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Bible Commentaries

John Broadus' Commentary on Matthew
Matthew 25

 

 

Verse 37

Matthew 24:37 to Matthew 25:13.
Watch Continually For The Coming Of Christ

Only the early part of this section has a parallel in Mark (Mark 13:33-37) and Luke (Luke 22:34-36); but Luke has more extensive parallels in earlier discourse. As to the general contents and the divisions of this discourse on the Mount of Olives, see at the beginning of Matthew 24. From this point we have now reached, the destruction of Jerusalem sinks rapidly out of view. The passage in Matthew 24:37-44 might be understood as having also a primary reference to that event, regarded as a coming of Christ, but it contains no expression requiring to be so understood. Still less indication is there of such a reference in the two illustrations of Matthew 24:45-51 and Matthew 25:1-13. But throughout this section everything naturally suggests that final coming of Christ to judgment, which is alone brought to view in the closing paragraph of the great discourse, Matthew 25:31-46. There would be no profit in working out a possible allusion to the destruction of Jerusalem in some parts of this section, and we may confine ourselves to its obvious and supremely important teaching as regards preparation for the final coming. Our Lord first declares that his coming will be unexpected, as illustrated by the coming of the flood and the coming of a thief, and bases on this an injunction to watchfulness (Matthew 24:37-44); he then further illustrates the same fact and consequent duty by the supposed case of a good and bad servant (Matthew 24:45-51) and by the parable of the foolish and wise virgins. (Matthew 25:1-13.)

I. Matthew 24:37-44, Watch, For He Will Come Unexpectedly

Compare Mark 13:33 and Luke in the earlier discourses he gives in Luke 17:26-35, Luke 12:39 f.

(a) Illustration from the coming of Noah's flood.—37-39. But as, Rev. Ver., and as. But some of the best documents read 'for as,' which would easily be changed by copyists because somewhat obscure; it is therefore probably correct. (Lach., Treg., W. H.) It does not exactly give the reason why the day and hour is unknown, (Matthew 24:36) but a confirmation of the statement that no one knows: men will not even be thinking of it when it arrives. Also is genuine in Luke 17:26, but not here, nor in Matthew 24:39. The coming, see on "Matthew 24:3". The Son of man, see on "Matthew 8:20". On a former occasion our Lord had added another illustration to the same effect from the times of Lot, Luke 17:28-32. Here, as often before, the question arises whether we shall suppose that Jesus used these illustrations only once, and one or other Evangelist has made a dislocation; or that he repeated. To one who has had experience of itinerant preaching to popular audiences, the supposition that an illustration was repeated at some new place and time seems so perfectly natural that there is no occasion for the other hypothesis.—The coming of Christ will find men in general busy with the ordinary pursuits of life, as in the time of Noah; only those who are prepared as he was will escape the sudden and unexpected destruction. It follows that our Lord's coming certainly cannot be at the end of a thousand years of universal and perfect piety, for in that case all would know the exact time, and all would be devoutly and eagerly expecting the event. Compare Luke 18:8. Took them all away, with emphasis on 'all.'

(b) Persons most intimately associated will be separated by that unexpected coming.—40f. Two (men). The Greek has only 'two,' but the connected words are masculine, as with the following 'two' they are feminine. In the field,(1) in the cultivated district appertaining to some supposed city. One shall be (lit., is) taken, taken along, perhaps by the angels sent to gather the elect. (Matthew 24:31) The same Greek word is rendered 'receive' in John 14:3; for the idea, compare 1 Thessalonians 4:17. The Greek has here the present tense, which is more vivid than the future would be. Some understand the term to mean taken along by the destroying agencies attending Christ's appearance, as the flood carried all away. In either view of this phrase the main thought of the passage remains the same; it shall be well with one and ill with the other, and there will be no time then for preparing. Two women grinding at the mill. This domestic labour is still frequently performed in Palestine by women, and was observed there by the present writer. The lower millstone, say twelve inches in diameter, is placed on the ground and perhaps fixed in it; the upper stone is turned by a peg near the outer edge. One woman sits on the ground, (Isaiah 47:1 f.) so as to have the mill steadied between her knees, the other crouches on the opposite side. Sometimes the stone is much larger, and each crouches on one side. One pulls the peg towards her through half a circle, the other seizes it above or below and completes the circle; or else both retain their hold, and one relaxes while the other pulls. With the free hand one now and then puts a little grain into the central orifice of the revolving stone. To the jerky motion of the stone they keep time by a low, wailing chant. "The sound of the grinding" (Ecclesiastes 12:4) may be only the rumbling and ringing noise made by the revolving stone, but more probably refers to this chant.(2) The two women are apt, in the nature of things, to be mother and daughter, or older and younger sister, or friendly neighbours, or slaves in the same house. Yet even these will be separated by the Lord's second coming, the prepared one being accepted, the other having then no time to prepare.—Some larger millstones were turned by an ass, (Matthew 18:6) and others by water, where this was available, as is now to be seen in many places. "The Greek Anthology" (Wet.) has a statement that "in ancient times" women used to grind, before the art of grinding by water was discovered.—A third illustration of the same kind is given in Luke 17:34 as used on an earlier occasion viz., that of two men on one bed.

(c) Application of these illustrations.—42;(3) Mark 13:33. What hour. Rev. Ver., on what day. This is read by many of the best documents, and was easily changed by copyists into 'hour,' by assimilation to Matthew 24:44. Thus of the two words in Matthew 24:36, we have one in Matthew 24:42 and the other in Matthew 24:44, and again both in Matthew 24:50 and Matthew 25:18. Your Lord cometh. Elsewhere he always says 'the Son of man cometh,' as in Matthew 24:44; compare Matthew 24:27, Matthew 24:30, Matthew 24:37, Matthew 24:39, Luke 12:40, Luke 17:24, Luke 17:26, Luke 17:30, Luke 21:36. The expression 'your Lord cometh' connects itself closely with 'his Lord' in the illustration that presently follows, Matthew 24:45-50, and so in Luke. Probably this expression led to the phrase "our Lord cometh," which was so common a saying among the early Christians that Paul quotes it in the Aramaic, Maranatha; (1 Corinthians 16:22) compare Philippians 4:5, James 5:7, 2 Thessalonians 2:2, 2 Peter 1:16, 2 Peter 3:10. Tyndale and Geneva use 'master' all through Matthew 24:42-50; Wyc., Cran., Rheims, have 'lord,' K. James 'Lord.' Wünsche says the Rabbis also declare that the Messiah will come when least expected; so every one must hold himself ready, and he who does not, will have himself to blame if he is shut out. Indeed, this is a principle applying to everything which is certain to come, but at an uncertain time. Hence it applies exactly to our own death, for which we ought to make ready in advance and to stay ready always.

(d) A further illustration and its application.—43 f.; compare Luke 12:39 f. This illustration was often repeated by the apostles, 1 Thessalonians 5:2, 1 Thessalonians 5:4, 2 Peter 3:10, Revelation 3:3, Revelation 16:15. Know this, or this ye know. The Greek second plural has the same form in the indicative as in the imperative, hence occasional ambiguities, as in John 5:39, John 14:1. The good man (master) of the house, see on "Matthew 10:25". In what watch. The night, from sunset to sunrise, was divided by the Jews in earlier times into three, but under the Romans into four periods called "watches," compare Mark 13:35, and see above on Matthew 14:25. Broken up, literally digged through (Rev. Ver. margin), implying walls made of mud or of sun-dried bricks, which are still common in many parts of the world, compare on Matthew 6:19. Therefore (Matthew 24:44), the propriety of the injunction being inferred from the foregoing illustration. Be, more exactly, become, get ready; ye also, as the householder must do if he would be ready whenever the thief comes. The Son of man, as in Matthew 24:37, Matthew 24:39; see on "Matthew 8:20".

II. Matthew 24:45-51. Let His Coming Find You A Good Servant And Not An Evil One

Mark 13:34-37, Luke 21:34-36; compare an earlier discourse in Luke 12:35-38, Luke 12:42-46.

Matthew 24:45-47. Servant, doulos, slave, see on "Matthew 8:6". Wise is not the general Greek word, but means more exactly prudent, discreet, shrewd, etc., with varying shades of good and bad meaning, as in Matthew 7:24, Matthew 10:16, Matthew 25:2 ff.; Luke 16:8. It here probably signifies prudent and judicious in the means and methods of faithfully serving the master; or possibly, prudent in subserving his own true interest by fidelity to his master. Household. The Greek word denotes the whole body of domestics. The servant in question is the head steward, charged with the special duty of regularly supplying all the domestics with food; along with that he exercised a general control, observe, made ruler, or set over, and sometimes assumed the right to punish (Matthew 24:49.). Meat, food, which was formerly the meaning of the English word 'meat.' In due season. To distribute the food regularly and promptly was an important point of good management in a steward. Blessed is more exactly happy, as in Matthew 5:3 ff.; another beatitude. His lord, when he cometh, from some journey, or some other place of residence. Shall find so doing, faithfully and judiciously supplying the domestics with food, i. e., performing the special duties of his position. Verily I say unto you, calling special attention, compare on Matthew 5:18. Will make him ruler (or set him) over all his goods, over all his property of every kind, and not simply over his body of domestics. Compare Matthew 25:21, Luke 19:17, Luke 19:26. Our Lord here puts honour upon those who serve him by comparing them, not to a menial or ordinary slave, but to the intelligent, faithful, and trusted head-slave of the household, like Joseph in Potiphar's house. Many have understood a specific reference to ministers, and from this notion has arisen a singular mixed text, widely current in the language of devotional meetings, "a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth, and giving to each his portion (Luke 12:42) in due season" (but see Rev. Ver. of 2 Timothy 2:15). That our passage really refers to all Christians is confirmed by Mark 13:37, "And what I say unto you I say unto all, Watch." The passage may be applied to ministers a fortiori, as having all the ordinary responsibilities of Christian life, and others that are extraordinary.

Matthew 24:48-51. With the faithful diligence and happy reward of the good head-servant (in any supposed case) is now contrasted the behaviour and punishment of the head-servant in case he turns out an evil one. Evil is opposed both to faithful and to prudent. (Matthew 24:45.) But and if. So also in Tyndale and all his followers. In Middle English and was used in the sense of 'if' (Skeet), afterwards distinguished from the copulative and by writing it an, as in Shakespeare's "an it please you," "and thou lovest me," etc. When this conditional use of and grew indistinct to the mind it was strengthened by adding if, so as to make in Shakespeare 'an if,' and here, 'but and if'; modern usage omits the and, and the old phrase 'but and if' now looks very strange. Compare Luke 12:45, Luke 20:6, John 6:62, 1 Corinthians 7:11, 1 Corinthians 7:28, 1 Peter 3:14; in the three last passages Rev. Ver. unwisely retains 'and.' Shall say in his heart, compare 'to say within yourselves,' in Matthew 3:9. The heart, as always in Scripture, is here the seat of thought as well as of feeling, see on "Matthew 6:19". Delayeth his coming. Tarrieth expresses the correct Greek text. It contained a delicate intimation to the disciples that Jesus was not coming again in a very short time (compare on Matthew 25:19). Shall begin, com. On Matthew 11:20. And to, rather, shall eat and drink with the drunken, carousing at the master's expense, instead of keeping the household in order and exercising a prudent economy. In a day, implies that he comes from some distance; and in an hour, amplifies and makes more impressive, as so often in Hebrew parallelism. Shall cut him asunder, cut him in two. This is the exact meaning of the term, and no other has any support from Greek usage. The Old Latin translates by dividet, 'will divide,' or findet, 'will cleave'; Pesh. 'will divide'; and Memph. takes great pains, 'will divide him in his middle.' Such a severe punishment was practised among the Hebrews; (2 Samuel 12:31, Hebrews 11:37 Sus 1:55) and Wet. gives various examples from Greek and Roman writers. Some think it must be here simply a hyperbole for severe scourging, because of the following phrase: And appoint his portion with the hypocrites. This makes a sudden transition from the illustration to the thing illustrated. 'Cut him in two' is the image, a severe temporal punishment; 'his portion with the hypocrites' is in eternity. That hypocrites (see on "Matthew 6:2") are grossly offensive in God's sight, and must be severely punished, was a thought familiar to the minds of the disciples (Matthew 6:2, Matthew 6:5, Matthew 6:16, Matthew 15:7, Matthew 16:3) and just freshened through the discourse of that same day. (Matthew 23:13-29) The good servant will be exalted to the highest position a servant can have (Matthew 24:47); the bad servant, who drank with the drunken, shall dwell with the hypocrites. Now if 'appoint his portion' makes a transition from the earthly punishment to the punishment of hell, (Matthew 25:41, Matthew 25:46) there is no occasion for objecting to the literal and only established sense of 'cut him in two,' and no ground for the alternative rendering of Rev. Ver., margin. The weeping and the gnashing of teeth (see on "Matthew 8:12".)

Luke having given a similar comparison to the good and bad steward in an earlier discourse, (Luke 12:42-46) does not here repeat it, nor yet wholly pass it by, but sums up the thought in the comprehensive and impressive sentences of Matthew 21:34-36.

Watch Continually For The Coming Of Christ, Continued

III. Matthew 25:1-13. Parable Of The Ten Virgins

Not found elsewhere. This beautiful parable is a further illustration of the variously illustrated injunction to 'watch', (Matthew 24:42, Matthew 24:44) which is repeated at its close, (Matthew 25:13) in such a form as to recall also the great statement of Matthew 24:36, and thus link all the discourse up to this point in the closest connection. Our Lord is still sitting on the Mount of Olives, late in the afternoon of his last day of public ministry (see on "Matthew 24:1", see on "Matthew 24:3".)

Matthew 25:1. Then, viz., at the time of the Saviour's coming (Matthew 24:42, Matthew 24:44) The kingdom of heaven, the Messianic Dispensation (see on "Matthew 3:2".) Be likened unto (see on "Matthew 13:24".) The omission of certain details, and the desire of interpreters to prepare for this or that homiletical application, have led to much difference of opinion as to some points of this tender and beautiful story. But scarcely any of these seriously affect the main lesson of the parable, and they should not be allowed to occupy much space in an expository sermon or Sunday-school lesson. It was the custom to hold weddings after nightfall. The bridegroom and some friends went to the house of the bride, and after religions ceremonies there he set forth towards his own abode in a grand procession, which was illuminated by torches or lamps in the hands of the participants, and often preceded by musicians. In the utterly dark street of an Asiatic city, every one who goes forth at night is expected, and in modern Jerusalem is strictly required by the authorities, to carry a light. (Compare Psalms 119:105) Other invited guests, who had not gone to the bride's home, could join the procession at any point, and enter with it into the bridegroom's residence, to share in the festivities. But without a burning lamp or torch they could not march in the procession, and so could not enter the house. In order to join the procession conveniently, such persons might assemble beforehand at different points along the proposed route, and wait for the bridegroom's approach. Some recent commentators urge that the bridegroom must here be conceived as on his way to the bride's house, to hold the festivities there, since in the application Christ comes from heaven to earth to establish his kingdom; but it is useless for the sake of a painful literalism, to imagine a departure from custom. In 1 Maccabees 9:39 only the bridegroom is mentioned as coming forth, with a grand procession and musicians; and yet just above (Matthew 25:37) we see that they were "bringing the bride." When the bridegroom came from a distance, the festivities were sometimes held at the residence of the bride, as in Genesis 29:22, Tobit 8:20 ff. In that case, however, the virgins would not have lighted their lamps till news came that the bridegroom was near, and after that the delay on his part would be unnatural, whereas according to the common view, the delay of the wedding procession in setting out from the bride's house is natural enough. In that case, also, not the bridegroom, but the father of the bride, would have decided whether the five should be admitted. It seems tolerably evident from Tobit 8:10-12 that the marriage feast is at the house of the bridegroom. Still, the general lesson remains the same in either view of this particular. The "Western" type of text has, with its usual free handling, made it read 'went forth to meet the bridegroom and the bride,' in order that the text might distinctly conform to custom. The bride is really not mentioned throughout the parable, doubtless because Christ's people in this image are represented by the attendants.

The story in itself considered has curious points of naturalness and verisimilitude. Young girls would be specially interested in a wedding, prominent in its ceremonies, and distressed at missing the festivities. Bridal ceremonies are very apt to be delayed beyond the time appointed. It is evident that great delay is here supposed, for otherwise the maidens would not themselves have been arrayed and assembled so long beforehand as to have time for all falling asleep while they waited.

Ten may be regarded as merely a round number, sufficiently large to shew interest in the occasion. Compare Luke 19:13. We learn however from Lightfoot that the Jews "delighted mightily in the number ten. A synagogue must have at least ten present; an order or ring of men consisted not but of ten at the least." Wün. adds that ten men must be present at a wedding, in order to utter the requisite blessings. Compare Ruth 4:2. Josephus says ("War," 6, 9, 3) that not less than ten men must assemble to partake of a paschal lamb. Morison reminds us how these uses of the number might be suggested by the ten fingers, as was the decimal basis of numeration.

The word for lamps is different-from that of Matthew 5:15, and regularly means a torch, (John 18:3, Revelation 8:10) and we know that the Greeks and Romans commonly used torches in marriage processions; but here it seems to denote a lamp fed with oil, though it might be a sort of torch fed with oil (Rev. Ver. margin). In processions, such a lamp was borne on a wooden pole (Edersheim); and was doubtless protected from the wind, probably (as now) by a covering of wood, or of cloth supported by a wire frame (Smith's "Dict."). These lamps held but little oil, and would need to be replenished. As the lamp was indispensable, and the movements of a bridal procession were uncertain, prudent persons would carry with them vessels of oil, but these were very unpleasant for persons in festive apparel to carry, and the imprudent might conclude to risk it with the oil in their lamps. They would all set down the lamps and leave them burning, because they were constantly expecting the approach of the procession. If we conceive them as waiting at the bride's house, it would have been silly to leave the lamps burning, before there was any announcement of the bridegroom's approach; especially as in that view he would be coming from a great distance. Goebel maintains that the foolish had empty lamps, the vessels being those which formed part of the lamps. This fancy is devised in order that the oil may mean divine grace, without any hitch in the interpretation; but it makes the foolish virgins simpletons. Wise(1) is the word meaning prudent, etc., see on "Matthew 24:45". Tarried is the same word as in Matthew 24:48, and one of the links of connection between the two illustrations; compare also Matthew 25:19. Slumbered and slept is lit., nodded and were sleeping Persons sitting up and overcome by drowsiness first nod and presently begin to sleep continuously.

Go ye out, or, come ye forth. The latter is more probably the meaning than 'go ye out'; the Greek word oftener means come than go, which is usually expressed in New Testament by the word used in Matthew 25:9, compare Matthew 3:5, Matthew 20:29; and the cry would naturally be made by persons in the street who saw the procession approaching, rather than by persons in the house; nor would the latter have occasion for making a loud, clangourous cry, such as the Greek word denotes. There was a cry, or more literally a cry has arisen, a vivid expression which transports us into the midst of the scene. Behold, the bridegroom! like 'Behold, the Lamb of God!'; (John 1:36) but many copyists added, as in Com. Ver., cometh. Trimmed is the word rendered 'garnish' in Matthew 12:44, Matthew 23:29, and denotes adorning, beautifying; they poured in oil, trimmed and drew up the wick, wiped off the lamp, did everything that would make it beautiful and bright. Our lamps are going out, the Greek having the present tense and not the perfect; correctly translated in Tyn., Rheims, and margin of Com. Ver. Lest there be not, Rev. Ver. says peradventure, etc. The wise kindly abstain from express refusal, and only imply it by the words, 'Peradventure there will not be enough for us and you, go rather, etc.' (Compare Plumptre.) In attempting to buy oil at midnight, they would find few or no shops open, and would be much delayed. Bruce fancies that it was a second folly to go after oil, when if they had but remained they might have been admitted without it. But (1) the whole tone of the story, and all that we know of the wedding customs, implies that a burning light was necessary. Without it they would not have been showing honour to the bridegroom, and could not have been distinguished at the door from strangers or other persons having no right to be admitted. (2) The advice of the wise to go and buy must, on Bruce's view, be taken as cruel mockery, or possibly as dictated by the unreflecting selfishness of persons hurried and disconcerted; either of which would seem excessively incongruous and improbable. To the marriage (feast), as in Matthew 22:2 ff. The door was usually in the middle of one side of a house, leading by a passage under the second story to the inner court, upon which all the rooms of the house opened. When this outer door was shut, all connection with the outside world was cut off. Persistent knocking, and loud entreaty addressed to the bridegroom personally, might at length bring him to the door. Verily I say unto you, a solemn assurance, compare on Matthew 5:18. I know you not. They have no claim to be received as guests; he does not even recognize them as acquaintances. (compare Matthew 7:23)

The application of this beautiful parable is obvious, but is surpassingly tender and pathetic. It teaches the same lesson as Matthew 24:37-42, Matthew 24:43-51, that the only way to be ready when Jesus comes is to be ready always. The term 'virgins' must not be given a spiritual significance, as if denoting pure Christians; for five of these represent persons not really Christians at all. The division into two halves must surely not be supposed to teach that at the coming of Christ half the people in the world or in any community will be ready to meet him, and half not ready; it was simply the most natural division of the round number, there being no special reason for dividing otherwise. The bridegroom tarried might suggest to the disciples that their Lord would not come immediately. (Compare on Matthew 25:19) The fact that all the ten were sleeping should not be made a reproach to true Christians. It was not wrong for the virgins to sleep under the circumstances; they were neglecting no duty in so doing, provided they bad thoroughly made ready for the bridegroom's coming. To understand it as meaning that the successive generations of mankind must fall asleep in death (various Fathers and some modern writers), is wholly unwarranted and seems strangely unsuitable. Whether the foolish virgins are to be considered as representing "church members," there is nothing to show; they are persons who profess, and honestly think that they are Christ's friends, and expect to meet him with joy. To take lamps and no lasting supply of oil, suggests that superficial and temporary interest in divine things which is so often witnessed; compare Hosea 6:4. The hurried and fruitless attempt, when the moment arrives, to make the preparation which ought to have been made in advance, is deeply pathetic, and touches a sadly common fault in regard to readiness for meeting Christ at his coming, or for meeting the messenger whom he sends to bear us away, even death. The inability of the prudent virgins to help the foolish in their extremity reminds us that piety involves personal conditions and relations to Christ that are not transferable. I know you not. This will not be rejecting persons who ask to be saved, but disowning persons who claim to have been saved, to have been ready and waiting for his coming.

To find some separate spiritual meaning in the lamps, the vessels, the oil, and the sellers of oil, etc., seems here worse than idle. (Compare on Matthew 13:3) Maldonatus counts fifteen separate items having spiritual significance, and Keach thirteen. It is very unwise here to bring in the idea of the bride as meaning "the church." (Ephesians 5:25) The bride is not mentioned in the parable, and, as already suggested, for the obvious reason that Christians here appear as friends waiting to join the procession. Bring in the bride as the church, and you introduce inevitable confusion of idea through a mixture of distinct images. It ought to be everywhere carefully remembered that if "mixed metaphors" are bad for rhetoric, they are worse for exegesis.

Watch therefore, for ye know neither the day nor the hour(2)repeats the solemn refrain of Matthew 24:42, Matthew 24:44, Matthew 24:50. The whole passage from Matthew 24:36 to Matthew 25:13 should be read in worship as one, and this refrain brought out with special emphasis; just as one reads Psalms 42 and Psalms 43, with the refrain of Psalms 42:5, Psalms 42:11 and Psalms 43:5; or like the refrain in Psalms 80:3, Psalms 80:7, Psalms 80:19, and various other Psalms. This is not saying that the passage before us is, properly speaking, poetical; it rather presents an oratorical repetition of the practical theme, after each separate illustration."Watch" does not here mean keep awake, as opposed to the sleeping of Matthew 25:5, but be so heedfully expectant as not to be caught unprepared.

Homiletical And Practical

Matthew 24:37-39. The flood, as a picture of Christ's final coming. (1) Men knew not when it would be, and did not really believe it would ever be; compare Luke 18:8. (2) Men were too busy with ordinary affairs to stop and think about God's merciful warning. (3) Men in general were caught unprepared, and swept into destruction. (4) Those men who believed and made ready found themselves safe, and had a blessed future.

Matthew 24:40 f. The most intimate associations of this life will in many cases be severed, in a moment and forever, by the coming of Christ. And so death, though for none an eternal sleep, will be for many, alas! an eternal separation.

Matthew 24:42. The coming of our Lord. (1) We know not when he will come—need not know—cannot know—should not wish to know, compare Matthew 24:36. (2) We shall be ready when he comes if we are ready always, compare Matthew 24:43 f. (3) We should watch, not in dread but in hope, for it will be our Lord's coming, compare 2 Timothy 4:8, Titus 2:11-14. (4) Thus are we better prepared to serve him when he does come; (a) with patience under trouble, compare James 5:7; (b) with gentleness and forbearance towards others, compare Philippians 4:5; (c) with all holy living and piety, compare 2 Peter 3:11 f.; (d) with efforts to make all men likewise ready to meet him, compare Matthew 24:14.

Matthew 24:45-47. A good servant of Christ. (1) He is aware that the responsibilities of Christ's service require not only faithfulness, but prudence, discretion, good sense. (2) He is conscious of duties to his fellow-men, and is exact and punctual in performing them, as being also duties to Christ. (3) He is always ready to meet Christ, because always busily engaged in Christ's service. (4) He will be rewarded for serving Christ here by better opportunities of serving him hereafter.

Matthew 24:45-51. The good and the bad servant contrasted. All men are in one or another sense Christ's servants, and will be held by him to account, compare 1 Corinthians 5:10. (1) The good servant is faithful and wise; the bad servant is unfaithful and foolish. (2) The good servant is busy in serving Christ by benefiting others; the bad servant is unkind to others, and engrossed with selfish gratifications. (3) The good servant will welcome the Lord at any moment; the bad servant will be caught unawares. (4) The good servant will he exalted to higher honours and wider usefulness; the bad servant will be terribly punished, dwelling forever amid hypocrites, and filled with bitter but vain regrets.

Matthew 25:1-13. The Ten Virgins. (1) The coming of our Lord ought to be thought of as a joyful event. (2) The time of his coming is uncertain and may be delayed, so that preparation for it must be permanent. (3) Not all those who call themselves his friends, and nominally await his coming, will be found really ready when he comes. (4) Hurried attempts to make ready then, will prove a failure. (5) Oh the bitter grief and disappointment of having meant, and professed, and long appeared, to be his friends, and then encountering the closed door and the solemn voice of refusal.

No light had we: for that we do repent:

And, learning this, the Bridegroom will relent.

'Too late, too late! ye cannot enter now.'

No light, so late! and dark and chill the night!

Oh, let us in that we may find the light!

'Too late, too late! ye cannot enter now.'

—Tennyson.

Matthew 25:8. Henry: "Those will see their need of grace hereafter, when it should save them, who will not see their need of grace now, when it should sanctify and rule them."

Matthew 25:11. Jerome: "What does it profit to invoke him with the voice whom by works you deny?"

Matthew 25:12. Henry: "With regard to those that put off their great work to the last, it is a thousand to one that they have not time to do it then. While the poor awakened soul addresses itself, upon a sick-bed, to repentance and prayer, in awful confusion, it scarcely knows which end to begin at, or what to do first; and presently death comes, judgment comes, and the work is undone, and the poor sinner undone forever."

Matthew 25:13. We need not wonder at the frequent repetition, and fourfold illustration, of "Watch, for ye know not," seeing that human nature is so prone to heedless sloth or to preoccupation with worldly affairs.—All these exhortations to watch, and be ready, for the Lord's coming, will apply without material alteration to the duty of preparation for death, which will in an important sense summon us to meet Christ, and will leave fixed and permanent the relation in which we shall rise to meet him when he does come. (John 5:28 f.)


Verses 14-30

Matthew 25:14-30.
Be Ready To Give Account At The Coming Of Christ

This is found in Matt. only, though a quite similar parable is given by Luke, (Luke 19:11-27) as spoken at Jericho, some five or six days earlier. On that occasion it had a special design, to indicate that the consummated reign of the Messiah would begin only at his return after an absence, and that then he would reward and punish men according to their behaviour during his absence; the illustration in that form exactly corresponded to the history of Archelaus. (See on "Matthew 2:23".) Here those peculiar traits are dropped, and we have not a returning king, but simply a master, who returns from a long journey to reward and punish. It must not be inferred that Jesus is here taking pains to avoid calling the Messiah a king, for he does so immediately afterwards. (Matthew 25:31, Matthew 25:34) Some critics at once take for granted that Jesus spoke only one parable of this sort, and that either Luke or Matt. has reported inaccurately. But we have already remarked many times that such varied repetition on the part of a preacher who journeys about is perfectly natural. Meyer thinks it would be unnatural that the simpler should be the later form. It is amusing to watch the current propensity to explain every thing as an evolution from the simple to the complex. Certainly in preaching it is very common to produce a complex illustration adapted to certain surroundings, and on a second use in some other discourse to make it simpler and more general. Edersh. counts it difficult to believe that our Lord would give a parable in the presence of his disciples at Jericho, and then, a few days later, repeat it to the disciples in private; but theological instructors find frequent need of repeating to a class in an altered form what had been said in a sermon not long before.

Matthew 25:14 f. For the kingdom of heaven is as a man, etc., Greek, lit., for just as a man, etc. The other member of the comparison is never formally stated, but it is understood without difficulty. Our Lord has given (since Matthew 24:37) a series of illustrations to show the importance of watchful preparation for his coming—the days of Noah, one taken and the other left, the thief coming unexpectedly, the head-steward and his returning master, the foolish and the prudent virgins. In the latter case he said expressly (Matthew 26:1) that the Messianic reign shall resemble the case of these virgins and the coming bridegroom, so he here goes on without further stating the matter to be illustrated. It is important to watch (Matthew 25:13), for the Messiah's second coming is like the ease of a man, etc. See a similar expression in Mark 13:34. Travelling into a far country, as in Matthew 21:33; 'took, or went on, his journey,' Matthew 21:15, is the same Greek term. His own servants , as in, Matthew 22:6, those that belonged to him, doulos, slaves (see on "Matthew 8:6"), from whom he might require and expect care for his interests. Trench : "Slaves in antiquity were often artisans, or were allowed otherwise to engage freely in business, paying, as it was frequently arranged, a fixed yearly sum to their master; or they had money committed to them wherewith to trade on his account, or with which to enlarge their business, and bring in to him a share of their profits." A similar course was sometimes pursued in our Southern States, during the existence of slavery. Five talents. A. talent of gold, see on "Matthew 18:24", would be near twelve hundred dollars of our money, and with a purchasing power at least ten times as great. It was as if one should now put $60,000 in the hands of a dependent to preserve and increase. In the earlier parable (Luke 19) the sum stated is a "mina," about $17, so that ten minas would be one hundred and seventy, equal in purchasing power to say two thousand dollars. The sums used in the two illustrations are obviously round numbers. As talents in the parable represent whatever God gives us to use and improve, and as beyond comparison the most important of such gifts are our mental powers, so it has become common in English to call a man's mental powers his talents, and hence to speak of a man of talent, or a talented man. A more or less similar use is found in German and Dutch, in French, Spanish, and Italian, even in modern Greek. To every man according to his several ability, or 'his own ability,' viz., his capacity for preserving and increasing the funds intrusted to him. Compare Romans 12:6, 1 Corinthians 12:11, Ephesians 4:11. In the earlier parable this distinction was not made, but to each was given the same sum. (Luke 19:13)

Matthew 25:16-18. The trusted servants go to work. Straightway should most probably be connected with what follows, as in Rev, Ver., rather than with what precedes, as in Com. Ver. and Com. Greek text. In Matt. this Greek word (Weiss) always connects with what follows it. The good and faithful servant (Matthew 25:21), feeling his responsibility, went to work without delay. We naturally suppose that likewise, said of the second servant, includes this feature. Traded, literally worked, wrought (Wyc.), as in Matthew 21:28; Matthew 26:10; then in a technical sense, 'engaged in business,' and so 'traded.' The men who conduct large business operations have to work indeed. One of the popular delusions is shown in speaking of "the working classes," as if brain-work were not often far more intense and severe than mere hand-work. But the term "business men" proceeds on a like assumption that no one else is really busy. In the other parable (Luke 19:13-15) the Greek word used means directly 'engage in business,' which was expressed in Old English by 'occupy', (compare Ezekiel 27:9, Ezekiel 27:22) used here also by Cran. and Rheims, while Tyn. and Gem in Luke give 'buy and sell.' Made. It is hard to decide whether we should read this word er 'gained,' which has much better documentary evidence, but might easily here come from Matthew 26:17, Matthew 26:20, while 'made' is also found in Luke 19:18, Rev. Ver. There is obviously no substantial difference. For lord, meaning master, see on "Matthew 8:19".

Matthew 25:19-23. The master returns and demands an account. The two faithful servants. After a long time. This was necessary in the illustration for doubling the capital by any safe business. In the application it intimates that the final coming of the Messiah is remote, but still the phrase is quite indefinite. There was nothing in it to show that the coming would not take place in their day, but only enough to show that they must go on diligently serving Christ under present conditions. Bruce well compares the correction addressed by Paul to those Thessalonians who supposed the Lord was certainly coming immediately, and inferred that it was useless to engage any more in the ordinary duties of life. (2 Thessalonians 3:10-12) Well done is a good translation, found first in the Geneva version; but stress cannot be laid on 'done' in contrast to the 'well doing' of Galatians 6:9; for 'done' is not expressed in the Greek, but only implied in the word 'well.' Tyndale and Cran. translate simply 'well,' but this in modern English would be inadequate and ambiguous. Over a few things... over many things, implies that the master had vast capital and many kinds of business to be managed. We can hardly suppose here a conception remaining from the former parable, where a king was speaking, (Luke 19:17) for there the reward was to be made governor over ten cities; the two parables seem to be consistently distinct throughout. The joy of thy Lord is in the story the rejoicing and felicity consequent on the master's return to his home. (compare Luke 15:22 ff.) But here the application quite overpasses the limits of the illustration. The noblest and purest earthly delight could but dimly picture the joy which will follow the Saviour's final coming, for all that have been good and faithful servants, a joy unspeakably heightened by the fact that they will share in it with him; compare Hebrews 12:2, Romans 8:17.

The rhythmical repetition in Romans 8:22 f. of Romans 8:20 f. reminds one of Matthew 7:26 f., and of the parallelism which characterizes the Old Test poetry. But what is more important, it commends and rewards the servant who has faithfully used the two talents in the same terms as the one who received the five talents There will doubtless be different capacities for sharing in the joy of our Lord, but every one will enjoy to the full. In the other parable the reward varies in exact accordance with the profit made upon the original trust, ten cities, five cities, as was natural in the case of a king appointing governors. Even here the wicked servant's talent is not divided between the two others, but given to the first. In Matthew 7:22 received is not expressed in the Greek, according to some of the best documents, but left to be understood; beside them rests on inferior evidence.

Matthew 25:24-30. The wicked and slothful servant. A hard man, the Greek word for hard having metaphorical uses like our own. In Luke 19:21 f. the Greek is substantially equivalent, being austeros, rough, harsh, etc., which we borrow through the Latin as austere, but now use in a somewhat more restricted sense. The image in gathering where thou hast not strewed, or scattered, is not exactly the same as in reaping where thou hast not sown, but seems to mean the gathering of wheat that after it was cut had been scattered, in order to become more dry and ripe; or else gathering up from the threshing-floor what another had scattered there to be threshed. The servant knew, he said, that his master was hard and grasping, drawing gain from the labour of others He therefore pretends that he was afraid to invest the talent in business; for if he should make profit, the master would take it all (Goebel); and if he should lose the principal, he would be harshly treated, since one who so grasped after gain would have no patience under loss. So he returns the talent, as being all that would really have belonged to his master even if he bad engaged in profitable business. He does not recognize his position and duty as a servant, and tries to excuse himself by attacking his master's character and disposition. Alford : "The foolish virgins failed from thinking their part too easy; the wicked servant fails from thinking his too hard." Hid thy talent in the earth, compare on Matthew 13:4. In Luke 19:20 the servant having a much smaller sum in charge simply kept it "laid up in a napkin." There is a sort of spiteful fling in the words lo, there thou hast that is thine own, or thou hast thine own, Rev. Ver.—implying that the master had no right to expect more. Thou wicked and slothful servant. He wickedly misjudged and slandered his master, and tried to make that an excuse for his slothful failure to do as he had been commanded. The master retorts that his own excuse established his guilt. Granting the master's character to be as represented, this would itself have indicated the propriety of at least lending out the money on interest So also in the earlier parable, Luke 19:23. Exchangers, or bankers. The Greek word is derived from the word for bank or bench on which money used to be received and paid out. These bankers also changed money, but they were something much higher than the small-change men of Matthew 21:12. Plumptre: It was in the servant's power "to take advantage of the banking, money-changing, money-lending system, of which the Phoenicians were the inventors, and which at the time was m full operation throughout the Roman Empire. The bankers received money on deposit, and paid interest on it, and then lent it at a higher percentage, or employed it in trade, or (as did the publicani at Rome) in farming the revenues of a province. This was therefore the natural resource, as investment in stocks or companies is with us, for those who had not energy to engage in business." The law of Moses forbade Israelites to charge interest against each other. (Exodus 22:25, Leviticus 25:35-37, Deuteronomy 23:19) But Deuteronomy 23:20 allowed them to lend upon interest to Gentiles, and we may suppose this to have been a case of that sort, there being here no indication of nationality. Besides, the law was no doubt often disregarded or evaded in the dealings of Jews with each other, as we find in the time of Nehemiah. (Matthew 5:10-12) Our Lord draws his illustrations from the actual conduct of men, sometimes from their wrong conduct (e.g., Luke 16:1 ff.; Luke 18:1 ff.). Usury, in Old English denoted simply what we now call interest, being the sum paid for the use of money, Latin usura; but by degrees came to signify exorbitant interest, as so many words have from evil practices acquired an evil sense. Our word 'interest' derives its technical sense from the more general notion of profit. The Greek word here employed denotes what is born of money, what it brings forth or produces. The translation ought to be changed to 'interest,' throughout the Old Testament Psalms 15:5 refers to the law of Moses above mentioned, which is not binding upon Christians.

Matthew 25:28. Bib. Comm: "God's gifts are not left unproductive, because one to whom they are intrusted neglects his duty. So far as such gifts are transferable, they are often, as a matter of fact, taken away from him who does not use them aright, and given to another. Thus the kingly power which Saul misused was taken from him and given to David. Thus the kingdom of God was taken away from the Jews, and given to a nation bringing forth the fruits thereof."

Matthew 25:29. Compare Luke 19:26. See on "Matthew 13:10". This is a principle of the divine government having many applications.

As some would make hiding the talent in the earth mean sinking the spiritual in the carnal, or what not, so some understand putting the money to the bankers to mean contributing to charitable associations, etc. This last might be suggested as one application of the principle that persons who timidly shrink from personal exertions may indirectly promote spiritual work; but a single practical application of a general principle should not be put forward as an interpretation.

Matthew 25:30. The unprofitable, or 'unserviceable,' in colloquial phrase 'of no use'; before called wicked and slothful.' If the man with one talent was blameworthy for making no increase, much more (Bruce) would that have applied to persons having two or five talents. Thus the guilt of uselessness holds true for high and low. Alas! how many professed Christians are utterly useless. Into (the) outer darkness, etc., (see on "Matthew 22:11"), while the faithful servants share their master's joy in his brightly lighted abode; the application of the image is to hell and heaven.

Homiletical And Practical

Matthew 25:15. 'To each according to his ability.' (1) Inequalities of human condition necessarily result from the inequalities of human character and conduct. (2) To have more of property or of other talents than one can manage for God's glory, would be a burden and not a privilege. (3) The way to get a larger portion is to make wise use of what we have. (4) The best reward in eternity, will be the ability and opportunity to do grander work for Christ. (5) The faithful use of two talents will receive as hearty commendation as that of five; and the cup of joy will in each case be full. Yea, it would have been the same with the servant who received one talent, had he faithfully used it.

Matthew 25:21. 'Enter thou into the joy of thy Lord.' (1) A joy unalloyed by sorrow. (2) A joy which is the reward of faithful service. (3) A joy which consists not in idle resting, but in higher and wider usefulness. (4) A joy shared with the Lord himself.

Matthew 25:23. Jewish comm. (Midrash) on Exodus (Wet.): "God never bestows great things on men till he has first tried them by little things; e.g., Moses, David."

Matthew 25:24. Calling God a hard master. (1) Men are often hard masters, but that does not prove that God is. (2) God gives to every servant some talent to improve—only in proportion as he has really sown does he claim to reap. (3) It is the wicked and slothful servant who complains of having a hard master. (4) To excuse our lack of service by accusing him whom we ought to serve, is but adding insult to injury. (5) We may delude ourselves with flimsy excuses, but we cannot deceive God, nor escape aggravated punishment.

Matthew 25:25. The hid talent. (1) It is "his lord's money" (Matthew 25:18), entrusted for use and increase, and the servant has no right to hide it. (2) The reason for hiding may be professedly prudent fear, but is really sloth, disobedience, and lack of devotion to the master's interests. (3) The risks involved in doing anything whatsoever, form no sufficient reason for doing nothing. (4) To return the hid talent is not giving the master his own, for he has a right to expect increase. Anon.: "One who receiving seed to sow, has at seed-time not sown it, inflicts loss upon his master; although he has not lost the seed, yet there is a loss in proportion as there might have been gain if be had sown at the fit time."

Matthew 25:29. Chrys.: "He that hath a gift of word and teaching to profit thereby, and useth it not, will lose the gift also; but he that giveth diligence, will gain to himself the gift in more abundance; even as the other loseth what he had received."

Matthew 25:30. The unprofitable servant. (1) Unprofitable because slothful. (2) Unprofitable, and therefore wicked. (3) Unprofitable and inexcusable (Matthew 25:26 f.); if shrinking from one way, he might have been useful in some other. (4) Unprofitable, and for this severely punished.

Matthew 25:14-30. Parable of the Talents. (1) Christians should gladly recognize that they are Christ's "own servants," and must bend every energy to promote his cause in the world. (2) Christ commits to us as talents to be used in his service (a) our personal powers—of body—of intellect, imagination, passion, taste, conscience, will; (b) our attainments; (c) our possessions, and capacities for further acquisition; (d) our influence, through family, social, and business relations. (3) When Christ comes he will reward us for the faithful use of all these by admitting us into intimate and permanent intercourse with himself, and by heightened resources for glorifying him. (Matthew 25:28.) (4) In the case of failure to improve our talents, many or few, complaints against Christ will be a poor excuse, only aggravating the offence. (5) To do no good in the world, to be simply useless and worthless, is to sin grievously against Christ; and only by incessant efforts to do good can we avoid doing positive evil. (6) The unprofitable servant will be punished by taking away his neglected resources for doing good (Matthew 25:28), and by grievous and abiding suffering. (Matthew 25:30.)


Verses 31-46

Matthew 25:31-46.
Judgment Scene At The Coming Of Christ,

The other Gospels have nothing at all parallel to this solemnly beautiful passage. Matthew has in various other instances given much more of a discourse than Mark or Luke, e. g., Matthew 5-7, Matthew 10, Matthew 13, Matthew 18; and so here Matthew 25 is all peculiar to Matthew, except that Luke has a parable given on a former occasion that closely resembles the parable of the Talents. The reference to the destruction of Jerusalem, with which this great discourse began, has now passed out of sight, and we think only of the final coming of Christ. (Compare on Matthew 24:3) Our Lord had before intimated that he was to be the final judge of men (Matthew 7:22 f.; Matthew 13:40-43, Matthew 16:27, John 5:25-29); he now describes the future judgment scene, in a way strikingly appropriate for the conclusion of his whole discourse on his coming. (Matthew 24 and Matthew 25.) Especially close is the connection with the foregoing parable of the Talents, in which the master returns to examine, and reward or punish.—Some expositors here introduce elaborate discussions as to the relation of this judgment to the "thousand years" of Revelation 20:2-7. But whatever may be regarded as the meaning of that obscure and highly figurative statement in the visions of Patmos, it seems out of place to bring in the matter here, where there is no distinct room, and no occasion whatever, for its introduction.—The passage obviously divides itself into Matthew 25:31-33, Matthew 25:34-40, Matthew 25:41-45, and Matthew 25:46. Alford: "It will heighten our estimation of the wonderful sublimity of this description, when we recollect that it was spoken by the Lord only three days before his sufferings."

Matthew 25:31-33. All men gathered and divided. When, Rev. Ver., But when. It is very doubtful whether the Greek particle ought here to be translated 'but,' or 'now,' or to remain untranslated. This depends on the relation of what follows to what precedes, which the particle itself does not at all determine. Only if the following passage stands in some sort of opposition to the foregoing, do we properly render 'but,' otherwise the Greek term is only a particle of transition, which we render by 'now' or 'and,' or often leave quite untranslated. This passage does not seem clearly opposed to the parable of the Talents, for that also, as we have seen, presents an examination followed by reward and punishment. It would therefore seem better to leave the particle untranslated, as in Com. Ver. The Son of man, the Messiah, as so often in this discourse, (Matthew 24:27, Matthew 24:30, Matthew 24:37, Matthew 24:39, Matthew 24:44) and previously; see on "Matthew 8:20". Nowhere in the discourse does Jesus say that this will be himself, but he is answering the question of the disciples, 'what shall be the sign of thy coming?'; (Matthew 24:3) and indeed he had long encouraged the disciples in the belief that he was the Messiah. Shall come in his glory, compare Matthew 16:27, 'in the glory of his: Father,' and Matthew 24:30, 'coming on the clouds of heaven with power and great glory.' We have little further information as to the nature of this 'glory.' Just below is mentioned 'the throne of his glory;' and Paul speaks of 'flaming fire', (2 Thessalonians 1:8) and 'the trump of God.' (1 Thessalonians 4:16, 1 Corinthians 15:52) Nothing earthly could furnish the images for an adequate description. And all the holy angels with him, like the splendid retinue of a king, compare Matthew 13:41, Matthew 16:27. No longer will he be a homeless wanderer, with a handful of followers. As to the angels in general, see on "Matthew 18:10". 'Holy' (Com. Ver.) is a spurious addition.(1) Sit upon the throne, as a king (Matthew 25:34.); compare Matthew 19:28. The Jews, including the Twelve, expected the Messiah to sit on a throne of temporal dominion. Our Lord here shows the disciples that at his second coming he will sit on a throne of judgment, making awards for eternity. He sits now already on the throne of mediatorial authority, (Matthew 28:18) spiritually conquering and ruling. (1 Corinthians 15:25, Hebrews 12:2)

All (the) nations. Not only Jews, but Gentiles, not only some nations, but all. The ancients all inclined to think that every nation must of course have its own deities; but there is only one God for all nations, and only one Mediator and final Judge. (compare 1 Timothy 2:5) Though his personal mission was exclusively to the lost sheep of the house of Israel (Matthew 15:24) yet he was destined to draw all men unto him, (John 12:32) and the proclamation of his work was to be made to all nations. (Matthew 28:19) Bengel: "All the angels, all the nations; how vast an assembly." Some commentatators suppose that it means only the Gentiles, who are most frequently meant by 'the nations.' Plumptre finds a striking distribution: the parable of the Virgins refers to all Christians; that of the Talents to those "that hold any office or ministry in the church"; and this passage to the heathen. But the parable of the Talents does not admit of the proposed limitation; and here, certainly the blessed for whom the kingdom is prepared are Christians. Others, even Meyer, understand that this judgment relates to Christians only; but that is made highly improbable by 'all the nations,' and seems impossible in view of 'depart accursed'—strange Christians! As (the) shepherd, in any particular case, like 'the sower,' 'the good man,' etc. (Matthew 12:35, Matthew 13:3) Divideth, or separateth (Rheims), same word as in preceding clause. Com. Ver. follows Tyn., 'divideth,' an improper variation of the translation, compare on Matthew 25:46.

From the goats. The Greek word properly means 'kids' (Rev. Ver. margin), as in 'Thou never gavest me a kid,' Luke 15:29. The Latin and Peshito versions have the distinctive terms for kids; Jerome expressly mentions that it is not goats but kids, and Anon. labours to show why the term kids is more appropriate. The difference is of course quite unimportant. Sheep and goats are often found in one flock, (Genesis 30:32 f.) but sometimes do not feed well together, and are kept apart while grazing.(1) The Scriptures often employ sheep to denote those who trust in God, and so the goats or kids are here naturally taken to represent the worse side. Various Fathers and some modern writers proceed eagerly to trace minute analogies between the wicked and kids or goats, and between the righteous and sheep, in the way that has brought so much reproach upon the interpretation of Scripture. On his right hand... on the left. Wet. quotes Greek and Roman writers and the Talmud as putting the good on the right hand of the judge and the bad on the left hand. It is a perfectly natural symbolism, connected with our preference for the right hand in greetings, and in many ways. (Luke 1:11, Mark 16:5) How far this predictive imagery of a judgment scene will be literally fulfilled by actual assembly in a locality, etc., no one can tell. All descriptions and conceptions of things unseen and eternal are necessarily dependent upon material analogies, even as our own mental action can be defined only in terms drawn from physical action. We may be very sure that the spiritual and eternal reality will be something far more solemn and instructive than any conception we are able to derive from the simplest or the most sublime images.

Matthew 25:34-40. The King and Judge speaks to those on his right hand. The King. Our Lord has been constantly speaking, throughout his ministry, of the 'kingdom of heaven,' and 'kingdom of God', (Matthew 4:17, John 3:3, etc.) the familiar Jewish designation of the Messianic reign (see on "Matthew 3:2"). In like manner "King Messiah" was a familiar phrase among the Jews. Had Jesus employed that expression in speaking to the people, they would have seized upon it as confirming their conception of a worldly sovereign, conquering and reigning in splendour at Jerusalem. So he has preferred to designate the Messiah by the phrase 'the Son of man' (see on "Matthew 8:20"), which would not encourage these popular misconceptions. In Matthew 16:28 he predicted 'the Son of man coming in his kingdom,' coming as king, and in Matthew 19:28 as sitting 'on the throne of his glory'; but in both cases he was talking with the Twelve. And so here—perhaps with only four of them (see on "Matthew 24:3"); the time is near when he will avow himself before the Sanhedrin to be the Messiah and will take the foreseen consequences. (Matthew 26:63-68, Matthew 27:11)

Observe too that he distinctly speaks of his future coming, and not of any present and temporal reign. It must be remembered that an Oriental king, indeed any ancient king, often acted as judge. Come, in Greek the same emphatic expression as in Matthew 11:28; as now he strongly and warmly invites to loving trust and service, so hereafter to blessed reward. Blessed, not the word properly rendered 'happy' (see on "Matthew 5:3"), but another which exactly means 'blessed,' persons whom God has blessed, who are in a blessed state; as in Matthew 21:9, Matthew 23:39, Luke 1:42. Blessed of my Father means exactly 'my Father's blessed ones,' denoting not simply that they have been blessed by him, but that they are his. Tyndale unwarrantably, 'blessed children of my Father,' and this expression, though adopted by none of his followers, was introduced into the Burial Service of the Church of England. Our Lord delights to connect his work in many ways with that of the Father; see Matthew 10:32 f.; Matthew 11:25, Matthew 11:27; Matthew 15:13; Matthew 16:17, Matthew 16:27; Matthew 18:10, Matthew 18:19; Matthew 20:23; Matthew 23:29; Luke 2:49; Luke 22:29; Luke 23:46, and exceedingly often in John. Inherit, because it is not merely theirs by gift, but theirs by inheritance (so Chrys. and followers), their Father's gift, (Romans 8:17, Revelation 21:7) designed from all eternity to be theirs. So the literal sense of the word seems appropriate here, (compare 1 Corinthians 15:50, Galatians 5:21) and not the modified sense found in Matthew 5:5, and perhaps in Matthew 19:29. But this heirship is proven to exist by their manifesting a Christian character and leading a Christian life; (2 Peter 1:10) and particularly, as here set forth, by their kindness to Christ's people.

The kingdom is here the Messianic kingdom (see on "Matthew 3:2") in its perfected heavenly state. Prepared, not merely destined, but made ready (Meyer); compare John 14:2, Hebrews 11:15, James 2:5. Peter adds (1 Peter 1:4 f) that it is preserved for the heirs, and they are guarded for the inheritance, so that neither shall fail of the other. The eternal fire also is 'prepared.' (Matthew 25:41) From the foundation of the world, compare John 17:24, 1 Peter 1:20, Ephesians 1:4, and above in Matthew 13:35. For introduces the proof that they are blessed of the Father, and entitled to inherit the kingdom, viz., that they have rendered service to the King's brethren, and thus virtually to him. Ye took me in. The Greek means led me with (you), viz., into your houses (Grimm.). Naked, imperfectly clothed.—These (Acts 19:16) tender and beautiful sentences are designed to impress the great thought that the Messiah would recognize himself as served in serving even the least of his brethren, and neglected in neglecting them, a thought for which the way has already been prepared in Matthew 10:40 ff.; Matthew 18:5 f.; compare Hebrews 6:10, 1 John 3:16. It would be a grave mistake to suppose that nothing will be regarded in the judgment, nothing help in determining a man's future, but the simple question whether he has been benevolent towards suffering Christians; we are taught elsewhere that each will "receive the things done in the body, according to what he hath done, whether it be good or bad." (1 Corinthians 5:10, Rev. Ver.) It is also a mistake to infer that only actions will enter into the judgment. The essence of the passage is that the actions in question will be accepted as indicating personal relation to Christ; and it is really personal relation to Christ, as acted out in the life, that will fix eternal destiny. All this directly applies only to those who have had some knowledge of Christ's brethren and of him; the heathen who have had no such knowledge will be condemned for neglecting the light of nature, and the law of conscience. (Romans 1:18 ff.; Romans 2:12-16)—observe then that our Lord is not expressly speaking of benevolence to the poor and suffering in general, but of kindness to his poor and suffering 'brethren' for his sake. Yet he himself healed and fed many who were not truly his; and we are imitating and honouring him if for his sake we minister to any and all who are needy or distressed—provided always we minister wisely in a truly helpful way, and not so as to promote professional beggary or other imposition, nor the self-conceit of criminals in prison, etc.

Matthew 25:37-39. The righteous answer in no self-depreciation, but in simple sincerity and humility; they have not personally seen the Saviour, (1 Peter 1:8) and how (Mald.) can they have rendered him any personal service? They will, when actually brought to judgment, think and feel otherwise only in proportion as they have understood and remembered the lesson here given.

Matthew 25:40. Verily, I say unto you, calling solemn attention. (Compare on Matthew 5:18) With this reply of the King we may well compare Matthew 6:4, Rev. Ver., "that thine alms may be in secret; and thy Father, which seeth in secret, shall recompense thee." He knows and remembers every act of modest charity, and is ready to accept it as done to himself. One of the least of these, or, even these least. Many of Christ's followers were poor and of little apparent importance; only a few were otherwise. (John 7:48, 1 Corinthians 1:26 ff.) He identifies himself not merely with the distinguished, but with those whom men would lightly esteem. Morison : "When the Judge, as it were, points to these his brethren, and then refers to the least of them, it is not needful that we should suppose that they are different from 'the sheep.'... In pronouncing sentence on each, he could point to surrounding brethren who had been loved and sympathetically helped."

Matthew 25:41-45. Those on the left hand. Depart from me, substantially the same expression as in Matthew 7:23; but the added words are here more awful. The participle rendered cursed lacks the article in some of the earliest and best MSS.,(1) and in that form it could not mean ye cursed, but depart accursed, 'depart from me under a curse' (Rev. Ver., margin), the curse resting upon them as a part of the sentence. Everlasting, or, the eternal, fire, the Greek having the article; that eternal fire which was a familiar thought to the minds of his hearers; see the same phrase in Matthew 18:8, and compare Matthew 3:12, and Mark 9:48, 'the fire is not quenched.' See on "Matthew 5:22", 'the Gehenna of fire,' and Matthew 13:42, Matthew 13:50, 'the furnace of fire'; also on Matthew 3:11, 'baptize... in fire.' (Compare Judges 1:7, Revelation 20:10 ff.) The term 'eternal' is used instead of 'everlasting,' merely to keep the translation uniform. (See on "Matthew 25:46".) Whether eternal punishment involves any physical reality corresponding to fire, we know not; there will be something as bad as fire, and doubtless worse, for no earthly image can be adequate. (Compare above on Matthew 25:31-33.) For the devil, that is, Satan (see on "Matthew 4:1".) We might say that by analogy to the angels of God, Satan's attendants and helpers, the demons (see on "Matthew 8:31"), are called his angels. But more than that appears to be true. The demons are fallen angels. (Judges 1:6, 2 Peter 2:4, Revelation 12:7) We must beware of confounding what little we know from Scripture concerning these dreadful beings with the ideas of Milton in Paradise Lost, or with popular traditions and nursery tales. (Compare on Matthew 4:1) Notice (Origen) that while it is the kingdom prepared for you (Matthew 25:34), it is not the eternal fire prepared for you, but prepared for the devil and his angels; the wicked go to share the dreadful doom of the fallen angels, go of their own movement into that which was prepared for others. And they are not said to 'inherit' the eternal fire, but incur the punishment through conscious sin and through rejection of the Saviour.

Matthew 25:42-45. This answers to 35-40, with the beautiful Hebrew circumstantiality and parallelism, compare Matthew 25:20-23, Matthew 7:24-27. This passage presents a notable exemplification of sins of omission.

Matthew 25:46. We find here a remarkable instance of that unnecessary and unwarranted variation in translation which so abounds in the versions from Tyndale to King James. The Greek here applies the same adjective to punishment and life. The Latin and other early versions translated both by the same word, and Wyc. and Rheims, following the Latin Vulgate, render 'everlasting' in both cases; but Tyn. and followers, 'everlasting pain... life eternal.' The English language, as being compounded of Anglo-Saxon and French (Latin), has an extraordinary number of words nearly synonymous; and this fact has probably fostered a passion for variety of expression. As a mere question of English literature, the early versions have no doubt gained a certain beauty of style by diversifying their renderings; and King James' translators, in their "Address to the Reader," have expressly defended themselves and their predecessors for this practice. But they have thereby seriously obscured the verbal connection throughout many a passage and between different passages. The careful student of the English Bible, using Concordance and References for comparing Scripture with Scripture, has been misled a thousand times, either imagining two passages to contain the same Hebrew or Greek word when they do not, because the English has the same word, or failing to learn, often in highly important cases, that two passages do contain the same word in the original, because the English has rendered differently. It is of course impossible to translate the same Hebrew or Greek word in every case by the same English word; but wherever this can be done with due regard to the meaning, it is a grave fault to neglect it merely for the sake of gratifying a certain fastidious taste in English style. Among the many examples of this fault which occur in the Common Version of Matt., see Matthew 5:15 f.; Matthew 14:24, Matthew 18:33, Matthew 19:20, Matthew 20:20, Matthew 20:25-32. For some examples in other parts of New Testament, see Bp. Lightf. on Revision. As to whether eternal or everlasting should here be used in both cases, there is room for a slight difference of opinion. Noyes, Amer. Bib. Union, and Davidson give 'everlasting punishment.., everlasting life'; (compare Daniel 12:2) Darby, 'eternal punishment... life eternal.' Some would prefer to reserve the term 'eternal' for that which is without beginning as well as without end; but that word is necessary in several passages of the New Testament to denote duration that is simply without end. Upon the whole, the Revisers are believed to have acted wisely in uniformly rendering this Greek word by eternal; there is a slight loss in some passages, but an important gain upon the whole. It is difficult to estimate how much would have been gained for the English speaking world in the exact apprehension of the present important passage, if the punishment and the life had been through all these centuries described, in English as in the Greek, not merely by substantially equivalent words, but by exactly the same word.

Eternal punishment... life eternal. It will at once be taken for granted, by any unprejudiced and docile mind, that the punishment of the wicked will last as long as the life of the righteous; it is to the last degree improbable that the Great Teacher would have used an expression so inevitably suggesting a great doctrine he did not mean to teach; those who deny the doctrine must establish here a difference of meaning, and with an overwhelming presumption against them. Attempts to set aside the obvious meaning have been made in several ways. (a) It is pointed out that the etymology of the term aionios, 'eternal,' has not been clearly ascertained. But it is now past question (Curtius, Lid. and Scott, Cremer, Skeat) that aion, originally, has the same root as aiei and aei, 'always'; the same as the Latin aev-um, from which came aev-ternus, borrowed by us in the form eternal: the same as the Gothic aiws, aiw, the German ew-ig, 'everlasting,' 'eternal,' and the English ev-er in everlasting, forever, etc. And the words and in the Greek as well as in the other languages mentioned certainly have the use in question, whatever may have been the primary sense of the root. You cannot persuade those who speak English that the meaning of everlasting is doubtful, simply because philologers have not determined the primary sense of the root ev.(1) (b) It is urged that and are in the Sept. frequently applied—following the Hebrew word 'olam,—to things finite, as "the everlasting hills," "an ordinance forever." Certainly, just as in English we say "to have and to hold, unto him and his heirs forever," or say "there is everlasting trouble in that church." In the one case we use a natural and perfectly intelligible hyperbole, in the other the possession or the law really is of unlimited duration, in a sense well understood, and not restricted save by the nature of things. Any terms that could possibly be employed to describe future punishment as unlimited would be equally subject to such processes of "explaining away."(2) (c) It is affirmed by some that while here means 'eternal,' that is a wholly different idea from everlasting or endless. They say that 'eternal life,' as in John 3:36, Rev. Ver.; John 5:39, John 17:3, Rev. Ver., does not mean 'endless life,' but simply the kind of life which is lived in eternity, for it really begins in this life whenever one becomes a Christian; and so they infer that 'eternal punishment 'means simply punishment suffered in eternity and not necessarily endless punishment. But 'eternal life' does in all the cases primarily and distinctly denote the future and endless life, and it is simply an added thought that the believer becomes already in this world a partaker of its spiritual essence—this added thought not at all excluding or pushing out of view the primary sense. Of course then the inference as to eternal punishment falls away. Others turn attention to the Hebrew phrase "this 'olam,' and 'the coming' 'olam," (see on "Matthew 12:32"), and urge that punishment means only that which pertains to the coming aion ('olam), age or period, after the day of judgment, without saying that it is to be endless punishment. But the force of those Jewish phrases, whether as used by the Rabbis or in New Testament, turned on 'this' and 'the coming,' which terms are wanting in the phrase aionian punishment,(3) Thus none of these attempts have set aside or really weakened the plain meaning of the word aionios, 'eternal,' as here describing both the punishment and the life. Westcott and Hort suppose the expression to be derived by our Lord from Daniel 12:2, 'some to everlasting life,' where the Greek has exactly the same phrase as here, 'and some to shame and everlasting contempt,' where the adjective is the same.

The term kolasis, rendered punishment, denotes primarily pruning (a tree, vine), and hence checking, chastisement, castigation, punishment. Aristotle says that this word is different from timoria, vindication, vengeance, revenge, "for punishment is for the sake of the sufferer, but revenge for that of the person inflicting it, in order that he may be satiated"; and Plato kolasis joins with admonition, as opposed to irrational vengeance (Trench "Syn."). So kolasis is the milder term, implying the absence of vengefulness. It is therefore naturally employed here to denote punishment inflicted by God, and so also in 1 John 4:18, not 'torment' Com. Ver., but 'punishment' Rev. Ver., and the verb in 2 Peter 2:9; while the severer term timoria is used only in Hebrews 10:29, for the punishment of very aggravated sin. But that the distinction made by the philosophers was not absolute, that really meant penal infliction, is seen from the use of the verb in Acts 4:21, "finding nothing how they might punish them, "compared with Paul's use of the stronger term timoreoin Acts 22:5, Acts 26:11, to describe the persecutions he had inflicted on the Christians; also from such classic phrases as "punish (kolazein) with death" and from the conjunction of the two words kolazein timorais (Lid. and Scott). It is therefore vain to say that the use of this term here forbids us to understand the punishment as penalty, and without end.

With this passage agree the general teachings of Scripture on the subject, including even some corresponding expressions, as 'into the eternal fire,' Matthew 25:41, Rev. Ver., (compare Judges 1:7) 'into the unquenchable fire,', Mark 9:43, Rev. Ver., (compare Matthew 3:12) and 'where their worm dieth not, and the fire is not quenched,' Mark 9:48. This last phrase is obviously derived from Isaiah 66:24, but it does not follow that our Lord means by it only what the prophet had in view, for it is not a quotation, but a mere use of the prophet's terms. Compare also John 3:36, Rev. Ver., "He that believeth on the Son hath eternal life; but he that believeth not the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God abideth on him," where the last phrases distinctly indicate a penalty without end; also John 5:28 f., etc.

But certain more general objections are brought against the obvious meaning of our Lord's language.

(1) It is said (Farrer) that the Jews in our Lord's time did not believe Gehenna to be a place of eternal punishment, and that his hearers would understand him according to the common view, unless he stated the contrary. But this is an incorrect statement, see Wünsche, Edersheim (App. XIX.), and the Talmudic passages quoted in Surenh. Mishna, Vol. 2, p. 314. These make it manifest that the great Jewish schools about the time of our Lord did both believe in Gehenna as a place of perpetual punishment for some persons. And the Saviour here teaches that such will be the case with the persons of whom he is speaking.(1)

(2) A metaphysical objection is sometimes pressed, to the effect that suffering is necessarily destructive, and so the sufferer must sooner or later cease to exist. But this is not proven. And surely he who caused to exist could keep in existence. This is the most probable meaning of the Saviour's solemn word, (Mark 9:49) 'Every one shall be salted with fire.' Fire is usually destructive, but this unquenchable fire will act like salt, preserving instead of destroying. So Keble, "Christian Year, Fifth Sunday in Lent," says of the Jewish race in their present condition:

Salted with fire, they seem to show

How spirits lost in endless woe

May undecaying live.

Oh, sickening thought! yet hold is fast

Long as this glittering world shall last,

Or sin at heart survive.

(3) There are also "moral argument " alleged to show that the Saviour cannot have meant to teach eternal punishment. (a) Some maintain that it is inconsistent with the goodness of God. Thus John Poster said it was useless to occupy oneself with the discussion of texts, since the matter is decided by a great moral argument. But if we have a revelation from God, it is certainly our chief source of instruction concerning things unseen and eternal, and such lofty superiority to the discussion of texts is quite out of place. God is certainly a better judge than we are, as to what is consistent with his goodness. Perhaps we have not an adequate sense of the evil of sin, nor a full appreciation of the claims of justice. Perhaps the humanity for which our age is distinguished, has with many run into a sentimental humanitarianism, which weakly shrinks from the idea of suffering, and does not sympathize with stern moral indignation against wrong. Farrar argues that the doctrine of endless punishment has converted many men into infidels. But many have also declared themselves driven off by the doctrine of atonement, or that of regeneration, or of the divinity of Christ. Paul did not cease to preach the cross because to the Jews it was a stumbling-block. (b) Others say it is inconsistent with the justice of God to punish all alike, when their actual wrong-doing has been so different, and their advantages likewise so different. But it is expressly taught that the eternal punishment will not be the same for all. "That each may receive... according to that he hath done." (1 Corinthians 5:10)

"It shall be more, tolerable for Tyre and Sidon, in the day of judgment, than for you." (Matthew 11:22, Rev. Ver.)

Especially notice, Luke 12:47 f., Rev. Ver.: "And that servant, which knew his Lord's will, and made not ready, nor did according to his will, shall be beaten with many stripes; but he that knew not, and did things worthy of stripes, shall be beaten with few stripes." This teaching has been in many cases grievously overlooked. Taking images literally, men have fancied that the 'Gehenna of fire' (Matthew 5:22) will be the same place and the same degree of punishment for all. But the above passages and many others show that there will be differences. The degrees of punishment must, in the nature of things, be exceedingly various, and the extremes of punishment must be as remote as the east is from the west. All inherited proclivities, "taints of blood," all difference of environment, every privilege and every disadvantage, will be taken into account. It is the Divine Judge that will apportion punishment, with perfect knowledge and perfect justice and perfect goodness. This great fact, that there will be degrees in future punishment as well as in future rewards—ought to be more prominent in religious instruction.

It gives some relief in contemplating the awful fate of those who perish. It might save many from going away into Universalism; and others from dreaming of "a second probation" in eternity, for which the Scriptures give no warrant (compare on Matthew 12:32); and yet others from unjustly assailing and rejecting, to their own ruin, the gospel of salvation.

Homiletical And Practical

Matthew 25:32. Separation of the righteous and the wicked. (1) A necessary separation; (a) necessary to the vindication of God's justice; (b) necessary to the blessedness of the righteous; (c) necessary to the punishment of the wicked. (2) An accurate separation—no mistakes; self-delusion, hypocrisy, strangely mingled characters, nothing will prevent the assignment of each as he really belongs. (3) A separation leading to new companionships—the righteous with the Saviour and all the angels—the wicked with the devil and his angels. (4) A separation without hope of reunion, Matthew 25:46; Luke 16:26.

Matthew 25:35-40. Charity. (1) Varieties of charity, Matthew 25:35; compare James 1:27. (2) Reasons for charity; (a) for the sake of humanity; (b) for Christ's sake. (3) Rewards of charity; (a) the joy of doing service to the Saviour; (b) the kingdom prepared.

Matthew 25:40. Christ identified with Christians. (1) Through them men may learn concerning him, and be convinced as to the divinity of his religion. (2) Inward union with Christ should be expressed, and thus strengthened, by an outward union with his people. (3) Benefits conferred on his people as such, (compare Matthew 10:42) will be acknowledged and rewarded as benefits to himself. (4) Unkindness to Christians as such is insulting rejection of Christ.

Matthew 25:42. Sins of omission. (1) The neglect of any duty is in itself a great sin. (2) The omission of right-doing turns all our active powers towards the commission of wrong.

Matthew 25:40. Luther: "Whoever then is minded to do works of compassion to Christians, because he believes he has in Christ a faithful Redeemer who reconciles him to God; or himself suffers the opposition of the devil and the world because of his faith—let him be cheerful and joyous, for he has already received the joyous sentence, 'Come, ye blessed.' " Calvin: "Whenever we feel slothful about helping the wretched, let the Son of God come before our eyes; to refuse him anything is a dreadful sacrilege."

Matthew 25:45. Luther: "What shall become of those who not only give nothing to Christ's poor, but by fraud and extortion rob them of what they have?" Calvin: "Let believers be admonished; for as we need promises to incite us to zeal in living well, so also threatenings to keep us in solicitude and fear."

Matthew 25:31-46. The judgment scene. (1) The Judge—once a homeless wanderer, now enthroned in glory -once despised and rejected, now accepting or rejecting—once subjected to unrighteous judgment, now judging the world in righteousness. (Acts 17:31) (2) The grounds of this judgment—the conduct of men to each other, as revealing their relation to God; (a) benefiting Christ's brethren is accepted by Christ as personal service to him; (b) neglecting them is regarded by him as personal neglect. (3) The results of this judgment—eternal punishment—eternal life.

 


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Bibliography Information
Broadus, John. "Commentary on Matthew 25:4". "John Broadus' Commentary on Matthew". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/jbm/matthew-25.html. 1886.

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Saturday, May 30th, 2020
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