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Bible Commentaries

Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible - Unabridged
Matthew 25

 

 

Verse 1

Then shall the kingdom of heaven be likened unto ten virgins, which took their lamps, and went forth to meet the bridegroom.

This and the following parable are in Matthew alone.

Then shall the kingdom of heaven be likened unto virgins, which took their lamps, and went forth to meet the bridegroom. "Then" - at the time referred to at the close of the preceding chapter, the time of the Lord's Second Coming to reward His faithful servants and take vengeance on the faithless. This verse supplies a key to the parable, whose object is, in the main, the same as that of the last parable-to illustrate the vigilant and expectant attitude of faith, in respect of which believers are described as "they that look for Him" (Hebrews 9:28), and "love His appearing" (2 Timothy 4:8). In the last parable it was that of servants waiting for their absent Lord; in this it is that of virgin-attendants on a Bride, whose duty it was to go forth at night with lamps, and be ready on the appearance of the Bridegroom to conduct the Bride to his house, and go in with him to the marriage. This entire and beautiful change of figure brings out the lesson of the former parable in quite a new light. But let it be observed that, just as in the parable of the Marriage Supper, so in this-the Bride does not come into view at all in this parable; the Virgins and the Bridegroom holding forth all the intended instruction: nor could believers be represented both as Bride and Bridal Attendants without incongruity.


Verse 2

And five of them were wise, and five were foolish.

And five of them were wise, and five were foolish. They are not distinguished into good and bad, as Trench observes, but into "wise" and "foolish" - just as in Matthew 7:25-27, those who reared their house for eternity are distinguished into "wise" and "foolish builders;" because in both cases a certain degree of good will toward the truth is assumed. To take anything of the equal number of both classes would, we think, be precious, except to warn us how large a portion of those who, up to the last, so nearly resemble those that love Christ's appearing will be disowned by Him when He comes.


Verse 3

They that were foolish took their lamps, and took no oil with them:

They that were foolish took their lamps, and took no oil with them:


Verse 4

But the wise took oil in their vessels with their lamps.

But the wise took oil in their vessels with their lamps. What are these "lamps" and this "oil?" Many answers have been given. But since the foolish as well as the wise took their lamps and went forth with them to meet the bridegroom, these lighted lamps, and this advance a certain way in company with the wise, must denote that Christian profession which is common to all who bear the Christian name; while the insufficiency of this without something else, of which they never possessed themselves, shows that "the foolish" mean those who, with all that is common to them with real Christians, lack the essential preparation for meeting Christ. Then, since the wisdom of "the wise" consisted in their taking with their lamps a supply of oil in their vessels, keeping their lamps burning until the Bridegroom came, and so fitting them to go in with Him to the marriage-this supply of oil must mean that inward reality of grace which alone will stand when He appeareth whose eyes are as a flame of fire.

But this is too general; because it cannot be for nothing that this inward grace is here set forth by the familiar symbol of oil, by which the Spirit of all grace is so constantly represented in Scripture. Beyond all doubt, this was what was symbolized by that precious anointing oil with which Aaron and his sons were consecrated to the priestly office (Exodus 30:23-25; Exodus 30:30); by "the oil of gladness above His fellows" with which Messiah was to be anointed (Psalms 45:7; Hebrews 1:9), even as it is expressly said, that "God giveth not the Spirit by measure unto Him" (John 3:34); and by the bowl full of golden oil, in Zechariah's vision, which, receiving its supplies from the two olive-trees on either side of it, poured it through seven golden pipes into the golden lamp-stand, to keep it continually burning bright (Zechariah 4:1-14) - for the prophet is expressly told that it was to proclaim the great truth, "Not by might, nor by power, but by MY SPIRIT, saith the Lord of hosts [shall this temple be built]. Who art thou, O great mountain [of opposition to this issue]? Before Zerubbabel thou shalt become a plain [or, be swept out of the way], and he shall bring forth the head-stone [of the temple], with shoutings [crying], GRACE, GRACE unto it."

This supply of oil, then, representing that inward grace which distinguishes the wise, must denote, more particularly, that "supply of the Spirit of Jesus Christ," which, as it is the source of the new spiritual life at the first, is the secret of its enduring character. Everything short of this may be possessed by "the foolish;" while it is the possession of this that makes "the wise" to be "ready" when the Bridegroom appears, and fit to "go in with Him to the marriage." Just so in the parable of the Sower, the stony ground hearers, "having no deepness of earth" and "no root in themselves," though they spring up and get even into ear, never ripen, while they in the good ground bear the precious grain.


Verse 5

While the bridegroom tarried, they all slumbered and slept.

While the bridegroom tarried. So in Matthew 24:48, "My Lord delayeth His coming;" and so Peter says sublimely of the ascended Saviour, "Whom the heaven must receive until the times of restitution of all things" (Acts 3:21, and compare Luke 19:11-12). Christ "tarries," among other reasons, to try the faith and patience of His people.

They all slumbered and slept - the wise as well as the foolish. The word "slumbered" [ enustaxan (Greek #3573)] signifies, simply, 'nodded,' or, 'became drowsy;' while the word "slept" [ ekatheudon (Greek #2518)] is the usual word for 'lying down to sleep;' denoting two stages of spiritual declension-first, that half-in-voluntary lethargy or drowsiness which is apt to steal over one who falls into inactivity; and then a conscious, deliberate yielding to it, after a little vain resistance. Such was the state alike of the wise and the foolish virgins, even until the cry of the Bridegroom's approach awoke them. So likewise in the parable of the Importunate Widow: "When the Son of man cometh, shall He find faith on the earth?" (Luke 18:8).


Verse 6

And at midnight there was a cry made, Behold, the bridegroom cometh; go ye out to meet him.

And at midnight - that is, the time when the Bridegroom will be least expected; because "the day of the Lord so cometh as a thief in the night" (1 Thessalonians 5:2), There was a cry made, Behold, the bridegroom cometh; go ye out to meet him - that is, 'Be ready to welcome Him.'


Verse 7

Then all those virgins arose, and trimmed their lamps.

Then all those virgins arose, and trimmed their lamps - the foolish virgins as well as the wise. How very long do both parties seem the same-almost to the moment of decision! Looking at the mere form of the parable, it is evident that the folly of "the foolish" consisted not in having no oil at all; because they mast have had oil enough in their lamps to keep them burning up to this moment: their folly consisted in not making provision against its exhaustion, by taking with their lamp an oil-vessel wherewith to replenish their lamp from time to time, and so have it burning until the bridegroom should come. Are we, then-with some even superior expositors-to conclude that the foolish virgins must represent true Christians as well as the wise, since only true Christians have the Spirit; and that the difference between the two classes consists only in the one having the necessary watchfulness which the other wants? Certainly not. Since the parable was designed to hold forth the prepared and the unprepared to meet Christ at His coming, and how the unprepared might, up to the very last, be confounded with the prepared-the structure of the parable behooved to accommodate itself to this, by making the lamps of the foolish to burn, as well as those of the wise, up to a certain point of time, and only then to discover their inability to burn on for want of a fresh supply of oil. But this is evidently just a structural device; and the real difference between the two classes who profess to love the Lord's appearing is a radical one-the possession by the one class of an enduring principle of spiritual life, and the want of it by the other.


Verse 8

And the foolish said unto the wise, Give us of your oil; for our lamps are gone out.

And the foolish said unto the wise, Give us of your oil; for our lamps are gone, out , [ sbennuntai (Greek #4570)] - rather, as in the margin, 'are going out;' for oil will not light an extinguished lamp, though it will keep a burning one from going out. Ah! now at length they have discovered not only their own folly, but the wisdom of the other class, and they do homage to it. They did not perhaps despise them before, but they thought them righteous overmuch; now they are forced, with bitter mortification, to wish they were like them.


Verse 9

But the wise answered saying Not so; lest there be not enough for us and you: but go ye rather to them But the wise answered, saying, Not so; lest there be not enough for us and you: but go ye rather to them that sell, and buy for yourselves.

But the wise answered, [Not so]; lest there be not enough for us and you. The words "Not so," it will be seen, are not in the original, where the reply is very elliptical [ Meepote (Greek #3379) ouk (Greek #3756) arkesee (Greek #714) heemin (Greek #2254) kai (Greek #2532) humin (Greek #5213)] - 'In case there is not enough for us and you.' A truly wise answer this. 'And what, then, if we shall share it with you? Why, both will be undone.'

But go ye rather to them that sell, and buy for yourselves. Here again it would be straining the parable beyond its legitimate design to make it teach that men may get salvation even after they are supposed and required to have it already gotten. It is merely a friendly way of reminding them of the proper way of obtaining the needed and precious article, with a certain reflection on them for having it, now to seek. Also, when the parable speaks of "selling" and "buying" that valuable article, it means simply, 'Go, get it in the only legitimate way.' And yet the word "buy" is significant; because we are elsewhere bidden "buy wine and milk without money and without price," and "buy of Christ gold tried in the fire," etc. (Isaiah 55:1; Revelation 3:18). Now, since what we pay the demanded price for becomes thereby our own property, the salvation which we thus take gratuitously at God's hands, being bought in His own sense of that word, becomes ours thereby in inalienable possession. (Compare, for the language, Proverbs 23:23; Matthew 13:44.)


Verse 10

And while they went to buy, the bridegroom came; and they that were ready went in with him to the marriage: and the door was shut.

And while they went to buy, the bridegroom came; and they that were ready went in with him to the marriage: and the door was shut. They are sensible of their past folly; they have taken good advice: they are in the act of getting what alone they lacked: a very little more, and they also are ready. But the Bridegroom comes: the ready are admitted; "the door is shut," and they are undone. How graphic and appalling this picture of one almost saved-but lost!


Verse 11

Afterward came also the other virgins, saying, Lord, Lord, open to us.

Afterward came also the other virgins, saying, Lord, Lord, open to us. In Matthew 7:22 this reiteration of the name was an exclamation rather of surprise: here it is a piteous cry of urgency, bordering on despair. Ah! now at length their eyes are wide open, and they realize all the consequences of their past folly.


Verse 12

But he answered and said, Verily I say unto you, I know you not.

But he answered and said, Verily I say unto you, I know you not. The attempt to establish a difference between "I know you not" here, and "I never knew you" in Matthew 7:23 - as if this were gentler, and so implied a milder fate, reserved for "the foolish" of this parable-is to be resisted, though advocated by such critics as Olshausen, Stier, and Alford. Besides being inconsistent with the general tenor of such language, and particularly the solemn moral of the whole (Matthew 25:13), it is a kind of criticism which tampers with some of the most awful warnings regarding the future. If it be asked why unworthy guests were admitted to the marriage of the King's Son, in a former parable, and the foolish virgins are excluded in this one, we may answer, in the admirable words of Gerhard, quoted by Trench, that those festivities are celebrated in this life, in the Church militant; these at the last day, in the Church triumphant: to those, even they are admitted who are not adorned with the wedding-garment; but to these, only they to whom it is granted to be arrayed in short linen clean and white, which is the righteousness of saints (Revelation 19:8): to those, men are called by the trumpet of the Gospel; to these by the trumpet of the Archangel: to those, who enters may go out from them, or be cast out; who is once introduced to these never goes out, nor is cast out, from them anymore: wherefore it is said, "The door is shut."


Verse 13

Watch therefore, for ye know neither the day nor the hour wherein the Son of man cometh.

Watch therefore; for ye know neither the day nor the hour [wherein the Son of man cometh.] This, the moral or practical lesson of the whole parable, needs no comment. [The evidence against the genuineness, in this verse, of the words enclosed in brackets is decisive. They seem to have been first copied, exactly as they stand in Matthew 24:44, into what are called Lectionaries, or portions of Scripture transcribed to be read as Church Lessons-in all of which these words are found-in order to avoid the apparent abruptness with which the verse otherwise closes, and then to have found their way into a tolerable number of manuscripts and versions. But the abruptness is more apparent than real; and the event itself being supposed, the uncertainty ascribed simply to "the day and the hour" has something striking and emphatic in it.]

Remarks:

(1) So essential a feature of the Christian character, according to the New Testament, is looking for Christ's Second Appearing, that both real and apparent disciples are here described as "going forth to meet Him." And so everywhere. It is "to them that look for Him" that "He will appear the second time, without sin, unto salvation" (Hebrews 9:28); it is to "them that love His appearing" that "He will give a crown of righteousness at that day" (2 Timothy 4:8); to His servants, His parting word, on "going to the far country," is, "Occupy until I come" (Luke 19:13); communicants at His table, "as often as they eat this bread and drink this cup, do show forth the Lord's death until He come" (1 Corinthians 11:26); and when the Thessalonians turned to God from idols, it was, on the one hand, "to serve the living God, and," on the other, "to wait for His Son from heaven" (1 Thessalonians 1:9-10). No expectation of the latter-day glory-no, nor preparedness to die, ought to take the place, or is fitted to produce the effects, of this love of Christ's appearing and waiting for Him from heaven, which lifts the soul into its highest attitude and dress for heaven, carrying every other scriptural expectation along with it. But, (2) It should be carefully observed that it was not the lack of expectation that the Bridegroom would come that constituted the folly of "the foolish," but their not having any provision for meeting him in case he should tarry. The burning lamp represents the state of readiness. But whereas the lamps of the foolish, though burning at the first, went out before the Bridegroom came, this is to signify that the class intended are such as have no real preparedness to meet Christ at all. On the other hand, lively expectation of Christ's coming, up to the time of His arrival, is so far from being the distinguishing mark of the wise, that even these wise virgins, as well as the foolish, first sank into a lethargic state, and then yielded themselves up to sleep. Were they shut out, then? Nay. At the time of deepest sleep, a warning cry was kindly sent them, loud enough to rouse the foolish and the wise alike; both now set themselves to meet the Bridegroom; and then did it become manifest that the wisdom of the wise and the folly of the foolish lay, not in the one expecting the coming which the other did not, but in the one having from the very outset a provision for meeting the Bridegroom, however long he might tarry, while the provision of the other was but temporary, and so failed in the time of need.

We make these observations because those who expect the Second Coming of Christ before the millennium have made a use of this parable, against such as think this expectation unscriptural, which appears to us to distort its proper teaching. The love of their Lord's appearing is certainly not confined to those who take the former of these views; and perhaps they might do well to consider whether it be not possible to substitute this expectation for that enduring principle of spiritual life in Christ Jesus which is the grand and never-wanting preparation for meeting Him, however long He may tarry. But we deprecate controversy here among the loving expectants of a common Lord. Our sole object is to get at the actual teaching of our blessed Master, and gently to brush away what we think has been obtruded upon it.

(3) How appalling it is to think of the nearness to final salvation and heaven's fruition in the presence of Christ to which some may attain, and yet miss it! But see the notes at Matthew 7:13-29, Remark 5, at the close of that section.

(4) The way to secure ourselves against being found wrong at the last is to get right at the first. The wisdom of the wise virgins lay in their taking along with their lamps, from the time they first went forth to meet the Bridegroom, a supply of oil that should keep their lamps burning however long he might tarry: the foolish virgins, by their not doing so, showed that they began with inadequate preparation against the future. They never were right, and the issue only brought out what was their radical mistake all along.

(5) Nothing will avail for meeting Christ in peace except that unction from the Holy One, of which it is said, "If any man have not the Spirit of Christ, he is none of His" (Romans 8:9): "But the anointing which ye have received of Him abideth in you, and ye need not that any man teach you: but as the same anointing teacheth you all things, and is truth, and is no lie, and even as it hath taught you, ye shall abide in Him" (1 John 2:27).

(6) We have here a lively illustration of the great truth, that what is saving cannot be imparted by one man to another (Matthew 25:9). "The just shall live by his (own) faith" (Habakkuk 2:4). "If thou be wise," says the wisest of men, "thou shalt be wise for thyself; but if thou scornest, thou alone shalt bear it" (Proverbs 9:12). "Let every man prove his own work, and then shall he have rejoicing in himself, and not in another: for every man shall bear his own burden" (Galatians 6:4-5).

(7) Though such as love their Lord's appearing-when through His long tarrying they have sunk into a lethargic state, and oven surrendered themselves to sleep-may have only to "trim their lamps" when the cry of His coming is heard, there being a supply of oil within them sufficient to brighten them up, it is a sad and shameful thing they should have this to do. As these slumbers are dishonouring to the heavenly Bridegroom, so they are the bane of the soul, paralyzing it for all good. "Therefore, let us not sleep, as do others, but let us watch and be sober; putting on the breastplate of faith and hope, and for an helmet the hope of salvation." And as for others, when they shall be saying, Peace and safety, then sudden destruction shall come upon them, as travail upon a woman with child, and they shall not escape.

This parable, while closely resembling it, is yet a different one from that of THE POUNDS, in Luke 19:11-27; though Calvin, Olshausen, Meyer, etc., identify them-but not DeWette and Neander. For the difference between the two parables, see the opening remarks on that of The Pounds. While-as Trench observes with his usual felicity-`the virgins were represented as waiting for their Lord, we have the servants working for Him: there the inward spiritual life of the faithful was described; here his external activity. It is not, therefore, without good reason that they appear in their actual order-that of the Virgins first, and of the Talents following-since it is the sole condition of a profitable outward activity for the Kingdom of God, that the life of God be diligently maintained within the heart.'


Verse 14

For the kingdom of heaven is as a man travelling into a far country, who called his own servants, and delivered unto them his goods.

For [the kingdom of heaven is] as a man. The ellipsis is better supplied by our translators in the corresponding passage of Mark (Mark 13:34), "[For the Son of man is] as a man," etc.,

Travelling into a far country , [ apodeemoon (Greek #589)] - or more simply, 'going abroad.' The idea of long "tarrying" is certainly implied here, since it is expressed in Matthew 25:19.

Who called his own servants, and delivered unto them his goods. Between master and slaves this was not uncommon in ancient times. Christ's "servants" here mean all who, by their Christian profession, stand in the relation to Him of entire subjection. His "goods" mean all their gifts and endowments, whether original or acquired, natural or spiritual. As all that slaves have belongs to their master, so Christ has a claim to everything which belongs to His people, everything which may be turned to good, and He demands its appropriation to His service; or, viewing it otherwise, they first offer it up to Him, as being "not their own, but bought with a price" (1 Corinthians 6:19-20), and He "delivers it to them" again to be put to use in His service.


Verse 15

And unto one he gave five talents, to another two, and to another one; to every man according to his several ability; and straightway took his journey.

And unto one he gave five talents, to another two, and to another one. While the proportion of gifts is different in each, the same fidelity is required of all, and equally rewarded. And thus there is perfect equity.

To every man according to his several ability - his natural capacity as enlisted in Christ's service, and his opportunities in providence for employing the gifts bestowed on him.

And straightway took his journey. Compare Matthew 21:33, where the same departure is ascribed to God, after setting up the ancient economy. In both cases, it denotes the leaving of men to the action of all those spiritual laws and influences of Heaven under which they have been graciously placed for their own salvation and the advancement of their Lord's kingdom.


Verse 16

Then he that had received the five talents went and traded with the same, and made them other five talents.

Then he that had received the five talents went and traded with the same , [ eirgasato (Greek #2038)] - expressive of the activity which he put forth, and the labour he bestowed.

And made them other five talents.


Verse 17

And likewise he that had received two, he also gained other two.

And likewise he that had received two , [ ta (Greek #3588) duo (Greek #1417)] - rather, 'the two' --

He also gained other two - each doubling what he received, and therefore both equally faithful.


Verse 18

But he that had received one went and digged in the earth, and hid his lord's money.

But he that had received one went and digged in the earth, and hid his lord's money - not misspending, but simply making no use of it. Nay, his action seems that of one anxious that the gift should not be misused or lost, but ready to be returned, just as he got it.


Verse 19

After a long time the lord of those servants cometh, and reckoneth with them.

After a long time the lord of those servants cometh and reckoneth with them. That anyone-within the lifetime of the apostles at least-with such words before them, should think that Jesus had given any reason to expect His Second Appearing within that period, would seem strange, did we not know the tendency of enthusiastic, ill-regulated love of His appearing ever to take this turn.


Verse 20

And so he that had received five talents came and brought other five talents, saying, Lord, thou deliveredst unto me five talents: behold, I have gained beside them five talents more.

And so he that had received five talents came and brought other five talents, saying, Lord, thou deliveredst unto me five talents: behold, I have gained besides them five talents more. How beautifully does this illustrate what the beloved disciple says of "boldness in the day of judgment," and his desire that "when He shall appear we may have confidence, and not be ashamed before Him at His coming" (1 John 4:17; 1 John 2:28)!


Verse 21

His lord said unto him, Well done, thou good and faithful servant: thou hast been faithful over a few things, I will make thee ruler over many things: enter thou into the joy of thy lord.

His lord said unto him, Well done , [ Eu (Greek #2095)] - a single word, not of bare satisfaction, but of warm and delighted commendation. And from what Lips!

Good and faithful servant: thou hast been faithful over a few things, I will make thee ruler over many things: enter thou into the joy of thy lord.


Verse 22

He also that had received two talents came and said, Lord, thou deliveredst unto me two talents: behold, I have gained two other talents beside them.

He also that had received two talents came and said, Lord, thou deliveredst unto me two talents: behold, I have gained two other talents besides them.


Verse 23

His lord said unto him, Well done, good and faithful servant; thou hast been faithful over a few things, I will make thee ruler over many things: enter thou into the joy of thy lord.

His lord said unto him, Well done, good and faithful servant: thou hast been faithful over a few things, I will make thee ruler over many things. Both are commended in the same terms, and the reward of both is precisely the same. (See the note at Matthew 25:15.) Observe also the contrasts: 'Thou hast been faithful as a servant; now be a ruler-thou hast been entrusted with a few things; now have dominion over many things.'

Enter thou into the joy of thy lord - thy Lord's own joy. (See John 15:11; Hebrews 12:2.)


Verse 24

Then he which had received the one talent came and said, Lord, I knew thee that thou art an hard man, reaping where thou hast not sown, and gathering where thou hast not strawed:

Then he which had received the one talent came and said, Lord, I knew thee that thou art an hard (or 'harsh,') man , [ skleeros (Greek #4642)]. The word in Luke (Luke 19:21) is "austere" [ austeeros (Greek #840)].

Reaping where thou hast not sown, and gathering where thou hast not strawed. The sense is obvious: 'I knew thou wast one whom it was impossible to serve, one whom nothing would please; exacting what was impracticable, and dissatisfied with what was attainable.' Thus do men secretly think of God as a hard Master, and virtually throw on Him the blame of their fruitlessness.


Verse 25

And I was afraid, and went and hid thy talent in the earth: lo, there thou hast that is thine. And I was afraid - of making matters worse by meddling with it at all.

And went and hid thy talent in the earth. This depicts the conduct of all those who shut up their gifts from the active service of Christ, without actually prostituting them to unworthy uses. Fitly, therefore, may it, at least, comprehend those, to whom Trench refers, who, in the early Church, pleaded that they had enough to do with their own souls, and were afraid of losing them in trying to save others; and so, instead of being the salt of the earth, thought rather of keeping their own saltness, by withdrawing sometimes into caves and wildernesses, from all those active ministries of love by which they might have served their brethren.

Lo, there thou hast that is thine.


Verse 26

His lord answered and said unto him, Thou wicked and slothful servant, thou knewest that I reap where I sowed not, and gather where I have not strawed:

His lord answered and said unto him, Thou wicked and slothful servant. "Wicked" or "bad" [ Poneere (Greek #4190)] means 'false-hearted,' as opposed to the others, who are emphatically called "good servants." The addition of "slothful" [ okneere (Greek #3636)] is to mark the precise nature of his wickedness: it consisted, it seems, not in his doing anything against, but simply nothing for his master.

Thou knewest that I reap where I sowed not, and gather where I have not strawed. He takes the servant's own account of his demands, as expressing graphically enough, not the "hardness" which he had basely imputed to him, but simply his demand of 'a profitable return for the gift entrusted.'


Verse 27

Thou oughtest therefore to have put my money to the exchangers, and then at my coming I should have received mine own with usury.

Thou oughtest therefore to have put my money to the exchangers , [ tois (Greek #3588) trapezitais (Greek #5133)] - or, 'the bankers,'

And then at my coming I should have received mine own with usury , [ tokoo (Greek #5110)] - or 'interest.'


Verse 28

Take therefore the talent from him, and give it unto him which hath ten talents.

Take therefore the talent from him, and give it unto him which hath ten talents.


Verse 29

For unto every one that hath shall be given, and he shall have abundance: but from him that hath not shall be taken away even that which he hath.

For unto everyone that hath shall be given ... See the note at Matthew 13:12.


Verse 30

And cast ye the unprofitable servant into outer darkness: there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth.

And cast ye - `cast ye out' [ ekballete (Greek #1544), but the true reading is ekbalete (Greek #1544)].

The unprofitable servant , [ achreion (Greek #888)] - 'the useless servant,' that does his Master no service,

Into outer darkness - `the darkness which is outside.' On this expression see the note at Matthew 22:13.

There shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth. See the note at Matthew 13:42.

Remarks:

(1) Christ's voice in this parable is not, as in the former one, 'Wait for your Lord'-`Love His appearing'-but, as in that of the Pounds (Luke 19:13), "Occupy until I come." Blessed is that servant whom His Lord, when He cometh, shall find-not watching, as in the former parable-but working.

(2) How interesting is the view here given of the relation in which every Christian stands to Christ. Not only are they all "servants of Jesus Christ," but all that distinguishes each of them from all the rest-in natural capacity and in acquirements, in providential position, influence, means, and opportunities-all are Christ's; rendered up to Him by them first, with their body and their spirit, which are His by purchase (1 Corinthians 6:19-20), and then given back by Him to them to be employed in His service. Hence, that diversity in the proportion of talents which this parable represents the Master as committing respectively to each of His servants. But, (3) Since it is neither the amount nor the nature of the work done which this parable represents as rewarded, but the fidelity shown in the doing of it, the possessor of two talents has an equal reward-proportionably to what was committed to him-with the possessor of five. And thus it is that the most exalted in intellectual gifts, or wealth, or opportunity-though consecrating all these in beautiful fidelity to Christ-may be found occupying no higher position in the kingdom above than the lowest in all these respects, who have shown equal fidelity to the common Master. And thus may we use the language of an apostle in a wider sense than that more immediately intended - "Let the brother of low degree rejoice in that he is exalted, but the rich in that he is made low; because as the flower of the grass he shall pass away" (James 1:9-10).

(4) To be "cast out" at the great day, it is not necessary that we prostitute our powers to a life of positive wickedness: it is enough that our Christianity be merely negative, that we do nothing for Christ, that we are found to have been unprofitable, or useless servants of the Lord Jesus. But, ah! is it indeed so? Then what numbers are there within the Christian pale whose doom this seals-their life perfectly unexceptionable, and their frame apparently devout, yet negative Christians, and nothing more! But is not the principle on which such shall be condemned most reasonable? If Jesus has a people upon earth whom He deigns to call His "mothers and sisters and brothers," and those who claim the Christian name know them not and treat them with cold indifference; if He has a cause upon earth which is dear to Him, requiring the services of all His people, and such persons ignore it, and never lend a helping-hand to it-how should they expect Him to recognize and reward them at the great day? But there is something more than righteous disavowal and rejection here. There is "indignation and wrath, tribulation and anguish," in the treatment here awarded to the profitless servant. "Cast ye-thrust ye-fling ye out the useless servant into outer darkness; there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth."

(5) The truth expressed in the taking of the talent from the unprofitable servant and giving it to him that had the ten talents-if we are to view it, as it would seem we should, with reference to the future state-is somewhat difficult to conceive. But as it is just as difficult to conceive of it in rotation even to the present state, perhaps nothing more is meant by it than this, that while the useless servants shall be judicially incapacitated from ever rendering that service to Christ which once they might have done, the faithful servants of the Lord Jesus shall richly "supply their lack of service."

The close connection between this sublime scene-special to Matthew-and the two preceding parables is too obvious to need pointing out.


Verse 31

When the Son of man shall come in his glory, and all the holy angels with him, then shall he sit upon the throne of his glory:

When the Son of man shall come in his glory - His personal glory,

And all the holy angels with him. See Deuteronomy 33:2; Daniel 7:9-10; Jude 1:14; with Hebrews 1:6; 1 Peter 3:22. [Lachmann, Tiscenforf, and Tregelles omit the word hagioi (Greek #40) - "holy" - but, as we read the authorities, it is to be retained as genuine.]

Then shall he sit upon the throne of his glory the glory of His judicial authority Then shall he sit upon the throne of his glory - the glory of His judicial authority.


Verse 32

And before him shall be gathered all nations: and he shall separate them one from another, as a shepherd divideth his sheep from the goats:

And before him shall be gathered all nations , [ panta (Greek #3956) ta (Greek #3588) ethuee (Greek #2380)] - or, 'all the nations.' That this should be understood to mean the pagan nations, or all except believers in Christ, will seem amazing to any simple reader. Yet this is the exposition of Olshausen, Stier, Keil, Alford (though latterly with some diffidence), and of a number, though not all, of those who hold that Christ will come the Second Time before the millennium, and that the saints will be caught up to meet Him in the air before His Appearing. Their chief argument is, the impossibility of any that ever knew the Lord Jesus wondering, at the Judgment Day, that they should be thought to have done-or left undone-anything "unto Christ." To that we shall advert when we come to it. But here we may just say, that if this scene do not describe a personal, public, final judgment on men, according to the treatment they have given to Christ-and consequently men within the Christian pale-we shall have to consider again whether our Lord's teaching on the greatest themes of human interest does indeed possess that incomparable simplicity and transparency of meaning which, by universal consent, has been ascribed to it. If it be said, But how can this be the General Judgment, if only those within the Christian pale be embraced by it?-we answer, What is here described, as it certainly does not meet the case of all the family of Adam, is of course so far not general. But we have no right to conclude that the whole "Judgment of the great day" will be limited to the points of view here presented. Other explanations will come up in the course of our exposition and following Remarks.

And he shall separate them - now for the first time; the two classes having been mingled all along up to this awful moment --

As a shepherd divideth his sheep from the goats (see Ezekiel 34:17.)


Verse 33

And he shall set the sheep on his right hand, but the goats on the left.

And he shall set the sheep on his right hand - the side of honour (1 Kings 2:19; Psalms 45:9; Psalms 110:1, etc.) --

But the goats on the left - the side consequently of dishonour.


Verse 34

Then shall the King say unto them on his right hand, Come, ye blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world:

Then shall the King. Magnificent title, here for the first and only time, except in parabolical language, given to Himself by the Lord Jesus, and that on the eve of his deepest humiliation! It is to intimate that in then addressing the heirs of the kingdom He will put on all His regal majesty.

Say unto them on his right hand, Come , [ Deute (Greek #1205)] - the same sweet word with which He had so long invited all the weary and heavy laden to come unto Him for rest. Now it is addressed exclusively to such as have come and found rest. It is still "Come," and to "rest" too; but to rest in a higher style, and in another region.

Ye blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. The whole story of this their blessedness is given by the apostle, in words which seem but an expansion of these: "Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who hath blessed us with all spiritual blessings in heavenly places in Christ; according as He hath chosen us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before Him in love." They were chosen from everlasting to the possession and enjoyment of all spiritual blessings in Christ, and so chosen in order to be holy and blameless in love. This is the holy love whose practical manifestations the King is about to recount in detail; and thus we see that their whole life of love to Christ is the fruit of an eternal purpose of love to them in Christ.


Verse 35

For I was an hungred, and ye gave me meat: I was thirsty, and ye gave me drink: I was a stranger, and ye took me in:

For I was an hungered, and ye gave me meat: ... thirsty, and ye gave me drink: ... a stranger, and ye took me in:


Verse 36

Naked, and ye clothed me: I was sick, and ye visited me: I was in prison, and ye came unto me.

Naked, and ye clothed me: ... sick, and ye visited me: ... prison, and ye came unto me.


Verses 37-39

Then shall the righteous answer him, saying, Lord, when saw we thee an hungred, and fed thee? or thirsty, and gave thee drink?

Then shall the righteous answer him, saying, Lord, when saw we thee an hungered, and fed thee? ...


Verse 40

And the King shall answer and say unto them, Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me.

And the King shall answer and say unto them, Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me. Astonishing dialogue this between the King, from the Throne of His glory, and His wondering people! "I was an hungered, and ye gave Me meat," etc.-`Not we,' they reply, 'We never did that, Lord: We were born out of due time, and enjoyed not the privilege of ministering unto Thee.' 'But ye did it to these My brethren, now beside you, when cast upon your love.' 'Truth, Lord, but was that doing it to Thee? Thy name was indeed dear to us, and we thought it an honour too great to suffer shame for it. When among the destitute and distressed we discerned any of the household of faith, we will not deny that our hearts leapt within us at the discovery, and when their knock came to our dwelling, "our bowels were moved," as though "our Beloved Himself had put in His hand by the hole of the door."

Sweet was the fellowship we had with them, as if we had "entertained angels unawares;" all difference between giver and receiver somehow melted away under the beams of that love of Thine which knit us together; nay rather, as they left us with gratitude for our poor givings, we seemed the debtors-not they. But, Lord, were we all that time in company with Thee?' 'Yes, that scene was all with Me,' replies the King-`Me in the disguise of My poor ones. The door shut against Me by others was opened by you.' - "Ye took Me in." Apprehended and imprisoned by the enemies of the truth, ye whom the truth had made free sought Me out diligently and found Me; visiting Me in My lonely cell at the risk of your own lives, and cheering My solitude: ye gave Me a coat, because I shivered; and then I felt warm. With cups of cold water ye moistened My parched lips; when famished with hunger ye supplied Me with crusts, and My spirit revived - "YE DID IT UNTO ME." What thoughts crowd upon us as we listen to such a description of the scenes of the Last Judgment! And in the light of this view of the heavenly Dialogue, how bald and wretched, not to say unscriptural, is that view of it to which we referred at the outset, which makes it a Dialogue between Christ and pagans who never heard of His name, and of course never felt any stirrings of His love in their hearts! To us it seems a poor, superficial objection to the Christian view of this scene, that Christians could never be supposed to ask such questions as the "blessed of Christ's Father" are made to ask here.

If there were any difficulty in explaining this, the difficulty of the other view is such as to make it, at least, insufferable. But there is no real difficulty. The surprise expressed is not at their being told that they acted from love to Christ, but that Christ Himself was the Personal Object of all their deeds:-that they found Him hungry, and supplied Him with food; that they brought water to Him, and slaked His thirst; that seeing Him naked and shivering, they put warm clothing upon Him, paid Him visits when lying in prison for the truth, and sat by His bedside when laid down with sickness. This, this is the astonishing interpretation which Jesus says "the King" will give to them of their own actions here below. And will any Christian reply, 'How could this astonish them? Does not every Christian know that He does these very things, when He does them at all, just as they are here represented? Nay, rather, is it conceivable that they should not be astonished, and almost doubt their own ears, to hear such an account of their own actions upon earth from the lips of the Judge? And remember, that Judge has come in His glory, and now sits upon the Throne of His glory, and all the holy angels are with Him; and that it is from those glorified Lips that the words come forth, 'Ye did. all this unto ME.' O can we imagine such a word addressed to ourselves, and then fancy ourselves replying, 'Of course we did-To whom else did we anything? It must be others than we that are addressed, who never knew, in all their good deeds, what they were about'? Rather, can we imagine ourselves not overpowered with astonishment, and scarcely able to credit the testimony borne to us by the King?


Verse 41

Then shall he say also unto them on the left hand, Depart from me, ye cursed, into everlasting fire, prepared for the devil and his angels:

Then shall he say also unto them on the left hand, Depart from me, ye cursed, into everlasting fire, prepared for the devil and his angels:


Verse 42-43

For I was an hungred, and ye gave me no meat: I was thirsty, and ye gave me no drink:

For I was an hungered, and ye gave me no meat ...


Verse 44

Then shall they also answer him, saying, Lord, when saw we thee an hungred, or athirst, or a stranger, or naked, or sick, or in prison, and did not minister unto thee?

Then shall they also answer him, saying, Lord, when saw we thee an hungered ... , and did not minister unto thee?


Verse 45

Then shall he answer them, saying, Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye did it not to one of the least of these, ye did it not to me.

Then shall he answer them, saying, Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye did it not to one of the least of these, ye did it not to me. 'As for you on the left hand, ye did nothing for Me. I came to you also, but ye knew Me not; ye had neither warm affections nor kind deeds to bestow upon Me: I was as one despised in your eyes.' 'In our eyes, Lord? We never saw Thee before, and never, sure, behaved we so to Thee.' 'But thus ye treated these little ones that believe in Me and now stand on My right hand. In the disguise of these poor members of Mine I came soliciting your pity, but ye shut up your bowels of compassion from Me: I asked relief, but ye had none to give Me. Take back therefore your own coldness, your own contemptuous distance: Ye bid Me away from your presence, and now I bid you from Mine-Depart from Me, ye cursed!'


Verse 46

And these shall go away into everlasting punishment: but the righteous into life eternal.

And these shall go away - these "cursed" ones. Sentence, it should seem, was first pronounced-in the hearing of the wicked-upon the righteous, who thereupon sit as assessors in the judgment upon the wicked (1 Corinthians 6:2); but sentence is first executed, it should seem, upon the wicked, in the sight of the righteous-whose glory will thus not be beheld by the wicked, while their descent into "their own place" will be witnessed by the righteous, as Bengel notes.

Into everlasting punishment , [ kolasin (Greek #2851) aioonion (Greek #166)] - or, as in Matthew 25:41, "everlasting fire, prepared for the devil and his angels." Compare Matthew 13:42; 2 Thessalonians 1:9, etc. This is said to be "prepared for the devil and his angels," because they were "first in transgression." But both have one doom, because one unholy character. See the notes at Mark 1:21-39, Remark 1.

But the righteous into life eternal , [ zooeen (Greek #2222) aioonion (Greek #166)] - 'life everlasting.' The word in both clauses, being in the original the same, should have been the same in the translation also. Thus the decisions of this awful day will be final, irreversible, unending. "The Lord grant," to both the writer and his readers, "that they may find mercy of the Lord in THAT DAY!" (2 Timothy 1:18).

Remarks:

(1) What claims does "the Son of Man" here put forward for Himself! He is to come in His own glory; all the holy angels are to come with Him; He is to take his seat on the Throne, and that the Throne of His own glory; all nations are to be gathered before Him; the awful separation of the two great classes is to be His doing; the word of decision on both - "Ye blessed!" "Ye cursed!" and the word of command to the one, "Come!" to the other, "Depart!" - `To the Kingdom!' 'To the flames!'-all this is to be His doing. But most astonishing of all, The blissful or blighted eternity of each one of both classes is suspended upon his treatment of Him-is made to turn upon those mysterious ministrations from age to age to the Lord of glory, disguised in the persons of those who love His Name: 'Ye did thus and thus unto Me-Come, ye blessed! Ye did, it not to Me-Depart, ye cursed!' In that "ME" lies an emphasis, the strength of which only the scene itself and its everlasting issues will disclose. Verily, "GOD IS JUDGE HIMSELF" (Psalms 50:6); but it is God in flesh, God in One who is "not ashamed to call us BRETHREN."

(2) What a practical character is here stamped upon Christ's service! It is not, 'Ye had it, in your hearts,' but 'Ye DID it with your hands.' It is the love of Christ in the heart rushing to the eyes, ears, hands, feet-going in search of Him, hastening to embrace and to cherish Him, as He wanders through this bleak and cheerless world in His persecuted cause and needy people. O what has this done, and what will it yet do, to bless and to beautify this fallen world! Lo! He casts His entire cause in the earth upon the love of His people. His own poverty was to have an end, but His Church in its poverty was to take His place. His personal conflict "finished," that of His cause was then only to begin. The whole story of His necessities and endurances from the world was to be repeated in the Church, which was to "fill up that which was behind of the afflictions of Christ" (Colossians 1:24). And what condescension is there in identifying Himself with "THE LEAST of His brethren," holding Himself to be the Person to whom anything whatever is done that is done to the humblest and the meanest of them. Nor let it be overlooked, as Webster and Wilkinson beautifully remark, that the assistance to the sick and imprisoned here is not healing and release, which only few could render, but just that which all could bestow-visitation, sympathy, attention. (See Exodus 2:11; 1 Kings 17:10-15; Jeremiah 30:7-13; Acts 16:15; 2 Timothy 1:16-18; 3 John 1:5-8.)

(3) Here also, as in the former parable, we are taught that a life of positive wickedness is not necessary to rejection at the great day. It is enough that, according to the former parable, we do nothing for Christ; and according to the present one, that we recognize Him not in His cause and people, and do not to them as would be due to Himself, if Personally present, suffering and dependent. And will not this set the eyes and ears of those who love Him astir to seek Him out, and catch His tones-in the thin disguises in which He still deigns to walk among us-and make us tremble at the thought of turning Him away from our door, or passing Him by on the other side? Perhaps JAMES MONTGOMERY'S charming comment on this scene may help us here:

A poor wayfaring man of grief Hath often crossed me in my way, Who asked so humbly for relief That I could never answer, "Nay:"

I had not power to ask his name, Whither he went or whence he came, Yet was there something in his eye That won my love, I knew not why.

"HUNGRY AND YE FED ME." Once, when my scanty meal was spread,

He entered;-not a word he spake; --

Just perishing for want of bread; I gave him all; he blest it, brake, And ate-but gave me part again Mine was an angel's portion then, For while I fed with eager haste That crust was manna to my taste.

"THIRSTY, AND YE GAVE ME DRINK." I spied him where a fountain burst Clear from the rock; his strength was gone; The heedless water mocked his thirst,

He heard it, saw it hurrying on: I ran to raise the sufferer up; Thrice from the stream he drained my cup

Dipped, and returned it running o'er: I drank, and never thirsted more.

"A STRANGER, AND YE TOOK ME IN. NAKED, AND YE CLOTHED ME." 'Twas night; the floods were out; it blew

A winter hurricane aloof; I heard his voice abroad, and flew To bid him welcome to my roof. I warm'd, I cloth'd, I cheer'd my guest;

Laid him on my own couch to rest; Then made the hearth my bed, and seem'd In Eden's garden while I dream'd.

"SICK, AND YE VISITED ME." Stripped, wounded, beaten, nigh to death, I found him by the highway-side;

Revived his spirit, and supplied Wine, oil, refreshment: be was heal'd. I had myself a wound conceal'd. But from that hour forgot the smart, And peace bound up my broken heart.

"IN PRISON YE CAME UNTO ME." In prison I saw him next, condemn'd

To meet a traitor's doom at morn; The tide of lying tongues I stemm'd, And honour'd him 'midst shame and scorn: My friendship's utmost zeal to try,

He ask'd if I for Him would die: The flesh was weak, my blood ran chill, But the free spirit cried, "I will."

Then in a moment to my view The stranger darted from disguise The tokens in his hands I knew, My Saviour stood before mine eyes: He spake, and my poor name He nam'd;

"Of Me thou hast not been asham'd These deeds shall thy memorial be; Fear not, thou didst them unto Me."

(4) If the concluding words of this chapter expressly intended to teach the duration of future bliss and future (4) If the concluding words of this chapter, expressly intended to teach the duration of future bliss and future woe-personal and conscious-do not proclaim them to be both alike unending, what words, supposing our Lord meant to teach this, could possibly do it? And shall we venture-on the strength of our own notions of what is just or worthy of God-to tamper with His teaching of Whom the Father hath said, "This in My Beloved Son, in Whom I am well pleased: HEAR HIM"?

 


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Bibliography Information
Jamieson, Robert, D.D.; Fausset, A. R.; Brown, David. "Commentary on Matthew 25:4". "Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible - Unabridged". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/jfu/matthew-25.html. 1871-8.

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