1 - 13 Parable of the Ten Virgins
1 “Then the kingdom of heaven will be comparable to ten virgins, who took their lamps and went out to meet the bridegroom. 2 Five of them were foolish, and five were prudent. 3 For when the foolish took their lamps, they took no oil with them, 4 but the prudent took oil in flasks along with their lamps. 5 Now while the bridegroom was delaying, they all got drowsy and [began] to sleep. 6 But at midnight there was a shout, ‘Behold, the bridegroom! Come out to meet [him].’ 7 Then all those virgins rose and trimmed their lamps. 8 The foolish said to the prudent, ‘Give us some of your oil, for our lamps are going out.’ 9 But the prudent answered, ‘No, there will not be enough for us and you [too]; go instead to the dealers and buy [some] for yourselves.’ 10 And while they were going away to make the purchase, the bridegroom came, and those who were ready went in with him to the wedding feast; and the door was shut. 11 Later the other virgins also came, saying, ‘Lord, lord, open up for us.’ 12 But he answered, ‘Truly I say to you, I do not know you.’ 13 Be on the alert then, for you do not know the day nor the hour.
The parable of the virgins is not meant to show that only those who wait diligently for the Lord go to the wedding with Him. The whole company consists of confessors, they are all people who have come out to meet the bridegroom. What matters is to show the difference between the confessors. There are both real and false confessors.
In this parable the Lord is not the Bridegroom of the church. The bride is not mentioned in this parable. This is about personal responsibility during the absence of Christ. It is a parable of the kingdom of heaven that is compared to ten virgins. The number ten speaks of responsibility. The word “virgins” speaks of devotion, of having only one beloved. They all have lamps, that is to say light. They know the future. They all go out to meet the bridegroom.
Then the Lord makes a distinction in the ten virgins. He calls five foolish and five prudent. The difference is not in going out, because they all go out. They also all have lamps. The distinction lies in having or not having oil in their lamps. What makes the foolish virgins foolish is that they have no oil. Oil speaks of the Holy Spirit. In the Old Testament, kings, priests, and in some cases prophets were anointed with oil. The New Testament believer is anointed with the Holy Spirit in this way (1Jn 2:20,27; 2Cor 1:21-22). The flasks speak of the body (2Cor 4:7).
When the bridegroom delays, all ten of them fall asleep. The possession of the Holy Spirit does not prevent the prudent virgins from falling asleep. This indicates that the entire confessing church, even those who have the Spirit, lose sight of the Lord’s return. In the early days of the church, the believers were looking forward to the coming of the Lord. But because of the delay of His coming, the expectation has subsided.
Then, when it is midnight, when the night is at its darkest, there is a shout. The bridegroom is approaching! The call of the Holy Spirit is: “Behold, the bridegroom!” The person of the bridegroom awakens the sleepers from their sleep. Moreover, the exclamation “behold, the bridegroom” is not only meant to awaken in order to meet Him. It also implies an appeal to see in the examination of the Scriptures the magnificent features of His Person.
Besides waking up, activity is also expected. That’s why it sounds as follows: “Come out, to meet [him]”. In verse 1 they have already gone out once. Now the cry is to do that again. Going out means separation from the world, also in its Christian form. But that is not all. There follows: ‘To meet Him.’ It is about Christ.
In the history of Christianity we see this happening when, through the action of God’s Spirit in the 19th century, there arises a renewed interest in the coming of Christ. Through the examination of the Scriptures, especially of prophecy, the hope of the church is also rediscovered, as it was in the days of Paul. For the sake of Christ, wrong associations were given up and people began to live in accordance with the true calling of the Christian. What we see in the history of Christianity also applies to the life of the individual believer. Whoever lives with and in the expectation of the imminent coming of Christ, does not live for the earth, but for heaven.
All the virgins wake up. Both real and false Christians are preparing to meet the bridegroom. They all trim their lamps. They let the light they have shine again. That is also the moment that the foolish come to the discovery that they have no oil. They see that their lamps are going out. They had only lit the wick, but had not supplied themselves with oil. The lamp without oil represents a man who does not possess the Holy Spirit. The lamp of a natural person can sometimes let light shine for a while, giving the impression that there is oil, but in reality such a lamp goes out quickly.
There is enough time between the call and the coming to make everyone’s condition clear. Now the foolish come to the discovery that they have no oil. They miss the essence of the light. The light they possessed was but an appearance. They recognize that the prudent do have oil. They see that the prudent have a real relationship with the bridegroom. Their question to the prudent is whether they may have some of their oil. But the prudent know that they cannot supply oil. They refer the foolish to the dealers.
When the foolish have left to buy oil, the bridegroom comes. The prudent, those who are ready, enter the wedding feast with him. Then the door is closed. When the other virgins come, they also want to go in. Oil is not mentioned. They want to go inside and beg the Lord to open up for them. But for the foolish virgins it is too late. They should have been ready when the bridegroom presented himself.
The lord remands them with words indicating that there is no connection between him and them. He does not know them. He does not pretend not to know them, but he really does not know them. They have never surrendered to him. There has never been love for him in their hearts. They found him interesting, but they never bowed before him.
The Lord Jesus ends the parable with a warning to be on the alert. This is the purpose of the parable. It must move the prudent to keep their eyes well open and not fall asleep. It must move the foolish to become prudent now by buying oil before it’s too late.
14 - 23 Parable of the Talents
14 “For [it is] just like a man [about] to go on a journey, who called his own slaves and entrusted his possessions to them. 15 To one he gave five talents, to another, two, and to another, one, each according to his own ability; and he went on his journey. 16 Immediately the one who had received the five talents went and traded with them, and gained five more talents. 17 In the same manner the one who [had received] the two [talents] gained two more. 18 But he who received the one [talent] went away, and dug [a hole] in the ground and hid his master’s money. 19 “Now after a long time the master of those slaves *came and *settled accounts with them. 20 The one who had received the five talents came up and brought five more talents, saying, ‘Master, you entrusted five talents to me. See, I have gained five more talents.’ 21 His master said to him, ‘Well done, good and faithful slave. You were faithful with a few things, I will put you in charge of many things; enter into the joy of your master.’ 22 “Also the one who [had received] the two talents came up and said, ‘Master, you entrusted two talents to me. See, I have gained two more talents.’ 23 His master said to him, ‘Well done, good and faithful slave. You were faithful with a few things, I will put you in charge of many things; enter into the joy of your master.’
The Lord adds another parable about the kingdom of heaven. He goes from the condition of the heart – that is the subject of the previous parable – over to service. The possessions that this man entrusts to his slaves are not a picture of the gifts that God gives in His providence, such as earthly possessions. The Lord did not give His servants any earthly possessions when He left. “His possessions” which He entrusts are the gifts which make them competent to work in His service during His absence.
This parable resembles the parable of the pounds in the Gospel according to Luke (Lk 19:12-27). Yet they are different. In the Gospel according to Luke each receives one pound. There the emphasis is on personal responsibility. There is no difference there. In the zeal which is applied, there is a difference, which is expressed in the profit and in the reward. The one who has gained ten pounds gets authority over ten cities and the one who has gained five pounds gets authority over five cities. Here in the Gospel according to Matthew it is about the sovereignty and wisdom of God. Here each gets a different number of talents, according to the sovereignty and wisdom of God. But here the reward is equal for those who have shown faithfulness in using the talents.
Everyone has their own ability, a natural gift. This ability makes each person suitable for the service in which he will be used. In addition to that, there is a gift, talents or spiritual gifts, needed to perform the service that has been commissioned. Faithfulness in performing the service is the only thing that matters. What distinguishes the faithful from the unfaithful is faith in the Master.
The slave with the five talents uses his talents well. He gains one hundred percent more. The slave with the two talents also uses his talents well. He also gains one hundred percent. The slave with one talent also does something with it. But what he does is not what his master has told him. He digs into the ground and hides “his master’s” money. It is not his own money. He doesn’t want to use it. He is disobedient and lazy.
“After a long time” the master returns. This ‘long time’ is necessary to test the perseverance and loyalty of the slaves. When the master returns, he settles accounts with them. The slave with the five talents comes to him, takes the profit with him and shows it to his lord. The master’s reward is a special appreciation for his entire service. He receives a “well done” and thereby proved that he is a “good and faithful” slave. He is good because he did the right thing. He is faithful because he has done what his master had said.
He has been faithful with a few things, even if it may appear big in the eyes of others. We must count according to the wealth of the master and not according to what others have. The reward is that the master will put him in charge of “many things”. What these ‘many things’ are, he will find in ‘the joy of his master’, into which he may enter.
He who has received the two talents also comes to his master and brings the profit for his master with him. Because the slave with the two talents has done just as well, and thereby has proven that he is as “good and faithful” a slave as the slave with the five talents, he gets the same reward. He who received the five talents and he who received the two talents, enter equally into the joy of the Master Whom they served. They knew Him in His true capacity as a good Master and enter into His full joy.
24 - 30 The Wicked, Lazy Slave
24 “And the one also who had received the one talent came up and said, ‘Master, I knew you to be a hard man, reaping where you did not sow and gathering where you scattered no [seed]. 25 And I was afraid, and went away and hid your talent in the ground. See, you have what is yours.’ 26 “But his master answered and said to him, ‘You wicked, lazy slave, you knew that I reap where I did not sow and gather where I scattered no [seed]. 27 Then you ought to have put my money in the bank, and on my arrival I would have received my [money] back with interest. 28 Therefore take away the talent from him, and give it to the one who has the ten talents.’ 29 “For to everyone who has, [more] shall be given, and he will have an abundance; but from the one who does not have, even what he does have shall be taken away. 30 Throw out the worthless slave into the outer darkness; in that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.
There is a big contrast between the slave with one talent and the other two slaves. The slave with one talent also comes to his master, but his story is different. He speaks to the master as a hard master. He has observed things about his master and formulated his own completely misplaced conclusion. He has judged his master from a disobedient and lazy attitude. Then you will get scared. Out of fear he has despised his master’s talent. He didn’t want it when he got it and he still doesn’t want it. He brings it to his master to hand it back to him as a worthless and even contemptible talent.
The master designates the slave as wicked and lazy. He is a “wicked” slave because he did not do what his master said. He is a “lazy” slave because he did not make any effort. He put his own interest above that of his master. The master says to him that the knowledge he believed to possess about his master should have led him to act wisely. Then he would not have put that money in the ground, but, at the very least, brought it to the bank. At least then it would still have generated interest. But people who are wicked and lazy come to the wrong conclusions and those conclusions encourage them to act wrongly.
The master determines that the one talent should be given to him who has ten. The master lets him keep the profits of the five and he gets one more. That one talent is better spent on him. The Lord always acts according to this principle. He who has and acts faithfully with it, gets more and comes to abundance. He who does not have, has what he thinks he has taken from him. What he has, he owns wrongly. It is not his property, because it is his master’s who has given it to him to act with it.
The slave is thrown into the outer darkness because of his uselessness. How bad it is to be useless. We may sometimes feel useless, but we are not. Therefore this parable is an exhortation to work with what the Lord has given us. Those who think they have received ‘only’ one talent must be extra vigilant against the danger of being wicked and lazy. The Lord distributes sovereignly and it is the love for the Lord that motivates us to work for Him with every talent we have received from Him.
The outer darkness is the place farthest removed from God. God is light, and in Him is no darkness at all. In that outer darkness man is completely left to himself, without one ray of light. He can only weep and gnash his teeth there because of the remorse that he was wicked and lazy during his life. That remorse will torment him forever.
31 - 33 The Son of Man on His Throne
31 “But when the Son of Man comes in His glory, and all the angels with Him, then He will sit on His glorious throne. 32 All the nations will be gathered before Him; and He will separate them from one another, as the shepherd separates the sheep from the goats; 33 and He will put the sheep on His right, and the goats on the left.
This verse is connected to Matthew 24:31. In that verse (Mt 24:31) the coming of the Son of Man with His angels is already referred to. He appears on earth in the glory from on high, the glory that is His own and that is given to Him. He will connect heaven and earth with each other. However, the earth must first be cleansed of sin and sinners. To this end He takes His place on the throne of His glory in Jerusalem. The Father gave Him this authority to judge because He is the Son of Man (Jn 5:27).
Before His glorious throne is seen the result of the preaching of the kingdom by the brothers of the Lord, which are His disciples who preached in the time of the great tribulation. They performed His command and went to all nations to preach the kingdom (Mt 28:19). How the nations have reacted to this is now being made clear.
The nations are gathered before Him. All nations. No nation will be able to stay away. He is the Commander and Judge. He judges with discernment. He is Shepherd as well as Judge. He knows who His sheep are, and He also knows who the goats are, and thus do not belong to His sheep. They are not individuals, but nations. By the location which He designates for the different nations, He already makes their position clear. They obey without contradiction. It does not occur to them to protest.
34 - 40 The Judgment of the Sheep
34 “Then the King will say to those on His right, ‘Come, you who are blessed of My Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. 35 For I was hungry, and you gave Me [something] to eat; I was thirsty, and you gave Me [something] to drink; I was a stranger, and you invited Me in; 36 naked, and you clothed Me; I was sick, and you visited Me; I was in prison, and you came to Me.’ 37 Then the righteous will answer Him, ‘Lord, when did we see You hungry, and feed You, or thirsty, and give You [something] to drink? 38 And when did we see You a stranger, and invite You in, or naked, and clothe You? 39 When did we see You sick, or in prison, and come to You?’ 40 The King will answer and say to them, ‘Truly I say to you, to the extent that you did it to one of these brothers of Mine, [even] the least [of them], you did it to Me.’
The Lord first addresses those who are on His right hand, the sheep. He calls them “blessed of My Father”. That must have sounded good, but also surprising, to their ears. They may come in order to inherit the kingdom. They will be overwhelmed by it. They hear that they are heirs and that they are receiving something that is already prepared for them “from the foundation of the world”. This has always been God’s intention with the earth, this has always been in His mind.
The Lord tells them why they are receiving this blessing. They have done something for Him. All the things He mentions are related to a situation of need, misery and loneliness. He mentions it all one by one. He doesn’t say very generally in one word that they have been good to Him, but He says what they have done for Him. As the Creator He provides others with food and drink and He provides shelter. His concern extends even to the foxes and birds of heaven (Mt 8:20). But as Man He made Himself dependent on people’s care for Him.
He was hungry and thirsty and was like a stranger on earth. And the sheep provided Him with food and drink and shelter. Even when He was naked and sick and in prison, they dressed Him and visited Him, and made the effort to come to Him. Clothing and shelter provide protection. He was without protection. That is what they offered Him. Disease and imprisonment limit a person’s freedom to go and be wherever he wants. The sheep have come to Him Who had those restrictions.
By the way, we see here that the Lord has participated in the consequences of sin, including illness. Not that He Himself was sick, but He made Himself one with those who are sick and felt and carried sickness (cf. Mt 8:17). Sickness is not a sin. He says “I was sick” in the same way He suffered hunger and thirst. This means that sickness is not something bound up in salvation and should therefore be contested. We must bear the consequences of sin, including sickness, and He helps us to bear them.
The sheep who are called “the righteous” here do not boast of anything. On the contrary. Amazed, they ask when they saw Him hungry and thirsty, and then gave Him food and drink. They don’t remember that at all. They go through the list He has mentioned and do not recognize any of the charitable acts where He says that they have done it to Him. They don’t know that they ever welcomed Him hospitably into their house or that He was naked and that they dressed Him. Nor can they remember ever seeing Him sick or in prison and then coming to Him.
The Lord makes it clear to them that He and His brethren are one. Everything they have done for even the least of His brethren, they have done for Him. He sent out His brothers in a time of great tribulation to preach the gospel of the kingdom. They have done so under the toughest conditions of trial and persecution. And these people have invited His brethren and provided them with what was necessary. This deed proved that they received Him Who had sent them. The sheep, those who received the servants, thereby participated in their trials and tribulations.
As proof of His appreciation and the Father’s appreciation, the Lord gives them the kingdom as inheritance. Here we see how highly He values their work. We also see here how great His love is for His faithful servants He has sent out. The proof of this we see in the fact that He judges the nations to whom the testimony has been sent, according to whether or not they received the servants as if it were Him.
41 - 46 The Judgment of the Goats
41 “Then He will also say to those on His left, ‘Depart from Me, accursed ones, into the eternal fire which has been prepared for the devil and his angels; 42 for I was hungry, and you gave Me [nothing] to eat; I was thirsty, and you gave Me nothing to drink; 43 I was a stranger, and you did not invite Me in; naked, and you did not clothe Me; sick, and in prison, and you did not visit Me.’ 44 Then they themselves also will answer, ‘Lord, when did we see You hungry, or thirsty, or a stranger, or naked, or sick, or in prison, and did not take care of You?’ 45 Then He will answer them, ‘Truly I say to you, to the extent that you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to Me.’ 46 These will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life.”
The goats are referred to as “those on His left”. They get to hear the greatest possible contrast with the sheep. The sheep hear “come” (verse 34), the goats hear “depart from Me” (verse 41). He calls the sheep “blessed of My Father” (verse 34); He calls the goats “accursed ones” (verse 41). The sheep inherit the kingdom, the goats are referred to the eternal fire. This eternal fire was originally prepared for the devil and his angels, but they will be joined by all those who rejected the Lord Jesus, no matter in what way He came to them.
The goats had no eye for the need of the Lord’s messengers because they had no eye for Him. So they gave the messengers nothing to eat and drink when they were hungry and thirsty. The goats also had no regard for the circumstances of the messengers of the Lord. There was no compassion for them.
Just like the sheep they ask for the “when” of the withholding the necessary and desired. They did not recognize Him. Neither did the sheep, but they had acted charitably to the brothers for the Lord’s sake. The Lord answers them in the same way He answered the sheep. Those who have gone out for Him are so important to Him, that He sees everything that has happened to them as done to Him.
The final destinations of the behavior on earth are so far apart that no greater contrast is conceivable: eternal punishment or eternal life. These two destinations will never come together. The eternal fire is the eternal punishment for the people who have conspired with the enemy against the Lord and His messengers. The righteous, those who have done God’s justice, may enter the kingdom of verse 34, which is called here “eternal life” (verse 46).
This does not mean that entering eternal life is based on merit, a performance delivered. The Lord Jesus says in John 3 that one can enter the kingdom of God only if one is born again, that is, has new life (Jn 3:3,5). But that new life manifests itself in receiving the brothers of the Lord. He therefore presents it here in such a way that whoever receives His messengers enters eternal life. Receiving the messenger is equivalent to receiving the message. Because of the special time in which that happens, it is appreciated by the Lord in a special way.