Faithfulness To The Charge
An Examination of the Parable
As we have already seen in this continuing study of the rewarding of the saints, the element of quality will undoubtedly be one of the factors determining the rewards that will be given to the servants of God. This was observed in our examination of the parable of the talents in Matt. 25:14-30. The spirit of service is another determining factor, as shown by the parable of the laborers in the vineyard (Matt. 19:16-20:16) that we studied in chapter 25. Now we will consider the third element affecting our rewards--the faithfulness of our service to the charge given us.
Our Lord was on His way up to Jerusalem for the last time before His execution, attended by a great multitude (Luke 19:11-27). Enthusiasm and excitement were running high as the masses expected that upon His arrival He would bring about the catastrophic event which would usher in His earthly kingdom. In order to disabuse their minds of this error, He spoke the parable of the pounds, to which we will give special attention in this study.
The details of Jesus' illustration are as follows: There was a certain nobleman who went into a far country to obtain a kingdom and to return. Before making his departure, however, it was necessary for him to deliver his goods, property and money into the hands of faithful men who would carry on his work and look after his interests during his absence.A Close Look at the Details
Naturally, he chose those whom he already had in his employ, apportioning to them their several duties and distributing to them his funds. To each he gave a pound with the instructions that they should trade "herewith until I come." Immediately he went into the far country to receive his kingdom.
Having obtained the authority to rule, he returned to his country and to the estate. Immediately upon his arrival he called the servants in to give an account of their stewardship. The first called had been very diligent and gained ten pounds with his one; the second had gained five pounds; and the third, not having his master's interest at heart but being slothful, had buried the money, making no attempt to invest it; hence he brought only the pound which had been entrusted to him.
To the one who had gained ten pounds the master gave authority to reign over ten cities of his kingdom; upon the one having gained five, the honor of reigning over five cities was conferred; but to the one who did nothing, even the pound which had been entrusted to him was given to the servant who had gained ten--hence this one had additional honor. The nobleman cast the slothful servant out of his employ. Having announced the rewards which the faithful servants would receive, the nobleman dealt drastically with his enemies--slaying them.
Though the parable ends with this event, manifestly we are to conclude that the nobleman, having performed the first duties under his newly acquired authority--the removal of all possibility of revolt--goes on to inaugurate his government and grant to the faithful servants the privilege of reigning over various cities in his kingdom. Furthermore the parable demands that we understand that the nobleman reigns over a kingdom in the very place where his enemies have been.
The historical setting: The similarity between the parable and the circumstances connected with Herod the Great's obtaining from the Roman emperor the right to reign over Judaea suggests the strong probability that Jesus used that historical occurrence to illustrate the events connected with his going back to Heaven to receive the kingdom and return. Familiarity with the narrative as contained in Josephus will throw this parable into bold relief. What were the circumstances?
Herod the Great, being part Jew and part Idumean, was very obnoxious to the Jews. Nevertheless he was ambitious to reign over the land of Israel. He was a shrewd, conniving politician who left no stone unturned in order to accomplish his ends; hence at a time which seemed to promise him the possibility of reigning over the Jews, he began negotiations with the Roman Caesar to obtain the power. In due course of time he felt that it was necessary for him to make a journey to Rome for a personal conference with the emperor.
Upon his leaving, the Jewish authorities immediately sent a delegation to Rome, protesting against Herod's appointment as a puppet king over the nation. But finally, after much diplomatic parley and political intrigue, Herod was authorized to become king of the Jewish nation.
Of course, before he made his journey he turned all of his property over to his servants. Then, having obtained the right to rule, he returned to Judaea, destroyed all his leading opponents, inaugurated his regime and conferred upon his faithful servants positions of honor and trust.
The prophetic import: This incident of the past was, doubtless, familiar to the multitudes of people to whom Jesus spoke. Of course, He omitted from His parable the intriguing and the diplomatic maneuvers of the original story. He built it upon the general outline of the circumstances with which the audience was familiar.
Jesus' design in speaking this parable was to show them that, though He was going to Jerusalem, He would be opposed by the authorities; He would be forced to leave this earth and return to Heaven in order to receive the kingdom; the kingdom, therefore, for which they were in expectation would not be established at that time. Eventually He will receive it from a higher authority than the Jerusalem hierarchy and will establish it upon the earth, as is self-evident. When He does receive the kingdom, the servants--the Christians--will be given positions of glory, authority and power in that reign.
In order that we may see that the outline of events as set forth in the preceding paragraphs is correct, we must notice every item of the parable.The Golden Era to Come
The nobleman stands out prominently in the illustrative story. This man, being unacceptable to the citizens of the country, leaves home and goes to a far country to receive authority to reign in his homeland. Obviously, this nobleman is none other than the Lord Jesus Christ, who spoke this parable.
Since the people thought that He would be accepted by the authorities upon His arrival in Jerusalem, the multitudes felt that certainly the leaders there would be in favor of our Lord's reigning and would join Him in throwing off the Roman yoke. To correct this erroneous impression He spoke of Himself simply as a nobleman who was desirous of reigning but who was to be rejected by the leaders. About this position I do not think there can be any doubt.
The far country to which the nobleman went undoubtedly is Heaven. Where "the Heaven of heavens" is, no one can say, but there is some place in the universe which can be called "the immediate presence of God."
It is true that He is an all-pervading Spirit--the omnipresent One. At the same time the Scriptures speak of the throne of God in Heaven, so we are to conclude that there is some place in the universe where God is, in a special and individual sense.
From the facts of the parable then, it is evident that this far country to which the nobleman goes is the place which is called the immediate presence of God.
The servants: As Herod delivered to his servants his property and goods with the charge that they should look after his interests, so our Lord has servants whom He has appointed to look after His interests and manage His work during His absence.
From His many disciples He chose twelve to be apostles. They were given instructions on how to carry on His work. According to the Gospel records and also the first chapter of Acts, we see that they were to tarry in Jerusalem until the Spirit of God should come upon them. Then they were to begin their ministry of testimony to the saving power and grace of the Lord Jesus. Eleven were faithful to their charge.
The responsibility connected with the work of the kingdom they entrusted to others--to the succeeding generations. The Apostle Paul urged Timothy, saying, "And the things which thou hast heard from me among many witnesses, the same commit thou to faithful men, who shall be able to teach others also" (2 Tim. 2:3). From these facts it is evident that Christian's today are the "servants" of the parable as well as the Christians of the first generation and the intervening centuries.
The servants at work: As in the parable, so in that which is signified by it. Some of the servants were faithful, whereas one was not. Some servants are more diligent and faithful than others. Thus it is with Christians of all centuries; some realize their responsibilities and are faithful one hundred percent to the absent Lord, whereas there are others who are real, genuine servants but who do not realize the responsibilities resting upon them.
All of the servants are placed on the same footing. This parable differs from that of the talents, in which the talents were delivered to each one according to his various abilities. Not so with the parable of the pounds. Each is given a pound and is expected to be faithful and to gain ten pounds.
I am on the same footing with any other Christian, regardless of whether or not he is engaged in the ministry. All I have is one pound; all anyone has is one pound. Each is expected to use that which he has, to be faithful one hundred percent. Our Lord revealed the fact that some would thus feel their responsibility and discharge their obligations, whereas others would not be so diligent.
Many Christians do not take their Christianity seriously. They are excellent people, but they do not see the importance of living for God seven days out of each week and working for Him.
Each man is to be rewarded according to his work. In this life a man can labor and store up treasures for his son. Upon the death of the father his son enters into possession of his wealth, thus reaping what he has not sown.
Not so in spiritual matters. The Lord will have a strict reckoning with every one of His servants. The reward which I receive in eternity will be determined by the actual work I have accomplished. What I do must result in permanent assets to the kingdom of God. This phase of the truth is set forth by the Apostle Paul in 1 Cor. 3.
The only foundation upon which man can build is Christ Jesus. If I build thereupon wood, hay, stubble, they will be destroyed and I shall receive no reward for my efforts. On the other hand, if I place upon that one imperishable foundation gold, silver, precious stones, they will stand the test of fire and I shall receive a reward for my services. Let me emphasize that the Scriptures constantly stress the thought that each person will be rewarded according to his labors.
The nobleman's return: Having received the kingdom in the far country, he returns and has a reckoning with his servants. The wording of the promise here is such that we are to conclude that when the nobleman receives the kingdom, he returns immediately. He goes specifically to the far country to receive the kingdom. Having, accomplished his objective, Jesus says he returns.
It would indeed be preposterous to think that he received the kingdom immediately upon his arrival in the far country and then waits a long time before returning. Such an idea does not fit into the context of the passage. The people were expecting the immediate appearance of the kingdom of God. To correct this expectancy our Lord said that the case would be exactly the opposite. The nobleman must go into the far country to get the kingdom. His use of the words, "far country," naturally indicated to the minds of the multitude that it would be some time before he would receive the kingdom. His statement, "When he was come back again, having received the kingdom," carries the obvious truth that upon receiving the authority to reign, he returns. This same thought is set forth in Dan. 7:13, 14. In this passage we see "one like unto a son of man" ushered into the presence of "the ancient of days," who is sitting upon the throne. To Him is granted an everlasting, worldwide kingdom. But the question arises, When is "the one like unto a son of man," who is none other than the Lord Jesus Christ, brought into the presence of the "Ancient of Days"?
This question can be answered only by a study of the preceding vision found in vss. 9-12. In this passage we see the Ancient of Days seated upon the throne of judgment and pronouncing a decision against the last world emperor who will be, at the time, hurling blasphemies and defiance against God Almighty. After this decision is rendered by the Judge of the supreme court of the universe, then and only then is this one "like unto a son of man" brought into the courtroom, attended by many angels. At that time He receives the right to reign upon the earth.
In view of all these facts, it is abundantly evident that the Son of man will not receive the right to reign until the Ancient of Days sits upon the throne of judgment in Heaven and renders the decision against the last world emperor. When He thus receives this authority, He returns to the earth to put into execution His rights and prerogatives as King of the world. This becomes immediately apparent when we study the explanation of the vision of Dan. 7 given by the angel in vss. 15-28.
The servants rewarded: When Herod returned from Rome, he suppressed all possibility of revolt, established his authority over Palestine and conferred upon his faithful servants positions of dignity, honor and authority. So will it be with our Lord. When He returns to this earth and ascends the throne of David on Mount Zion, He will allot to His faithful servants their positions of reigning with Him--each according to his work and faithfulness.
We have already seen that at the Rapture of the Church the saints are caught up to be with the Lord and that they will be rewarded when they come before the judgment seat of Christ. Finally, the Lord comes to the earth at the end of the Tribulation and slays all of His enemies and sets up His worldwide reign of righteousness and peace.
In order that there might be such a reign of righteousness upon the earth when everyone receives a just deal, those who administer the affairs of government must be absolutely righteous in the strict sense of the term. According to the teaching of this and other passages, those who have been regenerated, saved and redeemed will reign with our Lord and will administer this glorious Millennial government among the peoples of the earth. This golden era is the one of which God has spoken through the various prophets and the one for which the world is yearning. May it speedily come!