The Olivet Discourse
W. Fraser Naismith
Scripture Reading Matthew 24:44-51; 25:1-30
The second division of the Olivet discourse commences with chapter 25:30. This portion of the prophecy lays emphasis on the effect of the coming of Christ on that which is designated Christendom. It should be observed that the term “Son of Man” is not found in this section. It appears in the King James Version, but with insufficient MSS. authority, in verse 13 of chapter 25. The term appears in the first division of the prophecy, and as we shall see, appears also in the last. It is absent from this, the second part.
This paragraph has in it three short stories used by the Lord to illustrate what will take place when He comes in manifestation. The first of these presents a ruler with no reward. The servant in this story misjudges the purpose of Christ’s coming. The second reveals the existence of lamps without any lights. The virgins mentioned in this one misjudged the promise of Christ’s coming. The third, the last, indicates a bestowed talent without any trading. The servant here misjudged the person who was to return.
The first of these stories would suggest that there were some who were watching for their Lord’s return; the second, that there were some who were waiting for their Lord; and the third, that there were some working for their Lord.
The scene depicted for us in the first illustration, that found in the closing six verses of chapter 24, is clearly that of Christian profession. The service to which the persons in the story were called was not that of evangelism but rather that of taking care of those in the house. Fidelity and wisdom go hand in hand. In divine sovereignty one person was appointed ruler over the household so that the meals might be provided for the members. To follow out this course would mean that in the day of review there would be an appropriate recompense, the Lord would give him the dignity of being ruler over all his goods.
The evil servant of verse 47 will be judged according to the position he himself took. Christendom is full of empty professors today. In the heptad of parables in Matthew 13, the Lord tells us that the birds which snatched away the good seed are the servants of the devil. In the third parable of that chapter there is presented a monstrosity, the insignificantly small mustard seed becomes a great tree with the birds of the air lodged in its branches. This is a picture of religious mendacity in the present. Lurking in its branches are those who, while professing to be the servants of Christ, deny the faith and undermine the truth of the Word of God.
“Out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaketh,” and “As a man thinketh in his heart, so is he,” are true statements. This servant said in his heart, “My Lord delayeth his coming.” Today, the teaching regarding the second coming of Christ is a target of special attack. Many are denying it altogether, while others are seeking to postpone it in their minds to a time that best suits them. The Lord will not delay His coming; He said, “Behold, I come quickly.” The first point of error is godward; it is the thought of delaying the return of the Lord. The second point of error is manward; it is the misbehaviour of one servant ill-treating his fellow-servants. Love should dominate those who profess to serve the Lord Christ. In the illustration, hatred displaced love in the heart of the servant.
The third step in the retrograde is seen in the servant that ate and drank with the drunken. Surely, “Evil communications corrupt good manners.” The writer’s Mother used to say, “Show me your companions, and I will tell you what you are.” To find one’s friendship among ungodly people is the tragedy of a life lived out of touch with the Lord. The second and third acts are attacks against the testimony. The first error is doctrinal; the second, practical; and the third, moral. The decline from truth gains impetus till the ultimate condition is the absence of moral character altogether. To pursue such a course till the Lord comes is to bring down divine judgment, a recompense in keeping with the status adopted and the behaviour evidenced, the place of everlasting remorse.
The second story, that of the ten virgins, is a parable of the Kingdom of Heaven. Note the introductory word, “Then.” The Kingdom of Heaven is the rule of the Heavens over the Earth. The Kingdom is in mystery at the present, but soon will be in might. There were ten virgins, five were wise and five were foolish. Wisdom and folly are the antithesis of one another. Wherein lay the wisdom? How can we judge the folly? In appearance the virgins all looked alike. There were certain factors common to all; they all had lamps. Lamps in Scripture indicate profession. They all professed to bear witness to the Lord. The foolish, although they had lamps, took no oil in their vessels. What is the use of a lamp if there is no oil to maintain the light? The wise had oil in their vessels; they picture those who have an unction from the Holy One and are indwelt by the Holy Spirit of Promise. Oil is symbolic of the Holy Spirit. The Thessalonians were looking for God’s Son from Heaven, thus indicating that their lamps were burning brightly.
The Church has fallen into a state of torpor, and being asleep has become indifferent to the doctrine of the Lord’s return. How necessary that she awake!
Another common factor with these virgins was that while the bridegroom tarried, they all slumbered and slept. Midnight was zero hour!
The Holy Spirit has moved, bringing back to hearts and minds truths which had been lost down through the ages, especially that of the coming of the Lord to take out of this world His own. The midnight cry had its effect, not only on the wise but also on the foolish; they all arose and trimmed their lamps.
What a rude awakening for the foolish virgins to discover that they had nothing to sustain their witnessing. They clamoured for oil; begging some from the wise, and receiving the answer, “Go ye rather to them that sell, and buy for yourselves.” Many seem to find difficulty in the word “buy” but there is really none. In Isaiah 55:1, we read, “Come ye buy and eat; yea, come buy wine and milk without money and without price.” The fact is, buying is merely a transaction between two persons, one has the item of which to dispose, the other has need of the item. The meaning here is plain, make sure of a transaction between your soul and God. Simon Magus wanted to buy the power with his filthy pelf. Peter discerned his spiritual state and gravely warned him (Acts 8:19-24).
Delay is dangerous. Reader, do not delay in making contact with the Lord! Have dealings with the Lord of Glory if you ever wish to be in the glory with the Lord!
A last minute rush to secure the oil was unavailing for in the interim the bridegroom came and those that were ready went in to the marriage. Are you ready? Have you the Spirit of God? Is your light burning, brightly? It is to the marriage that the wise have entered. When God would describe the glories of that scene reserved for those that love Him, He uses the figure of that most wonderful day in the earthly experience of two persons, the day they enter into the joy of matrimony.
The foolish virgins found to their amazement that while they went to get the oil, the bridegroom came, and those that were ready had gone in to the marriage. The sad fact is, they were left outside a closed door. In their consternation they cried from terror-stricken hearts, “Lord, Lord, open unto us. Not all that say Lord, Lord, shall enter into the Kingdom, but he that doeth the will of My Father which is in Heaven.” “The door was shut” suggests that no further dealings in grace may be expected by those who stand outside begging an entrance. From behind closed doors there comes the voice of the Lord saying, “I know you not.” This retort from within could only intensify the dismay of those without. Such indeed will be the end of those that obey not the Gospel of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ.
In view of the fact that the day when Christ will come is unknown, no amount of speculation will ever bring to light that hidden counsel of God the Father. “The times and seasons which the Father has put in His own power” are not revealed to anyone. Because of that fact, it is of vital importance “while it is called today” that men should repent and avail themselves of the provision divinely afforded through the death and resurrection of our Lord Jesus. The Christian must ever remember that watchfulness is an imperative throughout this long dark night. The words of Christ come ringing down the ages with freshness, “What I say unto you, I say unto all, watch.”
The third story is that of the talents. One man had a talent but did not trade with it. This is not the same picture as Christ draws in Luke 19. In this passage the servants all receive different amounts, suggesting the sovereignty of God who distributes severally as He wills. In Luke 19 all receive similar amounts, and that of course lays emphasis on the responsibility of man. In this passage, Matthew 25, one servant receives five talents, another two, and a third, only one. The person with the five traded with them, and so did the one with the two, but the third buried his in the earth.
When the time of review came, the one with the five talents had increased these to ten. His fidelity was duly commended and rewarded. A similar commendation was given to the one who had received two talents. To both of these, the Lord said, “Enter thou into the joy of thy Lord.” Where He is there we also shall be, and that gives delight to the heart of the Lord.
The third servant declared himself without dividends. By this failure he manifested that he had wrong ideas about his Lord, and in second place that he was afraid of his Lord. He had despised the opportunity of trading and had deliberately hidden his talent. The ultimate testing of this professed servant will ever be “outer darkness; there shall be gnashing of teeth.” The portion of those that have such a low estimate of the Lord, and who have behaved in such a manner as this servant, will be that of remorse, when the spectre of neglect will haunt their souls forever. Let us search our hearts and discover whether or not we are really servants.