The Second Coming of the Lord

There will be no advanced warning (Matthew 24:36-41; Mark 13:32)

            Jesus now shifts from the destruction of Jerusalem to the other questions of the disciples: “What will be the sign of your coming and of the end of the age?” (Matthew 24:3). Unlike the end of Jerusalem, the time for the end of the world is not known. Even Jesus did not know when the end will be. Notice that Jesus calls this event "that day." This is the same phrase used by Paul (I Thessalonians 5:2) and Peter (II Peter 3:10-13) in regard to the end of the world.

            The end of Jerusalem would be preceded by unusual events, but at the end of the age, the times will appear to be normal. Paul said people will be thinking contented thoughts of peace and safety (I Thessalonians 5:3). Nothing unusual will precede the end. No warnings, no signs, nothing to mark the event in advance.

            With no advance warning, there will be no opportunity to hide from this event (I Thessalonians 5:3). Not that there will be any place to hide since the world will be coming to an end (II Peter 3:10-13).

            Like in a war, those taken (either for destruction or for safety) will appear to be arbitrary. Two people from similar circumstances will end up in different places. The illustrations also emphasize the suddenness of the end. People will be in the middle of their business when the end comes.

The lesson of the thief (Matthew 24:42-44)

            Without advance warning, there is no possibility of preparing for the end at the last moment. Therefore, we must be prepared for the event to happen at any time (I Thessalonians 5:4-11; Revelation 3:3). Jesus illustrates the point with the preparations we make for a thief. If we wait until after our house is robbed to put locks on the doors and windows, it would be too late. Since we never know when a thief is coming, we must always be ready.

            In the same way, we don’t know when Jesus will return. Therefore, we cannot make last minute preparations. We must be always ready for the end to come at any moment because he will likely return when you least expect him to appear.

The lesson of the servant (Matthew 24:45-51; Mark 13:33-37)

            Jesus emphasizes his point by the illustration of slave left in charge of the house until his master returns at an unspecified time. Tasks are given, such as making sure that everyone has their meal. The slave cannot assume when the master will return. He cannot assume that the master won’t be back for days and so begin to take advantage of his position of power in the household or to slack off with drinking. As sure as such a servant does so, the master will appear at a very inconvenient time.

            If the master returns unexpectedly and finds his servant doing his tasks well, the master will reward him because he has proven himself to be a faithful servant. But if the master finds his household in a mess, the slave in charge while he was gone will be severely punished.

            The point remains the same. We must always be prepared and always doing our duties (Revelation 16:15).

The parable of the ten virgins (Matthew 25:1-13)

            Jesus continues his emphasis on watchfulness with a parable about ten virgins waiting to attend a wedding. Ten is typically a number to represent the whole or complete; in this case the ten virgins represent the whole church. Virgins are selected to emphasize purity. In the middle east, weddings were large affairs, typically lasting a week. The wedding feast was conducted in the house of the bride’s parents. At the end of the feast, the groom conducted his bride to his home. Friends and family would join in a large procession from one house to the other. Typically the procession would take place at time with people holding lamps or torches to light the way for the couple.

            These ten women were waiting for the procession to come, but they didn’t know exactly when it would start. Five of the women were prepared for a long wait, but the other five didn’t plan ahead. The wait was long and they began to nod off in sleep.

            At midnight a cry was heard that the bridegroom was finally coming and they quickly got ready to join the procession. The unprepared women realized that they were running out of oil. Their lamps would not last through the procession, so they asked to borrow oil from the ones who had prepared. The wise virgins pointed out that if they gave them oil, none of them would have enough for the entire journey. The women would need to purchase more and quickly.

            But at that time of night, it isn’t easy to find oil for sale. By the time they got back to the bridegroom’s house the procession was done and the door was already closed. A feast is offered to family and friends who were a part of the procession. If they were true friends, they would have been there. Because they were not there for the procession, they could not join the feast.

            The point, Jesus said is that we must watch. Just because a person is a part of the kingdom, it does not mean they have a guaranteed entrance into heaven. Each person must be prepared to hold on for an unknown length of time. It is required of Christians to remain steadfast (Hebrews 3:14; 6:11; Revelation 2:10). Like the warning in the parable of sower (Matthew 13:3-9, 18-23), the church is composed of people who will endure and those who will fall away. Only the wise understand the need to be prepared for endurance.

            Just as one Christian cannot give their righteousness to another, the wise virgins were unable to help the foolish virgins in being ready for the bridegroom. Each person must individually put in their own effort to be ready. No one can make you get ready or do the work on your behalf (Philippians 2:12). Nor will there be an opportunity for a second chance once the Lord returns (Hebrews 9:27).

The parable of the talents (Matthew 25:14-30)

            A similar parable was told before (Luke 19:12-27), but it is repeated here with some alterations to emphasis that watchful waiting for the Lord does not mean idleness. The Lord expects us to be productive servants until his return.

            In this parable a master is traveling to a far country, though the purpose for the journey is not told. He distributes to each servant a large some of money. The amount varied based on the abilities of the servant. A talent is not a coin but a unit of weight, being about 75 pounds. One talent of silver was worth roughly what a common laborer could make in 6,000 days or sixteen and a half years. (6,000 drachmas equaled one talent.)

            The one receiving five talents managed to increase his holdings through trade to make five additional talents. The one receiving two talents increased his holdings by two more talents. But one man, receiving just one talent, buried it in the ground.

            It was a very long time before the master returned. But on his return each servant gave an accounting of what was done with the master’s money. Each was praised for bringing the master profit and was told that since he was faithful in small things he would become a ruler over many things.

            The man who had hid the one talent, however, made excuses as to why he only returned the money given to him. He insults the master by calling him hard, grasping, and unscrupulous in his dealings. In essence the man blames the master for his fear that caused him not to do anything (Proverbs 26:13; Revelation 21:8). He returns the original talent and says here is all that belongs to you. Yet the man’s own words condemned him. If he knew that his master was expecting more back on his return, then he should have at least given the funds to a banker so that the money could be returned with interest. The man’s talent was given to the man who was most profitable with the master’s funds. The man himself was tossed out.

            Jesus stated, “For to everyone who has, more will be given, and he will have abundance; but from him who does not have, even what he has will be taken away” (Matthew 25:29). It is a statement that has been given several times (Matthew 13:12; Mark 4:25; Luke 8:18; 19:26). When people use what they have, they will gain; but the one who doesn’t use even the little he has will lose everything. You see this in the world. Rich people tend to get richer, but poor people lose what they have (Proverbs 10:15). The point is not that the world is unfair but that there is a reason some people are wealth and some people are poor and those reasons tend to extend the differences. We have all heard of people who have won or inherited great wealth but in a few years are right back to being in poverty. Jesus’s point isn’t about physical wealth, but spiritual wealth. The same differences occur (Hebrews 5:12-14).

            God gives each of different abilities, some more than others. The importance is not who received the most ability because notice that the man with two talents received as much praise as the man with five talents. The point is how well we make use of the abilities that we have to be productive for the Lord. There are some who are so fearful of God’s wrath that they figure if they just deliver themselves to the Lord in the end that will be enough. However, Jesus has constantly warned that we must be productive people (John 15:1-8; Luke 13:6-9; Matthew 21:19).

The final judgment (Matthew 25:31-46)

            Jesus states that when he returns with his angels he will sit up a throne in judgement. Everyone, from all nations, will be gathered before him for judgment (Romans 14:12; II Corinthians 5:10; Revelation 20:12). The harmless or innocent, represented by the sheep will be placed on his right in the place of honor. The wicked, represented by the goats will be placed on his left.

            The basis for the judgment is how people behaved in seemingly small matters. How they treated others, especially those who were less fortunate, determined their fate (Matthew 10:42; I Timothy 5:10; Hebrews 13:2; James 1:27; 2:15-16; I John 3:16-19; III John 5-8). The response of the righteous shows that their deeds of kindness were done by nature, that is it was a part of these people’s character to do such for others. They were not helping for the sake of reward. The response of the wicked, while the same, illustrates that their ignoring of their fellow men was by nature. Jesus said earlier that we can recognize people by their deeds (Matthew 7:15-20). He has been stating that it is in the small responsibilities that God will use to determine our reward. God renders to each according to his deeds (Romans 2:6).

            The judgment is permanent. Everlasting punishment implies that it is not annihilation, but unending suffering. It is contrasted with the reward of eternal life for the righteous. The same word is used to indicate the length of punishment and life. One cannot discount one without discounting the other.

            Note that in Matthew 25:34 Jesus states that heaven was prepared for man before the world began. God has always planned on saving men. However, in Matthew 25:41 Jesus said that hell was prepared for the devil and his angels. God planned on the need to destroy Satan and his angels, but it has not been Godís desire to destroy men (II Peter 3:9; Ezekiel 18:21-23, 30-32). He is forced to do so because so many men follow Satanís ways (II Peter 2:4-9).


            Compare the two halves of Jesus’ answer to his disciples:

Destruction of Jerusalem

Destruction of the World

Matthew 23:36-24:35

Matthew 24:36-25:46

The time is identifiable.

The time is unknown.

It will occur in “this generation.”

It will happen on “that day.”

The events prior will be unusual.

The events prior will be typical.

There will be advance warnings – the example of the fig tree.

There will be no warning – the example of the thief.

The judgment will be local – on the nation of Israel.

The judgment will be universal.

Specific signs of the coming judgement can be seen.

No advance sign of the end will be found.

There will be time to escape the judgment.

There will be no time for flight.

            Too often, people mix the events from the destruction of Jerusalem with the events dealing with the end of the world. This leads people to believe they can predict the end of the world, even though Jesus clearly states that there will be no warning. You will not know years, months, weeks, or even days in advance of Jesus’ return. You will not have a chance to make last minute preparations. You must be prepared for the master to return at any moment. Are you ready?