The fact is that Jesus went back to heaven and left in the hands of eleven men the whole plan of God for the redemption of mankind – such as would receive His gift of salvation by receiving Him as Savior – was He taking a bold chance for success? Or was there a certainty underlying His purpose?
In His commission to them in Matthew 28:18-20, He begins it with, “All power is given to Me in Heaven and earth; go therefore….” That smacks of confidence at the highest level. And after Peter’s confession in Matthew 16:16 identifying Jesus as “the Christ, the Son of the living God,” Jesus said, “On this rock I will build My church, and the gates of hell will not prevail against it!” (Matthew 16:18). And He knows the end from the beginning, but how would man perform for Him in those centuries ahead?
The three parables (Matthew 24:45-51, Matthew 25:1-13, and Matthew 25:14-30) target Israel’s leaders, then leaders of the Christian era (the Church), then individual Christians and their leadership of discipleship and personal witness.
Israel was God’s “chosen people” and still is, as the legacy of Abraham is now established as a sovereign nation, by the United Nations on May 14, 1948. (God’s promise to restore them to their land was begun then.) The children of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob were to be a message of redemption from God to the whole world. Psalm 107:2 and other Old Testament directives pre-exist the Great Commission of the Church Age but say the same thing, essentially: “Let the redeemed of the Lord say so, whom He has redeemed from the hand of the enemy.” What happened?
The parable in Matthew 24:45-51 tells their story: “Who then is a faithful and wise servant, whom his master made ruler over his household, to give them food in due season? Blessed is that servant whom his master, when he comes, will find so doing. Assuredly, I say to you that he will make him ruler over all his goods. But if that evil servant says in his heart, ‘My master is delaying his coming,’ and begins to beat his fellow servants, and to eat and drink with the drunkards, the master of that servant will come on a day when he is not looking for him and at an hour that he is not aware of, and will cut him in two and appoint him his portion with the hypocrites. There shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth.”
The predictions in Isaiah 5:1b-6 look at Israel as a vineyard that is neglected by its custodians:
“My Well-beloved has a vineyard on a very fruitful hill. He dug it up and cleared out its stones, and planted it with the choicest vine. He built a tower in its midst and also made a winepress in it. So He expected it to bring forth good grapes, but it brought forth wild grapes.
“And now, O inhabitants of Jerusalem and men of Judah, judge, please, between Me and My vineyard. What more could have been done to My vineyard that I have not done in it? Why then, when I expected it to bring forth good grapes, did it bring forth wild grapes? And now, please let Me tell you what I will do to My vineyard: l take away its hedge, and it shall be burned; and break down its wall, and it shall be trampled down. I will lay it waste; It shall not be pruned or dug, but there shall come up briers and thorns. I will also command the clouds that they rain no rain on it.”
Jesus summed up their results quite well in Matthew 23:15: “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you travel land and sea to win one proselyte, and when he is won, you make him twice as much a son of hell as yourselves.” However, God does not let His name be profaned or blamed for their failures. He will ordain 144,000 Jewish evangelists to take the gospel of the kingdom to the farthest ends of the earth, according to Revelation 7.
That final scattering of the Jews into all the world, as He had promised, was done when the Romans destroyed Jerusalem and the temple in 70 A.D. and continued to empty the land of Jews for 65 years. Annual rainfall diminished to hardly any in the land until 1870 when nomadic Jews began to drift back into the land. Thus, God preserved it until His time for them to return, as the creation of a sovereign state began to arise in God’s plan for the end of the age. This parable, among many such accounts, tells of the failure of Israel’s leaders to obey God and to choose idol worship instead.
Then, Jesus tells a parable based on the format of a traditional Jewish wedding that illustrates the failure of leadership in the Church Age who will not take their duties seriously but forget that Jesus is the head of His Church, the body of Christ.
It is detailed in Matthew 25:1-13. The Bridegroom and the Bride, identified in the New Testament as Jesus Christ, the Bridegroom, and His body of believers, the Bride. In the Jewish wedding, the bridegroom finds his bride-to-be, is betrothed to her, then goes away for a year to prepare a place for her to be with him. Then, he comes back to claim her and takes her with him. Meanwhile, a number of bridesmaids are looking after the bride to ensure her purity and continued commitment to the bridegroom.
In this parable, the issue is the faithfulness of the bridesmaids to their commitment of service to the bride, that she is keeping the integrity of her vows and will be ready when the bridegroom returns. This parable tells the truth of the failure of many of the church’s caretakers, the leaders of the church-at-large over the centuries, until He, Jesus Christ, returns for His Bride.
This is the time of the Rapture, the imminent return of Christ now waiting for the time of “falling away” to end and the One who restrains the rushing force of evil to be removed with His body of believers.
Many of the organized churches have lost their sense of purpose, the telling of the gospel to the ends of the earth, and have turned to idols of modern-day design, denying even the reality of Christ. Sexual deviation and abuse have become steadily prominent yet not exposed and dealt with. Deviation from the validity and recognized inspiration of all Scripture has led people away from the truth to follow their own ideas and understanding, making a mockery of God in their worship. It is definitely an invitation for the judgment of God, just as it was in the days of Noah and of Lot (Luke 17:26-30).
In the final parable of the three, the issue is of the handling of talents given to servants — ten to one, five to another, and one to another. It seems to speak to the individual believer, finally, and his manner of service to the Lord with the gospel and his own life. A talent may have been a type of investment unit, but let’s look at it as what we believers have received from the Lord as a responsibility to Him. While salvation is a free gift, there are good works that God has ordained for us to do. Ephesians 2:8-10 tells of the gift, then the “works” that follow:
“For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast. For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them.”
Again, that Old Testament directive is as clear of a “Great Commission” for the individual believer as any found in the New Testament: “Let the redeemed of the Lord say so, whom He has redeemed from the hand of the enemy” (Psalm 107:2).
In Ephesians 4:11-13, the Word says God gave apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors, and teachers “for the equipping of the saints for the work of ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ, till we all come to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a perfect man, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ.” (Looks like this passage fits into that second parable, as well.)
The question that arises is what happened to the Great Commission that Jesus gave in Matthew 28:18-20, which included the making of disciples who are trained to obey the commandments? Those would be the ones in the Ephesians passage above who are “equipped for the work of the ministry.”
However, it may be working out in these last days; it has always been and always will be God who calls one to a ministry, and that one must respond to the call. In Romans 12:3, Paul makes it clear how it works in God’s plan: “For I say, through the grace given to me, to everyone who is among you, not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think, but to think soberly, as God has dealt to each one a measure of faith.” The Scripture says, “work out your own salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you both to will and to do according to His good pleasure” (Philippians 2:12b-13).
Judgment will come to the believer at the throne of Christ, according to 2 Corinthians 5:10, where one will answer to what he has done with his talent or talents, or how he has taken up the challenge of preparing the Bride to be ready for her Bridegroom. It will be by individual appearances. May God’s mercy excel over judgment.
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