Matthew 25

Thursday Evening Bible Study

May 25, 2007


We are in the middle of the “Olivet Discourse”, where Jesus is sitting with His disciples on the Mount of Olives, looking back at the Temple Mount, and talking about the end times.  At the end of the previous chapter Jesus uses a little story, almost a parable to talk about two different servants, one that was waiting for his master’s return, the other one who didn’t think the master was returning too soon.

Now Jesus tells three parables.  A parable is a story drawn from real life, meant to teach a lesson. 

Jesus gave some insight into parables when He used the parable of the sower and the seed (Mat. 13).  A farmer sowed seed into four different types of soil and the type of crop that resulted depended on the type of ground the seed was sown on.  Jesus explained that the seed represented something and each type of soil represented a different kind of a person.

There are symbolic elements to a parable, but you need to be careful you don’t try to strain the sense of the parable.  The most important thing in understanding parables is to find the main lesson that the parable is trying to teach.

:1-13 Ten Virgins

:1 "Then the kingdom of heaven shall be likened to ten virgins who took their lamps and went out to meet the bridegroom.

We’re going to get a story based on the marriage customs of that day.

I understand that the custom was that the actual day and time of the wedding would be kept a secret.  It was the father of the groom that would decide when to actually hold the wedding.

The groom would go to the bride’s house and take his bride back to his father’s house.  It was not unusual for there to be a procession of friends or witnesses following the couple to the house.

This procession is going to happen at night, so the virgins all come with their oil lamps.

The typical oil lamp of the day was a small vessel holding about a cup of olive oil.

The “ten virgins” are waiting at the house of the bride.

:2 "Now five of them were wise, and five were foolish.

:3 "Those who were foolish took their lamps and took no oil with them,

If you told the story today, it might be about flashlights and having enough batteries to last the whole night.

:4 "but the wise took oil in their vessels with their lamps.

In interpreting parables, the question often is just how far do you go with the details?

Do the lamps and the oil represent something?  Do the virgins represent something?

The Bible talks about us as being “lights” of the world.  Oil is often a symbol of the Holy Spirit.  Some suggest the virgins might represent some sort of Jewish remnant on the earth at the rapture (Ryrie).

But to be honest, I’m not sure the point is has anything to do with lamps, oil, and virgins as much as being ready.

:5 "But while the bridegroom was delayed, they all slumbered and slept.

It was a long night.  Perhaps the bridegroom took longer than the young gals thought he would.

:6 "And at midnight a cry was heard: 'Behold, the bridegroom is coming; go out to meet him!'

:7 "Then all those virgins arose and trimmed their lamps.

:8 "And the foolish said to the wise, 'Give us some of your oil, for our lamps are going out.'

:9 "But the wise answered, saying, 'No, lest there should not be enough for us and you; but go rather to those who sell, and buy for yourselves.'

They sent them to 7-11 for batteries.

Some see this as a picture for the need for personal salvation.  You aren’t going to get into the wedding feast unless you have the oil of the Holy Spirit for yourself.  You can’t take someone else’s oil, you need to get your own.

:10 "And while they went to buy, the bridegroom came, and those who were ready went in with him to the wedding; and the door was shut.

At formal banquets, there would be a servant at the door checking the guests’ invitations to make sure only those invited got into the party.  But here the issue is not the invitation, but whether or not they got to the feast on time.

:11 "Afterward the other virgins came also, saying, 'Lord, Lord, open to us!'

:12 "But he answered and said, 'Assuredly, I say to you, I do not know you.'

:13 "Watch therefore, for you know neither the day nor the hour in which the Son of Man is coming.


Be ready for the long haul

It seems that the five foolish virgins had some oil at the beginning because at one point they say their lamps are going out, not that they didn’t have any to begin with.
Earlier in the Olivet Discourse (Mat. 24-25) Jesus said,
(Mat 24:13 NKJV)  "But he who endures to the end shall be saved.
One of my sons went out for track this year.  As a result, we got to see a couple of track meets.  You can learn some interesting life lessons at track meets.
When you watch the relay races, you learn how important it is to pass the baton.  In more than one race, a team didn’t lose because they ran too slow, they ran because they didn’t pass the baton well.  The person in front didn’t get a hold of it and dropped it.  I think that says something to us as older Christians, who have been in the race for awhile, to learn how to pass the baton on to the next generation.  It’s important that we learn to pass it correctly.
Another thing I liked to watch was the long distance races.  The person who leads the pack in the first couple of laps is not necessarily the one who is going to finish first.  It was a very common sight to see a kid ahead of the pack at the beginning, but lose their wind and end up coming in fifth or sixth.  Troy has one runner who knows how to run the distance races.  He rarely takes the lead the first five or six laps.  He will often be running second or third, just saving his energy.  But when he gets to the point where he has three laps to go, he will start picking up his pace, passing one runner and then another.  He often will end the race 50 yards ahead of the next runner, who often looks like they’re going to die trying to keep up with John.

The lesson is about pacing.  It’s about learning to run the long distance race.

The foolish virgins thought they only needed to worry about the sprint.  They started their evening off assuming they wouldn’t have to have oil for more than fifteen minutes or so.  But the evening went a bit longer than they expected.

The wise virgins were ready for the long evening.  They had the reserve oil to be able to handle a wakeup call at midnight.

Paul wrote,

(1 Cor 9:24-27 NKJV)  Do you not know that those who run in a race all run, but one receives the prize? Run in such a way that you may obtain it. {25} And everyone who competes for the prize is temperate in all things. Now they do it to obtain a perishable crown, but we for an imperishable crown. {26} Therefore I run thus: not with uncertainty. Thus I fight: not as one who beats the air. {27} But I discipline my body and bring it into subjection, lest, when I have preached to others, I myself should become disqualified.

Paul ran the race of his life as if to win.  But it wasn’t a sprint, it was a marathon. Beloved, we need to have balance in our lives. 

We need to balance our physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual needs. 

Physical – take care of your body.  If

Mental – I think it’s good to keep growing with our mind.  Keep learning.

Emotional – know your limits.  If you are sad or angry all the time, something’s out of balance.

Spiritual – the race we’re most concerned about is the spiritual race.  That requires that I keep feeding the spiritual man, I keep growing in prayer, growing in the Holy Spirit, growing in the Word, growing in fellowship.

We need to make sure we make it to the end of the race.  We need to finish well.

:14-30 The Talents

Do you remember what the context of this sermon is?  Jesus is talking about the times of the end, His Second Coming.  His Coming will involve rewards for serving Him.

:14 "For the kingdom of heaven is like a man traveling to a far country, who called his own servants and delivered his goods to them.

:15 "And to one he gave five talents, to another two, and to another one, to each according to his own ability; and immediately he went on a journey.

talentstalanton – the scale of a balance, a sum of money weighing a “talent”.  Apparently it had a different value in different cultures.  But it wasn’t a small amount of money, it was a large sum of money.

This master is going away for a trip and doesn’t want his money sitting there.  He wants his money safe, but he wants is earning some interest.

abilitydunamis – strength power, ability

In this story there are three servants, and they all have different “abilities”.  The master is aware of what each servant’s “abilities” are.  Each servant is given a sum of money to look after according to his ability.

:16 "Then he who had received the five talents went and traded with them, and made another five talents.

:17 "And likewise he who had received two gained two more also.

:18 "But he who had received one went and dug in the ground, and hid his lord's money.

:19 "After a long time the lord of those servants came and settled accounts with them.

:20 "So he who had received five talents came and brought five other talents, saying, 'Lord, you delivered to me five talents; look, I have gained five more talents besides them.'

:21 "His lord said to him, 'Well done, good and faithful servant; you were faithful over a few things, I will make you ruler over many things. Enter into the joy of your lord.'

:22 "He also who had received two talents came and said, 'Lord, you delivered to me two talents; look, I have gained two more talents besides them.'

:23 "His lord said to him, 'Well done, good and faithful servant; you have been faithful over a few things, I will make you ruler over many things. Enter into the joy of your lord.'

Compare the wording of verse 21 and 23, especially what the master says to each servant.  In the English you might see a word or two different, but in the Greek the phrases are identical.


God looks for faithfulness, not quantity

I find comfort in the fact that there’s a “two talent” guy in the story.  We can tend to compare ourselves with others and usually we don’t too well with the comparisons.  When I compare myself with other Calvary Chapel pastors (and I usually compare myself with the guys that have big churches), I don’t usually do so well.
So I’ve come to the conclusion that perhaps I’m just a “two talent” kind of guy.  I don’t mean this in any sort of demeaning way, but simply as a realization that I may not be the brightest lightbulb in the pack.  But if you pay attention, the “two talent” guy gets the same reward as the “five talent” guy.
I may not have the capacity to do things like other people, but I have a capacity that God has given me, and I need to be faithful to honor God at my own capacity.
Be careful that you don’t rule out God working in your life simply because you think you’re not very sharp. 
What God is really looking for is “faithfulness” – doing something with what He’s blessed you with.

:24 "Then he who had received the one talent came and said, 'Lord, I knew you to be a hard man, reaping where you have not sown, and gathering where you have not scattered seed.

:25 'And I was afraid, and went and hid your talent in the ground. Look, there you have what is yours.'

:26 "But his lord answered and said to him, 'You wicked and lazy servant, you knew that I reap where I have not sown, and gather where I have not scattered seed.

:27 'So you ought to have deposited my money with the bankers, and at my coming I would have received back my own with interest.

:28 'Therefore take the talent from him, and give it to him who has ten talents.

:29 'For to everyone who has, more will be given, and he will have abundance; but from him who does not have, even what he has will be taken away.

:30 'And cast the unprofitable servant into the outer darkness. There will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.'


Manage your investments

God has given you treasures.  Do you know what they are?
It might be in your physical body.  Perhaps you have skills and abilities – things you’re good at.  That’s part of your treasure from God.
It might be in your mind.  Some of you have learned to use your brain a bit more than the rest of us.  That’s a treasure.
It might be in your relationships.  Do you realize what treasures you have in the people around you?  Your friends?  Your family?
It will include your spiritual gifts.  God has special supernatural abilities He wants to give to you.  But they are things He wants to be used.
Be faithful to use and invest whatever God has blessed you with.


Work for the right approval

Some folks live their lives looking for approval.  For some it might be the approval of a parent.  Others a looking for their spouse’s approval.  Others are looking for the approval of the people they work with or live with.
We want people to like us.  We want people to say we’re “ok”.
But we need to be looking for that day when He’ll say “Well done”.  We need to be looking for His approval.

:31-46 Sheep and Goats

Do you remember what the context of this sermon is?  Jesus is talking about the times of the end, His Second Coming.  His Coming will involve judgment.

(Heb 9:27 NKJV)  And as it is appointed for men to die once, but after this the judgment,

:31 "When the Son of Man comes in His glory, and all the holy angels with Him, then He will sit on the throne of His glory.

:32 "All the nations will be gathered before Him, and He will separate them one from another, as a shepherd divides his sheep from the goats.

:33 "And He will set the sheep on His right hand, but the goats on the left.


When the rapture occurs, the church will be taken to heaven to be with the Lord.

For the following seven years, there will be judgment and wrath poured out on the earth, the antichrist will rise to power, and God’s main instrument to bring people to Himself will be through believing Jews.

Though it seems many will turn to Christ (Rev. 7), it won’t be easy and many will die in the persecution that is a part of the Tribulation.

At the end of the seven year Tribulation, Jesus will return with the church.  He will judge those who have made it through the Tribulation alive.  After this judgment, He will begin His 1,000 year reign on the earth.

This initial judgment is what is being described here.
There will be another judgment happening at the end of the 1,000 years called the “Great White Throne Judgment”, when all the unbelieving dead are resurrected to face their judgment.

Practical – we will all be judged by God.

There will be people who go to heaven and people who go to hell.

:34 "Then the King will say to those on His right hand, 'Come, you blessed of My Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world:

:35 'for I was hungry and you gave Me food; I was thirsty and you gave Me drink; I was a stranger and you took Me in;

:36 'I was naked and you clothed Me; I was sick and you visited Me; I was in prison and you came to Me.'

:37 "Then the righteous will answer Him, saying, 'Lord, when did we see You hungry and feed You, or thirsty and give You drink?

:38 'When did we see You a stranger and take You in, or naked and clothe You?

:39 'Or when did we see You sick, or in prison, and come to You?'

:40 "And the King will answer and say to them, 'Assuredly, I say to you, inasmuch as you did it to one of the least of these My brethren, you did it to Me.'

Who are the “least of these” (vs. 40, 45)?

It could be the Jews, His “brethren”.

It could be other believers,

(Mat 12:50 NKJV)  "For whoever does the will of My Father in heaven is My brother and sister and mother."

It could simply be a reference to anyone in need, as in the story of the Good Samaritan (Luke 10).

:41 "Then He will also say to those on the left hand, 'Depart from Me, you cursed, into the everlasting fire prepared for the devil and his angels:

:42 'for I was hungry and you gave Me no food; I was thirsty and you gave Me no drink;

:43 'I was a stranger and you did not take Me in, naked and you did not clothe Me, sick and in prison and you did not visit Me.'

:44 "Then they also will answer Him, saying, 'Lord, when did we see You hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison, and did not minister to You?'

:45 "Then He will answer them, saying, 'Assuredly, I say to you, inasmuch as you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to Me.'

:46 "And these will go away into everlasting punishment, but the righteous into eternal life."


Changed lives

We’re seeing what salvation is all about.  Some are being sent to hell.  Some are going to heaven.
How does salvation actually happen?
The Bible is clear that a person is saved when they come to put their trust in Jesus to save them.
(Rom 10:9 NKJV)  that if you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you will be saved.
(John 1:12 NKJV)  But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, to those who believe in His name:
To be “saved”, you have to meet the requirements of heaven – perfect holiness.
(Mat 5:48 NKJV)  "Therefore you shall be perfect, just as your Father in heaven is perfect.
We understand that it is impossible for us to be saved by our own works because we are sinners who have a hard time doing anything that can please God.
(Isa 64:6 NKJV)  But we are all like an unclean thing, And all our righteousnesses are like filthy rags; We all fade as a leaf, And our iniquities, like the wind, Have taken us away.
(Rom 7:18 NKJV)  For I know that in me (that is, in my flesh) nothing good dwells; for to will is present with me, but how to perform what is good I do not find.
We understand that God has solved this problem by sending Jesus to become a sacrifice and end up paying the price for our sins.
(2 Cor 5:21 NKJV)  For He made Him who knew no sin to be sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.
We understand that the way to get Jesus’ righteousness credited to our account is simply through believing, through trusting in Jesus.
(John 8:24 NKJV)  "Therefore I said to you that you will die in your sins; for if you do not believe that I am He, you will die in your sins."
To sum it up, we aren’t saved by our works, but by our faith.
(Eph 2:8-9 NKJV)  For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, {9} not of works, lest anyone should boast.

But pay attention to how this judgment is taking place before the throne of Jesus.

The sheep and the goats are being judged by their works.
This issue is this – there is a “real” faith and a “fake” faith.
A person may say they believe in Jesus, but if they have a real faith, then something changes in their life.  You can see the evidence of a real faith by the life that a person lives.
(James 2:14-26 NKJV)  What does it profit, my brethren, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can faith save him? {15} If a brother or sister is naked and destitute of daily food, {16} and one of you says to them, "Depart in peace, be warmed and filled," but you do not give them the things which are needed for the body, what does it profit? {17} Thus also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead. {18} But someone will say, "You have faith, and I have works." Show me your faith without your works, and I will show you my faith by my works. {19} You believe that there is one God. You do well. Even the demons believe; and tremble! {20} But do you want to know, O foolish man, that faith without works is dead? {21} Was not Abraham our father justified by works when he offered Isaac his son on the altar? {22} Do you see that faith was working together with his works, and by works faith was made perfect? {23} And the Scripture was fulfilled which says, "Abraham believed God, and it was accounted to him for righteousness." And he was called the friend of God. {24} You see then that a man is justified by works, and not by faith only. {25} Likewise, was not Rahab the harlot also justified by works when she received the messengers and sent them out another way? {26} For as the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without works is dead also.

The question isn’t “faith or works”, but “faith that works”.

This principle that real faith produces works is so important, that Jesus will use it as the basis for this sheep and goat judgment.