The Rejected King Looks to the Future, Part 2 (Matthew 25:1–46)

One can learn a great deal from reading the letters written by soldiers to their families during World War I and World War II. Scanning these preserved messages can grow in us a compassion for those who suffer, provide insights into the horrors of battle, and inspire gratitude for the many men and women who have given their lives for the safety and security of others. And all of this and more can be gleaned in spite of the fact that the letters were not written to us and that they describe particular conflicts we ourselves have not had to endure.

In many ways, Jesus’s teaching recorded for us in Matthew 24 and 25 functions similarly. The discourse itself is not directed at the church and it describes a terrible time of global tribulation that the church will not have to endure. (Thank God!) Yet, just like wartime communique, the church is still able to extract from these prophetic chapters—with the help of the Holy Spirit—much needed lessons and reminders.


On June 5, 1916, Canadian soldier, George Adkins, sent a letter home from the front lines of World War I.

Dear Mother: 

Just a line to let you know that we are both allright for which we must thank God for we have been through a terrible ordeal. I don’t know if I am allowed to say much about it but you will see by the papers what a fierce fight the Canadians have been into. How we Mart & I came through without a scratch I can not tell as we have had terrible losses. It has been simply awful I cannot describe it in words but I know there has been nothing worse in this war. 

We did our eight days … allright and were bombarded pretty heavy all the time but did not suffer much. Then we came out for a rest. The next night they broke through and we had to go back. We had to make a charge in broad daylight but they were ready for us and opened up an awful fire on us we took what cover we could get in old trenches and were there all day. They opened up again two or three times in the night but we kept them back. 

That night we were supposed to be relieved but the relief could not get in so we had another awful 24 hrs during which they sent over the terrible high explosives & shrapnel but we held firm. Two or three times they nearly landed one in our trench. The force of the explosion threw us down and I could’nt hear nothing but ringing in my ears. I was hit on the head about four times but my steel helmet saved me. Then I had a bullet go right through a mess tin strapped on my back. I am going to keep it as a souvenir. But I wasn’t very frightened although the strongest nerves could’nt stand it for long while the shells are bursting around & above. We had to stay in that trench for 8 hours without water & no food but about two dry biscuits each. It was up to our shoe tops in water and we got all stiffened & cramped up. We were thankful when the relief came at last. Of course we had some very close shaves but God must have been watching over us and it made one think about that. The wounded were very brave and bore the pain and suffering like heroes, and some had ghastly wounds. 

I expect to be home soon now then I can give you a good account of it. We were so tired when we got home that we just fell down and slept for a long time. I will close now as I am pretty shaky to-day through nervous strain & loss of sleep etc. … I think we are out for a good rest now. 

Good by with love,


Not to state the obvious, but that letter wasn’t written to us and it describes a war we did not endure. Yet, that letter can teach us, for example, compassion for those who suffer, gratitude for those who fought, and anger for our depravity. We don’t have to be George’s mother nor war veterans to learn from that writing.

The same is true of Matthew 24 and 25, Jesus’s teaching about end times. His lesson was not given to us and it describes a war we won’t endure. (Thank God!) Yet, it can still teach us about the character of God, the frailty of humanity, and the future of all things.

Turn to Matthew 25 and, as you do, let’s be reminded of its context. Jesus is speaking to his disciples as representatives of Israel, God’s chosen people, the nation that had been promised an eternal king and had rejected that king when he came. Israel hadn’t believed. So the kingdom establishment was postponed and would be given to a future generation of Israel that would respond with humility and faith. Unfortunately, as Jesus described in chapter 24, it’s going to be on the other side of some unprecedented suffering and global chaos—what the OT referred to as the Day of the Lord or the time of Jacob’s trouble.

Jesus is warning Israel of a future war. Not to state the obvious, but we’re not Israel and we won’t have to endure this war. (Thank God!) But that doesn’t mean we can’t learn from the lesson and the three admonitions Jesus here gives to Israel, specifically, the generation that will actually find themselves enduring the tribulation. He says, when you’re in that fight, keep your heart ready, keep your hands busy, and keep your care godly. Let’s look at them one at a time.

First, keep your heart ready. This command comes in a parable. [1]

In marriage customs of the ANE, after a long engagement or betrothal, the groom, escorted by his friends (groomsmen, kind of), would arrive at the bride’s house where she, her family, and her ten friends (like modern-day bridesmaids) would be waiting. There would be a ceremony, a procession through the streets, and a celebratory banquet that could last over a week. It was a big deal. 

Now, this parable focuses on the bridesmaids waiting for the arrival of the groom. [2–4] Half are foolish and half are prudent or sensible, the difference being that the latter packed extra oil. [5–7] To trim a lamp was to cut the wick and refill the base with oil. [8–12]

These ten bridesmaids represent Israel during the tribulation period. They are to be waiting for the bridegroom’s arrival for his bride and the procession and feast that follow. During the tribulation, they will all know his arrival is near but only some will wisely keep ready. Others will not and will miss the party. Some will have their hearts primed for his return, aching for the true deliverance of an everlasting davidic kingdom. Others will not and miss the feast. The point of the parable is stated at the end. [13] “Yes, there will be chaos all around you,” Jesus is telling his people, “but don’t let your hearts be turned away from me again like at my first coming.” Keep your heart ready. Don’t let the idolatry pull you away. Don’t let the false messiahs cool you off. Keep your heart ready.

And, though we aren’t Israel and we we won’t experience this time of testing, we can keep our hearts ready as well, can’t we? We can strive to keep our hearts full of faith in Christ, hope in his return, soft to his commands. Keep your hearts ready, brothers and sisters [13b].

It’s been said: “Stay ready so you don’t have to get ready.” It’s easier to stay in shape than to get in shape. It’s easier to maintain a good marriage than build a good marriage. It’s easier to keep a good GPA than it is to recover one. It’s can be the same with our heart: Keep your heart ready so you don’t have to get your heart ready because, as this parable illustrates, you may not have time.

The second command Jesus gives Israel in this text is this: keep your hands busy. For tribulation Israel, one way they keep their hearts ready is to keep their hands busy. [14–15] A talent is a huge amount and this master is entrusting his wealth to his servants in accordance with their competence. He knows them. [16–18] So, the master’s assessment of the character of his servants is vindicated.

[19–23] Notice, first, this master didn’t have to commend his slaves, but he does. He calls these two good and “faithful with a few things.” They were thoughtful and effective stewards of the resources and responsibilities he entrusted to them. Now they’ll get much more and, in addition to being given public praise and promotion, these servants were brought into an intimate relationship with the master, his joy.

The third guy doesn’t fair so well. [24–25] Maybe he sees his colleagues get commended and realizes he’s in trouble. So, he starts making excuses. “If you weren’t such a hard man I would have taken more risks! I was afraid of you. But, hey, at least you get it back!” He blames the master for his own inactivity. [26–30] The master doesn’t defend himself but points the finger right back at slave number three. While the other two are good and faithful, he is wicked and lazy.

Israel had been entrusted with the priceless treasure of a relationship with the God of the universe, chosen for that purpose. They’d been told to be a blessing to all the nations of the earth, stewarding and growing that wealth. Some people and tribes had more opportunities than others but by the time of Jesus’s first coming, the nation looked a lot like slave #3.

The same task will be given to the generation of Israel alive during the tribulation. [24:14] Jesus is telling his people that, when this time arrives, keep your hands busy. Use well the what has been entrusted to you. Invest it, don’t bury it. Bring the gospel of the kingdom, the good news of a returning king and perfect monarchy, to all the world. The Master is looking for a good return not simply his money back. Keep your hands busy.

And, though we aren’t Israel and aren’t in the tribulation, it’s good for us to be reminded to keep our hands busy, stewarding what our Master entrusted to us. As one author wrote: “A steward manages assets for the owner’s benefit…. It’s his job to find out what the owner wants done with his assets, then carry out his will.”

We’ve each been given the same gospel of grace, the same Spirit, the same salvation, the same power. We’re also each given different circles of influence, personalities, interests, and abilities. Are we investing them the way the Owner desires or are we burying them?

The final command that Jesus gives Israel in this passage is keep your care godly. Keep your heart ready, keep your hands busy, and, finally, keep your care godly.

[31] Notice the enthronement of the king is future. When he comes it’ll be unmistakable—in glory with a holy entourage, all the angels—then he will sit on the throne in Jerusalem. Then the kingdom will be established. It isn’t now, it isn’t in our hearts, and we’re not building it. The kingdom is physical and future, brought by the King himself.

And after this kingdom is established, an event that ends the tribulation, [32–33]. This judgement needs to be distinguished from others mentioned in the Bible: the judgement seat of Christ where believers are rewarded for faithfulness (2 Cor 5:10) and the great white throne judgement where unbelievers are thrown into the lake of fire (Rev 20:11). This judgment is not those. This judgement is at the end of the tribulation period and involves those alive at that time, people of all nations. They will be divided into two groups—sheep and goats. As we keep reading we’re told how they’re distinguished. 

[34–46] Here we are a great transitional moment in human history, still future to us. The great tribulation is ending and the long-awaited kingdom is being inaugurated. Those who have survived the former are standing before the king himself. Some are called blessed and righteous and invited to inherit eternal life and [34b]. Others are called accursed ones and sent to [41b].

And what’s the deciding factor between these two groups? Their treatment of those Jesus calls these brothers of mine (40) and the least of these (45). Who are these brothers but the remnant of faithful Israel having endured the tribulation. They’re the good stewards from the last parable, the ones leveraging God’s riches and spreading the gospel of the kingdom while the world around them burns. 

At the end of the tribulation, King Jesus is going to ask everyone, “how did you treat my faithful ones?” And here we see just how closely Jesus aligns himself with his people—“when you cared for them you cared for me; when you abused and ignored them you abused and ignored me.” So, Jesus tells Israel in this lesson, keep your care godly. Make sure you are not offending those working for the Lord. Bless those he blesses. Keep your care godly because he identifies closely with his people.

It’s the same for the church today. [Acts 9:4–5] We, likewise, would do well to care for God’s people. It’s good to care for all people, certainly, but there is something special about loving well the people for whom God has a special relationship through Christ. [Gal 6:10]

Matthew 24 and 25 records a lesson for national Israel about a coming tribulation and how they’re to endure it. Jesus tells them in chapter 25 to keep their hearts ready, their hands busy, and their care godly. 

We’re not Israel and we won’t have to endure such a horror. (Thank God!) But there is much we can learn from this text. We’ve been reminded from this passage today but also from the home-going of our brother, Glenn Ward, this week, that time in short. Whether Jesus comes to get us or we go to see him in death, tomorrow on this earth is not promised to a single one of us. 

And, in light of that, the Bible invites us—commands us, even—to live like there’s no tomorrow! Not in the selfish, hedonistic way the world does, but in the God-honouring, Christ-glorifying, self-liberating way Scripture describes. Live like there’s no tomorrow!

That means keep your heart ready today! Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ for the first time. [Gospel] Come back to the Lord if you’ve strayed. Set your minds on things above today. Keep your heart ready and do it now. Don’t wait. Live like there’s no tomorrow!

That means keep your hands busy today! The Lord has providentially given you and I skills, circles of influence, testimonies, and a common charge—worship me, build up my people, share the gospel. Friends, do it today. Don’t wait. Keep your hands busy! Live like there’s no tomorrow!

That means keep your care godly today! There are needs around this room. Find them. Meet them. Don’t hesitate. Don’t wait. Keep your care godly. Love whom he loves. Live like there’s no tomorrow!


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Josiah has served the Oakridge Bible Chapel family as one of its elders and one of its pastoral staff members since September 2018, before which he ministered as an associate pastor to a local congregation in the Canadian prairies. Josiah's desire is to be used by God to help equip the church for ministry, both while gathered (edification) and while scattered (evangelization). He is married to Patricia, and together they have five children—Jonah, Henry, Nathaniel, Josephine, and Benjamin.

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