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The Faithful and Sensible Slave
At Matthew 24:45-47, Jesus asked the question, ‘Who really is the faithful and sensible slave who his master put over his house servants to give them meals at the proper time?' Then he went on to say that, this ‘slave' would be ‘blest if he's found doing that when his master arrives.' And the reward for providing for the Lord's house servants would be, ‘He will put him over all his possessions.'
In Greek, this slave is described as ‘pistos doulos kai phroinimos' (faithful slave and prudent). However, prudent is no longer a common word in American English, so we have chosen a synonym, ‘sensible.'
The Slave's Appointment
When does this arrival of the Master happen... when does he find the ‘faithful and sensible slave' (the ‘doorkeeper' in Mark and the ‘faithful house manager' in Luke) giving ‘his house servants' their ‘provisions?' Well, in all three Gospel accounts his arrival is said to be ‘at an hour that you don't think to be it.' In fact, Mark 13:32 proceeds this prophecy with the words, ‘Nobody has known that day or the hour - neither the angels in heaven nor the Son, just the Father.'
So, this time when the ‘slaves' are recognized and put in charge of the Master's ‘possessions' appears to happen at Jesus' arrival (gr. elthon) to bring God's Kingdom to the earth, not to the earlier period when he is near (gr. parousia). That this is the time of his arrival (following his being near or presence) is attested to in all three Gospel accounts.
Even the placement of this portion of the prophecy in Matthew's account - after the ‘great time of difficulty' and after Jesus' coming - testifies that this later date is when his recognition of the ‘faithful and sensible slave' occurs. And although someone once put a chapter break immediately following this prophecy, the next two parables (of the ten virgins and of the three slaves) appear to be a continuation of this same thought.
Who Really Is ‘the Faithful and Sensible Slave?'
While it's a fact that many religions have claimed to be this faithful slave down through the centuries, their claims seem to be at best boastful, because the Lord obviously hasn't arrived on earth, for his sign has yet to be seen in the sky (this is when the text shows that the slave is appointed, not some earlier date). Yet, we could be living in the period that leads up to his coming, for we have in fact witnessed many of the signs of his nearness.
Now, from the context of the verses, it appears as though this faithful slave represents God's chosen ones who are taking the lead in helping His other servants come to a correct understanding of His word and purposes, by providing them spiritual sustenance. However, those who are doing this aren't called faithful and sensible until the time of Jesus' ‘arrival.' And that's when those who have kept their lamps lit are invited to the ‘wedding banquet of the Lamb,' and the faithful slaves are appointed over ‘cities,' and over all the Lord's ‘possessions.'
Is it possible that when Jesus spoke of the faithful slaves, he was just talking about all faithful Christians? No, the contexts of Jesus' words are self-explanatory. Notice that he says this slave is (or these slaves are) found to be giving ‘his house servants' their ‘provisions.' So, the slave or slaves must represent those who are taking the lead in providing for the spiritual needs of other Christians.
The ‘Bad' or ‘Evil' Slave
Now, when Jesus was talking about the faithful and sensible slave (at Matthew 24:48-51), he mentioned another possible outcome. He warned of a change in attitude that comes when the Master's arrival is later than expected. He said, ‘But if that bad slave should ever say in his heart, My master is taking his time with me, and starts to beat his fellow slaves, and eats and drinks with the local drunks, the master of that slave will come on a day that he doesn't expect and on an hour that he doesn't know. He will cut him down and assign him with the hypocrites. There he will cry and grind his teeth.'
So, notice that this bad slave was once a faithful slave, but he becomes discouraged during a long wait for the Lord's arrival and falls into evil ways. And this has truly happened to leaders of religious groups who have been expecting him through the centuries (or just for the past hundred years or so) and allowed their ‘lamps to go out.'
So, those who feel that they comprise the ‘slave' class today must be very careful not to become discouraged if the Lord's arrival is later than they expect. They must always be awake, watching (even if that means sounding an occasional false alarm), and especially found supplying the provisions (solid ‘spiritual food') to God's servants. In addition, they must always deal very lovingly with their ‘fellow slaves' to be found ‘faithful' and to be put in charge of ‘everything that the Master owns.'
The ‘Doorkeeper' of Mark's Prophecy
In Mark the Thirteenth Chapter, we find the same account as in Matthew 24, 25, but with slightly different words and in an abbreviated form. Here Jesus says (Mark 13:32-37): ‘Nobody knows that day or hour... not the angels in heaven or the Son; just the Father. So, stay awake and keep watching, because you don't know the time when he's coming. It's like a man, who, before leaving his house and traveling abroad, instructed each of his slaves to just go on doing their jobs; but he commanded his doorkeeper to stay awake. So, stay awake, because you don't know when the Master of the house is coming - whether it's late, or at midnight, or at rooster crowing, or early in the morning - so that when he suddenly arrives, he doesn't find you sleeping. What I'm saying to you I'm saying to everyone: Stay awake!'
The point that Jesus was making here is that those who are in charge of his slaves should always be alert and watching for his arrival, and never allow themselves to fall asleep to this responsibility. In addition, Jesus' final words on this subject, ‘What I'm saying to you I'm saying to everyone; Stay awake!' indicate that although the ‘watchmen' or ‘door keepers' have the primary responsibility of staying awake, each of his slaves share in that responsibility.
The Greek word that is translated as doorkeeper here is thyroro, from the words thyra (door) and ouros (keeper). This is the same word that Jesus used at John 10:3, where he spoke of himself as the ‘doorkeeper of the sheep.' So, Jesus is also a faithful and sensible slave.
The Faithful, Sensible, House Manager of Luke's Account
It is interesting to note, once again, the time when the slave is identified and when he receives his reward, in the parallel account in Luke. At Luke 12:40 we read that Jesus said: ‘You too, keep ready! Because, the Son of Man is coming at an hour that you don't think is likely.'
Then he continues with the account at Luke 12:42-44, saying, ‘Who really is the faithful house manager, the sensible one who his master will put over his faithful friends to provide their food supplies on time? This slave will be blest if his master finds him doing that when he arrives! I tell you the truth; he will put him in charge of everything he owns.'
In Greek, this person is described as ho pistos oikonomos ho phronimos (the faithful house manager, the sensible). These words are found in a different setting than they are in Matthew 24 and Mark 13, for Luke puts Jesus speaking them at a different time than what is found in Matthew and Mark. However, Luke claims that the things he wrote in his Gospel were put in a chronological order, whereas Matthew was obviously following a theme of thought, and Mark seems to have just quoted (loosely, with a variation of descriptions) from Matthew's account. So, we don't know if Jesus gave the same illustration on more than one occasion, or if the words in Matthew (and Mark) were just written out of chronological order. However, they all appear to be quoting Jesus' same illustration or parable.
And notice that in Luke's account, more is added to Jesus' prophecy. Luke 12:47, 48 says, ‘The slave who knows what his master expects and still doesn't prepare [the food] or do what he wants, will be lashed with a whip many times. Now, the one who doesn't understand and does things that he deserves a whipping for will be beaten with few. So, all those who are given much will have a lot expected of them. And those who are put in charge over much will have a lot asked from them.'
These additional words of Jesus emphasize the need for the ‘house managers' to continue providing nourishing spiritual food of the deeper things of God's Word, not just ‘Sunday sermons' on ‘repenting over bad deeds, having faith in God, or learning about baptisms, [spiritual] appointments, the resurrection of the dead, or the judgments on this age' (Hebrews 6:1, 2)... the ‘milk' of the word of God.
Another question that is raised in the latter part of Luke's account is: Who are those ‘who don't understand' and what will their outcome be? We will likely have to await future events to unravel the full meaning of this prophecy.
The Ten Virgins
The five wise virgins of Matthew 25 were only identified as such and rewarded after the Lord arrived. And they are thereafter invited to attend the Lord's wedding banquet, because they are spiritually awake and ready! So, notice that they are invited after the master has taken his bride. The fact that the virgins are not the bride is confirmed in the Aramaic targums of Matthew's text, which say that the bridegroom arrives with his bride. This outcome (of being invited inside the banquet) is quite different from that of the five ‘virgins' who were less prepared (and note that they weren't killed, but they just weren't allowed to enter the wedding banquet).
Notice that this sequence of events is exactly the same as that of an ancient Jewish wedding. For, first the groom would go to the bride's home to accept her from her family (which is the wedding), then the marriage is consummated, and thereafter, they both travel to meet their friends to celebrate the union at the wedding banquet. So, the banquet is not the wedding, and the virgins who are invited are not the bride!
Notice how Psalm 45:13-16 prophesied this event: ‘[His queen] has all the glory, of the king of HeshBon's daughter, for she's wrapped in embroidered fringes of gold. Then all the virgins who follow in her train (those closest to her) will be carried to you. They will be carried in gladness and praising, and led to the king's Holy Place. In place of your fathers sons will be born, and over the earth you'll appoint them as rulers.'
Also, note the similarities in Jesus' words that lead up to another (parallel) account... the one of the faithful slave, as found at Luke 12:35, 36. It says there, ‘So, wrap on your sashes [for work], light your lamps, and act like men who are awaiting their master's return from his wedding; so that when he arrives and knocks, they can open [the doors] to him right away.'
Obviously, there is enough similarity between these accounts to conclude safely that all these parables are discussing the same slaves or virgins and the same period in time.
So, to recap: Notice that the wedding has already occurred and that the slaves or virgins are awaiting the coming of the Lord and his bride so they can enter the wedding banquet.
In Jesus' parable of the ten virgins, all have fallen (spiritually) asleep during a dark period, as they await the Lord's arrival. But fully half of the group has retained enough ‘oil' to keep their lamps from going out, and some are awake and watching at his arrival (not his nearness or parousia, but his arrival or elthon).
The clear indication from all of the above, is that those virgins who are considered ‘sensible' are the ones who keep looking for him and awaiting the Lord's arrival. But ‘those who just don't care' have stopped looking, waiting, and being prepared to enter his wedding banquet.
However, the reward for the righteous (being appointed over all the Lord's possessions), as the next parable shows, is received after they enter the wedding banquet. So, since no person or group of people can enter the wedding banquet unless they have proven themselves ready and faithful, and no one can really claim to be this ‘faithful and sensible slave' until they are proclaimed such by the Lord Jesus after his arrival to bring God's Kingdom to the earth. So, no it hasn't happened yet!
Similarities to Revelation
There are also striking similarities between the story of the ten virgins and the account found at Revelation 19:7-9, which says, ‘Let's rejoice, shout in joy, and glorify him, because it's time for the Lamb's wedding! His bride has prepared herself and she has been found as worthy to be dressed in bright, clean, fine linen. This fine linen represents the righteous actions of the Holy Ones. Then he told me, Write this: Those who are invited to the Lamb's wedding banquet are blest.'
So, notice that the blest are those who (like the virgins in Matthew 25) are not the bride, but those who are invited to attend the wedding banquet of the Lamb. So they appear to be the same as the virgins or faithful slaves of Jesus' parable.
Just think about it... If you were invited to a wedding banquet, would you assume that you were the bride?
If you read the entire Revelation, you will see that the sequence of events exactly follows the order of Matthew 24 and 25. For after providing a warning to local congregations of that era (which likely portends messages to religious groups in our day), we read of the ride of the ‘four horsemen.' Then unfaithful Christian religion is destroyed (Revelation 18), which seems to parallel ‘the great time of difficulty' of Matthew's prophecy, followed by ‘the Lamb's wedding' (Revelation 19), and then comes the Battle of Armageddon (Revelation 16 & 19).
The Three Slaves
The next parable in Matthew 25 (the one about the three slaves who were entrusted with the master's belongings after he went away) seems once again, to apply particularly to Jesus prophecy of the ‘faithful and sensible slave.' For notice the wording there (Matthew 25:21), ‘His master told him, You've done well, good and faithful slave! You were faithful over a few things, so I will appoint you over many things. Enjoy the favor of your master.'
However, in this parable there were three slaves, and two of them have been faithful in taking care of the (spiritual) treasures that the Lord gave them, while the third did nothing with it. And again, we notice that the first two slaves were rewarded upon the Lord's ‘coming' (gr. erchetai)... not his ‘nearness' (gr. parousia). And their reward was being appointed over earthly cities (indicating that their life and their assignment is to be earthly).
And finally (in Matthew 25), immediately after the slaves have been rewarded or rejected, we read of the separating of the ‘sheep and goats.' So, although those who are invited to the wedding banquet of the Lamb are clearly not the bride, they also seem to be different from those who are identified as the sheep in the last half of Matthew 25.
Although many religions teach that the Anointed (gr. christon or christs) are the Lamb's Bride who will rule with Jesus in heaven, this conclusion doesn't appear to be correct. For, being invited to the Lamb's wedding banquet is clearly not the same as being invited to heaven to become the bride. Remember that in the parable of the virgins, the Lord first takes his bride, and then he returns to select those who will enter his banquet. (See the linked document, 'Is there life after death' ).
So, this wedding banquet could well be an earthly affair, and those who are invited are the slaves who have proven alert, prepared, and faithful. And they will then be given earthly privileges and assigned as rulers ‘over cities' according to their abilities and the amount of increase each has returned for the ‘coins' that Jesus has entrusted to them.