Over the past several months we have been studying “The Parables of Jesus”. These parables have focused on an array of topics, which we have categorized thus far into chapters called “His Kingdom”, “His Character”, and “His Covenant”. We are currently in chapter 4 of this series which includes parables about “His Coming”.
The second coming of Jesus Christ is a major tenet of the Christian faith. While there various denominational and individual views regarding the particular details, it is almost universally accepted among Christians that Jesus is indeed coming again physically to the earth at some future point. To this end, the Bible names several warning signs that will precede His return and urges believers to be ever watchful and ready for it.
Though Christ’s arrival is both imminent and certain, the exact timing of it is unknown. Had God made known to us specifically when Jesus was coming back, there would be no ongoing incentive for Christians to live expectantly. The unpredictability of His return should be a major cause for us to walk obediently and righteously every moment. In part because the Lord has patiently tarried, many born-again Christians have “fallen asleep” and disregard the very real possibility that Jesus could come at any moment.
In today’s message we will study a pair of parables that address differing outcomes for professing Christians following the Lord’s arrival. What will be the fate of those who are found ready? What will be the fate of those who are found unprepared? Great questions… let’s see if we can discover the answers.
I. BE OBEDIENT - Matthew 24:45-51; Luke 12:41-48
“The Parable of the Faithful Servant” is very similar to “The Parable of the Watchful Slaves”. They may have began as a single story, that ultimately evolved into 2 distinct stories. Some theologians consider them to be parts of the same parable, while others see them as separate. Mark seems to combine them both into a single abbreviated form while Luke seems to tell one as the continuation of the other. Matthew, however, clearly tells “The Parable of the Faithful Servant” apart from and without details from “The Parable of Watchful Slaves”. Therefore, I consider them to be alike, but distinct.
“The Parable of the Faithful Servant” describes a master who has set a slave over his household to distribute food at the proper times while he is gone. If the master returns to find the slave doing what he was told to do, then the slave will be blessed. The master will put the faithful servant in charge of his possessions. On the other hand, if the returning master finds the slave acting wickedly and disobediently he will punish him. The unfaithful servant will be assigned to an awful place along with the unfaithful and hypocrites.
In this parable the master is Jesus and His servant is a professing Christian. The faithful servant is one that the Lord finds ready and obediently serving at His return. The reward for such a servant will be great. The unfaithful servant is one that the Lord finds acting sinfully and recklessly at His return. The punishment for such a servant will be severe. The description used is that of Hell itself. Pretty straightforward, isn’t it?
II. BE WISE - Matthew 25:1-13
“The Parable of the 10 Virgins” is found only in the book of Matthew. It is yet another selection from a long sequence of end times parables that Jesus spoke to His disciples while on the Mt. of Olives near the end of His life. Earlier in this series, we pointed out that Jesus sometimes told parables that had a particular feminine appeal to accompany those that appealed more expressly to men. The inclusion of this parable in His discourse suggests that there were likely some women among the disciples with Jesus that night.
The story describes 10 virgins, or bridesmaids, who went out at night to wait for the bridegroom. Each of them took a lamp, but only 5 took extra oil for use in the event that they needed it. As they waited, the bridesmaids fell asleep and their lamps faded. At midnight, the groom arrived and called for them to come out. By this time all of the lamps were almost extinguished, so the 5 wise virgins refilled their lamps while the 5 foolish virgins asked to borrow some oil. The wise virgins did not have enough to spare, so the foolish virgins had to go buy more. While they were gone, the groom and the 5 wise bridesmaids went on to the wedding feast. When the 5 foolish bridesmaids arrived later, the door had already been shut and they were not permitted to enter.
In this parable, Jesus is the groom who is coming for His bride. The bridesmaids, or virgins, are professing Christians. Those who are prepared when He comes, as symbolized by the 5 wise virgins with lit lamps, will return with Him to the Heavenly feast. But those who are unprepared, as symbolized by the 5 foolish virgins, will miss their opportunity and not be given a second chance. We must be ready when Jesus comes, because we will not be given any additional time to get ready thereafter.
III. BE REAL
Both of these parables contrast the consequences that will befall those who are found ready and those who are not when Jesus comes again. Both parables are addressed to professing Christians - those who have been adequately warned that Jesus is coming again. The servant knew that the master was returning and the bridesmaids knew that the groom was coming. They all should have been ready! Sadly, both parables suggest that some of these professing Christians will be excluded from entrance into heaven and instead be condemned to Hell.
There is a big difference between a professing Christian and an actual Christian. Jesus clearly describes people who claim to be saved when in fact, they aren’t. They are charlatans - wolves in sheep's clothing - who appear to be righteous externally but are, in fact, unrighteous internally. They may pose as servants and bridesmaids, but ultimately they have no true allegiance to either the master or the bridegroom. If they did, they’d be much more concerned about His coming than they are.
Before we finish, let me go back for just a moment. In Luke’s account, Jesus ends his rendition of “The Parable of the Faithful Servant” by stating that the professing Christian who does not prepare for the Lord’s coming will be ‘beaten with many stripes” while the lost person who neither knew of it or prepared for it will be “beaten with fewer stripes”. This seemingly indicates differing degrees of punishment for these 2 types of sinners - those who knew and those who did not. We discussed possibility this during our “Heaven and Hell” series earlier this year.
Furthermore Jesus also says that much will be required of those who have been given much, and much will be expected of those who have been entrusted with much. He is teaching that along with privileged responsibility comes increased accountability. We as Christians will be judged more severely if we choose to neglect that which God has revealed expressly to us. We are privy to glorious truths that the world around us doesn’t know. How horrible would it be for us to disregard such a precious revelation?