A. The parable of the ten virgins.
1. (1) Ten virgins go out to meet a bridegroom at a wedding.
“Then the kingdom of heaven shall be likened to ten virgins who took their lamps and went out to meet the bridegroom.”
a. Then the kingdom of heaven: Matthew 24 ended with a parable meant to emphasize the idea of readiness for the coming of Jesus. Matthew 25 begins with another parable upon the same principle.
b. To ten virgins who took their lamps and went out to meet the bridegroom: There were three stages to a Jewish wedding in that day. The first was engagement - a formal agreement made by the fathers. The second was betrothal - the ceremony where mutual promises are made. The third was marriage - approximately one year later when the bridegroom came at an unexpected time for his bride.
i. “When the bridegroom came, the bride-maids, who were attending the bride, went forth to meet the bridegroom, with lamps lighted, to conduct him and his companions into the house, and to her who was to be the bride.” (Poole)
ii. Some wonder why Jesus described ten virgins and not some other number. It is claimed that Talmudic authorities said that there were usually ten lamps in a bridal procession. It was a common size of a wedding party.
iii. “The point is not these girls’ virginity, which is assumed, but simply that they are ten (a favorite round number . . .) maidens invited to the wedding.” (Carson)
c. Went to meet the bridegroom: In this parable, the first two stages have already taken place. Now the wedding party (the ten virgins) waits for the coming of the bridegroom for the bride.
i. “To see the bridegroom as Jesus himself seems warranted in light of Matthew 9:15. This would be a bold figure for Him to use, as the Old Testament frequently describes God (not the Messiah) as the bridegroom, and Israel as the bride (Isaiah 54:4-5; 62:5; Jeremiah 2:2; Hosea 1-3, etc.).” (France)
2. (2-13) The young women caught unprepared are denied entry.
“Now five of them were wise, and five were foolish. Those who were foolish took their lamps and took no oil with them, but the wise took oil in their vessels with their lamps. But while the bridegroom was delayed, they all slumbered and slept. And at midnight a cry was heard: ‘Behold, the bridegroom is coming; go out to meet him!’ Then all those virgins arose and trimmed their lamps. And the foolish said to the wise, ‘Give us some of your oil, for our lamps are going out.’ 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.’ 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. Afterward the other virgins came also, saying, ‘Lord, Lord, open to us!’ But he answered and said, ‘Assuredly, I say to you, I do not know you.’ Watch therefore, for you know neither the day nor the hour in which the Son of Man is coming.”
a. Now five of them were wise, and five were foolish: Some in the wedding party were wise and prepared for the coming of the bridegroom. Some in the wedding party were foolish and unprepared.
i. “Foolish, wise, not bad and good, but prudent and imprudent, thoughtless and thoughtful.” (Bruce)
b. While the bridegroom was delayed, they all slumbered and slept: All ten of the maidens slept, because the bridegroom was delayed. In this parable both the wise and foolish maidens slept; but the wise ones were prepared to act immediately when they were unexpectedly awakened. The foolish maidens were not prepared.
i. “They are waiting to escort the bridegroom in festal procession, probably in the last stage of the ceremonies as he brings his bride home for the wedding feast.” (France)
ii. Slumbered and slept: “ ‘Nodded off and were sound asleep’ would get the sense of the Greek tenses.” (France)
c. Took their lamps and took no oil with them: The five foolish virgins appeared to be prepared for the bridegroom, because they had their lamps in hand. But they really were not prepared, because they took no oil with them.
i. “It is apparently a torchlight procession, the lamps probably being ‘torches’ (of oil-soaked rags wrapped on a stick) rather than standing lamps, which are described by a different word in Matthew 5:15 and 6:22; the word used here regularly means ‘torch’.” (France)
ii. “Their torches consisting of a wooden staff held in the hand, with a dish at the top, in which was a piece of cloth or rope dipped in oil or pitch.” (Bruce)
iii. Oil in their vessels: The wise maidens had an extra supply of oil.
d. At midnight a cry was heard: “Behold, the bridegroom is coming” . . . all those virgins arose and trimmed their lamps: At an unexpected hour the bridegroom came for the bride and the wedding. The wedding party (all those virgins) immediately began to prepare their lamps for lighting.
i. “Trimmed their lamps is literally ‘put their torches in order’.” (France)
ii. “It is a warning addressed specifically to those inside the profession church who are not to assume that their future is unconditionally assured; all ten are expecting to be at the feast, and until the moment comes there is no apparent difference between them – it is the crisis which will divide the ready from the unready.” (France)
e. Give us some of your oil, for our lamps are going out: The foolish virgins were unprepared because they lacked oil for their lamps. In many Biblical passages oil is an emblem of the Holy Spirit (such as Zechariah 4:1-7). Without oil the wedding party was not ready for the bridegroom. Without the Holy Spirit, the no one is ready for the return of Jesus.
i. Olive oil is a good representation of the Holy Spirit for many reasons.
Š Oil lubricates when used for that purpose - there is little friction and wear among those who are lubricated by the Spirit of God.
Š Oil heals and was used as a medicinal treatment in Biblical times (Luke 10:34) - the Spirit of God brings healing and restoration.
Š Oil lights when it is burned in a lamp - where the Spirit of God is there is light.
Š Oil warms when it is used as fuel for a flame - where the Spirit of God is there is warmth and comfort.
Š Oil invigorates when used to massage - the Holy Spirit invigorates us for His service.
Š Oil adorns when applied as a perfume - the Holy Spirit adorns us and makes us more pleasant to be around.
Š Oil polishes when used to shine metal - the Holy Spirit wipes away our grime and smoothes out our rough edges.
ii. No one can be a true Christian without the indwelling Holy Spirit, as it says in Romans 8:9: Now if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he is not His. In this parable Jesus probably did not intend a separation between “Spirit-filled” and “Non-Spirit-filled” Christians; the distinction is likely between true Christians and false believers.
iii. Nevertheless, a key to Christian readiness is to be constantly being filled with the Holy Spirit (Ephesians 5:18). Much of the weakness, defeat and lethargy in our spiritual lives can be explained if we are not constantly being filled with the Holy Spirit.
iv. No, lest there should not be enough for us: “The best have nought to spare, whatever Papists fancy of the church-treasury.” (Trapp)
f. The door was shut . . . “Assuredly, I say to you, I do not know you”: The penalty was severe for the foolish maidens. They were not allowed to come to the wedding, and the door was shut against them in the strongest terms.
i. “Everyone in the procession was expected to carry his or her own torch. Those without a torch would be assumed to be party crashers or even brigands.” (Carson)
ii. “The girls’ appeal and the bridegrooms response recall the chilling words of Matthew 7:22-23; here, as there, I do not know you is a decisive formula of rejection, rather than a mere statement of fact.” (France)
iii. “The foolish virgins had professed to be the bridegroom’s friends, yet they were proved to be not even his acquaintances.” (Spurgeon)
iv. “When that door is once shut, it will never be opened. There are some who dote and dream about an opening of that door, after death, for those who have died impenitent; but there is nothing in the Scriptures to warrant such an expectation. Any ‘larger hope’ than that revealed in the Word of God is a delusion and a snare.” (Spurgeon)
g. Watch therefore, for you know neither the day nor the hour in which the Son of Man is coming: The point of this parable is simple - be ready. The price for failing to be ready is too high.
B. The parable of the talents.
1. (14-15) Jesus describes a master who gives instructions to his servants before departing on a long journey.
“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. 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.”
a. A man traveling to a far country, who called his servants and delivered his good to them: This was not a strange idea in the ancient world, where servants (slaves) were often given great responsibility. This was often the safest and smartest thing a man could do with his money.
i. “The best thing he could do with his money in his absence, dividing it among carefully selected slaves, and leaving them to do their best with it.” (Bruce)
ii. “This parable takes up the question which that of the bridesmaids left unanswered: what is ‘readiness’?” (France)
b. To one he gave five talents, to another two, and to another one: A talent was not an ability (though this parable has application to our abilities), but a unit of money, worth at least $1,200 in modern terms, and likely much more.
i. “The talent was not a coin, it was a weight; and therefore its value obviously depended on whether the coinage involved was copper, gold, or silver.” (Barclay)
ii. “The English use of ‘talent’ for a natural (or supernatural) aptitude derives from this parable . . . But of course the Greek talanton is simply a sum of money. . . . it was generally regarded as equal to 6,000 denarii.” (France) “If a talent were worth six thousand denarii, then it would take a day laborer twenty years to earn so much.” (Carson)
iii. In the application of this parable it is appropriate to see these talents as resources in our lives - such as time, money, abilities, and authority.
c. To each according to his own ability: The servants were given different amounts of money according to their ability. One servant only received one talent, yet we should see that this was not an insignificant amount. Some received more; but everyone received something and everyone received a large amount.
i. “The talent which each man has suits his own state best; and it is only pride and insanity which lead him to desire and envy the graces and talents of another. Five talents would be too much for some men: one talent would be too little.” (Clarke)
2. (16-18) The servants manage the master’s money.
“Then he who had received the five talents went and traded with them, and made another five talents. And likewise he who had received two gained two more also. But he who had received one went and dug in the ground, and hid his lord’s money.”
a. He who had received the five talents went and traded with them: Each of those who had received talents from their master did with them as they saw fit. Two of them traded with their talents and earned more talents (made another five talents . . . gained two more also).
i. Went and traded implies direct action. “The point is that the good servants felt the responsibility of their assignment and went to work without delay.” (Carson)
ii. We aren’t told how they traded with their talents. Perhaps they loaned the money at interest, perhaps they used the money and bought things and sold them for more money. The point is that they used what they had and gained more by using.
iii. We can say many good things about the work of the first two servants:
Š They did their work promptly.
Š They did their work with perseverance.
Š They did their work with success.
Š They were ready to give an account to their master.
b. He who had received one went and dug in the ground, and hid his lord’s money: The third servant did almost nothing with his master’s money. He did take some care that it would not be lost (by hiding it). But he did nothing positive with his master’s money, in contrast to the first two servants.
3. (19-23) The first two servants are judged.
“After a long time the lord of those servants came and settled accounts with them. 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.’ 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.’ 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.’ 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.’”
a. After a long time the lord of those servants came: The long delay would tempt the servants to think that they would never give an account for their management. Yet they most certainly would.
b. You have been faithful over a few things, I will make you ruler over many things: The reward was the same for both servants, even though one was given five talents and the other was given two talents. Each performed the same according to the resources they had received.
c. Well done, good and faithful servant: This shows that the master looked for goodness and faithfulness in His servants. Whatever financial success these servants enjoyed came because they were good and faithful. The master looked first for these character qualities, not for a specific amount of money.
i. “It is not ‘Well done, thou good and brilliant servant;’ for perhaps the man never shone at all in the eyes of those who appreciate glare and glitter. It is not, ‘Well done, thou great and distinguished servant;’ for it is possible that he was never known beyond his native village.” (Spurgeon)
ii. “It is better to be faithful in the infant-school than to be unfaithful in a noble class of young men. Better to be faithful in a hamlet over two or three score of people, than to be unfaithful in a great-city parish, with thousands perishing in consequence. Better to be faithful in a cottage meeting, speaking of Christ crucified to half-a hundred villagers, than to be unfaithful in a great building where thousands congregate.” (Spurgeon)
d. Enter into the joy of your lord: This has the echo of heaven in it. The idea is that there is a place of joy belonging to the master of these servants, and they are invited to join the master in that place. There is a sense of heaven about this destiny for the two faithful servants.
i. “This is not the servant’s portion, but the Master’s portion shared with his faithful servants. . . . not so much that we shall have a joy of our own as that we shall enter into the joy of our Lord.” (Spurgeon)
ii. We can say of the reward for the first two servants:
Š They received praise from their master.
Š They received a promise of future blessing.
Š They received glory, “the joy of your lord.”
4. (24-30) The third servant gives account.
“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. And I was afraid, and went and hid your talent in the ground. Look, there you have what is yours.’”
a. Then he who had received the one talent came: The master judged each of the servants individually. If they were taken as a group, they did very well: 8 talents given, and 15 talents returned. Yet each one was judged on their individual faithfulness and effort.
i. “Remember, my hearer, that in the day of judgment thy account must be personal; God will not ask you what your church did – he will ask you what you did yourself.” (Spurgeon)
b. I knew you to be a hard man, reaping where you have not sown: The servant who merely buried his talent tried to excuse himself because of his master’s great power. In fact, he believed his master to be in some sense omnipotent: reaping where you have not sown, and gathering where you have not scattered seed.
i. A hard man: “Grasping, ungenerous, taking all to himself, offering no inducements to his servants.” (Bruce)
ii. F.B. Meyer expressed the thinking of this servant: “I can do very little; it will not make much difference if I do nothing: I shall not be missed; my tiny push is not needed to turn the scale.”
iii. “It is the genius of wicked men to lay the blame of their miscarriages upon others, oftentimes upon God himself.” (Poole)
c. Look, there you have what is yours: The third servant seemed proud of himself. Because the master was so powerful and (in the mind of the servant) didn’t need his help, the third servant thought that the master would be pleased that he did nothing and could say, “Look, there you have what is yours.” He seemed to have no idea how much he had displeased his master.
i. We can say in the third servant’s favor that at least he still understood that what he had been given belonged to his master. He said, “you have what is yours.” Many modern servants of God think that when God gives them something, it no longer belongs to God; it belongs to them and they can do with it as they please.
ii. “We ought to observe that he did not spend that talent upon himself, or use it in business for his own benefit. He was not a thief, nor in any way a misappropriator of moneys placed under his charge. In this he excels many who profess to be the servants of God, and yet live to themselves only. What little talent they have is used in their own business, and never upon their Lord’s concerns.” (Spurgeon)
ii. Yet “albeit this man was doing nothing for his master, he did not think himself an unprofitable servant. He exhibited no self-depreciation, no humbling, no contrition. He was as bold as brass, and said unblushingly, ‘Lo, there thou hast that is thine.’” (Spurgeon)
iii. We can say of the work of the third servant:
Š He didn’t think.
Š He didn’t work.
Š He didn’t even try.
Š He made excuses.
5. (26-30) The third servant is judged.
“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. So you ought to have deposited my money with the bankers, and at my coming I would have received back my own with interest. Therefore take the talent from him, and give it to him who has ten talents. 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. And cast the unprofitable servant into the outer darkness. There will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.’”
a. You wicked and lazy servant, you knew that I reap where I have not sown: The condemnation of this third servant – here called a wicked and lazy servant – was strong. The sovereignty of the master never excused the laziness of the servant. It condemned that laziness all the more.
i. Those who don’t work for the Lord, or pray, or don’t evangelize because God is sovereign condemn themselves by their laziness. By their actions (or lack of action) they show that they are like the wicked servant in the parable. They do not know their Master’s heart at all. “The lord of the unprofitable servant tells him, that the fault lay in his own sloth and wickedness, and his dread of his lord’s security was but a mere frivolous pretence and unreasonable excuse.” (Poole)
ii. The charge against this servant who merely buried his talent was that he was wicked and lazy. We rarely see laziness as a real sin, something that must be repented of before the Lord. If laziness were a calling or a spiritual gift, this man would have been excellent.
iii. “Not dishonest – the master had not misjudged as to that – but indolent, unenterprising, timid. . . . Slothful, a poor creature altogether: suspicious, timid, heartless, spiritless, idle.” (Bruce)
iv. We might say that this servant did not have a proper fear of his master, but an unfitting fear of risk and failure. “See how fear may become the mother of presumption. Faith in God begets holy fear; but servile fear is the parent of doubt, which in its turn has a family of unbelieving rebels.” (Spurgeon)
b. So you ought to have deposited my money with the bankers, and at my coming I would have received back my own with interest: This man could have done something with what he had. Even if it had not doubled, it would have gained some interest for the master’s money.
i. “If we cannot trade directly and personally on our Lord’s account, if we have not the skill nor the tact to manage a society or an enterprise for him, we may at least contribute to what others are doing, and join our capital to theirs, so that, by some means, our Master may have the interest to which he is entitled.” (Spurgeon)
ii. “The Old Testament forbade Israelites from charging interest against one another (Exodus 22:25; Leviticus 25:35-37; Deuteronomy 23:19; cf. Psalm 15:5 . . . ); but interest on money loaned to Gentiles was permitted (Deuteronomy 23:20). . . . By New Testament times Jewish scholars had already distinguished between ‘lending at interest’ and ‘usury’ (in the modern sense).” (Carson)
c. For to everyone who has, more will be given . . . but from him who does not have, even what he has will be taken away: There are those who have things (like the servant with one talent), but hold them in such a way that it is as if they have nothing. These ones will find what they had taken away. Those who hold what they have received as faithful men and women, to them more will be given.
i. “But if a man hath not, that is, hath, but is as if he had not, making no use of what he hath for the glory of God, those gifts and talents which he hath shall be of no advantage, but miserable disadvantages to him at last.” (Poole)
ii. “See that ye receive not any grace of God in vain; neither envy those that have much; a proportion is expected.” (Trapp)
iii. “We need not wait for the great future, to obtain this multiplication or withdrawal of our talents. They are already waxing or waning in our hands.” (Meyer)
d. Cast the unprofitable servant into the outer darkness: Because he was wicked and lazy, the third servant demonstrated that he was not a true servant of his master at all. It is fitting that he (and those who show the same heart) was cast forever out of the master’s presence.
i. Just as there was a sense of heaven in the destiny for the two faithful servants, there is a strong sense of hell in the destiny for the wicked and lazy servant.
ii. In the larger context of Matthew 25, the main point of this parable is clear: our readiness for Jesus’ return is determined by our stewardship of the resources that He has given us.
iii. Some think that readiness for Jesus’ return is a very spiritual and abstract thing. It really isn’t - it is a matter of being about our business for the Lord. In light of this parable, we must ask ourselves: What have we done with our knowledge? Our time? Our money? Our abilities? The sins of omission [what we don’t do] may ultimately be more dangerous than the sins of commission [what we do].
C. The judgment of the nations.
1. (31-33) The nations are gathered before God’s throne and separated.
“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. 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. And He will set the sheep on His right hand, but the goats on the left.
a. When the Son of Man comes in His glory: This is not really a parable; it is a description of a future scene of judgment after the glorious second coming of Jesus (described in Matthew 24:30).
b. He will sit on the throne of His glory: Jesus here was either guilty of megalomania (delusion about one’s own power or importance) or He is indeed the Lord of glory, who will judge the nations from His throne. Seemingly this throne is present on earth, because it happens when the Son of Man comes in His glory.
Š In three days He would be crucified; yet He spoke of “When the Son of Man comes in His glory.”
Š He had around Him a handful of disciples – one would betray Him, one deny Him, and the others forsake Him; yet He spoke of “all the holy angels with Him.”
Š He lived in utter simplicity, almost poverty – and was rejected by almost all the great and might men of the world; yet He said He would “sit on the throne of His glory.”
c. All the nations will be gathered before Him, and He will separate them one from another: This particular judgment seems distinct from the great white throne judgment described in Revelation 20:11-15. This judgment of the nations is distinct from the final judgment for several reasons.
Š It happens at a different time. The Great White Throne judgment of Revelation 20:11-15 clearly happens after the 1,000-year reign of Jesus Christ and His saints. The Judgment of the Nations of Matthew 25 happens immediately after the glorious return of Jesus (Matthew 25:31-32).
Š It happens at a different place. The Great White Throne judgment of Revelation 20 happens in heaven; the Judgment of the Nations of Matthew 25 happens on earth.
Š It happens unto different subjects. The Great White Throne judgment of Revelation 20 emphatically includes all unredeemed men and women. The Judgment of the Nations of Matthew 25 seems only to include the nations – that is Gentiles who are judged in large measure on their kindness and care towards [in part] the Jewish people (My brethren). It may be that Jewish people who survive the Great Tribulation will not be in this Judgment of the Nations.
Š It happens on a different basis. This is described in the following section.
d. He will set the sheep on His right hand, but the goats on the left: The Son of Man – Jesus Himself – has the authority to divide humanity in this judgment. There are not three categories, but only two: sheep and goats, right and left.
i. “In the countryside sheep and goats mingled during the day. At night they were often separated: sheep tolerate the cool air, but goats have to be herded together for warmth.” (Carson)
ii. “The right hand signifies, among the rabbins, approbation and eminence: the left hand, rejection, and disapprobation. Hence in Sohar Chadash it is said, ‘The right hand is given, the left also is given-to the Israelites and the Gentiles are given paradise and hell-this world, and the world to come.’” (Carson)
iii. This is true of the final judgment, when humanity will be divided into two groups and only two. Yet in the opinion of this commentator (definitely a minority opinion), Jesus spoke here not of the final judgment, but of the separation that will happen after the glorious return but before the final judgment to deal with those who have survived the Great Tribulation.
iv. By the end of the Great Tribulation (mentioned in Matthew 24:21 and other passages), the population of the earth will be greatly reduced by several factors:
Š The rapture of the church (described in 1 Thessalonians 4:16-17) will take many millions of believers from the earth.
Š The persecution and martyrdom of many of those who believe on Jesus after the rapture and during the Great Tribulation will take many from the earth.
Š The terrible death and destruction of the Great Tribulation will take many from the earth.
Š The catastrophe of the Battle of Armageddon and Jesus’ glorious return to the earth will take many from the earth.
v. Nevertheless, one can assume that even with the greatness of all these, that there will be many people – perhaps 3 billion or more – still remaining on the earth after Jesus returns in power and glory at the end of the last seven-year period. Among these will be the 144,000 who were specially sealed and preserved through the Great Tribulation and who stand with the Lamb of God on Mount Zion at His glorious return (Revelation 14:1-5). It is fair to ask, “What happens with all these people – perhaps 3 billion or more – who survive the Great Tribulation and Armageddon?” This judgment of the nations answers that question.
2. (34-40) The judgment and reward of those on the right hand.
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: 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; I was naked and you clothed Me; I was sick and you visited Me; I was in prison and you came to Me.’ Then the righteous will answer Him, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see You hungry and feed You, or thirsty and give You drink? When did we see You a stranger and take You in, or naked and clothe You? Or when did we see You sick, or in prison, and come to You?’ 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.’
a. Come, you blessed of My Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you: The reward for those on His right hand (the sheep) is that they enter into the Father’s kingdom.
b. For I was hungry and you gave Me food; I was thirsty and you gave Me drink: They were approved on the basis of their works. There is no mention of faith or even forgiveness here. This judgment was based purely on their moral kindness.
c. Inasmuch as you did it to one of the least of these my brethren, you did it to Me: This is another clear distinction between this judgment of the nations and the final judgment. The Great White Throne judgment of Revelation 20 is based on what is written in the Book of Life; the Judgment of the Nations in Matthew 25 is based on the humane treatment of others, especially Christians and the Jewish people (who will be particularly hated and persecuted the last half of the Great Tribulation).
i. Though the Christian and Jewish brethren of Jesus may be first in mind, knowing the nature of Jesus, we can say that it does not exclude others. “The brethren are the Christian poor and needy and suffering, in the first place, but ultimately and inferentially any suffering people anywhere.” (Bruce)
3. (41-46) The judgment and condemnation of those on the left hand.
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: for I was hungry and you gave Me no food; I was thirsty and you gave Me no drink; 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.’ 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?’ 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.’ And these will go away into everlasting punishment, but the righteous into eternal life.”
a. Inasmuch as you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to Me: The charge against these lost ones did not concern any flagrant violation of a moral code, but their indifferent attitude toward Jesus (and His people). Their indifference sealed their doom. Throughout this chapter, the point has been emphasized: the price of indifference is too high to pay.
Š We cannot afford to be indifferent towards Jesus and His return.
Š We can’t afford to be indifferent towards the Holy Spirit who makes us ready for the return of Jesus.
Š We can’t afford to be indifferent towards the resources that God gives us.
Š We can’t afford to be indifferent towards the needy people all around us.
Š We can’t afford to be indifferent towards lost humanity that will stand in judgment.
i. “The ‘guilt’ of the cursed arises not so much from doing wrong things as from failure to do right . . . to do nothing is seen as the road to condemnation.” (France)
ii. “If those in the day of judgment shall be sent to hell who do not feed the poor members of Christ, and give them to drink when they are thirsty, what shall be done to those who pluck the bread out of the mouths which they have got in the sweat of their face, and spill the drink which their own labours or others liberality hath given them to drink? If it shall go hard with those that clothe them not when they are naked, what shall become of those who any way help to strip them naked?” (Poole)
b. Depart from Me, you cursed, into the everlasting fire prepared for the devil and his angels: Jesus clearly points out that hell was prepared for the devil and his angels. Men only go there because they have willingly cast their lot with the devil and his angels.
i. “They had joined the devil in refusing allegiance to the Lord; so it was but right that, imitating his rebellion, they should share his punishment.” (Spurgeon)
ii. Everlasting fire . . . everlasting punishment: The literal meaning of this ancient Greek word is “age-long.” As Bruce says, “The strict meaning of [everlasting]: agelong, not everlasting.” Because of this, some have thought that the suffering of the cursed is not eternal. Some suggest that the cursed are eventually rehabilitated and brought to heaven (the larger hope idea); others believe they will eventually cease to exist (the annihilation idea).
iii. Yet there are good reasons for believing that the sense of aionion in this passage is indeed eternal. “Aionion can refer to life or punishment in the age to come, or it can be limited to the duration of the thing to which it refers (as in Matthew 21:19). But in apocalyptic and eschatological contexts, the word not only connotes ‘pertaining to the [messianic] age’ but, because that age is always lived in God’s presence, also ‘everlasting’.” (Carson)
iv. In addition, in Matthew 25:46 everlasting and eternal both translate the exact same ancient Greek word. If the righteous experience life forever, then we must say that the guilty experience punishment forever. “But some are of opinion that this punishment shall have an end: this is as likely as that the glory of the righteous shall have an end: for the same word is used to express the duration of the punishment, as is used to express the duration of the state of glory.” (Clarke)
v. “They shall go into everlasting punishment, not a punishment for a time, as Origen thought.” (Poole)
vi. “But they have a will to sin ever; and being worthless they cannot satisfy God’s justice in any time; therefore is their fire everlasting.” (Trapp)
c. Everlasting punishment . . . eternal life: This mention of eternal life makes most believe that Jesus spoke about the final judgment. But for those who survive the Great Tribulation, certainly entrance into the millennial kingdom is the gateway to eternal life. Those who do not enter the millennial kingdom will also certainly have everlasting punishment.
i. The purpose of this Judgment of the Nations is to separate peoples before the beginning of Jesus’ millennial kingdom. The wicked and cruel will not enter; the moral and good will enter.
© 2010 David Guzik - No distribution beyond personal use without permission