and the greatest journey in life. On Judgement Day it will be too late to make up for any previous neglect of previous preparation. Because as we know it would be foolish of us to think that we can buy oil after the shops are shut.

2. We cannot borrow what must be bought.

When you read this parable we can’t help but sympathise with the foolish virgins. I mean, why didn’t the wise virgins give to the foolish virgins? How could they be so heartless and refuse to share their oil with others at a time of distress?

The answer is quite simple, you cannot borrow something, which must be bought. How many times do we hear people calling upon the faith of another person? And people talk like this as though they have inherited some of their faith.

What Jesus is teaching us here is that obedience to God is another thing that cannot be borrowed. Each one is accountable individually, Hebrews 9:27 / Romans 14:10-12. Our submission to God is our submission, our faith needs to be our faith.

3. We cannot recall lost opportunities.

When the bridegroom came, the foolish maidens were out trying to buy oil for their lamps, Matthew 25:10. What a sad picture this is, isn’t it?

And so on returning they found that the marriage feast had already begun and the door was shut. They missed their one chance. They didn’t seize their one great moment.

Every day brings us opportunities that we must not neglect. Opportunities to help others are all around us. And these opportunities aren’t just in India or Africa, they’re right here on our doorstep. Today we may well have an opportunity to enter an open door to do good, Galatians 6:10.

And if we fail to go through that door, it will be shut. It will shut us out from the joy of serving and shut us in with a selfish heart. The truth of the parable is that the failure of the foolish virgins was final. According to Jesus, some came back even later, Matthew 25:11-12. The door was shut and it was shut forever.

How much those girls desired to enter, how long they had looked forward to the marriage. They were near to the reception, so near in fact that they could hear the inexpressible joy inside and yet they were so far.

We shouldn’t be asking the question, when will Jesus come again? That’s the wrong question. The real question we should be asking ourselves is, “are our lamps trimmed and burning?” That’s why Jesus says in Matthew 25:13 “Therefore keep watch.”

Jesus is coming and I know that some religious groups use His coming as a form of scaremongering people into becoming followers of their ways. But there’s no denying the truth, He’s coming and when is His coming going to take place?

Now again many religious groups have tried time and time again to predict His coming and time and time again they have been made to look foolish, but still, they go on predicting. But Jesus tells us in Matthew 25:13 “Therefore keep watch, because you do not know the day or the hour”.

Nobody knows when He’s going to return, so it’s not even worth the effort to try and figure out when He’s coming back. Because that’s not the question of the Bible, the question of the Bible is, are you ready?

Because if you’re ready, then you will be willing to be patient and you will be willing and ready to stand firm until He does return, Philippians 1:20-23 / James 5:7-8.

The world began with the Word of God and when Christ returns this present world will end with the Word of God. That’s the truth and that’s a promise, but it’s not my promise, it’s God’s promise, 1 Thessalonians 4:14-18.

I guess we all have our own ideas about what Judgement Day will be like, but God tells us there won’t be a test but there will be an examination.

Any examination starts with preparation, it’s entirely up to you about how much preparation you’re willing to put in, 2 Corinthians 5:10. There is really only one way to be sure that we are ready for the Day of Judgement when Christ returns and that is to be ready every day.

The Parable Of The Bags Of Gold

‘Again, it will be like a man going on a journey, who called his servants and entrusted his wealth to them. To one he gave five bags of gold, to another two bags, and to another one bag, each according to his ability. Then he went on his journey. The man who had received five bags of gold went at once and put his money to work and gained five bags more. So also, the one with two bags of gold gained two more. But the man who had received one bag went off, dug a hole in the ground and hid his master’s money. “After a long time the master of those servants returned and settled accounts with them. The man who had received five bags of gold brought the other five. ‘Master,’ he said, ‘you entrusted me with five bags of gold. See, I have gained five more.’ “His master replied, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant! You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things. Come and share your master’s happiness!’ “The man with two bags of gold also came. ‘Master,’ he said, ‘you entrusted me with two bags of gold; see, I have gained two more.’ “His master replied, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant! You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things. Come and share your master’s happiness!’ “Then the man who had received one bag of gold came. ‘Master,’ he said, ‘I knew that you are a hard man, harvesting where you have not sown and gathering where you have not scattered seed. So I was afraid and went out and hid your gold in the ground. See, here is what belongs to you.’ “His master replied, ‘You wicked, lazy servant! So you knew that I harvest where I have not sown and gather where I have not scattered seed? Well then, you should have put my money on deposit with the bankers, so that when I returned I would have received it back with interest. “‘So take the bag of gold from him and give it to the one who has ten bags. For whoever has will be given more, and they will have an abundance. Whoever does not have, even what they have will be taken from them. And throw that worthless servant outside, into the darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.’ Matthew 25:14-30

‘The parable of the ten virgins’ stresses the duty of constant alertness and ‘The parable of the talents’ stresses the duty of faithful service.

And when we place them together as they should be, they both teach the Christian that as he watches, he must not be idle. So in short the best way to be ready for Jesus’ return is to be busy in the Master’s business.

In many ways, Jesus tells us in this parable that He entrusted His property and His money to His servants. Now there is a similar parable that Jesus shares in Luke 19:11-27 and we need to keep that in mind because some people see ‘The unprofitable servant’ in Matthew’s account as the main character.

They believe that the unprofitable servant represents the Scribes and the Pharisees and the other Jews who wouldn’t run the risk of giving full-pledged allegiance to the Christ.

There’s possibly some truth to this view, but what we need to ask ourselves is to whom was Jesus speaking in Matthew’s account? If we go all the way back to Matthew 24:3 we find the answer.

Matthew tells us quite clearly that the only people present with Jesus were His disciples. In Luke’s account, Jesus is speaking with the Scribes, Pharisees and other Jews who are listening but not in Matthew’s account.

What’s the point? The point is simply that Jesus is speaking to His disciples and the focus of attention isn’t on the Scribes and Pharisees and the Jews but on three scenes.

1. The gifts.

Jesus says before the master went on his journey, he called all his servants in and gave each of them a definite sum of money, Matthew 25:14-15.

The first thing we notice is the amount of money varied. It varied not because of favouritism but because of ability, but in each case, the kind of money involved was a talent.

As we know a talent in Biblical times was no small sum of money. It wasn’t £5 to go and buy fish and chips with, in the time of Jesus a talent was worth around £500.

And remember that these servants were actually slaves. So not only were they placed in charge of their master’s money, but they were also in charge of their master’s property.

But the point is that each man received something. Not a single servant was left out, each one left their master’s property with something in their pockets.

God still works that way today, not a single person responsible to God is left out in the divine distribution of gifts. Every one of us receives something, in fact, every one of us receives much, even the one talented man received the large sum of £500.

Remember when we looked at ‘The parable of the two sons’? What did Jesus call the two sons to do? Matthew 21:28-30 tells us that Jesus said, “Son, go and work today in the vineyard.’” He called them to work, why? Because there’s work to be done.

God has work for us all to do and God gives us enough capital to accomplish the work which He intends for every one of us to do. Peter tells us that we have everything we need, and not just for life but for godliness too, 2 Peter 1:3.

And like I mentioned earlier each man was given a different amount of gift according to their abilities, 1 Corinthians 12:14-21.

What’s the point?  The point is that God knows we are not all the foot, or the eye, or the ears. He gave us different gifts and He doesn’t expect us to use a gift which we don’t possess. Even in our natural abilities, we’re different.

Some people are born with strong and active bodies, while others enter into the world in poor health. A few people are gifted with superior intellect and others are not so intellectual and it’s the exact same with our spiritual gifts.

There are always opportunities to serve and I understand that the opportunities may not be as many as others. Not all fields at one moment are glowing with a golden harvest. In other words, there are some fields where the ground needs preparation, there are some fields that are waiting for the sowing.

Remember when Jesus taught ‘The parable of the Sower.’ He says in Matthew 13:8 “Still other seed fell on good soil, where it produced a crop–a hundred, sixty or thirty times what was sown.” We need to realise that not all fields when sown are capable of producing the same crop.

Let’s look at the way the talents were used in the parable.

What was the result of the master’s confidence in His servants? To what use did they put His money while He was away?

The servants who received the larger amounts of money went to work immediately, Matthew 25:16-18. They invested their money in profitable enterprises and succeeded in doubling their fortunes.

And I think we would be mistaken to assume that these men weren’t tempted to do something else with their talents. A little significant incident may cause our downfall simply because we are not looking for it.

I guess that many times they probably thought of spending their master’s money recklessly. They probably toiled and teased themselves with the idea of just sitting back and playing it safe.

Temptation came to the 5 talent man as well as the 1 talent man. Temptation came to the 2 talent man as well as the 1 talent man and so forth. And we can’t put their success down to just pure luck, they were successful because they worked, but they didn’t just work, they worked hard.

Let’s look at the third man in the parable.

Now we know that he failed his duty, Matthew 25:18. I don’t think he deliberately set out to fail, he probably left his master’s presence with the firm intention to justify the confidence that had been placed in him.

So why then did the third man fail? Well, there are a few possibilities.

1. He failed because he didn’t have faith in himself.

Maybe the one talented man was unsure of his abilities and when he compared his gift with the larger gifts, he was afraid that he couldn’t do as much as them, 1 Corinthians 12:22-25. And so in not wanting to do the least, he did nothing.

It’s all about recognising the different talents that each of us has. We all have different talents, and there is no shame in recognising that you can’t do certain jobs for the Lord, but there is a shame if you know you have a talent and you don’t use it and so just bury it in the ground.

2. The man failed because he didn’t have the courage to work.

Jesus calls him in Matthew 25:26, “A wicked, lazy servant!” He was afraid to work and isn’t this the cause of most failures in life? If a person doesn’t work, if a person isn’t willing to pay the price in hard labour, they will never be crowned with success, Proverbs 10:4.

Just as this is true in the physical sense, it’s also true in the spiritual sense, Hebrews 6:10-12. God has got no room for laziness because He has given each of us a gift to use in His kingdom. And if we just bury those gifts in our hearts then God’s work won’t get done as His will wants it done.

3. He failed because he didn’t have enough faith in his master.

Maybe he thought he just had a bad deal. Matthew 25:24 tells us that this guy “Knew that his master was a hard man.” And don’t many people have a picture of God as a hard man in their minds?

It amazes me how many people see God as this stern power that is either making unreasonable demands or someone who is pushing people around to get His own way.

Now if this were true that would be all the more reason why we should all strive to use the talents He has given us. But as we know this is not true because that’s not a clear picture of God.

He loves us and pities us and extends His arms to us all in mercy because when He gives us a task, He gives us the means to accomplish the task.

We have more power than we can ever measure available to us to do a task for God, all we need to do is ask Him for it, Ephesians 3:20. Because according to Paul that power is already at work within us.

3. The consequences of using and not using our talents.

When the master came home there was a time of reckoning. Jesus says the exact same thing to the man with the 5 talents and the man with the 2 talents and for them their reward was to be two-fold, Matthew 25:19-23.

They were admitted into the joy of their Lord. This meant they were granted the right to sit at their Lord’s banquet table. This was a privilege that slaves never received but at the same time one which perhaps automatically gave them their freedom.

Did you know that an inheritance awaits all Christians who work and do His will? 1 Peter 1:3-5. And did you know that is the very reason why we keep going even though we go through all kinds of trials in our lives? 1 Peter 1:6-9.

That’s why these guys worked hard because they had a goal and because of their faith in their Lord, they reached that goal.

And what was that goal? Well not just an inheritance which will never fade or spoil, they received the most important thing of all, the salvation of their souls.

Ultimately that’s why you’re a Christian, you want to go to heaven. And please remember that they didn’t work hard for their reward, they worked hard because of their reward. In other words, we don’t work for our salvation, we work because of our salvation, Ephesians 2:8-9.

Let’s look at the one talented man in the parable.

He was forbidden to come in and take part in his master’s happiness and everything he had, was taken from him, Matthew 25:24-28. Let me ask you, is this a picture of a harsh master?

I don’t think it is, I think it’s the inevitable consequence of doing nothing. Too many people question God about the way He deals with people.

In Romans 9 when Paul is describing how God does things the way He wants to do things and people are questioning this. Paul says that the creator of human life has the right to take human life and use it for His purpose, Romans 9:21.

You’ve all heard the saying, “If you don’t use it, you’ll lose it.” It is a law of life that we will lose what we fail to use. And in the spiritual realms, every gift given by God must be put to work or else it will be taken from us, Matthew 25:29.

What was the difference between the servants? Why were two profitable and one unprofitable? The answer lies not in the fact that the two from the beginning were more gifted. With all their ability they still could have been lazy and buried their talents.

It wasn’t because they were brilliant or because they had a knack for business that they were commended. They were commended simply because they had been faithful in the service of their absent Lord. Each man with the ability they possessed had done his best.

And we too when the day of reckoning comes and we turn to our eternal home, it may well be that some will come with an arm full of trophies. It may well be that some will come with only a few trophies, but you need to come with something, nobody can come empty-handed.

This is a stern warning for us all because He’s speaking about people who profess to follow His ways here. And we need to choose today what God is going to say to you on Judgement Day.

He told the foolish virgins “I tell you the truth, I don’t know you.’ Matthew 25:12.

He told the goats on His left “Depart from me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels,’ Matthew 25:41.

He told the wicked, lazy servant “Throw that worthless servant outside, into the darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.” Matthew 25:30.

I don’t know about you but for me, I don’t want to hear those words coming from the Father’s lips. I would rather hear the words He spoke to these servants who used their talents well, “Well done, good and faithful servant! You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things. Come and share your master’s happiness!’” Matthew 25:21.

And remember it’s not a talent contest, it’s about reaching our goal, the salvation of our souls. It’s about using the talents which God has blessed us with to reach others until the day He returns to take us home.

The Sheep And The Goats

‘When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, he will sit on his glorious throne. All the nations will be gathered before him, and he will separate the people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. He will put the sheep on his right and the goats on his left. “Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’ “Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’ “The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’ “Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. For I was hungry and you gave me nothing to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink, I was a stranger and you did not invite me in, I needed clothes and you did not clothe me, I was sick and in prison and you did not look after me.’ “They also will answer, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or needing clothes or sick or in prison, and did not help you?’ “He will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me.’ “Then they will go away to eternal punishment, but the righteous to eternal life.” Matthew 25:31-46

This is the last story of Jesus’ teaching ministry, and this insight into the final judgment mustn’t be missed.

So, what have we learned so far? Jesus said, “When the Son of man comes back he’s going to be looking for faith.” Luke 18:8. He’s going to be looking for a faith that was steady for the long haul. He’s going to be looking for a faith that actively attempts to increase the master’s kingdom assets.

And how is that done? The third thing we learn, that matters most of all to the Master is, serving people. Real faith possesses a heart for others, faith becomes love or else it’s not real faith. In every one of these stories, there’s a big surprise when the Master returns. Judgement day is going to be full of surprises.

I think one of the things that are going to surprise most people is the things that they thought were so important. The things they fought about, the things that split churches all over the place, didn’t matter much to the judge.

Because the judge taught there are basically two commandments, ‘Love God with all you’ve got and love His children too.’ Mark 12:30-31.

He says, ‘you’re making it way too hard people, it’s not that hard, two things I’m looking for.’ We can’t keep the 1st commandment if you don’t keep the 2nd commandment, 1 John 4:19-21.

Notice two very critical observations about judgement according to Jesus.

1. What the judge expects is within the reach of everyone.

The sheep did what every man can do, their labour of love didn’t require a vast amount of money. Their labour of love didn’t require a lot of theological instructions.

Don’t say, ‘I’m not a five-talent man, so I can’t do that.’ Everything the judge wants to see most is something every person can do.

They didn’t perform big miracles, notice, He didn’t say, ‘you healed the sick.’ He didn’t say, ‘you freed the prisoners.’ He didn’t say, ‘you’ll stop world hunger.’

He said, ‘you visited sick people, you went to a few jails, you shared your food.’ It wasn’t big miracles, it was little ministries that we can all do, the necessities of life, food, drink, clothing, shelter, medical care, and comfort in affliction, Matthew 25:35-39 / Matthew 25:42-44 / 1 John 3:17-18.

The first thing the Judge is going to look for is something everyone can do.

2. Those who the Judge called ‘good’ were quite aware of their goodness.

They didn’t do their labour of love to be seen by men, and that’s the difference between living by faith and being a legalist. A legalist can always tell you what their acts of goodness are, they keep a record of it. These people weren’t keeping records, this wasn’t done for merit.

This was just the unconscious outflow of the heart that was changed by the Master’s grace. And even though they didn’t know it, every act of kindness they did to another human being, the Master received as a gift to Himself.

Someday the whole world is going to understand what we’ve talked about. The whole world is going to understand that what they thought was important, wasn’t important, but we can understand now. We have insight now into what the whole world is going to find out then.

On that day, a lot of people are going to be shocked, including many believers, to find out that what they thought mattered didn’t and what they didn’t think mattered does.

They’re finally going to find out what Paul said, “The only thing that counts is faith expressing itself through love.” Galatians 5:6.

Jesus makes a point that few people believe. Yes, there is heaven, and the blessed will enjoy it eternally. But just as truly there is hell, a place of eternal torment, Mark 9:43-48, that is equal in duration to the eternal life in the heaven of the blessed.

The terms ‘everlasting’ and ‘eternal’, in Matthew 25:46 are both translations of the same Greek word, which means ‘without end’.

The best way to wait forwardly for Jesus is to ask yourself every day, ‘what am I doing for people that cannot pay me back?’ The thing about waiting for Jesus to come back is that we don’t have to wait to serve Him, we can serve Him right now by doing for people that can’t pay us back.

I believe taking judgment seriously means taking Jesus seriously now. So today is your day to make that judgement, but if the Bible is right, tomorrow is His day to make the judgement.

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