The first part of Matthew 24 addresses Jerusalem’s impending destruction; the latter portion is about the second coming of Christ – the final judgment. Signs would precede the first event (fulfilled in 70 AD), but there would be no signs for the Lord’s return (Matthew 24:36-39). Jesus said:
Watch therefore, for you do not know what hour your Lord is returning. (Matthew 24:42)
The remainder of the chapter is used to illustrate the need for us to be ready for His return.
He shares a pair of parables, one concerning a thief coming upon a house, and the latter about the need for servants to anticipate their master’s return.
The Coming Thief
Have you ever had something stolen from you? If a thief has an eye on something that you own, be assured that he is not going to call ahead to make an appointment. The success of a robber depends on the lack of awareness and preparation on the part of those who he is stealing from. If you’ve got an alarm system or are standing guard, your property is much less appealing. Jesus tells us,
…if the master of the house had known what hour the thief would come, he would have watched and not allowed his house to be broken into. (Matthew 24:43)
The Lord is coming, but we do not know when. In this way, He is like a thief. However, He is not coming to steal anything. He is coming to reward those who have served Him faithfully and to condemn those who have not. We cannot just wait until the time of His coming to repent of sin and walk His way. We do not know when He is coming. Therefore, we must be ready today, for He is coming “at an hour you do not expect” (Matthew 24:44).
The Faithful & Wise Servant
He who would have responsibility must show himself responsible. Jesus speaks of a master who is away from his home. Upon his return, he intends to reward a servant with the responsibility of being chief among all his servants, the ruler over all that he has. Joseph the son of Jacob, is a real-life example of what the Lord is speaking about. He showed himself to be faithful in Potiphar’s household and was thus given charge over all his house (Genesis 39:2-6). The same was true when he was wrongfully sent to prison (Genesis 39:20-23) and when he was brought before Pharaoh (Genesis 41:37-44).
The Lord is seeking people of Joseph’s calibre. He wants us to be servants who are focused on the Master’s will, and doing what pleases Him, even in His absence. Those who do their own will are described as “evil servants.” Hear what such people say and do:
…the 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. (Matthew 24:48-49)
We don’t need to beat fellow Christians and get drunk to be these “evil servants.” All we need to do is not do the Master’s will. Notice what the Master will do with them:
…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 24:50-51)
Will He Find Us Faithful?
The Lord wants us to be faithful now, while we await His return. If He finds us faithful, He will reward us. In the parable, only one servant is rewarded. There cannot be multiple servants given the position of ruler over all the master’s goods. The reward in the kingdom of God is not to be ruler over the master’s goods. The reward for God’s people is to enter eternally into His presence. This is not given just to one person, the “most faithful” if you will, but is for all who are faithful to the Lord.
Recall when the apostle Paul spoke of the Christian walk in terms of a race. He wrote:
Do you not know that those who run in a race all run, but one receives the prize? Run in such a way that you may obtain it. (1 Corinthians 9:24)
In a race, only one receives the gold medal. In the kingdom, as many as run the race with diligence, endurance, and faithfulness receive the crown of life. What a gracious and merciful God we serve, who seeks for all to be saved (2 Peter 3:9).
Just as all who run the race well are rewarded at the Lord’s coming, all who serve in His absence well are rewarded. It is not that one or a few will be set above the rest—all faithful servants will be received and blessed in His kingdom.
Let us be sure that we serve Him faithfully now, while we await His return. Do not put off serving Him—we do not know when He is coming back. Today is the day to be prepared, tomorrow may be too late.