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A Warning and a Promise

by Stephen Davey Scripture Reference: Matthew 25; 26:1–5; Mark 14:1–2, 10–11; Luke 22:1–6

Jesus Christ is coming back. For those of us who know Him as our Savior, that is a glorious prospect. For those who do not know Him, His return means judgment has arrived. How important it is to know where we stand in relationship to Him.


As we continue our chronological study through the Gospels, Mark 14, Luke 22, and Matthew 25 all contribute to this scene on the Mount of Olives—we call it the Olivet Discourse. Jesus is sitting on this hillside teaching His disciples about the events leading up to His return, following the tribulation period. This is all new to them.

Now keep in mind that even though the Lord is instructing His disciples—and us today—His words are specifically directed to a future generation of believers who will become followers of Christ during the seven-year tribulation period. And I assure you, they are especially going to appreciate Matthew 25.

The Lord now delivers two parables to highlight the need for these tribulation believers to be watching for His return. This return is not the rapture. That takes place before the tribulation when the Lord calls up His redeemed to the clouds and whisks them away to the Father’s house. Here in Matthew 25, Jesus is speaking about His coming all the way down to earth—right here to Jerusalem—at the end of the tribulation.

This first parable describes a coming judgment on all those who follow the Antichrist:

“The kingdom of heaven will be like ten virgins who took their lamps and went to meet the bridegroom. Five of them were foolish, and five were wise. For when the foolish took their lamps, they took no oil with them, but the wise took flasks of oil with their lamps.” (verses 1-4)

In the custom of that day, the bridegroom would go to get his bride and bring her back for the wedding feast. These young women in the parable are waiting to join the procession back to the bridegroom’s house for the feast. You could call them bridesmaids. When the bridegroom shows up at midnight, five of these women have no oil for their lamps, and they are left out in the dark. Jesus says in verse 13, “Watch therefore, for you know neither the day nor the hour.”

This next parable describes a man who gave his servants money to invest—one was given five talents, another two talents, and another one talent. By the way, a talent was worth around sixteen years of salary for the average person. A talent was the largest unit of currency during the days of Jesus. Sixteen years of salary is a lot of money.

Jesus then describes what happens next:

“He who had received the five talents went at once and traded with them, and he made five talents more. So also he who had the two talents made two talents more. But he who had received the one talent went and dug in the ground and hid his master’s money.” (verses 16-18)

Jesus says that when the master returns, he commends the two servants who have invested wisely, calling them each a “good and faithful servant.” But He condemns the servant who buried his money in the ground, calling him in verse 26 a “wicked and slothful servant.” He was too lazy to do anything with the money—he didn’t even earn interest. The master orders that this man be punished.

The moral of the story is obvious: true believers care about their Lord’s desires, and unbelievers do not care at all.

Now through the rest of chapter 25 Jesus gives a literal description of coming judgment, beginning in verse 31:

“When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, then he will sit on his glorious throne. Before him will be gathered all the nations, and he will separate people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats.” (verses 31-32)

Again, Jesus is speaking of His return at the end of the tribulation when He sits on the throne of His millennial kingdom. All the nations—all those still alive on earth—will be gathered before His throne to be judged. Those who believe in Christ will enter into His thousand-year kingdom. Now don’t confuse this judgment with the one described in Revelation 20. That is the great white throne judgment, which will take place a thousand years later. If your head is spinning right about now, just hang on. We are going to take quite a bit of time to explain all this further when our Wisdom Journey sails into the book of Revelation.

Verses 34-36:

“Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to me.’”

Do not misunderstand this. Their compassion does not earn them a place in the kingdom; it just proves they belong to the King. But they are curious, and they ask the Lord when they did those kind deeds to Him.

King Jesus answers in verse 40, “As you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me.” Specifically, these brothers are Jewish believers who have suffered during the rampage of the Antichrist. The Antichrist will try to stamp out the nation of Israel, thus voiding all the promises of God to His chosen people. Of course, the Antichrist will fail miserably. And all who follow him will receive eternal suffering. Jesus says, “These will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous”—those right with God through Christ—will go “into eternal life” (verse 46).

People don’t want to hear about divine judgment. It is not a pleasant topic, but it is real. Poison ought to have a warning label on it, right? The world is being warned of coming judgment. And here is the good news: we don’t have to drink that bottle of poison. Jesus drank it for us when He died on the cross for our sins and took our judgment—that excruciating separation from His Father and death on the cross. If we believe in Him and follow Him, we will never face judgment from God because Jesus, as one author put it, took the cup and drank our damnation dry.[1]

Now think about this: as Jesus is informing His disciples of eternal judgment, sitting there among them is a disciple named Judas Iscariot. I wonderful what he is thinking!

Matthew shifts to Judas in chapter 26:

Then . . . Judas Iscariot, went to the chief priests and said, “What will you give me if I deliver him over to you?” And they paid him thirty pieces of silver. (verses 14-15)

Let me tell you, thirty pieces of silver was the price someone paid for an old slave, a servant who really could not do all that much work for the household. That is how little Judas thinks of Jesus. That is how little the religious leaders think of Jesus. They want Him dead, but they are not going to dish out much money at all to get Judas to betray Him.

So, here is the message: Don’t be like Judas. If you are an unbeliever, don’t sit there Sunday after Sunday—or even listening to this program—and ignore the warning about the poison of death and judgment. And for those of us who do believe, let’s be encouraged. Jesus is giving us a glimpse into the future, and as it unfolds—guess what—sin does not win, evil does not win, and the Antichrist does not win. Satan will fail entirely. All of God’s promises will come true.

And His promise to you today is that He works everything together for your good. That is a promise He is keeping right now. No matter how things look, He is keeping His promise to you.

[1] Charles Spurgeon, “The Death of Christ,” sermon, January 24, 1858,

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