One Half & Two-Thirds Churches: Wise or Foolish? Good and Faithful or Wicked & Lazy?

Today’s selected reading continues in the New Testament gospel narrative of the life and ministry of Jesus Christ as it was written and recorded by the apostle Matthew. More specifically, today’s passage is found in the first thirty verses of the twenty-fifth chapter of this New Testament book. “Then shall the kingdom of heaven be likened unto ten virgins, which took their lamps, and went forth to meet the bridegroom. And five of them were wise, and five were foolish. They that were foolish took their lamps, and took no oil with them: But the wise took oil in their vessels with their lamps. While the bridegroom tarried, they all slumbered and slept. And at midnight there was a cry made, Behold, the bridegroom cometh; go ye out to meet him. Then all those virgins arose, and trimmed their lamps. And the foolish said unto the isle, Give us of your oil; for our lamps are gone out. But the wise answered, saying, Not so; lest there be not enough for us and you: but go ye rather to them that sell, and buy for yourselves. And while they went to buy, the bridegroom came; and they that were ready went in with them to the marriage: and the door was shut. .Afterward came also the other virgins, saying, Lord, Lord, open to us. But he answered and said, Verily I say unto you, I know you not. Watch therefore, for ye know neither the day nor the hour wherein the Son of man cometh”  (Matthew 25:1-13).

            “For the kingdom of heaven is as a man traveling into a far country, who called his own servants, and delivered unto them his goods. And unto one he gave five talents, to another two, and to another one; to every man according to his several ability; and straightway took his journey he that had received the five talents went and traded with the same, and made them other five talents. And likewise he that had received two, he also gained other two. But he that had received on went and dogged in the earth, and hid his lord’s money. After a long time the lord of those servants cometh, and reckoned 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 of over many things: enter thou into the joy of thy lord. he also that had received two talents came and said, Lord, thou delivedst 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 Ofer 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 strawed: and I was afraid, and went and hid thy talent in the earth: lose, there thou hast that is thine. His lord answered and said unto him, Thou wicked and slothful servant, thou knowest that I reap where I sowed not, and gather where I have not strawed: 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 talen from him, and give it unto him which hath ten talents. For unto every one that hath shall be given, and he shall have bundance: but from him that hath not shall e taken away even that which he hath. And cast ye the unprofitable servant into outer darkness: there shall e weeping and gnashing of teeth” (Matthew 25:14-30).

            THEN SHALL THE KINGDOM OF HEAVEN BE LIKENED UNTO! THE KINGDOM OF HEAVEN IS AS! TEN VIRGINS! LAMPS! THE BRIDEGROOM! FIVE OF THEM WERE WISE! FIVE WERE FOOLISH! THEY THAT WERE FOOLISH TOOK THEIR LAMPS, AND TOOK NO OIL WITH THEM! THE WISE TOOK OIL IN THEIR VESSELS! THE BRIDEGROOM TARRIED! THEY ALL SLUMBERED AND SLEPT! AT MIDNIGHT THERE WAS A CRY MADE! BEHOLD, THE BRIDEGROOM COMETH! GO YE OUT TO MEET HIM! THEN ALL THOSE VIRGINS AROSE, AND TRIMMED THEIR LAMPS! AND THE FOOLISH SAID TO THE WISE, GIVE US OF YOUR OIL! OUR LAMPS ARE GONE OUT! When you come to this particular portion of Scripture you will find Jesus having already indicted the scribes and the Pharisees in the presence of the disciples and the multitude which had gathered themselves before Him in the Temple of the Lord. In the twenty-third chapter of the New Testament gospel narrative which was written by the apostle Matthew you will find Jesus warning His disciples and the multitude—not concerning the so-called righteousness of the scribes and the Pharisees, nor even of the teaching of the scribes and Pharisees, but rather warning them of the hypocrisy and oppression of the scribes and Pharisees. You cannot read the words which are found in the twenty-third chapter of this New Testament gospel narrative and not encounter and come face to face with the awesome and incredible truth that prior to Jesus’ departure from this earth and subsequent return unto His Father who was in heaven Jesus would warn the disciples and the multitudes concerning the dangers of religion—and not only the dangers of religion, but also warning them of the cruel oppression of religion—a system which would not only shut the kingdom of heaven before them while they themselves did not enter in, but a system which would also bind up heavy burdens grievous to bear and place them upon men’s shoulders without being willing to lift a finger to help them carry that burden. The entire twenty-third chapter of the New Testament gospel narrative which was written by the apostle Matthew is a powerful indictment concerning the scribes and the Pharisees, and the tremendous dangers that surrounded doing that which they did versus and opposed to that which they said and spoke from their mouths.

            What makes the twenty-third chapter of the New Testament gospel narrative so incredibly unique and powerful is when you think about and consider the awesome and powerful truth that it is a chapter that is essentially an indictment against and upon the scribes and the Pharisees—and not only against and upon them, but also against and upon an entire religious system and establishment. Jesus already warned the disciples concerning the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees, and how unless their righteousness exceeded that of the scribes and Pharisees they would in no wise enter the kingdom of heaven. Moreover, Jesus would already warn the disciples concerning the teaching of the scribes and the Pharisees—that which would parade and masquerade the commandments of men for doctrine and that which was commanded by God. In fact, it would Jesus Himself who emphatically declared unto them how they violated the commandment of God by their traditions, and how they drew near to the LORD with their mouths while their hearts were far from Him. Oh we dare not and must not miss and lose sight of just how tremendous and necessary the twenty-third chapter of this gospel narrative truly is, for it helps set the stage for that which we can and that which we will find in the twenty-fourth and twenty-fifth chapters. With this being said, it is absolutely necessary and imperative that we pay close attention to the tremendous fact that at the very end of the twenty-third chapter of this gospel narrative we find Jesus weeping over Jerusalem—and not only weeping over them, but weeping over them because they did not know, nor did they understand the hour of their visitation. Not only this, but we find Jesus weeping over Jerusalem, for He knew and He recognized that which would come upon and befall the city and those who weren’t ready and who weren’t prepared. Jesus knew and understood that the enemies would surround and lay siege to the city before the city would eventually fall, and before the enemy and adversary would enter into the midst of the city. Jesus knew that there was coming a day when not one of the stones of the buildings of the Temple, nor any other building within the city of Jerusalem would be left upon another.

            As I read the words which are found within these chapters I can’t help but see a powerful picture of Jesus who sought to warn the disciples concerning the religious system of the scribes and the Pharisees, while also warning them concerning the days which were ahead of them. The entire twenty-third chapter of this gospel narrative is devoted and dedicated to Jesus warning the multitude concerning the scribes and the Pharisees, and their legalism and hypocrisy. This particular chapter would conclude with Jesus weeping over the city of Jerusalem knowing that they did not understand the hour of their visitation, and knowing that there was coming a day in the near future when enemies would not only be outside the walls and gates, but would also surround and lay siege to the city. Jesus knew, recognized and understood that there was coming a day when the city of Jerusalem would be entirely and altogether surrounded by enemies and adversaries, and when the beloved Temple which the scribes and Pharisees swore by—and not only which they swore by, but that which they put their trust in. It’s actually quite astounding to think about and consider the fact that the scribes, the Pharisees and the entire religious system and community not only swore by the Temple, but also placed their trust and their hope in the Temple. This is truly impactful when you take the time and consider that what the scribes, what the Pharisees, and what the other members of the religious community did was exactly what their ancestors had done during the days of the prophets. What we find within the four gospel narratives was the religious system and community placing their trust and their confidence in the Temple—and so much so that they would actually swear by the Temple. Not only this, but they would also swear by the altar which was present in the Temple when making their oaths and their vows. You cannot read the gospel narratives without thinking about and considering the awesome and powerful truth that the scribes, the Pharisees and the entire religious system had placed their trust within the Temple—much like their ancestors had done during the days of Jeremiah. In fact, I would dare say that the days in which Jesus walked upon the earth, and in the days in which the apostles and the early church walked upon the earth were days similar to those in which Jeremiah the prophet in Judah and Jerusalem walked.

            I sit here today thinking about and considering Jesus’ words concerning there coming a day when there would not be one stone that was left upon another, and how Jesus recognized and understood that this Temple in which the scribes and Pharisees had placed their trust in would be completely and utterly destroyed. Jesus knew, recognized and understood that there was coming a day when enemies and adversaries would be outside the walls and gates of the city, and when the entire city of Jerusalem would be surrounded by enemies which would eventually break through the wall and enter through the gates of the city. Once the enemy was through the gates and beyond the walls of the city it would be fair game and a free for all to unleash and wreak as much havoc and destruction as they possibly could. This would not only include destroying the buildings which were present within the city of Jerusalem, but ultimately and finally the Temple of the LORD which stood in the midst of the city. In all reality, the devastation and destruction which the enemy would unleash against and upon the city of Jerusalem would not be complete and would culminate in the destruction of the Temple of the LORD—a destruction that would mirror one that would take place centuries earlier when the Babylonians surrounded the city of Jerusalem, broke through the wall and entered through the gates, and not only destroyed the city with its houses and buildings, but would also destroy the Temple as well. Oh there is not a doubt in my mind that the devastation and destruction that was found during the days of the early church—the devastation which Jesus Christ had spoken of—was eerily reminiscent of the days in which Jeremiah walked the streets of Jerusalem and prophesied the word of the LORD. What’s more, is that it would be during the days of Jeremiah an indictment would be made concerning trust in the Temple of the LORD, and how the inhabitants of the city placed their trust in the Temple, and how the presence of the Temple would be their salvation, their deliverance and their redemption. With this in mind I invite you to consider the following words which are found in the seventh chapter of the New Testament gospel narrative written by the prophet Jeremiah:

            “The word that came to Jeremiah from the LORD, saying, Stand in the gate of the LORD’s house, and proclaim there this word, and say, Hear the word of the LORD, all ye of Judah, that enter in at these gates to worship the LORD. Thus saith the LORD of hosts, the God of Israel, Amend your ways and your doings, and I will cause you to dwell in this place. Trust ye not in lying words, saying, The Temple of the LORD, the Temple of the LORD, The temple of the LORD, are these. For if ye throughly amend your ways and your doings, if ye throughly execute judgment between a man and his neighbour; if ye oppress not the stranger, the fatherless, and the widow, and shed not innocent blood in this place, neither walk after other gods to your hurt: then will I cause you to dwell in this place, in the land that I gave to your fathers, for ever and ever. Behold, ye trust in lying words, that cannot profit. Will ye steal, murder, and commit adultery, and swear falsely, and burn incense unto Baal, and walk after other gods whom ye know not; and come and stand before me in this house, which is called by my name, and say, We are delivered to do all these abominations? Is this house, which is called by my name, become a den of robbers in your eyes? Behold, even I have seen it, saith the LORD> But go ye now unto my place which was in Shiloh, where I set my name at the first, and see what I did to it for the wickedness of my people Israel. And now, because ye have done all these works, saith the LORD< and I spake unto you, rising up early and speaking, but ye heard not; and I called you, but ye answered not; Therefore will I do unto this house, which is called by my name, wherein ye trust, and unto the place which I gave to your and to your fathers, as I have done to Shiloh. And I will cast you out of my sight, as I have cast out all your brethren, even the whole seed of Ephraim. Therefore pray not thou for this people, neither lift up cry nor prayer for them, neither make intercession to me: for I will not hear thee. Seest thou not what they do in the cities of Judah and in the streets of Jerusalem? The children gather wood, and the fathers kindle the fire, and the women knead their dough, to make cakes to the queen of heaven, and to pour out drink offerings unto other gods, that they may provoke me to anger. Do they provoke me to anger? Saith the LORD: Do they not provoke themselves to the confusion of their own faces? Therefore thus saith the LORD God; Behold, mine anger and my fury shall be poured out upon this place, upon man, and upon beast, and upon the trees of the field, and upon the fruit of the ground: and it shall burn, and shall not be quenched” (Jeremiah 7:1-20).

            It is absolutely necessary that we recognize and pay close and careful attention to the words which are found within this passage of Scripture, for during the days of Jeremiah we find the inhabitants of Jerusalem and Judah placing their trust in the Temple of the LORD—and not only placing their trust in the Temple of the LORD, but also thinking they were delivered to do their abominations and their wickedness in the midst of the earth. We dare not and must not miss and lose sight of what is found within this passage of Scripture, for Jeremiah saw a time and days coming when the Temple of the LORD would indeed be utterly and completely consumed and destroyed from the midst of the city of Jerusalem. Jeremiah saw days coming when the enemy and adversary would wreak havoc upon the city of Jerusalem and would ultimately and inevitably destroy the Temple in which the people of Jerusalem and Judah had placed their trust. Jeremiah warned the inhabitants of the city of Jerusalem—not only concerning their abominations, but also concerning the devastation and destruction that would take place in the midst of the city upon the Temple. The words which we find here are absolutely and completely necessary for us to think about and consider, for Jeremiah would prophesy and foretell of the devastation and destruction of Jerusalem—and not only the destruction of the Jerusalem, but also the devastation and destruction of the Temple of the LORD which stood in the midst of the city of Jerusalem. We dare not and must not miss and lose sight of just how incredibly necessary and powerful this truly is, for it calls and draws our attention to the days and times in which Jesus and His disciples walked upon the earth.

            I sit here today thinking and considering how the days in which Jesus walked upon the earth were days which were similar to the days of Jeremiah. What’s more, is that not only were the days in which Jesus walked upon the earth similar to the days in which Jeremiah lived and moved in the streets of the same city, but also during the days in which Ezekiel the priest prophesied concerning the judgment, the devastation and the destruction that would come upon the city of Jerusalem. Jeremiah wasn’t the only prophet who would foresee and foretell the destruction that would come upon the city of Jerusalem, for the prophet Ezekiel—the prophet of pictures, images and symbols—would even created a scene before the people round about him concerning the siege of the city of Jerusalem. It would be Ezekiel who would also see the tremendous destruction and devastation that would come upon the city of Jerusalem, and would even foretell that destruction while he lived and dwelt among the captives which were present in the midst of the land of the Chaldeans. It is truly interesting to think about and consider this tremendous reality, for it calls and draws our attention to the days in which Jesus, the days in which the apostles, and the days in which the early Church lived, for those would be days which would lead up to the devastation and destruction that would come upon the city of Jerusalem. What’s more, is that it almost seems that the week of Jesus’ passion—and not only the week of Jesus’ passion, but also His suffering and ultimate death upon the cross—would set in motion and would start a clock that would count down until the time of the destruction and devastation of Jerusalem. Jesus would weep over the city of Jerusalem because He not only knew that the inhabitants there in the midst of the city of Jerusalem did not recognize, nor did they understand the hour of their visitation. Jesus knew, recognized and understood that those who were present during those days and times were not at all aware of the hour of their visitation, nor even that which bring their peace. Oh we must needs realize and understand just how incredibly significant and important this truly is, for it calls and draws our attention to the awesome and powerful truth, for it helps us to further understand the words which are found in the twenty-fourth chapter of this gospel narrative written by the apostle Matthew.

            It is absolutely remarkable and astounding to read and consider the words found within the twenty-fourth chapter of the gospel narrative which was written by the apostle Matthew, for the chapter begins and opens with the disciples seeking to shew Jesus all the buildings of the Temple which stood in the midst of Jerusalem. Jesus would respond unto His disciples by asking them if they saw the buildings they just spoke of, and then went on to declare that there was coming a day when not one stone would be left upon another. Jesus recognized and understood that there was coming dark and dangerous days which lie ahead of the disciples and those who would follow after and walk with Him. Jesus recognized and understood that the city of Jerusalem would ultimately be destroyed, and that the Temple of the LORD which stood in the midst of the city would itself be destroyed. Jesus knew and understood that while the Temple of the LORD would indeed stand in the midst of the city of Jerusalem—there was coming a day and time when enemies and adversaries would breach the walls and gates of the city and would completely and utterly destroy the Temple. What’s more, is that at one point in time there would essentially be two temples which would exist within and upon the earth. On the one hand there would be the physical and natural temple built by human hands which would stand in the midst of the city of Jerusalem, and there would be the spiritual Temple which was not made by, nor with human hands, and would be the Church and the body of Christ. For almost forty years there would exist two temples within and upon the earth—at least until the enemies and adversaries would enter into the city of Jerusalem and would destroy the physical and natural Temple which would stand in the midst of the city of Jerusalem.

            Oh please don’t miss and lose sight of just how incredible and powerful this truly is when you think about and consider it, for the words which we find in the twenty-fourth chapter of the gospel narrative written by the apostle Matthew bring us face to face with the awesome and powerful truth and reality that Jesus wept over the city of Jerusalem because the city which had already been destroyed once would again be destroyed. The city in which He moved and walked during those three and a half years He was manifested as the Word which was made flesh would ultimately and inevitably be destroyed as the enemies and adversaries would surround the city, would lay siege to it, and would ultimately destroy it. The words which we find in the twenty-fourth chapter of the gospel narrative written by the apostle Matthew are absolutely necessary and imperative for us to think about and consider, for they call and draw our attention to the fact that Jesus prepared His disciples and His followers for the days which lie ahead of them. Jesus recognized and understood the days in which His disciples and His followers would walk, and He sought to prepare and make them ready for those days. Jesus recognized that the days which lie ahead for the disciples and the early Church would be days when false Christs and false prophets would rise up among them seeking to deceive as many men and women as possible. Jesus recognized and knew that there would be widespread and rampant deception that would manifest itself in the midst of the earth during those days, as there would be false teachers, false prophets, and false apostles who would enter and would be manifested in the midst of the earth. Jesus knew and understood that in addition to rampant and widespread deception would also be widespread persecution of the saints and body of Christ. Jesus knew and understood that there would come days when men and women would experience and would walk through tremendous persecution, and days in which the people of God would face tremendous opposition toward and against them. Jesus knew that the days which lie ahead of the disciples and the early church were not going to be easy, and that they would be days when the disciples and early church would experience suffering, persecution, affliction and opposition which would take place in the midst of the earth.

            We dare not and must not miss and lose sight of the words found within the twenty-fourth chapter of the gospel narrative which was written by the apostle Matthew, for the words found and contained therein bring us face to face with the truly awesome and powerful truth that Jesus recognized and realized that there were coming dark and dangerous days which lie ahead of the disciples and the early church—days in which they would experience tremendous persecution against and upon them. This persecution would initially begin within the city of Jerusalem and would force the disciples and the early church into the cities and towns of Judaea, as well as Samaria. Eventually and ultimately the disciples and followers of the Lord Jesus Christ would move beyond Judaea and Samaria, and would move unto and among the Gentiles in the regions round about Judaea and Samaria. One thing I still cannot help but think about and consider is that the persecution which would break out against and upon the church in the midst of the city of Jerusalem was indeed intended on scattering the church among Judaea and Samaria, and ultimately the ends of the earth, but there is something else this persecution would establish. The more I think about and consider this truly awesome and powerful truth and reality the more I am brought face to face with the awesome and powerful truth that the persecution which would break out against and upon the early Church in the midst of the city of Jerusalem could and might very well have been the divine means of God to remove His people from the midst of the city of Jerusalem that they might be spared from the coming judgment, the coming devastation, and the coming destruction that would come upon the city.

            I sit here today thinking about and considering the words found within the twenty-fourth chapter of the gospel narrative which was written by the apostle Matthew, and the words which our Lord spoke unto the disciples, and I can’t help but think about and consider the tremendous truth that the persecution which broke out against the church in the midst of the city of Jerusalem might very well have been used as a divine instrument in the hand of God to call and bring His people out of the city that they might escape the coming judgment, the coming devastation and destruction that would come upon the city. Oh please note that this does not in any away suggest, nor does it imply that the disciples and the early Church would somehow be exempt and immune from further suffering, further persecution, and further opposition and further affliction, but rather that they would not be in the midst of the city of Jerusalem when the judgment, the devastation and destruction would come upon the city. I firmly believe that what we find within the twenty-fourth chapter of the New Testament gospel narrative written by the apostle Matthew, and what we read in the eighth chapter of the New Testament book which was written by the beloved physician Luke are powerful and incredible words which call and draw our attention to the awesome and powerful truth that the persecution which would break out against the church in the midst of Jerusalem would force all but the apostles out of the city and into the regions of Samaria and Judaea. It would be after this persecution broke out against the church in the midst of the city of Jerusalem we find and read of Philip being in Samaria and preaching the gospel among the Samaritans, as well as the apostle Peter entering into Cornelius’ house—Cornelius who was a Roman centurion who was a man of commitment, faithfulness, prayer and devotion to the living God. WE know for a fact that the great persecution which broke out against the church in the midst of the city of Jerusalem would indeed and would in fact ultimately result in the disciples and followers of the Lord Jesus Christ being brought forth from the midst of the city prior to the coming devastation and destruction that would come upon the city. We know that while the persecution which would break out against the church in the midst of the city of Jerusalem, and would force the gospel to be preached unto and among the Samaritans and Gentiles, it would also be divinely used by God as a toll and instrument of redemption and deliverance.

            Oh dear reader—I implore and urge you to strongly consider the words which are found within this passage of Scripture, for I would dare say that there are times within our lives when the persecution we face might very well be used as a divine tool and instrument in the hand of the living God to accomplish something far greater and far more powerful than we even think or imagine. I can’t help but get the strong sense that the persecution which broke out against the Church in the midst of the city of Jerusalem was indeed means to deliver the disciples and followers of the Lord Jesus Christ from the devastation and destruction that would come upon the city. With this being said, however, we must needs realize that this in no way suggests that their being delivered from the judgment, the devastation and the destruction that would come upon the city of Jerusalem would automatically mean they would be delivered from future and further trouble, trials and tribulation. It would be very easy to think about and consider this, and yet eventually we will find and discover that persecution toward and against the Christians and the Church in the city of Rome would break out as countless Christians would be tortured, would be imprisoned, would be burned at the stake, would be forced into the arena to be slaughtered by gladiators and warriors, would be forced into the arena to face the wild beasts, and would even be crucified. We dare not and must not think for one minute that deliverance from the devastation and destruction that would come upon the city of Jerusalem would automatically mean and suggests the disciples and followers of Jesus Christ would be exempt from trials, trouble and tribulation. In fact, the words which we find in the midst of the twenty-fourth chapter of the gospel narrative written by the apostle Matthew seem to suggest that dark and dangerous days lie ahead and before the disciples and followers of Jesus the Christ, and that they would indeed walk through great distress, great trouble, and tribulation. Although they would be delivered and removed from the city of Jerusalem they would nonetheless face tremendous distress, tremendous tribulation, tremendous persecution, and tremendous affliction in the midst of the earth during those days.

            The more I think about and consider the words which are written and recorded within the twenty-fourth chapter the more I am brought face to face with the fact that Jesus sought to prepare His disciples for the days in which they were about to enter—days in which they would experience tremendous affliction, tremendous oppression, tremendous distress, and tremendous opposition and affliction. We dare not and must not miss and lose sight of just how incredible this truth is, for you cannot read the words which are found in the twenty-fourth chapter of the gospel narrative without and apart from understand this powerful reality. Jesus knew that the days were coming when the enemies and adversaries would surround and lay siege to the city of Jerusalem, and Jesus knew that the days were coming when the stones of the Temple, the stones of the buildings, and the stones of the city would be cast down. Jesus knew and understood that the days were coming when the city of Jerusalem would face sheer and utter destruction, and days when men and women would be killed, and when others would be scattered as a result of the invasion of a foreign enemy and adversary. Jesus not only sought to warn His disciples concerning the days which surrounded the devastation and destruction of the city of Jerusalem, but Jesus also sought to warn His disciples concerning the turbulent days into which the early Church were about to face. While we like reading about the events which took place on the Day of Pentecost, and while we like reading how three thousand souls were added to the one-hundred and twenty who were in the upper room, and while we like reading about them continuing in the apostles’ teaching, and breaking bread from house to house, and the like, we must needs realize that in the seventh chapter Stephen—one of the seven deacons chosen from among the brethren—was stoned to death and became the church’s first martyr and the kingdom of heaven’s third death following the beheading of John the Baptist and the crucifixion of Jesus Christ. What’s more, is that in the eighth chapter of the New Testament book of Acts we find and read of the persecution which broke out against the church in the city of Jerusalem, and how from that time on the church was scattered throughout Judaea, throughout Samaria, and would even be scattered among the Gentiles in the surrounding regions—even in Asia itself.

            The twenty-fourth chapter of the New Testament gospel narrative written by the apostle Matthew is absolutely necessary for us to understand, for it actually helps set the stage and set the tone for the words which we find in the twenty-fifth chapter. IN the twenty-fourth chapter of this New Testament gospel we find Jesus preparing His disciples and ultimately His followers for the dark and dangerous days which lie ahead for them, and calling them to be individuals of patient endurance. What’s more, is that Jesus would also call on His disciples to be those who were found watching and waiting until the day and time would come when He would return. It would be towards the end of the twenty-fourth chapter of this book we find it written how Jesus would invite His disciples and would invite His followers to watch, for they know not what hour the Lord did come. What’s more, is that in the final verses of this chapter we find Jesus instructing His disciples to be ready, for in such an hour as they think not the Son of man will come. The words which are found in the final verses of the twenty-fourth chapter of the gospel narrative written by the apostle Matthew are absolutely remarkable and astounding, for they call and draw our attention to the fact that in addition to the need to guard ourselves from deception there is also a great need to watch and to be ready. WE must needs realize and understand the context surrounding these words, for they help us to understand that which is found in the twenty-fifth chapter when Jesus once more describes the kingdom of heaven in terms of a wedding and marriage—this time, however, Jesus uses the context of ten virgins who were invited to the wedding and who were invited to the marriage. It is absolutely necessary that we understand the words which are found in the final verses of the twenty-fourth chapter, for the context in which we approach the twenty-fifth chapter is that of watching, that of waiting, that of being prepared, and that of being ready. While it is indeed true that Jesus would prepare His disciples for the dark and dangerous days in which they were about to enter, He also called on them to be those who would be found watching and waiting for His coming and for His return. You cannot read the words found in the final verses of the twenty-fourth chapter and not encounter and come face to face with the fact that Jesus did indeed and did in fact call upon His disciples to be those who would be found watching, those who would be found waiting, and those who would be found working.

            WATCHING! WAITING! WORKING! If there is one thing we must needs realize and understand concerning the days and times in which we are presently living it’s that we have been called to be those who are found watching, those who are found waiting, and those who are found working. In all reality, the concept of watching and waiting is found within the first parable Jesus told in the twenty-fifth chapter, as there were ten virgins who were all found watching and waiting for the cry of the bridegroom to come unto the marriage and unto the wedding. What’s more, is that as you read the opening verses in the twenty-fifth chapter you will not only find that at the very heart and center of it is the concept of watching and waiting, but you will also find the concept of having oil in their lamps. As you begin reading the twenty-fifth chapter of the gospel narrative written by the apostle Matthew you will find Jesus likening the kingdom of heaven unto ten virgins which each took their lamps, and went forth to meet the bridegroom. What makes this parable so incredibly unique is when you think about and consider the fact that immediately after Jesus described the kingdom of heaven as being likened unto ten virgins He would describe and declare five of them were wise, while five of them were foolish. It’s interesting to note that what made five of these virgins wise versus five of them being foolish was not due to their slumbering, nor their sleeping. The parable goes on to describe how each of these virgins was invited to the marriage, and how each of these virgins were waiting for the cry of the bridegroom. What’s more, is that Jesus describes how each of these virgins had their own lamp which they would use to light the way as they followed the bridegroom unto the marriage. Even further than this we must needs realize and understand that what made five foolish wasn’t even that they themselves slumbered and slept while the others were awake, alert and attentive. As you read the words which are found within this parable you will be brought face to face with the awesome and incredible truth that all ten virgins were invited to the wedding and the marriage, all ten virgins had their own lamp, all ten virgins had oil in their lamps which allowed them to be burning, and all ten would sleep and slumber.

            As you read the words which are found within this particular parable you will find that each of these virgins shared a common invitation to come unto the marriage and to come unto the wedding. Each of these virgins had received the invitation and call from the bridegroom to be ready for that time and that hour when it would be announced that the marriage was ready, and that all could come unto the marriage and the banquet. The interesting thing about this particular parable is that in all reality—that which was the deciding factor between those virgins which were wise and those virgins which were foolish was whether or not they had extra oil for their lamps. Jesus clearly states that the foolish virgins did not take oil in their vessels for their lamps, while the wise virgins did indeed and did in fact take oil with them. Each of the ten virgins had their own lamp, and each of the ten virgins most likely had lamps that were lit on this particular night, however, there would come a point in time during the night when the call of the bridegroom would come and they would have to rise from their place in haste to go out to meet him. Jesus describes in the parable how when the cry of the bridegroom came in the midnight hour all ten virgins awoke from their slumber, and all ten trimmed their lamps. What made the difference between the foolish virgins and the wise virgins had absolutely nothing to do with them having their lamps, nor even them slumbering and sleeping, for they all had their own lamps, and they all slept and slumbered. The fundamental difference between these virgins was in whether or not they had additional oil with them. The wise virgins most likely anticipated some type of delay, and as a direct result of anticipating this delay, they carried with them extra oil. The wise virgins were indeed those who were watching, those who were waiting, but they were also those who were ready and prepared. That which we must needs realize and recognize when considering this particular parable is that while all of these virgins might have been watching, and while all these virgins might have been waiting—only five of them were actually ready and prepared for that time when the call of the bridegroom went forth in the midnight hour.

            I sit here today thinking about and considering the words which are found within this parable and I can’t help but get the strong sense that all of these virgins were invited to the marriage, and all of these virgins were indeed called, however, only half of them were actually ready for that time when the cry of the bridegroom was actually sounded at the midnight hour. The issue we find within this parable centered upon having extra oil to provide for the lamps, but we must needs realize and understand that even deeper and even greater than that was the idea of being ready and prepared. We dare not and must not miss and lose sight of the fact that all of these virgins were called, and all of these virgins had their lamps, and all of these virgins slumbered and slept, however, only half of them actually carried and brought with them extra oil. That which defined being ready within this parable was not having the lamp, nor even the lamp initially burning, but rather in having additional oil to provide for the lamps. We have a great need to realize and understand that at the very heart of this initial parable Jesus spoke concerning the kingdom of heaven is that of being ready and that of being prepared. It’s not enough to be called, and it’s not enough to be chosen, for there is an additional greater need of actually being ready for that time when the cry of the bridegroom will be sounded. What’s more, is that it’s not enough to be watching and waiting, for these virgins might have been watching and waiting for the hour and time when the call to come to the wedding and marriage would come, and yet only half of them were actually ready and prepared for when that cry actually sounded.

            What I find to be truly remarkable concerning this particular parable is that half of the virgins were ready and prepared, while half of them weren’t ready and prepared. That which causes and makes this appear to be so incredibly challenging is that all of these virgins slept and slumbered during the night—almost like Peter, James and John who fell asleep in the garden of Gethsemane with Jesus praying—and were awakened by the cry of the bridegroom. All of these virgins were called and invited to the marriage, and all were waiting and watching for the cry of the bridegroom to come, and yet only half of them were actually ready when the call actually came. Essentially fifty percent of those who were called and those who were invited were actually ready for when the cry of the bridegroom actually took place. Oh it was true they all had lamps, and it was true they all slept and slumbered while they waited for the bridegroom to come, however, when that cry actually came not all of them were ready. What we must needs realize and recognize is that not only were not all of them ready, but not all of them actually entered into the marriage and wedding feast. While the five foolish virgins were out trying to buy oil the bridegroom came, and those who were wise were actually able to go with the bridegroom. It’s worth noting and pointing out when reading the words which are found in this passage of Scripture that all ten virgins were called to participate in the wedding and marriage. All ten virgins had their lamps which were undoubtedly lit when they entered into the house. All ten virgins were awakened when the cry came forth at the midnight hour to go out to meet the bridegroom. Where the disconnect and trouble comes in to play is not only in their lack of preparedness, and not only in their lack of being ready, but also in what they missed when the bridegroom actually came. I find it incredibly interesting that all the virgins heard the cry of the bridegroom, and yet while the five foolish virgins went into town to get oil for their lamps the bridegroom came. THE CRY OF THE BRIDEGROOM! THE APPEARING OF THE BRIDEGROOM! We dare not and must not miss and lose sight of that which is found within this passage of Scripture, for what we find here is a powerful picture of two distinct realities—the first being the cry of the bridegroom, or the call for the bridegroom, and the second is the coming or appearing of the bridegroom.

            The more you read the words which are found within this parable and passage of Scripture the more you will be brought face to face with the kingdom of heaven as not so much being likened unto virgins per se, but in the preparedness and being ready that was associated with the five wise virgins. It is truly something astonishing and remarkable to read the words which are found within this passage of Scripture and to see how all ten virgins were called, all ten virgins were chosen, all ten virgins were invited, and yet only five were wise, and only five actually entered in. The question I can’t help but ask myself when reading the words which are found in this passage of Scripture is whether or not this is a picture of the church. Stop and think about what this particular reality would look like in terms of the church and those who attend services in our church buildings. Stop and think about the fact that it’s very possible that half of those whom you worship with are ready and prepared, while the other half might not be. What’s more, is when you think about this same ratio of fifty percent when you consider the words Jesus spoke in the last chapter about one being taken and the other being left. Pause and think about that ratio of one out of two individuals being ready and prepared—and not only being ready and prepared, but also being able to go with the bridegroom when He appeared. This ratio is one that is actually quite alarming and quite scary when you take the time to think about it, for it calls and draws our attention to the fact that there might be many within our church buildings today who have been called, who have been chosen, and who have been invited, and yet of all those we worship with—only half are actually ready and prepared. The question that must needs be asked is whether or not you are one of the ones who are ready and prepared, or whether or not you are one who is unprepared and not ready.

            With all of this being said it is absolutely necessary that we think about and consider the words which are found in the second portion of this passage, for Jesus goes on to deliver another parable—one that would describe servants who were each given talents according to their ability and their gifts. The underlying crux and reality of this particular parable is not necessarily found in the watching and waiting, nor even in the being ready and prepared, but also in the working. If the parable of the ten virgins is centered around and centered upon being ready and prepared, then the parable of the three servants is about actually working when the Master returns. We dare not and must not miss and lose sight of how absolutely necessary this is, for when we read the parable of the three servants and the eight talents we find only two thirds of the servants actually went to work. What’s more, is that not only were there only two thirds of the servants who went to work, but there were only two thirds of the servants who gained a return on the Master’s investment. The master entrusted them each with a measure according to their ability, and there is not a doubt in my mind that with that came responsibility and stewardship. I firmly believe that the parable of the three servants and the eight talents is indeed about working—and with that working comes stewardship and responsibility. With those three servants being entrusted with a portion and measure of that which belonged to the master there was an underlying responsibility and stewardship that was present, for the master did not give them a portion of his wealth for them to do with it as they pleased. The master gave them a portion of his wealth in order that he might gauge their faithfulness with that which he had given them. With stewardship, and with responsibility, and with work also comes faithful—a truth that is echoed in the master’s response to the two servants who went to work. Upon returning unto these three servants the master would declare unto those who had put their talents to use how they were good and faithful servants. Not only this, but the master also invited them to enter into the joy before them and gave them more responsibility and more opportunities to steward and be faithful. Oh how absolutely tremendous and incredible this truly is when you take the time to think about it, for the underlying principle of this parable is not only in stewardship and the responsibility of work, but also in faithfulness with that which has been entrusted into our hands and into our care.

            Within this parable of the three servants and the eight talents we find two thirds of the servants actually being wise and faithful with that which was entrusted into their hands and into their care, which begs the question of how many among us within our church buildings and gathering together are actually found faithful. How many among us within our churches and within our gatherings are actually being faithful with that which has been entrusted into their hands and into their care? How many men and women among us are actually putting to use and putting to work that which the Master has entrusted into their hands and into their care? If it’s possible that only one out of every two individuals among us is truly ready and prepared when the bridegroom comes, then what do we do with the ratio of only two thirds of those among us actually engaging in the work that is before them. ONE HALF AND TWO THIRDS! THE PRINCIPLES OF ONE HALF AND TWO THIRDS! A question I can’t help but ask is how many among us are actually taking the time to be wise and faithful stewards of that which has been entrusted into our hands and into our care. How many of us are actually taking what the Master has given us and are being wise and faithful with it that we might present unto the Master—not only what he has given us, but also that which we have earned? This parable is as much about that which was given unto the servants as much as it was about what was earned and presented unto the master. THAT WHICH WAS GIVEN, THAT WHICH WAS EARNED, THAT WHICH WAS PRESENTED BACK TO THE MASTER! Oh we must needs recognize and pay close attention to this particular truth and this particular reality, for it calls and draws our attention into the awesome and powerful truth of those who are not only given that which the Master has entrusted them with, but also those who earn that which wasn’t given unto them.

            I sit here today thinking about and considering the words which are found in this passage of Scripture, and I can’t help but thinka bout and consider the truth of these servants who were given one thing, and how two of the servants took what was given unto them, put it to work, and actually earned that which wasn’t given unto them. Not only that, but it’s interesting and worth  noting that what they earned they didn’t earn for themselves, nor did they even earn unto themselves, but rather the master. It’s interesting to note that the servants which were present in this parable who actually worked did not view that which they earned as belonging to them, nor even as a payment for services rendered. Even that which they earned was viewed as belonging to the Master, and we dare not and must not miss and lose sight of just how absolutely incredible this truth truly is. RECEIVING FROM THE MASTER! WORKING WITH WHAT THE MASTER GAVE US! EARNING THAT WHICH WASN’T GIVEN UNTO US! RETURNING ALL TO THE MASTER! It is truly something worth noting and pointing out when reading the words in this parable that the wise and faithful servants not only returned unto the master what was his, but also gave unto him that which he had not given them. Within this parable—not only do we see the principle of returning unto the master what belongs to him, but also giving unto the master that which rightfully belonged to him. We cannot and must not miss and lose sight of how absolutely necessary and imperative this truth truly is, for it calls and draws our attention to the wonderful and powerful truth that there is not a single that has been given unto us that belongs to us. The master in this parable gave unto each servant according to their own ability, and all three servants would ultimately return unto the master that which belonged to him. What made the difference between these three servants was not only in returning unto the master that which belonged to him, but also giving unto the master that which we had earned—a sign and a token of us taking what did not belong to us, and presenting it to the master. There is as much about returning in this parable as there is about presenting unto the master that which we have earned, and that which we have used from the master to give unto him. We dare not and must not miss and lose sight of just how absolutely incredible this truly is, for it helps us understand and recognize the awesome importance of working while we are waiting, and working while we are watching.

            The parables which are found in the first thirty-verses of the twenty-fifth chapter of this New Testament gospel are absolutely necessary and critical for our understanding the words which are found in the twenty-fourth chapter—specifically the words which are found in the final portion of the text. In the final verses of the twenty-fourth chapter Jesus speaks about those who are found watching and waiting for His coming and His return. The parables we see in the opening verses of the twenty-fifth chapter actually delve into what that watching and waiting for His coming, and what that actually looks like. The disciples asked Jesus what the sign of His coming was, and at the very end of the twenty-fourth chapter we find Jesus speaking unto them about those who are found watching and waiting. Jesus would not give them a time, nor would He give them an hour for when He would come back and return, however, what He did do was invite them to be those people who are watching and waiting for His return. This concept of watching and waiting, however, requires men and women to be found working, as well as to be found ready and prepared. We cannot and must not speak about the Last Days and Jesus’ coming and return without encountering and coming face to face with the tremendous truth of our being ready and prepared for that coming and that return, nor can we speak about the return and coming of Jesus without and apart from realizing the need to be working while we are waiting.

            Perhaps the single greatest question we must ask ourselves is whether or not we are those who are not only found watching and waiting for the return of Jesus, but are also found ready and prepared, as well as working. What made the five wise virgins wise was not that they heard the call of the bridegroom, nor got up and went with him, but that they had extra oil for their lamps. When the cry and sound came they were those who not found wanting, nor were they those who were found needing anything. They not only had their lamps, and they not only arose when the cry came, but they also had oil ready and available for the journey with the bridegroom into the marriage and feast. When we think and speak about that which is found in relation to the three servants and the eight talents we must realize that the difference between the two servants and the one was not only their working and putting to use that which they were given, and not only returning unto the master that which belonged to him, but also giving unto the master that which he had not worked for and that which he had not labored for. The two servants who worked not only realized that what they had been given did not belong to them, but they also realized and understood that what they had earned with what did not belong to them belonged to the master and therefore needed to be given directly unto him. It is truly something astonishing and remarkable to read the words which are found within these passages of Scripture and encounter the tremendous truth concerning these two servants who took that which their master had given them and had put it to work that they might not only return unto the master what was his, and not only prove their faithfulness before and unto him, but also present him with more than what he gave them. GIVING UNTO THE MASTER MORE THAN WHAT WE WERE GIVEN! The question I can’t help but ask is whether or not we are wise and faithful servants who are not only giving unto the master that which He has given unto us, but whether or not we are those who are giving unto the Master that which He did not give unto us. These servants took what the master had given them and put it to work that they might increase the master’s house, increase the master’s agenda, and increase the master’s worth, while the one single servant cared absolutely nothing for his master’s house, nor his master’s worth, nor his master’s possessions.

As I bring this writing to a close I find it absolutely necessary to call and draw your attention to the incredibly awesome and powerful truth that we as the servants of the Master have been entrusted with something He has given unto us. Based on our ability, and based on what the Master can indeed and can in fact entrust us with we are given that which we ought to use to further the Master’s house, and even further the Master’s kingdom within and upon the earth. We ought not miss and lose sight of just how absolutely incredible and necessary this truly is, for we must be those wise and faithful servants who take that which has been given unto us by the Master and put it to work. WE must needs realized that the Master has entrusted with a portion of Himself, and a portion of His resources and wealth that we might further advance His kingdom and His agenda. The underlying truth of the matter within this parable is not only working and being wise stewards of that which we have been entrusted with, but also recognizing that it’s not about our agenda, our plans, our purposes, nor is it about our own kingdom. To live our lives as these two servants did who put that which the master entrusted into their hands and into their car is to be those who are focused on that which belongs to the Master, and understanding that we have been called to advance and further His kingdom. We as the saints of God have been called to take those resources which the Master has given unto us and to use them to further advance the kingdom and the will of the Father who is in heaven. The question we must needs ask ourselves is whether or not we are going to be those who are indeed and are in fact going to be wise and faithful servants who are willing to take that which the Master has given us and use it—not to advance and further our kingdom or our agenda, but rather—the kingdom and the will of the eternal God who sits enthroned in the highest heaven.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s