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Bible Commentaries

F. B. Hole's Old and New Testament Commentary
Matthew 25

 

 

Verses 1-46

THE PARABLE OF the ten virgins opens this chapter. This world presents a very tangled scene in every direction. The coming of the Lord is going to produce a thorough disentanglement. We have already seen this in the parables of the wheat and the tares, and that of the net cast into the sea, in Matthew 13:1-58, and again in the verses we have just considered at the close of Matthew 24:1-51. The same great fact meets us again in this fresh similitude of the kingdom of heaven. The Lord had already mentioned the church in an anticipatory way, but He does not here say, “Then shall the church be likened... “ but, “the kingdom of heaven,” which is wider than the church, though including it. Hence the “ten virgins” do not represent the church distinctively, though it is included within their scope.

Hence we are surely right in applying the parable to saints of the present moment—to ourselves. The virgins “went forth” to meet the bridegroom, and we have been called out of the world to wait for the Lord. There did supervene a period of forgetfulness and slumber in the church’s history. A stirring cry as to the Bridegroom’s coming has been sounded forth, a cry which has said, “Go ye out to meet Him;” that is, revert to your original position as a called out people. So long as there was slumber there was little or no discernible difference between the true and the false, but directly they awoke and reverted to their original place the difference became manifest, and those who had no oil were revealed. The oil represents the Holy Spirit, and “if any man have not the Spirit if Christ, he is none of His” (Romans 8:9).

This parable has been pressed into service to support the idea that only devoted, wide-awake believers will meet the Lord when He comes, and that believers of lesser merit will be penalized. We believe this to be a mistake. The point all through this passage is the way in which the coming of the Lord will make complete separation between those who really are His and those who are not. In this parable we see the separation made between real and spurious in the sphere of profession, and the seal of the Spirit is only possessed by those truly Christ’s. The shutting of the door sealed the rejection of the false. The foolish do not represent backsliders who once knew the Lord and were known of Him. The word is not “I once knew you, but now disown you,” but rather, “I know you not.” Now the Lord knows those who are His, but these were strangers to Him.

In verse Matthew 25:13 the Lord applies this parable to His disciples, and to us. We know not the time of the coming of the Son of Man, and we are to watch. Thus again and again does He bring His prophetic teaching to bear upon our characters and behaviour. He does not give us light as to what is coming just to inform our minds and satisfy our desires for us. So having exhorted us to watchfulness He proceeds to show in the rest of this chapter how His coming is going to affect us as servants, and indeed how it will affect the world. The disentanglement it is to produce will be complete.

The parable of the servants and the talents is brought in to reinforce the exhortation to watch, given in verse Matthew 25:13; and it shows how the coming of the Son of Man will test all who take the place of being His servants, and lead to the casting out of all that is unreal. It is a thought calculated to sober us all, that during the time of His absence the Lord has committed His “goods” to His people. His interests have been placed in our hands, and we cannot avoid the point of the parable by saying, “I have no special gift and therefore it does not apply to me.”

The master delivered his goods to his servants, “every man” of them, and he had the discrimination which enabled him to appraise the capacity of each, and so he apportioned to each “according to his several ability.” We may distinguish therefore between the gifts that may be bestowed upon us and the abilities that we may possess, always remembering that the Lord adjusts the relation between the two things. Our abilities would cover our natural powers as well as our spiritual, and if these are not very large five talents, or even two, might be only a burden to us. If that be so, the Lord knows it and He only gives us one. We might connect this with the gifts spoken of in Romans 12:6-15, which are of such a character as to cover all the people of God. Whether the gift bestowed be large or small, the great thing is to use it with diligence.

Equal diligence was shown by the servants who received the five talents and the two. Each succeeded in doubling that which was entrusted to him, and when their Lord returned they both shared equally in his approbation and reward. Again in this parable, be it noted, the contrast does not lie between the more or less faithfulness and diligence, which may mark true servants, but between servants who were true, though their measure of ability differed, and the one that was no true servant at all. He that had received the one talent hid it in the earth instead of using it in his master’s interest; and this he did because he had no real knowledge of his lord. He claimed to know that he was a hard man, exacting more than his due, one to be afraid of. His lord took him up on the ground of the knowledge that he claimed to have, and showed that his plea only aggravated his guilt, for had he been a hard man the more reason there would have been for diligent use of the talent entrusted.

In reality the lord was anything but a hard man as witnessed by his treatment of the servants who were good and faithful. The fact of the matter was that this servant had no true knowledge of his lord, no true link with him. In result he lost all that had been entrusted to him, and he was ejected into outer darkness to weeping and gnashing of teeth, as was the false servant portrayed at the end of the previous chapter. In the similar parable recorded in Luke 19:1-48, the distinction is drawn between the different servants with their degrees of zeal and faithfulness, and they are rewarded accordingly. The servant with one pound suffers loss but he is not ejected into outer darkness. It is worthy of note that in both cases the failure is seen with the man who is entrusted with the least. If we probe our own hearts, we shall recognize that when we are only capable of small things our tendency is to do nothing. The Lord will assuredly honour the servant who though of small ability, does the small things with zeal and fidelity.

The closing paragraph of this chapter (verses Matthew 25:31-46) is not introduced as a parable. The parables began with verse Matthew 25:32 of Matthew 24:1-51, and now that they are completed, verse Matthew 25:31 picks up the thread of the prophetic recital from Matthew 24:31. When He comes, the Son of Man will not only gather together His elect, but He will summon the nations before Him, so that there may be a complete disentanglement right through the earth of the good and the evil. All the nations are to be assembled before Him, and the scene is one that takes place on the earth. In the final assize, when earth and heaven are fled away, predicted in Revelation 20:1-15, no nations appear: it is just “the dead, small and great,” for in death all national distinctions disappear.

Other scriptures inform us as to the warrior judgments to be executed by Christ in person, when at Armageddon the mighty armies of the various kings of the earth will be destroyed. These judgments however will still leave multitudes of non-combatants, and all these must pass before the scrutiny of the Son of Man, for only He can discriminate and disentangle with unerring wisdom. He will do this as a shepherd divides the sheep from the goats; and the issues depending on His judgment will be eternal, just as they will be in the judgment of the great white throne. Also here, as there, men will be judged according to their works.

The true state of every heart is known to God altogether apart from works; yet when public judgment is instituted it is always according to works, since they indicate plainly and infallibly what that state is, and thus the rightness of the Divine judgments is manifest to all beholders. These messengers, whom the King owns as “My brethren,” had gone forth as His representatives, and the treatment they received had varied according to the view taken of the Son of Man whom they represented. Those who believed in Him identified themselves with His messengers, and ministered to them in their rejection and afflictions: those who did not believe in Him paid them no attention at all. Those who had faith declared it by their works. Those who had no faith equally declared it by their works.

Take note of the fact that the King does not charge the condemned ones with persecuting and imprisoning His servants, but only with ignoring them—treating them with neglect. It fits in with the great question of

Hebrews 2:1-18, “How shall we escape if we neglect so great salvation?” In that day it will be seen that if men treat Christ with neglect, by neglecting His servants, they came under eternal condemnation.

Who are “these My brethren”? If we consider the whole prophetic discourse, of which this is the concluding part, the answer is not difficult. In the opening of His discourse the Lord addressed His disciples personally and told them how they would be hated, afflicted and betrayed, but that the end would only come when “this gospel of the kingdom” should have been preached for a witness to all nations, and that those who endured to the end should be saved. He spoke as though the disciples before Him would be there at the end because He viewed them in a representative capacity. The “brethren” at the end of the discourse are the disciples of the last days, who were represented by the disciples of the first days, to whom the Lord was speaking. Now though these were a little later baptised by the Spirit into the one body, which is the church, as recorded in Acts 2:1-47, they were at that moment simply a remnant of Israel who had discovered the Messiah in Jesus, and attached themselves to Him. They represented a similar remnant of Israel who in the last days will have their eyes opened and pick up the broken thread of “this gospel of the kingdom”—broken when Christ was rejected on earth, and picked up and renewed just before He returns to earth to reign.

In the closing paragraph of Matthew 25:1-46 the end is come. The Son of Man is King, the disciples who endured to the end are saved, the nations are judged, the disentanglement of the good and the evil is complete, the result of the judgment is eternal. Three times the word eternal occurs. The punishment of the wicked and the fire into which they go are eternal: the life into which the righteous pass is eternal. The antithesis to life is not cessation of existence, as it would be if life merely signified existence as the result of the vital spark remaining in us: it is punishment, because eternal life signifies the whole realm of blessed and eternal verities in which the righteous will move for ever. The point here is not that the life is in them, but that they pass into it. On that happy note the Lord’s prophetic discourse ended.

 


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Bibliography Information
Hole, Frank Binford. "Commentary on Matthew 25:4". "F. B. Hole's Old and New Testament Commentary". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/fbh/matthew-25.html. 1947.

Lectionary Calendar
Saturday, December 14th, 2019
the Second Week of Advent
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