XII. The Olivet Discourse (Matthew 24:1–25:46)

24:1-2 Chapters 24–25 are often referred to as the Olivet Discourse because they include a lengthy section of Jesus’s teaching to his disciples while on the Mount of Olives (24:3).

25:6-13 Every person in the procession would have been expected to have his or her own lamp, but when the groom’s appearance was announced in the middle of the night, the foolish virgins begged the wise to give them some oil because their lamps were going out (25:6-8). The wise, however, had only enough oil for themselves (25:9). So when the foolish virgins went to buy oil, they missed the groom and were locked out of the wedding banquet no matter how they cried to be let in (25:10-12). Therefore, Jesus said, be alert (25:13).

Jesus’s parable is a description of Jewish believers during the great tribulation. The wise will be spiritually prepared so that when “the abomination of desolation” takes place (24:15), they will be ready and sustained by the Lord until his kingdom reign begins. However, the foolish will make no such spiritual preparations. As a result, they won’t enter into the blessedness of the kingdom and its rewards. Though the parable speaks of those during the tribulation, it serves as a warning to all. Don’t wait until the last minute to be spiritually prepared, because then it will be too late.

25:14 Then Jesus told a parable about the kingdom principle of stewardship. To be a steward is to protect and expand the assets of another on his behalf. When you put your money in the bank, you’re asking the bank to act as a steward. You want it to protect your funds and to expand them by paying you interest.

In this parable, a man gave his possessions to each of his three servants before he went away on a journey so that they might manage them for him in his absence. This is a picture of what Jesus has done. Though he has gone away, he will return. In the meantime, he has given us his possessions to steward. Importantly, a steward is not an owner but one who manages the owner’s possessions. We are stewards of what God has given us—not owners. The Bible makes clear that God owns “everything” (Ps 24:1; 50:10-12). And he expects us to protect and expand his possessions for the advancement of his kingdom in history.

25:15-18 To each of his servants, the man gave talents. A talent was a unit of currency. Notice the servants didn’t receive the same amounts. The first received five talents, the second received two, and the third received onedepending on each one’s ability (25:15). In other words, the servants received based on their capacity. The master didn’t give any of them more than they could handle.

When their master departed, the servants with five and two talents went out and doubled what they’d been given (25:16-17). But the man who had received one talent went off, dug a hole in the ground, and hid his master’s money (25:18).

If you’re a Christian, God has given you three things to steward. First, until Jesus returns, you have time, the day-to-day context in which kingdom opportunities arise. Second, every believer has talents (abilities or skills) that are gifts from God to develop and use for his kingdom purposes. Third, you have treasures (financial resources). Your money isn’t merely for your enjoyment but for kingdom advancement.

Much like the servants in the parable, no two of us have the exact same time, abilities, or treasures. The Lord has distributed what we have to us based on his perfect will and knowledge of our capacities. The question is not what or how much you have. The question is, What will you do with what you’ve been given?

25:19 After a long time the master . . . came and settled accounts with his servants. Similarly, one day all Christians will stand before God to give an account. Scripture calls this the “tribunal [or “judgment seat”] of Christ” (2 Cor 5:10; cf. 1 Cor 3:12-15). Unbelievers will experience judgment too—the white throne judgment after the millennial kingdom (see Rev 20:11-15). But if you are a believer in Jesus Christ, your Lord is going to have a separate conversation with you about your stewardship of all that he put at your disposal. What will he say?

25:20-23 When his master returned, the man with five talents and the man with two explained how they had doubled what he had given them (25:20, 22). To both of them, the master said, Well done . . . You were faithful over a few things; I will put you in charge of many things. Share your master’s joy (25:21, 23). Notice that even though the one with five had more than the one with two, both received the same blessing. The master gave to each according to his abilities; they were faithful with what they’d been given and were rewarded.

25:24-27 The man with one talent told his master that he was a harsh man who had high expectations (25:24). Since he was afraid of him, the servant hid [his] talent in the ground so he wouldn’t risk losing it (25:25). Thus, he returned what he had been given. But the master had no praise for this man. Instead he called him evil and lazy (25:26). The least he could’ve done, he pointed out, was to deposit the money with the bankers and earn some interest (25:27).

While the first two servants were concerned with their master’s affairs, this man was solely concerned with himself. He didn’t want to be bothered with caring for his master’s resources, and putting the talent in the bank involved records and management. So he hid it in the ground. If his master didn’t come back, he could keep it for himself. And if his master returned, he could just return it to him. But the master didn’t merely want his money back. That wasn’t the stewardship he demanded.

Jesus is your King, and he expects you to live faithfully with a kingdom agenda. Live today with a future orientation, knowing that one day he will call you by name to settle accounts.

25:28-30 In the end, the master gave his talent to the one who [had] ten (25:28). To those who are faithful, more will be given. To those who do nothing with their time, talents, or treasure for the sake of the kingdom of God, what they have will be taken away (25:29). Finally, the master had this good-for-nothing servant cast out where he would experience weeping and gnashing of teeth (25:30).

As with the earlier passages (22:13; 24:51), this text uses graphic language to speak—not of eternal judgment (as some interpreters argue)—but of the profound regret that many believers will experience when they receive no rewards because of their unfaithfulness in stewarding God’s resources. Those who were saved but whose earthly lives were useless to the King will lose out on full participation in and the benefits of Christ’s millennial kingdom. Don’t let this be you—making time for your personal priorities but giving no time for the kingdom. Don’t live for decades as a believer on earth and have nothing eternal to show for it.

25:31-40 Finally, Jesus explained what would happen when the Son of Man comes in his glory (25:31). This is a picture of Christ’s second coming at the end of the great tribulation when he judges the nations who will be gathered before him. He will separate them—the sheep from the goats (25:32). The sheep will be on his right, the place of honor, and will be ushered into his millennial kingdom (25:34). The basis for their division from the goats will be the practical love and service they rendered during the tribulation to Jesus’s brothers and sisters, the Jewish people, as an expression of their faith (25:35-40). Jesus will consider service rendered to his Jewish siblings as service rendered to him and as a demonstration of faith in him (25:40; see Joel 3:1-14).

25:41-46 Jesus will tell the goats to depart into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels (25:41). For they refused to minister to the Jewish people during the tribulation period (25:42-45). Thus, Jesus will indict them for their indifference. This will be in keeping with the Abrahamic covenant in which God promised Abraham, “I will bless those who bless you,” and “I will curse those who treat you with contempt” (Gen 12:3). Thus, the unrighteous of the nations will be sent away into eternal punishment (25:46).

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