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Bible Commentaries

William Godbey's Commentary on the New Testament
Matthew 25

 

 

Verses 1-46

CHAPTER 21

COMING OF THE LORD

Matthew 25:1-13. “Then shall the kingdom of the heavens be likened unto ten virgins, who, having taken their lamps, went out to meet the Bridegroom.” Throughout the Bible the Church is represented by a holy woman, the bride of Christ, the mother of God’s children, “the Jerusalem which is above” (Galatians 4:26); while the counterfeit Church, Babylon, Satan’s wife, is represented by a fallen woman. Tell, the multiple of hundreds, thousands, and millions, is representative of multitudes in a general sense. The lighted lamp is the regenerated and illuminated heart, which we receive from God when born into His kingdom. (Ezekiel 34:26.) Hence these ten virgins represent the children of God, setting out when first born from above, making it the enterprise of probationary life to secure admission to the marriage supper of the Lamb.

“Five of them were foolish and five were wise.” These terms are used antithetically and proleptically, anticipatory of the diametrically opposite courses pursued by the two parties. In the beginning, when the ten all got their lamps lighted, the most acute diagnosis could have detected no difference between these two quintets, who subsequently become so conspicuous by way of contrast, and so diverse either from other in their final destinies. Five of them are denominated foolish, because they settled down satisfied when they got their lamps lighted; while the other five merit the cognomen of wisdom for that prudential forethought which gave them boundless notoriety for the provisions they made against coming emergencies.

“For the foolish, having taken their lamps, took no oil with them;” i. e., no supply of oil, with which to replenish their lamps in the future. As a lamp will not burn without oil, they had an ample supply for the present. Their lamps burning brightly, looked as if they would thus shine on indefinitely. “But the wise took oil in their vessels with their lamps.” The vessel is the heart, and the oil the grace of God. Water, wind, fire, and oil, respectively, symbolize the Holy Ghost throughout the Bible. Here you see clearly and most unequivocally the two works of grace in the plan of salvation — i. e., regeneration, symbolized by the lighted lamps, all sinners walking in rayless midnight; and sanctification, beautifully emblematized by the vessels filled with oil, which means the heart filled with the Holy Ghost. Our Savior’s teaching is so plain and clear that illuminated minds spontaneously receive and appropriate it.

“The bridegroom tarrying, they all became drowsy and slept.” A rule in grammar specifies that when objects are contrasted, the first pronoun refers to the last mentioned. According to this rule, enustaxan, “became drowsy,” refers to the wise virgins; and ekatheudon, “continued to sleep,” refers to the foolish virgins. Enustaxan is in the aorist tense, indicating an instantaneous action, like people nodding and waking instantly afterward. The word not only means to become drowsy, but to nod. O how strikingly is this true! The saints in this world are exposed to so much malarious atmosphere — the brimstone gases and chloroform issuing constantly from the volcanoes of hell conduce to drowsiness, causing them to grow sleepy, and to nod ever and anon. We all observe peculiar periodicity in the attitude of God’s people toward the great truth of our Lord’s coming, like the ebb and flow of the ocean; sometimes much stirred up and exercised, making a new departure in the Divine life, trimming up the lamps, replenishing them with oil, and setting out with fresh vigor and elastic tread to meet the bridegroom; and again growing more careless, and giving way to drowsiness and nodding. The truth of the matter is, none of us are awake to these momentous realities as we ought to be. This verb, in the mode and tense our Savior gave it, does not at all indicate a permanent sleep, but drowsiness, nodding suddenly and then waking up, resolving to nod no more, but keep on a constant lookout till Jesus comes. Ekatheudon, “continued to sleep,” as applied to the foolish virgins, is in the imperfect tense, denoting habit, custom, and perpetuity. If they had not given way to a continuous spiritual slumber, they would have apprehended their deficiency and danger.

“At midnight there was a cry, Behold, the bridegroom; go ye out to meet him.” We see from this statement that all were not asleep; but some were wide awake, and shouting, “Behold, he cometh!” Reader, let it be your aspiration to belong to this class. So let us now begin the examination, and see whether your lamp is lighted and brightly burning, and your vessel filled with oil; i. e., your sanctification at no discount, but your heart emptied of all depravity and filled with the Holy Ghost. This is entire sanctification, which the wise all had. But you see it is not enough; that drowsiness and nodding are of dangerous tendency, and liable to ultimate in deep sleep. Now, be sure that you are wide awake; i. e., on the constant outlook for your Lord. If you catch yourself nodding, take the alarm, bestir yourself, and cry out to God for a shower of fire on your soul. Be sure that you get wide awake and keep so, going to the ends of the earth, and shouting, “Behold, He cometh!”.

“Then all those virgins arose and trimmed their lamps;” i. e., they all began to examine their Christian experiences, calculate their latitude and longitude, and ascertain their status before God. “But the foolish said to the wise, Give us of your oil, because our lamps are going out.” This error, “gone out,” in the E. V., is corrected in the R. V., and in the margins of your Bibles. It was in the Textus Receptus, from which the E. V. was translated, and led astray Dr. Clarke in his Commentary, who pronounces the foolish virgins utterly backslidden, which would be true if “gone out” were correct; but as, it is not, the exegesis takes at this point a very decisive turn, showing up the incontestable fact that the foolish virgins are not apostates, because their lamps are still burning. We must take our Savior’s word just as it is.

“Going out” is not out, but merely tending that way. So their lamps are still burning when the bridegroom comes, but in a very depleted condition for the want of oil; burning low, and in great liability of becoming extinct. These foolish virgins are not dead professors, because they have been genuinely converted, and are here denominated foolish because they did not go on and procure an ample supply of oil, a fortification against coming emergencies. If I were to call you foolish, it might be a mere mistake on my part; but when Jesus calls you foolish, take the warning at once, and rest assured that it is true. Now, do you not see most indubitably that they were called foolish for no reason but because they did not get their vessels filled with oil? O preacher, O Christian, Jesus is speaking to you! If you stop with a glorious conversion, bringing you out of the darkness of Satan’s kingdom into the light of God’s dear children, you fall under the Savior’s condemnation for foolishness! You must move forward, seek and find a second work of grace, and get your vessel filled with oil — get your heart emptied of sin and filled with the Holy Ghost; i. e., sanctified wholly — if you would be wise in the Divine estimation. The foolish virgins represent the millions in the Churches to-day who are satisfied with the first work of grace, regeneration, the lighting of the lamps. They stop there, and do not move forward and get their vessels filled with oil; i. e., get their hearts radically emptied of all sin and filled with the Holy Ghost. Our Savior’s teaching here is too plain for any to be mistaken. I beg you, take heed!

“The wise responded, saying, No; lest there be not enough for us and you. Go ye rather to them that sell, and buy for yourselves.” We all need all the grace we have and all we can get. So we can not dispense to others. This is papistical heresy. We can only send them to the glorious “Fountain that never runs dry.” We dare not add to nor subtract from the words of Jesus. There is not an intimation here that the shops where the oil is sold are closed. We dare not infer what is not revealed.

“And they, going to buy, the bridegroom came; and those who were ready came with him into the marriage supper; and the door was shut.” Here you see plainly that none but those who not only have their lamps lighted, but their vessels filled with oil, will ever enter into the marriage supper of the Lamb. Therefore you see plainly that without entire sanctification you will never be a guest at the marriage supper, nor a member of the bridehood, as the whole number of the guests constitute the Bride of Christ.

“But afterward, the other virgins also come, saying, Lord, Lord, open unto us. But He, responding, said, Truly I say unto you, I know ye not.” Of course the Lord knows all sinners as well as saints. We can only conclude from this response that He knows not the foolish virgins as members of the bridehood. These five, denominated “foolish,” simply because they stopped with the lighting of their lamps and did not go on and get their vessels filled with oil, represent all of the unsanctified Christians on the earth when the Lord comes, as well as those who have died in bygone ages. You can not discard them as apostates, because their lamps are still burning, though much needing a supply of oil. They committed the mistake, at this day sadly normal to popular Christianity, of underestimating the great enterprise of salvation. O the millions on that line now, who look upon red-hot holiness people as fanatics, calling them crazy, and saying they have gone wild on religion! O this mammoth heresy of minification! It is wrecking millions to- day. The trouble with the foolish virgins is, not that the shops are closed and they can get no more oil, but that they are too late for the marriage supper, the door being closed. Consequently they have missed the grandest opportunity accessible to humanity, and missed it forever. They are left on the earth to take chances with a world of sinners during the awful tribulation, when Satan will turn loose all the powers of hell to sweep in the millions, as in Noah’s flood. (Matthew 24:37-39)

“Watch therefore, because you know not the day nor the hour.” So our Savior concludes this wonderful parable of the virgins, as all the preceding paragraphs of this wonderful sermon on His second coming, with that thrilling commandment, “Watch!” O beloved, we can not afford to preach a sermon, nor deliver an exhortation, without reminding the people of the superlative importance that they be constantly on their watchtowers. And if it was so important in the apostolic age, it is infinitely more so now, as we are one thousand eight hundred and sixty-seven years nearer that greatest of all events than the contemporaries of Jesus.

Matthew 25:14-30. “For as a man, going away, called his servants, and delivered unto them his goods, To one he gave five talents, and another two, and to another one: to each one according to his own ability, and departed.” “Ability” here is dunamis, “dynamite.” Now, the Savior not only gives us our calling and work, enterprise and opportunity, to some more and to others less, but as the Divine dynamite is the only thing that can burst up the devil’s rock, tunnel through his mountains, and execute the work Jesus gives us to do, you see He gives the dynamite too. Consequently we are all left without excuse, as we do not have to prosecute these tremendous achievements by our own resources. If your calling is great, He gives you dynamite in proportion. If you have to tear Pike’s Peak out of the Rockies, He supplies all the dynamite necessary to do it. You have nothing to do but ignite it with heavenly fire, which He also supplies without stint.

“Immediately the one having received five talents, going forth, wrought with the same, and made other five talents. Likewise the one having received two, gained two others. But the one having received one, going away, digged up the ground, and buried the money of his lord. And after a long time the lord of those servants comes, and makes a reckoning with them. And the one having received the five talents, coming to him, brought other five talents, saying, Lord, you delivered unto me five talents; behold, I have gained five other talents. His lord said to him, Well done, thou good and faithful servant: thou wast faithful over a few things, I will make you ruler over many things; enter thou into the joy of thy lord. And the one having received two talents, coming to him, said, Lord, thou didst deliver unto me two talents; behold, I gained two other talents. His lord said to him, Well done, good and faithful servant: thou wast faithful over a few things, I will make thee ruler over many things; enter thou into the joy of thy lord. And the one having received one talent, coming to him, said, Lord, I knew thee, that thou art an austere man, reaping where thou hast not sown, and gathering where thou hast not strewn. Indeed, being afraid, having gone away, I hid thy talent in the earth; behold, thou hast thine own. But his Lord, responding, said to him, Thou wicked and slothful servant, thou knewest that I reap where I did not sow, and gather where I did not strew; it behooved thee therefore to commit my money to the exchangers, and having come, I should have received mine own with the product. Therefore take the talent from him, and give it to the one having ten talents; for to every one having shall be given, that he may have more abundantly; but from him that hath not shall be taken even that which he hath. And cast ye the unprofitable servant into outer darkness; and there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth.”

a. This one-talent man is quite a notable character, representing multiplied millions girdling the globe. We can not discard him as a heathen or a Moslem, because our Lord denominates him one of His servants. He renders himself very conspicuous by misapprehending and wrongfully charging God with “reaping where He has not sown, and gathering where He has not strewn.” Instead of denying the charge, which is utterly untrue, his Lord accepts the situation, and turns his testimony against him; as his logic, if true, would warrant the conclusion that he should be very careful with the Lord’s money, and not bury it, thus cheating Him out of the legal income. “Usury,” in E. V., is not the proper translation of toko, which is from tikto, “to produce.” Hence it simply means the product. Money, like all capital invested, normally produces an income. Hence the idea that correct and reasonable interest on money is unjust usury, is incorrect. Money, like everything else, is worth something for the mere use of it.

b. This man erroneously interpreted the doctrine of the final perseverance of the saints, thinking that he could keep his religion without using and improving it; as you see, his effort proved an utter failure, and he lost his soul. Hence he is an everlasting warning against all unfaithful and unproductive Christians. You see, it lets them drop into hell.

c. You recognize the fact that he was a rigid anti-holiness professor, stoutly arguing the impossibility of rendering God a satisfactory service, and thus living a perfect Christian. He made what John Wesley calls the greatest of all mistakes on Christian perfection; i. e., putting the standard too high, so that neither he nor any one else could reach it.

d. There is a great difference between this one-talent man and the foolish virgins. He lost his soul, while they only lost a place in the bridehood. Of course, in the great tribulation, many will backslide and lose their souls. But the last we see of the foolish virgins, their lamps are still burning, but in a very bad condition, and much needing oil. The last we see of the one- talent man, he is “weeping and wailing in outer darkness.” While the foolish virgins held to the heresy, so prevalent now, of making religion too easy, thinking one work of grace was enough, the one-talent man committed the opposite error of making it too hard. Consequently he went and buried his talent, believing “once in grace, always in grace;” yet holding on to his religious profession, though he actually did not live it, thus illustrating the woeful destiny of the Antinomian heresy, and finally, with all his profession, making his bed in hell.

e. You see the five-talent and two-talent men both received from the Lord the very same glorious approval and welcome into His eternal joy. In this parable, like the preceding, you see the second work of grace, not only illustrated, but abundantly verified. The truth of it is, in both cases, those who received the second work came out all right. But the virgins, who held on to their burning lamps, met the awful discomfiture of exclusion from the bridehood, and exposure to the tribulation horrors and temptations; while in the case of the one-talent man, imbibing the Antinomian heresy, he utterly backslid and lost his soul, though holding on to his profession to the last.

f. The rulership to which our Lord appoints the two who had doubled their talents — i. e., not only been converted, but sanctified — will take place in the glorious Millennial Theocracy, immediately following the Lord’s second coming, in which He will rule the world through the instrumentality of His saints. (Revelation 20:6)

g. Both of these parables really describe the pre-millennial judgments of the bridehood, when the elect of grace, “through sanctification of the Spirit,” will be taken out of the world, the living translated, the dead raised, and all transfigured, and “caught up to meet the Lord in the air.” (1 Thessalonians 4:16)

Matthew 25:31. “And when the Son of man may come in His glory, and all of the angels with Him, then He will sit upon the throne of His glory.” We now reach that portion of our Lord’s wonderful sermon which appertains to the final judgment. The expression, Otan de, “But when,” indicates the lapse of time intervening between the pre-millennial and final judgments. In this verse we have “His glory” specified twice, including the transfigured saints, who went up to meet Him in the air when He descended on the cloud, and called them with His own omnific shout and the trump of the archangel. “Know ye not that the saints shall judge the world” (1 Corinthians 6:2).

“Truly, truly, I say unto you, that the one hearing My word, and believing on Him that sent Me, hath eternal life, and doth not come into judgment; but has passed out of death into life.” (John 5:24)

You see from these Scriptures that the saints are not only exempt from the judgment, but they are participants in it, associated with King Jesus, their glorious Heavenly Bridegroom. Hence you see the necessity of having the gospel preached to every nation before the Lord comes, in order that each nation may be represented in the bridehood of Christ. As the king goes forth to his tribunal, accompanied by the queen, so King Jesus, who is honored with the judgment of the world, will enter into it, accompanied by His blood-washed Bride, the summation of the saints of all ages and nations.

“I saw thrones, and those who sat on them, and judgment was given unto them; and the souls of those who had been beheaded for the testimony of Jesus and the Word of God, who did not worship the beast, nor his image, and received not his mark in their forehead and in their hand; and they lived and reigned with Christ a thousand years. The rest of the dead lived not until the thousand years were completed. This is the first resurrection. Blessed and holy is he that hath part in the first resurrection: over these the second death hath no power; but they shall be priests of God and of Christ, and shall reign with Him a thousand years.” (Revelation 20:4-6)

Here you see, clearly and unequivocally, the two resurrections — that of the saints, when the Lord comes for them at the beginning of the millennium, and that of all nations at the end of time, soon after the millennium. I know an attempt has been made to explain away the first resurrection, spiritualizing it, and making it identical with regeneration. If you can spiritualize the first, you can not resist the force of your own logic, which will spiritualize the second, thus utterly doing away with corporeal resurrection, and falling into the heresy of Hymeneus and Philetus, who troubled Paul, saying, “The resurrection is past.” The same is the Swedenborgian heresy of the present day.

“I saw a great white throne, and Him sitting on it, from whose face the earth and heaven fled away; and there was found no place for them. I saw the dead, great and small, standing before the throne; and the books were opened; and another book was opened, which is the book of life; and the dead were judged out of the things which have been written in the books according to their works. And the sea gave up the dead which were in it; and death and Hades gave up the dead which were in them; and were judged each one according to their works. Death and Hades were cast into the lake of fire. This is the second death, the lake of fire. And if any one was not found written in the book of life, he was cast into the lake of fire.” (Revelation 20:11-15)

I give you this quotation because it describes the final judgment of all, great and small, which will take place at the end of time and after the millennium. I quote it here because it corroborates Matthew’s record, 25:31-46. I hope you will see the situation as given by our Lord in this conclusion of His wonderful sermon on the judgments, which He delivered to His disciples on Mount Olivet, the afternoon preceding His arrest. He is now accompanied by the sainted members of His bridehood, whom He raised and transfigured, translating the living at the beginning of the millennium, they, as you see from these Scriptures, constituting the first resurrection, and “reigning with Christ the thousand years,” and now they constitute a part of His glory, and do not come into judgment, but are associated with the Judge as His ministers and witnesses; as Paul says, “The saints shall judge the world.”

Matthew 25:32-46. “And before Him shall be gathered all nations; and He will separate them from one another as a shepherd separateth the sheep from the goats; and He will place the sheep on the right and the goats on the left. Then will the King say to those on His right, Come, ye blessed of My Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. For I was hungry, and you gave Me to eat; was thirsty, and you gave Me drink; was a stranger, and you took Me in; was naked, and you clothed Me; was sick, and ye visited Me; was in prison, and you came unto Me. Then will the righteous respond to Him, saying, Lord, when saw we Thee hungry, and fed Thee? or thirsty, and gave Thee drink? And when saw we Thee a stranger, and took Thee in? or naked, and clothed Thee? And when saw we Thee sick, or in prison, and came unto Thee? And the King, responding, will say unto them, Truly I say unto you, As much as you did them unto one of the least of My brethren, you did them unto Me.” As we are to preach the gospel to every nation, the saints of God will there be prepared, associated with the Judge, to bear testimony in the judgment of every nation, thus co-operative with the King. You see that these responses would not apply to the saints, as they have in all lands intelligently labored for the Lord, doing this philanthropy distinctly for Him. You see nothing in this whole problem but the grace of love on the one side, and the sin of misanthropy on the other. The Holy Spirit has been among all nations from the beginning, administering to all willing hearts the grace of redeeming love, which is really the fruit of faith, whether seen or unseen, and the climax of saving grace. Hence the people of all ages and nations, who have yielded to the Holy Spirit, and become the recipients of the redeeming blood and regenerating love, — those from amid the darkness of heathendom, Mohammedanism, Romanism, and under all environments, responsive to the calls of an unseen God, receiving the love imparted by the Holy Ghost, and often blindly groping their way through the darkness of sin, ignorance, and superstition till they reached Him who is the Incarnation of Love, have been saved, as we see here, to their own surprise. Thus, in a thousand mysterious ways, the Holy Spirit has been reaching the people in all ages, and bringing millions to God of whom we have never dreamed. Our Lord gives us a brief summary of the final judgment, in its last analysis, hinging on the isolated principle of love, manifested in an unselfish, philanthropic life, the normal fruit of the invisible Spirit.

“Then will He say to those on the left, Depart from Me, ye cursed, into eternal fire, prepared for the devil and his angels: for I was hungry, and you gave Me nothing to eat; was thirsty, and ye gave Me no drink; was a stranger, and you took Me not in; was naked, and you clothed Me not; sick and in prison, and ye visited Me not. Then will they respond, saying, Lord, when saw we Thee hungry, or thirsty, or a stranger, or naked, or sick, or in prison, and ministered not unto Thee? Then will He respond unto them, saying, Truly I say unto you, Inasmuch as you did them not unto one of these least, you did them not unto Me. These shall go away into eternal punishment, and the righteous into eternal life.” Here we see the other side of the judgment, proceeding, like the former, on the basis of isolated misanthropy, involving the last analysis of a wicked heart, so focalized in self as to live like brutes, caring not for their fellow-creatures. Hence you see that they depart into eternal punishment.

a. You see above, in the congratulatory welcome of the righteous, the deep principle of election obvious and fundamental, as the Lord says, “Enter the kingdom prepared for you before the foundation of the world,” thus setting forth the grand and consolatory principle of election to life. O it is a most inspiring and consolatory thought, as I do verily believe, unworthy as I am, that God elected me to life before “the foundation of the world.” While this glorious, fundamental truth, so very full of comfort, we here joyfully receive, we utterly discard the idea as untenable in Scripture that God reprobated any portion of the human race to destruction “before the foundation of the world.” He does not say to the wicked, “Depart, ye, into everlasting fires prepared for you,” but “for the devil and his angels.”

b. The plain solution of the problem is the simple fact that God made heaven for all the people in the world, and is so anxious to save them all that He actually gave His Son to die for them. “Then why are not all saved?” From the simple fact that the people of sin love evil, and can only have it on the devil’s territory. Consequently they settle down and live there till probation expires, the day of grace is over, and they can remain in this world no longer. Then there is no place for them but hell, the home of the devil. They have staid with him all their lives, rejecting finally probationary grace; so now there is no chance but to stay with him forever. Consequently there is no other alternative but for them, to “depart into the everlasting fires prepared for the devil and his angels.”

c. Hell is God’s penitentiary for the incarceration of the incorrigible subjects of His universal empire. As man is redeemed by the vicarious atonement of God’s Son, there is no apology whatever for his making his bed in hell. He simply does it because he prefers to abide with the devil in sin till he forfeits his probation, and there is no other place for him but hell. He has kept company with the devil all his life, illustrating diabolical selfishness, till insulted Mercy has turned away in despair, and left him to the groveling predilections of his own evil heart.

d. The plain words of Jesus here forever demolish the silly nonsense of the pitiful Nohellites. Aionion occurs twice in this closing sentence, “These shall go away into aionion punishment, and the righteous into aionion life;” meanwhile (v. 41), “Depart from Me, ye cursed, into aionion fire, prepared for the devil and his angels.” Hence you see that our Savior uses the same identical word, aionion, to describe the duration of the life of the righteous in heaven and the punishment of the wicked in hell, and the fire that shall devour the latter. Hence the wicked will endure the punishment and fire so long as the righteous enjoy the life of God in heaven. Besides, this same word, aionion, describes the duration of human redemption and of God Himself. Now, what does aionion mean? It is a compound adjective, from ai, “always,” and on, the present participle of eimi, the verb “to be.” Therefore this word, used by the Savior at the winding up of the final judgment, means “being always.” Therefore it settles the eternity of hell- fire, and punishment for the wicked beyond the possibility of cavil.

e. We do not wonder that wicked infidels, who reject the Bible in toto, contemptuously ridicule the doctrine of eternal punishment. But how strange that we have great denominations of people calling themselves Christians, and claiming to accept the whole Bible, who utterly repudiate this awful truth, revealed by the Almighty and so powerfully preached by the Savior! Besides, it is an alarming fact that the orthodox denominations, who have it positive and unequivocal in their Creed, are fast letting it drop out of the pulpit; so that now a sermon on it is a sheer novelty, whereas in the olden times the preachers thundered on it every time they stood before the people, and sinners fell like dead men under the mighty power of convicting grace. This is not only a fundamental doctrine of the Bible, but the great trip-hammer of conviction, which God has in mercy revealed to alarm the sinner, bring him to repentance, and keep him out of hell-fire. Lord, help us to preach like Jesus!

 


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Bibliography Information
Godbey, William. "Commentary on Matthew 25:4". "William Godbey's Commentary on the New Testament". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/ges/matthew-25.html.

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