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Matthew 24:32-25:46 Listen
In this passage, we see the following in Jesus' ministry:
A continuation of the Olivet discourse
A few days before Jesus was crucified, he was on Mount Olivet overlooking Jerusalem teaching his disciples. Jesus was asked to elaborate on prophetic events in Matthew 24:1-3 (also Mark 13:1-4 and Luke 21-5-7). These passages are a continuation of those comments. Click here to see the notes on Jesus' teaching in Matthew 24:1-31, Mark 13:1-37 and Luke 21:5-28. Jesus teaches in these passages on the events that will take place within the period we know as the tribulation and the millennium to follow. Find the chart below to acquire an overview of these prophetic periods.
The closing days of the seven-year tribulation (Matthew 24:32-35; Mark 13:28-31; Luke 21:29-33)
|32 Now learn a parable of the fig tree; When his branch is yet tender, and putteth forth leaves, ye know that summer is nigh:
33 So likewise ye, when ye shall see all these things, know that it is near, even at the doors.
34 Verily I say unto you, This generation shall not pass, till all these things be fulfilled.
35 Heaven and earth shall pass away, but my words shall not pass away.
|28 Now learn a parable of the fig tree; When her branch is yet tender, and putteth forth leaves, ye know that summer is near:
29 So ye in like manner, when ye shall see these things come to pass, know that it is nigh, even at the doors.
30 Verily I say unto you, that this generation shall not pass, till all these things be done.
31 Heaven and earth shall pass away: but my words shall not pass away.
|29 And he spake to them a parable; Behold the fig tree, and all the trees;
30 When they now shoot forth, ye see and know of your own selves that summer is now nigh at hand.
31 So likewise ye, when ye see these things come to pass, know ye that the kingdom of God is nigh at hand.
32 Verily I say unto you, This generation shall not pass away, till all be fulfilled.
33 Heaven and earth shall pass away: but my words shall not pass away.
Leading up to this passage, we have in view the closing days of the tribulation period. These cataclysmic events seem to correspond with the vial judgments of Revelation 16 (see notes). Then an interesting and often misunderstood analogy is given by Jesus in Matthew 24:32-34, Mark 13:28-30 and Luke 21:29-32. The analogy goes like this: When leaves appear on the trees, everybody knows that to be a sign that summer is near. Likewise, when the events just outlined in the previous verses of these chapters are viewed, the return of Jesus is near. The generation of people who see the events of the tribulation will also see the second coming of Christ.
Many good teachers have read something more into this analogy of Matthew 24:32-34, Mark 13:28-30 and Luke 21:29-32. They maintain that the fig tree here is a metaphor representing Israel. The teaching they promote is that the generation of people who saw Israel shoot forth her leaves (become a nation in 1948) will be the generation who will see the second coming of Christ. That misunderstanding of the passage has led Christians to believe that the return of Jesus was to take place in 1978 (30 years from Israel's birth), 1988 (40 years) and again in 1998 (50 years). For those who still maintain that understanding of the "fig tree prophecy," most have now concluded that it really must mean that the generation who saw that event will still be alive when the second coming of Jesus takes place. With life expectancies now in the latter 70s, that makes that prophetic interpretation palatable until 2030 or so. Besides their lack of clarity (for the most part) between the rapture and the actual return of Jesus Christ at the end of the tribulation, there are some scriptural difficulties with this interpretation of Jesus' parable, but one particular scriptural point voids the interpretation altogether. That difficulty lies in the parallel passage to Matthew 24 found in Luke 21. We'll discuss that in a moment.
However, one well-known teacher of prophecy maintained that the "shooting forth of the leaves" represents the land acquisition experienced by Israel as a result of the 1967 war rather than Israel's birth as a nation. He had insisted that the generation of people who witnessed the recapture of Jerusalem by the Jews in the 1967 six-day war will be the generation who will see the return of Christ rather than the generation having seen Israel declare their independence as a nation in 1948. That prediction placed the second coming of Jesus Christ in 2018 and the rapture in 2011. His "generation" was derived by divinding the number of generations (42) in Matthew 1:17 (see notes) into the number of years representing those generations. That computation yielded 51.4 years per generation. By adding 51 to 1967, he computed 2018 for the second coming. However, that prediction was issued back in 2006, and as time has neared to 2011, he has backed off of that hypothesis.
It is true - Jesus does use the fig tree to represent Israel in Luke 13:1-9 (see notes) and perhaps again in Matthew 21:18-22/Mark 11:20-26 (see notes). However, it does not appear that Jesus is using the fig tree as a metaphor for Israel here. In my mind, it over complicates this passage to view it as anything more than a simple analogy to nature. A comparison of the three accounts of Jesus' words demonstrates the reason I am convinced that Jesus is giving a simple analogy rather than a complicated metaphor. You'll see it by comparing Matthew 24:32 with Luke 21:29. Matthew writes "Now learn a parable of the fig tree." However, Luke's account expands the wording as follows in verse 29, "Behold the fig tree, and all the trees." In my thinking, the inclusion of the phrase "all the trees" eliminates the possibility that there is a hidden meaning here with the fig tree being a metaphor for Israel. Because, if the fig tree is Israel, then all the other trees must be a representation of all the other nations. Their national births took place at varying times in history. Luke's account of this teaching by Jesus seems to confirm that Jesus was giving a simple analogy to nature as previously stated.
|36 But of that day and hour knoweth no man, no, not the angels of heaven, but my Father only.
37 But as the days of Noe were, so shall also the coming of the Son of man be.
38 For as in the days that were before the flood they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the day that Noe entered into the ark,
39 And knew not until the flood came, and took them all away; so shall also the coming of the Son of man be.
40 Then shall two be in the field; the one shall be taken, and the other left.
41 Two women shall be grinding at the mill; the one shall be taken, and the other left.
42 Watch therefore: for ye know not what hour your Lord doth come.
43 But know this, that if the goodman of the house had known in what watch the thief would come, he would have watched, and would not have suffered his house to be broken up.
44 Therefore be ye also ready: for in such an hour as ye think not the Son of man cometh.
45 Who then is a faithful and wise servant, whom his lord hath made ruler over his household, to give them meat in due season?
46 Blessed is that servant, whom his lord when he cometh shall find so doing.
47 Verily I say unto you, That he shall make him ruler over all his goods.
48 But and if that evil servant shall say in his heart, My lord delayeth his coming;
49 And shall begin to smite his fellowservants, and to eat and drink with the drunken;
50 The lord of that servant shall come in a day when he looketh not for him, and in an hour that he is not aware of,
51 And shall cut him asunder, and appoint him his portion with the hypocrites: there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth.
|32 But of that day and that hour knoweth no man, no, not the angels which are in heaven, neither the Son, but the Father.
33 Take ye heed, watch and pray: for ye know not when the time is.
34 For the Son of man is as a man taking a far journey, who left his house, and gave authority to his servants, and to every man his work, and commanded the porter to watch.
35 Watch ye therefore: for ye know not when the master of the house cometh, at even, or at midnight, or at the cockcrowing, or in the morning:
36 Lest coming suddenly he find you sleeping.
37 And what I say unto you I say unto all, Watch.
|34 And take heed to yourselves, lest at any time your hearts be overcharged with surfeiting, and drunkenness, and cares of this life, and so that day come upon you unawares.
35 For as a snare shall it come on all them that dwell on the face of the whole earth.
36 Watch ye therefore, and pray always, that ye may be accounted worthy to escape all these things that shall come to pass, and to stand before the Son of man.
Both Mark and Luke close out their account of this discourse by Jesus with less detail than Matthew. Mark and Luke sum up the return of Jesus to establish His kingdom on earth at the end of the tribulation, rather simply stating the importance to keep a watch. Matthew includes the remainder of the Olivet discourse - specifics regarding how this second return of Christ will take place.
Matthew begins his expanded coverage of Jesus' remarks with the same analogy Luke recorded in Luke 17:26-27 (see notes), that of Noah. In the Noahic scenario, who left the earth, and who stayed behind? Answer: The wicked were swept away by the flood leaving the righteous family of Noah remaining alone on the earth to repopulate. This disappearance is NOT the rapture of the church. Here are two reasons why we know this is not the rapture. (1) Matthew 24 is a chronological account of the seven-year tribulation period, and this event takes place at the end of the chapter. (2) In this analogy, the wicked disappear, and that is exactly what will happen at the end of the tribulation - the wicked are destroyed in Revelation 19:11-21 (see notes), and the righteous remain on earth to populate the millennium. The rapture is NOT the second coming of Christ. According to I Thessalonians 4:13-18 (see notes) and I Corinthians 15:51-53, (see notes), Jesus appears in the clouds at the rapture, and Believers meet him in the air. There is no return of Jesus to earth at that time. Jesus does return to earth at the end of the tribulation when the wicked are destroyed off the earth and the righteous remain for the millennium.
So, what about the two in the field and the two grinding where one is taken and one is left (Matthew 24:40-41). It is obvious that the wicked one is taken away to judgment here and that the righteous one is left for the millennium, just as Noah and his family were left to repopulate the earth.
Jesus then speaks a parable with another analogy to confirm this wicked-disappearance hypothesis - the faithful servant in Matthew 24:45-51 (also briefly in Mark 13:34-35). In this parable, the faithful servant lives and the unfaithful servant dies. There simply can be no serious dispute that this is referencing the end of the tribulation and not the rapture (seven years earlier). The millennium on earth begins with only righteous people coming out of the tribulation period.
A continuation of the Olivet Discourse (Matthew 25)
This Olivet Discourse that Jesus began back at the beginning of Matthew 24 (see notes) continues into chapter 25. While Mark and Luke cover the Olivet Discourse as well (Mark 13, Luke 21), neither do so as comprehensively as Matthew. Mark and Luke chronologically cover the events of the Tribulation all the way down to the end when Jesus returns to earth as Messiah. Matthew 25 continues that chronological order with additional details regarding the Second Coming of Jesus Christ at the end of the Tribulation. Matthew 25 cannot be properly understood outside of that context.
|1 Then shall the kingdom of heaven be likened unto ten virgins, which took their lamps, and went forth to meet the bridegroom.
2 And five of them were wise, and five were foolish.
3 They that were foolish took their lamps, and took no oil with them:
4 But the wise took oil in their vessels with their lamps.
5 While the bridegroom tarried, they all slumbered and slept.
6 And at midnight there was a cry made, Behold, the bridegroom cometh; go ye out to meet him.
7 Then all those virgins arose, and trimmed their lamps.
8 And the foolish said unto the wise, Give us of your oil; for our lamps are gone out.
9 But the wise answered, saying, Not so; lest there be not enough for us and you: but go ye rather to them that sell, and buy for yourselves.
10 And while they went to buy, the bridegroom came; and they that were ready went in with him to the marriage: and the door was shut.
11 Afterward came also the other virgins, saying, Lord, Lord, open to us.
12 But he answered and said, Verily I say unto you, I know you not.
13 Watch therefore, for ye know neither the day nor the hour wherein the Son of man cometh.
Here's the culmination of the theme that Jesus has been introducing throughout his ministry - his return to establish his earthly rule as Messiah over the whole earth. Don't forget that the "Kingdom of Heaven" is the name given by Jesus to this period of earthly rule by the Messiah that had been prophesied in the Old Testament. Click here to read the introduction to Matthew 5 for a greater understanding of the term Kingdom of Heaven/God. In these verses Jesus gives a parable that compares the entry into this period by people at the end of the Tribulation to people entering into a wedding feast. As is the case with all of Jesus' parables, one must figure out who the characters are intended to represent for the parable to be meaningful. Throughout the gospels we have seen that the bad people or the foolish people in Jesus' parables are usually intended to be representations of the Jewish leaders of the day (Pharisees, Sadducees, Scribes). This passage continues in that tradition.
The scenario of this parable then is as follows:
Here's the lesson of verses 1-13. Despite the clear indications of the Second Coming of the Messiah by the fulfillment of the events of Matthew 24 (Tribulation events), many Jews who say they are looking for the coming of the Messiah will be completely unprepared when the event actually takes place. These "foolish virgins" will reject Jesus as the Messiah and thus be the equivalent of those at the end of Matthew 24 who are taken away to judgment (punishment) at the conclusion of the Tribulation (see above). Those "wise virgins" will be those who enter into the "Kingdom of Heaven" pictured in this parable as a wedding feast. We know these people as those who survive the Tribulation and enter into what we now know to be the Millennium.
|14 For the kingdom of heaven is as a man travelling into a far country, who called his own servants, and delivered unto them his goods.
15 And unto one he gave five talents, to another two, and to another one; to every man according to his several ability; and straightway took his journey.
16 Then he that had received the five talents went and traded with the same, and made them other five talents.
17 And likewise he that had received two, he also gained other two.
18 But he that had received one went and digged in the earth, and hid his lords money.
19 After a long time the lord of those servants cometh, and reckoneth with them.
20 And so he that had received five talents came and brought other five talents, saying, Lord, thou deliveredst unto me five talents: behold, I have gained beside them five talents more.
21 His lord said unto him, Well done, thou good and faithful servant: thou hast been faithful over a few things, I will make thee ruler over many things: enter thou into the joy of thy lord.
22 He also that had received two talents came and said, Lord, thou deliveredst unto me two talents: behold, I have gained two other talents beside them.
23 His lord said unto him, Well done, good and faithful servant; thou hast been faithful over a few things, I will make thee ruler over many things: enter thou into the joy of thy lord.
24 Then he which had received the one talent came and said, Lord, I knew thee that thou art an hard man, reaping where thou hast not sown, and gathering where thou hast not strawed:
25 And I was afraid, and went and hid thy talent in the earth: lo, there thou hast that is thine.
26 His lord answered and said unto him, Thou wicked and slothful servant, thou knewest that I reap where I sowed not, and gather where I have not strawed:
27 Thou oughtest therefore to have put my money to the exchangers, and then at my coming I should have received mine own with usury.
28 Take therefore the talent from him, and give it unto him which hath ten talents.
29 For unto every one that hath shall be given, and he shall have abundance: but from him that hath not shall be taken away even that which he hath.
30 And cast ye the unprofitable servant into outer darkness: there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth.
The parable given in this passage is intended to further identify the activities of those who are "wise" during the period leading up to the Second Coming of Jesus as opposed to those who are unwise. Since Jesus gives us a glimpse of the intensity of this period in Matthew 24, this parable is intended to motivate "Kingdom of Heaven" appropriate activity during this period. Jesus indicates that the servant who anticipates the return of his master during this period is the equivalent of the "wise virgins" who had their lamps trimmed and ready to go. These "faithful servants" are those who properly prepare during the Tribulation for the return of Jesus the Messiah at end of the Tribulation. Those "wicked and slothful servants" are those Jews who, despite the indicators of the time, do not anticipate nor prepare during the Tribulation period for the Second Coming of Jesus. They are faithless. Therefore, this passage is appropriately taught by most fundamental Bible teachers as the basis for judgment of the Jews at the end of the Tribulation period. This understanding is strengthened by verse 32 (see below) where the Greek word "ethnos" is used and translated "nations" in the KJV. The word "ethnos" is used frequently in the New Testament to differentiate between Jewish and non-Jewish people. "Ethnos" means non-Jewish and is often translated "Gentile(s)."
As for the specifics of this parable, keep in mind that the servants are charged with increasing their master's wealth while he is away. The servant who declines to do so is "wicked." Why is he wicked? Jesus implies that perhaps the "wicked" servant did not really believe his master would return. He did no work for his master while he was away. He literally rejected the mission assigned to him. We've seen this parable before with a few minor variations back in Luke 19:11-28 (see notes). There, the audience was different, but the implications of wicked people rejecting the Messiah are still integral components of that message.
|31 When the Son of man shall come in his glory, and all the holy angels with him, then shall he sit upon the throne of his glory:
32 And before him shall be gathered all nations: and he shall separate them one from another, as a shepherd divideth his sheep from the goats:
33 And he shall set the sheep on his right hand, but the goats on the left.
34 Then shall the King say unto them on his right hand, Come, ye blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world:
35 For I was an hungred, and ye gave me meat: I was thirsty, and ye gave me drink: I was a stranger, and ye took me in:
36 Naked, and ye clothed me: I was sick, and ye visited me: I was in prison, and ye came unto me.
37 Then shall the righteous answer him, saying, Lord, when saw we thee an hungred, and fed thee? or thirsty, and gave thee drink?
38 When saw we thee a stranger, and took thee in? or naked, and clothed thee?
39 Or when saw we thee sick, or in prison, and came unto thee?
40 And the King shall answer and say unto them, Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me.
41 Then shall he say also unto them on the left hand, Depart from me, ye cursed, into everlasting fire, prepared for the devil and his angels:
42 For I was an hungred, and ye gave me no meat: I was thirsty, and ye gave me no drink:
43 I was a stranger, and ye took me not in: naked, and ye clothed me not: sick, and in prison, and ye visited me not.
44 Then shall they also answer him, saying, Lord, when saw we thee an hungred, or athirst, or a stranger, or naked, or sick, or in prison, and did not minister unto thee?
45 Then shall he answer them, saying, Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye did it not to one of the least of these, ye did it not to me.
46 And these shall go away into everlasting punishment: but the righteous into life eternal.
I'm confident that these verses are given to explain the actions of faith during the Tribulation period leading up to the Second Coming of Jesus by those who are not Jews. That differentiation is made clear by the Greek usage of the word "ethnos" (translated "nations" in the KJV) in verse 32. That word is used frequently in the New Testament to differentiate between Jews and non-Jews, very often being translated "Gentile(s)." Here, the concept is that before him shall be gathered all nations [non-Jewish people who are alive at the end of the tribulation]. Verse 31 clearly gives us the time frame and setting for this judgment - at the conclusion of the Tribulation to determine who enters into the millennium. Most fundamental Bible teachers do agree that this "judgment of the nations" is a judgment of non-Jews at the end of the tribulation. Here we have the "sheep" as representations of the righteous and "goats" as representations of the "unrighteous" during the period of Tribulation. So...how does a non Jew express his faith in Jesus during the period of Tribulation leading up to the Second Coming of Jesus? The "faithful" Gentiles (non Jews) of the Tribulation will express their faith in Jesus Christ by ministering to the needs of those about the business of evangelizing the world. Those who are deemed at the end of the Tribulation to be "faithful" are rewarded in verse 34, "Then shall the King say unto them on his right hand, Come, ye blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world:" Those "goats" on the left who are deemed to have been "unfaithful" (faithless) during this period of Tribulation have their reward in verse 41, "Then shall he say also unto them on the left hand, Depart from me, ye cursed, into everlasting fire, prepared for the devil and his angels:" The final reality of this judgment is found in Matthew 25:46, "And these shall go away into everlasting punishment: but the righteous into life eternal."
Incidentally, these who reject the the Gospel message in this passage are also described in Matthew 22:11-14 (see notes). In that passage they are portrayed as a man who attempts to sneak into the wedding (the millennium), but is banished instead.
Important Note about the Olivet Discourse
Matthew 24-25, Mark 13 and Luke 21 establish the framework upon which John's Revelation is based. Matthew 24, Mark 13 and Luke 21 outline the events of Revelation 6-19. Matthew 25 corresponds to the same time frame as Revelation 20. To directly apply these passages outside of their intended prophetic periods is to do an injustice to sound Bible teaching. The people and events of these passages are to be understood as having their place in the future of the earth leading up to the Second Coming of Jesus.