There is a tendency to explain the perceived poor condition of many churches in terms of the parable of the wheat and tares (Matthew 13:24-30) while neglecting the parable of the talents in Matthew 25:14-30. It is said that the wheat are believers, and the tares are unbelievers. And while this may seem like a reasonable position to take, it is unbalanced. The underlying claim is that if a Christian does not bear fruit, then they cannot be a believer and therefore they must be a tare. The parable of the talents is a passage of Scripture that is used to prove that unbelievers have come into the churches and therefore explains a lack of fruit in the lives of many who take the name of Christ. In this explanation, the steward who is given one talent is presented as being not only an unbeliever because of his attitude, but the fact that he is cast into outer darkness proves he is an unbeliever.
It is often said that the talent in Mathew chapter twenty-five means ability. However, the word ability is also mentioned in that same verse from Mathew chapter twenty-five. So we read “And unto one he gave five talents, to another two, to another one; to each according to his several abilities; and he went on his journey” (v15).
Clearly, the two words talent (τάλαντα) and ability (δύναμιν) appear separately and therefore cannot have the same precise meaning. They are two different Greek words. The talent mentioned in verse fifteen carries the same meaning as money or coinage carries, because although actual money is not intended, the talent is ‘like’ money. It is of itself something having value and the ability to increase its value. On the other hand, the term ‘ability’ referred to in this verse speaks of the moral character of a person as well as the dynamic of their attitude.
The three amounts of talents given indicate not only responsibility but is also a reflection of the moral character of the person to whom the talent is given. In short, the Lord does not give five talents to one who does not have the moral character to profit from five talents, but instead gives the five talents to the one who will profit according to five talents. On the other hand, everyone has sufficient moral character in Christ to profit from at least one talent, for the Lord’s sake. All the Lord asks of us is that we labour according to who we are in Him at the very least, and return some benefit from the ‘talent’ or ‘talents’ which the Lord gives.
Ability is a measure of the blessing of God in our lives. Faith, gifts of the Holy Spirit, upbringing, ability to obey God, ability to be faithful to God, obedience to authority and perhaps many other such things. Ability is at very least that which God invests in us throughout our lives in order to serve Him when He calls us to the vineyard to labour, in order that we might be profitable servants. As this investment is to God Himself, it is predicated on the gift of eternal life.
Like money, it is able to grow and multiply if it is put to use even in the smallest way. In short, the talent is ability worked out through a life relationship with God and therefore it is a responsibility and a duty to God Himself through Christ (the Master) to whom we have to give an account. It is evidence that we are servants of the Master and it is a requirement to serve the Master. It is also the basis for heavenly rewards. Ability, on the other hand, points to who we are in life, but especially who we are in Christ.
The gift of eternal life comes with a calling of God and faith equal to that calling. Jesus said, “whosoever cometh unto Me from his inner parts shall flow rivers of living water.” This flowing, is either free of hindrance, and therefore profitable, or else it is mixed with brackish water and produces a limited effect – or else the cistern is stopped up completely because of a hard heart. This latter case was true of the servant who received the one talent. Of course, if this is true, that the essential thing given which produces increase, is eternal life, then the servant with the one talent is not a false convert but simply a lazy servant. That raises a few questions!
I would ask how an unbeliever can be a steward of the Kingdom of Heaven? Others ask, how could a servant, who has the gift of eternal life, be referred to as lazy, wicked, and be thrown into outer darkness, where there is gnashing of teeth? This is a much easier question to answer, however, than how an unbeliever can be a steward of the Kingdom of Heaven! It is not possible to please God without faith. The parable of the talents’ emphasises stewardship, and therefore the increase must be according to what is given in the first instance. If nothing is given nothing can be accounted. If no life is given how can one become a steward of life? Some believers settle the question by asserting that the steward was lost for eternity due to wickedness. After all, he is called wicked and lazy in the parable. Having given the matter three decades of thought, I am fully persuaded that this steward is not only a believer but that he will not perish either. Outer darkness is not eternal destruction away from God.
The Scripture clearly tells us that the Kingdom of Heaven is like unto a field in which a man sowed good seed. While the man was sleeping his enemy came along and sowed tares amongst the wheat (Mathew 13:24-30). The traditional interpretation of this parable is that the tares are unbelievers. Although this is a proper understanding, there is much more to this passage than this one idea.
One obvious faulty idea that derives from a simple understanding of Matthew 13:24-30, is a belief that the field must be the same as saying the church. One would have to ask how it is possible for Satan to sow into the church itself and by what means? If the Lord intended us to understand this parable as an indication of unbelievers coming into the churches, then we would have missed the explanation the Lord Himself gave in Matthew 13:37-43.
In thinking about the tares, it is possible to say that while they may choke the growth of the wheat somewhat, and to that end may actually harm the kingdom work – yet when the wheat itself begins to bear fruit, the tares will become visible (v26). It is important to realise that both of the two successful stewards achieved a full increase in their efforts and service. If the steward with the one talent can be simply explained by being said to be a ‘tare’, then the question as to how an unbeliever could receive a stewardship to Christ, has to be asked. It seems to me that tares and lazy servants are not synonymous, and so to confuse tares with lazy servants is misleading. At the same time to claim that the lazy servant is saved and that all tares remain unsaved, also leads to some difficulties. Yet if we grasped that the two stewards were successful, as well as remembering that tares do exist and that they may have an ill effect, the real question has more to do with how the two stewards succeeded despite the tares chocking their growth? Clearly, the lazy steward did not choke the growth of the two faithful stewards. The distinction to make here is a profoundly simple one. The two successful stewards produced an increase by one means alone; they lived a crucified life hidden in Christ. It is this reality that gives us the understanding we need to make sense of both parables.
All who have believed in Christ have both the ability and the means to profit for the Lord. Yet many brethren do not profit even in visibility. Apart from our own personal attitude to the Lord, one thing which may harm our growth and subsequent profitability may well be tares amongst the wheat. As the tares cannot be removed without damaging the wheat, so there must be an answer to how the wheat successfully produces an increase. It is essential to know that the parable of the talents is not concerned with unbelievers.
I have seen that increasing numbers of brethren have come to view the churches in the time we live, as lazy. This is described or else explained by those who are not lazy, as a problem of wheat and tares. In short, the tares are unbelievers in the midst. If we intend to mean that the lazy servant is an unbeliever, it would have to be said that many who confess Christ in the West, are not, after all, believers. But this is of course where things are going anyway because a distinction is being pressed by the Lord Himself.
The best view of this which I have seen presented appears to be to avoid the issue altogether and focus on a ‘remnant’ of faithful stewards who are then said to be the ‘true’ church. This way one can avoid any discussion about lazy servants or else tares, and hence avoid confusion. This does not sit well with me either, even though I do believe in a remnant, who by God’s hand alone, are able to serve Him faithfully for the ultimate benefit of the many, including those who by reason of believing false doctrines, produce no fruit. I reject any notion that anyone who is truly born again will be overlooked by God and Christ for the whole of their lives, and will not be given a clear and visible opportunity to serve the Lord, and to repent of past laziness, sin and self-interest. That many who take the name of Christ are lazy, sinful and self interested is an undoubted fact of observation.
Just to make my position or understanding clearer, I also believe in eternal security of those who are truly born again. And I do not comprehend being born again as so mystical and abstract a thing, that it is possible to exclude everyone who takes the name of Christ, but has little outward evidence of a new life in Christ. I base my understanding primarily on what someone is able to believe in the day I live in, and according to the day I live in. I do not judge things according to another day. This distinction is critical. On the other hand, I hate the saying ‘once saved always saved’ because it is profoundly misleading, and makes ruin the fuller understanding of what salvation, itself, means. I prefer instead ‘you have been saved with an everlasting salvation’ because this speaks of the centrality and the beginning of what salvation means; which is the gift of eternal life.
“And I saw a great white throne, and him that sat on it, from whose face the earth and the heaven fled away; and there was found no place for them. And I saw the dead, small and great, stand before God; and the books were opened: and another book was opened, which is the book of life: and the dead were judged out of those things which were written in the books, according to their works. And the sea gave up the dead which were in it; and death and hell delivered up the dead which were in them: and they were judged every man according to their works. And death and hell were cast into the lake of fire. This is the second death. And whosoever was not found written in the book of life was cast into the lake of fire.” (Revelation 20:11–15).
Given that all agree the consequence of being a tare or a lazy steward is either being burned or else rejected, it seems reasonable to give a little consideration as to hell itself. It may well be that there are many souls in hell at any given moment if we had the power and ability to look into its dominion.
One thing is certain; however, hell is empty when it is cast into the lake of fire. Whereas those who are found in hell, at the time of the Great White Throne, are those who are in the second resurrection. They are those who are of the dominion of the sea, hell or death (Revelation 20:11-15).The beginning of the millennial kingdom corresponds to the master, who went on a long journey, returning to establish his visible kingdom, after which kingdom, those who have had no part are then judged according to their works. Those whose names were not written in the Book of Life were cast into the lake of fire for eternity. In short, according to Revelation chapter twenty, hell is not the eternal resting place of the wicked. It is the lake of fire. Just as the dead who are in the sea are not eternally bound up with the ocean, neither those who are held by the dominion of death are eternally bound up with death. It is the second death that is eternal, and the eternal place of the wicked. Hell and Death are eternal, yet they are themselves cast into the Lake of Fire.
“And the disciples came, and said unto him, Why speakest thou unto them in parables? And he answered and said unto them, Unto you, it is given to know the mysteries of the Kingdom of Heaven, but to them, it is not given. For whosoever hath, to him shall be given, and he shall have abundance: but whosoever hath not, from him shall be taken away even that which he hath. Therefore speak I to them in parables; because seeing they see not, and hearing they hear not, neither do they understand. And unto them is fulfilled the prophecy of Isaiah, which saith, By hearing ye shall hear, and shall in no wise understand; And seeing ye shall see, and shall in no wise perceive: For this people’s heart is waxed gross, And their ears are dull of hearing, And their eyes they have closed; Lest haply they should perceive with their eyes, And hear with their ears, And understand with their heart, And should turn again, And I should heal them. But blessed are your eyes, for they see; and your ears, for they hear. For verily I say unto you, that many prophets and righteous men desired to see the things which ye see, and saw them not; and to hear the things which ye hear, and heard them not.” Mathew 13:10-17
We know that the meaning of the parable of the sower is how the hearer received the Gospel of the kingdom, as well as the outcome (Mark 4:3-8). So when Jesus says to the disciples that “to him who has, much more will be given, and from him that has not, even that which he has will be taken away,” He is talking about a heart that hears and receives the gospel of the kingdom. It has to be recognised that the Gospel of the Resurrection was not yet revealed, and would not be comprehended until after the resurrection itself. More fully the gospel of the grace of God through Jesus Christ, risen from the dead, was not yet fully comprehended until Paul (2 Timothy 2:8). It was to Paul that the Gospel of grace was delivered, out of season, both for the Jew first and then to the Gentile also.
Israel received through Christ Himself, both forgiveness of sins, where it was sought, as well as all the benefits of having Messiah present with them. This included raising the dead, casting out unclean spirits, healing the sick and forgiveness of sin. Yet this was the Gospel of the kingdom and was not yet the Gospel of Grace as preached by the apostle Paul. It was that which came through The Law and the Prophets, even Christ. It has to be said that the gospel of the kingdom does speak of the grace of God through Christ Jesus, because Christ was crucified from before the foundation of the world as far as the eternal knowledge of God is concerned. Yet the gospel of the kingdom was first preached while Christ was yet in the flesh. It is only after the Lord’s death and resurrection that Christ became a life-giving spirit. We see this in the Scripture which speaks, “The first man, Adam, became a living soul. The last Adam became a life-giving spirit.” (1 Corinthians 15:45).
It is only after the Lord’s death and resurrection that there would be a new covenant written in Christ’s own blood, and this would herald the Gospel of Grace.
This parable of the sower has been presented as pertaining to the Gospel of Grace, yet this contradicts the very words of the Lord Himself and the reason why He began to speak in parables at this time. The gospel of the kingdom which John the baptist proclaimed, could not fully become the gospel of grace until Christ Himself had fulfilled all the righteous demands of the Law. In strict adherence to the circumstance in which the Lord began to speak in parables, it is necessary to understand both the parable as well as the explanation in its context first. If we cannot comprehend this, we may never truly understand the Scriptures. Moreover, we will never understand the coming kingdom.
“But when he [John] saw many of the Pharisees and Sadducees coming for baptism, he said to them, “You brood of vipers, who warned you to flee from the wrath to come?” Matthew 3:7
One could scarcely imagine using these words in an evangelical crusade today.
Under the New Covenant, there is no possibility that Jesus will remove from anyone the opportunity or power to believe in Him if they turn to Him with a repentant heart. Even though a veil still remains over Israel, many of Israel believed in Christ after the resurrection, beginning on the day of Pentecost. After the resurrection of Christ from the dead, the Gospel of Grace would never be hidden from anyone fully and would be preached unto the ends of the earth. Whereas in Israel, the Gospel of the kingdom was hidden fully at a certain point in time in fulfilment of a prophecy of Isaiah.
Matthew 13:10-17 is the explanation why Jesus began to speak in parables to the people of Israel. The explanation is from verse twelve, and then from verse thirteen to verse seventeen.
“Because it is given unto you to know the mysteries of the Kingdom of Heaven, but to them, it is not given.” This same reality is revealed in another place with the Lord’s words, “You did not choose Me, but I chose you and appointed you that you would go and bear fruit and that your fruit would remain, so that whatever you ask of the Father in My name He may give to you.” (John 15:16).
There is another Scripture which cannot be of any less importance to this understanding, and corresponds to the moment Jesus rode into Jerusalem from the mount of Olives on an asses colt, saying, “If you had known in this day, even you, the things which make for peace! But now they have been hidden from your eyes.” (Luke 19:42) These words were expressly spoken in response to a few Pharisees who said to the Lord, “Teacher, rebuke your disciples.” To make the point emphatic, Jesus said, “if you had known this day, even you [Israel] the things which make for peace, But now they have been hidden from your eyes.” The Pharisees had already been cut off, and Israel could only comprehend as it was given to individuals, by reason of the Father. Now the Lord is saying to Israel directly, “If you had known in this day, even you, the things which make for peace! But now they have been hidden from your eyes.” (Luke 19:42)
In Mark 3:22 we read of the moment when the Pharisees, now on the Mount of Olives, blasphemed the Holy Spirit, by saying, “He hath Beelzebub, and, By the prince of the demons casteth he out the demons.” It is directly after this blasphemy that Jesus stopped speaking plainly and began to speak in parables. The first of which parables’ was the parable of the sower, according to Mark 4:3-8.
This parable is delivered to a multitude who are gathered by the sea of Galilee and is therefore in an open place where anyone could have come to listen freely. This included those few Pharisees, now cut off from life. In this context, Jesus says, when asked about why he had begun to speak in parables, “To you has been given the mystery of the kingdom of God, but those who are outside get everything in parables, so that while seeing, they may see and not perceive, and while hearing, they may hear and not understand, otherwise they might return and be forgiven.” (v11-14) Returning in this sense is both personal to the Pharisees, who blasphemed the Holy Spirit, as well, as can be seen in many other instances of the leading Jews, and even the people more generally.
As previously stated, this saying, “that they may see and not perceive, and while hearing they may not hear and not understand, otherwise they might return and be forgiven” is a prophecy of Isaiah.
“He said, “Go, and tell this people:
Keep on listening, but do not perceive;
Keep on looking, but do not understand.’
“Render the hearts of this people insensitive,
Their ears dull,
And their eyes dim,
Otherwise, they might see with their eyes,
Hear with their ears,
Understand with their hearts, And return and be healed.”
Then I said, “Lord, how long?” And He answered,
“Until cities are devastated and without inhabitant,
Houses are without people
And the land is utterly desolate,
“The Lord has removed men far away,
And the forsaken places are many in the midst of the land.” Isaiah 6:9-12
Also, we see that the words spoken in Luke chapter nineteen conclude with this same prophecy, including the destruction of Jerusalem and the diaspora of Israel in 70AD. It is evident therefore that the whole of the prophecy, which is given in part by Christ to the disciples in private, is delivered to Israel in full, in public, and concerns both the Pharisees as well as Israel itself. From the point when the Pharisees blasphemed the Holy Spirit, Jesus spoke only in parables in public. And the condition necessary to an ability to understand the Lord, from this point onwards, became “let him who has an ear, hear, or eyes to see.” Now on the mount of Olives, as Jesus rides into Jerusalem, He hides from all. Even the disciples are told that they must not reveal that Jesus is the Christ once they enter Jerusalem.
In John Chapter ten, although Jesus speech is not said to be a parable, nevertheless it is hidden from the jews who were gathered to listen to Him. In verse six it is written that Jesus spoke in a figure of speech and in verse twenty-four the Jews asked the Lord to talk to them plainly. The Lord’s speech gave rise to a schism; some saying that Jesus had a demon and others bearing witness of the Lords works. Here in this verse alone is the proof of the outworking of what it means to have eyes to see or ears to hear. Jesus is asked while standing in Solomon’s Portico to come right out with it and to say whether He was the Christ or not. To which Jesus says, “I told you, and you do not believe; the works that I do in My Father’s name, these testify of Me. “But you do not believe because you are not of My sheep. “My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me, and I give eternal life to them, and they will never perish, and no one will snatch them out of My hand. “My Father, who has given them to Me, is greater than all; and no one is able to snatch them out of the Father’s hand. “the Father and I are one.” (John 10:25-30)
The meaning of Isaiah’s prophecy is that it had to do with both the Pharisees blasphemy as well as the blasphemy of other Jews of no rank, and in generality, it had to do with Israel. It is visible in everything the Lord spoke after the Pharisees blasphemed the Holy Spirit and it was fulfilled to its fullness in the destruction of Jerusalem and the scattering of Israel in 70AD.
Today we have not heard the words “repent for the kingdom is at hand” we heard ‘Christ crucified for sin and raised for our justification, repent, believe and be saved’. This is the gospel of grace. Only then do we begin to comprehend that there is such a thing as the Kingdom of Heaven and only then can we start to labour towards it. The parable of the talents speaks of the Kingdom of Heaven, which being presently far off, yet is near at hand because the deposit which brings forth eternal life is already ours if we have believed. It is in us, as in an earthen vessel. This deposit is the gift of eternal life, but its outworking and fullness are not yet visible.
Unless we are broken, and the seed or deposit is released to increase, it will remain hidden. The kingdom is also far off, even as the Master is far off, in that we are crucified with Christ, buried with Him in baptism, raised up with Him, ascended into heaven in His train and seated in Him at the right hand of the Father in heaven. For those who believe in Christ, after the cross, are more full, than those who heard these words of Matthew chapter thirteen, as well as all the parables of the kingdom which followed immediately thereafter. They too would now wait until Pentecost before they would find their release into the power of labouring for the kingdom. It is only after Pentecost that it becomes possible for the issue of tares to become manifestly clear. Today, this means the baptism of the Holy Spirit.
“Hear then ye the parable of the sower. When any one heareth the word of the kingdom, and understandeth it not, then cometh the evil one, and snatcheth away that which hath been sown in his heart. This is he that was sown by the way side. And he that was sown upon the rocky places, this is he that heareth the word, and straightway with joy receiveth it; yet hath he not root in himself, but endureth for a while; and when tribulation or persecution ariseth because of the word, straightway he stumbleth. And he that was sown among the thorns, this is he that heareth the word; and the care of the world, and the deceitfulness of riches, choke the word, and he becometh unfruitful. And he that was sown upon the good ground, this is he that heareth the word, and understandeth it; who verily beareth fruit, and bringeth forth, some a hundredfold, some sixty, some thirty.” Matthew 13:18-23 (AV)
Matthew chapter thirteen verse eleven through seventeen are not the meaning of the parable; they are an explanation as to why Jesus began to speak in parables and the condition of those who necessitated it. “For whosoever hath, to him shall be given, and he shall have abundance: but whosoever hath not, from him shall be taken away even that which he hath” (v12) speaks of the condition of the hearer who although having Christ were yet unable to believe in Him. This explanation was not given to Israel, though it does concern the multitude of Israel. It is given to the disciples in private.
If we then look at the meaning of the parable we see that it has nothing to do with belief or unbelief in Christ Himself crucified for sin, which is the basis of eternal life, but is in keeping with the gospel of the kingdom and has to do with the Lord’s works. “For the Kingdom of Heaven is not a matter of words but of power.” The gospel of grace, on the other hand, is a fact of words and power because it is the proclamation of good news. It is faith by hearing, and hearing by the word of God. Whereas, the Gospel of the kingdom is concerned with power. Did the Lord not say, “I told you, and you do not believe; the works that I do in My Father’s name, these testify of Me.” John 10:38
In the same way from verse twelve again we read “For whosoever hath, to him shall be given, and he shall have abundance: but whosoever hath not, from him shall be taken away even that which he hath.” The first ‘hath’ here points to the one who having believed in Christ, would also receive an increase. This increase is the knowledge of the kingdom, which the disciples were elected and chosen to know, and the ‘hath not’ points to the one who did not believe in Christ. Finally, the, ‘from him shall be taken away even that which he hath’, points to Christ Himself hiding from Israel, because though He came to them, they rejected Him. So the Lord conceals a true meaning of His person, from this time onwards.
The sense of the talents represents that which is the increase of eternal life. The talent is the means by which it is possible to labour towards an increase of the Kingdom of Heaven. The fuller meaning of the wheat and the tares, on the other hand, is more to do with bearing fruit in one’s personal life. And while this is also reflective of an increase for the Lord, the tare [who] does not bear fruit, is not the same as a lazy servant whose attitude is more synonymous with wickedness than one whose conduct is always sinful.
In reflection, of what was said earlier, the ability which each believer has to make use of the talents given is a measure of the blessing of God in life. This includes the gift of faith, gifts of the Holy Spirit, upbringing, willingness to obey God, ability to be faithful to God, obedience to authority and perhaps many other such things.
Ability is at very least that which God invests in us throughout our lives in order to serve Him when He calls us to the vineyard to labour, in order that we might be profitable servants. As this investment is to God Himself, it is predicated on the gift of eternal life. Like money, it is able to grow and multiply if it is put to use even in the smallest way. In short, the talent is ability worked out through a life relationship with God and therefore it is a responsibility and a duty to God Himself through Christ (the Master) to whom we have to give an account. It is evidence that we are servants of the Master and it is a requirement to serve the Master. It is also the basis for heavenly rewards. Ability, on the other hand, points to who we are in life, but especially who we are in Christ. What this means is really very simple. No one who is an unbeliever could ordinarily labour towards the kingdom of God. So then, we are left with only one thing to say about the wicked and lazy servant!
Such a day in which we live when the Kingdom of Heaven is at hand makes this parable all the more important to understand soundly. All too often the issue of eternal life is fudged due to how this meaning of the parable of the wheat & tares, as well as the parable of the talents, is presented. The tares are burned, which speaks of fire, and the wicked and lazy servant is cast into outer darkness.
I have to say straight forwardly that I really do not believe we need to concern ourselves as believers with eternity. If we had not been saved with an everlasting salvation, then the Scriptures would not tell us that we are saved with an everlasting salvation. Yet it does, and not just once, but many times. What we need to concern ourselves with, I believe, is the coming Kingdom of Heaven. The parable of the talents is concerned with that fact and that fact alone.
This parable also shows that the opposite to being in the Kingdom of Heaven for the believer or steward, means outer darkness. Yet the darkness will pass away, even as these heavens and this earth will pass away. When the nations of the earth have become the Kingdom of Heaven, heralded by the cry of an angel, so also after 1000 years the kingdom will pass away, heralded by Gog & Magog (Revelations 20:7).
As it has been said, eternal life is Christ in us and all those who believe in Christ. It is not eternity which should concern us but the coming kingdom! It needs to be considered that there is no issue of temptation with the wicked and lazy servant, in fact, he clearly shows that he has not lost anything at all. If he had been walking in some continuous sin, recklessly in disregard of the gift of life, he would be a great deal more than diffident at the Lord’s appearing, he would be truly concerned. His confidence is astonishing. His wickedness is evident in his attitude even before the Lord.
Not only this, he absolutely makes it clear that he knew the Lord. He says “Master, I knew you to be a hard man, reaping where you did not sow and gathering where you scattered no seed.” Not only does this man acknowledge that he knew the Master, but the Master Himself confirms it by saying ‘You wicked, lazy slave, you knew that I reap where I did not sow and gather where I scattered no seed.’
There are three references to outer darkness in the Scriptures – in Matthew 8:10, 22:13, 25:30. All three have to do with the Lord’s servants; all three have to do with the Kingdom of Heaven. There are numbers of uses of the term darkness, and they all have real meaningful context if we have a mind to see it. As with so many revelations in the Scriptures, the term darkness has one central character and meaning, and then many applications.
It does not require great wisdom to know that the sun has set and the darkness of the night has come. It simply requires one to look into the brightness of the day and see that it has gone, and that darkness has taken its place.
“Clouds and thick darkness surround Him;
Righteousness and justice are the foundation of His throne.
Fire goes before Him And burns up His adversaries round about.
His lightnings lit up the world
The earth saw and trembled” Psalm 97:2-4.
“This is the message we have heard from Him and announce to you, that God is Light, and in Him, there is no darkness at all. If we say that we have fellowship with Him and yet walk in the darkness, we lie and do not practise the truth; but if we walk in the Light as He Himself is in the Light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus His Son cleanses us from all sin.” 1 John 1:5-7.
Here is one kind of darkness, and here is the centrality of what darkness means throughout Scriptures. Even when the term is used to describe all that which is darkness, it simply means that the True Light does not shine in that place. Whether it is the hearts of men, or in the world, or in hell, or death or a nation, it is the same meaning in centrality. It means where the light of God does not yet shine, or from where the light of God is withheld, or where the light is rejected. In the case of Psalm 97:2 the light shines brightly behind the clouds, but from without, even the light cannot be comprehended, except that God reveals Himself. Clearly, there is no lack of light in the presence of God. All is Light in His presence. So it is very easy to see that while God Himself is Light, He is hidden to those who will not seek Him out, or else who do not receive His witness. The hidden reality of God means that all who walk outside of His Light and life are in darkness as well. (Luke 11:35).
“The Light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not comprehend it.” (John 1:5). This is also darkness. It is the darkness of the world and the darkness of not comprehending the Light. In seeking to understand the meaning of outer darkness, be that in context of why Jesus began to speak in parables (Mark 4:3-8), or else in the reality of speaking of all men who take the name of the Lord and will one day give an account to Him when He comes in His kingdom, darkness becomes put away from the Light, or in the case of Israel, Christ Himself is hidden except to those who have ears to hear and eyes to see. In the case of Israel, this hiding of Christ ultimately meant that when Jesus rode into Jerusalem on an asses colt, Israel did not comprehend the time of visitation. Had they done they would have had peace as the passage of Scripture says in John 15:16. As it was, the Lord tells them in tears that their portion becomes tribulation.
As to those who have believed after the death and resurrection of Christ for sin, being cast into outer darkness, is primarily at the time of the kingdom come, which is the centrality of the parable. Whether this had been the kingdom come at the hour of Christ in Israel, or Pentecost, or else at the time of the Lord’s return, is in truth the same in meaning and substance. For where the King is, there is the kingdom. If we prove in the end to have the same mind as Israel had and prefer the darkness of our own selves to the light of obedience and faithfulness, we too will suffer as they suffered when Jerusalem was destroyed and the children of Israel were killed or else scattered. For us at that time of the Lord’s return, the loss of our peace will be similar to Israel, but it will also be more significantly knowing that the kingdom has come and that we have no part in it. Outer darkness, therefore, is in contrast with the Light of the kingdom come. It is Christ Jesus reigning in Jerusalem as King of Israel and King of kings over the nations through those who reign with Him in the Light of His countenance over all the earth; yet to have no part in it. That is no small matter.
For those who are alive when Jesus returns in the clouds, if they are not dressed in readiness, will be perfected through the tribulation. Those who have already fallen asleep will be measured according to their day.
The most fearful thing will be to reject this day of coming tribulation in which we live, and to choose one’s own peace, thereby to deny Christ before men with a mind to take our ease. Therefore arm yourself with a mind to suffer even as He suffered, as it is written.
“To those who have received a faith of the same kind as ours, by the righteousness of our God and Savior, Jesus Christ: Grace and peace be multiplied to you in the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord; seeing that His divine power has granted to us everything pertaining to life and godliness, through the true knowledge of Him who called us by His own glory and excellence. For by these He has granted to us His precious and magnificent promises, so that by them you may become partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world by lust. Now for this very reason also, applying all diligence, in your faith supply moral [g]excellence, and in your moral excellence, knowledge, and in your knowledge, self-control, and in your self-control, perseverance, and in your perseverance, godliness, and in your godliness, brotherly kindness, and in your brotherly kindness, love. For if these qualities are yours and are increasing, they render you neither useless nor unfruitful in the true knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. For he who lacks these qualities is blind or short-sighted, having forgotten his purification from his former sins. Therefore, brethren, be all the more diligent to make certain about His calling and choosing you; for as long as you practice these things, you will never stumble; for in this way the entrance into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ will be abundantly supplied to you.” 2 Peter 1:1-11
If we choose to suffer as He suffered, we will not only find true peace, but we will be found to have been good stewards as well at His return. If not we will be scattered without the shepherd of our souls in a day of tribulation or else in the day of visitation, which is Christ come. In this, we will suffer unnecessarily.
When the Lord Jesus returns, the kingdom will simply be a matter of life. The world itself will have become “the kingdom of our Lord and of His Christ.” (Rev 11:15) The kingdom, when Christ returns will be a physical kingdom with a real beginning and a true end, measured by Revelation as 1000 years (20:2-7). Therefore the corresponding outer darkness is also measured as well. Otherwise, even those who take the name of Christ and have believed in Him and the Father yet have been rejected from the kingdom, would not have eternal life. Yet Jesus said, “believe in the Father and Him whom the Father has sent, is eternal life.”
Finally, where is outer darkness then? It is outside the kingdom, where there is no Light, and it is imprisonment, where there are regret and suffering for rejecting the good demand of the Father to obey His Son and to follow If the Father was pleased with His Son and bore witness to it by the hand of John, speaking from heaven with a loud voice and on the mountain of transfiguration with Moses and Elijah, as well at the table of His supper feast, where the Father bore witness once again of His Son, how can men say that “I knew you were a hard master, reaping where you have not sown?.” Yet bearing witness of Himself, Christ said, “Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.” As it is written, “For My yoke is easy, and My burden is light.” Only a wicked and lazy servant would say otherwise for no more reason than the delights of his soul and to take his ease. By living for ourselves we are rejecting the true rest of Christ, which means the cross unto death and obedience in all things unto His glory and praise. The one who would rather take his ease in pressing for his own interests is the wicked servant.
More perfectly, if the Spirit Himself has borne witness with our spirit crying Abba, Father, how can we say that we have no witness of Christ surpassing that which Israel heard at the Jordan, and the disciples heard at the supper feast? How can we say He is a hard Master when the Father says by the Holy Spirit “you have become my children and my Righteousness in Him?” It is to despise the Father and to deny the Son. How will we find an easy entrance into His kingdom which the Father has given Him, for His faithfulness and obedience, and not discern that we must also be faithful and obedient?
“Even the darkness is not dark to You, And the night is as bright as the day.
Darkness and light are alike to You. For You formed my inward parts;
You wove me in my mother’s womb.
I will give thanks to You, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made;
Wonderful are Your works, And my soul knows it very well.
My frame was not hidden from You,
When I was made in secret, And skilfully wrought in the depths of the earth;
Your eyes have seen my unformed substance; And in Your book were all written
The days that were ordained for me, When as yet there was not one of them.
How precious also are Your thoughts to me, O God!
How vast is the sum of them!
If I should count them, they would outnumber the sand
When I awake, I am still with you”
“Three times a year you shall celebrate a feast to Me. “You shall observe the Feast of Unleavened Bread; for seven days you are to eat unleavened bread, as I commanded you, at the appointed time in the month Abib, for in it you came out of Egypt. And none shall appear before Me empty-handed. “Also you shall observe the Feast of the Harvest of the first fruits of your labours from what you sow in the field; also the Feast of the Ingathering at the end of the year when you gather in the fruit of your labours from the field.” Exodus 23:14-16
In the above passage from Exodus we read the words “And none shall appear before Me empty-handed.” We would all do well, if we were to take this admonition of the Lord, seriously. In this attitude, we would be ever mindful of the need to please God, as well as hold to an understanding of what it will mean to be found a faithful servant on the day of the Lord Jesus. Imprisonment is a holding to account by the Lord to settle our debts to Him as stewards of His possessions (Matthew 6:12, 18:27, & 18:32). Of course, anyone could repent at any time, so long as we have the day, and the Lord will forgive us our debts; as He intended it to be when He died for us (Colossians 2:14).
How merciful the Lord is to us! How can we despise Him by seeing always our own benefits and none of His?
In simplicity, this article represents what I have personally come to believe regarding the coming kingdom and what that will mean for those who are born again. Of necessity, this must touch upon the meaning of eternal life. For myself I have been thinking about the saying, ‘once saved always saved’ for more than three decades. The first time I heard these words used was by a sister in 1986. Though I didn’t understand the intended meaning, her words produced a poor witness in my spirit. In the end, I have tested its meaning and found it lacking. This is not because I do not believe in everlasting salvation in Christ, but because the saying excludes what a fuller meaning of salvation is. Salvation must be the whole man and not simply parts. It must be spirit, soul and body. If we comprehend the spiritual reality of being born again and no more, then we would have missed its fullest meaning. In this, we would neglect to realise that the faithless soul suffers also. If we do not comprehend a true biblical account of salvation, and what this represents for men and women, we will come to an unbalanced view of salvation. In the end, we will declare ‘once saved always saved’ of ourselves and others, no matter how we live or others live. The effect will be to lay at other men’s feet the power to live as they please; taking no account of the coming Kingdom of Heaven and to put Christ to an open shame.
Similarly, If we emphatically deny that salvation is an eternal gift of God we will create the opposite effect. We will cause others to endlessly struggle to please God by their own effort, in the hope of being justified into eternity. No doubt the words, ‘once saved always saved’ seem reasonable to the one who has comprehended that everlasting life is everlasting. If we press a partite view of salvation and speak of a renewed spirit, and the obedient soul; yet neglected the body, how could we say we are fully saved? It would be to shrink back from the risen Christ, as the disciples did, not yet comprehending that Christ was raised from the dead in His body, in which concern they thought they were seeing a ghost. Similarly, if we speak of the spirit, and the body, but did not speak of the soul, we may find that when the Lord Jesus comes in the glory of the Father, we will be rejected from His kingdom (2 Timothy 2:11-14). To speak of salvation, and to fail to lay hold of a fuller meaning, to the preserving of spirit, soul and body, is to speak of a partial salvation, and not its fullness.
As far as this particular effort is concerned, the question concerns talents as of Matthew chapter twenty-five. It speaks of one who is a believer, but also a steward. If all we ever comprehend is what we have been given freely, and do not comprehend that which is required of us also, then at the end of this age we will suffer loss. How then will we say in that hour, I was saved once and am still saved? Then we will know that we have been foolish, lazy and wicked, and realise our fleshy tendency to please ourselves has cost us the kingdom itself.
I really don’t believe we need to concern ourselves as believers with eternity (Ecclesiastes 3:11). If we had not been saved with an everlasting salvation, then the Scriptures would not tell us that we are saved with an everlasting salvation (Isaiah 43:13, 45:17 Hebrews 5:9). Yet it does, and not just once, but many times (Mark 16:20, John 3:15-16, 5:24, 6:40, 6:47, 10:28, 2 Timothy 1:9 1 John 2:25). What should concern us is the coming Kingdom of Heaven (Isaiah 9:7, Matthew 6:33, Acts 1:3, Acts 19:8, Acts 20:25, 2 Thessalonians 1:5, 2 Timothy 4:1). The parable of the talents is concerned with that fact and that fact alone.
This parable also shows that the opposite to being in the Kingdom of Heaven means outer darkness. Yet the darkness will pass away even as these heavens and this earth will pass away. When the world has become the Kingdom of Heaven, heralded by the cry of an angel (Rev 11:15) – So also, the Millennial Kingdom will pass away, followed by new heavens and a new earth (Revelations 21:1).
It has been said; eternal life is Christ in us and all those who believe in Christ. Eternity, on the other hand, will exist even for those who are in the lake of fire. Eternity and eternal life are synonymous yet different. Could we say that Satan who is to be in the lake of fire for eternity has eternal life? Or the false prophet, or the beast? We know their end because it is already written; it is the lake of fire. First the false prophet and the beast (Revelation 19:20), and then lastly Satan (Revelation 20:7) according to the order of Scripture (Revelation 20:10). This order itself has to do with the coming kingdom. The false prophet and the beast are cast into the lake of fire when the kingdom commences, which corresponds to the appearing of Christ. Satan is cast into the lake of fire when the kingdom comes to an end on this earth. Then comes the judgement of the Great White Throne. Being cast into outer darkness does not correspond to eternity. It corresponds to the Kingdom of Heaven on earth, which is a measure of 1000 years (Revelation 20:2-7).
In this period of time which is measured by the return of the Lord Jesus and the Great White Throne, there is both the heavens and the earth, the kingdom and outer darkness; there is death, and there is hell! Hell and Death are synonymous, yet speak of two dominions and two keys (Revelation 1:18). The establishment of an understanding of the Millennial Kingdom and the corresponding outer darkness, are synonymous, yet speak of two dominions as well as keys. The establishing of the Kingdom of Heaven is given to Christ (Revelation 1:18) whereas the keys of the power of the kingdom are given to the church (Matthew 16:19). Similarly, there is life, and there is abundant life. Eternal life, which is at once Christ in us, yet for those who reign with Christ also, for 1000 years, life becomes abundant life. Abundant life is expressed in the kingdom with Christ, as priests and kings over the nations. Life is the free gift of God to all who ask, believing that He is. Abundant life is faithfulness in all that which we are given when we first believed (talents).
All men born of Adam die and all men born of Christ will live (1 Corinthians 15:22) Death is a reality, even for the one who has life in Christ and has Christ in them. As it is written, “It is appointed unto men to die once then cometh judgement.” (Hebrews 9:27). All will die yet not all will spend their eternity in the lake of fire, because as it is written, “I am the resurrection and the life; he who believes in Me will live even if he dies, and everyone who lives and believes in Me will never die. Do you believe this?” (John 11:25-26).
Hell already exists, and it was created for the devil and his angels (Matthew 25:31). Today it is also the storehouse for tormented souls who are perishing or else are imprisoned (Luke 16:23-28).
Outer darkness does not yet appear because it cannot be comprehended until the corresponding light of Christ in full visibility, appears also. Then as it is written, “we shall be like Him because we shall see Him as He is”. To have the life of Christ, yet to be cast out of the kingdom into outer darkness means to see Christ at His return, as those who have believed [stewards] yet to be rejected by Him from His kingdom. It is written, “no man can see the kingdom, nor enter therein except he is born again” (John 3:3). Yet outer darkness is not the lake of fire, though it may well be a compartment of hell. Hell, itself is not the eternal resting place of tormented souls, for it too, having given up the dead that is in it, is also cast into the lake of fire, along with death, which shall also give up those yet held by its power (Revelation 20:13-14). All this is at the last judgement of Christ when those whose names are not written in the book of life are cast into the lake of fire (Revelation 20:15). Howbeit that those who have life can also taste hell? Or howbeit that at the last judgement of the Great White Throne, death and hell give up they that are in them? What is hell and what is death? What is the kingdom come? What is outer darkness?
As it is written, “those whose names are NOT written in the book of life are cast into the lake of fire, wherein are the false prophet, the beast and Satan.” Is God the author of confusion? Does He raise the dead at the end of the age to judge their works after the kingdom of 1000 years is complete, only to pronounce the second death on every soul of man which has no part in the kingdom? Or does God mock men also, and leave His wicked and lazy servant who is without the kingdom, despairing even of life itself, though he believes in Christ? Will they not be saved? As it is written, “Whosoever believeth on Me, will not perish, but have everlasting life.” (John 3:16). That which is set before all men, is faith in Christ, crucified for Sin, unto eternal life, and thereafter for those who believe; it is the cross of obedience unto the kingdom. Believing is everlasting life; it is to live and not to perish. Stewardship is seeking the Kingdom of Heaven faithfully and wisely; it is abundant life. It is to reign with Christ in the kingdom.
“And he who does not take his cross and follow after Me is not worthy of Me. “He who has found his life will lose it, and he who has lost his life for My sake will find it. “He who receives you receives Me, and he who receives Me receives Him who sent Me. “He who receives a prophet in the name of a prophet shall receive a prophet’s reward, and he who receives a righteous man in the name of a righteous man shall receive a righteous man’s reward. “And whoever in the name of a disciple gives to one of these little ones even a cup of cold water to drink; truly I say to you, he shall not lose his reward.” Matthew 10:38-42
“If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross and follow Me. “For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it; but whoever loses his life for My sake will find it. “For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world and forfeits his soul? Or what will a man give in exchange for his soul? “For the Son of Man is going to come in the glory of His Father with His angels, and will then repay every man according to his deeds.” Matthew 16:24-27