"Biblical Theology Weekly Bible Study" <email@example.com>
Subject: Biblical Theology Weekly Bible Study Matthew 24:36-51; 25:1-34. Are You Ready?
Date: April 21st 2017
Matthew 24:36-51; 25:1-34.
Are You Ready?
Matthew 24:36. But of that day and hour knoweth no man, no, not the angels of heaven, but my Father only.
There are many questions that have burdened and inspired man's imagination since the beginning of time. Some of these most basic of questions are often the most difficult to comprehend. Where was I before I was born? Why am I alive and here in this body? Who and what am I? What is the purpose of life? ... Of my life? Where will I go when I die? God, in his Word provides us with answers to all of these questions, and also many similar questions concerning the origin, history, and future of life, both our own, and the life of mankind. There are few such questions that go unanswered, and one of these concerns the timing of the end of this age, when Christ returns.
Jesus has been teaching in the Temple court, and has moved to the Mount of Olives where He can address a larger group without the interference of the Jerusalem elite. The message He brings to this group is focused more on the immediate needs of the disciples since there is such a short time prior to His arrest. The context for this passage is set earlier in the chapter.
Matthew 24:21. For then shall be great tribulation, such as was not since the beginning of the world to this time, no, nor ever shall be. 22And except those days should be shortened, there should no flesh be saved: but for the elect’s sake those days shall be shortened.
With such a short time left to teach, Jesus taught the disciples concerning God’s planned end of the age of man on earth. Where man may think that he will last on the face of this earth forever, the scriptures, and the testimony of Christ reveal quite a different scenario. Jesus taught that the time remaining for mankind is short, and the evil that so permeates world culture will only grow in power until there is a world-wide tribulation, or time of extreme stress placed upon the faithful. The state of violence against the church will become so great that the LORD will intervene, removing the faithful from the earth when He comes again.
Consequently, with the prophecy of the coming tribulation and second coming of Christ so well-established, there is no little interest in knowing when this will take place. When will Christ come again? If God is omniscient (all knowing) and Jesus and the Father are one, how could Jesus Himself not know the date of His return while He was on earth in ministry?
This paradox has vexed people since Jesus made this statement. The question is even more difficult for us in this technological, time-conscious society when we apply scientific scrutiny to virtually every statement of fact. We are consumed by numbers, facts, and figures. We are accustomed to what we now consider to be extreme accuracy in physical and mathematical properties. This obsessive desire to know is all part of our society's deep-seated need to maintain everything under our own control. Any question that remains unanswered is always a challenge for us. The people in Jesus' day would probably have found such a philosophy to be alien and unnecessary.
Consequently, there is no shortage of people who have professed to know when Jesus is returning. In many cases, a respected religious leader has given a date only to see that date pass without incident. In one case just a few years ago such a self-proclaimed prophet convinced his followers to sell all they had, including their homes, and give it all away before meeting him at the top of a mountain for the event. These people lost all they had because of their unconditional faith in this misled person. The cults, those who profess to proclaim Christianity but deny its basic truths, are often enticing followers with answers to such questions. Many have declared dates and waited watchfully as their dates passed without incident. The Watchtower Bible and Tract Society (Jehovah's Witnesses) have published several dates since Charles T. Russell started the movement, only to see them pass.
As much as we wish to determine the exact time and date of Jesus’ return, the words of Jesus, recorded in the biblical narrative, clearly state that no person has been given that knowledge. Any effort to form speculations concerning the date is stymied by this simple truth.
Matthew 24:37-39. But as the days of Noe were, so shall also the coming of the Son of man be. 38For as in the days that were before the flood they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the day that Noe entered into the ark, 39And knew not until the flood came, and took them all away; so shall also the coming of the Son of man be.
Jesus notes the universal lack of preparation that preceded the Noahic flood. 2 Peter 2:5 refers to Noah as a Preacher of Righteousness. He spent 120 years building the ark, yet only eight people, all members of Noah's family would enter the ark when the floods came. The people in the land were completely ignorant concerning what was to take place in their lifetime, even after Noah spent many years preaching the righteousness of God and God’s plan for the total destruction of the world’s population because of their universal rebellion against Him.
There are many similarities between the preaching of Noah concerning the end-times of his contemporary culture and Jesus’ preaching concerning the Parousia. Just as the few faithful that were members of Noah’s family were saved from the flood, those who have faith and trust in God will be spared the destructive events of the end times. Likewise, those who rejected Noah’s message, like those who have rejected Jesus’ message, will be likewise destroyed,
The flood came suddenly, and the results were quite final. God may have used the flood to cleanse the world at the time, but it also serves as a stark and deliberate illustration of God’s sovereignty and His full capability and intention to repeat the event, keeping the faithful safe while He destroys all other human life on the planet. From the time of Adam through Noah, only one family on earth maintained faith in God, and even though there is evidence of an effort by the family of Enoch and his sons to share the message of God’s grace, no people would listen.
The only difference between the state of the world during the days of Noah and today is that the LORD’s promise to Abraham has been fulfilled: the number of his faith descendants has literally filled the earth. The number of faithful Christians who have lived and now live on earth are far beyond any figure that the ancients could have imagined. Yet, God has promised to bring this age to an end when the violence, hatred, and evil again overtake the world. Mankind has yet to experience this second destruction of all who have rejected Him, and those who are in rebellion against Him are just as ignorant of the imminent danger. Just as the flood came suddenly, so will the end of the age.
Matthew 24:40-42. Then shall two be in the field; the one shall be taken, and the other left. 41Two women shall be grinding at the mill; the one shall be taken, and the other left. 42Watch therefore: for ye know not what hour your Lord doth come.
The most obvious event that will be immediately seen at the end of the age will be the sudden disappearance of all the faithful from the face of the earth. The consequences of such an event are truly amazing to consider. Imagine the transportation systems around the world: the cars on the highways, the airplanes flying in the air. Some have speculated that the unsaved pilots, car drivers, etc., will get a short reprieve until they land their planes or park their cars. Such speculation is without merit, and based only on a false but optimistic human logic. God’s intent is to bring destruction upon those who remain, providing no reason for any compromise of His plan. The biblical narrative clearly describes individuals who are busy doing the things they normally do and in an instant, without any hint of preparation, one is taken, and one remains behind. The unfaithful will be shocked by the news, and some may be relieved as partially-staffed news agencies report that all the Christians are gone. I expect that those remaining members of the Christian church will be shocked and confused, both by the disappearance of a large part of their fellowship, and by the devastation and loss of life that took place in the process of their disappearance. These will also be left behind to experience a world without the protection of the Holy Spirit. Evil will reign without any form of hindrance.
The main point of these verses is that the people who are described, the farmers and the mill workers, will be going about their normal affairs when the rapture instantly takes place. There will be no warning other than the one we have already been given through the prophecies of scripture.
The Greek word used for “keep watch”, gregoreuo (gray-gor-YOO'-oh), is a military term that referred to the task given to a soldier to keep a watch over his unit during the night when there is a known, imminent threat. There is little subtlety to its use, since the punishment for a Roman soldier who fails to maintain his guard during the night is particularly harsh. He must be alert to any possible danger to his unit, and ready to respond immediately to any threat. If this level of attention is not maintained, he and his unit could be quickly overrun and destroyed. There is no place for inattention, distraction, or slumber when one is keeping this form of watch.
This is the same command that people of faith are given: to keep watch, to stay alert to the expectation of a certain, and horrifically destructive event. An example is given that describes the use of this word:
Matthew 24:43-44. But know this, that if the goodman of the house had known in what watch the thief would come, he would have watched, and would not have suffered his house to be broken up. 44Therefore be ye also ready: for in such an hour as ye think not the Son of man cometh.
If you received a sure tip that a burglar was planning to break into your home tomorrow at 1:30 P.M., what would you do? You would probably take every step necessary to protect your home, and you would successfully prevent the burglary. What measures have you actually taken to protect your home from a possible burglary? The efforts we make are probably quite minimal, and leave us quite exposed. We lock our doors, oblivious to the ease at which windows are broken. We often feel protected by the masses... other people experience such crimes, not us. The “It's not going to happen to me” attitude is often illustrated by the shock expressed by the victims of crime. Many have said, “I never expected it would happen to me.”
The shock that is so common upon crime victims is an indication of the pervasive attitude of denial that so often serves to protect us from the consequences of a knowledge of sure danger. Just as we are often complacent and in relative denial of the dangers to our home, our world is in complacent denial of the power of God, His plan for His people, and of the sure, devastating, coming judgment. And, though most Christians are somewhat familiar with the prophesied events surrounding the second coming, they respond to this knowledge more like the people of the world than one anticipating such an event.
Just as you would protect your home against an expected intruder, what would you do if you knew for certain that the second coming of Christ and its consequent destruction of all remining life on earth would take place next Sunday at high-noon in Jerusalem? As a Christian who is concerned about the lost world, you would probably be searching for ways to tell others that the end was coming and it is now time to “get on the boat” of salvation. Your testimony would be adamant, sincere, spirit-filled and inspired. Just as Noah’s testimony was rejected by the people, the testimony of many Christians is being rejected and will continue to be rejected by the world. A knowledge of the date of the last day would make no difference.
Jesus then contrasts the responses of the people to this knowledge of the coming judgment. There are only two: those who respond in belief, and those who respond in denial.
Matthew 24:45-47. Who then is a faithful and wise servant, whom his lord hath made ruler over his household, to give them meat in due season? 46Blessed is that servant, whom his lord when he cometh shall find so doing. 47Verily I say unto you, That he shall make him ruler over all his goods.
The illustration that Jesus provides concerns, as many of His parables, the relationship between a Master and a servant who He has charged with a given responsibility. This first, the faithful servant, is described as one who is diligent to his responsibility, and is keeping the Master’s household in preparation for His return. When the Master returns to find His servant to have been continuingly faithful, that servant will be given great reward. Because of the faithfulness of the servant, the Master will be in a position to grant to him all of the benefits of the promises He has made.
Matthew 24:48-51. But and if that evil servant shall say in his heart, My lord delayeth his coming; 49And shall begin to smite his fellowservants, and to eat and drink with the drunken; 50The lord of that servant shall come in a day when he looketh not for him, and in an hour that he is not aware of, 51And shall cut him asunder, and appoint him his portion with the hypocrites: there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth.
The second of the servants is living in denial of the Master’s return. Rather than keep the Master’s household in a manner that honors Him, the evil servant fully believes that he has no accountability to the Master and no desire to demonstrate faithfulness to Him. He has no compunction against persecuting and killing those who are attempting to maintain obedience to the Master. Instead, his is a life of rebellious, self-centered, behavior. This servant has chosen to maintain an utter ignorance of the purpose and plan of the Master, and will be completely surprised when the Master comes back. Finding this servant to be in rebellion against Him, the only reasonable response by the Master is a prescribed punishment of the servant for his selfish and rebellious disloyalty.
Those in denial today may also be divided into two groups of people: those who have rejected the gospel and those who have not yet made the decision to reject it, and by tarrying, are still in rejection of it. Modern communication technology has brought the gospel message to the entire world, and there are very few who have not either heard or had the opportunity to hear the gospel message, yet very few have turned to the LORD in faith, preferring to maintain their own systems of religion or atheistic philosophies.
Many, if not most Christians live their lives fully expecting that they will not see the rapture. They think, since it has been almost two thousand years since Jesus announced his second coming, the odds are that they will die before the rapture, so they have the rest of their lives to get their house in order. However, if we die before the rapture, will we see it? Consider:
1 Thessalonians 4:15-17. For this we say unto you by the word of the Lord, that we which are alive and remain unto the coming of the Lord shall not prevent them which are asleep. 16For 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: 17Then 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.
The scripture says that the dead shall rise first. All people of faith are going to participate in the second coming of Jesus upon their death. Paul said to be absent from the body was to be with Christ. If we should die before the rapture takes place, we will experience it “before” those who are still alive when Jesus comes. Consequently, those faithful who have already died have “already” experienced the rapture and are with Christ, even though we will all see Him together. Though this sounds like a logical impossibility, it is only impossible if we require that God is limited to the timeframe and timeline of this, His, creation.
Time, as we experience it, is a physical property and is a mathematically function of the properties of mass and energy of this physical world. God created the timeline of this creation when He created the universe. Time began with creation, which many theorize started with a “big bang.” God has described himself as timeless, the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the ending. He sees all of creation, in its entirety from the point of creation to the end of the age because it is His. God is not limited by physical time any more than He is limited by physical distance. Einstein figured this out, and it changed his life. If we can understand it, it can change for us a lot of the limitations we have placed on God.
There is no relationship between physical time and God's eternity. God does not know what you are going to do tomorrow because of any power of prophesy. God simply sees, or observes it. Likewise, when our spirit leaves the physical world, we go to be with Him. There is no purgatory, or place of waiting, as some have speculated. There is no need for one.
We do not know when the time of Christ's return will be relative to the physical timeline of creation, but it may be far sooner than you think. Perhaps a short analysis of the history of world population may be instructive. Since we have had the capacity to maintain estimated records, the population of the world has doubled every 40 years (actually, a little less.) If we take our current population of almost 8 billion, unabated population growth will result in 16 billion people in 40 more years, 32 billion in 80 more years, 256 billion in 200 years, 8.2 trillion in 400 years, etc. At this rate only a few hundred years will pass until the population reaches the number of square yards of land mass on this earth, an absolutely unsustainable number. The only thing that can keep the population from this growth is death: promoted by war, famine, and pestilence as nations continue to vie for limited and ever-shrinking resources. The end-of-the-age circumstances that we find in the Revelation of John may be closer than we think.
We are left, like the servant in this scripture passage, with the stewardship of the master's house until He returns. What are some of the things we can be doing to prepare for His coming? Jesus teaches us to keep watch, be faithful, and according to the following parable, to be wise.
Matthew 25:1-2. Then shall the kingdom of heaven be likened unto ten virgins, which took their lamps, and went forth to meet the bridegroom. 2And five of them were wise, and five were foolish.
The importance of our being properly prepared for the second coming of Christ is reinforced by yet another parable as Jesus describes the coming of the Kingdom in terms of, again, two groups of people, those who are wise, and those who are foolish. The wise are ready for the Parousia, and the foolish are not.
Matthew 25:2-13. They that were foolish took their lamps, and took no oil with them: 4But the wise took oil in their vessels with their lamps. 5While the bridegroom tarried, they all slumbered and slept. 6And at midnight there was a cry made, Behold, the bridegroom cometh; go ye out to meet him. 7Then all those virgins arose, and trimmed their lamps. 8And the foolish said unto the wise, Give us of your oil; for our lamps are gone out. 9But 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. 10And 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. 11Afterward came also the other virgins, saying, Lord, Lord, open to us. 12But he answered and said, Verily I say unto you, I know you not. 13Watch therefore, for ye know neither the day nor the hour wherein the Son of man cometh.
The transgression of the foolish virgins represents the transgression of all of those who have not placed their faith and trust in God. Perhaps they are waiting for another day, one that likely will never come. Perhaps they are simply in rebellion, and have no real expectation of the arrival of the bridegroom. When the bridegroom does finally come without any warning, those who are ready enter the door to the bride’s chamber, and the door is shut. Those who were not prepared may come knocking, but their apostasy has convicted them when the groom states, “I do not know you.”
Like the other parables that Jesus has been teaching this one involves a Master who comes back to gather what is His. In this case, it is not the fruit of a vineyard, but it is actually a group of people who have been faith to Him in His absence. The wise young women who brought oil for their lamps represent the community of faith. The oil of their lamps is the presence of the Holy Spirit in the heart of the faithful. When the Bridegroom comes, He invites all the faithful to come through the door. Once they have entered, the door is forever shut.
When the LORD comes back, He will be gathering together the church, the world-wide community of people who have placed their faith and trust in God. When all of the people of faith, who are the vessels of the Holy Spirit, leave the earth, the Holy Spirit will be utterly gone. The gospel will no longer be shared. The door of salvation will be forever closed.
Matthew 25:14-30. 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. 15And 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. 16Then he that had received the five talents went and traded with the same, and made them other five talents. 17And likewise he that had received two, he also gained other two. 18But he that had received one went and digged in the earth, and hid his lord’s money. 19After a long time the lord of those servants cometh, and reckoneth with them. 20And 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. 21His 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. 22He 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. 23His 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. 24Then 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: 25And I was afraid, and went and hid thy talent in the earth: lo, there thou hast that is thine. 26His 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: 27Thou oughtest therefore to have put my money to the exchangers, and then at my coming I should have received mine own with usury. 28Take therefore the talent from him, and give it unto him which hath ten talents. 29For 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. 30And cast ye the unprofitable servant into outer darkness: there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth.
This passage of scripture is most often used to teach principles of stewardship. However, the context of the passage reveals that it has more to do with the Parousia. The LORD has given an opportunity to all people to turn to Him in faith, and what they do with that faith prior to His return is very important. People of faith have been called to “bear fruit.” When one comes to the LORD in faith, they experience a “renewing” of the mind that comes from the presence of the Holy Spirit in their lives. People who have a true and sincere faith in God always produce “fruit,” the actions and attitudes that are inspired by their love for the LORD and their love for others. Just as an apple tree bears apples in season, a person of faith bears fruit when opportunities arise. One must kill an apple tree to prevent it from bearing fruit. The same is true for a faithful believer in God.
Given this context, the parable demonstrates three responses to this opportunity to bear fruit. One of the stewards bore a great amount of fruit, and another bore very little. However, even the second, thought the amount of fruit produced was minimal, was still doing so because of his faithfulness. The last steward bore no fruit. This is one who lacks faith in God and is still in rebellion against Him. Just as the door was shut to the foolish virgins, the door is shut to this one who bore no fruit.
We might note that the three stewards are in the same community. One could easily argue that this third steward was a “member” of the Christian fellowship, but a member by association only, and not by faith. There are many people today who are actively involved in Christian fellowships that have not given their lives and hearts to the LORD. It is these who will also hear those words at the final judgment: “I do not know you.”
Matthew 25:31-34. 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: 32And before him shall be gathered all nations: and he shall separate them one from another, as a shepherd divideth his sheep from the goats: 33And he shall set the sheep on his right hand, but the goats on the left. 34Then 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:
The second coming of Christ ushers in the final judgment when the faithful will be finally and utterly separated from the unfaithful. We cannot be in denial of the second coming, and to delay a decision to trust in God is utter foolishness when the LORD could come back at any time. Though the scriptures show many things that must happen before He comes, most of those have taken place, and the others could happen in the period of only a few minutes.
Consider some other biblical passages that remind us of the certainty and voracity of the second coming of Christ:
Mark 13:33-37. Take ye heed, watch and pray: for ye know not when the time is. 34For the Son of man is as a man taking a far journey, who left his house, and gave authority to his servants, and to every man his work, and commanded the porter to watch. 35Watch ye therefore: for ye know not when the master of the house cometh, at even, or at midnight, or at the cockcrowing, or in the morning: 36Lest coming suddenly he find you sleeping. 37And what I say unto you I say unto all, Watch.
Luke 12:35-37. Let your loins be girded about, and your lights burning; 36And ye yourselves like unto men that wait for their lord, when he will return from the wedding; that when he cometh and knocketh, they may open unto him immediately. 37Blessed are those servants, whom the lord when he cometh shall find watching: verily I say unto you, that he shall gird himself, and make them to sit down to meat, and will come forth and serve them.
Romans 13:12. The night is far spent, the day is at hand: let us therefore cast off the works of darkness, and let us put on the armour of light.
James 5:7-8. Be patient therefore, brethren, unto the coming of the Lord. Behold, the husbandman waiteth for the precious fruit of the earth, and hath long patience for it, until he receive the early and latter rain. 8Be ye also patient; stablish your hearts: for the coming of the Lord draweth nigh.
2 Peter 3:11-12. Seeing then that all these things shall be dissolved, what manner of persons ought ye to be in all holy conversation and godliness, 12Looking for and hasting unto the coming of the day of God, wherein the heavens being on fire shall be dissolved, and the elements shall melt with fervent heat? 13Nevertheless we, according to his promise, look for new heavens and a new earth, wherein dwelleth righteousness. 14Wherefore, beloved, seeing that ye look for such things, be diligent that ye may be found of him in peace, without spot, and blameless.
1 John 2:28. And now, little children, abide in him; that, when he shall appear, we may have confidence, and not be ashamed before him at his coming.
Revelation 16:15. Behold, I come as a thief. Blessed is he that watcheth, and keepeth his garments, lest he walk naked, and they see his shame.
Are you ready? Is your family ready? Are your friends ready? Our witness of Christ is the spontaneous result of the Holy Spirit in our lives. Our testimony to the world will be evident in the way we live, loving others, touching lives, living a life led by the Spirit. That touch of others will work with the Holy Spirit in their hearts to bring others to Him. Evangelism is not the task of the obedient, nor is it limited to career evangelists. Evangelism is the spontaneous result of an obedient life. If we live a life of obedience to the LORD in a way that shares His love with others, when we do meet Christ, we will meet Him alongside those who we have touched with His love, and Jesus can turn to us and say, “Well done, my good and faithful servant.”
One common misconception is that Jesus cannot come back until the Temple in Jerusalem has been rebuilt, and such rebuilding is prevented by the presence of the Dome of the Rock, a Muslim shrine that sits on the site of the ancient Temple. However, the Temple has been rebuilt. Jesus stated that He would rebuild the Temple in three days (John 2:19, Matthew 26:61.) The Temple was rebuilt when Jesus rose from the grave in the Resurrection when it came to reside in the heart of every faithful believer.
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