Home / Commentary / Matthew / Matthew Chapter 24 / Matthew 24:42-51
Verses covered in this passage:
Jesus ends His answer of the three questions with an admonition to the disciples to be ready at all times.
The end of the age could come at any time. The signs could begin any time. By application, believers should always be ready. As Jesus has already stated you do not know which day your Lord is coming. And when our Lord comes, He will come as a King and a judge. Those who have believed in Jesus as Savior, and are therefore His children, want to make sure they are ready to have their deeds judged to determine their reward. Jesus speaks of two sorts of children, whom He calls slaves in this parable. The Greek word translated slave is the word doulos and means servant.
Jesus uses an illustration about being prepared. If the head of the house had known at what time of the night the thief was coming, he would have been on the alert and would not have allowed his house to be broken into. Jesus isn’t saying here that He is coming to steal something. Jesus is saying that He is coming at a time people will not be expecting Him. That’s when thieves come, when they aren’t expected. Jesus is speaking to His disciples who asked Him this question. His response is applicable to His servants, those who are His children and have received Him by faith.
One of the primary rewards Jesus seeks to give those who are faithful is to reign with Him over the earth. Revelation 3:21 states He who overcomes, I will grant to him to sit down with Me on My throne, as I also overcame and sat down with My Father on His throne. The word overcome is the Greek word nikao, which means to conquer, to win the victory. Jesus won victory over temptation and death through learning obedience, even to death on a cross (Hebrews 5:8). Jesus asks who should share His throne, and rule over His Kingdom: Who then is the faithful and sensible slave whom his master put in charge of his household? Answer? The one who is serving Jesus faithfully when He returns. What is it that those who rule over His household will be doing in His Kingdom? To give them their food at the proper time. And what is Jesus looking for to judge whether a servant is faithful and sensible? It is a slave or servant who is already feeding His people. One who is investing in His flock. Those whom the master finds so doing when he comes will be the one who is blessed by the master.
The servants who are faithfully feeding the flock on the earth will be blessed with an incredible reward. Jesus will he will put him in charge of all his possessions. This metaphor is parallel with that in Revelation 3:21, where Jesus says He will share His throne with those who overcome. It makes sense. Jesus wants rulers of the New Earth who have proven they are willing to serve. There will be no tyrants in the Kingdom that is to come. Only kings who, like Jesus, learned to serve.
But the rewards in the Bible are not only positive. There are some slaves who are evil. They are evil because they mistreat the children of God. They don’t really think they are going to have to give an account. This notion is held up by verses such as 2 Corinthians 5:10, which says For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each one may be recompensed for his deeds in the body, according to what he has done, whether good or bad. Note that every deed gets a reward, both the good and the bad. The 2 Corinthians passage goes on to say Therefore, knowing the fear of the Lord, we persuade men. The Apostle Paul wanted to get people’s attention that the judgement of Christ is real, and there will be a real accounting.
The parable Jesus uses to describe the treatment of the slave (believer) that is evil (mistreats other believers rather than feeding/serving them) in a manner that is a bit shocking. In the parable, the master of that slave will come on a day when he does not expect him and at an hour which he does not know. This is parallel to the people in the days of Noah, who did not expect any judgment. Then the master will cut him in pieces and assign him a place with the hypocrites; in that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth. The phrase translated “cut him in pieces” could also be translated “scourge him severely.” Something like this seems to fit better, since the master then assigns the wicked slave to be with the hypocrites, where there is weeping and gnashing of teeth. If the slave were actually cut in pieces he wouldn’t really be able to be a part of a group or mourn.
Notwithstanding, the consequence is quite severe. But on reflection it should not be considered any more severe than other passages that discuss Jesus’ judgment of believers who have not been faithful. Consider 1 Corinthians 3:12-15:
Now if any man builds on the foundation with gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, straw, each man’s work will become evident; for the day will show it because it is to be revealed with fire, and the fire itself will test the quality of each man’s work. If any man’s work which he has built on it remains, he will receive a reward. If any man’s work is burned up, he will suffer loss; but he himself will be saved, yet so as through fire.
Note that in this passage we can watch our deeds go up in flames. And it is possible to have all our works burned up. And we will suffer loss. Seeing all we have done be exposed as self-dealing will not be fun. It is not reasonable to expect that this will not create mourning, such as weeping and gnashing of teeth. This state will not be perpetual, as Revelation 21:4 says every tear will be wiped away before the advent of the New Earth. But that means there are tears. The evil slave will be assigned a place with the hypocrites; in that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth. This is similar to the language in 1 Corinthians 3:12-15 where a person who sees all his works burned up will still be saved yet so as through fire.
Jesus is trying to get across the reality that sacrificial service is more than just something Jesus commands us to do. It is a path that creates an amazing reward, to serve with Jesus in ruling the New Earth. And it also avoids a quite terrible reward, for bad things done while in our bodies. To be with other hypocrites mourning. Romans 8:28-29 promise us that we will be conformed to the image of Christ. And this exercise of refining will be accomplishing that. So it is still in our benefit. As Hebrews 12:4-6 states:
My son, do not regard lightly the discipline of the Lord,
Nor faint when you are reproved by Him;
For those whom the Lord loves He disciplines,
And He scourges every son whom He receives.
In Matthew 24 we see an evil member of Jesus’ household, a slave or servant, who is evil because they are mistreating Jesus’ other servants. And this servant is scourged and disciplined. But at the judgment. It seems readily apparent that it is infinitely better to have our issues dealt with while in our earthly bodies, rather than face Jesus at the judgement having lived a life that was fraudulent, a life that served self and not others.
42 “Therefore be on the alert, for you do not know which day your Lord is coming. 43 But be sure of this, that if the head of the house had known at what time of the night the thief was coming, he would have been on the alert and would not have allowed his house to be broken into. 44 For this reason you also must be ready; for the Son of Man is coming at an hour when you do not think He will.
45 “Who then is the faithful and sensible slave whom his master put in charge of his household to give them their food at the proper time? 46 Blessed is that slave whom his master finds so doing when he comes. 47 Truly I say to you that he will put him in charge of all his possessions. 48 But if that evil slave says in his heart, ‘My master is not coming for a long time,’ 49 and begins to beat his fellow slaves and eat and drink with drunkards; 50 the master of that slave will come on a day when he does not expect him and at an hour which he does not know, 51 and will cut him in pieces and assign him a place with the hypocrites; in that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.