Jesus spent the previous chapter telling His followers about how the End would come – “the abomination that causes desolation” and all that – and in chapter 25, He shares two parables and a warning, each of which are crucial to YOUR understanding of what’s required to reach Heaven when the time comes, when Christ comes to bring His Believers Home in the very near future.
Then the kingdom of heaven will be like ten virgins who took their lamps and went to meet the Bridegroom. Five of them were foolish, and five were wise. For when the foolish took their lamps, they took no oil with them, but the wise took flasks of oil with their lamps. As the Bridegroom was delayed, they all became drowsy and slept. But at midnight there was a cry, ‘Here is the Bridegroom! Come out to meet Him.’ Then all those virgins rose and trimmed their lamps. And the foolish said to the wise, ‘Give us some of your oil, for our lamps are going out.’ But the wise answered, saying, ‘Since there will not be enough for us and for you, go rather to the dealers and buy for yourselves.’ And while they were going to buy, the Bridegroom came, and those who were ready went in with Him to the marriage feast, and the door was shut. Afterward the other virgins came also, saying, ‘Lord, Lord, open to us.’ But He answered, ‘Truly, I say to you, I do not know you.’ Watch therefore, for you know neither the day nor the hour. (Matthew 25:1-13)
A couple of things to point out: Why lamps? The oil used in lamps is the standard metaphor for the Holy Spirit. So what the Lord is saying here is that five of the virgins had the Holy Spirit within them, and five did not. The five wise virgins were Believers, while the foolish ones figured they had all the time in the world to accept Jesus in their lives.
And neither do you.
When the time came – when the Bridegroom, namely Jesus Christ (see Revelation 19), arrived at a day and hour which we cannot know despite watching for the signs (my guess at the middle of this month is proof that we guess at our peril!) – they were unable to save themselves because it was already too late. If we knew when the End was going to arrive, we could DO that. We don´t. That is precisely why the Lord did NOT specify when He would return – every generation has to be prepared because nobody knows when He will take us Home.
But it´s more than that. It is not just missing the Rapture. What does Jesus say about those five who waited too long?
The exact thing He says to anyone who He casts into Hell at the Great Throne Judgment:
Afterward the other virgins came also, saying, ‘Lord, Lord, open to us.’ But He answered, ‘Truly, I say to you, I do not know you.’
Those five are going to Hell, not Heaven.
Consider the other parable. This is Matthew 25:14-30…
“For it will be like a man going on a journey, who called his servants and entrusted to them his property. To one he gave five talents, to another two, to another one, to each according to his ability. Then he went away. He who had received the five talents went at once and traded with them, and he made five talents more. So also he who had the two talents made two talents more. But he who had received the one talent went and dug in the ground and hid his master’s money.
Now after a long time the master of those servants came and settled accounts with them. And he who had received the five talents came forward, bringing five talents more, saying, ‘Master, you delivered to me five talents; here, I have made five talents more.’ His master said to him, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant. You have been faithful over a little; I will set you over much. Enter into the joy of your master.’ And he also who had the two talents came forward, saying, ‘Master, you delivered to me two talents; here, I have made two talents more.’ His master said to him, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant. You have been faithful over a little; I will set you over much. Enter into the joy of your master.’
He also who had received the one talent came forward, saying, ‘Master, I knew you to be a hard man, reaping where you did not sow, and gathering where you scattered no seed, so I was afraid, and I went and hid your talent in the ground. Here, you have what is yours.’ But his master answered him, ‘You wicked and slothful servant! You knew that I reap where I have not sown and gather where I scattered no seed? Then you ought to have invested my money with the bankers, and at my coming I should have received what was my own with interest. So take the talent from him and give it to him who has the ten talents. For to everyone who has will more be given, and he will have an abundance. But from the one who has not, even what he has will be taken away. And cast the worthless servant into the outer darkness. In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.’
(A side note: It actually feels a little like a Goldilocks and the Three Bears story, doesn´t it? Two examples, and then the third one is naughty?)
Alright, so the word ¨talent¨ is actually a unit of money here – a huge one, in fact. I cannot give you a translation, but it is significant. But of course, to us today, it also implies a skill, and more critically here our spiritual gift. The Master has given us certain skills to use to bring Him increased treasures when He returns – namely, more saved souls! Our job is to use those skills to His Glory, not bury them where they cannot be seen!
So the first and second men have done as they were instructed to do: invested their talents for the glory of the Master, and are rewarded handsomely – You have been faithful over a little; I will set you over much. Enter into the joy of your master. (Now, that doesn´t even SOUND like a human master! This parable is not exactly subtle…) The key takeaway here, besides gaining God´s Pleasure, is that we will be given ¨much to set over¨ – If you want to do great things for God, start by obeying Him in the little things FIRST! When God sees that you can be trusted to follow His Commands that are laid out in Scripture – are you obeying His Biblical “requests”? – then He given you more than you could have imagined to watch over for Him. Want to be a steward of His Wealth? Show God how Biblically you follow His Word for handling the small amounts of wealth He’s entrusted you with already, no matter how small that amount may seem.
Let’s continue. The third man says something interesting to start his whine. “Master, I knew you to be a hard man,” Do you think of God as “a hard man”, so to speak? Do you feel like God is out to “get you” when you slip up, when you fall, when you fail Him? In other words, are you a legalist who seeks to obey the Law of Moses (and beyond) in order to win God’s favor? That’s what Catholicism and the Latter Day Saints’ and the Pharisees and the Jews do.
But that’s far, far from the truth about God.
God is not the schoolmarm with the ruler, waiting to slap your hand. God loves you, regardless of your slip-ups. That’s what grace is. “For God so loved the world, that He gave His only Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life.” Ever hear John 3:16 before? How could God not love you with all of His infinite Heart if He gave His only Son to torture and death just so YOU could not only go to Heaven but have the Holy Spirit live within you and give you joy in this life as well?
But that’s not the greatest offense here, of course. “I went and hid your talent in the ground. Here, you have what is yours.” This is the attitude of those of you who believe that once you’ve been saved, your responsibility to the Lord has ended. “I hid the spiritual gift You gave me, Lord, and never used it for the purposes You gave it to me for. I didn’t want to waste it…” so instead, you waste your life? Get this, pilgrim – if the only goal of our lives was to be born again – if the only purpose for being a human being is gaining our salvation, wouldn´t God take us Home to Heaven the INSTANT we were saved?
Think on that for a minute.
If the only reason God wants us alive is to choose Him, then once that choice has been made, wouldn´t He take us Home at that instant? So, if we are still on earth, there must be a reason! Jesus has made that reason clear in the Great Commission, and He put the converse of that here in Matthew 25. What happens to the people who choose not to help? You are NOT going to like the answer if you´re one of them…
‘You wicked and slothful servant! You knew that I reap where I have not sown and gather where I scattered no seed? Then you ought to have invested my money with the bankers, and at my coming I should have received what was my own with interest. So take the talent from him and give it to him who has the ten talents. For to everyone who has will more be given, and he will have an abundance. But from the one who has not, even what he has will be taken away. And cast the worthless servant into the outer darkness. In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.’
Those of you who have read the New Testament will recognize immediately what He means when He describes that place (where) there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth. That is the standard description of Hell.
Contrary to popular opinion, even from overly-optimistic preachers, the Bible (and Jesus in particular) is very clear that just saying you are saved does NOT cut it. You must DO what Jesus commands, or your words are contradicted by your inaction! Salvation comes not just from SAYING you follow Christ but from ACTUALLY FOLLOWING CHRIST!
These two parables tell us the same message – you cannot take your salvation for granted. If you didn´t figure it out from the parables, Jesus puts it as plainly as He can in the final sixteen verses of this critical chapter. (You know? I think this became one of the MOST IMPORTANT CHAPTERS series of articles by accident.) Here is Matthew 25:31-46 →
“When the Son of Man comes in His glory, and all the angels with Him, then He will sit on His glorious throne. Before Him will be gathered all the nations, and He will separate people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. And He will place the sheep on his right, but the goats on the left. Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by My Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave Me food, I was thirsty and you gave Me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed Me, I was naked and you clothed Me, I was sick and you visited Me, I was in prison and you came to Me.’ Then the righteous will answer Him, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see You hungry and feed You, or thirsty and give You drink? And when did we see You a stranger and welcome You, or naked and clothe You? And when did we see You sick or in prison and visit You?’ And the King will answer them, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these My brothers, you did it to Me.’
“Then He will say to those on His left, ‘Depart from Me, you cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. For I was hungry and you gave Me no food, I was thirsty and you gave Me no drink, I was a stranger and you did not welcome Me, naked and you did not clothe Me, sick and in prison and you did not visit Me.’ Then they also will answer, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see You hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison, and did not minister to You?’ Then He will answer them, saying, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to Me.’ And these will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life.”