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The Olivet Discourse (5)

J Gibson, Derby

Parable 2. The Days of Noah (Mt 24.37-42)

In spite of Noah’s faithful preaching and building the ark (1 Pet 3.20; 2 Pet 2.5) the world was completely caught off guard by the flood. Instead of preparing themselves for God’s coming judgment they had continued with the normal activities of life (vv.33-39). Even with God’s judgments falling on this world and wide-spread evangelism taking place, a similar attitude of indifference will prevail just prior to Christ’s Second Advent. His coming will effect a sudden and irreversible separation of unbelievers (taken away in judgment) from the godly that will enter the Kingdom (vv.40-41). The various activities mentioned – working in the field, grinding at the mill, sleeping in bed – all suggest different time zones in the world. By way of contrast, believers of that day, facing daily perils and threats, are exhorted to a constant watchfulness (v.42).

Parable 3. The Householder (Mt 24.43-44)

Christ’s coming is comparable to the unexpected breaking and entering of a thief (v.43; 1 Thess 5.2; 2 Pet 3.10; Rev 3.3; 16.15). Therefore, be ready. After all, "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" (v.43). For the ungodly, Christ’s coming will be as a thief because He will take from them everything they have.

Parable 4. The Servants (Mt 24.45-51; Mk 13.33-37)

Messiah’s coming is also likened to an absentee Lord. Every servant was given specific responsibilities (Mk 13.34). One servant was singled out for overall charge (Mt 24.45). Another, the porter "who guarded the outer gate, thus controlling all access to the entire house",1 was commanded to watch (Mk 13.34). Faithful and wise service during the Tribulation will be rewarded with Kingdom responsibilities (Mt 24.46-47). Beware of being caught asleep. Instead, watch and pray. Do not mistreat fellow servants, nor live a lazy and self-indulgent life (Mt 24.48-49), for such behaviour will be severely punishment (Mt 24.50). At this point the parable moves into the terrifying reality of the fate of the ungodly. At Christ’s coming He will "cut him [the wicked servant] in two [kill him] and appoint his portion with the hypocrites: there shall be the weeping [sorrow] and the gnashing of teeth [torment]" (Mt 24.51, JND).

Parable 5. The Ten Virgins (Mt 25.1-13)

"The wedding feast" pictures the millennial Kingdom (v.10, JND), while the ten virgins represent Israel during the Tribulation awaiting their Messiah. Just as the virgins bore lamps to light the procession, Israel is responsible to witness for Jehovah in this world. Five virgins wisely took oil – signifying genuine spirituality, perhaps the Holy Spirit’s presence – to replenish their lamps. The five foolish virgins who did not were prevented from entering the marriage feast, just as unsaved Israelites will not enter the Kingdom. Even the wise virgins fell asleep, re-emphasising the unexpectedness of Messiah’s return. The apparent delay does not indicate indifference on bridegroom’s part. Rather, full of enthusiasm, he will not wait till morning but wishes the feast to begin as soon as possible, even at midnight.

Parable 6. The Talents (Mt 25.14-30)

Messiah is pictured as a rich man who, "travelling into a far country", entrusts his goods to servants whom he expects to further increase his wealth by trading. The sums were enormous – a talent was equivalent to 6,000 days wages for a labourer.2 The amounts varied according to every man’s ability. Faithfulness was not measured by the total amount accumulated, but by achievement in relation to what was originally given. Therefore, the five and two talent men were judged equal in faithfulness. These servants, who got to work immediately and traded throughout their Master’s absence,3 represent godly Jews whose faithfulness during the Tribulation will be rewarded with Kingdom responsibilities (v.21); "the joy of your master is a designation for the bliss in the coming kingdom".4 The wicked servant stands for unbelieving Jews who are lazy and do not truly know the master. This servant audaciously misrepresented his master "as an unprincipled opportunist with a cruel streak".5 He, as will unbelieving Jews, will be cast "into outer darkness" (v.30). Thus, the actions of these servants in their master’s absence revealed their true character.

Parable 7. The Sheep and the Goats (Mt 25.31-46)

The Old Testament indicated that Gentiles would enter the Kingdom (Ps 72.8-11; Is 14.1-2; 60.3,5,12; 62.2). This parable explains the criteria for their entrance; how did they treat persecuted godly Jews (Christ’s brethren) during the Tribulation? In view of God’s original promises to Abraham, "I will bless them that bless thee, and curse him that curseth thee" (Gen 12.3), this will be an appropriate measurement. The actions of Gentiles during the Tribulation will reveal their inner character; "acts of kindness to the afflicted remnant of that day must spring from a regenerate nature and those who practice such kindness are called in our parable, the righteous…those who have responded to the gospel of the kingdom…at the peril of their lives will be prepared to feed the hungry…how we treat the Lord’s people is an indication of our heart’s attitude towards the Lord".6

Application

These parables have addressed believers living just prior to Messiah’s return to establish His Kingdom. However, because Christians are also living in the expectancy of Christ’s return, in their case at the Rapture, many of the principles are applicable today. For example, keep watching and praying, "for ye know not what hour your Lord doth come" (Mt 24.42). Be faithful. We too are accountable for our use of spiritual gifts, skills, finances, and time (Rom 14.10; 2 Cor 5.10). Be all you can be for your soon coming Lord.

Concluded.

1 Hiebert D E. A Portrait of The Servant (Chicago. Moody Press, 1974), p. 333.
2 Bible Reading Notes. Ballingry, 1984.
3 ‘The verb tenses used suggest they were trading the whole time of the Master’s absence.’ Macarthur J F. The Second Coming (Wheaton, Illinois. Crossway Books, 1999), p. 169.
4 Toussaint S D. Behold the King. A Study of Matthew (Portland, Oregon. Multnomah Press, 1980), p. 287.
5 Macarthur J F. The Second Coming (Wheaton, Illinois. Crossway Books, 1999), p. 172.
6 Bible Reading Notes. Ballingry, 1984.

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