New Testament Study:

Matthew 24:42-51

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The Olivet Discourse – pt. 5,

by Scott Sperling

 

42“Therefore keep watch, because you do not know on what day your Lord will come. 43But understand this: If the owner of the house had known at what time of night the thief was coming, he would have kept watch and would not have let his house be broken into. 44So you also must be ready, because the Son of Man will come at an hour when you do not expect Him.

45“Who then is the faithful and wise servant, whom the master has put in charge of the servants in his household to give them their food at the proper time? 46It will be good for that servant whose master finds him doing so when he returns. 47I tell you the truth, he will put him in charge of all his possessions. 48But suppose that servant is wicked and says to himself, ‘My master is staying away a long time,’ 49and he then begins to beat his fellow servants and to eat and drink with drunkards. 50The master of that servant will come on a day when he does not expect him and at an hour he is not aware of. 51He will cut him to pieces and assign him a place with the hypocrites, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.”

 

One of the questions that the disciples asked of Jesus to prompt this discourse was:  “When will this”, that is, the destruction of the Temple, and the end of the age, “happen?” (Matt. 24:3).  Jesus did not answer this part of the question.  Instead of telling them “when” these things would happen, He tells them:  “Therefore keep watch, because you do not know on what day your Lord will come” (vs. 42).  It is the wisdom of God that we should not know when the end will come, or when Jesus will return.  And since we do not know “when” these things will happen, we must be ready at all times, as Jesus illustrates:  “But understand this:  If the owner of the house had known at what time of night the thief was coming, he would have kept watch and would not have let his house be broken into.  So you also must be ready, because the Son of Man will come at an hour when you do not expect Him” (vss. 43–44). 

It is a test of our faith that we do not know when Jesus will return.  Jesus tells a parable to illustrate this:  “Who then is the faithful and wise servant, whom the master has put in charge of the servants in his household to give them their food at the proper time? It will be good for that servant whose master finds him doing so when he returns. I tell you the truth, he will put him in charge of all his possessions. But suppose that servant is wicked and says to himself, ‘My master is staying away a long time,’ and he then begins to beat his fellow servants and to eat and drink with drunkards. The master of that servant will come on a day when he does not expect him and at an hour he is not aware of. He will cut him to pieces and assign him a place with the hypocrites, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth” (vss. 45–51). 

It is the “faithful and wise servant” that lives his life as if the Lord could return at any time.  As Jesus says, “It will be good for that servant whose master finds him doing so when he returns” (vs. 46).  The faithless ones assume, because of the long delay before His return, that He will never return.  Their lack of faith leads to sin.  “The delay of Christ’s coming, though it is a gracious instance of His patience, is greatly abused by wicked people, whose hearts are thereby hardened in their wicked ways” [Henry].  The servant reasons, “Why should I obey the Master if He will not return to hold me accountable for disobedience?”  The wicked servant “says to himself, ‘My master is staying away a long time,’ and he then begins to beat his fellow servants and to eat and drink with drunkards” (vss. 48–49).  However, mere disbelief in the Master’s return will not keep Him away:  “The master of that servant will come on a day when he does not expect him and at an hour he is not aware of” (vs. 50).  At that time, the wicked servant will pay the price of his disobedience:  “[The Master] will cut him to pieces and assign him a place with the hypocrites, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth” (vs. 51). 

There are some in the church, even some pastors and leaders in the church, who do not believe in Jesus’ literal return to earth.  This is a dangerous and unbiblical position to take.  It is dangerous because, as we see in Jesus’ parable, such a view leads to sin.  It is unbiblical because Jesus promised us many times that He would return.  If Jesus’ own promises are invalid, the entire Christian religion collapses to ruin.  Jesus will return.  He said He would.  He will return at a time when we are not expecting Him.  We must all be prepared for His return, and obey His command to, “Therefore keep watch” (vs. 42).