In the Fulness of Time/Part 142

By: Dr. Thomas O. Figart; ©2011
In line with all the other illustrations of His coming used here in the Olivet Discourse, the parable of the ten virgins is a further admonition to be ready. But attempts to make each detail mean something doctrinally specific have led to problems in interpretation.

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Seven Parables of His Coming (Continued)

6. The Ten Virgins: No Preparation for His Coming. Matthew 25:1-13

Mt. 25:1-13 “Then shall the kingdom of heaven 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. 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 wise, 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 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 him 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 in which the Son of man cometh.”

In line with all the other illustrations of His coming used here in the Olivet Discourse, this parable of the ten virgins is a further admonition to be ready. Again, two groups are listed, five wise virgins (believers) who are prepared, and five foolish virgins (unbelievers) who are unprepared. Those prepared are accepted (into the “kingdom of heaven” the millennial kingdom) and those not prepared are shut out, for the Lord will say, “I know you not.”

Such is the sum and substance of the parable; attempts to make each detail mean something doctrinally specific have led to problems in interpretation. What should be kept in mind is that some details do parallel things in the other illustrations, and these, at least, can be compared.

The time sequence is one example. Throughout the Discourse, “the coming of the Son of man” is repeatedly mentioned and defined by various phrases: “coming in power and glory” (24:30; 25:31), associated with “his angels” (24:31; 25:31), spoken of as a time of “judgment” (24:39, 50; 25:12-13, 30, 46). In one instance His coming is explicitly stated to be “after the tribulation” (24:29-31). Thus, the coming of Christ taught here cannot be a pretribulation event involving the Church.

Further, it has already been shown in 24:37-39 that this coming eventuates in taking away of the wicked and preservation of the saved, and is compared with the taking away of the wicked and preservation of the saved in Noah’s day, so that it cannot be a reference to the Rapture of the Church, where it is believers who are taken away and unbelievers are left to suffer through the Great Tribulation.

Those who have taken it to refer to the Rapture of the Church are faced with other problems. If the oil in the lamps is a type of the Holy Spirit, then a person could go and buy a specific amount of “holy spirit” and he could also run out of “holy spirit” periodically. This would be in direct opposition to John 14:16 which teaches that the Holy Spirit “abides forever” with the believer. It would also contradict Acts 8:20 which says that Simon thought that the Holy Spirit, “the gift of God may be purchased with money.

Still others have claimed that the “marriage” spoken of in 25:10 is the same as “the marriage of the Lamb” (Revelation 19:7-9) to His Bride, the Church. Renald Showers has given a detailed account of the marriage of the Lamb. He says that the first of three stages in a Jewish marriage in those days was the betrothal (Matthew 1:18) which could last as long as a year. Second, the marriage ceremony occurred when the bride was taken from the parents’ home to the house of the bridegroom or to the house of the bridegroom’s father:

This taking of the bride was usually done at night approximately one year after the betrothal. It involved consummation of the marriage through physical union of the bride and groom on the first night at the groom’s father’s house. Since this second step was the essence of the marriage ceremony, it was regarded as the wedding or marriage (Mt. 22:2-13; 25:10). Thus, it is this second step which corresponds to the expression “marriage of the Lamb” in Revelation 19:7. The third step was the marriage supper or feast to which guests had already been called and assembled. (Showers, Renald, The Marriage and Marriage Supper of the Lamb, in Israel My Glory, June/July, 1991, p. 10).

The betrothal corresponds to the Church Age; the marriage occurs soon after the Rapture, in heaven, and the marriage supper takes place in heaven soon after this, according to Showers, page 11. How then does this fit in with Matthew 25:1-13? It does not necessarily fit in here at all. From a dispensational point of view, this, like the other six illustrations in this part of the Olivet Discourse, depicts a warning to the Jews to be ready at the closing day of the Great Tribulation for the coming of the Son of man, and has no reference to the rapture of the Church. Not to be prepared is to be shut out of the Kingdom of Heaven (the Messianic earthly Kingdom). The details need not be connected as pertinent to the Church, nor to the marriage of the Lamb. Rather, it is a natural illustration taken from the social customs of the Jews.

This interpretation not only avoids the unwarranted application of making the Holy Spirit available for money, but is also in agreement with the emphasis of all the other illustrations with their admonitions to the Jews at the “end of the age” to be prepared for the coming of the Son of man back to the earth to judge the wicked and establish His Millennial Kingdom.

7. The Talents: No Profit at His Coming. Matthew 25:14-30

Mt. 25:14-30 “For the kingdom of heaven is like 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 ability; and straightway took his journey. Then he that had received five talents went and traded with the same, and made other five talents. And likewise he that had received two, he also gained other two. But he that had received one went and dug 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, you 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 that 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 spread, And I was afraid, and went and hid thy talent in the earth; lo, there thou hast what 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 spread? Thou oughtest therefore, to have put my money to the exchangers, and then, at my coming, I should have received mine own with interest. Take therefore the talent from him, and give it to him that hath ten talents. For unto every one that hath shall be given, and he shall have abundance; but from him that hath not shall be taken away even that which he hath. And cast the unprofitable servant into outer darkness; there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth.”

In this story an obviously rich man traveled into a far country, entrusting three servants with a large amount of “his goods.” A total of eight “talents” was distributed. If these were Roman-Attic talents, each would have been worth 6000 denarii (see the discussion at 18:24). Since a denarius was the common wage for a day’s work, it would require a man to work six days a week for over 19 years to earn one talent. Therefore, when the rich “lord” gave five talents to the first servant, he was entrusting him with the equivalent of nearly 96 years of wages; the second servant was put in trust with more than 38 years of wages and the third with a little more than 19 years of wages. These trusted slaves (douloi) were, nevertheless, capable, since their master gave to “each according to his ability.” After a long time, which could have been measured in a number of months, the man returned, to find that the first and second servants had invested prudently, doubling their lord’s money. The third, according to his own testimony, had hidden the one talent because he feared his master’s severity; at least he could present the same amount of money to his lord as was given to him.

For the first and second servants, the man promised to make them rulers over many things, and in addition, gave the talent of the third man to the first. He pronounced “Well done” to the first two, but the third he called “wicked and slothful,” consigning him to outer darkness. The application made by Christ was simple, namely that those who “have” (believers) will be given in abundance, but those who “have not” (unbelievers) will lose even what they have. This sounds like an impossibility until the parallel statement in Luke 8:18 is compared: “Whosoever hath not, from him shall be taken that which he seemeth to have.”

As with some of the other illustrations, this one has been considered detail by detail instead of taking the main thrust, that here again are two kinds of individuals, the “good and faithful” in contrast to the “wicked and slothful.” A surprising number of commentaries have interpreted the “talents” as spiritual gifts, and have emphasized service as the theme, some even applying it to Christian service for the Lord. Not only is this unwarranted (especially in light of the third servant being cast into outer darkness), but spiritual gifts are not even in the text! The story has to do with investing money, nothing else. Simply because the word talent has come into our vocabulary to mean a natural gift, does not give license to make it mean a spiritual gift. What the parable does teach is the difference between the faithful and the wicked. Their works prove their character, but it is their character which determines destiny. The wicked and slothful servant was proven to be “unprofitable” (verse 30) at the return of his lord. So it will be “in the fulness of time” at the coming of the Son of man to earth!

Read Part 143

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