Prophecy on Mount Olivet
By Arlen L. Chitwood
You Wicked, Lazy Servant
Then he who had received the one talent came and said, “Lord, I knew you to be a hard man, reaping where you have not sown, and gathering where you have not scattered seed.
And I was afraid, and went and hid your talent in the ground. Look, there you have what is yours.”
But his lord answered and said to him, “You wicked and lazy servant, you knew that I reap where I have not sown, and gather where I have not scattered seed.
So you ought to have deposited my money with the bankers, and at my coming I would have received back my own with interest.
Therefore take the talent from him, and give it to him who has ten talents.
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.”
Then another came, saying, “Master, here is your mina [KJV: ‘pound’], which I have kept put away in a handkerchief.
For I feared you, because you are an austere man. You collect what you did not deposit, and reap what you did not sow.”
And he said to him, “Out of your own mouth I will judge you, you wicked servant. You knew that I was an austere man, collecting what I did not deposit and reaping what I did not sow.
Why then did you not put my money in the bank, that at my coming I might have collected it with interest?”
And he said to those who stood by, “Take the mina [KJV: ‘pound’] from him, and give it to him who has ten minas [KJV: 'pounds’].”
(But they said to him, “Master, he has ten minas [KJV: ‘pounds’].”)
For I say to you, that to everyone who has will be given; and from him who does not have, even what he has will be taken away from him. (Luke 19:20-26).
The Lord’s dealings with His household servants as set forth in the parables of the talents and the minas (hereafter in this chapter: pounds) are often treated by expositors as pertaining to issues surrounding one’s eternal salvation or eternal damnation. However, such is not only theologically impossible but teachings of this nature also serve to obscure that which is actually taught.
No one — saved or unsaved — will ever stand in a future judgment where the issue at hand will involve eternal salvation or eternal damnation. In every future judgment, the matter of one’s possession or non-possession of eternal salvation will be a past issue, with judgment having already occurred:
He who believes in Him is not condemned [‘judged’]; but he who does not believe is condemned [‘judged’] already, because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God. (John 3:18)
This is the reason that a judgment relative to eternal salvation cannot await either the believer or the unbeliever. Both have already been judged relative to this matter (ref. Chapter 19 in this book).
For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord. (Romans 6:23)
. . . Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures [e.g., Genesis 22; Exodus 12; Isaiah 53] (1 Corinthians 15:3b)
God has already judged sin in the person of His Son at Calvary. The one believing has had the penalty for sin paid on his behalf; the one not believing will have to one day pay the penalty himself. But, regardless, judgment for sin is past.
The believer will one day stand before Christ and be judged on the basis of works (or, the matter can be stated as “faithfulness,” for works emanate out of faithfulness [Hebrews 11:1ff; James 2:14-26]). And this judgment will be with the Millennium in view (1 Corinthians 3:11-15; 1 Peter 5:1-10; Revelations 2:26, 27; 3:21).
The unbeliever, as well, will one day stand before Christ and be judged on the basis of works (“faithfulness,” of course, cannot be an issue, with works emanating out of faithfulness, as with the believer; but there will be works nonetheless, though works completely separate from faith). And this judgment will be with the eternal ages in view (Revelations 20:11-15).
The salvation question — the question regarding one’s eternal salvation or damnation — will be a closed, finished matter at the time of judgment (for the saved or the unsaved), for no man can ever be judged on the basis of that which God has already judged (the same concept, in another frame of reference, is the U. S. Constitution that provides absolute protection from “double jeopardy”).
“Salvation” will be an issue in the Lord’s reckoning with His servants as set forth in the parable of the talents and the parable of the pounds, but not eternal salvation. The matter at hand concerns the Lord’s dealings with His household servants on the basis of works emanating out of faithfulness in view of a future salvation — the salvation of the soul.
One’s presently possessed salvation — the salvation of the spirit — places him within the house, allowing him to occupy a responsible position under and for the Householder. It is his faithfulness or unfaithfulness to delegated responsibility for which he will one day answer, not his presence in the house.
In the parables of the talents and the pounds, the “wicked and lazy” servant was not only present in the house but he occupied a household position of the same order as those positions held by the “good and faithful” servants. He was one of the Householder’s own servants and had been assigned responsibility within the house, just as those servants who later proved to be faithful.
The distinguishing difference in the servants had to do with their attitude toward delegated responsibility. Two were shown to have been faithful, and one was shown to have been unfaithful. To press the issue beyond this point and attempt to read eternal salvation and eternal damnation into the matter does violence to the Scripture, not only at this point but elsewhere as well.
In both parables, the Householder’s servants were accorded responsible positions in the same location (in the house) during the same time (the present dispensation); and this was followed by the servants rendering an account at the same time (the end of the present dispensation) in their Lord’s presence (before His judgment seat).
That is, all of the stewards served together in the same place at the same time, and they were all called forth together to render an account in the same place at the same time.
Major problems exist on every hand when one attempts to view issues in these parables as pertaining to eternal salvation or eternal damnation. Such would necessitate the Lord calling saved and unsaved individuals alike into His service to exercise responsible positions in His house, followed by the same saved and unsaved individuals one day appearing before Him, at the same time and place, to render an account.
Then, there’s the matter of the basis upon which household servants are judged following their being called forth to render an account. Judgment occurs strictly on the basis of faithfulness to delegated responsibility.
Then, beyond that is the matter of the outcome of this judgment, which has to do with the servants either being commended and rewarded or being rebuked and suffering loss in relation to occupying or being denied positions in the kingdom that the Householder had gone away to receive, not in relation to eternal salvation or eternal damnation.
An individual must be a servant in the house before responsibility can be delegated by the Householder. The impossibility of an unsaved person occupying a position of this nature can be easily seen by understanding Matthew 24:45 in the light of 1 Corinthians 2:14.
In Matthew 24:45, a household servant was given the responsibility of providing food for other servants in the house. He was to give them “food [KJV: ‘meat’] in due season,” which has to do centrally with biblical doctrine surrounding the Lord’s return and the coming kingdom (ref. Chapter 1 in this book). Other servants in the house were to understand and receive this message, something, which according to 1 Corinthians 2:14, would not be possible for unsaved individuals.
The things of the Spirit of God are foolishness to the “natural man [‘soulical man’ — a person whose life is dominated by his soul, referring to the unsaved].” Such a person cannot receive nor understand the things of the Spirit, for they are “spiritually discerned.” An unsaved person does not possess a saved human spirit into which the message can be received; nor does he possess the indwelling Holy Spirit to lead him “into all truth” (cf. John 3:6; 16:13-15; James 1:21).
Then, to say that eternal salvation and eternal damnation are in view in the parable of the talents and the parable of the pounds necessitates the saved and unsaved appearing in judgment together, something completely foreign to the teaching of all Scripture. A judgment of the saved and unsaved together, at the same time, would require God to judge (at least after some fashion) once again that which He has already judged. Since such cannot occur, Scripture always presents separate judgments for saved and unsaved individuals, with the issue at hand always being something other than eternal salvation or eternal damnation.
The issue surrounding one’s eternal destiny in any future judgment will always be a settled, closed matter before judgment occurs.
Further, those rendering an account in the parable of the talents and the parable of the pounds either experience commendation and reward or experience rebuke and loss, with the faithful being accorded positions with Christ in the kingdom and the unfaithful being denied positions of this nature. And to read eternal verities into such a division would not only suggest that all Christians will be found faithful at the judgment seat but it would also suggest a parallel equivalence between positions with Christ in the kingdom on the one hand and one’s eternal destiny on the other.
First Corinthians 3:11-15 clearly reveals that Christians at the judgment seat will experience both “reward” and “loss,” a thought perfectly in line with that which is revealed in both the parable of the talents and the parable of the pounds; and the subject matter in both parables clearly has to do with “reward” or “loss” in relation to the kingdom, not with acceptance or rejection relative to one’s eternal destiny.
The “wicked and lazy” servant in each parable, unlike the “good and faithful” servants, failed to properly exercise delegated responsibility in the house. Failure resulted in “loss.” Not only was that which had been committed to his trust, belonging to the Householder, taken from him and given to another, but he was rejected for a position in the kingdom that the Householder had gone away to receive.
Unfaithfulness to delegated responsibility in the house during the Householder’s absence resulted in his being denied responsibility in the kingdom following the Householder’s return (cf. Luke 16:10, 11). This is what the text clearly states, and this is what must be understood from the text.
Called into His Presence
After Christ receives the kingdom from His Father, He is going to return for His household servants. They will be called forth from the earth to appear in His presence in the heavens. The “dead in Christ” will be raised, followed by those “who are alive and remain” being removed with the resurrected believers “to meet the Lord in the air” (1 Thessalonians 4:13-17; 1 Corinthians 15:51-57).
The Greek word atomos, translated “moment” (1 Corinthians 15:52), is used to show the length of time that the Lord will use to accomplish the removal of His servants from the earth (both the dead and the living) into His presence in the heavens above the earth.
Tomos means “division,” and the prefix “a” negates the word. Thus, atomos, from which the English word “atom” is derived, means “indivisible.” This word in 1 Corinthians 15:52 refers to time that has been reduced to such a minute point that it can be reduced no further. The reference is to events occurring during a space of time comparable to what we might think of as a microsecond (one-millionth of a second), events occurring so suddenly and swiftly that the brevity of time that will be involved is something completely beyond our finite comprehension.
The removal of Christians at the time of the rapture is not the same as the servants being called before Him to render an account as set forth in Luke 19:15. Appearing in Christ’s presence at the time of the rapture is a general appearance, but appearing in His presence at the judgment seat is a more specific, personal appearance. The latter follows the former.
At the time of the rapture, the present dispensation will have run its course. God’s purpose for this dispensation — to acquire the rulers who will occupy responsible positions with Christ in the kingdom, forming His bride — will be complete. All Christians (both the dead and the living) will then be removed from the earth, with a view to bringing matters surrounding the present dispensation to a close. They will be removed into Christ’s presence at the time of the rapture and subsequently appear before Him, on an individual basis, to ascertain “how much every man had gained by trading” (Luke 19:15).
The text in both the parables of the talents and the pounds specifically states that each servant — both faithful and unfaithful — personally “came” to the Lord in successive order to render an account concerning his stewardship (Matthew 25:20, 22, 24; Luke 19:16, 18, 20).
The man with the five talents came and stood alone in his Lord’s presence, and the Lord dealt with him alone, on an individual basis. Then, in successive order, the man with the two talents came forth, followed by the man with the one talent.
In each instance, the Lord’s dealings with those in His house were the same — dealings of a personal, individual nature. And the same sequence of events within the Lord’s judicial dealings with His servants is seen in the parable of the pounds.
At the future judgment of Christians, as set forth by these parables, each Christian — both faithful and unfaithful — will come forth, separate from all others, and stand alone in his Lord’s presence in order to respond to one matter: faithfulness as a household servant to delegated responsibility.
The Christian will personally answer to the One who had previously purchased him with His own blood (allowing him to occupy a position as a servant in the house), placed him in a certain position with a specific calling (a particular position of servitude in the house), and provided him with the means whereby he could carry out the task at hand (provided him with His own goods). The Christian can then either show how he had used the talents/pound to the Householder’s advantage (Matthew 25:20, 22; Luke 19:16, 18), or he can attempt to show cause why he had not used the talents/pound to the Householder’s advantage (Matthew 25:24, 25; Luke 19:20, 21).
In either case, the Lord’s judgment will be perfectly just and righteous. Findings at the judgment seat of an individual nature will then determine positions with Christ in the kingdom of a like individual nature. Commendation and reward or chastisement and loss will be completely commensurate with exactly how the Christian either managed or mismanaged the Lord’s goods within the scope of his individual calling.
Receiving a Just Recompense
In both the parables of the talents and the pounds, the distinguishing difference in servitude, revealed in the Householder’s presence, in each instance, had to do with the servants’ use or nonuse of his Master’s goods by and through trading and trafficking during the time of his Master’s absence. In each parable, two servants were shown to have brought forth different amounts of increase by and through a proper use of their Master’s goods, while another servant was shown to have brought forth no increase at all by and through nonuse of his Master’s goods.
The servant bringing forth no increase, in each parable, had stored his Master’s goods for safekeeping in a place where they could not be used. The servant in the parable of the talents had buried his Master’s goods in the ground (Matthew 25:25), and the servant in the parable of the pounds had placed his Master’s goods inside a napkin (Luke 19:20). In either instance, no increase could be realized.
The use of the Master’s goods (resulting in an increase) or the nonuse of these goods (resulting in no increase) is the central thought around which everything in both parables moves at the time the Master’s servants are called into his presence to render an account.
A misuse of these goods does not really come under consideration per se, though this is something that Christ had previously discussed in the presence of His disciples, recorded in the parable of the unjust steward in Luke 16:1ff. In this parable, the same appearance before his Master, the same accounting relative to his stewardship, and the same end result were experienced by the servant through misuse as experienced by the servants through nonuse in the parables of the talents and the pounds.
In the parable of the unjust steward, word had reached the Householder concerning His steward’s misuse of His goods; and the steward was subsequently called into the Householder’s presence to render an account concerning his stewardship. His mismanagement, brought out into the open while in his Master’s presence, resulted in rebuke and impending loss. He was about to lose his stewardship. That which had previously been committed to his trust was about to be removed from his possession; and, once removed, he could no longer act on his Master’s behalf within the house (Luke 16:1, 2).
Exactly the same principles can be seen in the parables of the talents and the pounds. In each parable, the servant who had hidden his Master’s goods for safekeeping and not used them was called into his Master’s presence to render an account. And that which was revealed, while in his Master’s presence, resulted in rebuke and loss.
His stewardship was supposed to have been the means by and through which he could have successfully run the race of the faith. He, as a household steward in possession of a portion of the Householder’s goods, by and through faithfulness to his calling (his particular place of responsibility in the house), could bring forth an increase (bring forth fruit). This would allow him to win a crown, qualifying him to be elevated into the position of co-heir with his Master in the kingdom that He had gone away to receive.
However, failure in stewardship would mean rejection as ruler. The unfaithful steward would be rejected as unfit to occupy a position in the kingdom, with chastisement following (note the one received alongside or the one turned away [rejected] in the first of the four parables in the Christian section of the Olivet Discourse).
The Lord will not take lightly the matter of household servants, through unfaithfulness, spurning proffered positions as co-heirs with Him in the kingdom that He has gone away to receive.
Unfaithful servants will receive treatment of such a harsh nature at the hands of their Lord that many students of the Word turn completely away from the thought of saved individuals being in view. To them it is unthinkable that the Lord would extend treatment of this nature to redeemed individuals, His own people. This is the main reason that issues surrounding one’s eternal salvation or eternal damnation are often read into the parables of the talents and the pounds, with the unfaithful servant in each parable being looked upon as an unsaved individual.
However, the question concerning how the Lord could extend treatment of the nature revealed in these parables to one of His own does not address the issue at all. The question asked in a proper biblical framework would have to be just the opposite:
“How could the Lord be perfectly just and righteous without extending treatment of this nature to one of His own?”
If faithfulness calls for commendation and reward (which it does), then unfaithfulness must call for rebuke and loss (which it does). The inverse of one must be true relative to the other, else the Lord’s perfect justice and righteousness could not be satisfied.
The Servants’ Plea
The unfaithful servants in both the parables of the talents and the pounds are seen pleading their individual cases before the Lord in a frank, open, and unrestrained manner. Nothing seems to be held back as they relate the reasons for the particular course of action that each had taken while a servant in the Master’s house in charge of a portion of the Master’s goods.
The appeal by each servant is not that of trying to hide or cover up what he had done. To the contrary, it is just the opposite. They both appeal to their Lord, while in His presence, in an open, almost brazen manner, relating exactly what had occurred.
In that coming day, nothing will be held back. All things will be “naked and open to the eyes of Him to whom we must give account” (Hebrews 4:13). Christ spoke openly during His earthly ministry, saying nothing in secret (John 18:20); and He would expect the same from His servants, though the situation is often quite different today.
However, the day is coming when nothing will remain hidden or be kept secret (Mark 4:22; Luke 8:17). Paul, in his message to those at Rome, stated,
. . . God will judge the secrets of men by Jesus Christ, according to my gospel. (Romans 2:16)
(Paul proclaimed both the gospel of the grace of God and the gospel of the glory of Christ [Acts 20:24-27; 2 Corinthians 4:3, 4]; but the reference in Romans 2:16 can pertain only to the gospel of the glory of Christ, for no future judgment of the “secrets of men” awaits individuals in relation to the gospel of the grace of God.
Paul’s gospel in this passage [and elsewhere in the Pauline epistles where the expressions “my gospel” or “our gospel” appear] must be looked upon as the good news concerning the coming glory of Christ [“food (KJV: ‘meat’) in due season”], to be proclaimed to stewards in the house [cf. Matthew 24:45; Romans 16:25; Galatians 1:11, 12; Ephesians 3:1-6; 1 Thessalonians 1:5; 2 Thessalonians 2:14; 1 Timothy 1:11; 2 Timothy 2:8 ].
This gospel [good news] deals with the message concerning present faithfulness of household servants in view of their occupying positions as co-heirs with Christ in the kingdom [e.g., note the context of 2 Timothy 2:8].)
The unfaithful servants in both the parables of the talents and the pounds accused their Lord of the same thing in order to justify their nonuse of the goods entrusted to their care. They accused their Lord of reaping a harvest and deriving an increase through the labors of others, which was true but completely one-sided from their perspective.
They looked upon the entire matter from a carnal, humanistic viewpoint, rejecting spiritual values. They envisioned their Lord doing these things only for self-gain, and they gave little or no thought to the revealed reason (which they should have known) concerning why the Householder was conducting affairs in His house after this fashion.
The Householder had a relationship with His servants of this nature for a purpose involving far more than just self-gain, as supposed by the unfaithful servants. The Householder, for a particular reason, had delivered His goods to His servants and assigned them responsible positions in the house, with a view to their bringing forth an increase (bringing forth fruit).
Servitude during the present day of trials and testing would be the means by and through which the Householder could one day elevate His servants from positions in the house to positions in the kingdom. They, by and through faithfulness in lesser responsibility would be allowed to show themselves qualified to assume greater responsibility (cf. Matthew 25:29; Luke 16:10-12; 19:26); and upon the Householder’s reception of the kingdom and return in possession of the kingdom, those servants having shown themselves qualified could be elevated from household servants of their Master to co-heirs with their Master.
The self-gain that the Householder would eventually realize was that of gaining co-heirs, companions (that will form His wife as well), to ascend the throne with Him in His kingdom; and the Householder had reaped where He had not sown and gathered where He had not dispersed in order to bring this to pass.
The work in the fields was to be accomplished by the servants, using the Master’s possessions (everything belonged to the Master of the house); and the work was to be accomplished on the Master’s behalf. The Householder, by and through this means, was extending to His servants the privilege of one day being elevated to the highest position of honor and glory one could possibly receive. They would be recompensed for their labors by being elevated into positions as co-heirs with Him in the kingdom.
The fruits of their labors would not only benefit the Householder but the servants as well, with the Householder and His servants both realizing the results together.
The Lord’s Response
The thought of labor for the Lord during the present day in view of co-heirship with Him during that coming day is something that appears to have completely escaped the attention of the unfaithful servants in both parables. The unfaithful servants could not grasp at all what their Master had in mind by requiring labor on His behalf.
Ignorance of His plans and purposes for both present and future times not only led them into gross error but it caused them to govern their activities as household servants after such a fashion that they mismanaged the Householder’s affairs, ultimately resulting in their being rejected for positions in the kingdom. There was no increase for their Master, resulting in no advancement for them.
The profitless servants in both parables had failed to properly conduct their affairs within the scope of delegated household responsibility. They had not used the talent/pound to bring forth an increase (Matthew 25:27; Luke 19:23 [“usury” (KJV) in these verses is the translation of a Greek word meaning interest on an investment]).
The Lord’s sharp rebuke, followed by chastisement, was occasioned by the dual ramifications resulting from the servants’ disobedience. Appearing in the Lord’s presence as profitless servants meant:
1) No gain for the Lord.
2) Loss for the servants.
Because of the servants’ failure, those portions of the Lord’s goods that had previously been entrusted to their care were taken from them and given to servants who had already been judged and had been shown to have brought forth increases. Such would add to these faithful servants’ possessions, which could only reflect on their positions in the kingdom.
The thought can only be that servants coming into possession of additional amounts of the Lord’s goods through this means will receive additional responsibility in the kingdom.
The principle governing this matter is set forth very succinctly in both parables:
For to everyone who has, more shall be given, and he shall have abundance [which can only be a reference to the servant bringing forth an increase of that which his Master had entrusted to him, resulting in an ‘abundance’ in the kingdom]; but from him who has nothing [no increase of the Master’s goods entrusted to him], even what he has shall be taken away [which, in view of that which is realized by the faithful servant through a reception of the unfaithful servant’s goods, could only refer to the responsibility that could have been his in the kingdom through realizing the purpose for his salvation and particular calling]. (Matthew 25:29, Weymouth)
I tell you that everyone who has anything, more shall be given; and from him who has not anything, even what he has shall be taken away.” (Luke 19:26, Weymouth)
The faithful servant will have already been elevated into a position as co-heir with his Lord at this time, and an increase in the Lord’s goods, of the nature this would produce, is shown in the parable of the pounds to be directly related to increased responsibility in the kingdom (Luke 19:16-19).
Numerous positions in the kingdom that the Lord has gone away to receive must be filled upon His return. The failure of a servant to show himself qualified will not leave the position that could have been his unfilled. The Lord will simply assign that portion to another servant, adding to the responsibility which that servant will have already been accorded. When all factors are considered, no other meaning can really be derived from the Lord’s action of taking from one servant and giving to another servant at the judgment seat.
A major problem in Christian circles today is the widespread ignorance concerning the relationship between the present dispensation and the coming kingdom. Pastors, over the years, have not dispensed “food (KJV: ‘meat’) in due season”; and the ultimate result will be the appearance of multitudes of Christians before the Lord, at His judgment seat, in the same condition as the unfaithful servants in the parable of the talents and the parable of the pounds.
Ignorance of the Lord’s plans and purposes can very easily result in a present mismanagement of household affairs, which will result in disqualification for a future management of affairs in the kingdom.