Bible Study from Calvary Chapel Newberg

with Tom Fuller

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Are You In Or Out?

Matthew 25:1-46

A professor of a graduate-school class of gifted students included a HUGE amount of material on the midterm exam.

Tension in the room built, people were sighing and gasping aloud as they realized how much material they had covered and were expected to recall.

The following week, the professor tossed the graded papers on her desk and announced, "Class, after I left here last week, the Lord spoke to me.

"He said, 'Thanks, professor. I haven't heard from some of those people in years.'"

Isn't that how it is sometimes? When we know something big is going to happen we go to God for help. We get a letter with the return address of the IRS, we get notice that we're going to be laid off our job, we see the money running out and bills piling up - and we get on our knees and beg the Father for help - as well we should.

But what about when you don't know something is going to happen - showing up for class only to find out that the midterm you thought was next week was today, you get fired, or a car pulls out right in front of you? There isn't time to ask God to help you get ready.

Well, even bigger stakes are out there - much worse than an unexpected test, getting fired, or a car wreck. The stakes are our eternal state. There is going to come a time when Jesus Christ comes back and says "enough." Those that are His go to Him to live forever - those that are not His go away to eternal punishment.

The question is - are you in or out - and how do you prepare for that time? We're going to look through Matthew 25 today - as Jesus continues with some parables about being prepared, and staying occupied while we are waiting. We start out with a story that would have been familiar to Jesus' listeners - but we need to make sure we don't focus too closely on the story - so as not to lose the point.

At that time the kingdom of heaven will be like ten virgins who took their lamps and went out to meet the bridegroom. 2 Five of them were foolish and five were wise. 3 The foolish ones took their lamps but did not take any oil with them. 4 The wise, however, took oil in jars along with their lamps. 5 The bridegroom was a long time in coming, and they all became drowsy and fell asleep.
6 "At midnight the cry rang out: 'Here's the bridegroom! Come out to meet him!'
7 "Then all the virgins woke up and trimmed their lamps. 8 The foolish ones said to the wise, 'Give us some of your oil; our lamps are going out.'
9 "'No,' they replied, 'there may not be enough for both us and you. Instead, go to those who sell oil and buy some for yourselves.'
10 "But while they were on their way to buy the oil, the bridegroom arrived. The virgins who were ready went in with him to the wedding banquet. And the door was shut.
11 "Later the others also came. 'Sir! Sir!' they said. 'Open the door for us!'
12 "But he replied, 'I tell you the truth, I don't know you.'
13 "Therefore keep watch, because you do not know the day or the hour.

This story would have evoked many images in the minds of those who heard it. Weddings were often the social event of the season in Israel at the time. What would happen is that the bride, adorned in her finest apparel would be accompanied by her bridesmaids to the groom's house in a torchlight procession.

In this story, instead of going right in - for some reason the bridegroom is delayed and so they wait.

Remember - Jesus is telling a series of parables about being ready for His coming - and we shouldn't read too much into this. I think the important point for us is the oil - the one's that had it when the bridegroom came went in - those that didn't got left out.

It says "those who were ready" went in. They were ready because they had a source for light. Oil is very often used as a picture of the Holy Spirit. Paul makes reference to what the Spirit does in our lives in Romans 8.

Rom 8:10-11 And if the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead is living in you, he who raised Christ from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through his Spirit, who lives in you.

The point: Your source of light and life comes from God by His Son, through His Spirit.

What the bridegroom said to the foolish virgins wasn't "I don't like your oil," or "you're late," but "I don't know you." The picture is that Jesus as the bridegroom will only let in those who have received life from Him - and are now recognizable to Him. It's knowing Jesus that counts - you can't "fake" your way into the kingdom by looking like a virgin.

So then Jesus goes on to paint another picture - a very famous one.

14 "Again, it will be like a man going on a journey, who called his servants and entrusted his property to them. 15 To one he gave five talents of money, to another two talents, and to another one talent, each according to his ability. Then he went on his journey. 16 The man who had received the five talents went at once and put his money to work and gained five more. 17 So also, the one with the two talents gained two more. 18 But the man who had received the one talent went off, dug a hole in the ground and hid his master's money.
19 "After a long time the master of those servants returned and settled accounts with them. 20 The man who had received the five talents brought the other five. 'Master,' he said, 'you entrusted me with five talents. See, I have gained five more.'
21 "His master replied, 'Well done, good and faithful servant! You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things. Come and share your master's happiness!'
22 "The man with the two talents also came. 'Master,' he said, 'you entrusted me with two talents; see, I have gained two more.'
23 "His master replied, 'Well done, good and faithful servant! You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things. Come and share your master's happiness!'
24 "Then the man who had received the one talent came. 'Master,' he said, 'I knew that you are a hard man, harvesting where you have not sown and gathering where you have not scattered seed. 25 So I was afraid and went out and hid your talent in the ground. See, here is what belongs to you.'
26 "His master replied, 'You wicked, lazy servant! So you knew that I harvest where I have not sown and gather where I have not scattered seed? 27 Well then, you should have put my money on deposit with the bankers, so that when I returned I would have received it back with interest.
28 "'Take the talent from him and give it to the one who has the ten talents. 29 For everyone who has will be given more, and he will have an abundance. Whoever does not have, even what he has will be taken from him. 30 And throw that worthless servant outside, into the darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.'

We could go deep into the symbolism of this story too - but I want to stick to the main point Jesus is making - be ready. You see, the first story talks about the source of life - this story talks about what we do with that source.

The point: Use your life for God

You don't need to be a super star - God gives according to your abilities. The amount isn't the important thing - it's the faithfulness to risk stepping out for your Lord.

Faith without works is dead - you've got to invest in your faith, take a risk, put your weight down, make your faith an active part of your life - you can't just bury it in the sand as if it doesn't belong to you - because in all honesty it probably doesn't.

Notice what the man said in verse 25: "here is what belongs to you." The man had wrong information about his master - ascribed wrong motivations to him, and then didn't want any part of the family business, he rejected really, the offer of the master. He said "here's what belongs to you. It's not mine, I don't want any part of it."

So too with those that are given the gospel, the good news of salvation through Jesus - if they refuse to acknowledge God as He has revealed Himself through His Word, and then hide away the knowledge of the gospel and distance themselves from it - it should be no surprise what happens when the Lord returns. He's rejected the Lord so the Lord rejects him. Even if the man had just put it on deposit it would be different. That's like receiving Jesus and doing nothing else with your life - just having an active faith will cause changes, however slight.

So then Jesus leaves off telling parables and gives a direct account of what will happen when He comes back - since that was what the disciples were originally inquiring about.

31 "When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, he will sit on his throne in heavenly glory. 32 All the nations will be gathered before him, and he will separate the people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. 33 He will put the sheep on his right and the goats on his left.
34 "Then the King will say to those on his right, 'Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. 35 For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, 36 I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.'
37 "Then the righteous will answer him, 'Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? 38 When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? 39 When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?'
40 "The King will reply, 'I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me.'
41 "Then he will say to those on his left, 'Depart from me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. 42 For I was hungry and you gave me nothing to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink, 43 I was a stranger and you did not invite me in, I needed clothes and you did not clothe me, I was sick and in prison and you did not look after me.'
44 "They also will answer, 'Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or needing clothes or sick or in prison, and did not help you?'
45 "He will reply, 'I tell you the truth, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me.'
46 "Then they will go away to eternal punishment, but the righteous to eternal life."

The important thing to note here is that this takes place after Jesus returns - after the Great Tribulation all the people who survived will be lined up to face Jesus. Imagine that scene!

Daniel refers to this time period in chapter 12 - "how long till the end," Daniel wants to know. 11 "From the time that the daily sacrifice is abolished and the abomination that causes desolation is set up, there will be 1,290 days. 12 Blessed is the one who waits for and reaches the end of the 1,335 days.

Its quite possible that this 45 day period of time will be used to sort through the nations. Jesus also alluded to this "separation" in the parable of the wheat and weeds which we looked at in Matthew 13. Jesus will judge them according to how they treated each other. There's a lot of debate about who "members of my family" are - Jews, fellow Christians who got saved during the Tribulation, etc.

I think the two important things here are:

1. Its what they did, not to whom they did it. A redeemed life acts redeemed. A life given to God will exude His character - and His character is this:

Micah 6:8 He has showed you, O man, what is good. And what does the LORD require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.

2. Those that were sheep were already sheep, those that were goats were already goats. Jesus didn't make them that way - they made themselves that way. So I think what we're seeing is a recognition of nature, not a condemnation of character.

Notice too - the goats were sent to hell - but it was not designed for them. God designed hell for Satan, but if people want to reject God's offer of salvation, then He will allow them to go with Satan.

Some footnotes:

o What sources do you rely on for life?

Is how much money you have, how many friends you have, how good of a job you have, how much you know? I would challenge us all to rely on God's Holy Spirit first to give us life, then supply all of our needs. Our sources dry up pretty quickly when taxed - but God's Spirit is never used up.

Philippians 4:19 And my God will meet all your needs according to his glorious riches in Christ Jesus.

o The size of your challenges will match the size of your faith

Notice how one of the men got 5 talents and another 2. We talked about not being a super star - you don't have to conquer the world to please the master - just put His life to work in yours. But there is another application - God brings struggles into our lives according to the amount of faith we have.

That doesn't mean we thing the struggle is what we can handle - but what God knows we can. So if you are facing bigger mountains than usual, just know that God knows you can handle it - so trust in Him and handle it.

o Notice the pattern - your source of life, your source of what you do in life = who you are by nature.

1. Eternal life can't be purchased - and there is a deadline
2. God gives us what we need to accomplish His will - all we need to do is appropriate what He gives us
3. You are either a sheep or a goat - you can't be both or neither.

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