Reading through the Bible together
After the description of the second coming and its anticipatory signs, Jesus gives a series of illustrations to highlight certain things about the second coming itself. This series of comments starts in Matt. 24:32 and continues through Matthew 25. Two prominent themes stand out in these statements. First is the theme of timing and surprise. On the one hand, no one knows the day or the hour (24:36), but we can know that the time of His coming is near (24:32-35). But even though we can know it is near, many will be caught by surprise (24:39) and He will come at an unexpected time (24:44). Related to this unexpected time, some will think the return is delayed and be distracted from proper preparation (24:45-51; 25:1-13). These parables mentioning delay give us the key to how not be caught by surprise. The servant who is faithfully working to advance the master’s interests, instead of slacking off due to a perceived delay, will have no anguish or surprise whenever the master returns. He is perpetually ready, which is what Christ asks us to do (24:44).
The second thematic emphasis involves the basic message of judgment. The references to Noah and the flood, the faithful versus the unfaithful servants (Matt. 24:36-51), along with the parables of the 10 Virgins, the Talents, and the Sheep/Goats all point to a great separation of righteous from wicked through a judgment process. The two parables about servants most clearly point to the investigative judgment. Their master or king comes, inspects and evaluates, investigates, and then enacts a judgment of reward or punishment. There are several parables in a row emphasizing this judgment theme. It is very clear that Jesus is not teaching that everyone will be saved (universalism). Furthermore, it is abundantly clear that God judges and holds people accountable. Those who do not have to worry about the judgment are the servants who are faithfully engaged in the master’s or king’s business, multiplying talents and treating fellow servants with dignity and grace. This is how we are to prepare for the second coming: by being actively engaged in kingdom-building as servants of the Master and King.
Stephen Bauer, Ph.D.
Professor of Theology and Ethics
Southern Adventist University