The Agora
Bible Commentary

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Matthew 25

Mat 25:1

Mat 25: "The Lord's ministry is drawing to its dramatic conclusion. He gave his last public statement to the nation in Mat 23 -- a contrast to his first (Mat 5-7) in which he outlined blessings, in the Eight Beatitudes. Now his last declaration was a series of Eight Judgments ('Woes'). Then he gave his apostles his last prophecy in Mat 24 as he gathered with a group on the Mount of Olives and looked down the corridor of time to the events which would overtake the city of Jerusalem. Now, in Mat 25, he concludes his parabolic utterances with developing parables of the virgins (vv 1-13), the tradesmen (vv 14-30), and the flock (vv 31-46). It was to be his last exposition before he shared with them the passover memorials (Mat 26). The parable of the virgins taught the need for personal preparation; that of the tradesmen the need for personal effort, and that of the flock the need to prepare for the judgment. It was a very important discussion, and one very appropriate for the believers in the last days. We need to develop more oil than is provided in the lamp of Truth: a reserve of oil that will last us into the kingdom. We need to labour for the Truth, and to be faithful in all our commitments, so that the talent of time, energy, and opportunity might be expended for the future. We need to recognise the basis of judgment: that of displaying the principles of God manifestation to our brethren: of upholding the divine elements, and of manifesting the characteristics of Yahweh to those we might be privileged to assist. Then we will hear the glad tidings at the judgment seat of the King: 'Inasmuch as ye did it to one of the least, ye did it to me.' What a great moment of destiny awaits us!" (GEM).

AT THAT TIME: Meaning, this is a commentary upon the Mt Olivet prophecy.

Mat 25:4

"My son, keep your father's commands and do not forsake your mother's teaching. Bind them upon your heart forever; fasten them around your neck. When you walk, they will guide you; when you SLEEP, they will watch over you; when you AWAKE, they will speak to you. For these commands are a LAMP, this teaching is a light, and the corrections of discipline are the way to life" (Pro 6:20-23).

Mat 25:5

THEY ALL BECAME DROWSY AND FELL ASLEEP: "With the best intentions in the world, even the most dedicated of Christ's servants will be caught unawares by the event itself (1Th 5:6,10)" (WGos 620).

Mat 25:6

// Mat 24:31; 1Th 4:16,17.

HERE'S THE BRIDEGROOM: "Behold, the bridegroom cometh" (AV).

"Hark! a cry is made, what means that sound I hear?
Quickly again 'tis echoed upon my listening ear:
'The Bridegroom comes!' Oh Joyful! Is he come at last?
Is the morning truly here? Is the night for ever past?

Shall we now be ever with him? Shall he raise us to his throne?
Shall he change these mortal bodies: Make them like unto his own?
Shall we see his glorious presence? Hear his greatly longed-for voice?
Oh, quickly spread the tidings! Let all his saints rejoice!

Yes, the groaning of his people he hath heard from ev'ry land,
And now he comes to free them, in power to make them stand.
They that with him have borne his cross, shall share with him his crown.
For now he'll reign whose right it is, the ancient thrones cast down.

The Bridegroom near approaches; he's even at the door:
Haste, let your glad hosannahs our glorious Head adore.
The time long promised has arrived, when earth again shall bloom,
Again shall yield her richest fruits: again for joy make room.

Lo! art thou he we long have loved, though ne'er till now have seen?
Thy love to us, most wonderful, the source of ours has been.
How gloriously fair thou art! Thy beauty all divine!
Can it be so, that such as we, made like to thee, shall shine?

Oh, had we known but half thy worth, but half thy beauty seen,
The treasures of thy love and power had oftener been our theme,
Whilst travelling through the wilderness: thou say'st we've borne for thee;
Ah! thou did'st suffer for us, even death upon the tree.

We've sojourned long as strangers within a foreign land;
The world around disowned us, by thee we took our stand.
They know not thee, they knew not us and no abiding place
We knew, but this we knew, that soon we'd see thee face to face.

And now thou art come to us, how greatly we rejoice!
Like those of old, we now can say, we hear the Bridegroom's voice.
Throughout the world the cry shall run, with gladness all shall fill:
'Glory to God! and peace on earth, towards mankind goodwill!'
(Jane Roberts).

MEET: "Eis apantesin": see 1Th 4:17n.

"There is a wedding coming in our family. It is all very exciting. Our family, and friends are all thinking and talking about it. The bridegroom is not here; he is coming for the wedding but at the present he is on the east coast. Although he is out of sight, he is certainly not out of mind for all the plans are being made with him in mind.

"One store we visited which caters to weddings had a sign which said, 'If there is no bridegroom, there is no wedding.' It is certainly true. Right now it seems that there are a thousand and one things to do and everyone is busy attending to all the details which are so important so that all will be in readiness. All of this preparation causes our minds to be drawn to the absent bridegroom who is coming to receive his bride at the marriage supper of the Lamb. It is so important that we should all be busily engaged in our preparation for that great day.

"Naturally, the bride is anxiously awaiting the arrival of the bridegroom, and all her thoughts are centered on preparing to meet him when he arrives. Since Christ is our bridegroom, how excited and anxious we should be as we contemplate his coming to make us his own. How are we spending our time while he is away? Are we engrossed in other things, or are we getting ready for him? Normally, it is inconceivable that the bride could forget that the one she loves is coming soon.

"What a glorious day is coming for us! Imagine the thrill that awaits us, to attend the marriage supper of the Lamb as the very bride of Christ! This is what we have to look forward to. To think that we are to be the bride of Christ! What an exalted position! How could we forget to prepare? Jeremiah asks the question, 'Can a maid forget her ornaments, or a bride her attire?' You can be sure what our bride will wear is very much in her thoughts. It is unthinkable that a bride could forget, yet God continues by saying 'yet my people have forgotten me days without number.' [Jer 2:32] Have we forgotten? Is our coming marriage on our minds? Are we getting ready for the wedding? Our bridegroom is temporarily away but he is due back at any moment. Is 'out of sight, out of mind,' true for us?

"We know that our bridegroom loves us and he has assured us that he will be faithful to us. He has said, 'I will never leave thee nor forsake thee.' We know he is coming and when he comes we will never be separated from him again. The one we love is coming and if we really love him, we are busy preparing for his arrival. If we have allowed anything else to distract our attention away from him, it will then be evident that our love was less than it should have been, and when he comes he will not want to marry us and take us for his own.

"Now is the time to prepare. Jesus told us a story about ten virgins and he warned us that five of them were foolish. They professed a love for the bridegroom but while he was away they did not get ready for him. How terribly foolish! When the bridegroom came they wanted to go to the marriage but they were refused. Right now is the time to be getting ready for the wedding. We should be preparing as a bride adorned for her husband. 'The Spirit and the bride say, Come, and let him that heareth say, Come. And let him that is athirst come. And whosoever will, let him take the water of life freely... Even so, come, Lord Jesus' {Rev 22:17,20]" (MM).

Mat 25:8

But after resurrection and before judgment, there will be no mediator, and no means of further preparation.

Mat 25:9

A practical knowledge of the word of God (ie, character!) is not transferable. In this, "no man can redeem his brother" (Psa 49:7). Lesson: personal accountability (cp Gal 6:2,5).

Mat 25:10

Open doors: for restored communion (2Ch 29:3); deliverance from prison (Act 5:19); surrender (Rev 3:20); service (1Co 16:9); and opportunity (Rev 3:8). Shut doors: for safety (Gen 7:16); privacy and communion (Mat 6:6); faith and prayer (2Ki 4:5,21,33); self-sufficiency (Rev 3:20); and separation and rejection (Mat 25:10).

AND THE DOOR WAS SHUT: Explained in vv 24-30; Mat 24:37: "as it was in the days of Noah".

Mat 25:14

The man = Christ. This, an indication that his stay in heaven (the "far country" of AV) is only temporary: v 19; Acts 3:20,21.

Mat 25:15

TALENTS: In this case, sig opportunities and not abilities. That is, although abilities may differ, God gives every man opportunity to use what abilities he has.

Mat 25:16

AND PUT HIS MONEY TO WORK: We must take risks. Taking "risks" when serving God is the only prudent thing to do!

Mat 25:18

Ct Mat 24:48: "My master is staying away a long time..."

Mat 25:19

THE MASTER OF THOSE SERVANTS RETURNED: Christ is now at the Father's right hand (Heb 10:12,13), but he will return (Joh 14:3,28; Rev 22:12,20).

SETTLED ACCOUNTS: Financial term, an "audit" -- sw in this usage only recently discovered in non-Biblical instances.

Mat 25:21


YOUR MASTER'S HAPPINESS: See Isa 53:11; Heb 12:2.

Mat 25:24

I KNEW YOU ARE A HARD MAN...: 'You are a powerful man, and will get your due, whether I help you or not.'

"In the final day of judgment we shall not be able to excuse sterility in these essentials by reference to our strenuous labours to produce fruit for which Christ never asked. If any such excuses came to mind we should surely think of the unfaithful servant in the parable and become dumb. We have not a hard master who will demand fruit where he has never planted, who will require a personal rectitude of super-refined separation which he never commanded; but we have a just Master who will require the performance of those essential duties that he so patiently explained. If we give bread and water, either natural or spiritual, to servants of Christ who hunger and thirst, we give to the Lord himself. If we neglect our opportunities to give, we neglect Christ... Assuredly if we cut off those whom he approves we cut off Christ" (PrPr 21).

Mat 25:25

I WAS AFRAID: What? Afraid that he would do the work, and his master would reap the profit!

AND HID YOUR TALENT IN THE GROUND: Lit, "buried" in the earth! This is exactly what the Jewish leaders did to Christ.

SEE, HERE IS WHAT BELONGS TO YOU: And so it would belong to HIM too: the servant's portion would be "in the earth", and his reward to be "buried"!

Mat 25:26

THOU WICKED, LAZY SERVANT: Notice how wickedness and laziness are equated! There is an awful warning in that equation.

Mat 25:27

INTEREST: Gr "tokos", from same root as "tikto": seed, or offspring!

Mat 25:29

WHAT HE HAS: Or "what he SEEMS to have", or "what he THINKS he has" (Luk 8:18).

Mat 25:30

"Nothing we have ever experienced in this life will be one thousandth as terrible as rejection at the judgment seat of Christ. And that rejection is a looming possibility if we do not have the wisdom to give ourselves entirely to God in this present brief period of opportunity and probation. It's not so much what we accomplish, but rather the totality of our love and dedication and effort to obey Him and please Him. For the rejected, there will be physical suffering, certainly, but -- however severe -- that will be but a minor aspect. Many can accept physical suffering with joy in the enthusiasm of a good cause. The real and dreadful depths of the suffering will be mental -- the awful, gnawing, unremitting bitterness of hopeless remorse and regret and self-condemnation for the utter stupidity of playing and self-pleasing when God lovingly asks us to work full time in the Vineyard, and become an eternal part in His glorious Purpose. How mockingly meaningless will then seem the juvenile things we waste our time and interest on today while precious time slips away! What vain, anguished poundings then on the forever shut door of Joy and Hope! God loved us, and abundantly manifested that love, and sought the totality of ours in small return. Like a spoiled child, we accepted the benefits of His love, but did not reciprocate it in the fulness of devotion that true love must of its very nature bring forth. Our 'love' went not beyond self-interest, and now we reap as we have sown. Mercifully, this dreadful, hopeless anguish will sooner or later end in the then sought-for and at last welcomed relief of eternal death. The secret of total happiness and total contentment is total love of God. This is the whole meaning and purpose of life. This is that for which we were created and are divinely destined. This solves all problems and assuages all sorrows. This is peace" (GVG).

WEEPING AND GNASHING OF TEETH: Mat 8:12; 13:42,50; 22:13; 24:51; 25:30.

Mat 25:31

THRONE: "Thronos", used of the Judgment Seat in Rev 20:4,11; 21:5.

HEAVENLY: No Gr word corresponds to this!

Mat 25:32

ALL THE NATIONS: Similar passages (in NT) where "all nations/peoples" plainly means "individuals OUT OF all nations/peoples": Mat 24:9,30; 28:19; Mar 13:10; Luk 24:47; Act 2:17; Rom 16:26; Gal 3:8; Rev 1:7; 14:8; 15:4; 18:3,23; Rev 19:18. Esp see Act 2:17 and Rev 19:18, where "all people" very specifically means "all (kinds of) people", ie men and women, young and old, or free and slave, small and great.

GATHERED: "Sunago", used of gathering individuals to judgment: wheat / chaff in Mat 3:12 and Luk 3:17; wheat / tares in Mat 13:30; good fish / bad fish in Mat 13:47; wedding guests in Mat 22:10. Also see, generally (not sw), wise and foolish virgins in Mat 25:1-13.

SHEEP... GOATS: From a judgment parable in Eze 34:17-22.

GOATS: "The godly are like sheep -- innocent, mild, patient, useful: the wicked are like goats, a baser kind of animal, unsavoury and unruly. The sheep and goats are here feeding all day in the same pasture, but will be kept at night in different folds. Being thus divided, he will set the sheep on his right hand, and the goats on his left, Mt 25:33" (Henry). "Goats are here employed to represent the evil class of men, because goats have to be driven while sheep follow the shepherd" (McG). "As the shepherd separates... A common figure in Palestine. The sheep are usually white and the goats black... The goats devastate a field of all herbage. 'Indeed they have extirpated many species of trees which once covered the hills' (Tristram, Natural History of the Bible 89,90). The shepherd stands at the gate and taps the sheep to go to the right and the goats to the left" (RWP).

See Lesson, Judgment seat at Jerusalem.

Mat 25:34

BLESSED: A reference to the Abrahamic covenant: Gen 22:18; Acts 3:25,26; Gal 3:8,9.

Mat 25:35

Stalker's • Comment on Mat 25:35-46: "Thus may all life at the last prove far more high and solemn than we now imagine."


I WAS THIRSTY AND YOU GAVE ME SOMETHING TO DRINK: "If your enemy is hungry, give him food to eat; if he is thirsty, give him water to drink" (Pro 25:21).

I WAS A STRANGER AND YOU INVITED ME IN: As done by Abraham (Gen 18:2) and Lot (Gen 19:1).

Mat 25:36

I NEEDED CLOTHES AND YOU CLOTHED ME: "Suppose a brother or sister is without clothes and daily food. If one of you says to him, 'Go, I wish you well; keep warm and well fed,' but does nothing about his physical needs, what good is it?" (Jam 2:15,16).

I WAS SICK AND YOU LOOKED AFTER ME, I WAS IN PRISON AND YOU CAME TO VISIT ME: "Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress" (Jam 1:27).

Mat 25:37

Vv 37-39: "When?" It is a point in their favor that they were not keeping score!

Mat 25:40

WHATEVER YOU DID FOR ONE OF THE LEAST OF THESE BROTHERS OF MINE, YOU DID FOR ME: "Help the old and sick as much as you possibly can: especially those whom you think deserve it least, for they are likely to be the ones everyone neglects. Christ's command to do it is not because of their merit, but because it is the will of our Lord and a test of our love and obedience to Him. Helping those who are in need of help is far more important to Christ than catering to our own comforts and desires, though somehow the latter seems quite important to us at the moment. The flesh is very self-centered, and serving the flesh will never give us life. We shall be asked about this matter at the judgment seat. It may be rather a sticky question, and it would pay to have a good answer ready. Better yet: to have a good record ready" (GVG).

THESE BROTHERS OF MINE: They were all "one" in Christ: John 17:20; Gal 3:27-29; Heb 2:11.

YOU DID FOR ME: The Messiah whom they longed for was with them all along! Cp Mat 18:5,20: "And whoever welcomes a little child like this in my name welcomes me... For where two or three come together in my name, there am I with them."

Mat 25:41

Vv 41-45: One of Christ's parables was most explicit as to the grounds of rejection at his judgment. It is enlightening to note that the wicked were not rejected for holding some false doctrine. They were not rejected for failing to preach the Truth. They were not even rejected for neglecting to attend a specified number of ecclesial meetings. They were rejected because they ignored the simple, material needs of their brethren, and thereby they ignored Christ (Mat 25:41-45)!

ETERNAL FIRE: Eternal? Cp Jud 1:7 with Luk 17:29. The fire that destroyed Sodom was "eternal" in its effect, but not in its working. Cp also Mat 13:42; Mar 9:43-49.

The punishment for the wicked is death: Rom 5:12; 6:23; Rev 20:14. But the righteous will never truly die: Luk 20:36; Hos 13:14; Rev 21:4; Rom 6:9; Isa 25:8.

ANGELS: Not immortal "fallen angels" of God, but mortal "messengers" of the wicked one -- whoever that might be -- a slanderer and false accuser.

Mat 25:42

Vv 42,43: "I was hungry, and you formed a humanities group to discuss my hunger.

"I was imprisoned, and you crept off to your chapel and prayed for my release.

"I was naked, and in your mind you debate the morality of my appearance.

"I was sick, and you knelt and thanked God for your health.

"I was homeless, and you preached to me of the spiritual shelter of the love of God.

"I was lonely, and you left me alone to pray for me.

"You seem so holy, so close to God... but I am still very hungry -- and lonely -- and cold" (Anonymous).

Mat 25:44

Cp Saul's confident answer to Samuel: "I have carried out the LORD's instructions" (1Sa 15:13). Cp also Mat 7:22: "Many will say to me on that day, 'Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and in your name drive out demons and perform many miracles?' "

Mat 25:46

ETERNAL: Eternal? Cp Jud 1:7 with Luk 17:29. The fire that destroyed Sodom was "eternal" in its effect, but not in its working. Cp also Mat 13:42; Mar 9:43-49.

The punishment for the wicked is death: Rom 5:12; 6:23; Rev 20:14. But the righteous will never truly die: Luk 20:36; Hos 13:14; Rev 21:4; Rom 6:9; Isa 25:8.

PUNISHMENT: "Kolasis" = to curtail, to prune back, as a plant. Cp idea: Psa 37:9; Mal 4:1,3.

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