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Matthew 25

PARAGRAPH DIVISIONS OF MODERN TRANSLATIONS

UBS4 NKJV NRSV TEV NJB
The Parable of the Ten Maidens The Parable of the Wise and Foolish Virgins The Parable of the Wise and Foolish Bridesmaids The Parable of the Ten Girls Parable of the Ten Wedding Attendants
25:1-13 25:1-13 25:1-13 25:1-5 25:1-13
      25:6-12  
      25:13  
The Parable of the Talents The Parable of the Talents Parable of the Talents The Parable of the Three Servants Parable of the Talents
25:14-30 25:14-30 25:14-30 25:14-18 25:14-30
      25:19-30  
The Judgment of the Nations The Son of Man Will Judge the Nations The Great Judgment The Final Judgment The Last Judgment
25:31-40 25:31-46 25:31-46 25:31-40 25:31-46
25:41-46     25:41-46  

READING CYCLE THREE (from "A Guide to Good Bible Reading")

FOLLOWING THE ORIGINAL AUTHOR'S INTENT AT THE PARAGRAPH LEVEL

This is a study guide commentary which means that you are responsible for your own interpretation of the Bible. Each of us must walk in the light we have. You, the Bible and the Holy Spirit are priority in interpretation. You must not relinquish this to a commentator.

Read the chapter in one sitting. Identify the subjects. Compare your subject divisions with the five translations above. Paragraphing is not inspired, but it is the key to following the original author's intent, which is the heart of interpretation. Every paragraph has one and only one subject.

1. First paragraph

2. Second paragraph

3. Third paragraph

4. Etc.

 

CONTEXTUAL INSIGHTS

A. Take note of the literary context. In this case the context is Matthew 24-25, which dealt with the suddenness of Christ's unexpected coming and the warning to "be ready" by being faithful in doing God's will-even amidst persecution.

 

B. For a full discussion on interpreting parables see introduction to Matthew 13.

 

C. Write in your own words the central truth of each parable (cf. Matt. 24: 45-51; 25:1-13; 25:14-30). Parables are meant to illustrate truth from common occurrences of daily life (cf. Matt. 13:10-17). Always look for the unexpected twist or surprise!

 

D. Verses 37-44 do not appear in Mark. They do have a partial Synoptic parallel in Luke 17:26-37.

 

WORD AND PHRASE STUDY

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: MATTHEW 25:1-13
 1"Then the kingdom of heaven will be comparable to ten virgins, who took their lamps and went out to meet the bridegroom. 2Five of them were foolish and five were prudent. 3For when the foolish took their lamps, they took no oil with them, 4but the prudent took oil in flasks along with their lamps. 5Now while the bridegroom was delaying, they all got drowsy and began to sleep. 6But at midnight there was a shout, 'Behold, the bridegroom! Come out to meet him.'7Then all those virgins rose and trimmed their lamps. 8The foolish said to the prudent, 'Give us some of your oil, for our lamps are going out.'9But the prudent answered, 'No, there will not be enough for us and you too; go instead to the dealers and buy some for yourselves.'10And while they were going away to make the purchase, the bridegroom came, and those who were ready went in with him to the wedding feast; and the door was shut. 11Later the other virgins also came, saying, 'Lord, lord, open up for us.'12But he answered, 'Truly I say to you, I do not know you.'13Be on the alert then, for you do not know the day nor the hour."

25:1 "the kingdom of heaven" God's current reign over the lives of redeemed people will one day be consummated in His reign over all the earth (cf. Matt. 6:10). See Special Topic at Matt. 4:17.

▣ "ten" See Special Topic: Symbolic Numbers in Scripture at Matt. 24:31.

▣ "went out to meet the bridegroom" The cultural background of this parable (which is unique to Matthew) concerns Jewish wedding customs of first century Palestine (see James Freeman, Manners and Customs of the Bible). After about a year of binding betrothal, the groom went to the bride's home on an assigned day to bring her to his home for a seven day feast.

There is a Greek manuscript variant here that relates to this Hebrew custom. The best and most ancient Greek texts have "went out to meet the bridegroom." The Bezae Greek manuscript (D) and the Latin, Syriac, Coptic, and Armenian translations, as well as the Greek texts used by Origen, Athanasius, Chrysostom, Jerome, and Augustine add "and the bride." This then would refer to when she joined the wedding party. The UBS4 gives the shorter text a "B" rating (almost certain).

25:5 "the bridegroom was delaying" This may refer to the delay of Jesus' return. Matthew 24:14 and 43-44 also imply a delay between the destruction of Jerusalem and the Second Coming. This delay surprised the early church, yet the concept was implicit in Jesus' teachings and Paul's (cf. 2 Thessalonians 2). The parables are literary imagery that has a main purpose. Be careful to turning the details into doctrine!

▣ "they all got drowsy and began to sleep" There is no condemnation implied for this. It merely sets the stage for the parables'emphasis on preparedness.

25:9 Each person must prepare for themselves in the kingdom!

25:10 "the door was shut" Luke 13:25 related this parable to Israel and the Gentiles, but this context demands a relationship to the Second Coming. This illustrates how the inspired evangelists used Jesus' teachings in different settings and for different purposes (cf. Gordon Fee and Douglas Stuart How to Read the Bible for All Its Worth, p. 113-134). See Special Topic: Use of "door" in the NT at Matt. 6:6.

25:11 "Lord, lord" The repetition was an attempt to show intimacy (cf. Luke 6:46), but the relationship was lacking (cf. Matt. 7:21,22). The shocking part of these examples is that these were seemingly part of the followers of Jesus, but somehow were not (cf. Matthew 13, the parable of the soils and the parable of the tares). As Paul says in Rom. 9:6, "they are not all Israel who are from Israel," so too, not all the outward followers of Jesus are redeemed (cf. 2 Pet.2:20-22; 1 John 2:18-19 and even possibly some of the warnings of Hebrews [i.e., Heb. 2:1-4; 3:7-13; 4:1-13; 5:11-6:12; 10:26-39; 12:14-17]). See SPECIAL TOPIC: APOSTASY (APHISTĒMI) at Matt. 7:21.

25:12 "I do not know you" Lack of preparation has eternal consequences. This is parallel to Matt. 24:50-51; 25:29-30; and Matt. 25:41-44. One must balance the different aspects of salvation presented in the NT.

1. it is a decision, a public profession (i.e., welcome a person)

2. it is a discipleship, a public godly lifestyle (live like that person)

3. it is an informed biblical understanding (i.e., accept truths about that person)

All three are necessary for maturity.

The term "know" was used in its OT sense of intimate personal relationship (cf. Gen. 4:1; Jer. 1:5). Christianity combines the Hebrew sense (personal relationship) and the Greek sense (information). The gospel is a person, a lifestyle, and a message!

25:13

NASB"Be on the alert then, for you do not know the day nor the hour"
NKJV"Watch therefore, for you know neither the day nor the hour in which the Son of Man is coming"
NRSV"Keep awake therefore, for you know neither the day nor hour"
TEV"Watch out, then, because you do not know the day or the hour"
NJB"So stay awake, because you do not know either the day or the hour"

This truth is the purpose of the parable. See full note at Matt. 24:40-41. The date of the Second Coming is sure, but unknown (cf. Matt. 24:36,42,44,50; Mark 13:32). Believers are to stay active and ready for Jesus' certain but sudden return (cf. Matt. 24:36).

There is a manuscript variant at this point. Apparently copyists added "in which the Son of Man is coming" from 24:44. This additional phrase is absent in the ancient Greek manuscripts P35, א, A, B, C*, D, L, W, X, and Y, as well as the Latin, Syriac, Coptic, and Armenian translations. It is obviously not original to Matthew. UBS4 gives the shorter text an "A" rating (certain).

"the hour" See Special Topic at Matt. 24:36.

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: MATTHEW 25:14-18
 14"For it is just like a man about to go on a journey, who called his own slaves, and entrusted his possessions to them. 15To one he gave five talents, to another, two, and to another, one, each according to his own ability; and he went on his journey. 16Immediately the one who had received the five talents went and traded with them, and gained five more talents. 17In the same manner the one who had received the two talents gained two more. 18But he who received the one talent went away, and dug a hole in the ground and hid his master's money."

25:16 "Immediately the one who had received the five talents" This parable is paralleled in Luke 19:11-27. There is a Greek manuscript variant over how "immediately" relates to Matt. 25:15: (1) does it describe the slave owner or (2) the slave? Although the Greek texts vary, the context and Matthew's usage of "immediately" mandate option two.

▣ "five talents" A talent was equivalent to 6,000 denarii. A denarius was the daily wage of soldiers and laborers. The RSV footnote says "more than fifteen years'wages of a laborer." See Special Topic at Matt. 17:24.

▣ "each according to his own ability" This states a biblical principle (cf. Matt. 13:8; 2 Cor. 8:3,11).

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: MATTHEW 25:19-23
 19"Now after a long time the master of those slaves came and settled accounts with them. 20The one who had received the five talents came up and brought five more talents, saying, 'Master, you entrusted five talents to me. See I have gained five more talents.'21His master said to him, 'Well done, good and faithful slave. You were faithful with a few things, I will put you in charge of many things; enter into the joy of your master.'22Also the one who had received the two talents came up and said, 'Master, you entrusted two talents to me. See, I have gained two more talents.'23His master said to him, 'Well done, good and faithful slave. You were faithful with a few things, I will put you in charge of many things; enter into the joy of your master.'"

25:21-23 "Well done, good and faithful slave" Good stewardship, not the amount, was the issue. See Special Topic: Degrees of Rewards and Punishments at Matt. 5:12.

▣ "enter into the joy of your master" This repeated phrase is an idiom for entering the Kingdom. Service for Christ is service for the family. The joy is the fellowship.

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: MATTHEW 25:24-25
 24"And the one also who had received the one talent came up and said, 'Master, I knew you to be a hard man, reaping where you did not sow and gathering where you scattered no seed. 25And I was afraid, and went away and hid your talent in the ground. See, you have what is yours.'"

25:24-25 The servant's characterization does not accurately describe God. One must not push the detail of these parables allegorically. The NT has parables of both comparison and contrast.

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: MATTHEW 25:26-28
 26"But his master answered and said to him, 'You wicked, lazy slave, you knew that I reap where I did not sow and gather where I scattered no seed. 27Then you ought to have put my money in the bank, and on my arrival I would have received my money back with interest. 28Therefore take away the talent from him, and give it to the one who has the ten talents.'"

25:27 "interest" This term was an idiom taken from child bearing. OT guidelines for interest are found in Deut. 23:19-20. A Jew could only collect usury from Gentiles.

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: MATTHEW 25:29-30
 29"For to everyone who has more shall be given, and he will have an abundance; but from the one who does not have, even what he does have shall be taken away. 30Throw out the worthless slave into the outer darkness; in that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth."

25:29 "For to everyone who has more shall be given" See Matt. 13:12; Mark 4:25; Luke 8:18; 19:26. "More" is not in the text but is certainly implied.

25:30 "Throw out the worthless slave into the outer darkness; in that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth" Western readers are uncomfortable with Eastern overstatements and metaphorical language (cf. Matt. 8:12; 13:42,50; 22:13; 24:51). This parable shows the need not only for initial salvation but for ongoing responsibility. Profession is confirmed by lifestyle. No fruit-no root!

DISCUSSION QUESTIONS

This is a study guide commentary which means that you are responsible for your own interpretation of the Bible. Each of us must walk in the light we have. You, the Bible and the Holy Spirit are priority in interpretation. You must not relinquish this to a commentator.

These discussion questions are provided to help you think through the major issues of this section of the book. They are meant to be thought provoking, not definitive.

1. What is the central truth of all these parables?

2. How do these parables relate to other larger context of Matthews 24 and 25?

3. Explain the statement that gospel writers had the right under inspiration to select, adapt, and arrange the teachings of Jesus.

 

CONTEXTUAL INSIGHTS FOR 25:31-46

A. It is Jesus Himself who speaks so often of the eternal and horrible consequences of human sin. It is Jesus and Jesus alone who emphasizes not only a final judgment but an eternal hell.

 

B. This passage seems to be an amplification of Matt. 16:27. A good parallel passage on a day of judgment is Rev. 20:11-15.

 

C. Jesus is coming again as the Glorified King of Heaven. This is similar to the way the Jews are still expecting Him to come for the first time.

 

D. The Bible speaks of the certainty of the judgment, but often signifies different agents.

1. God as Judge (cf. Rom. 14:2; 1 Peter 1:17)

2. Christ as Judge (cf. John. 5:22, 27; Matt. 16:27; Acts 10:42; 2 Cor. 5:10; 2 Tim. 4:1)

3. God through Christ (cf. Acts 17:31; Rom. 2:16)

 

WORD AND PHRASE STUDY

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: MATTHEW 25:31-33
 31"But when the Son of Man comes in His glory, and all the angels with Him, then He will sit on His glorious throne. 32All the nations will be gathered before Him; and He will separate them from one another, as the shepherd separates the sheep from the goats; 33and He will put the sheep on His right, and the goats on the left."

25:31 "the Son of Man" This was a term used in the OT to simply signify a human being, as in Psalm 8:4 and Ezek. 2:1. However, in Dan. 7:13 a human being, called "a son of man," comes riding on the clouds of heaven-the mode of transportation for deity -and is given the eternal kingdom. The title "Son of Man" was not used in rabbinical Judaism. Jesus used this term as a self-designation which included the concepts of humanity and deity and did not have the narrow Jewish nationalistic, militaristic connotation. As the Son of Man rode on the clouds of heaven in Dan. 7:13, He now comes with all the holy angels to judge mankind (cf. Matt. 25:31; 1 Thess. 4:13-18).

▣ "in His Glory" See note on "glory" at Matt. 16:27.

▣ "and all the angels with Him" The angels will do the work of gathering and dividing. They were often associated with Christ's coming (cf. Matt. 16:27; Mark 8:38; 2 Thess. 1:7; Jude 14; and Dan. 7:10).

▣ "He will sit on His glorious throne" He will take His seat on the throne of God (cf. Ps. 110:1) not only as Lord and King, but as Judge (cf. Matt. 19:28). Rejecting Jesus has a temporal aspect (cf. John 3:18) and an eschatological aspect. The judgment in time is consummated in eternity.

25:32 "All the nations will be gathered before Him" This passage may not be a parable, but a dramatic presentation unique to Matthew. All questions about the end time are not dealt with. One wonders if all nations include those humans who are alive and dead, or just those who are alive. The phrase "all the nations" implied the universal spread of the gospel to all people (cf. Revelation 5) which included Israel. This is the goal of Gen. 3:15, 12:3, and Exod. 19:4-6. Israel's call was to be missionary to the nations!

It is difficult to identify with certainty who "the goats" are: (1) those who have rejected the gospel or (2) those who have an outward profession only? Both groups call Jesus "Lord" (cf. Matt. 7:21-23). This judgment seems to be limited to those who have, at least outwardly, responded to the gospel. Therefore it is similar in meaning to the parable of the soils (cf. Matthew 13).  The pressures of end-time events and the lack of love for other believers (cf. 1 John. 2:9,11; 3:15; 4:7-21) will clearly reveal false professions (cf. Matt. 13:21,22; 1 John. 2:19).

▣ "and He will separate them from one another" Much like the wheat and tares (cf. Matt. 13:24-30, 36-43) could not be separated until judgment day, so the sheep and the goats wait until the last day for all to see the fruit of their lives. Also notice there are only two categories.

▣ "as the shepherd separates the sheep from the goats" God as shepherd was a common OT metaphor (cf. Psalm 23). "Shepherd" was used in Ezekiel 34 to describe the false shepherds of Israel and God as Chief Shepherd and Judge. The same terminology is applied to Jesus in Zech. 11:4-14; John 10.

25:33 "on His right" This is a biblical anthropomorphic phrase to describe the place of preeminence, honor, power, and authority.

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: MATTHEW 25:34-40
 34"Then the King will say to those on His right, 'Come, you who are blessed of My Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. 35For I was hungry, and you gave Me something to eat; I was thirsty, and you gave Me something to drink; I was a stranger, and you invited Me in; 36naked, and you clothed Me; I was sick, and you visited Me; I was in prison, and you came to Me.'37Then the righteous will answer Him, 'Lord, when did we see You hungry, and feed You, or thirsty, and give You something to drink? 38And when did we see You a stranger, and invite You in, or naked, and clothe You? 39When did we see You sick in prison, and come to You?'40The King will answer and say to them, 'Truly I say to you, to the extent that you did it to one of these brothers of Mine, even the least of them, you did it to Me.'"

25:34 "the King" Jesus was often spoken of as the Coming King (cf. Rev. 17:14; 19:16). YHWH was also spoken of as the King, which brings additional significance to this term when it was used for Jesus (cf. Deut. 10:17; 1 Tim. 6:15). This transference of title was a common technique of NT authors to assert the full deity of Jesus of Nazareth.

▣ "you who are blessed of My Father" This is a perfect passive participle. They have been blessed in the past and continue to be blessed. God is the active agent.

▣ "inherit" This is an aorist active imperative. The judgment of believers (cf. 2 Cor. 5:10) will not be based upon our sins (cf. Titus 2:14; 1 John. 1:7), but upon our use of spiritual gifts and our availability to God (cf. 1 Cor. 3:10-15). See Special Topic: Believers'Inheritance at Matt. 19:29.

▣ "the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world" This is a Perfect passive participle. The NT used this phrase several times to describe things that God did for believers even before creation (cf. John. 17:24; Eph. 1:4, 11; 1 Pet. 1:19-20; Rev. 13:8). The Trinity was active in redemption before Gen. 1:1! God's work never fails!

25:35-39 Our good deeds and lifestyle love reveal and confirm our initial faith commitment to Jesus Christ (cf. Eph. 2:8-9,10; 2 Tim. 2:21; 3:17; Titus 3:1; Heb. 13:21). Faith without works is dead (cf. James 2:14-26). These good works to others are related to the good works of Jesus Himself (cf. Isa. 58:6-7). Believers continue His ministry (cf. Titus 2:14).

25:40 "to one of these brothers of Mine, even the least of them" The term "brother" here must refer to a neighbor. It is believers caring for humans made in God's image that is emphasized. The close relationship between Jesus and His followers can be seen in Acts 9:4, 22:7, 26:14, and 1 Cor. 8:12. To hurt one is to hurt both; to bless one is to bless both. Jesus wants believers to live in such a way that His task on earth continues (i.e., help fallen humans find fellowship with their Creator, cf. Matt. 20:28; Mark 10:45; 1 John 3:16).

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: MATTHEW 25:41-46
 41"Then He will also say to those on His left, 'Depart from Me, accursed ones, into the eternal fire which has been prepared for the devil and his angels; 42for I was hungry, and you gave Me nothing to eat; I was thirsty, and you gave Me nothing to drink; 43I was a stranger, and you did not invite Me in; naked, and you did not clothe Me; sick, and in prison, and you did not visit Me.'44Then they themselves also will answer, 'Lord, when did we see You hungry, or thirsty, or a stranger, or naked, or sick, or in prison, and did not take care of You?'45Then He will answer them, 'Truly I say to you, to the extent that you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to Me.'46These will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life."

25:41 "Then He will also say to those on His left, 'Depart from Me'" Hell's worst aspect is the separation from fellowship with God (cf. Matt. 7:23; Luke 13:27). God does not send humans to hell; they send themselves by their lifestyle choices.

▣ "accursed ones" This is a perfect passive participle. This grammatical construction was used several times in this context. It speaks of that which happened in the past and the results of which have continued into the present. The action is done by an outside agent. These people's rejection of God and His Christ in the past has been consummated into permanent blindness and rejection! This rejection revealed itself in lack of love for other human beings (Matt. 25:42-43).

▣ "into the eternal fire which has been prepared for the devil and his angels" Hell was not made for humans, but for angelic beings in rebellion. Satan has angels that serve him, possibly alluded to in Dan. 8:10 and Rev. 12:4. Matthew 25 mixes the metaphors of its darkness in Matt. 25:30, and fire in Matt. 25:41. The horrors and torments of hell are so far beyond human vocabulary and finite conceptions that the Bible used the most vivid imagery possible. Most of the metaphors come from the garbage dump outside Jerusalem in the valley of the sons of Hinnom called "Gehenna." Jesus often spoke about it (cf. Isa. 33:14; 66:24; Matt. 3:10, 12; 5:22; 7:19; 13:40, 42, 50; 18:8, 9; Jude 7; Rev. 14:10; 19:20; 20:10, 14, 15; 21:8). See SPECIAL TOPIC: ETERNAL at Matt. 18:8.

25:45 "Truly I say to you" Literally "amen," this was a Hebrew term meaning "to be firm." It was used by biblical authors to affirm the reality and truthfulness of words, concepts and teachings. Jesus uniquely used it to begin sentences. Often He would double it for even more emphasis. See Special Topic: at Matt. 5:1.

25:46 "These will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life" The same term [aiōnos] that describes heaven as everlasting is applied to hell as everlasting (cf. Matt. 18:8; 19:16; Mark 3:29; 9:48; 10:17; Luke 18:18; Jude 7; Rev. 20:10; also with "eternal judgment in 2 Thess. 1:9 and Heb. 6:2). Daniel 12:2; John 5:29; and Acts 24:15 describe a resurrection of both the righteous and wicked. Josephus states that the Pharisees believed in the immortality of all "souls" (cf. Antiq. 18.1,3), but only the resurrection of the righteous into a new body, while the wicked have eternal punishment (cf. Jewish Wars 2.8,14). The eternality and finality is the impetus of the urgency of gospel preaching, teaching, and witnessing!

An eternal hell is not only a tragedy for rebellious mankind, but also for God! God created humans as the apex of His creative event. We were made in His image and likeness for fellowship with Him (cf. Gen. 1:26-27). God's choice to allow mankind a choice resulted in a significant percentage of God's creation being separated from Himself! Hell is an open, bleeding sore in the heart of God that will never be healed.

DISCUSSION QUESTIONS

This is a study guide commentary which means that you are responsible for your own interpretation of the Bible. Each of us must walk in the light we have. You, the Bible and the Holy Spirit are priority in interpretation. You must not relinquish this to a commentator.

These discussion questions are provided to help you think through the major issues of this section of the book. They are meant to be thought provoking, not definitive.

1. How can hell be both darkness and fire?

2. Does this passage teach that some will be saved by their good works to mankind?

3. In your own words what is the central truth of this passage?

4. Will Christians be judged?

5. What does hell cost God?

 

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