Matt 24:1-25:46

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Home > The New Testament > Matthew > Chapters 24-25
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C. Olivet Discourse (Chapter 24-25)

• two questions: what are the time and the sign of the Second Coming? (24:1-3)
• signs identified (24:4-31)
• timing: parable of the fig tree (24:32-41)
• preparation for the Second Coming (24:42-25:46)
• parable of the faithful and evil servants (24:45-51)
• parable of the ten virgins (25:1-13)
• parable of the talents (25:14-30)
• parable of the sheep and goats (25:31-46)


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Matt 24:32-41: Parable of the fig tree[edit]

  • Matt 24:32-41: Signs versus causes of destruction at the Second Coming. At the end of chapter 23 Jesus (a) prophesied destruction upon the Jews; and (b) made reference to his Second Coming. (Matt 23:34-39). The Olivet Discourse was prompted when his disciples asked two questions: (1) when shall these things be? referring to both (a) the destruction upon the Jews and (b) the Second Coming; and (2) what shall be the sign of the Second Coming and of the end of the world? (Matt 24:3). Now, near the end of chapter 24, the Lord addressed the timing of his return and of the end of the world in the parable of the fig tree. The Lord did not give a specific time frame. In fact he said that not even the angels in heaven are given to know the hour, or the exact time. (Matt 24:36). But he did tell us that we should be able to recognize the season, or the general time frame. (Matt 24:33).
Elsewhere in the scriptures we are taught that the wicked are destroyed when they become "ripe in iniquity,' meaning when they cast out the righteous. Or in other words, when a society no longer allows its members to exercise agency to choose the right. This principle is not merely a sign of impending destruction, it is the cause of destruction. This principle is developed in the discussion of Hel 13:14.
While the Lord has applied this principle throughout history to destroy many peoples, the last time all of human society was destroyed in a single event was at the time of the flood. The next time we are told that all of human society began to unite in wickedness at the Tower of Babel, humanity was dispersed. (Gen 11:1-9). Thus, while a group may have become ripe in iniquity and suffered destruction, the dispersed peoples of the world have not all become ripe together at the same time. This has prevented the need to again destroy all of human society in a single event. (Gen 8:21; 9:11, 15).
But we are told that the entire world will once more be destroyed in a single event at the Second Coming. In fact, in D&C 29:9 this principle of destroying wicked peoples when they become ripe is specifically related to the burning at the Second Coming prophesied in Malachi 3:1 (discussion). This suggests that in the last days before the Second Coming the entire world will once again become united in a single society, reversing the dispersion that occurred with the Tower of Babel, and that this worldwide society will become ripe in iniquity to the point that it casts out the righteous, or denies people the ability to choose the right. Such global wickedness would not merely be a sign of impending destruction at the Second Coming, it would in fact be the driving cause of that destruction. Moreover, this is a sign that anyone with access to a television or the internet can see for themself without any special expertise, or even a checklist of 50 signs that must occur prior to the Second Coming. One has merely to ask how much the world is either closer to or further from the point of casting out the righteous than it was a year earlier. While this simple test will not identify the precise hour of the Lord's return (Matt 24:36), it appears sufficient to indicate the general season as explained in the parable of the fig tree. (Matt 24:33).
So what purpose did it serve for the Lord to identify many of the tribulations and other signs described earlier in the Olivet Discourse? These signs describe a world that is "all one revolution" and in which it would be easy to feel that God had forsaken the world, or had forsaken the righteous, or was not even in control. These same questions also faced the Jews when they were carried off by Babylon and the Temple of Solomon was destroyed. At that time the Lord gave Israel signs through Daniel that the Lord was in fact still in charge. See the discussion of Daniel 2. Likewise in the Olivet Discourse, when the Lord described the conditions that will prevail in the last days before his return, the righteous can take comfort that the Lord has foreseen these difficulties and is in fact still in charge.
This perspective suggests that the signs of the Second Coming are more useful as comfort or course markers than as timekeepers.

Matt 25:1-13: Parable of the ten virgins[edit]

  • Matt 25:1-13: Ten virgins. It is often stated that the ten virgins do not represent the world at large, but represent the people of the Church of Christ, because they all knew about wedding supper, knew where to await the bridegroom, knew enough to trim their lamps that morning, but simply did not prepare themselves sufficiently. (See for example "A Time of Urgency." Marvin J. Ashton, General Conference, April 1974.
Also see "The Parable of the Ten Virgins." Ensign, March 2009.
  • Matt 25:1-13: Bride and bridegroom / marriage supper of the Lamb. This is where the discussion of the bride and bridegroom and of the marriage supper of the Lamb gets anchored. See Rev 19; D&C 27; Sacrament; Isaiah; Hosea 1-3. Contrasted with the harlot.
Rebekah (or Ruth) as the ideal bride. Matthew's genealogy of Christ lists four women (Tamar, Rahab, Ruth, Bathsheba) whose stories are unusual and are likely included to invite comparison and to show that the story of Mary's virgin birth is more acceptable than it would sound in isolation (see the discussion of women in Christ's genealogy at Matt 1:1-17). The ideal bride, in contrast, not mentioned by Matthew likely because it would have invited unfavorable comparison with Mary, could be Rebekah, Isaac's wife (see the discussion of Rebekah's ideal conduct at Genesis 24). Also see the discussion of this symbolism in Ruth.
  • Matt 25:1-13: Interpretation of women in the scriptures. The idea that the virgins in this parable represent all of the Lord's people both male and female, and that the bride represents the entire church including both its male and female members, and that Rebekah's conduct as the ideal bride can provide a model for all people both male and female, can inform one's interpretation of other references to women in the scriptures, such as the virtuous woman described in Proverbs 31:10-31, and can provide a way to understand the New Testament practice of women wearing veils that is more than just a culture-specific practice.

Matt 25:14-30: Parable of the talents[edit]

  • The Greek word translated here as "talent" is talenton, and the word was used in Greek to refer exclusively to a unit of money or a unit of weight. It had nothing to do with talent in the modern sense of the English word. Even so, talenton is the source of the English word, which came to us by way of Latin, and a shift in its meaning to mean "ability" came about because of influence of this parable. Documented use of the word to mean "ability" goes as far back as at least the 15th century.
  • A talent was an enormous sum of money — 6,000 denarii, or about what a typical laborer would take 20 years to earn.
  • This parable also is told starting at Luke 19:12, although a smaller monetary unit is used.
  • The Greek word translated in verse 27 as "usury," tokos, means "interest." The Greek word doesn't imply that the rate of interest charged is excessively high, as the word usury in English typically implies today.
  • This parable is usually taught, and rightfully so, as a lesson in how those who believe in Christ are obligated to use the resources they have been given to advance the kingdom of God. However, there is another lesson here, and it can be found in verse 27. In general, this parable praises the servants who took a certain amount of risk, who went out and were able to double the money entrusted them. The third servant was afraid to do that. However, as verse 27 notes, the nobleman didn't criticize the servant for being afraid to do what it took to double the money. In fact, he seemed to understand that — for whatever reason — this servant was not capable of doing what the other servants could do. So the nobleman tells him what he should have done: Even though he couldn't act because of his fear, there were things he could have done, and so he should have. Doing nothing was not an option for this nobleman. One of the lessons here is that we may not be capable of accomplishing what some other people do, and our Heavenly Father understands that. In fact, as in this parable, he may not even hold us to the same expectations as he does some other people. But does that entitle us to do nothing? No! We are still obligated to do what we can. That's what the servant didn't do, and because of that he ended up worse off than when he started.

Matt 25:31-46: Parable of the sheep and goats[edit]

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  • Matt 25:14-30. Stanley G. Ellis, "He Trusts Us!," Ensign, Nov 2006, pp. 51–52. Speaking of the servant who was given one talent, Elder Ellis said: "[The master's response] seemed to be a harsh reaction to one who seemed to be trying to take care of what he was given. But the Spirit taught me this truth—the Lord expects a difference! I knew in that moment that each of us will one day stand before God and give an accounting of our priesthood service and stewardships. Did we make a difference?


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