Bible: What Does Matthew 25 Teach Us About Parables and About the Judgment of the Nations?
Wise and Foolish Virgins
Matthew 25: The Parable of the Wise and Foolish Virgins/The Parable of the Talents/Christ's Judgment Upon the Nations
Jesus continues the theme of the necessity of vigilance while waiting for His Second Coming by relating His “Parable of the Wise and Foolish Virgins” (vv. 1-13).
[The logical connective “Then” may signal this idea (v. 1).]
Charles Ryrie’s helpful note in his Study Bible-New Testament explains that these women represent the “professing Jewish remnant on earth at His [Christ’s] return” (53) [bracketed word mine].
Whereas five virgins wisely prepare themselves for the bridegroom’s (the Son of Man) return with His bride (the Church) by possessing oil to fill their lamps (vv. 2a, 4), five of them foolishly neglect to secure oil for themselves (vv. 2b-3).
Since the bridegroom delays his return, all of them go to bed (v. 5).
When he finally arrives at midnight, they all awake and trim their lamps (vv. 6-7); however, the foolish ones, having little oil left, must leave the premises to buy some more because the wise virgins have none to spare (vv. 8-9).
Those who are ready for the groom enter the wedding hall with him, and the door closes (v. 10).
When the others return and desire entrance, the master forbids it, declaring that he does not know them (vv. 11-12).
The moral: watch, and be vigilant at all times, for one does not know when the Messiah will return (v. 13).
The Parable of the Talents
A final parable—that of the Talents—contrasts the characteristics of those who make good use of God’s gifts (here, pieces of money, talents, [lit., silver]) with those who do not; the story also reveals where these servants stand in the kingdom of heaven (vv. 14-30).
The parable proper introduces a certain man (God) who, before going on a journey, gives varying numbers of talents—five, two, and one respectively—to his servants to do with what they will (vv. 14-15).
The first two men conduct business with the entrusted finances, and their investment pays off one hundredfold (vv. 16-17).
The third individual, however, buries the master’s money (v. 18).
Upon the lord’s return, the three servants appear before him to give an account of how they used their talent(s) [vv. 19-30]. Each interview proceeds in the following way:
(1) The servant summarizes his activity (or lack thereof) [vv. 20, 22, 24-25], and
(2) the master responds to his servant's report (vv. 21, 23, 26-30).
The two industrious servants receive from their lord the same commendation (“Well done, good and faithful servant . . .”) and the same reward for their faithfulness (“I will make you . . . lord”) [vv. 21, 23].
The only difference is that the man with the ten talents also acquires the talent the third man forfeits (vv. 28b-29).
On the other hand, the unfaithful man suffers the master’s severe reprimand for allowing bitterness toward the latter’s unfairness (falsely perceived) to keep him from performing the least that he could have done: put his money in the bank to earn interest (vv. 26-27).
He also must endure the confiscation of his talent (v. 28) and humiliating exclusion from the master’s presence (v. 30).
[Is this “humiliating exclusion” equivalent to eternal separation from God?]
Judgment of the "Sheep" and the "Goats"
The "Sheep and Goats" Judgment
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Do you believe in the eternal punishment of the unsaved?
A General Resurrection?
Do you believe in a general resurrection?
Jesus' Judgment of the Nations
Finally, Jesus discourses about His (the Son of Man’s) judgment of the Gentiles (that is, the nations) after He returns to Earth at the end of the Great Tribulation (vv. 31-46).
While seated on His throne, He directs His angels to gather before Him the relatively few people left alive after the decimation of this terrible time of trouble.
There He infallibly separates the “sheep” (believers) from the “goats” (unbelievers), putting the former on His right and the latter on His left (vv. 31-33).
The King’s approach to His assessment of these two groups follows a specific pattern:
(1) Having already separated the nations into two groups, He now assigns individuals to their destiny: either His kingdom (v. 34) or everlasting fire (v. 41);
(2) He explains His criterion for judgment: their treatment of His “brethren” (the Jews) during the Tribulation (vv. 35-36; 42-43);
(3) He allows group spokespersons to seek understanding of His criterion (vv. 37-39; 44); and
(4) He answers their query (vv. 40, 45).
After they all understand the King’s answer to this fundamental question, they go to their reward (eternal life) or to their damnation (eternal punishment) [v. 46].
The sheep, unconscious of their goodness in ministering to the Jews (and thus to Christ), inherit the kingdom/eternal life.
The goats, on the other hand, unconscious (?) of their neglect to help the Jews (and thus Christ) in their distress, go to Hell.
Their respective deeds show either the presence or the absence of a faith commitment to the Lord.
© 2013 glynch1