Prophecy on Mount Olivet
By Arlen L. Chitwood
The Householder and His Servant
Who then is a faithful and wise servant, whom his master made ruler over his household, to give them food in due season?
Blessed is that servant whom his master, when he comes, will find so doing.
Assuredly, I say to you that he will make him ruler over all his goods.
But if that evil servant says in his heart, “My master is delaying his coming,”
and begins to beat his fellow servants, and to eat and drink with the drunkards,
the master of that servant will come on a day when he is not looking for him and at an hour that he is not aware of,
and will cut him in two and appoint him his portion with the hypocrites. There shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth. (Matthew 24:45-51)
(As shown in the previous chapter in this book [Chapter 10], the four parables in the Christian section of the Olivet Discourse all deal with exactly the same thing. In this respect, each successive parable has been designed to shed light on the preceding parable or parables, with all four parables together presenting a complete, composite picture of the subject under discussion.
And this is in perfect keeping with the nature of a parable. The English word “parable” is simply a transliterated form of the Greek word parabole. Thus, for a proper definition and understanding of “a parable,” one must go back to the Greek word from which the English word was taken.
Parabole is a compound word — para, meaning “alongside”; and bole, meaning “to throw,” “to cast.” Thus, “a parable” is something cast [placed] alongside of something else, i.e., one truth placed alongside of a previous truth. And the thought has to do with a later truth placed alongside an earlier truth to provide further light upon and help explain the earlier truth.
The Christian section of the Olivet Discourse consists of four parables, with each successive parable having to do with truth placed alongside of previous truth [successive parables placed alongside of one or more previous parables] to help explain the previous truth, the previous parable or parables.)
The Lord’s statements in the first of the four parables, relative to one taken and another left (Matthew 24:40-42), led directly into the thought of a house being broken up (vv. 43, 44). That is, both individuals, in each instance, were seen as members of the same house; and the house was broken up by one being “taken [lit., ‘received alongside (received as a companion)’]” and the other being “left [lit., ‘turned away (rejected as a companion)’].”
Then the next parable, the parable of the Householder and His servant, continues this same line of thought, showing that which awaits both faithful and unfaithful servants (providing further light on the previous parable). The faithful servant is appointed to a regal position in Christ’s kingdom (v. 47); the unfaithful servant though is not only rejected for appointment to one of these regal positions but, instead, is appointed “his portion with the hypocrites.”
The picture is taken from an Eastern household that was composed of a lord, or master, and representatives under him to whom authority had been delegated. These representatives were stewards of the property and thus responsible for the house. They functioned directly under and on behalf of their master, and their duties revolved solely around the master’s wishes relative to affairs of the household.
In Matthew 24:45-51, “Christ” is the Lord, or Master, over the house; and His “servant” (representing many servants) is the one to whom authority in the house, with its responsibility, had been delegated during the time of the Householder’s absence. This is in perfect keeping with the parable of the talents (Matthew 25:14-30) and the parable of the pounds (Luke 19:11-27). The “Man” or “Nobleman” — who is the Lord of the house, the Householder — called “his own servants” prior to His departure and “delivered his goods to them,” leaving them with the command, “Do business till I come” (Matthew 25:14, 15; Luke 19:12, 13).
That is to say, during the time of the Householder’s absence, affairs of His house had been left in charge of representatives to whom delegated authority had been given. These representatives were, in turn, to function directly under and on behalf of their Master, and their duties were to revolve solely around their Master’s wishes relative to affairs of His household.
It mattered little what the stewards of the household thought about their Master’s wishes, or how they thought that the household business should be carried out. The sole criteria were the instructions left by the Householder prior to His departure.
This parable pertains to things occurring during the entire time of the Lord’s absence. It is thus a simple matter to understand that Israel cannot be in view, for Israel has been set aside and will remain set aside for the entire present dispensation (which will last 2,000 years, two millennia). It is during this time that the stewardship depicted in these parables occurs, and it will be at the end of this time that the Lord will return to reckon with His servants on the basis of their stewardship during the time of His absence. Only then will God resume His national dealings with Israel.
Further, at this point in Matthew’s gospel, the proffered kingdom (the kingdom of the heavens) had been taken from Israel, and this aspect of the kingdom is that which is in view throughout the Olivet Discourse parables (cf. Matthew 25:1). The kingdom of the heavens had been taken from Israel with a view to a new nation being called into existence to bring forth “the fruits of it” (Matthew 21:43); and the Christian section of the Olivet Discourse was given anticipating this new nation’s existence.
(Note that Christ gave the parable in Luke 19:11-27 immediately before His announcement concerning the removal of the kingdom of the heavens from Israel [Luke 20:9-18; cf. Matthew 21:33-44]. This section would thus have to be looked upon as anticipating both the removal of the kingdom from Israel and the calling into existence of the new nation to be the recipient of this offer.)
There can be no question whatsoever concerning the identity of the new nation to which the kingdom of the heavens was to be offered and from which Christ would gather fruit relating to the kingdom. This new nation can be neither Jewish nor Gentile (for the kingdom was taken from Israel, and the Gentile nations are alienated from God, completely outside the scope of spiritual blessings apart from Israel [Ephesians 2:12]).
Only that “holy nation,” the “one new man” in Christ (Ephesians 2:13-15; 1 Peter 2:9, 10), who is neither Jew nor Gentile (but still of Abraham’s seed, wherein all spiritual blessings lie [Galatians 3:26-29; cf. Genesis 12:2, 3; 14:19; 22:17, 18]), could be in view.
The “one new man” in Christ was called into existence to be the recipient of that which Israel rejected (the kingdom of the heavens); and, presently, it is this “one new man” in Christ, ALONE, who is in possession of heavenly promises and blessings that fit within the framework of the four Olivet Discourse parables, beginning with Matthew 24:40 and extending to Matthew 25:30.
A Change in Stewardship
The announcement by Christ concerning the removal of the kingdom from Israel in Matthew chapter twenty-one was given immediately following the parable of the Householder and His vineyard (vv. 33-41). Jesus had been teaching in the Temple in the presence of the chief priests, elders, scribes, and Pharisees (cf. Matthew 21:23; Mark 11:27; Luke 20:1); and He, in parabolic form, very briefly outlined the 1,500-year history of Israel as it pertained to the matter at hand.
The “vineyard” is identified in Isaiah 5:1-7 as the house of Israel, though the nation’s religious leaders used the term in a slightly different sense in response to Christ’s question at the conclusion of the parable. They used the term more in the sense of the privileges and responsibilities (connected with fruit-bearing) which belonged to Israel.
The parable begins by calling attention to the planting of a vineyard, which should have drawn the hearers’ attention immediately to Isaiah 5:1-7. The vineyard (the house of Israel) was then let out to “vinedressers” [KJV: “husbandmen” (leaders within the nation)], and the One who had planted the vineyard (God) took leave and “went into a far country [He returned to heaven].”
When sufficient time had elapsed for the vineyard to produce fruit, God sent His “servants” (prophets) to the leaders of Israel “that they might receive its fruits.”
The leaders of the nation, the vinedressers (husbandmen) to whom God had delegated authority (with its responsibility), rather than bringing forth fruit from the vineyard (for there was none), ill-treated the Lord’s servants. They “beat one, killed one, and stoned another.” Other servants were sent, and “they did likewise to them” (cf. Matthew 23:29-35).
Then, last of all God sent His own “Son” to receive fruit from the vineyard. And when the leaders of Israel saw the Son, rather than seeking to fulfill the responsibility that lay with their delegated authority and bring forth fruit from the vineyard (again, there was none, for Israel was as Sarah, barren), they said, “This is the heir. Come, let us kill him and seize his inheritance.” They then “took him and cast him out of the vineyard and killed him” (Matthew 21:37-39).
This parable not only covers 1,500 years of fruitless Jewish history but it also moves into days immediately ahead when Israel would climax the entire matter by slaying even the Householder’s Son, who was then present and was to be the last One whom God would send prior to removing the kingdom from Israel and announcing the nation’s desolation (Matthew 21:43; 23:38).
Some from the ranks of the chief priests, elders, scribes, or Pharisees — not realizing the full meaning and significance of the parable in the light that which was occurring (cf. Matthew 13:13-15) — in response to Christ’s question, then outlined exactly what was about to occur:
Therefore, when the owner of the vineyard comes, what will he do to those vinedressers?
They said to Him, “He will destroy those wicked men miserably, and lease his vineyard to other vinedressers who will render to him the fruits in their seasons.” (Matthew 21:40, 41).
Israel had been made the repository for both earthly and heavenly promises and blessings, and at this point in time it was the heavenly promises and blessings (in connection with fruit-bearing) that were in view. And, in the words of the religious leaders themselves, vinedressers (husbandmen) who had failed in their responsibility to the extent described by Christ in the parable should be dealt with in the most severe manner possible.
These vinedressers (husbandmen), in their opinion, should be “destroyed”; and the vineyard (term used here in the sense of privileges and responsibilities belonging to Israel, rather than relating to the nation itself) should be “leased out” to other vinedressers (husbandmen), who would bring forth “fruits” in the proper seasons.
It was then that Christ announced, in complete keeping with part of that which the religious leaders themselves had said should be done,
Therefore I say to you, the kingdom of God will be taken from you and given to a nation bearing the fruits of it (v. 43).
The point of the parable was driven home in a very personal way, and the religious leaders in Israel then knew that Christ had been referring to them. They were the present vinedressers (husbandmen), the descendants of those who had slain the prophets; and they were about to climax the entire matter by slaying God’s Son.
Even after knowing that Christ had been referring to them in the parable, the religious leaders in Israel did nothing contrary to that which had been outlined. There was no effort on their part to fulfill the responsibility that lay with their delegated authority and bring forth fruit in the vineyard (note the fruitless fig tree that Christ had cursed the previous day [Matthew 21:18, 19]), and they acted in complete accord with this fact and that which had previously been revealed in the parable. They “sought to lay hands on [‘apprehend’]” Christ then and there (vv. 45, 46), and would, only several days later, crucify Him (cf. Matthew 26:3, 4, 59-67; 27:11-26; Acts 2:22, 23; 3:12-15).
1) A house left desolate
It was later, this same day, after voicing His condemnation of the scribes and Pharisees that Christ announced the remaining part of that which Israel’s religious leaders stated should be done in Matthew 21:42. In Matthew 23:1ff, Christ told the religious leaders in Israel,
See! Your house is left to you desolate [which would refer to the people, the city of Jerusalem, the Temple, and the land]” (v. 38).
The scribes and Pharisees had filled up “the measure” of their fathers’ guilt (vv. 31, 32), bringing matters to a climax during their day. They formed a terminal generation of vinedressers (husbandmen), spanning a period of 1,500 years, going all the way back to the days of Moses.
The scribes and Pharisees sat “in Moses’ seat” [v. 2], as had their fathers who preceded them throughout the numerous generations of Israeli history. Though the theocracy had long since ceased to exist, the shadow of regality still remained in the divine Law, with the scribes and Pharisees seen as the keepers and religious teachers of this Law (of God’s rules and regulations governing His people within the theocracy).
The prophets had been rejected by husbandmen overseeing a fruitless vineyard. Then God, last of all, sent His Son, who would not only be rejected but also be crucified by vinedressers (husbandmen) continuing to oversee a fruitless vineyard.
Israel’s cup of iniquity at this point had become full (cf. Genesis 15:16). Christ said “this generation” bore the full brunt of God’s judgment upon the nation, with this generation, because of their past actions, now holding an inseparable connection with “all the righteous blood shed on the earth [going all the way back to the death of Abel]” (Matthew 23:35, 36); and it was “this generation” which resultantly witnessed the beginning of a desolation that would last for approximately two millennia.
Though Israel was left desolate (a word which, in the Greek text, means “desert,” “wilderness,” or “wasteland” [a place void of water]) during the time of the generation to which Christ spoke, the fullness of this desolation awaited a future date. It will be during the coming Tribulation that the “abomination of desolation” (Matthew 24:15; cf. Daniel 11:31; 12:11) will take an already desolated house and bring about a further desolation, one so completely separated from “the Water of Life” that there is really no parallel in Jewish history:
. . . on the wing of abominations [that which is impure] shall be one who makes desolate, even until the consummation [the end of Daniel’s Seventieth Week, the end of the Tribulation] . . . . (Daniel 9:27b)
This entire matter renders it unthinkable that Christ could have been referring to Israel in the four Olivet Discourse parables beginning in Matthew 24:40, as many expositors attempt to teach. Not only has Israel been set aside for an entire dispensation, during which time God deals with an entirely separate and distinct segment of mankind (those comprising the “one new man” in Christ), but Israel will lie desolate for the remainder of the age. And this desolation, reaching its height under Antichrist, will not be lifted until Christ returns to the earth at the conclusion of the Tribulation.
That part of the Olivet Discourse under discussion pertains to something entirely different, something utterly impossible for Israel to enter into during either the present time or the Tribulation.
Stewardship in a house is in view (which is another way of saying that a dispensation is in view [which could only be a reference to the present dispensation]). There is a Householder with servants; and these servants prove either faithful or unfaithful as they exercise their duties as stewards of the house under and for the Householder. The time during which these events occur is between Christ’s departure and His return.
Thus, it is a simple matter to see and understand that Israel cannot be in view. The house of Israel lies desolate throughout this time. Stewardship in a house that is not Jewish (and it cannot be Gentile) must, of necessity, be in view.
Then, aside from the preceding, the kingdom of the heavens is in view in these parables (Matthew 25:1), something which, as previously seen, Israel cannot enter into at this point in time as well.
2) Stewardship in a New House
The gospel of Matthew leads into the Olivet Discourse parables in such a fashion that their correct application and interpretation should not be missed by anyone. There is the offer of the kingdom to Israel, the rejection of this offer, Christ turning from Israel, His announcement concerning the Church being brought into existence, His announcement concerning the kingdom being taken from Israel in view of another “nation” entering into this offer, and His announcement concerning the desolation of the house of Israel.
The Olivet Discourse then forms the capstone to the entire matter. In this discourse, Israel is seen being dealt with by God during the terminal seven years of the nation’s desolation (24:4-39); the previously announced Church is seen being dealt with by God as a “household,” the nation in possession of the proffered kingdom during the time that the house of Israel lies desolate (24:40-25:30); and the Gentiles are seen being dealt with by Christ following His return, dealt with on the basis of their treatment of the Jewish people during the Tribulation (25:31-46).
The announcement to Israel that the kingdom of the heavens was “at hand” began under the ministry of John the Baptist (Matthew 3:1ff). Though Israel had been the repository for heavenly promises and blessings since the time of the nation’s inception (actually, dating back to the time of Abraham, over four hundred years earlier [Genesis 14:19; 22:17, 18; cf. Hebrews 11:8-16]), this was the first time in Israeli history that the kingdom had been (or could be) announced as being “at hand.”
The Messianic King, for the first time, was present with a bona fide offer of the kingdom; and His taking the reins of government at this time was conditioned on the nation’s repentance. This would involve the religious leaders in Israel, those holding the main positions of delegated authority in the Lord’s vineyard, bringing forth “fruits worthy of repentance” from the vineyard (Matthew 3:7, 8).
Following John’s imprisonment, the offer of the kingdom was continued by Christ (Matthew 4:12ff). Later He called out twelve disciples who were commissioned to carry the same kingdom message to Israel (Matthew 10:1ff), then later seventy others to carry the same message (Luke 10:1ff).
This message was attended by signs, wonders, and miracles, which constituted the credentials of the messengers of the gospel of the kingdom and had to do with two things — Israel and the kingdom (Matthew 4:23-25; 8:1ff; 10:8; 11:3-5; cf. Isaiah 35:5, 6; ref. Chapter 6 in this book).
The religious leaders in Israel though, rather than bringing forth “fruits worthy of repentance,” did everything in their power to subvert this offer. The vinedressers (husbandmen) placed over the vineyard, as described by Christ, “shut up the kingdom of heaven against [‘before,’ ‘in the presence of’] men” (Matthew 23:13). They were not going to enter the kingdom, and they did everything within their power to prevent the nation itself from entering.
Their actions within this framework had actually reached an apex at the time Christ healed a demon possessed man who was both blind and dumb (Matthew 12:22ff). Such was revealed by the attitude of both those within the vineyard and the vinedressers (husbandmen) placed over the vineyard as they viewed this miraculous work.
The man who had been blind and dumb “both spoke and saw.” And, even though the people were “amazed [the word in the Greek text could also incorporate the thought of ‘confusion’]” at what had occurred, they asked a question that showed that their thoughts were really centered more on unbelief than belief.
They asked, “Could this be the Son of David?” The particle meti, used in this question as it appears in the Greek text, shows both confusion and a negative attitude toward Christ being thought of or identified as David’s Son. The question actually presents a middle-of-the-road type thought, but leans more toward the negative than the positive. It could be better translated,
Possibly this is the Son of David, but we really don’t think so [with the underlying thought being one of confusion].
Such a state of mind exhibited by the Israeli people toward Christ had undoubtedly been brought about by the previous works of the nation’s religious leaders.
The scribes and Pharisees (both were present [cf. Luke 6:7]), immediately preceding this healing, had held a council against Christ, seeking ways to “destroy Him” (v. 14). Then, following the healing of this man who was both “blind and mute,” the scribes and Pharisees accused Christ of casting out demons “by Beelzebub, the ruler of the demons” (v. 24).
It was here that rejection and unbelief reached an apex, for Christ referred to their actions as “the blasphemy against the Holy Spirit,” constituting a sin that would not be forgiven them (and thus the nation at large, for these religious leaders acted on behalf of the people, with the people following their lead) “either in this age or in the age to come” (vv. 31, 32).
Such would include both the present dispensation and the coming Messianic Era (the latter is both an age and a dispensation, though that is not the case with the former).
Israel, following this announcement, would bear no fruit relative to the kingdom of the heavens in either dispensation. Thus, for all practical purposes, the kingdom was taken from Israel at this point in Matthew’s gospel, though the announcement was not made until a later time.
Immediately after this, on the same day, Christ went out of the house (signifying the house of Israel), went down by the seaside (signifying the Gentiles), and, for the first time in His ministry, began to speak extensively in parables (13:1ff [Christ had used parables sparingly prior to this time]). The Church then came into view (16:18, 19), and matters following the announcement concerning the Church began to move more toward the crucifixion rather than the crowning of the King (16:21; 17:22, 23; 20:17-19; 21:39).
All these things led into the cursing of the fruitless fig tree (21:18, 19), the parable concerning the fruitless vineyard (21:33-40), the announcement that the kingdom would be taken from Israel and given to “a nation bringing forth the fruits of it” (21:43), Christ’s condemnation of the scribes and Pharisees (23:1-36), the announcement concerning Israel’s desolation (23:38), and the discourse on the Mount of Olives (chapters 24, 25).
The stewards of God, for a period of time, could no longer be Jewish. The house of Israel had been left desolate; and new “stewards,” associated with “a household” (cf. Matthew 24:45; Luke 12:42; 1 Corinthians 4:1, 2; 1 Peter 4:10), were brought into existence to be the recipients of that which Israel had rejected. And this stewardship, existing separate from Israel’s stewardship, would last for one dispensation.
(The words “steward” and “dispensation” have a common association with a household in the New Testament, something quite obvious in the Greek text but often overlooked in the English text.
The Greek word for “house” is oikos, and the Greek words translated “steward” and “dispensation” in the New Testament are oikonomos and oikonomia respectively [e.g., Luke 12:42; Colossians 1:25]. Oikonomos and oikonomia are cognate words, practically indistinguishable in meaning, with both words derived from a combination of oikos [“house”] and nemo [“to manage”]. Thus, both words simply have to do with managing a house.
Oikos, as previously seen, refers to the “house” itself; oikonomos [derived through combining oikos and nemo] refers more specifically to the “steward” [who is the manager of the oikos]; and oikonomia [derived from the same two words again] refers more specifically to the “management of affairs” by the steward [the oikonomos] in the house [the oikos].
Accordingly, a “dispensation” is simply the management of God’s affairs within His household, which He has committed to stewards.
The word for “dispensation” [oikonomia] does not, as is often thought, refer to a period of time. “Time” is referred to by the Greek word aion [“age”]. That is to say, an oikonomia [a dispensation] occurs within an aion [an age]. Thus, when one refers to “a dispensation,” he is referring to “events occurring during time,” during an age, not to “time” itself. And these events involve the management of affairs in God’s household by stewards who are not Jewish but rather part of the “one new man” in Christ.
[A dispensation may or may not occur throughout time covering an entire age. There are three separate dispensations that occur during the present age (the 6,000 years covering Man’s Day). But the dispensation occurring during the coming age, the Messianic Era, occurs throughout time covering the entire age].
The preceding distinctions are important in order to avoid error in biblical terminology, which can lead to error in biblical interpretation. For example, though the expression, “the Church age,” is widely used throughout Christendom today, there is no such thing. In fact, from a biblical standpoint, the expression is very misleading. The present age [having to do with time] lasts the entire duration of Man’s Day, for 6,000 years; on the other hand, the present dispensation [having to do with God’s management of affairs in a household which is not Jewish] lasts for 2,000 years.
For additional information on this subject refer to Appendix 3 in this book, “Ages and Dispensations.”)
Faithful and Unfaithful Stewards
The parable of the Householder and His servant refers to stewardship in the house during the time of the Lord’s absence, with the coming kingdom in view. This stewardship involves carrying out the Householder’s wishes relative to affairs in the house. The Householder has spoken, and the stewards are to act accordingly during the time of His absence. So far as activities in the house are concerned, the only thing of any moment is that which the Householder has commanded should be carried out by His household stewards during His time of absence.
The one requirement of stewards is “faithfulness” (1 Corinthians 4:2). The Householder has left instructions, and every steward in the house is to exercise faithfulness therein, with faithfulness centered in following the instructions left by the Householder prior to His departure.
The parable of the Householder and His servant shows the command given to a steward by the Householder and the end result of both faithfulness and unfaithfulness by the steward to this command. Faithfulness will result in the steward being rewarded, and unfaithfulness will result in the steward being severely chastened.
Something often overlooked in the parable of the Householder and His servant is the fact that there is only one servant in view throughout the parable. This was made clear by the Lord when He gave the same parable on an earlier occasion, as recorded in Luke 12:42-48. He first spoke of a faithful and wise servant (vv. 42-44); then He spoke of the same servant becoming unfaithful (vv. 45-48):
And the Lord said, “Who then is that faithful and wise steward [Greek: oikonomos], whom his master will make ruler over his household, to give them their portion of food in due season?”
Blessed is that servant whom his master will find so doing when he comes.
Truly, I say to you that he will make him ruler over all that he has.
But if that servant says in his heart [the same servant, the previously mentioned steward], “My master is delaying his coming,” and begins to beat the male and female servants, and to eat and drink and be drunk,
the master of that servant will come on a day when he is not looking for him, and at an hour when he is not aware, and will cut him in two and appoint him his portion with the unbelievers [‘the unfaithful ones’]” (vv. 42-46).
The only difference in the wording of the text in the two accounts is the use of the word “evil” before “servant” in Matthew’s account. In Luke, the text reads, “But if that servant . . . .” (v. 45); in Matthew, the text reads, “But if that evil servant . . . .” (v. 48). The servant in both accounts actually became an evil servant, though the word itself is not used in Luke. Comparing the accounts, both should be understood in the sense of,
“But if that steward, becoming an evil steward, shall . . . .,” or “But if that steward should wickedly say . . .”
The servant thus, in both accounts of the parable, either exercises faithfulness or he becomes unfaithful. In Matthew 24:45-47 and Luke 12:42-44, the servant remains faithful to the charge left by the Householder, resulting in his being rewarded at the time of the Householder’s return. In Matthew 24:48-51 and Luke 12:45-48, the same servant becomes unfaithful and begins acting in a manner completely contrary to the charge left by the Householder, resulting in his being severely chastened at the time of the Householder’s return.
1) Command of the Householder
The Householder’s command to the servant placed over His house was to give those in the house “food (KJV: ‘meat’) in due season” (v. 45). “Food” (KJV: “meat”) in Scripture, as distinguished from “milk,” has a peculiar reference to those things pertaining to the Lord’s return and the coming kingdom.
“Solid food” (KJV: ‘strong meat’),” for example, in Hebrews 5:11-14 has to do with Christ exercising the Melchizedek priesthood, a ministry as both King and Priest, reserved for the coming age. In the parable of the Householder and His servant, this is shown by everything in the parable revolving around the Lord’s return, with either reward or chastisement — with the kingdom in view — awaiting the servants.
The purpose for the entire present dispensation has to do with the coming kingdom. The call is presently going forth concerning proffered positions as co-heirs with Christ during the coming age, and the present dispensation covers that period of time when fruit relating to the kingdom will be brought forth by those destined to comprise the co-heirs. The “food in due season,” not only in the light of related Scripture but in the light of the text itself, would have to consist of those things relating to the Lord’s return and the coming kingdom.
The faithful servant, dispensing “food in due season,” teaches those placed under his care about the Lord’s return and proffered positions in the kingdom, in view of extracting fruit for his absent Lord. At the time of the Lord’s return, fruit will be in evidence; and not only will the faithful servant be positioned as “ruler [co-heir with Christ in the kingdom],” but through his previous ministry in the house others will be brought into this position as well.
Should the servant become unfaithful, the opposite will be true. He will not teach those placed under his care about the Lord’s return and proffered positions in the kingdom. There will be no fruit; and not only will the unfaithful servant face severe chastisement, but those placed under his care, failing to bring forth fruit (as a direct result of the unfaithful servant’s ministry), will find themselves in similar straits.
The servant in the parable who became unfaithful said in his heart, “My master is delaying his coming.” He then began to “beat his fellow servants, and to eat and drink with the drunkards” (Matthew 24:48, 49). The word translated “beat” in the Greek text refers to a blow to the body.
This is the word used in Matthew 27:30 and Luke 22:64 where Christ was smitten on the head and face preceding His crucifixion. The contextual usage of the word in Matthew 24:49 would actually seem to be something similar to what we understand today as a “slap in the face.” The servant’s refusal to give food (KJV: meat) in due season would, in this sense, be a slap in the face for those placed under his care (for he, by his actions, completely disregards the reason for his appointed position, which has to do with the spiritual welfare of those whom he is mistreating).
And his eating and drinking with the drunken, contextually (cf. vv. 37-39), would refer to his manner of living becoming patterned after that of the world, completely oblivious to matters relating to the Lord’s return and the coming kingdom (ref. Chapter 9 in this book).
2) Reward, Chastisement by the Householder
The reward awaiting the faithful servant is to be positioned as “ruler” over all his Lord’s goods. Those servants brought into this position are referred to elsewhere in Scripture as “joint heirs” or “fellowheirs” (same word in the Greek text [cf. Romans 8:17; Ephesians 3:6]).
These are the “many sons” whom Christ is in the process of bringing unto glory (Hebrews 2:10) to exercise the rights of primogeniture during the coming age. These will be those bringing forth fruit during the present dispensation, with a view to their constituting the rulers in the heavenly sphere of the kingdom as co-heirs with Christ during the coming age.
Chastisement awaiting the unfaithful servant will, on the other hand though, be an entirely different matter. The text reads that the Lord, upon His return, “will cut him in two and appoint him his portion with the hypocrites [‘unbelievers’ (lit., ‘unfaithful’) in Luke 12:46]” (Matthew 24:51).
The Greek word translated “will cut him in two” (dichotomeo) literally means to cut in two, a form of executing criminals in ancient times. The word is used in a metaphorical sense to describe punishment of a severe nature.
It is no small thing to disregard the clear instructions left by the Householder at the time of His departure, for, when He returns, household servants are going to be dealt with on the basis of their actions relative to these provided instructions.
And reward or chastisement will be exactly commensurate with the household servants’ faithfulness or unfaithfulness in the matter.