Watch and Be Ready For the Coming of the Lord

by Thomas W. Finley

Lesson Six: The Parable of the Talents (Matthew 25:14-30)

This parable is connected to the final word of warning given in Matt. 25:13 about being ready, because this parable begins as follows: "For it is just like a man about to go on a journey, who called his own slaves and entrusted his possessions to them “ (Matt. 25:14). So in this parable Jesus is again going to give a story which will illustrate truths relating to His coming back. Once again we must remember that His audience is His disciples and the lessons here are to be applied to them.

The story line is simple. A man about to go on a long journey first entrusts certain possessions to his slaves, expecting them to utilize these to gain some profit for him while he is away. When he returns after a long absence he calls his slaves to himself and examines their stewardship. The slaves who received the five talents (a “talent” is a specific weight of precious metal used for commerce) and the two talents produced a profit and were positively rewarded. The slave who had received one talent of money was not faithful and he was negatively recompensed.

The man in the story who leaves for a journey refers to Christ, who left for heaven at His ascension and will return. The man’s entrustment to his slaves of his possessions while he is away describes things given to Christ’s believers in expectation of them producing a spiritual “profit” for Him in the kingdom of God. While He is away, He expects His believers to “’Do business with this until I come back’” (Lk. 19:13). These possessions are given in accordance with the abilities of the believer (Matt. 25:15), but the effort to put these possessions to work should always be by means of the grace of God (His enablement), not by our own natural strength (1 Cor. 15:10). The “possessions” which Christ gives to His believers at least include spiritual gifts (Rom. 12, 1 Cor. 12, Eph. 4), special opportunities arranged by God’s sovereignty (Gal. 6:10; Eph. 2:10), and material possessions also arranged by God’s sovereignty (Lk. 16:9, 10; 1 Tim. 6:17-19). The main point of the parable is that we must be faithful to use what God has given us. If we are faithful, then increased responsibility and stewardship will be granted to us in Christ’s future kingdom.

Stewardship and the Judgment Seat of Christ

All the slaves in the story belong to the man. Believers are indeed Christ’s slaves (Eph. 6:6). Nowhere in the New Testament do we see God giving gifts to unbelievers and expecting them to exercise stewardship and produce a profit for Him! Yet, the Scripture does show believers as serving ones entrusted with stewardship (1 Cor. 4:1-2; 9:17; Eph. 3:2; 4:12; Col. 1:25; Tit. 1:7; 1 Pet. 4:10). Therefore, we must be clear that all three slaves in the story are examples of genuine believers. The difference between the two slaves who produced a profit and the one who did not was their faithfulness in stewardship, not their genuineness as believers.

Matt. 25:19 reads: "Now after a long time the master of those slaves came and settled accounts with them.” This verse speaks of the Judgment Seat of Christ where what we have done in our Christian lives (not pre-conversion) will be manifested and recompensed (2 Cor. 5:10; Rom. 14:10-12). The recompense (repayment) to the believer there is “according to what he has done, whether good or bad” (2 Cor. 5:10). In other words, we can receive a positive recompense or a negative one [1]. The two profitable slaves in the parable received a positive recompense, but the failed slave received a negative recompense. Concerning sins we commit after we are born again, we need not fear that such sins will necessarily result in some negative judgment upon us at the Judgment Seat of Christ. We can avoid such a judgment through sincere confession of our sins, which includes our intention to forsake such sin. “He who conceals his transgressions will not prosper, but he who confesses and forsakes them will find compassion” (Pro 28:13). To “confess” literally means to “speak the same thing.” We should be exceedingly sensitive to the voice of God in our conscience. When we realize that He has spoken to us that we have sinned, then we should confess that, agreeing with God that our action, attitude or words are to be judged as sin. “But if we judged ourselves rightly, we would not be judged” (1 Cor. 11:31).

Positive and negative recompense

The two profitable slaves had been faithful in a few things so the master (the Lord) gave them increased responsibilities and they entered “into the joy of your master.” This speaks of responsibility given to believers in the coming 1,000 year Kingdom of Christ. In the parallel parable in Luke 19 the Bible shows that the profitable slaves are to rule over cities (Lk. 19:17, 19). This rulership is also noted in the Lord’s talk to His disciples about the reward that would be given to them “in the regeneration,” meaning the time of restoration of the earth in the Messiah’s 1,000 year Kingdom (Matt. 19:28). We must note that this promise of reward is given to faithful disciples who leave everything to follow the Lord (Matt. 19:27-29). Again, this promise of sharing in Christ’s reign is noted in the promise of reward to the overcomer in the church of Thyatira: “He who overcomes, and he who keeps My deeds until the end, TO HIM I WILL GIVE AUTHORITY OVER THE NATIONS” (Rev 2:26). Crowns, which are gained by believers due to their faithfulness, also signify that these overcomers will rule with Christ in the Messiah’s Kingdom of 1,000 years (1 Cor. 9:24-25; 1 Thess. 2:19; Jas. 1:12; 2 Tim. 4:8; 1 Pet. 5:4).

On the other hand, the slave who received the one talent was deemed “wicked” and “lazy” because he put forth no effort to carry out his stewardship. As a result, he was penalized and his stewardship was taken away from him (v. 29). In addition, he was thrown into “outer darkness,” a place where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth (v. 30). Believers who have failed in stewardship will be so judged by Christ at the Judgment Seat. Instead of reigning with Christ, they will have no stewardship. Instead of entering into the joy of the master, there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.

So, what is “outer darkness?” If we compare many other Scriptures, which we cannot go into fully in this writing, we will see that this “outer darkness” means a loss of sharing in the bright glory of Christ in His millennial reign. [2] We may not be able to fully understand all what this means, but that should not keep us from accepting this picture of truth that God has given us in His holy word. Christ’s millennial reign is one particular future phase of God’s eternal kingdom. As such it is often referred to as “the kingdom of God.” Thus, it is the blessings of this “kingdom of God” which can be gained by faithful believers in the next age, the “age to come,” the millennium (Matt. 19:27-30, Mk. 10:28-30; Lk. 18:28-30). The “age to come” is not the eternal age, because the Bible makes it clear that there are yet “ages to come” (Eph. 2:7). It is this “kingdom” (the glorious millennium) which can be lost as a potential inheritance (a “possession”) by believers due to their unfaithfulness (1 Cor. 6:7-10; Gal. 5:19-21; Eph. 5:3-5).

Reigning with Christ in glory

The following two verses succinctly show the possibility of reigning with Christ in His future kingdom glory (in the millennium), or the possibility of not sharing in this glory:

If we endure, we will also reign with Him; If we deny Him, He also will deny us.” (2Tim. 2:12)

“and if children, heirs also, heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, if indeed we suffer with Him so that we may also be glorified with Him.” (Rom 8:17)

The verse in Romans 8 tells us, if we look closely at the Greek, that there are two inheritances based upon two different factors. We become heirs of God simply by being His children. But, being fellow-heirs with Christ, when He inherits (possesses) His coming kingdom, is conditional upon our suffering with Him in order to be glorified with Him (in that kingdom). The suffering here points to the disciple’s willingness to deny the self, take up his cross, and follow Christ.

The loss of sharing in the kingdom glory and reign will produce profound sorrow, regret and self-blame over the believer’s failure and loss: “there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth” (Matt. 25:30). A believer should never minimize this potential loss by thinking, “If I don’t reign with Christ in His glory that is no big deal. I still belong to Him and will be with Him in eternity.” This loss will be very significant and those who suffer this loss will be greatly affected with sorrow, and regret. The Lord is warning us that we must be ready when He comes at an unknown time, being faithful in our stewardship! There will be an accounting for each of us at the Judgment Seat of Christ!

Seekers of Christ Seekers of Christ Seekers of Christ Seekers of Christ Seekers of Christ

And you will seek Me and find Me, when you search for Me with all your heart" (Jer. 29:13, NASB)

[1] It is difficult for believers to understand how there could be a negative judgment upon them when Jesus took the penalty for our sins on the cross. However, we must distinguish between eternal forgiveness, related to our unchanging relationship with God through our union with Christ (Eph. 1:3-7), and fellowship forgiveness, related to our daily fellowship with God (1 Jn. 1:5-9). The great Bible teacher of the 1800s, C. H. Mackintosh, also made this important observation: “These, and numberless other Scriptures in the Old Testament, as well as many similar passages in the New Testament, unfold to us the deeply important subject of God’s moral government. Now, to be merely a subject of God’s government is one thing; to be a subject of His unchangeable grace is another. We should never confound them. To elaborate this point, and to refer to the various passages which illustrate and enforce it, would demand a volume: we would here only add our full persuasion that no one can understand the Word of God who does not accurately distinguish between man under government and man under grace. In the one case he is looked at as walking down here, in the place of responsibility and danger; in the other, he is looked at as associated with Christ above, in the place of inalienable privilege and eternal security” (The Mackintosh Treasury, p. 650). That God does subject believers to temporary penalties for sin is made plain in the NT (Acts 5:1-11; 1 Cor. 5:1-5; 11:27-31). This principle will remain for believers at the Judgment Seat and carry into the next age of 1,000 years prior to eternity (1 Tim. 5:19-25). For further study in this area please see the following articles on the author’s website: “Understanding Forgiveness with God” ; “A Letter on the Judgment Seat.”

[2] For more study on these truths about the coming 1,000 year Kingdom and potential penalties such as “outer darkness,” please refer to the author’s book entitled, “Worthy of the Kingdom".