Professors, during the Lord's absence, are here presented as virgins, who
went out to meet the Bridegroom, and light Him to the house. In this
passage He is not the Bridegroom of the church. No others go to meet Him
for His marriage with the church in heaven. The bride does not appear in
this parable. Had she been introduced, it would have been Jerusalem on
earth. The assembly is not seen in these chapters as such.
It is here individual
[see note #70] responsibility during the absence of Christ.
That which characterised the faithful at this period was that they came out
from the world, from Judaism, from everything, even religion connected with
the world, to go and meet the coming Lord. The Jewish remnant, on the
contrary, wait for Him in the place where they are. If this expectation
were real, the characteristic of one governed by it would be the thought of
that which was necessary for the coming One-the light, the oil. Otherwise,
to be the companions of professors meanwhile, and to carry lamps with them,
would satisfy the heart. Nevertheless they all took a position; they go
out, they leave the house to go out and meet the Bridegroom. He tarries.
This also has taken place. They all fall asleep. The whole professing
church has lost the thought of the Lord's return-even the faithful who have
the Spirit. They must also have gone in again somewhere to sleep at ease-a
place of rest for the flesh. But at midnight, unexpectedly, the cry is
raised, "Behold, the bridegroom; go ye out to meet him." Alas! they needed
the same call as at first. They must again go out to meet Him. The virgins
rise, and trim their lamps. There is time enough between the midnight cry
and the Bridegroom's arrival to prove the condition of each. There were
some who had no oil in their vessels. Their lamps were going out.
[see note #71]
The wise had oil. It was impossible for them to share it with the others.
Those only who possessed it went in with the Bridegroom to take part in the
marriage. He refused to acknowledge the others. What business had they
there? The virgins were to give light with their lamps. They had not done
it. Why should they share the feast? They had failed in that which gave
this place. What title had they to be at the feast The virgins of the feast
were virgins who accompanied the Bridegroom. These had not done so. They
were not admitted. But even the faithful ones had forgotten the coming of
Christ. They fell asleep. But, at least, they possessed the essential thing
that corresponded to it. The grace of the Bridegroom causes the cry to be
raised which proclaims His arrival. It awakens them: they have oil in their
vessels; and the delay, which occasions the lamps of the unfaithful to go
out, gives the faithful time to be ready and at their place; and forgetful
as they may have been, they go in with the Bridegroom to the wedding
[see note #72]
We pass now from state of soul to service.
For in truth (v. 14) it is as a man who had gone away from his home-for the
Lord dwelt in Israel-and who commits his goods to his own servants, and
then departs. Here, we have the principles that characterise faithful
servants, or the contrary. It is not now the personal individual
expectation, and the possession of the oil, requisite for a place in the
Lord's glorious train; neither is it the public and general position of
those who were in the Master's service, characterised as position and as a
whole, and therefore represented by a single servant; it is individual
faithfulness in the service, as before in the expectation of the
Bridegroom. The Master on His return will reckon with each one. Now what
was their position? What was the principle that would produce faithfulness?
Observe, first of all, that it is not providential gifts, earthly
possessions, that are meant. These are not the "goods that Jesus committed
to His servants when He went away. They were gifts which fitted them to
labour in His service while He was absent. The Master was sovereign and
wise. He gave differently to each, and to each according to his capacity.
Each was fitted for the service in which he was employed, and the gifts
needed for its fulfilment were bestowed on him. Faithfulness to perform it
was the only thing in question. That which distinguished the faithful from
the unfaithful was confidence in their Master. They had sufficient
confidence in His well-known character, in His goodness, His love, to
labour without being authorised in any other manner than by their knowledge
of His personal character, and by the intelligence which that confidence
and that knowledge produced. Of what use to give them sums of money, except
to trade with them? Had He failed in wisdom when He bestowed these gifts?
The devotedness that flowed from knowledge of their Master counted upon the
love of Him whom they knew. They laboured, and they were rewarded. This is
the true character, and the spring, of service in the church. It is this
that the third servant lacked. He did not know his Master-he did not trust
in Him. He could not even do that which was consistent with his own
thoughts. He waited for some authorisation which would be a security
against the character his heart falsely gave his Master. Those who knew
their Master's character entered into His joy.
There is this difference between the parable here and that in Luke 19, that
in the latter each man receives one pound; his responsibility is the only
question. And consequently he who gained ten pounds is set over ten cities.
Here the sovereignty and the wisdom of God are concerned, and he who
labours is guided by the knowledge he has of his Master; and the counsels
of God in grace are accomplished. He who has the most receives yet more. At
the same time the reward is more general. He who has gained two talents,
and he who has gained five, enter alike into the joy of the Lord whom they
have served. They have known Him in His true character, they enter into His
full joy. The Lord grant it unto us!
There is more than this in the second parable-that of the virgins. It
refers more directly and more exclusively to the heavenly character of
Christians. It is not the assembly, properly so called, as a body; but the
faithful have gone out to meet the Bridegroom, who was returning to the
marriage. At the time of His return to execute judgment, the kingdom of
heaven will assume the character of persons come out from the world, and
still more from Judaism-from all that, in point of religion, belongs to the
flesh-from all established worldly form-to have to do with the coming Lord
alone, and to go out to meet Him. This was the character of the faithful
from the beginning, as having part in the kingdom of heaven, if they had
understood the position in which they were placed by the Lord's rejection.
The virgins, it is true, had gone in again; and this falsified their
character; but the midnight cry brought them back into their true place.
Therefore they go in with the Bridegroom, and there is no question of
judging and rewarding, but of being with Him. In the first parable, and in
that of Luke, the subject is His return to earth, and individual
recompense-the results, in the kingdom, of their conduct during the King's
[see note #73] Service and its results are not the subject in the parable
of the virgins. Those who have no oil do not go in at all. This is enough.
The others have blessing in common; they go in with the Bridegroom to the
marriage. There is no question of particular reward, nor of difference in
conduct between them. It was the heart's expectation, though grace had to
bring them back into it. Whatever the place of service might have been, the
reward was sure. This parable applies and is limited to the heavenly
portion of the kingdom as such. It is a similitude of the kingdom of
We may also remark here, that the delay of the Master is noticed in the
third parable likewise-"after a long time" (v. 19). Their faithfulness and
their constancy were thus put to the test. May the Lord give unto us to be
found faithful and devoted, now in the end of the ages, that He may say
unto us, "Good and faithful servants!" It is worthy of remark that in these
parables those who are in service, or go out at first, are the same as
those found at the end. The Lord would not hold out the supposition of
delay beyond "we who are alive and remain."
[see note #74]
Weeping and gnashing of teeth are his portion who has not known his Master,
who has outraged Him by the thoughts he entertained of His character.
In verse 31 the prophetic history is resumed from verse 31 of chapter 24.
There we saw the Son of man appear like a flash of lightning, and
afterwards gather together the remnant of Israel from the four corners of
the earth. But this is not all. If He thus appears in a manner as sudden as
unexpected, He also establishes His throne of judgment and glory on the
earth. If He destroys His enemies whom He finds in rebellion against
Himself, He also sits upon His throne to judge all nations. This is the
judgment on earth of the living. Four different parties are here found
together; the Lord, the Son of man Himself-the brethren-the sheep-and the
goats. I believe the brethren here to be Jews, His disciples as Jews, whom
He had employed as His messengers, to preach the kingdom during His
absence. The gospel of the kingdom was to be preached as a testimony to all
nations; and then the end of the age should come. At the time here spoken
of, this has been done. The result should be manifested before the throne
of the Son of man on earth.
He calls these messengers therefore His brethren. He had told them they
should be ill-treated: they had been so. Still there were some who had
received their testimony.
Now such was His affection for His faithful servants, so highly did He
value them, that He judged those to whom the testimony was sent according
to the manner in which they had received these messengers, whether well or
ill, as though it had been done to Himself. What an encouragement for His
witnesses during that time of trouble, tried as their faith should be in
service! At the same time it was justice morally to those who were judged;
for they had rejected the testimony by whomsoever it was rendered. We have
also the result of their conduct, both the one and the other. It is the
King-for this is the character Christ has now taken on earth-who pronounces
judgment; and He calls the sheep (those who had received the messengers,
and had sympathised with them in their afflictions and persecutions) to
inherit the kingdom prepared for them from the foundation of the world; for
such had been the purpose of God with respect to this earth. He had always
the kingdom in view. They were the blessed of His (the King's) Father. It
was not children who understood their own relation with their Father; but
they were the receivers of blessing from the Father of the King of this
world. Moreover they were to enter into everlasting life; for such was the
power, through grace, of the word which they had received into their heart.
Possessed of everlasting life, they should be blessed in a world that was
They who had despised the testimony and those that bore it, had despised
the King who sent them; they should go away into everlasting punishment.
Thus the whole effect of Christ's coming, with regard to the kingdom and to
His messengers during His absence, is unfolded: with respect to the Jews,
as far as verse 31 of chapter 24; with respect to His servants during His
absence, to the end of verse 30 of chapter 25, including the kingdom of
heaven in its present condition, and the heavenly rewards that shall be
given; and then, from verse 31 to the end of chapter 25, with respect to
the nations who shall be blessed on the earth at His return.