NT Eschatology—Gospels Part 06
For the last several posts, we have been going through the Olivet Discourse. We’ve seen that Jesus’ entire “sermon” has actually been an answer to the disciples’ question regarding the fall of the Temple. In a nutshell, the fall of Jerusalem, including the Temple, would happen within their generation. They and their contemporaries would witness its destruction. Furthermore, the Fall of Jerusalem would be a “world shattering” event similar to the fall of Egypt or Babylon or the flood of Noah. Jesus gave them several “signs” that would point to the coming judgment, though the exact moment was unknown. Therefore, they must always be on the lookout so they could escape and not be caught up in it. People would be swept away by Yahweh’s judgment on the city but the outcome would be nothing less than the fulfillment of Daniel 7. The “Human One” would be vindicated and all power and authority would be stripped from the rogue powers and given to him. When it was all said and done, the cosmos would have a new Sovereign.
In this concluding look at our background information, we’ll examine, quite briefly, the stories Jesus told at the end of Matthew 24 and the first two-thirds of Matthew 25.
“Who then are the faithful and wise servants whom their master puts in charge of giving food at the right time to those who live in his house? Happy are those servants whom the master finds fulfilling their responsibilities when he comes. I assure you that he’ll put them in charge of all his possessions. But suppose those bad servants should say to themselves, ‘My master won’t come until later.’ And suppose they began to beat their fellow servants and to eat and drink with the drunks? The master of those servants will come on a day when they aren’t expecting him, at a time they couldn’t predict. He’ll cut them in pieces and put them in a place with the hypocrites. People there will be weeping and grinding their teeth.
The point I want to make here is one of delay. Most people see in the story a delay of the “Second Coming” of Jesus. They have tied it to the previous sections about the (supposed) re-establishment of Israel, the unknown time of Jesus’ return, the (so-called) rapture of the church, the dissolving cosmos, etc. They see in this story that the “servant” is a general term meaning the followers of Jesus. And, clearly, Jesus’ “Second Coming” has been delayed for a long time. This story is about being faithful during that delay.
And I agree with most of that.
However, this isn’t about an unknown time with unknown servants. The story clearly talks about the “master” returning to the “servant” he left. This isn’t a different servant separated by thousands of years. No. It’s the same servant, the exact person, that the master left in charge. If the master returns and finds that servant acting badly, that servant will be judged like the “hypocrites.” Clearly, Jesus is the “master” in the story but the “servant” isn’t a general term for all followers of Christ throughout the ages. The “servant” in the story is a general term for the disciples Jesus was talking to. In other words, Jesus’ story is about leaving his disciples and returning to them. He is telling them that there would be a delay. But, they could be certain, his return and judgment would happen in their generation.
The next two stories follow the same theme. The story of the “Ten Bridesmaids” is the story about a “groom” leaving them for a while and how five prepare for his return and five think they have plenty of time to prepare. However, the groom is away for a long time and the five unprepared bridesmaids get lazy. But, the groom returns and finds half of them unprepared and informs them that they’re not fit to be his brides. Notice again, while there was a long delay, the groom returned to the bridesmaids he left.
The story of the “Three Servants” is more specific but the message is the same. A man goes away on a trip. But before he goes, he gives three servants some money according to their abilities. While he’s away, two servants invest the money and make a profit for the man but the third servant buries it. “After a long time” the man returns and wants the servants to give an account of what they did with the money. The first two are rewarded but the third is punished. Once more we see the point of the story. While the man was gone for a “long time,” he returned to the servants he left.
Therefore, all three of these stories are about the time between Jesus’ ascension and the fall of Jerusalem roughly forty years later (as an interesting aside, forty years equaled one generation, see Hebrews 3). In other words, Jesus was saying that he would return to the people he left.
But what about the last part of Matthew 25? The part called “The Final Judgment?”
That’s a good question. And I think it’s best to answer it next time. The post would be too long to answer it here, so, we, too, will be delayed. Click here for the next post in this series.
In the Love of the Three in One,
Br. Jack+, LC