Parable of the Talents
From our extended study of the passages referring to the Judgment Seat of Christ, we have seen that God's people will appear before Him to receive the things done in the body according to their works and to render praise and adoration. Though we may not be dogmatic as to when the saints come for the first time before the Judgment seat of Christ, it is quite possible and even probable that they first appear there at the time of the Rapture and receive the information concerning what rewards they are to receive. When the Lord comes all the way to the earth and establishes His kingdom, they come before His throne and in the presence of the peoples of the earth receive officially their commission to function in the positions already announced to them.
Such a theory harmonizes all of the facts set forth in these various passages. As the information is not full on this point, it behooves us to speak with great reserve and modesty.
We have already seen that men are saved by the grace of God but are rewarded according to their works. In this section I am hoping to set forth the Scriptural teaching concerning our Lord's demand for quality goods and quality service. The principal passage which deals with this thought is the parable of the talents (Matt. 25:14-30).
A Bird's-eye View
The paragraph in Matt. 25:14-30 which contains our Lord's instructions concerning the rewarding of the saints is connected to the preceding parable of the virgins by the conjunction for. Unless this point is recognized, one has difficulty in the proper interpretation of the parable of the talents.
In the discussion of the Rapture of the Church, we have already seen that the parable of the virgins is illustrative of that event. This fact was seen by the force of the adverb then introducing 25:1. In that discussion we also saw that the "kingdom of heaven" is a broad, comprehensive term including all Christendom. The conjunction for introducing the parable of the talents links this discussion with the parable of the virgins and the teaching concerning the Rapture of the Church, set forth in 24:32f.
The parable of the talents is linked with that which has preceded--namely, the teaching relative to the Rapture and the Church's being ready for that great and glorious event. The necessity of watchfulness is set forth in 25:13 and is explained more fully by the entire parable of the talents.
Vigilance and preparedness for the Lord's return at any time are, therefore, illustrated by a man who, leaving his own country, travels to another. Before starting, however, he calls his servants and delivers to them his goods.
An equal distribution is not made; on the contrary, the man recognizes the ability of his servants and places in each man's hand that amount of goods which his ability will allow him to handle with perfect satisfaction. Hence to one man there is given five talents; to another, two; and to another, one talent--to each one according to his several ability. Thereupon the man takes his departure.
During the absence of their lord all the servants, except the one-talent man, upon receiving their goods begin to trade therewith. In this parable two of the three servants realize the responsibility that rests upon them. They do not render eye-service to be pleasing to men; rather they take a heart-interest in that which they do and labor as faithfully as if their master were present. On the other hand, one of the servants, not feeling any responsibility toward his master, buries his talent and squanders his time.
Finally the lord of those servants, returning, calls them for a reckoning. The one to whom five talents were entrusted is summoned first. He comes bringing his five talents with five additional ones which he has gained by legitimate business transactions. To this faithful servant the lord pronounces the welcome applaudit: "Well done, good and faithful servant: thou hast been faithful over a few things, I will set thee over many things; enter thou into the joy of thy lord."
Next the one who received two talents comes, bringing both the goods which he had received and two additional talents which he likewise gained by legitimate traffic. To him the master speaks the same words of commendation and gives him a reward commensurate with the service which he rendered.
Finally the slothful servant who does not feel his responsibility is called. He brings the one talent only which was entrusted to him but is profuse in making excuses for his delinquency. This is no time for excuses. The master turns his case over to the proper authorities and he is cast into outer darkness where there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth.
Since the parable of the talents was given to enforce the exhortation to watchfulness (see vss. 13,14), obviously the man of this parable going into another country is Christ. He could represent none other since our Lord was speaking of His return from Heaven for His saints. The country to which He goes can be none other than that of Heaven. On the last night of Christ's earthly ministry (John 14) He spoke to His disciples very clearly relative to the necessity of His going away in order to prepare a place for His people. The fact that He went to prepare such a place for them is a guarantee that He will return some time for them and take them to Himself.