When asked to describe our ‘average day’, the words we choose could well be ‘monotonous’, ‘boring’ or ‘bogged down’. Often in our fast-paced society we see so much apparent pleasure and enjoyment around us that we find it hard to appreciate repetitious work. We can often get bogged down mentally with our day-to-day occupations and be left feeling at the end of the day that we are exhausted just by living.

On days like these our spiritual mind may wearily tell us we must ensure we do not become consumed with the habitual activities of this existence; for the danger of focusing solely on surviving in this society may override our responsibilities in Christ. So our minds drift to our Lord’s warnings. He said do not be over-anxious about what you shall eat or drink or be clothed with (Matt 6:31). He said to carefully note the consuming focus of the generation alive when he returns. Pride, fullness of bread and abundance of idleness characterize their lifestyle (Ezek 16:49) and we acknowledge to ourselves that this describes our own society and culture.

But, we say to ourselves, I must live and eat and survive in this society in which I find myself and the mechanical devices, homes and burdensome maintenance involved in those necessary things results in a lot of my spare time being taken up. I just can’t fit everything in—something has to go. These feelings are not unique. It is highly likely they occur in most of us at fairly frequent times, as most Christadelphians lead busy lives. As a result we ask ourselves—how do we get the energy to lift our heads? It sometimes seems there is very little relief around.

Brothers and sisters—have we considered the strength that we can gain from the Kingdom Parables of our Lord? Are we aware that of the parables spoken by the Lord Jesus Christ, almost a third of them are about the Kingdom of Heaven or the judgment process that will occur prior to those momentous times? They are times described in vivid detail, times that we should all be aware of and ensure we familiarize ourselves with. And what should our response be when we read these visions?

A Kingdom of Heaven

The Kingdom that we have been called to is not of this world (John 18:36). Its founder, the Creator of the universe, is not of the same disposition or character as today’s society. His principles and laws are not followed here on this unique orb He has created, and if we were to look for His morality and principles our search would be nearly impossible. Such is the difference in the way men naturally think, they like to believe God does not even exist; as if with some vague shrug of the shoulders they can shake off any responsibility to respond to Him who made them all. His presence is to them, uncomfortable. His mindset or value-base as revealed in the Bible is more foreign than anything they have seen and they dislike its quiet questioning of their own way of life.

Yet to what extent are we aware of the Heavenly Status of the Kingdom for which we have been chosen? Are we conscious of the greatness of our Heavenly Father and therefore of the greatness of the Kingdom? Even though we come into constant contact with the ways of our God and His Son do we, who have the Word before us daily, turn from our selfish ways to serve the living and true God? If the Word of God says we should flee youthful lusts and follow righteousness, faith, love and peace, do we find ourselves indeed ‘pressing on’ and ‘pursuing’ these Godly values? If the Word of God pleads with us to see the reward God has in store for us as a one hundred percent act of grace by God, do we endeavour to strive harder to please Him in thankfulness? When the Word of Life implores us not to turn back from following Christ but to walk with others and be encouraged by their example, do we pull their example down in an effort to vaunt ourselves? When Christ gave parable after parable concerning the importance of the Kingdom in our lives, do we spurn those parables as little tales? They are visions for the learning and strengthening of us all, they are eternally valuable

Our response to God and His Word can be seen in our lives. Let us ensure we treat His Word with the exalted status it deserves.

Do we see the Visions?

Our life in Christ, in the context of our western society, isn’t exactly uncomfortable. The sharpness of the visions found in the pages of God’s Word can easily be dulled by a monotonous comfortable lifestyle. One does not have to stretch too far to find excuses to skim over the visions Christ gave us, after all they could easily be collated so we receive one overall lesson; that is, the importance of preparedness for Christ’s coming. Are these our thoughts? Do we realize the depth of Christ’s words in the parables of the Kingdom? His words like towering pillars stand out for miles in their simplicity and conciseness: “The kingdom of heaven is like unto a merchant man, seeking goodly pearls: who, when he had found one pearl of great price, went and sold all that he had, and bought it” or “Inasmuch as ye did it not to the least of these my brethren, ye did it not to me”. What ‘sledgehammer’ words. With what force they resound.

Preparation for Judgment

Christ’s words in Matthew 24 and 25 seem quite well known to most Sunday School scholars. They are sung in songs, and acted out at Bible Schools. Due to our familiarity with them, we can mistake their simple yet powerful lessons as being under the category of ‘things we all know’. From the parable of the Ten Virgins we are urged to be prepared for our Lord’s coming—that we cannot afford to be caught napping when He returns. Similarly the parable of the Talents compels us to realise that we must be diligent, and understand exactly what our master requires of us. From the parable of the Sheep and Goats, we take a careful warning to look out for each other. Yet, as profound as these lessons are, they are more than this.

The Olivet Prophecy of Matthew 24 and 25 is an extremely sober portion of our Lord’s teachings. Whilst Jesus positively encouraged his disciples throughout his discourse to hold fast and watch, the majority of the content in these two chapters is incredibly sobering to the earnest mind. The coming of the Son of Man would indeed be during perilous times. The state of the ecclesia and its surrounding political environment would be abnormally distressing; the perils of the time would endanger the faith and even lives of those who lived then; and the attitude and sincerity of the believers would be sorely tried by impostors. The Lord described in vivid detail the situation of the world at that time, and his hearers in those days would have been impressed with the largeness of the trials that would befall them. Truly this is the most important question relating to a believer’s life. What should we do in view of our Lord’s imminent return? This question is as relevant for us today as it was for them. Our Lord’s estimation of us should not come as a surprise.

From Matthew 24:37 our Lord describes what the situation would be like in the ecclesia when he returns. There would be many focusing on the everyday or commonplace occasions of life, revelling in their attempts to honour mediocrity and create something new and exciting. There would be widespread and willing ignorance concerning the impending disaster. There would be people working together in the Truth, apparently for the same cause, yet ultimately only one would be accepted and the other “left”.

He then turned to focus upon his disciples as individuals and gave a short parable which showed the danger of being double-minded. Jesus’ question which would have rung in their ears was, “Who then is a faithful and wise servant, whom his lord hath made ruler over his household [Greek therapists], to give them meat [nourishment] in due season [correct measure]?” To what extent would they care for their brothers and sisters in the time to follow? Would he find them being faithful and wise in relation to nourishing and helping one another when he returned? Jesus would have known their feelings as they listened to him speak and knowing their need for him to enlarge on what he had said, he imparted to them three pertinent parables to illustrate the importance of their inward preparation for his return and the judgment seat.

If we observe closely the material contained in the three parables we find that they focus on different aspects of our Lord’s return and the judgment process. Our Lord in these three parables gave an extended view each time of the different processes of judgment. In the parable of the Ten Virgins (Matt 25:1–13), the first ten verses describe the lead-up to his return and the awareness of their spiritual state by each believer when he arrives. There are two verses that follow concerning the Bridegroom’s judgment on those who were ‘lacking’ in their faithfulness. Notice that this is all we are told at this time concerning the judgment. It will be simply that our Bridegroom knows us, or he doesn’t. Does our Bridegroom know us? Are we known of him because we obey his voice and do his commandments?

In the second parable—that of the Talents (Matt 25:14–30)—only the first six verses relate to how the believers prepare for his return. Their life in service and the Master’s arrival is not the focus of this parable, but the process of judgment. The believers give an account of their lives; the evidence is considered; the faithful judge talks about his account of us and explains his decision. Our Master is not hard. He will treat us as we have treated him. Our faithfulness to him is his overwhelming joy and our consistency and reliability in relation to the “few things” (v21,23) leads him to share his eternal joy and abundance with us. Yet if we think we “know” our Master but see him in a wrong perspective, our life can be so skewed that we will be in danger of being slothful and wicked! How important then it is that we do our daily Bible Readings and understand the life of our Master that we may truly understand his principles and what he loves.

The third of the parables—the dividing between two classes (the sheep and the goats)—expands on the final decision and verdict of the judge. We are not told how the believers were found; that can be assumed from the verdict. The three verses (v31–33) concern the King’s return and the judgment. We are not initially given individual status; that is explained in the next thirteen verses. The judge delivers his account of us—did we give meat to our brothers and sisters? The judgment is based on his account of us and his decision stands. There will be no remonstration with this king. He is faithful, wise and therapeutic to his household—only those who have not tried to develop the same characteristics will need to be ashamed in that day; only those who ignored other’s needs for their own.

The ‘whole’ believer spends more time thinking about others than he does about himself. Yet it would be unwise to think we must be focused solely on others and therefore forget to work on our own character. There is a difference between examining our spiritual walk in life as compared to thinking merely of our own wants and needs. One is a necessity and affords little self gratification; the other is selfish indulgence.

In order to be steadfast and confident of our Lord’s love when he appears, let us each strive to become faithful and wise in assisting each other and catering for their needs.

A Need for Honesty

If we look carefully at the three parables of Matthew 25, we find a similar characteristic in each of those who were rejected. This characteristic was forewarned by our Lord who, when describing the perils of the times before his return, frequently mentioned the danger of deception. The biggest danger of our day would be the sleep of self deception. As it is often said, “There is nothing more tragic than the self-deceived”, and we are warned of the deceitfulness of sin. How heart-rending to work all your life in pursuit of something utterly false, just because you were too proud to accept a simple truth. How disastrous to look back years later and realise how bent your course has been; how catastrophic to realise too late how terribly wrong you have been.

In Matthew 25 in each of the parables there was a group of people who had deceived themselves. In the parable of the Virgins their bridegroom said he did not know them! Imagine thinking you are developing a relationship with your Bridegroom but because it was all one-sided and you had never listened to him or taken his words on board, he has not heard you pray and therefore has not come to know you and your voice is foreign! In the parable of the Talents, the servant said he “knew” his master (Matt 25:24). Yet he did not know him at all! His misconception of his master’s true character led to his eternal demise. His mistaken understanding of how his master would treat others was directly related to his own actions of hiding and lack of genuine personal interest in his master’s goods. How terrible to think we knew our master but at his appearing find he is completely different from what we imagined!

In the last parable we have the ultimate in self deception. Those symbolized by the Goats had always thought they were doing the will of their King—that they were always serving him—yet in reality they had done nothing! He denounces them for not nourishing and caring for their brethren: yet the way they perceived things—they felt they deserved recognition for all their efforts towards their brothers and sisters! How frightening this vision is! How earnestly does it make us think! Self deception is frightening to all, yet to those who know the Truth it is even more terrible. This is because we know the better way. We have been privileged to understand what has been hid from so many and in thankfulness we grasp hold of God’s ‘lifeline’ through His Word. We desperately need it. We know there is no other Hope in this life. Therefore to feel we have foolishly robbed ourselves of this Hope is an end worse than death.

We must therefore ask ourselves—why is it that the one characteristic of those represented by the good ground (in the parable of the Sower), enabling them to appreciate the need for the “seed” in their life, is that they receive the Word of God with an “honest and good heart”? Why does Paul exhort Timothy concerning prayer, describing “Godliness” and “Honesty” as the two characteristics displayed in a quiet and peaceable life? Why are the main characteristics concerning our day as described in 2 Timothy 3 so opposite to Honesty and Truthfulness? It is because Honesty sets the basis for Godliness. It is a fundamental characteristic to life, without which we would flounder helplessly without stability or foundation. Speaking abstractly, truth itself can only be built on a basis which accepts the Truth. Our beliefs, our principal base, will only last as long as we confirm and strengthen it; much like a house will not stand for long without a sure foundation. This is a simple and obvious principle yet how hard it is sometimes to appreciate.

We will not realise the full light of the Word if we do not wish to see it. In the short term many people can cover themselves with ignorance and cloak themselves in deception. Many can make themselves ‘forget’ those things which all creation longs for—the return of the King with blessings to his people—and ensure they see only what this world can offer them. For some this is what they truly wish for. Yet ultimately truth always prevails—it has to, for our God who created human life with its experiences is Himself faithful. His son, Jesus Christ is called “Faithful and True”. God’s purpose is sure and our hope is steadfast. What do we truly want?

Final Appeal

The only antidote to this spirit of self-deception is frank and open daily reading of the Bible. The Word alone, as the power of God to us, can work mightily to “bring to light the hidden things of darkness” and “is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart” (Heb 4:12). It is indeed the catalyst to provide us with a correct understanding of the power of God unto salvation—which is the Gospel. Do we earnestly and sincerely read the Word of God daily? Is it revered in our lives as the one true light we have to illuminate our way and help us to correctly see the principles of God? We will know it is, by the extent to which we apply it in our lives.

The Moffat translation of Proverbs 20:27 says, “The conscience of man is God’s searchlight, searching all his inward parts”. Surely our conscience is pricked when we consider the importance of God’s Word to open our eyes and how often we dismiss it through day-to-day pressures. Let us be honest and recognize the Grace of our God in illuminating our paths through His Word. Let us heed the lessons of the ‘Kingdom parable’ and ensure we are honest and prepared. Self-deception leads nowhere.