The Gospel of Matthew
"E. Schuyler English: The Gospel According to Matthew"
The Book of MATTHEW
Matthew's Gospel is a Jewish book, which relates to the fulfilments in the Lord Jesus of God's promises to Israel concerning Messiah, and which gives also a picture as to the way in which God, through Christ, will deal with Israel, the nation, in the future.
Israel is God's peculiar people, and there are many warnings and promises of blessing in the Word which are especially for the Jew. But we, as His Body, are also God's peculiar people; we, too, find warnings and promises of blessing for us. However, let us not take from Israel those things which are hers.
"Then shall the Kingdom of the heavens be likened unto ten virgins, who took their lamps, and went forth to meet the bridegroom. And five of them were wise, and five were foolish. ..."
Another of the "Kingdom parables" is before us for attention. No one can understand the Word of God in its fulness unless he has a thorough grounding in dispensational truth, yet we must recognize the danger of hyperdispensationalism, and the risk of becoming so bound up in cold theological facts as to lose sight of the warmth of God's love. Nevertheless, in our interpretations of the parables before us in this chapter, we take the view that the Lord was still speaking of events which were to take place at the end of the age about which the disciples had asked just previous to our Lord's Olivet Discourse, that is, the Tribulation period, in which again God shall deal with Israel as a nation. We have the deepest respect for the judgment and spiritual insight of some who take another view, namely, that the parable of the ten virgins, and the parable of the talents have to do with the Age of Grace, and we have come to the conclusion we have reached only after a great deal of prayerful study. We shall point out why we believe the teaching has to do quite definitely with the Tribulation, but we shall also attempt to show that there is a message in these allegorical stories for the Church today.
It is taught that the Kingdom of the heavens here means professing Christianity in the Church Age, that the five wise virgins are believers, that the five foolish virgins are professing Christians, and that the coming of the Bridegroom is the coming of the Lord Jesus for His saints when the Rapture of the Church will take place. The chief arguments we find in favour of this interpretation are that the oil which the wise virgins took in their lamps is a symbol of the Holy Spirit Who will be taken away at the end of the Age of Grace, that the "Then" of verse one refers to the time of the "faithful householder" (Matt. 24:45-51), which time is assumed by those who so believe, to be the Church Age, and that the remnant of Jewish believers of the Tribulation will not slumber and sleep because the Bridegroom tarries, since they will know that He will come three and one-half years after the antichrist breaks covenant with Israel.
First, we cannot agree that the "Then" of verse one refers to anything other than the end of the Tribulation, for we cannot see that we have any right to assume that the parable of the faithful householder (Matt. 24:45) has to do with the Church Age. Before the Lord began His discourse to His disciples, they asked: "When shall these things be? And what shall be the sign of Thy coming, and of the consummation of the age?" We have shown that that which follows teaches of Tribulation truth, and we shall also see that Matthew 25:31-46 refers to the end of the Tribulation. Now those who teach that the three parables, the Faithful Householder, the Ten Virgins, the Talents, deal with the Church Age say that the Olivet Discourse follows a chronological order from Matthew 24:1 to Matthew 25:46, but that the parables are to be excepted. If the parables could not be understood to have to do with Israel in the Tribulation, we would agree with these good brethren. But the parables do have a definite teaching concerning the end of the Tribulation Age, and therefore we can assume that our Lord was speaking of the same period of time in the parables as He was in the early and last parts of His discourse.
Secondly, we believe that our Lord never spoke carelessly, and that in this parable, as in the one of the marriage feast, where there is a Bridegroom there must be a Bride, and that the ten virgins, or rather the five wise virgins, do not represent the Church, the true believers who as a body make up the Bride of Christ. It would be well to note in passing, that some of the oldest versions of the Gospel according to Matthew have three words in verse one which do not appear in the Authorized Version, so that the verse reads: "Then shall the Kingdom of the heavens be likened unto ten virgins, who took their lamps, and went forth to meet the bridegroom and the bride." These three words are found in the Vulgate and in the Syriac Versions, and while such is not final evidence, there is no reason to believe that this rendering is not genuine, and we may conclude that our interpretation of this parable is the true one.
Thirdly, though oil is a type of the Spirit of God, it is not necessarily a type of the Spirit as indwelling the believer in the Age of Grace. In Old Testament history the Spirit of God came upon certain of His servants, and surely the Holy Spirit will come upon the believing remnant of Israel in the Tribulation, especially as they go forth to preach the Gospel of the Kingdom to all the world for a witness to all nations" (Matt. 24:14).
The ten virgins represent the remnant of Israel after the Church has been taken. The five wise virgins are the believing remnant, the foolish virgins the unbelieving, who only profess to be looking for Messiah's coming in power. While the Bridegroom tarries (not in the sense of delay, for God the Father has appointed the time in His foreknowledge, and at that moment the Lord Jesus will come in power); while the Bridegroom abides, they all slumbered and slept. Yes, the remnant of Israel will possess human natures, just as do we, and even though they will preach the Gospel of the Kingdom to all the world, they will slumber as did the disciples in Gethsemane, and as the Church does today. "And at midnight there was a cry made, Behold, the Bridegroom cometh; go ye out to meet Him" (Matt. 25:6). Is not this cry "the sign of the Son of Man in the heavens" (Matt. 24:30)? The narrative needs no further exposition. The wise virgins were ready and went with the Bridegroom to the marriage; and the door was shut. "Watch therefore, for ye know neither the day nor the hour wherein the Son of Man cometh."
And do we not have a parallel in our day, the Church Age? As we have said, many interpret these words to refer to the Age of Grace. Surely, if the remnant shall slumber and sleep before the Lord's coming in power, the Church today sleeps while He abides. Let us watch therefore, and wait. We know not the day nor the hour when He shall come for His Bride. If we are ready, believing on Him, the door will not be shut, but to many who do not believe He will say: "Verily I say unto you, I know you not."
"For the Kingdom of the heavens is as a man travelling in a far country, who called his servants, and delivered unto them his goods. ..."
Again in the case of this parable there are the two interpretations: one, that it has to do with professing Christendom in the Age of Grace; the other, that it concerns Israel in the Tribulation. We believe the second viewpoint to be the right one, because the Lord was talking to His disciples about the sign of His coming in power, and of the consummation of the Jewish Age, Daniel's seventieth week. Were this parable speaking of the Age of Grace, how could we reconcile the teaching here with the rest of the Word of God? Assuming that all three servants were believers, the judgment would have to be of believers' works, for the believer could not possibly come under judgment for sin; and the unprofitable servant, regarded as a believer, would be cast into outer darkness, which is unscriptural. Or, assuming that the first two servants were believers but the third only a professing Christian, such an assumption would necessitate making one and the same the judgment of believers' works (which takes place after the Rapture) and the judgment at the Great White Throne of the wicked dead (which will occur after the thousand years), which cannot possibly be.
The man travelling in a far country represents the Lord Jesus Christ Who is absent from the earth. His servants have been called, and unto each is entrusted some gift. The servants we believe to be the remnant of Israel during the Tribulation. The narrative tells us of the use these servants made of the gifts given them. "After a long time the Lord of those servants cometh, and reckoneth with them. And so he that had received five talents came and brought other five talents, saying, Lord, Thou deliveredst unto me five talents: behold, I have gained beside them five talents more. His Lord said unto him, Well done, thou good and faithful servant: thou hast been faithful over a few things, I will make thee ruler over many things: enter thou into the joy of thy Lord. He also that had received two talents came and said, Lord, Thou deliveredst unto me two talents: behold, I have gained two other talents beside them. His Lord said unto him, Well done, good and faithful servant; thou hast been faithful over a few things, I will make thee ruler over many things: enter thou into the joy of thy Lord. Then he which had received the one talent came and said, Lord, I knew Thee that Thou art an hard man, reaping where Thou hast not sown, and gathering where Thou hast not strewed: And I was afraid, and went and hid Thy talent in the earth: lo, there Thou hast that is Thine. His Lord answered and said unto him, Thou wicked and slothful servant, thou knewest that I reap where I sowed not, and gather where I have not strewed: Thou oughtest therefore to have put My money to the exchangers and then at My coming I should have received Mine own with usury. Take therefore the talent from him, and give it unto him which hath ten talents. For unto every one that hath shall be given, but from every one that hath not shall be taken away even that which he hath. And cast ye the unprofitable servant into outer darkness: there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth" (Matt. 25:19-30).
We do not know what the talents are, but that they are a gift from the Lord. Each servant received some gift, and when the Lord returned He reckoned with them. When the Lord Jesus comes again in power, He will reckon with the remnant of Israel (Ezek. 20) to determine who shall receive the Kingdom blessing. The "enter thou into the joy of thy Lord" is the entrance into the land for the Kingdom blessing (Ezek. 20:40-42), while the fate of the unprofitable servant who was cast into outer darkness is the "they shall not enter into the land of Israel" of Ezekiel 20:37, 38.
Is there a message for the Christian in this parable? Oh, yes -- to every born-again believer the Lord has given gifts (1 Cor. 12; Eph. 4) for which we shall be held accountable. At His coming we shall all be judged, and we shall all be saved, but some as by fire. If we love the Lord Jesus, it should be our hearts' desire to hear Him say one day: "Well done, thou good and faithful servant: ... enter thou into the joy of thy Lord."
"I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service. And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God" (Rom. 12:1, 2).
"When the Son of Man shall come in His glory, and all the holy angels with Him, then shall He sit upon the throne of His glory: And before Him shall be gathered all nations: and He shall separate them the one from the other. ..."
About to conclude His prophetic discourse on God's future dealings with Israel, our Lord gave to His disciples a picture of that for which Israel had been looking in His first coming, Himself sitting upon the throne of His glory. There is no doubt about the time or the place of this prophecy. It will be fulfilled when the Son of Man shall come in His glory, that is, immediately after the Great Tribulation, at the beginning of His millennial reign on earth. And there will be judgment! Who is to be judged? The passage tells us: "all nations."
Do not confuse this occasion with the judgment of the Great White Throne recorded in Revelation 20:11-15. The judgment of the Great White Throne is after the millennium (Rev. 20:7); this judgment is when the Lord returns in glory before the millennium. The Great White Throne is not on earth: "And I saw a great white throne, and Him that sat on it from Whose face the earth and the heavens fled away;" the "throne of His glory" is on the earth, see Matthew 19:28. There will be the resurrection of the wicked dead before the judgment of the Great White Throne; there is no resurrection immediately before this judgment.
This is the judgment of all nations for their treatment of "these My brethren," Israel. The 144,000 of the believing remnant shall preach the Gospel of the Kingdom in the Tribulation in all the world unto all nations (Matt. 24:14). Some will receive the witness, and in receiving it will give meat to the hungry, drink to the thirsty, clothe the naked and care for the Lord's witnesses. These nations are the sheep: "And He shall set the sheep on His right hand, ... Then shall the King say unto them on His right hand, Come, ye blessed of My Father, inherit the Kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. ... Then shall the righteous answer Him, saying, Lord, when saw we Thee an hungered, and fed Thee? or thirsty, and gave Thee drink? And the King shall answer, Inasmuch as ye have done it unto the least of these My brethren, ye have done it unto Me" (Matt. 25:33-40). Apart from the dispensational aspect, there is a lesson here for believers' daily acts of love and tenderness in forgetting self and remembering to minister to those who need spiritually and physically Christ's love and care. "Then shall He say unto them on the left hand, Depart from Me, ye cursed, into everlasting fire, prepared for the devil and his angels ... and these shall go away into everlasting punishment: but the righteous into life eternal" (Matt. 25:33-46).
The Lord's Word is true. What an awful thought -- everlasting fire! But it was never prepared for men, but for Satan and his angels (Rev. 20:10). "God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son that whosoever believeth on Him should not perish but have everlasting life" (John 3:16).
We see what terrible judgment shall come upon the nations who do not receive the Gospel of the Kingdom during the Tribulation. And we say: "Thank God, this is the judgment of nations and not the judgment of the Great White Throne." But, reader, see the judgment of the Great White Throne, and see the fate of the wicked dead: "And whosoever was not found written in the book of life was cast into the lake of fire" (Rev. 20:15). You must be a "whosoever;" either whosoever that "believeth on Him," or the whosoever who is "not found written in the book of life." Which will it be? God is not willing that any should perish. The Lord Jesus Christ will come again. There will be judgment; -- it is your choice whether yours shall be eternal life or eternal punishment. May you be found to be among those "chosen in Him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before Him in love ... to the praise of the glory of His grace, wherein He hath made us accepted in the beloved."