The View from the Mount of Olives – Study #5

(Jesus’ Great Prophetic Sermon)

Prophetic truth which focuses on the future is intended to impact our lives in the present. This is evidenced in teachings throughout Scripture, and is seen in the parables of Jesus as He concluded the Olivet Discourse.

Jesus answered the questions of His disciples about the coming Tribulation and His Second Coming. Then He gave six parables which encouraged His followers to live wisely with these prophetic truths in mind. The entire discourse is directed to the people of Israel. The word “you,” found throughout the discourse refers to Israel, as represented by one group or another within Israel, covering a large expanse of time.

  1. The Parable of the Ten Virgins – Matt. 25:1-13

This parable focuses on the Jews in the Tribulation period, right before Jesus comes and sets up His kingdom. The context establishes this (Matt. 24:3, 8, 14-15, 27, 30-33, 42, 44, 47, 51). The Church of Jesus Christ is not on the earth at this time, having been raptured out before the Tribulation began. The “then” found in the first verse (Matt. 25:1) connects this parable with the judgment which takes place at the Second Coming, given in the preceding parable.

  • The parable reflects the Jewish wedding customs of the time. As part of the custom, the bridegroom would go to the home of the bride to get her to bring her to his home where they and their guests would enjoy days of  celebration. Usually at night, this procession would form and the invited guests would join in the torchlight event. This forms the background for this parable.
  • It seems most consistent with the context to see the 10 virgins as representing the people of Israel who were waiting for Messiah to come. As the Tribulation proceeds along, Israel will be expecting their Messiah to come, as they witness the many signs of the Tribulation period. But as it was when Jesus came the first time, many will not be spiritually prepared. Jesus said that 5 of the virgins were “prudent” and 5 were foolish. The word “foolish” is moros from which we get our word “moron,” reveals that they were amazingly stupid in that they knew Messiah (the bridegroom) was near but did not prepare. The wisdom, or foolishness, of the virgins was seen in their preparedness. The 5 wise took oil for their lamps (after all, it was at night), but the foolish did not prepare and took no oil at all. 
  • It was quite late when the bridegroom appeared (close to midnight) and seemed to catch the girls off-guard. The wise, however, had their oil and got their lamps burning, but the foolish had no oil and remained in the dark. The foolish asked the wise for some oil but were turned down. This might seem callous and uncaring, but the point here is that one cannot prepare for someone else. Preparedness is an individual matter. Jesus does not say what the oil might represent, but most commentators note that oil is frequently symbolic of the Holy Spirit. And that fits the story well, as the foolish virgins are seen as unregenerate.
  • The 5 wise girls entered the wedding feast, but the foolish girls arrived late only to be denied entrance to the banquet. They were told that the Lord “did not know them,” which simply means that they had no personal relationship with Him. The wedding feast pictures the wonderful messianic kingdom which will be enjoyed by God’s redeemed people. The Olivet Discourse was given late Tuesday afternoon of the “passion week.” Earlier in that same day, Jesus had used the wedding feast as an illustration of His coming kingdom (Matt. 22:2). In that parable, He focused in on the invited guests (Israel) rejection of the invitation to come to the wedding banquet. These parables show that there will come a time when no preparations can be made. There are cut-off times for entrance into the Kingdom of Messiah.    
  1. The Parable of the Master and His Three Servants – Matt. 25:14-30

This parable begins using the word “for” (Matt. 25:14), which ties it to the preceding parable of the 10 virgins, and specifically to 25:13 where Jesus said: “be on the alert then, for you do not know the day or the hour.”

  • The 10 virgin’s parable says nothing about what the girls did during the time when the bridegroom was delayed. This parable, however, communicates the great need to be serving during the time of delay. Here there are three servants of a wealthy man who is going away for an extended period. He knows that his servants have different capacities, and so, he gives them different amounts to work with while he is away. One servant gets 5 talents, another gets 2 talents, and a third servant gets but 1 talent. A talent, whether silver or gold, was a significant amount of money, representing tens of thousands of dollars. The slaves represent Jews in the Tribulation, not believers in this church age, though there is clearly application for those of us in this church age.
  • It is said that “after a long time” the master returns to settle accounts with these three servants. There does seem to be a veiled suggestion that Jesus may be away for quite some time before He returns. Perhaps, the delay of the bridegroom is also a veiled reference to an extended period. In any case, it really has been a long time since Jesus came the first time.
  • When He returns, the servants will give an accounting for what they have done while He was away. Both the servant with the 5 talents and the servant with the 2 talents were diligent and faithful. Both doubled their talents and both received  identical rewards. They received (1) praise from the master for their hard work; (2) they were given greater privileges and responsibility—in the Master’s kingdom; and (3) they were invited to begin the experience of great joy in the days ahead. Joy is very clearly the dominant atmosphere of the kingdom of King Jesus (Heb. 1:9; 12:2; Isa. 35:10; 51:11; 61:7). These two servants would now experience a new and wonderful relationship with their master, and a unique level of joy.
  • The great issue in this parable is the third servant who received just 1 talent and buried it. His fate is to be cast into outer darkness where there will be terrible suffering. The third servant is not a believer. (Note Matthew’s use of these descriptions of suffering. Matt. 8:12; 13:42, 50; 22:13; 24:51; 25:30). It must be remembered that all Israelites were part of the Abrahamic Covenant. All Jews were descendants of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, and were in the Covenant. But being in the Covenant did not mean you were a believer who possessed eternal life. This was Jesus’ point to Nicodemus (John 3).  This third servant, and the second servant (in parable #3) were Jews who were in the Covenant but were unbelievers. They would be like the Jews at Jesus’ first coming who were unbelievers. 
  1. The Parable of the Sheep and the Goats – Matt. 25:31-46 — In this final parable, Jesus goes beyond the disciples’ questions and tells them what will happen on earth immediately after His return.
  • The statement that Jesus makes in Matt. 25:31 is of great importance since it unmistakably states when He will begin His messianic rule. He declares that when He comes in glory “then” He will sit on His throne. Ruling takes place when He comes in power and glory (Matt. 24:27, 30; 26:63-64; Dan. 7:13-14). He did not come in glory at His first coming, but that is what characterizes His Second Coming. Both amillennialism and postmillennialism have Jesus’ messianic rule beginning at His first coming. This verse is a powerful rebuttal to that position.
  • It is in connection with His occupying His glorious throne that the nations of the earth will appear before Him. The word “nations” never is used to refer to resurrected individuals and, therefore, looking at gentiles who are alive at the end of the Tribulation. (This judgment is not to be confused with the Great White Throne judgment of Revelation 20.) This judgment will determine who among the gentiles will enter the kingdom of Jesus and who will be sentenced to eternal punishment. 
  • There are three groups mentioned in connection with this judgment: (1) the sheep, (2) the goats, and (3) “my brethren”. The sheep are believers who are welcomed into the kingdom, and the goats are unbelievers who will go away into eternal fire (Matt. 25:41), which is the Lake of Fire (Rev. 14:11; 19:10; 20:4). Though there are several interpretations for “my brethren,” it is best in context to see these as the faithful Jewish remnant who worship and serve Messiah in the Tribulation period. The proof that the sheep are believers is the way they have cared for this godly Jewish remnant in the worst of times for them (Rev. 12:13-17). In the Second World war there were many righteous gentiles, like the Ten Boom family, who risked their lives to protect and care for Jewish people. This will be like that only much more intense. On the other hand, the goats revealed their true spiritual condition by their callous dealings with the people of Messiah Jesus.
  • The sheep (gentile believers) have an inheritance in the messianic kingdom (Isa. 56:3-8; Ezek. 47:22-23). Gentile salvation has always been part of God’s plan. God chose Abraham to be the one through whom Messiah would come. Gentiles would experience the “blessing of Abraham” (Gal. 3:14; Gen. 12:3; 18:18; 22:18; 28:14). And here Jesus declares that all this was “prepared for you from the foundation of the world (Matt. 25:34). Gentiles are part of Jesus’ inheritance (Psa. 2:8).
  • On the first day of Jesus’ kingdom, only believers will inhabit the kingdom. This will include O.T. saints, church age saints, and Tribulation saints. What a day that will be. Even so, come Lord Jesus.

These great prophetic truths, which remind us that our best days are ahead of us, are to impact the way we live right now. Be prepared and be serving.