Wednesday, March 27, 2013

MATTHEW 24-25, PART 11

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MATTHEW 25:1-30


            My apologies for the long delay in getting this article posted.

            I am dividing the discussion into three parts.  The first two parts will discuss J. Dwight Pentecost’s views on the chapter as he wrote in his book Things to Come.  I shall divide his discussion into a discussion of 25:1-30 (the present article) and a discussion of 25:31-46.  Then I shall discuss John Walvoord’s views.  Both of these writers are prominent Dispensationalists.  I shall not discuss Preterist views on this chapter.  I believe the major views of Preterism have been illustrated by discussions of chapter 24 of Matthew.  I shall possibly discuss some Preterist views later in relation to other passages in the future.


            Pentecost considers that the Olivet Discourse returns to a “chronological” account of the destiny of Israel in 25:1.  He bases that view, to a great degree, on the word “then.”  Whereas Christ has given “illustrative instructions” in the latter part of chapter 24, He signals His return to chronology with “then” (as in King James and English Standard Versions; “at that time” in New International Version).  He also asserts that the use of “weeping and gnashing of teeth” (Matthew 25:30, English Standard Version) is only in reference to Israel, and this is evidence that these passages refer to a judgment of Israel (Pentecost, 283).  Just as Pentecost believes the entire Discourse relates to Israel, so he believes 25:1-30 is an indication of the judgment of Israel in a period between the Second Coming of Christ and the beginning of the Millennium.  (Pentecost, 282 and 283)

            The parable of the virgins is an indication that some Israelites living at the time of the Second Coming will be accepted into the Millennial reign of Christ and some will be rejected.  The parable of the talents also indicates that there will be rewards given to individual Israelites.


            “In the parable of the ten virgins the Lord is indicating that, following the regathering of Israel (Matt. 24:31), the next event will be the judging of living Israel on the earth to determine who will go into the kingdom.” (Pentecost, 282)  Pentecost quotes English to expand on this understanding:  “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.” (Pentecost, 283) 

Pentecost takes the “parable” of the virgins and the bridegroom to represent events that will affect Israel in the Tribulation period as well as at the Second Coming.

·         During the Tribulation period Israel will be witnessed to concerning the coming of the Messiah to bring the Kingdom as well as the truth of Jesus’ death on the cross and redemption in Him.  As a result of this witness—which includes a witness from Elijah—multitudes of Israelites will be saved (Pentecost, (237-238).

·         The church, which is the Bride of Christ, will be resurrected/raptured just before the Tribulation (70th Week) period begins.  In heaven, the church will be married to Christ, just before the Second Coming.  When the Second Coming occurs, Jesus will return with His Bride.  Believing Israel, that is, those who have believed the witness of Elijah, will be invited to attend the Marriage Feast, which is the entire Millennial reign of Christ. (Pentecost, 227 and 237-238)  “[The] King is seen in the role of Bridegroom at His coming, indicating that the marriage has taken place.” (Pentecost, 206)

·         The judgment, which is represented by the parables of the virgins and the talents, will be a judgment of living Israelites, who have been gathered at the Second Coming, as Pentecost interprets Matthew 24:31 (Pentecost, 414).


Pentecost considers the parable of the talents to refer to the same judgment of “living Israel,” those of Israel who have survived the Tribulation period.  The gathering of the “elect” that is mentioned in Matthew 24:31 brings this group to Israel to stand judgment before Christ to determine who will participate in the Millennial reign of Christ (Pentecost, 284, 414-415). 

The rewards, that are handed out to those who invested the talents and gained more, represent the rewards that will be given to these saved persons.  The servants were rewarded by being entrusted with “much.”  (English Standard Version—ESV)  At this point, Pentecost’s eschatology gets very complicated as well as self-contradictory.  To sort through this, I shall divide his conclusions into two issues.  Both of these ideas are base on his analysis of other Scriptures besides the Olivet Discourse, and I shall not do a detailed analysis of those Scriptures.

·         First, is his concurrence with the idea that the Millennial kingdom will be presided over by a vice-regent under the authority of Christ.

·         Second, is his idea that the New Jerusalem will be present during the Millennium.

Pentecost uses the present Scripture as a confirmation of a vice-regency in the Millennium:  “Since Scripture reveals that the government of the millennium will be under the authority of Christ, but exercised under Him by appointed men (Matt. 19:28; Matt. 25:21 and Luke 19:17), there is no conflict in seeing the prince as a vice-regent under Christ.”  (Pentecost, 530)  By “prince,” he means either the resurrected King David or a descendant of David.

The second conclusion concerning the parable of the talents is that the indication of delegation of authority as rewards is not only extended to the living Israelites who are saved, but also to resurrected Israelite saints (Pentecost, 544).  He makes this conclusion as part of his discussion of the New Jerusalem.  Pentecost believes that the New Jerusalem will descend TOWARD earth (but not touch it) during the Millennium (Pentecost, 546).  It will contain the church plus Old Testament and Tribulation saints who have all been resurrected at various stage of the “first resurrection” (Pentecost, 543).  Therefore, resurrected Israelite saints will have authority during the Millennium, but will exercise that authority from the New Jerusalem:

In this passage [Matthew 25:14-30], which teaches the fact of Israel’s judgment and reward…while the rewards are…positions of privilege and responsibility in the millennium, the individual is not said to be placed in the millennium itself, but rather he exercises his authority during the millennium.  (Pentecost, 544)

However, in another place, Pentecost states (Pentecost, 414) that the judgment referred to by the parables in Matthew 25:1-30 only refers to “living Israel” at the time of the Second Coming.  This does not necessarily disprove his thesis about resurrected saints, but it does seem to contradict his application of the parable of the talents to resurrected saints.  It also creates the question of when the judgment of resurrected Israelites would take place. 
            The other group of Israelites that is mentioned in both of the parables is composed of those who are not saved.  Their destiny is “to be cut off” (25:30) (Pentecost, 415).  Pentecost does not elaborate on what that means.
            Pentecost and other Dispensationalists have a very complex system of Biblical interpretation.  Therefore, I am hesitant to “take on” that system when I am commenting on a very small portion of Scripture. 
            Pentecost maintains that the word “then” (Greek tote) signals that Jesus is resuming His chronological narrative.  The narrative ends at verse 31 and is followed by a series of exhortations that are illustrated by parables and other comparisons.  For example, there are the parable of the fig tree and the comparison with the days of Noah.  It seems to me that this parable continues that same series.  First, the use of a parable is not consistent with the chronological presentation in 24:4-31, but it is consistent with the exhortations in 24:32-51.  The parable of the virgins ends with the exhortation to “Watch, for you know neither the day nor the hour” (ESV).  The word “then” is found in verse 40 in the midst of the exhortation to be ready because these events will come upon people who are either ready or are oblivious to what God is doing, just as in the days of Noah.  “Then” (tote) can be translated “at that time,” which does not indicate a chronological or rhetorical advancement.  Instead, in both 24:40 and 25:1, it refers to the events of 24:29-31.  So, this illustration does not, it seems to me, take up new chronological material, but, rather is an exhortation to watchfulness.
            The substance of the parable (or allegory—it is often difficult to distinguish these) is a story of 10 virgins, five of whom carry a supply of oil and five who do not.  When the bridegroom is announced, the five foolish virgins must rush out to buy oil and the five wise ones enter into the wedding banquet.  The foolish virgins call to the lord of the feast and ask him to open the door, but he says, “I do not know you.”  Then, comes the application:  “Watch therefore, for you know neither the day nor the hour” (ESV).
            Pentecost recognizes the point of the parable:  “Those with light will be admitted and those without it are excluded.  Those with life are received and those without life are rejected.” (Pentecost, 284)  However, for him, “those” are either saved or unsaved people of the nation of Israel.  “This could not picture the rapture, for no unsaved go out to meet him at that time.”  (Pentecost, 283)  However, in his set of scenarios, I find some confusion.
·         He maintains that both believing and unbelieving Israelites are gathered by the angels in the event mentioned in Matthew 24:31.  This event is practically simultaneous with the Lord’s Second Coming.
·         He maintains that before the Millennium begins there is a judgment of these two groups.  The saved (those who have received Christ through the witnessing that goes on during the Tribulation) are admitted into the Millennium, and the unsaved are “cut off.”
·         First, I find it problematical that Pentecost understands that when the angels “gather his elect” they will bring both saved and unsaved Israel!
·         Second, it does not seem to me that angels gathering people is the same as those people going out to meet the Lord. 
In fact, Pentecost has tried to force the parable of the virgins to “fit” his scenario and has created more problems than he has solved. 
            Jesus has given a series of illustrations and comparisons that emphasize the need for spiritual readiness at His Second Coming.  Don’t be like the people of Noah’s day—wrapped up with the daily concerns of life and oblivious to the judgment of God on the evil days.  Don’t be like the householder who did not set a watch for the thief in the night—not being concerned that the Lord is coming back to set things in order.  Be like the faithful and wise servant who does his duties and is attentive to the needs of his fellow servant.  The Lord will come and “catch him” in his faithfulness.  Don’t be like the wicked servant who takes the Lord’s delay as a signal to become a drunk and cruel to his fellow servants.  The Lord will “catch him” in his evil and reject him.  So, now the Lord gives another illustration:  be like the five wise virgins.  They have oil for their lamps; they are ready for the midnight arrival of the Lord.  Don’t be like the five foolish virgins.  They have no spare oil and their oil has run out.  When the Lord arrives at midnight, they will not be ready.  They do not have spiritual life, either because they have never received it or because they have apostatized.
            This parable looks back to the climatic events of Matthew 24:29-31.  It is a commentary on the predictive narrative in Matthew 24:4-31 and especially on its climax. 
            The separation of people between those who join with Jesus and those who are rejected by Him that is highlighted in this parable is also found in the earlier statements in 24:40-41.  It seems fairly obvious that the Second Coming events are in view in 24:40-41, so that the Second Coming itself will be an occasion for separation of people.  That same principle is illustrated by the parable of the virgins.  One need not postulate a separate judgment for this separation to take place. 
            In view of all this, I do not believe that this parable can justify a rejection of a Post-Tribulation Rapture of the church.  Pentecost has rejected that theory on other grounds.  He has also postulated a judgment of Israel before the Millennium on other grounds.  He imposes that theory upon the parable of the virgins, but I do not believe the parable supports his theory.
            Pentecost imposes an interpretation on this parable that comes out of his overall eschatology with limited investigation of the passage itself.
The parable/allegory imparts a number of truths:
·         That people receive “talents” from the Lord.  A talent was a unit of money in that time.  The parable does not give us much information as to what the Lord was using the term to represent.  From the fact that the reward to the faithful servants was to be given to be “set you over much,” I would take the talents to represent responsibilities or opportunities to be productive in spiritual matters.  That can cover a wide range—natural abilities, education, social position, places of responsibility in the church, family.  This list could go on and on.
·         There is a settling of accounts.  People will have to give an account for how they have used the opportunities the Lord has given to them.
·         Those who have invested those opportunities and have experienced victories will be rewarded by having even greater opportunities, responsibilities, and power.
·         Those who have distrusted the character of the Lord will display that distrust by how they have misused the opportunities the Lord has given to them. 
·         The reward for this kind of behavior—hiding one’s talents or opportunities in the ground and expecting the worst from the Lord—will be to lose what little one has.  “But from the one who has not, even what he has will be taken away.” (Matthew 25:29)
·         The final destiny of the evil servant is to be cast into outer darkness.  His perception of the Lord was not the perception of faith. 
·         The faithful servants are invited to enter into the joy of their Lord.  They have been in partnership with the Lord and are joint-heirs with Him.
·         This parable gives us an insight into one aspect of the basis for judgment, an aspect that perceives our relationship with the Lord as a partnership.  When the Lord called Abraham, He told Abraham “in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed.” (Genesis 12:3, ESV)  This broadened Abraham’s calling to place him in partnership the Lord’s world-wide vision.
The question we must ask is:  how does this parable tie in with the rest of the Olivet Discourse?  There is a constant theme of separation throughout the passage.  The flood took almost everyone away except for Noah and his family.  In the day when the Lord returns, two will be in the field and be separated.  Two will be at mill and be separated.  There will faithful servants and evil servants and they will be separated.  There will wise virgins and foolish virgins and they will be separated.  The exact nature of the separation and the timing of the separation is not necessarily given in detail in the Discourse.  Nevertheless, when Jesus returns, there will a separation of righteous and unrighteous, believing and unbelieving, faithful and unfaithful.  The call to readiness for the Lord’s return has eternal implications. 
Whether there will be a Millennium and the details of how that will play out, I do not believe is answered in this Discourse.  I have a somewhat different idea about Israel and how it relates to the church than Pentecost.  I do not believe those questions are answered to any degree in the Olivet Discourse.  Pentecost has recognized the general gist of the parable of the talents in recognizing the reward to faithful people by entrusting even greater responsibilities to them.  He has taken the parable and imposed upon it his ideas of the Millennium and of the destiny of Israel.  I do not believe the parable itself nor does the rest of the Discourse provide evidence for his view.
Crossway Bibles (2009-04-09). ESV Study Bible (Kindle Locations 18434-18436). Good News Publishers. Kindle Edition.
Pentecost, J. Dwight.  Things to Come.  Grand Rapids, MI:  Zondervan Publ. Co. 1958.




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