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29. Three Parables on Judgment at the Second Coming

 

Chapter 29

Three Parables on Judgment by “More” at the Second Coming

Matthew 24:45 – 25:30

by Pastor Eric Chang

November 22, 1981

Eight common points shared by three parables

Today, we will look at the whole section from Matthew 24:45-25:30, and we will review the three main passages in the Lord Jesus’ teaching that we have studied so far. Now this consists of three main sections, and we are not going to read this whole passage because we have been studying each of these passages before. The first is a parable, if it can be called a parable, or the teaching concerning the good and the wicked servant in Matthew 24:45-51. The second concerns the Parable of the Ten Virgins, and the third is the Parable of the Pounds.

We have studied all three passages, and now I want to draw out some main principles of the Lord Jesus’ teaching that we have not touched upon so far. These three passages have the following main points in common, and yet each one of these passages has its own character.

1. The Master or the Bridegroom will return

The first is that in each passage, the master or the bridegroom, as the case may be, is away and will return.

2. It is Christians who await Jesus’ return

The second is that all three passages are speaking to Christians or disciples, not to unbelievers. It is the Christians who await the Lord Jesus’ return not non-Christians.

3. The Lord Jesus’ return will not be soon

The third important point is that in each case, a delay in the master’s return is indicated. In other words, it would be some considerable time before his return. In fact, in Matthew 25:19, it is specifically stated that this would be a long delay: “Now after a long time, the master of those servants came and settled accounts with them.” This point is very essential for understanding the Lord Jesus’ teaching concerning the last things, or eschatology as it is called in theology. Contrary to much of the teaching we hear, the Lord Jesus did not teach that his return would be soon. It would be unexpected, but not soon. I am not at all clear where the idea came from that the Lord Jesus taught that his return would be soon. The word “delay” occurs in the first two passages (Mt. 24:48, 25:5), and as I specifically pointed out, the last passage says that it would be “a long time” (Mt. 25:19) before his return.

Now at this present time, the return of the Lord Jesus is close. After all, two thousand years have passed, but at that time it was not close. The Lord Jesus said there would be a long time. It is in the light of this kind of explicit statement of the Lord Jesus that we must understand other passages such as Mark 9:1.

And he said to them, “Truly, I say to you, there are some standing here who will not taste death until they see the kingdom of God after it has come with power.”

4. Conduct is the deciding factor at the Judgment

The fourth is that in each of the three passages, conduct is the deciding factor at Judgment for Christians, whether they are considered to be faithful or wicked as in the first parable; wise or foolish as in the second parable; or whether they will enter into the joy of the Lord or be cast out as in the third parable. The Lord Jesus is saying that whether you will enter into the joy of the Lord, or whether you will be literally expelled, thrown out, depends on the quality of your conduct. A fundamental Biblical fact denied by no one is that judgment is always based on works, on conduct.

5. Faithfulness of conduct is pictured as the “extra”, the “more”

The fifth thing they have in common is that this faithfulness is pictured as something extra. The extra oil that is brought along by the wise virgins, the more talents that are earned by the faithful servants, this extra or more, which is produced by conduct, is a very important element, and has to do with what happens in terms of salvation.

6. The Judgment takes place when the Lord Jesus returns

The sixth point that they have in common is that in each case, the Judgment takes place when the master returns. When the Lord Jesus comes again, whether you are very keen to meet him or not, will depend upon the sort of life you are living now. If your life is one that cannot be described as light but darkness, you will not want to meet him. And I am not surprised that many Christians are not too keen to see him too soon.

7. The faithful are richly rewarded

The seventh thing that they have in common is that in each case, the faithful are indeed richly rewarded. In Matthew 24:47, the master will set the faithful over all his possessions. That means the master will have total confidence in this servant who has proved worthy, who has been tried and found faithful, and will put him in charge of all his possessions as a way of saying that “I entrust anything I have to you. I have such complete confidence in you.”

In terms of reward, in the Parable of the Pounds in Luke 19:12f, the servant who brought back ten pounds is made to rule over ten cities; the servant who brought back five pounds is made ruler of five cities. So in proportion as he proves his faithfulness, he will be put in charge of some part of God’s administration in the kingdom of God. This point is very important.

And there is this parallel in the rewards too, that is, like the virgins who entered into the feast (Mt. 25:10), so also the faithful servant in the Parable of the Talents, entered into the joy of his master (Mt. 25:21, 23). In both cases, it is the same Greek word for “enter.” It is a really wonderful thought to think that through the faithfulness of our conduct, you and I could give joy to Christ and to God! You will share in his joy because you have given him joy.

8. The unfaithful servant is totally destroyed: “cut in pieces”

The eighth and last point which these three sections of the Lord Jesus’ teaching have in common is that in each case also, the unfaithful servant is not just punished, but severely punished.

You will notice that I did not expound in any detail Matthew 24:45 onwards because that teaching in that section is fully absorbed in the other parables. It serves as an introduction to the two following parables.

If you have a Revised Standard Version Bible (RSV), look at the footnote of Matthew 24:51, and it tells you that the word literally means “to cut in pieces.” The unfaithful servant will be cut in pieces literally speaking. Metaphorically speaking, this means total destruction. Since the servant is described as “wicked,” he will be totally destroyed. He will be put together with the hypocrites, and the hypocrites are put in hell where there is the furnace of fire. And there will be weeping and gnash­ing of teeth expressing the bitterness of remorse, a sentiment that only those who fail and fail badly will fully understand.

Why does the God of love want to have a hell in His creation? Why is there this place of destruction? The simple reason is this: if there is to be a new heaven and a new earth in which righteousness and only righteous­ness dwells, as Peter says in 2 Peter 3:13, then there must be a place or a way to destroy all unrighteousness. Hell is the place where all wickedness and unrighteousness is destroyed and eliminated. That is what hell is for.

I. Judgment and being cast out has to do with Christians

Today, I would like to draw three main principles out of this section, Matthew 24:45-25:30. Note that those who are destroyed, in each case, are the servants of the master! Please notice, those who are destroyed in hell are Christians, not non-Christians. That is quite a shock, isn’t it? We tend to think that non-Christians are going to be consigned to hell. But what is our shock to discover that in fact, every time the Lord Jesus speaks about hell, he is talking about servants—Christians! And so bad is the shock that we almost cannot swallow it. In fact, many of us have been brought up in churches to believe that it is all non-Christians who go to hell, and no Christian goes to hell. This is a big mistake! That is the place where many of us have had to adjust our thinking to the teaching of the Lord Jesus. It is Christians who fail, who are unfaithful, who live in sin. In the teaching of the Lord Jesus, it is the Christians who go to hell. Can you stand that teaching? It is hard to swallow, isn’t it?

No wonder there is a whole “conspiracy” in the church—if I may use the word conspiracy—to throw out this teaching of the Lord Jesus! No wonder the preachers today want to distort this teaching of the Lord Jesus! It is because they cannot stand it. They don’t want to know or listen to this. But I say to you, you and I, we are going to have to listen to this if we want to listen to the words of the Lord Jesus. You don’t like it, I don’t like it, but he said it. And there is no way we can get around it except by misinterpretation. Let everyone who listens to my preaching today, know that what I speak is the truth. And no one, but no one, will dare to contend against me that this is not true. Every time the Lord Jesus speaks of casting out, of weeping and gnashing of teeth, of hell, look at it for yourself, and see who he is talking about, then you will begin to see how hard it is to take this shock. It is the sons of the kingdom who will be thrown out! This is the first point: There is a vital element in the teaching of the Lord Jesus, repeated again, and again, and again, that it is the unfaithful sons of the kingdom who will be cast out.

Before you begin to feel complacent and think, “Aha, I’m a Christian, I’m going to heaven! All the non-Christians go to hell!” You are wrong! It does not say so in the Lord Jesus’ teaching. It is the Christians who are going to answer to God: “To whom more is given, more is required.” (Lk. 12:48) The Christian will be judged more severely than the non-Christian. Understand well that the Christian will have a more severe judgment, because you have greater privileges. If you don’t want privileges, you don’t have responsibilities. If you want privileges, you must also have responsibilities.

It is true even in the world that the higher you go, the more responsibility you have. If you are the boss of the department, you are the one who answers for everything that goes on in the department. You cannot pass the blame to your subordinates. You have to answer for it. If you are an officer, you have to answer for what your soldiers do under your command. You cannot say, “Well, it’s not my responsibility. He did it.” You are the officer. You will stand trial for what he did, because he is under your command. That is the way it is. And the higher you go, the more it is like this. That is why in war, when the enemy generals are captured, they are the ones who end up getting executed, because of the responsibility for crime. Look at the German officers and war crime. One after the other the high-ranking officers were either imprisoned for life or executed, because it was regarded that they, being high up were the ones who have to answer. The higher the privilege, the more severe the judgment. This is absolutely the case in the Lord Jesus’ teaching. This is the first point I would like you to clearly grasp.

“Weeping and gnashing of teeth”: deep regret and true repentance?

We are not saying that no non-Christian will go to hell. What we are saying is, in the Lord Jesus’ teaching, the warnings about hell are directed to religious people, and particularly to the people who think that they are the people of God. Grasp that very well. But as I have said, many Christians and pastors find this so distasteful that they are prepared even to indulge in gross misinterpretation. I warn you that there is gross misinterpretation.

Let me give you an example, and I am sorry to have to give examples. Sometimes, I have to name names, not because he is the only person who does it, but he is typical of people who do this kind of thing. And it gives me no pleasure to mention names, but when you read those comment­aries, you will see these things for yourself.

What does “weeping and gnashing of teeth” mean? Every Bible commentator knows what it means. It means the remorse a person feels when he has been rejected by God, and has lost the opportunity of salvation. But what does our brother Watchman Nee say? I could hardly believe my eyes when I looked at his commentary! He says that “weeping and gnashing of teeth” means deep regret and true repentance. Oh! Now I would say that is misinterpretation of Scripture at its worst! I am sorry to mention names, but there comes a time when the truth has to be said. No one who seriously studies the Scripture can say that “weeping and gnashing of teeth” means true repentance! I could not believe my eyes!

But why do people like Watchman Nee say this kind of thing and grossly misinterpret the Scripture? Because they cannot stomach the Lord Jesus’ teaching on this point. It cannot be that Christians will go to hell. There is no doubt that these are servants who await their master’s return, and Watchman Nee does not deny that this refers to Christians. But will there be deep regret and true repentance because these Christians are to be sent to the place where hypocrites go—to hell, the furnace of fire, where they will be cut in pieces, and be totally destroyed? What are we talking about? This is unbelievable! Brothers and sisters, are we prepared to distort the Scriptures to that extent, to escape the power of His Word, because we cannot stand it? People twist the Scriptures because they cannot face what the Lord is really saying. They say, “He can’t mean this! It’s not possible!” Unfortunately, every authority in New Testament exegesis will tell you that is exactly what “weeping and gnashing of teeth” means. It means the spirit of desperation, remorse, bitterness, anger, of being cast into hell to total destruction.

Cast-out Christians were never Christians in the first place?

I must stress this again, for your own eternal welfare, this is a vital element in the Lord Jesus’ teaching, not only in this passage that we are looking at today, but throughout his teaching, that those who are cast out, are sons of the kingdom.

And let nobody say, as some people who teach the “Once saved always saved” doctrine say, that the person who gets lost was never saved in the first place. That is again, Scripture-twisting in the most unaccept­able manner. Can you say that he was never truly a servant because he was unfaithful, and therefore sentenced to destruction? Of course, he was truly a servant. That he was not a faithful servant does not mean that he was not a true servant. What is a false servant? A servant is a servant! He is servant of his master. Can you say that a pastor is not really a pastor just because he is not a faithful pastor? Of course, he is really a pastor! What is a “not real pastor” supposed to be? Just because a pastor doesn’t speak the truth, does not deny the fact that he is truly a pastor.

So let’s not go into this kind of foolish reasoning to say, “Well, if they failed in the end, they were never really Christians in the first place.” In this case, where is your assurance? You never know whether you are a true Christian or not, because if you fail one day, somebody is going to turn around to say that you never were a true Christian. So what kind of assurance is the “Once saved always saved” doctrine supposed to give, if every time you fail, people deny that you were truly a Christian? It is nonsensical whichever way you reason! Let us never say that because a person failed, he was never truly a Christian. Of course, he was a Christian even if he was an unfaithful Christian. Of course, he was truly a servant, even though he was not a faithful servant, and was thrown out, as we read in this parable! If he were not inside God’s kingdom—the church, how can he be thrown out? He has to be in to be thrown out. If he were outside all the time, you cannot throw him out.

“Throw out” in the Lord Jesus’ teaching

The Lord Jesus speaks about this term “throw out” three times in Matthew.

Matthew 8:12 reads: “The sons of the kingdom shall be cast out.”

Matthew 22:13 also reads,

Then the king said to the attendants, “Bind him hand and foot and cast him into the outer darkness. In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.”

Even though this man got into the wedding feast, he still got thrown out because he was without the wedding garment, without the righteousness that comes from God. Everyone admits that all the virgins are Christians, and the five foolish virgins did not even get into the wedding feast.

Then in Matthew 25:30, the useless translated as “worthless” servant is cast out, expelled.

Luke 13:28 says the same:

“You will weep and gnash your teeth when you see Abraham and Isaac and Jacob, and all the prophets in the kingdom of God, and you yourself thrust out.”

The word “thrust” is very strong; it literally means to drive out, push out. Now this is an element of the Lord Jesus’ teaching that we may not like, but there is the truth of the matter.

This aspect of the Lord Jesus’ teaching appears in many, many other places. For example, in Matthew 13:50, in the Parable of the Dragnet. The fish already in the net of the kingdom are thrown out:

“and throw them into the fiery furnace. In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.”

In the Parable of the Darnel and Wheat, the darnel are in the field among the wheat. Notice, they are not outside the wheat, but among the wheat, and Christ

“will gather the darnel out of his kingdom, and throw them into the fiery furnace (Mt. 13:41-42).

In the Parable of the Unmerciful Servant in Matthew 18:23-35, the servant was already forgiven, but because he failed to forgive, his forgiveness was revoked and he was thrown into condemnation and punishment.

As I said, it is an element that runs through the Lord Jesus’ teaching. There is no way one can deny it. It crops up again and again, that those who were in the kingdom of God are then thrown out, because they failed to prove worthy of the gospel. Now this gives us no room for any kind of spiritual compla­cency. It gives us the need to be alert, the need to be constantly living the kind of life to which the Lord Jesus has called us.

God “throws out” (divorces) His people in judgment of sin

Everywhere in the Old Testament, the same word, “to be cast out” is the unhappy consequence of sin. Right from Genesis 3:24, there is the same Greek word, εκβαλλω (ekballō) which means to throw out. The perfect first man and woman, Adam and Eve, were thrown out of the Garden of Eden right there at the beginning, as the consequence of sin. Although they walked in fellowship with God, there was no guarantee that they could always remain secure in the Garden. When they sinned, they were thrown out.

In Genesis 4:14 after Cain killed Abel, he was cast out.

We read that the whole nation of Israel entered into the Promised Land, which God had given them (Deut. 11:23), only to be thrown out again, in Deuteronomy 28:64, 29:(21-)28; 1 Kings 14:15, and so the list of references goes on and on.

Whether it is in the Old Testament or in the New, this is a major element of the Lord Jesus’ teaching. No one can sin with impunity, and let me say this again, least of all, Christians can sin and get away with it. No, you will not get away because God is the living God! He has given you supreme privileges to be His sons and His daughters, and He intends that you will live in a way that befits His son and His daughter, or else be thrown out! That is the way it is.

So, you could be a son but a lost son. We have the Parable of the Prodigal Son, as it is called. You can be a sheep and still be a lost sheep, but you have to be a sheep first, before you can be a lost sheep. In the Bible, sheep is always a picture of the people of God. The unbeliever is not pictured as sheep but as wolf. The Lord Jesus’ disciples are the sheep, so he said, “I send you out as sheep into the world of wolves.” The amazing thing about the parables of the Lord Jesus is that they are constantly preached to the non-Christians when in fact, they are speaking to Christians. And this goes on through the Scriptures.

The Greek word, εκβαλλω (to be cast out), is used of divorce—“a divorced woman,” for example, in Leviticus 21:7, 14; 22:13; Numbers 30:9; Ezekiel 44:22. And it is this word that is used by God to speak of His relationship to Israel in Hosea 9:15, “I will drive them out of My house, I will love them no more” in view of the fact that they have forsaken Him. We read in 2 Timothy 2:11-13, “If you forsake Him, He will forsake you.” You have no choice: if you are going to sin, you will be cast out.

Church discipline warns Christians who sin, about future Judgment

Even today, if a Christian sins, church discipline should also cast out that person. But very few churches today, have enough spiritual authority and power to exercise any sort of discipline. But this is what happened already in the New Testament Church. In 1 Corinthians 5:2, Paul uses the very word “remove”; in verse 7, he uses “clear out”; and in verse 13, he uses “drive out the wicked man from your midst.” And he is not talking about non-Christians. He is telling the church to drive out that Christian who sins, who does evil. Being cast out in the future, and driven out even now, is the warning of what will happen to you if you sin as a Christian. Church discipline is meant to show you that it is very dangerous to sin as a Christian. If you sin, you will be thrown out, because if you are thrown out now, you may repent and come back to God. But if you are thrown out in the age to come, there is no coming back. It is better to be disciplined now than to go into judgment in the future.

So you can see that God’s judgment of being cast out, goes on whether in the Old Testament or in the New. There are just too many references to go through.

Causes for being thrown out of the kingdom of God

What causes being thrown out? We can run through a few causes in the Scriptures.

1. Deliberate disobedience by misinterpretation of God’s Word

I say to those in the Training Team, and I say to every one of you, never dare to engage in misinterpretation, because that is gross disobedience to the Word of God. One way of being thrown out is to disobey, and the way to justify our disobedience is to misinterpret the Scriptures. It is a very, very, very dangerous thing to do. Disobeying the Word of God is what Eve and Adam did, and they were thrown out!

2. Idolatry

Idolatry means that you love something more than God. For example, if you love money more than God, you can be pretty sure you are going to get thrown out. As you know, there are a lot of Christians who are greedy for money, who are in love with this world, and they think that they are going to be saved. The Bible warns again and again, and the last words of the letter of First John closes with the words, “Little children, beware of idolatry.” (1 John 5:21) Idolatry is loving anything more than God. Even loving your husband, your wife, your children more than God, or almost as much as God, is just as bad.

3. Jealousy, or an unforgiving spirit, or not loving one another

Why did Cain murder his brother and get thrown out? It is because of envy, jealousy, lack of love. Why is that servant in Matthew 24:49 dealt with so severely? It is because he beats his fellow servants. He has no love for his fellow servants at all, and he much prefers to associate with the non-Christians, with the drunkards. The drunkards here don’t mean literally people who are drunk, but those who live out of fellowship with God, in the darkness, in spiritual disorientation.

Drunkenness in the Bible, time and again is the result of sin, not the result of alcohol. Matthew 24:49 shows that there are some Christians like this. They prefer to run around with non-Christians. If you feel uncomfortable with God’s people, and if you feel more comfortable with the non-Christians, maybe basically in your heart, you are really more a non-Christian than a Christian. You may well be cast out.

4. Failure to see the glory of God

Like the Jews, God did mighty works in their midst, and they saw the glory of God time and again, but they were still disobedient to God. There are so many Christians who simply never catch a vision of the glory of God. They never catch a vision of God’s love. Have you seen the glory of God as the song goes, “Mine eyes have seen the glory of the Lord”? That unfaithful servant in Matthew 25:25 never saw the glory of his master, and he is described as “you wicked and lazy (slothful) servant” in verse 26. He had no spiritual enterprise, no spiritual drive, no spiritual zest. Like so many Christians, they always seem to have their brakes on; they just don’t move. We will return to this point in a few moments.

This then is the first principle of the Lord Jesus’ teaching that I want to share with you, that judgment and being cast out has to do with Christians. Let this sink into our minds, and when you have gotten over the shock of it, as I am getting over the shock of it, realize what God expects of us. When Christ said, “Be perfect as your heavenly Father is perfect,” he tells us that is the standard of total commitment that God expects of us. And those who fail to live up to that faithfulness, and yet want to steal the privileges of the kingdom of God, will find that they cannot fool God. They can fool themselves, they can fool other Christ­ians, but they cannot fool God. You are not going to get the privileges of a child of God, you are not going to get salvation in other words, without taking up the responsibilities, and meeting the spiritual standards that God requires of us. That is the Lord Jesus’ teaching, not mine.

II. Christian life is a time of probation for future responsibility

The second principle of the Lord Jesus’ teaching, and a very interesting point here is that discipleship is seen as a time of probation. Being a Christian is a time of probation. We must grasp this point much more clearly. In other words, this whole life that we are living now is exam time. And my question is, how well are you taking your exams? When it comes to your school exams, you grind away as though your school exams are more important than anything else. Surely, they are important, and you should do your best in them. But do you realize that our whole life on earth is a period of exam? God is examining us right now to see if we are fit for His heavenly kingdom, and what kind of responsibilities He will give to us in His kingdom. This is another principle in the Lord’s teaching that you must learn to adjust your mind to. It is so revolutionary that it is somewhat hard for us to grasp.

Our thinking is all defined between now and the grave. All our plans more or less stop at the grave. We make our plans all the way up to the grave, including our retirement. We might even be reading up what we will do when we retire. We might buy our little house in Florida if we can afford it, although Florida seems to be a bad place to go to nowadays, with all the mobsters getting in there with drug traffic. If you think, “Who knows what is beyond the grave?” you have not yet learned to think as a disciple of Jesus! For the non-Christian, the grave is a dead end, literally an end which is dead.

But for the Christian, the grave is only a door into eternal life. He is living not for today, not for this life, but for the life that is to come. There is where faith comes into it. We cannot fool God. You can say you have faith, but whether you have faith or not depends on how you are thinking and living at this moment. The true disciple of the Lord Jesus sees himself in transit right now. He is going on to more important things on the other side of the grave. Can you think like that? It is difficult, isn’t it? That is why a Christian is transferring his riches to his bank account in heaven. His whole living is geared for eternity. Do you believe that you have eternal life? Then live as someone who has a whole eternity to think about.

But I see most Christians say they believe they have eternal life, and yet they do not live as though they have any eternal life at all. They live as though they are going to finish when they die. If you have an eternity to live for, you have to make better preparations for that.

Look at these Parables of the Pounds, the Talents, the Virgins. They are always speaking about what happens when Jesus comes again, and whether or not you have wherewithal to meet him. And what kind of an eternity you are going to have depends on how you are living now. It depends on whether you will pass His test now. Can you think of this present life as simply an examination time, a period of transit?

Focusing on eternity, death, all things become an opportunity!

But I see many Christians don’t think like that. For them, this life is everything, because when their loved ones die, the way they weep shows that for them, eternity is too vague a concept to even think about in any kind of concrete terms, let alone live for that eternity.

Your life will be completely transformed if your thinking is renewed. “Be transformed by the renewing of your mind” (Romans 12:2). Then death is something to be welcomed with joy! You don’t just say, “Well, I can take it,” but you welcome death with joy! Then you can understand Paul when he says in Philippians 1:22, “Well you know, for me it’s very hard to choose whether to stay, or to go to be with the Lord.” You will say, “What’s there to choose? I’d stay here any time! What do you mean it is hard to choose? For me there is not even a question. Of course, I want to live; I don’t want to die. It’s nice to go to be with the Lord, but there’s all eternity to spend with the Lord. Let me spend some more time here.” Paul says, “No, if you ask me to choose, I tell you I’d rather die.” What kind of thinking is this?! You cannot understand Paul’s mentality until you understand the Lord Jesus’ very clear teaching, that for the disciple, life is a time of probation. We are living for eternity, and how well we qualify for eternity depends on how we live now. This is very interesting. Can you grasp this idea?

That is to say, when I study, I am really studying not with a view to what I am going to do in this life, but what I am going to do in eternity! That means this is a tool for me to use more effectively to create something for eternity, to bring some extra talents, some extra pounds to the Lord. Everything then is geared to this goal, the mark towards which we press steadily, relentlessly, and with utmost determination.

Have you got to learn to think as a disciple? If you think like this, you will begin to understand what Paul means. When you read Philippians 3:10, you won’t be so puzzled anymore. Paul says, “…that I may know him and enter into the fellowship of his sufferings.” He wants to suffer with Christ. You will say, “No! I’ve got enough sufferings as it is. I’ve been suffering with a cold since last week, and that’s more than I can take. Are you out of your mind that you want to enter into the fellowship of the sufferings with Christ? I’ve got my exams to take next week. How much more do you want me to suffer?” And Paul is saying, “I actually desire to suffer with him.” Now nobody can understand this kind of thinking. And as a young Christian, I read Philippians 3:10 back and forth, back and forth, but I could not understand him. Why would anybody want to enter into suffering with Christ, “made conformable even to his death.” Paul said, “I want to die like him.” Paul is a fanatic! He is really loony! He has too much moonshine on him. We don’t under­stand this thinking!

Of course, you don’t understand it until you realize that this is your only chance in these few thirty, forty years of your lifetime, whatever it is you still have left, to build a storehouse for eternity. You will never suffer again. Here is your chance to suffer with Christ, to die for God, because you will have eternal life. You are not going to die again! When your life is over, your chance is gone forever! Think of it. Your whole thinking turns upside down. Death becomes an opportunity to seize, not that you say, “Kill me! I want to die with Christ for God!” That is not the idea. But the idea is that if there is the opportunity to lay down your life for God, to lay down your life for your brethren, seize the chance to die for your brethren, for you will never have the chance again!

Does your brother need some money? Give it to him! That chance will never come back to you again. Is your brother hungry? Feed him! You will not have that chance again. Is he in jail? Visit him! You will never have that chance again either in eternity. Oh, every difficulty and suffering becomes not another problem you have to wrestle with, it is an opportunity to grasp because your eyes are on eternity! You want to get there with the ten talents, twenty talents, one thousand talents, whatever the amount! This makes your Christian life dynamic! “I can overcome every difficulty,” Paul says, “I can do all things through God who strengthens me.” Wow! With this kind of thinking you sure can! Death cannot frighten you. Suffering does not scare you. Why? Because you know this life is only a probation. I want to prove to God how much I love Him, because He loved me first through Christ. I want to prove to God how much I love my brother and my sister.

So at the time of accounting, the Lord Jesus will be able to say to you, “Well done, good and faithful servant. You’ve been faithful in a very little thing. Now, I’m going to entrust great things to you. I’m going to set you over all my possessions.” (Mt. 24:47) Isn’t it exciting? Christian life is so exciting once you can grasp the idea! You can face death, you can face suffering with a smile. Everything becomes an opportunity, because eternity is what you have got in view. Then, all that you have done for God as the Lord Jesus teaches is being transformed in o benefits in eternity.

You don’t want to sin

And you don’t want to sin because sin is going to deduct from your account. It takes you into the red. No thanks! I am living for eternity, so I cannot afford the luxury of sinning, even though temptations will be there all the time in the life that we live. Satan will make sure you have enough temptations to wrestle with.

For young people, beware especially of this boy-girl relationship! Oh, beware! You are going to go into the red very quickly. Your spiritual bank account will be depleted very quickly if you are not careful. Satan will always be tempting you. Satan tempted me so many times to sin. It is so easy to sin. “Come on! Let’s give it a go! Just once! You’re super holy. Come down a little bit to the level of everybody. Be a little bit human. Don’t be too holy, eh? Sin a little bit. Get back into humanity again. Come on!” Oh yes, Satan knows how to talk our language. If you talk spiritual language, he will talk spiritual language. If you like the Bible, he will quote the Bible to you. He is the best salesman in the world to sell temptation.

So, I would like you truly to grasp this point of the Parables of the Pounds and the Talents—life is a period of probation for higher service. If you earn ten pounds, you will become ruler of ten cities. It is just another way of saying how much God wants to entrust to us. He is looking for His faithful servants today. In this life, the eyes of God run to and fro throughout humanity, picking out the kind of people with which He is going to build His eternal kingdom.

III. You only accomplish anything by hard work

This takes me to the third and last principle that has to do with these parables in this whole section. Nobody turns five talents into another five talents by being lazy. Everywhere you look in the New Testament, you will find that because we are living for eternity, there comes a powerful drive to serve, to work, to do something.

I cannot understand Christians who while away their life. It almost makes me bite my fingernails when I see some brothers I have known before, wasting their lifetime. Some of them are forty years old now. I thought to myself: “Twenty of the best years of your life have gone down the drain my friend! It’ll never come back again! And you are still wasting time.” I don’t understand it. They are doing absolutely nothing useful for the Lord!

But when you look into the New Testament, and particularly in the writings of Paul, you are struck by these words, “work”, “strive”, “press forward”. This is the language of Paul all the time. There is this dynamic drive which is very hard to even try to grasp unless you begin to think in the way he thinks. Let me give you some examples of this.

In 1 Corinthians 15:10, he says, “But by the grace of God I am what I am, and His grace toward me was not in vain. On the contrary, I worked harder than any of them, though it was not I, but the grace of God which is with me.”

Paul is not intending to be outrun by anybody. He speaks about the Christian life as a race. And in each department, only one person wins, and he intends to be that person. That is spiritual ambition. You run fast, and I am going to run as fast? No, Paul says, “I’m going to outrun you!” We ought to outdo one another in good works. There is a kind of “holy competition” if you like, a loving competition, in the hope that if I run harder, you will run harder; and when you run harder, I will run harder, and we will make it full steam ahead.

In 1 Corinthians 4:12, we find that same characteristic language of Paul: “We work hard with our own hands (to supply our need).” In 1Thessalonians 2:9; 2 Thessalonians 3:8, “We worked night and day”, Paul says. In Galatians 4:11, he speaks about the work of preaching and teaching to build the church up in the faith as “labor”. In Colossians 1:29, he also speaks of “labor”. Then 1 Timothy 4:10, “for this end we toil and strive” (in training oneself in godliness).

When there is vision, there is zeal and dynamic of labor

Yet today, we have a whole set of teaching in the church that tells us to take it easy and not to strive. What has happened to the church? Does its teaching want to turn us all into a bunch of spiritual sloths? I wonder how much Satan has infiltrated into the church with this kind of teaching!

But in the church there should be this dynamic of labor, a zeal born of vision, and when there is no vision, there is also no zeal, and there is also no spiritual activity. And I don’t mean running around doing this and that, organizing this and that. This striving and toiling is for godliness, for spirituality, for spiritual excellence, for the conveying of God’s love. It is a deep inner toil, not some superficial running around doing this and that. All that is good but not deep enough, and certainly not the toil that Scripture talks about. 1 Thessalonians 1:3 speaks of “labor of love”—where there is love there is labor, the willingness to do.

Or take Paul’s language, which is all derived from the Lord Jesus’ own teaching. He speaks of the Christian as a soldier who endures hardship for Jesus Christ. He speaks of the Christian life as compared to that of a farmer in 2 Timothy 4:2, “preach the Word, be urgent in season and out of season,” constantly sowing for the Lord. He uses the picture of a builder in 1 Corinthians 3:10. He also uses the picture of a soldier in Philippians 2:25.

The Lord Jesus speaks of the disciple as a soldier, for example, in Luke 14:31-32; 22:35-36. He speaks of the Christian as a farmer, for example, in the Parable of the Sower and the Parable of Laborers in the Vineyard. He speaks of disciples as compared to builders in Matthew 7:24-27. All these pictures of farmer, builder, soldier, come from the Lord Jesus’ teaching, which Paul then borrows. However, Paul uses the picture of an athlete that the Lord Jesus does not use, because athletics was a Greek notion, not used among the Jews. So there is this notion of activity—of sowing, of building, of fighting all the time, because the Christian life is conceived by Paul as something very dynamic for the goal that is ahead.

What is your Christian life like? Is there some dynamic drive? Is there a spiritual fire? Is there a spiritual goal? Is there a vision that burns in your heart? If not, then you have also not yet understood these parables that the Lord Jesus has taught, because that is what he expects of every Christian.

Summary

Let us summarize as we close. We saw today, these three vital principles which are all related to one another.

In the first principle, there is the warning to those who are slothful and without vision of the future, about being cast out.

The second principle we saw is the Christian, the true disciple lives with eternity in view. Life is just transient. What happens in this life is only of value as it relates to eternity. Christian life is a time of probation for future responsibility.

Thirdly and finally, we saw that because of that vision, the Lord Jesus teaches us to strive, to seize every opportunity. What you sow, you will also reap (Galatians 6:7).

 

(c) 2012 Christian Disciples Church