The Lord's Prophecy on Olivet in Matthew 24-25: 3. The Christian Profession

Matthew 24:45‑25:30  •  11 min. read  •  grade level: 8
From this point the Lord begins to open out a new thing, namely, what the disciples were going to enter. Evidently this was the proper order. The Lord had begun with them as they were, and then He leads on to what they were soon to become, with the new relationships to Christ dead and risen, when fresh power would be given by the Holy Spirit. As a mark of this, you will see that the Lord drops all allusion to Judaea, and any reference to the temple, the prophets, and the sabbath. The Lord widens out now into parables of a general and comprehensive nature, which would be equally as true at Timbuctoo as at Jerusalem—it does not matter where. They belong to Christianity. What Christ died and rose to establish by the mission of the Spirit is not one of the narrow systems of men, nor of their broad worldly associations. Christianity is exclusive of nothing but sin; it is the practical expression of Christ, not only in grace and truth but in resulting practice. The Lord definitely marks this opening out into wider principles of a moral nature, which embrace all Christian disciples, wherever they might be in this world, and at any time till He comes. Hence we find three parables which apply thereto.
The first parable is the prudent servant contrasted with the evil one. It is a question of faithful service in the house, the duty of the highest and the duty of the lowest, not of intelligent activity with variety of spiritual endowment in each for trading with his lord's goods as given in the parable of the Talents (chap. 25). The form is very striking. We have, seen as one, a profession carried out and ending very differently; and this in relation with the Lord, not with Israel as before. “Who then is the faithful and prudent bondman whom his lord set over his household, to give them their food in due season? Blessed [is] that bondman whom his lord on coming shall find so doing. Verily I say to you, that he will set him over all that he hath. But if that evil bondman shall say in his heart, My lord tarrieth; and shall begin to beat his fellow-bondmen, and shall eat. and drink with the drunken, the lord of that bondman shall come in a day when he expecteth not, and in an hour that he knoweth not, and shall cut him asunder, and appoint him his portion with the hypocrites: there shall be the weeping and the gnashing of teeth” (vers. 45-51).
It was another case with the nation. In Judaism there was an enormous unbelieving mass in former times falling into idolatry and all kinds of wickedness, and hence persecuting the faithful brethren. But one of the characteristic marks of Christendom is that all are professors of Christ, whether truly or falsely; and it is therefore presented here as one whole strikingly. The Lord in the parable says the faithful and prudent servant shall be made ruler over all His goods. Blessed is that servant whom his Lord when he comes shall find so doing. It is the responsibility of all in the house. Hence He goes on to say, “But if that evil servant” etc. They are surprisingly joined thus. On what does his ruin turn? The evil servant says in his heart, “My lord delayeth.” His coming is not a mere idea: man likes to have his notions; and nobody is the better for them. But He refers to what is deep and real, the heart's indifference to the coming of the Master. The evil servant says in his heart, “My lord delayeth.” He believes what he likes; and what he likes is that the Lord should delay His coming.
Most affecting it is to see that the Lord treats the heart's putting off His return as leading to assumption within and laxity without. That evil servant when he says in his heart (for so it is), My lord delayeth, shall begin also to heat his fellow-servants, and shall eat and drink with the drunken. What a contrast with Christ, and practical denial of Him! It led back the professor to the world in self-exalting oppression, and in allowed intimacy with the ungodly and immoral. He is therefore appointed, when the Lord is come, to have his part with the hypocrites. The Lord does not treat him as a Jew or Greek, but according to his responsibility.
How different is it with the faithful and wise servant! He waits and longs for the Lord because he loves Him who first loved us. Hence the hope of Christ is quite distinct from prophecy. One might be greatly versed in the prophetic word, and wholly lack that hope; one might have the heart filled with the hope, and be altogether unacquainted with prophecy. No one could rightly deprecate those solemn warnings of what will burst unexpectedly on the world. But, next to believing in Christ for life and redemption, with worship and service and walk following, the Christian needs and is called to wait for the Son of God from heaven. Now if you love anyone, you delight to see him. The absence of the person beloved is trying to you. There may be the wisest reasons for delay, but the delay taxes your patience; and the hope of the speedy return of the one you love is the greatest joy to the heart.
The Lord gives this feeling, and strengthens it, toward Himself. It is the proper hope of the Christian, not the Kingdom but Christ. Grant that it may be hindered by the influence of prophetic notions; yet there is in the heart of all true Christians a genuine desire for the coming of Christ. But when the soul is not in peace through a full gospel, one is afraid. Those who give them an uncertain gospel are responsible for it; as they thus keep souls in dread, they do the greatest injury to the grace of God. One does not speak of such as quite falsify Christ or His work, but of those who do preach it partially, who fear to set forth the full value of the sacrifice of Christ, in the perfect deliverance which His death and resurrection have wrought for the believer.
The result of this defect in teaching is that Christians are apt to be alarmed instead of rejoicing at the immediate coming of Christ.
Who can exaggerate what Christ has wrought for the believer? If you rest on His redemption, all difficulties Godward are taken away. Then there is nothing left but the need of daily self-judgment for every inconsistency, the duty of serving Him now, and the delight of being with Him and seeing Him then, as also of worshipping both now and forever by grace. He has done all for each to bring us to God, taking us out of every evil. How can the believer not rejoice in this and in Him? Therefore all Christians, wherever or whoever they may be, are entitled to have joy and delight, though for many dimmed unhappily, in the prospect of His coming.
Notwithstanding all their imperfect notions, it is certain that all Christians love Christ here, and in principle await Him too. To say this may not please some zealous pre-millennialist friends; but surely this hope belongs to every Christian heart. Would you doubt it of S. Rutherford? or of the late S. Waldegrave? Yet the system of the latter in his Modern Millennarianism was wildly unscriptural. For he believed the First Resurrection reign over, and that we are now in the little space, before Christ sits on the great white throne; and this he made His, coming, when heaven and earth had fled!
There are false prophetic views which hinder; but as the new nature goes out toward Christ, so it longs for the day when we shah be forever with the Lord. Waiting for Christ supposes waiting for His coming; but if put into precise forms and logical propositions, damage may easily ensue. If the object be to prove that many Christians do not look for Christ's coming, abundant grounds appear for working on. But if, on the other hand, you are child-like, God gives sufficient evidence that those who are Christ's, notwithstanding obstacles, do look and at bottom long for His coming.
Only let the children of God get clear of those clouds of noxious and unwholesome vapors that constantly rise up between the Lord and them. Let them cherish in their souls the hope He gave them. If you bring in a millennium first, it is hard to see Christ's coming clearly; it must act as a veil, which dulls the hope of that day. It may not destroy the hope, yet one cannot but look for His coming in an imperfect manner. If you bring in a great tribulation first, this 'also lowers the outlook and enfeebles the hope greatly; it occupies one with evils as they rise, produces a depressing effect, and fills the heart with that judicial trouble and the shade of desolation. They are the mistakes of theorists. The one puts a mistaken hope between you and the coming of the Lord, kindling meanwhile a dreamy excitement in waiting for that day. The other case produces a sort of spiritual nightmare, an oppressive feeling in the thought that you must go through so dreadful a crisis.
Be assured, my brethren, that the scriptures deliver us from both the dream and the nightmare. They entitle the believer to wait for Christ as simply as a child, being perfectly certain that God's word is as true as our hope is blessed. There is to be God's glorious kingdom; but the Lord Jesus will bring it in at His coming. Without doubt the great tribulation is to come, but not for the Christian. When it is a question about the Jew, you can understand it well: for why does the greatest tribulation come upon him? Because of idolatry; yea, of the Beast and the Antichrist worshipped. It is for him a moral retribution, with which the Christian has nothing direct to do. The predicted judgment falls on the apostate nations and the Jews. Those called to be witnesses of Jehovah and His Christ will at last fall into the dreadful snare of allowing the abomination to be put into the sanctuary of God.
What connection is there between this and the Christian looking for Christ? Here the prophecy of the blessed Lord drops all allusion to anything peculiar to Israel. His coming will surely be for the solemn judgment of all who pervert grace and indulge in unrighteousness, receiving a sentence so much the more stern, because the gospel reveals God perfectly in light and love, which they abused to fleshly license. As to this the Fathers taught falsehood and unholiness.
Then comes the parable of the ten Virgins. It is essential to disengage the Christian from the thought that the early part of this prophecy is about him such an idea completely perverts his judgment. For it presents, as we have seen, the Jewish people distinctively. Here we have a future comparison of the kingdom of the heavens.
But we have also in our day to do with another and opposite error, an error that takes away the parable of the Virgins from properly applying to the Christian. We may affirm, on the contrary, that it has nothing to do with the Jewish remnant directly; who, as they are not called to go out to meet the Bridegroom, could not have oil in their vessels, and lastly will not be exposed to the temptation of going to sleep. The Jews ought to abide where they are, or only flee to escape death in their refusal of idolatry. And those who survive, for the Lord's appearing and their own deliverance, only receive the Holy Spirit after He appears. All is in contrast with the Christian position. But many a one who had been a Jewish disciple became a Christian, in the true sense of the term, as Peter uses the word in his First Epistle, and Luke in the Acts. In this parable, then, the Lord shows the kingdom of heaven will be likened to ten virgins. They all went forth to bear their testimony to Christ as the torch was to give light. They were to shine as lights in the world. Each virgin taking her lamp, they went forth to meet the Bridegroom.
(Continued).