Gospel of Matthew

Matthew - Lesson 25A

Chapter 25:1-30

Next lesson

  • So we have reached the end of Chapter 24, and yet we’re only halfway through the Olivet Discourse

    • So what will Jesus cover in the second half of His teaching about the end times and His return?

      • Well, the answer can be a bit confusing, because Jesus is going to teach us everything He just said again… in parables, backward

      • Allow me to explain…

    • First, these parables are well-known, and perhaps for that reason, people often disagree about what they mean

      • Fortunately, the Lord did us a favor by presenting this material in a way that makes it easier for us to understand Him

      • In fact, it will allow us to study this chapter in only two weeks instead of the six weeks we required for Chapter 24

    • Specifically, Jesus organized his discussions of His Second Coming and His coming for the Church in a chiastic form

      • A chiasm is just a type of outline but unlike our style of outlines, a chiasm organizes its points in a back and forth pattern

      • Each point is covered first from beginning to end and then the same points are covered a second time in reverse order

      • And the juncture where the order reverses is intended to draw our attention to the main point of the narrative

  • The easiest way to understand a chiasm is by seeing a visual representation of it, so let’s look at how Jesus structured His chiasm in the Olivet Discourse 

    • The chiasm starts in 24:15 when Jesus begins describing His Second Coming at the end of the age

      • Then Jesus discussed the judgment for unbelievers that will take place immediately after His Second Coming 

      • Remember Jesus said the tribes of the earth would mourn at the sight of His returning in v.30 because their judgment followed

    • Next, in v.36 Jesus introduced a different type of return, which He called the coming of the Lord and which we call the Rapture

      • The coming of the Lord is very different from the Second Coming since it will be unpredictable, unannounced, and sudden

      • Most importantly, it’s a day only for the believer, and in fact, unbelievers on earth won’t even detect that it’s happening

    • Then as we learned last week, immediately following the coming of the Lord, a judgment moment takes place for all believers in the Church

      • This will be the judgment seat of Christ when our service to Jesus is evaluated and Jesus rewards our good service

      • So just as judgment for the unbeliever will follow the Second Coming so also judgment for believers will follow the Rapture

  • But now as we move into Chapter 25, we find Jesus using parables to cover the same material again

    • And that repetition of ideas is what alerts us that we’re dealing with a chiastic structure

      • And knowing this narrative is organized as a chiasm is important to helping us properly interpret His teaching

      • And the key to the value of a chiasm is knowing that the topics in the second half of the outline are presented in reverse order

      • That means that the first parables of Chapter 25 will cover the same materials as the last section of Chapter 24 and so on

    • Therefore, our interpretation in the second half of the chiasm must line up with our interpretation from the first half or else we’ve gone wrong 

      • That’s often why we find different and wrong interpretations of this passage and particularly of these parables

      • If we overlook the fact that Jesus organized this material in a chiastic fashion, we will confuse the timing of these events

      • We might assume Jesus organized this material chronologically, and if so our timing of these events will be way off

      • By the way, the chiasm gets its name from the way this back and forth structure is somewhat representative of the Greek letter chi  

    • So with that background lesson, let’s dive into Chapter 25 and the parables that elaborate on what we’ve learned in Chapter 24

      • And since we spent considerable time examining Chapter 24, we should find it much easier to move through the parables 

Matt. 25:1 “Then the kingdom of heaven will be comparable to ten virgins, who took their lamps and went out to meet the bridegroom.
Matt. 25:2 “Five of them were foolish, and five were prudent.
Matt. 25:3 “For when the foolish took their lamps, they took no oil with them,
Matt. 25:4 but the prudent took oil in flasks along with their lamps.
Matt. 25:5 “Now while the bridegroom was delaying, they all got drowsy and began to sleep.
Matt. 25:6 “But at midnight there was a shout, ‘Behold, the bridegroom! Come out to meet him.’
Matt. 25:7 “Then all those virgins rose and trimmed their lamps.
Matt. 25:8 “The foolish said to the prudent, ‘Give us some of your oil, for our lamps are going out.’
Matt. 25:9 “But the prudent answered, ‘No, there will not be enough for us and you too; go instead to the dealers and buy some for yourselves.’
Matt. 25:10 “And while they were going away to make the purchase, the bridegroom came, and those who were ready went in with him to the wedding feast; and the door was shut.
Matt. 25:11 “Later the other virgins also came, saying, ‘Lord, lord, open up for us.’
Matt. 25:12 “But he answered, ‘Truly I say to you, I do not know you.’
Matt. 25:13 “Be on the alert then, for you do not know the day nor the hour.
  • So we know this parable is teaching about the coming of the Lord, because it’s paired up with the topic that ended Chapter 24

    • But even if we didn’t know about the chiasm, we could still see clearly from the details that this parable was describing the Rapture 

      • First, Jesus says this parable is about the Kingdom of Heaven, which is a reference to our future life in the Kingdom

      • Secondly, this parable is of a bride waiting for her groom to claim her for her wedding day

      • And we remember that Jesus used this same analogy in John 14 

      • He said the coming of the Lord will be like a Groom appearing suddenly to claim His Bride and take Her away 

    • Thirdly, there are ten women waiting to be married in the parable, but notice the parable only mentions a single groom

      • We should expect ten grooms for ten brides, but in v.1, v.5, v.6, v.10, v.11 & v.12, we have references to a single bridegroom

      • That also tells us this parable is about the Bride of Christ, which is made up of many individuals, and our one Groom, Christ

      • So the details of the parable itself point us to the events of the Rapture 

      • And its connection in the chiasm to Chapter 24 gives us further confirmation

  • Jesus refers to these ten women as virgins, and a virgin is the Bible’s term for a single woman of marrying age

    • Such a woman is called a virgin because a woman (and a man) were expected to refrain from sexual relations prior to marriage

      • Sex outside marriage is sin, so from the perspective of a God-fearing culture, all unmarried women are to be virgins

      • By the way, God’s expectation for purity before marriage has never changed, so virginity is still the standard for godliness

    • These virgins have gone outside to wait for their bridegroom, which indicates the virgins are expecting the groom to return soon

      • His exact arrival moment is still unknown, but the virgins are waiting and watching

      • And because it’s night time, the virgins have brought lamps to help light the way and so they can see their groom

    • Yet in v.2 Jesus says half of the virgins are wise and half are foolish because the wise virgins have oil in their lamps and the foolish do not

      • And when Jesus uses the terms wise and foolish, He isn’t merely describing their actions

      • Zechariah 4 teaches that oil in a lamp is the Bible’s picture of the presence and power of the Holy Spirit

      • And Romans teaches that all who are saved by faith in Jesus Christ have the indwelling of the Spirit as a seal of redemption 

    • So Jesus is using the terms wise and foolish to describe the state of these virgin’s hearts 

      • According to the Psalms, the wise are those who receive instruction from the Lord and have hearts of understanding 

      • While the foolish are those who have no fear of the Lord and have hearts of wickedness and evil

      • So the wise virgins possess a good spiritual nature while the foolish possess an evil spiritual nature

  • Simply put, those virgins with oil in their lamps picture believers – those who have the Holy Spirit – while the other five virgins are unbelieving 

    • The believing virgins are prepared for the Lord’s return, since they possess the light of the Spirit, and they will see their groom 

      • The unbelieving virgins lack the oil, meaning they lack the Spirit, so when the groom comes they will not see Him

      • Remember, when the Rapture happens, the believer will be taken but the unbelievers will not even see that the Lord came

    • So if the five virgins without oil are not believers, why are they called virgins in the parable? 

      • Because it’s common for parables in the Bible to feature characters who turn out to be imposters in the end

      • So as the parable begins, all ten appear to be the same but later events in the parable reveal all is not as it seems

      • In this case, Jesus is contrasting the future of those who are His by faith with those who are not believing

  • Next in v.5 Jesus says that the groom didn’t come back as soon as the virgins were expecting, so the virgins began to grow sleepy

    • Of course, you cannot be watching while you are sleeping, so their vigilance wanes until they are woken by a shout at midnight

      • Their bridegroom approaches and so now is the time to turn on the lamps so he can find his brides and they can see him

      • But the virgins without oil in their lamps suddenly realize they are unprepared for the groom’s return and they grow desperate  

      • In seeking a solution, they ask to borrow oil from the other five virgins but those virgins refuse saying they can’t help

      • The only way to get oil is to go to the source, to the dealer who provides lamp oil

    • But it’s too late, because it takes too long to purchase the oil, and the groom arrives too quickly

      • He takes the five prepared virgins and enters the bridal chamber and closes the door

      • Interestingly, the other five virgins without oil still try to enter the room but they can’t open the door

      • And the Lord responds that He doesn’t know these other women, which means he doesn’t recognize them as His wives

    • This story is a perfect illustration of the day of the Rapture as we learned in Chapter 24

      • When the Lord comes, He will instantly receive to Himself those who belong to Him by faith

      • And those who are not His will be left behind, because Jesus did not know them 

      • And there will be no time for those who don’t know Jesus to decide to believe and join the event

      • It happens too quickly and invisibly, so that by the time those left behind on earth realize what’s happened, the door will be shut

  • So now let’s use our chiasm to double check our work, because our interpretation of the parable should match up with Jesus’ earlier teaching

    • First in Matthew 24:36-41, Jesus said the coming of the Lord will be like the days of Noah with people unaware that the return of Christ was near

      • Until one day there would be two working in the field or in the mill, and one would be taken and the other left

      • After Noah entered the safety of the ark, those who wished to enter couldn’t because the door was shut and could not open

    • In all these details, we find a perfect comparison to the parable

      • In the parable there is the sudden arrival of the groom when the virgins were not expecting His return

      • After He arrives, half are taken and half remain behind, and those left behind try to enter but the door is shut and will not open

      • All these details line up with the matching passage from Matthew 24, so our chiasm confirms we are on the right track  

  • What then is the point of the parable? Jesus gives us the point of the parable at the end in v.13: be on alert for the return of the Lord

    • Those five virgins who lacked oil in their lamps were unprepared for the groom’s return so that’s the point: make sure you have oil

      • Or in other words, the one thing we must have if we want to be ready for the Lord’s return is to have the Holy Spirit by faith

      • Those who are saved are ready and wise and prudent, but those who are not saved are foolish and unprepared and left behind

    • Until a person has placed their faith in Jesus Christ, nothing else matters

      • There is no Kingdom future for that person, no eternal glory, no rewards

      • There’s no point talking to that person about how to stop sinning or about the signs of the end of the age

      • There’s no reason to encourage them to serve a Lord they do not know or to do anything other than to put their faith in Jesus

      • If you don’t possess the Spirit, Jesus says He doesn’t know you, and if He doesn’t know you, He isn’t going to rescue you

    • And how do you get this oil? First, you have to go to the source to get your oil, as the parable says

      • You can’t get it from someone else by association or by community 

      • You can hang around Christians all you want, but you won’t become one by association 

      • You can attend church or small groups all you want, but you don’t get saved by being in community

      • Your spouse may be Christian, but that won’t save you…your kids may pray for you and you may do good works, but that isn’t oil

  • You have to go to the source for your oil, and the source is Christ Himself

    • You need to understand you are not OK the way you are without Jesus

      • Despite what you may have heard others say, God does not love you and have a wonderful plan for your life if you aren’t His

      • The Bible says His wrath rests of those who practice sin, and His plan for all who reject Him is not wonderful…it’s horrifying 

      • It is a future in an eternal place of weeping and gnashing of teeth, a place of burning and torment

    • But Jesus is willing and able to save you from that eternal fate if you place your faith in Him, if you trust Him to pay that price for you

      • And as you place your faith in Him, you receive forgiveness for all your sins, and you are washed clean and you receive the Spirit

      • And because you have the Spirit, your “oil,” then when He comes, you will see Him and He will receive you joyfully

    • And because you don’t know when that day comes, you can’t plan to get right with God when you see the Lord coming for His Bride

      • There is no better time to confess Jesus as Lord than now…because you don’t know if you have tomorrow

      • Salvation cannot wait for another day because you don’t know if you have another day…that’s the lesson of this first parable

  • And that leads us to the second parable…

Matt. 25:14 “For it is just like a man about to go on a journey, who called his own slaves and entrusted his possessions to them.
Matt. 25:15 “To one he gave five talents, to another, two, and to another, one, each according to his own ability; and he went on his journey.
Matt. 25:16 “Immediately the one who had received the five talents went and traded with them, and gained five more talents.
Matt. 25:17 “In the same manner the one who had received the two talents gained two more.
Matt. 25:18 “But he who received the one talent went away, and dug a hole in the ground and hid his master’s money.
  • As we begin our study of this parable, let’s take a second look at our chiasm, our roadmap 

    • This parable is paired up in the chiasm with Jesus teaching on the believer’s judgment for rewards in Matthew 24:42-51

      • Which means this is an illustration of how believers are judged after the Rapture, when Jesus evaluates our service to Him

      • But once again, even if we knew nothing about chiasms, we could still understand the meaning of the parable by its details

    • So looking at the parable, a master gives his slaves “talents" to steward during His absence

      • A talent in Jesus’ day was a measure of weight of about 130 lb or nearly 60 kg

      • A talent of silver was equal to 9 years salary for a laborer, so even a single talent represented considerable wealth

      • In fact, the meaning of our modern word “talent” finds its origins in this parable, since a talent is something used to bring wealth

    • The three slaves in the parable were given differing amounts of wealth to manage in the master’s absence, according to each’s ability in v.15

      • But regardless of their different assignments, each slave was expected to manage his assigned wealth responsibly

      • Even the slave who received only one talent still had a significant responsibility in light of the high value of a talent

      • Therefore, all slaves were required and expected to serve their master’s interests faithfully in his absence.

Matt. 25:19  “Now after a long time the master of those slaves came and settled accounts with them.
Matt. 25:20 “The one who had received the five talents came up and brought five more talents, saying, ‘Master, you entrusted five talents to me. See, I have gained five more talents.’
Matt. 25:21 “His master said to him, ‘Well done, good and faithful slave. You were faithful with a few things, I will put you in charge of many things; enter into the joy of your master.’
Matt. 25:22  “Also the one who had received the two talents came up and said, ‘Master, you entrusted two talents to me. See, I have gained two more talents.’
Matt. 25:23 “His master said to him, ‘Well done, good and faithful slave. You were faithful with a few things, I will put you in charge of many things; enter into the joy of your master.’
Matt. 25:24  “And the one also who had received the one talent came up and said, ‘Master, I knew you to be a hard man, reaping where you did not sow and gathering where you scattered no seed.
Matt. 25:25 ‘And I was afraid, and went away and hid your talent in the ground. See, you have what is yours.’
Matt. 25:26  “But his master answered and said to him, ‘You wicked, lazy slave, you knew that I reap where I did not sow and gather where I scattered no seed.
Matt. 25:27 ‘Then you ought to have put my money in the bank, and on my arrival I would have received my money back with interest.
Matt. 25:28 ‘Therefore take away the talent from him, and give it to the one who has the ten talents.’
Matt. 25:29  “For to everyone who has, more shall be given, and he will have an abundance; but from the one who does not have, even what he does have shall be taken away.
Matt. 25:30 “Throw out the worthless slave into the outer darkness; in that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.
  • So the master returns and evaluates each slave’s service to see if the slaves have been faithful in discharging their duties

    • The slave given five talents doubled the master’s money as did the slave given two talents

      • Even though one slave earned far more than the other, both received the same commendation with identical wording

      • They had different starting points because the master assigned them different responsibilities

      • But both rendered faithful service and so they both received the same reward, which was the right to manage additional wealth

      • So the master’s rewards to his slaves were based on their faithful service, not on the magnitude of their achievements

    • Then we have the third slave who only received a single talent, presumably because he had a low potential to manage well

      • And sure enough, this slave proves the master right because he mismanages even the one talent he was given

      • He simply dug a hole in the ground and hid his talent

    • When the master returns to evaluate that third slave, he rebukes the slave for failing to provide faithful service

      • The slave said he feared the master because he was demanding, a man who expected a harvest even in fields he hadn’t planted

      • But notice in v.26 the master calls this slave “lazy” which means he doesn’t buy the man’s excuse for not serving well

    • The master says if the slave knew he was demanding, then that’s all the more reason for the slave to be diligent in serving him well

      • If the slave was concerned about keeping the talent safe, then put it in the bank, where at least it would have earned interest

      • So the slave was not afraid, he was lazy and uninterested in serving the master

      • Moreover, he demonstrates that he didn’t truly know the master, or else he would have understood what was expected 

  • So the master takes that slave’s single talent and gives it to the other slave who showed the greatest potential to manage the master’s business 

    • While the third slave is consigned to outer darkness, to a place that represents eternal punishment in hell

      • Here again, we see that common feature of parables where one character is revealed at the end to be an imposter 

      • Since the third slave lacked a true relationship with the master, he was never truly a servant

      • He only knew the master as hard and unreasonable, but he never knew him to be loving and generous and willing to reward 

      • Like those virgins without oil, the master did not know this slave so he is not a part of the master’s house

    • So we can clearly see Jesus is describing a reward system for believers in this parable, which is exactly what our chiasm predicted

      • Jesus (our Master) expects every believer to serve Him during His absence

      • A talent in the parable symbolizes a believer’s opportunity to serve the Lord faithfully in some important and challenging way

    • The way we are called to serve the Lord will vary in keeping with our abilities and station in life

      • Jesus calls some believers to bear greater burdens in service to Him, to make greater sacrifices, to manage more talents

      • Nevertheless, we are all His servants so we all have an expectation to serve and we all have opportunity for reward 

      • Our reward doesn’t depend on the magnitude of our effort or the degree of our success…just our faithfulness to serve

  • And how will we be rewarded? This is where we must be careful in drawing conclusions from the parable for details that aren’t made clear to us

    • For example, in the parable the slaves kept the additional talents and were even given more talents taken from the third slave

      • But in our case, we can’t say exactly what form our material rewards will take in the Kingdom

      • We can say that there are material rewards involved, some measure of wealth in the Kingdom

    • Jesus tells us that we will receive material reward in the Kingdom as part of our reward for serving Him here now

Luke 16:10 “He who is faithful in a very little thing is faithful also in much; and he who is unrighteous in a very little thing is unrighteous also in much.
Luke 16:11 “Therefore if you have not been faithful in the use of unrighteous wealth, who will entrust the true riches to you?
Luke 16:12 “And if you have not been faithful in the use of that which is another’s, who will give you that which is your own? 
Luke 16:13 “No servant can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or else he will be devoted to one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and wealth.”
  • Unrighteous wealth is Jesus’ term for the money of this unrighteous world, the wealth of earth 

  • While true riches refers to the wealth of the Kingdom, the wealth that can never fade or rust or be stolen

  • So Jesus says that there is wealth in the Kingdom just as there is wealth in this world, but this world’s wealth burns up one day

    • But the wealth of the Kingdom lasts, and what we have there is connected to how well we serve Christ here

    • So we must choose whether to serve the interest of earthly wealth or serve Christ’s interests…we can’t serve both

  • That’s why Paul tells us this in Colossians

Col. 3:23 Whatever you do, do your work heartily, as for the Lord rather than for men,
Col. 3:24 knowing that from the Lord you will receive the reward of the inheritance. It is the Lord Christ whom you serve.
  • We don’t know what our reward will be exactly, but that doesn’t matter because we can trust Jesus to do what is right and good

  • Meanwhile, we have incentive to do our best at all times because we don’t know when He comes so we want to be ready

  • So what’s the point of the second parable: believers also need to be ready for Jesus’ return, and we get ready by being found doing what Jesus asked us to do

    • He has asked us to serve Him, to go to the nations to bring believers into the Church and teach them to obey Christ

      • We each do our part in that work in our own way, according to Jesus’ direction and the gifts and opportunities He gave us

      • Some of us bear greater burdens by managing more talents, so to speak, but all have something to do according to our ability 

    • And we all are being measured according to the same scale of faithfulness so we each have opportunity for equal reward

      • What matters is not our results or even the degree of work…it is faithful desire to please Him knowing He will reward us

      • Remember what the writer of Hebrews said about faith:

Heb. 11:6 And without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is and that He is a rewarder of those who seek Him.
  • We must first believe that Jesus is the Lord, the writer says, because without that faith it’s impossible to please Him

    • But the writer goes on to say that it’s also impossible to please Jesus if we don’t believe that Jesus is a rewarder too

    • We need that motivation of reward to offset our sin which is motivating us to do the opposite of pleasing Jesus

  • You might tell me that you don’t like the idea of serving Jesus for the opportunity for rewards…

    • You say you want to serve Jesus just because you love Him and He saved you

    • To which I would say, you’re right…serving Jesus because you love Him is the best reason to serve….so why aren’t you doing it?

    • And we all know the answer…because loving someone isn’t always enough to get us to do the right thing

  • Parents, you love your children and they know you love them, and you care for them and so you should expect them to do what you tell them to do, right?

    • But despite your love for them, they still disobey you, don’t they?

      • So apparently love isn’t always enough to motivate good behavior, and we know why…it’s called sin

      • Sin inside every one of us motivates us to act in unloving ways even against those we know love us

      • So we sometimes use reward to motivate our children to obey us and our Father in Heaven does the same thing for us

    • The Lord has given us resources to use in serving Him, and He holds out the opportunity for reward for those who please Him by their service

      • You cannot please Him if you don’t have faith in Him, if you don’t have oil, if you don’t have the Spirit

      • So the first step to pleasing God is to place your faith in Jesus Christ

    • Then for those who have faith, the Lord expects us to use our resources – our time, talent and treasure – to serve Him knowing He rewards us

      • First, you have time to give to Jesus in service, and time is perhaps the most precious commodity you have to offer

      • In our modern age, the enemy has been particularly focused on taking away our available time

      • Many of us have treasure and all of us have talent, but few of us seem to have time anymore

    • Now in these days of quarantine, you may have more time than you have ever had before to offer Jesus…so how are you using that time?

      • Can you look back on the weeks and months just passed and see your service to Jesus? Can others see it? Or was it wasted?

      • Is your service time buried like a talent in the backyard? 

    • Consider how you spend every minute of your day, and ask yourself which minutes are spent serving Jesus and which minutes are for you?

      • If you want to be ready for your Lord’s return, then take an inventory of how you spend your time and make some decisions

      • Remember, Jesus said you can’t serve God and wealth, and yet so much of our life is about serving the cause of ourselves

      • Shift time away from worldly pursuits and toward eternal concerns, and you will be pleasing your Master

  • Secondly, how are you using your talent, and by talent I mean your natural and supernatural abilities?

    • We all have been equipped by God with natural born abilities and a spiritual gift that we received when we came to faith

      • So are you using those abilities, those talents, for Jesus in some way?

      • If you have a gift to pray, are you praying? If you have a gift to teach, are you teaching someone?

      • If you have a gift of leadership, are you actively leading God’s people?

      • Or if a gift of encouragement or helps or giving or whatever…is that talent buried or is it being put to work?

    • If you want to be ready for your Lord’s return, be sure to be found using your talents as the Master assigned you to do in His absence

      • And your assigned spiritual gift is a pretty good indication of how the Master wanted you serving Him 

      • Learn what your gift is by stepping out in different areas of service, and make use of your spiritual gift and you will please the master

  • Finally, we are called by Scripture to be generous in our treasure for the sake of the Kingdom 

    • Jesus said we can’t serve wealth and serve God at the same time, but we can use our wealth to serve God

      • How much you decide to give to the Lord’s work or where you send or put your money to work, it is between you and the Lord

      • There is no amount of giving set by Scripture for the Christian, and it’s not my business what you do with your wealth

    • I’m just saying that you should approach your treasure the same way you approach your time and your talent

      • When it comes to your wealth, concern yourself with pleasing Jesus

      • And if you bury your wealth, meaning you horde your money or you spend on your own desires, then you are being unfaithful

      • But if you give sacrificially to the needs of the body and to the work of the Kingdom, then you will be pleasing the Master

    • There is reward – eternal reward – for those who serve Him well

      • We should look forward to the day you see your Groom coming and we should do so with no regrets, eager to hear Him say:

      • Well done, good and faithful slave. You were faithful with a few things, I will put you in charge of many things; enter into the joy of your Master