Saturday, May 4, 2013

MATTHEW 24-25, PART 13





PARABLE OF THE VIRGINS:  Pentecost regards the parables of chapter 25 to represent a chronology of events following the Second Coming that is described in 24:30-31.  In contrast, Walvoord regards these parables to carry warnings of the need for spiritual preparation for the Second Coming, and he cautions against pressing “any illustration too far.” (Walvoord, 384)  He comments on the imagery surrounding weddings that is used in Scripture:  “Israel is described as the wife of the Lord, already married, and the church is pictured as a bride waiting for the coming of the Bridegroom (2 Cor. 11:2).” (Walvoord, 384)  In the case of the Parable of the Virgins, the focus is on the attendants of the bride.  The lesson “is clear.  When the second coming occurs, it is going to be too late to get ready.”  (Walvoord, 385)

            Though Walvoord and Pentecost have minor disagreements, they agree that the parable cannot refer to the rapture:  “Though some have viewed this incident as the rapture of the church, there is really no justification for this because the context is entirely related to the second coming of Christ, and Jesus had not yet revealed any truth concerning the rapture. He could hardly, therefore, expect His disciples to understand an illustration of a truth that had not been revealed.” (Walvoord, 385)  I take this to be a reference to Paul’s description of the rapture in I Corinthians 15:51-54 as a “mystery” (a truth not yet revealed until then).

PARABLE OF THE TALENTS:  Walvoord focuses his interpretation of the Parable of the Talents only on the third servant, who received one talent.  “Why was the master so hard on his servant? The answer is that the servant indicated he had serious questions as to whether the master would return… What the unprofitable servant displayed was lack of faith in his master and a desire to have his master’s money illegally.” (Walvoord, 386)

“As is brought out in 2 Peter 3:3–4, for one to question the literalness of Christ’s second coming raises questions as to whether the person believed in the first coming. If Jesus is indeed the Son of God, then His coming again is both reasonable and to be expected. If He is not the Son of God, of course, He will not return. Accordingly, a lack of faith in the second coming stems from a lack of faith in the first coming. The one-talent man indicated outward profession of service to his master but did not possess real faith.” (Walvoord, 387)

THE SHEEP AND GOATS JUDGMENT:  Walvoord is generally in agreement with Pentecost on the Sheep and Goats Judgment—that is a judgment of Gentiles between the Second Coming and the Millennium to determine who among them will enter the Millennial Kingdom.  He states that this particular judgment is only mentioned in the Olivet Discourse.  (Walvoord, 387)  He differs from Pentecost on the basis of judgment.  Pentecost believes the “brothers” of Christ are the Israelite witnesses (most like the 144,000), and the judgment is how they were treated.  Walvoord uses a more traditional interpretation that is held by many Dispensationalists:  “The basis for judgment is how they treated Christ’s brethren, the Jews, as a token of their faith or lack of it.” (Walvoord, 387)  Walvoord also agrees with Pentecost that this judgment is separate from the judgments of the church in II Corinthians 5:10 and of the unrighteous dead in Revelation 20:11-15.  (Walvoord, 387)

            He also in general agrees with Pentecost that the Sheep and Goats appear to be judged on the basis of their works, those works are a reflection of their salvation (Walvoord, 387).  He expands this idea as he reflects on his assumption that these Gentiles are persons who have lived in the 70th Week/Tribulation period:  “In ordinary times it would be difficult to determine whether a Gentile is saved or lost on the basis of his treatment of Jews. However, in the great tribulation preceding the second coming—because of worldwide anti-Semitism and the attempt to kill all the Jews—anyone who opposes this and actually befriends a Jew and visits him in prison or in the hospital is obviously declaring his faith in the Bible and his recognition that the Jews are God’s chosen people. Apart from faith in Christ under these circumstances, no one would dare to befriend a Jew. Though the sheep were different in nature than goats, they are demonstrated as the saved by their works, and goats are demonstrated by their lack of good works.” (Walvoord, 390)

            In arguments that are similar to those of Pentecost, he contrasts Dispensationalist views of the various judgments with those of other interpreters:  “…there is no evidence that this judgment is of all men, as it deals only with the living at the time of the second coming in contrast to the demands of the amillennial concept of one general judgment at the second coming. This judgment is also quite different from the judgment of the Great White Throne (Rev. 20:11–15) because there are no resurrected people here, but rather people living on earth. Further, the purpose of the judgment is to allow the righteous to enter the millennial kingdom. It should be noted that there is no resurrection related to this judgment such as would be true if it was the rapture of the church.”  He also contrasts his views with those of the Post-Tribulationalists:   “The passage also tends to contradict the posttribulational view that the rapture occurs at the end of the tribulation at the time of the second coming. If such a rapture had taken place in the process of Christ’s coming from heaven to earth and believers were caught up to meet Him, as the rapture is described, the sheep would have already been separated from the goats, and no judgment like this would be necessary. After Christ’s kingdom is set up on earth, there is still the mingled picture of saved and unsaved. Living Gentile believers at this judgment prove that no posttribulational rapture had taken place.” (Walvoord, 390)

            Walvoord also comments briefly that the church is a mystery (previously unrevealed truth).  He comments that the early church was slow to grasp this long gap in God’s time table (Walvoord, 391).


            I tend to accept Walvoord’s approach to this chapter as a more reasonable interpretation than that of Pentecost.  Pentecost insists that the first two parables actually represent an event that advances the chronology of Matthew 24:4-31.  I maintain that these parables are illustrations that teach spiritual lessons related to the events that Christ has already set forth in the previous chapter.  Walvoord agrees with me on that point, although his understanding of those events is somewhat different than mine. 

So, each of the two parables relate to preparation for the Second Coming.  For Walvoord, those who will need to be prepared for the Second Coming will not be in the church, which will already be raptured seven years before the Second Coming.  He briefly makes the point that Jesus would not be speaking of the Rapture, since that event was not revealed until Paul wrote about it in I Corinthians.  However, one can agree that Jesus does not reveal the rapture in the Olivet Discourse and yet still maintain that a Post-Tribulational Rapture is consistent with that Discourse.  For Jesus to give a warning regarding the spiritual preparedness requisite at His Second Coming is not a case of Jesus letting the secret (of the Rapture) “slip out,” so to speak.

In his comments on the Parable of the Talents, Walvoord seems to me to distort the case of the servant with one talent.  He pushes the idea that this person represents a person who does not believe in the Second Coming and that, in turn, is evidence of profound disbelief in Jesus.  However, the parable itself gives none of this information.  Instead, the parable does focus on the attitude of the servant toward his Lord.  It is an attitude of distrust.  Such an attitude does not come out of a forgiven and reconciled heart.  The other servants were eager to work for and glorify their Lord.  The third servant took no chances and played it safe, worried about punishment:  “There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear. For fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not been perfected in love.”  (I John 4:18, English Standard Version)

Walvoord takes the two parables of chapter 25 to be spiritual illustrations, but he takes the third passage, the Sheep and Goats Judgment, to be a literal event.  He and Pentecost agree that it is an event that will precede the Millennium to determine who among the Gentiles will enter the Millennial Kingdom.  They disagree in the basis of judgment.  Pentecost believes the “brothers” are Israelite witnesses and examples are how the Gentiles treated those witnesses, but Walvoord believes the judgment is of how the Gentiles treated the Jews during the Tribulation period.  I offer a third opinion, which parallels Pentecost’s:  I believe the “brothers” are Christian witnesses and ministers, and the Sheep and Goats are judged on their treatment of those witnesses. 

Walvoord’s rejects other interpretations that consider this judgment to be another description of judgments referred to elsewhere.  He believes this judgment is to be at a unique time and that the Olivet Discourse is the only place in Scripture where it is mentioned.  I have discussed these arguments in my article on Pentecost’s views.  In brief, I think that this description is to be understood as part of the commentary section of the Discourse, rather than an advancement of the chronology.  Since it is a commentary, it gives a basis for accountability.  It is not to be understood to be exhaustive grounds for accountability.  It simply points out that people will be judged for their response and treatment of messengers of the gospel.  When that judgment takes place and who all will be there cannot be narrowly decided simply on the basis of this passage.  I have argued in the previous article that one cannot rule out whether this represents the Great White Throne Judgment of Revelation 20.

Walvoord’s argues that, if the Rapture takes place at the Second Coming, then a Sheep and Goats Judgment immediately after would not make sense.  Even on the surface of that argument, one could contradict the conclusion.  Although he and Pentecost are adamant that the judgment is of “living” persons and not of resurrected persons, that idea is not necessarily ruled out by the passage.  It would not be inconsistent for this passage to represent a praise of resurrected saints of the church and a condemnation of evil persons. 




            The following is a brief of 12 articles on Matthew.  I have ignored some earlier articles.  Such a summary by necessity leaves out major concepts that one would really like to include.  I hope it is helpful to those who have faithfully followed these articles.

                The major division within the Olivet Discourse is between the chronological narrative that begins at 24:5 and continues through 24:31, on the one hand, and the remaining material, which I call “commentary,” that begins at 24:32 and continues through the end of chapter 25.  Within the chronological narrative, the first section ends at verse 14, and the second begins at verse 15 and continues through verse 31.

            I believe that verses 5-14 give a series of develops in the church age that climaxes with the completion of the preaching of the gospel to the whole world (verse 14).  The first part of that narrative, verses 5-8, are develops within the world at large.  The second part, verses 9-14, focuses on developments within the church. 

            Russell considers verses 5-14 to describe developments over the next 40 years after Christ’s ascension.  He believes all the developments—of wars, earthquakes, famines, persecution, apostasy, and world-wide preaching of the gospel—that were predicted by Jesus in those verses were fulfilled in that 40-year span.  I believe that almost none of those developments were completed in that 40-year span. 

            Pentecost believes that the entire chronology that Jesus lays out describes the 70th Week/Tribulation period.  He believes the description of events in 9-14 is focused on what will happen to the Jews during that period.  He does not consider the “gospel of the kingdom” in verse 14 to be the simple gospel of salvation, but, rather it is an announcement, by the 144,000 witnesses, of the coming of the King.  The problem with his thesis is that verses 9-14 include a picture of a weakening people of God that are sliding into apostasy.  That is not compatible with people who have just professed their belief in Christ through the dynamic witness of the 144,000.

            There are three events or developments in verses 15-22.  There is the Abomination of Desolation, which is some sort of wicked action that is so offensive as to desecrate a holy place.  This is a signal for followers of Jesus to flee to safety.  And this is followed by a terrible time called the Great Tribulation.  Other prophecies in Scripture bear out that these events take place in the period called the 70th Week or Tribulation.
            Russell believes that the Abomination of Desolation is the presence of Roman standards in the Temple area or in the area of Jerusalem.  He believes that the Great Tribulation is the AD 70 destruction of Jerusalem and the Temple.  The Roman standards would have been obnoxious to the Jews.  However, in the context of the siege, a display of the standards would not have been
a crisis event that would constitute a signal for people to flee.  Moreover, it probably would have been too late for most to flee.  An earlier imposition of the standards under Cestius (4 years earlier) would probably have been too early.  Moreover, Cestius’ troops had been invited into the area by the leaders of one Jewish faction.  The Great Tribulation is described by Jesus in such awful terms that even the siege of Jerusalem does not seem to qualify as fulfilling that prediction.

            Pentecost and Walvoord agree largely with my concept of the Abomination and the Great Tribulation.  Pentecost keeps referring back to verses 9-14 so that he uses two sections of the chronology to cover the same set of events, because he discounts any application of the Discourse to the church.  I have already indicated my disagreement with that view.  Both he and Walvoord consider the warnings in verses 16-20 to be to Israel.  How this would work out practically—how Israelites would know of this warning—is difficult to understand.  I believe it is a warning to the church.  Both authors also believe that the Matthew passage applies to the future Tribulation period, but that the parallel in Luke applies to the events of AD 70.

            The last part of the chronology is 24:23-31.  This passage depicts the Second Coming of Christ as the climax to the series of developments and events that Jesus has been predicting.  In the days leading up to that Coming, there are false rumors of a hidden Christ, but the Coming will be a dramatic event that will be known world-wide.  In conjunction with that event will be the gathering of saints, both on earth and in heaven.

            Russell tries to apply verses 24:23-31 to the AD 70 destruction of Jerusalem and the Temple.  He keeps “doubling back” on that one set of events as the fulfillment of all that Christ has said.  In doing so, he ignores the obvious extended chronology that Jesus has laid out.  This is because he is in the “Matthew 24:34 trap,” which I shall refer to later.  He tries to refer to a particular false prophet who led a group people into a building that would be burned to the ground.  This event, he maintains, fulfills Jesus prediction of false rumors.  However, Jesus’ prediction relates directly to false rumors of the return of Christ.

            Pentecost believes 24:4-26 are signs to Israel that will herald the Second Coming, when the kingdom program for Israel will be resumed.  How these signs will be communicated to Israel is not clear.  It makes more sense to understand these as signs for the church to see.  He understands the gathering in verse 31 to be the re-gathering of Israel to the Holy Land after they have been scattered by the Beast/Antichrist.  It is difficult to understand why angels would gather both believing and falsely professing Israelites and how the gathering by angels would be described as Israel going out to meet the Lord.  Walvoord believes this gathering will include both living persons and resurrected persons.  I believe that verse 31 is consistent with the Rapture/Resurrection.  The false rumors of a hidden Christ contrast sharply with the very public Second Coming.  Pentecost, Walvoord, and I agree on this point.

            The key of interpretation for the Preterists—both modern-day and Russell—is Matthew 24:34.  They take this time-frame literally, but interpret portions of the rest of the predictions of the Olivet Discourse figuratively.  This means that the time limit for the predictions of the Discourse is one generation, or about 40 years.  The AD 70 destruction of Jerusalem and the Temple fits that time frame.  Therefore, the Preterists have an event that “fits.”  At the same time, this creates an interpretation trap because they are forced to make every prophecy be fulfilled by the same event.  This is the “Matthew 24:34 trap.”  I note that 24:32-33 set up the interpretation of verse 34.  The “generation” that will observe the fulfillment of the prophecies is the generation that observes the greening of the fig tree (the beginning of the fulfillment).  Moreover, it seems a more sound interpretative method to use the entire Discourse to interpret 24:34 than to use the one verse to interpret the Discourse.  In fact, the Discourse depicts a lengthy chronology that does not fit the AD 70 events and makes more sense as a depiction of a considerable stretch of time that culminates in the Second Coming.

            The illustrations in 24:36-51 are exhortations to be spiritually prepared for the Second Coming of Christ.   They are not simply warnings to be “in on” a plan, but rather are admonitions to preparedness.  All interpreters share this view to some degree.  Russell believes that the Jews were caught in a Roman “trap,” because they had gathered in huge numbers for Passover at about the time the siege began, which resulted in over a million killed.  This observation says little on the validity of his over-all viewpoint.  Pentecost has little comment on these “exhortations” to righteousness.  Walvoord and I agree with the general principle that Biblical prophecies enable us to know a lot about the return of Christ and yet not to know enough to pin point the day and the hour.  Walvoord believes the word “take” in 24:40-41 means “taken for judgment.”  I believe that Greek word that is used suggests “taken along with” the Lord.  This is more consistent with an application to the Rapture.  Walvoord comments on the last section—the good and bad servants—and believes they illustrate the principle that belief in the first coming brings about belief in the second coming.  How this applies to this parable is not clear.  I believe the parable says more about how an expectation of the Lord’s return affects one’s attitudes and behavior. 

            Pentecost understands chapter 25 to be a continuation of the chronology that was paused at 24:31.  He believes the two parables—the Virgins and the Talents—depict the judgment of living Israel between the Second Coming and the Millennium to determine who will enter the Kingdom.  The Millennial Kingdom he equates with the wedding feast that celebrates Christ’s marriage to the church, which took place in heaven.  The assignment of responsibility to the successful stewards of their talents indicates that there will be delegation of responsibility under the rulership of Christ.  This principle he believes will be carried out in a vice-regency of either David or his descendant during the Millennium.

Walvoord believes the two parables—the Virgins and the Talents—are illustrations that warn to be prepared for the Second Coming.  The Virgins parable does not refer to the rapture.  He interprets the third servant in the Parable of the Talents as one who did not believe in the Second Coming.

 I believe these parables continue the commentary that is found in the latter part of chapter 24.  The spiritual lessons of the need for preparedness is obvious, but whom this should be applied to is not obvious.  The Parable of the Virgins could refer to the Rapture in the sense of warning to be spiritually prepared without letting the secret of the Rapture (revealed by Paul) out.  The parable of the talents illustrate that God, in His grace, imparts a partnership to us in His world-wide vision of redemption.  The third servant displays distrust in his Lord, with no hint of lack of belief in the Lord’s return.

            Pentecost believes that the Sheep and Goats Judgment is of the Gentiles living at the time of the Second Coming to determine who will enter the Millennium.  The judgment will be based on their treatment of the 144,000 witnesses.  Gentiles will experience a submissive role within the theocratic kingdom which belongs to Israel.  Walvoord believes the Sheep and Goats are Gentiles who are judged on the basis of their treatment of the Jews during the Tribulation period.  He and Pentecost reject this as a judgment of works, but rather believe the works illustrate their salvation.  Walvoord observes that great faith would be required to befriend a Jew during the Tribulation.

            I believe the Sheep and Goats Judgment is also a part of Jesus’ commentary.  It illustrates one aspect of judgment—the idea the people will be held responsible for their treatment of Christian witnesses and ministers.  This passage cannot be ruled out as referring to the Great White Throne Judgment.  My concept of Kingdom is that it the powerful rule of God to bring about redemption of the human race.  The Kingdom includes the cross.  It uses the church as an instrument, so the church is not a parenthesis in the Kingdom plan of God.  This idea has implications for who will be present during the 70th Week/Tribulation period.

NEXT:  Parallels to Matthew 24-25



Crossway Bibles (2009-04-09). ESV Study Bible (Kindle Locations 314241-314244). Good                                                    

            News Publishers.  Kindle edition.

Walvoord, John F. (2011-09-01). Every Prophecy of the Bible: Clear Explanations for Uncertain

            Times.  David C. Cook.  Kindle edition.


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