While Jesus does not tell us when He is going to return, He does tell us to pay attention to the signs that will accompany His second coming. He tells us that, “as the days of Noah were, so also will the coming of the Son of Man be” (Matthew 24:37). With a quick read through Genesis 6, many of the signs of Noah are currently in existence in our culture. In the Olivet Discourse, Jesus was helping His disciples stay alert, know what to look for, and live in light of His return. There are three distinct parables starting in Matthew 24:42 and ending in Matthew 25:30 that make two simple points: Be watchful and be faithfully active in your faith. These two themes stand in deep contrast to the lethargy and indifference of the day.
Jesus wanted His disciples to be men that were expectantly watching for His return. In Matthew 24:42-51, He tells them a parable about the wise and foolish servants. The wise and faithful servants understood that the masters’ absence actually increased the burden of responsibility for him. It meant hard, conscientious work because he would be giving an account. The wise servant wanted to be found faithfully watchful for the Lord’s return. The evil servant on the other hand took the master’s absence as an opportunity to party, throw off constraint, and run from responsibility. The evil servant had no sense of being held accountable for his actions.
Jesus tells us that the faithful servant was rewarded beyond expectation. This is the picture of eternal reward for all faithful Christians. Their place in heaven will be unfathomably high honor and reward. “The one who conquers, I will grant him to sit with me on my throne, as I also conquered and sat down with my Father on his throne” (Revelation 3:21).
The evil servant has no love for the master and no anticipation of His return. The evil servant’s cynical attitude about his master’s return is emblematic of an unbeliever. When grace touches the human heart, we will live set apart lives and be expectant for Jesus’ return. “For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation for all people, training us to renounce ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright, and godly lives in the present age, waiting for our blessed hope, the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ” (Titus 2:11–13).
The commentator William Barclay recalls a fable about three demons who were being sent by their leader Satan to destroy the human race. “How are you going to do this,” Satan asked them. The first said: “I will tell them that there is no God.” Satan responded: “You will not fool many. They know God exists.” The second said: “I will tell them there is no hell.” Satan answered: “They won’t believe you.” The third demon said: “I will tell them there is no hurry.” “Ah, that is good,” Satan replied, “you will ruin millions.”
Christ’s return is imminent. In light of His return, we are exhorted to “watch yourselves lest your hearts be weighed down with dissipation and drunkenness and cares of this life, and that day come upon you suddenly like a trap. For it will come upon all who dwell on the face of the whole earth. But stay awake at all times, praying that you may have strength to escape all these things that are going to take place, and to stand before the Son of Man” (Luke 21:34–36).
We should be ready, expectant, busy, obedient, loyal, and prepared for His return. We are to be faithfully investing our time, treasure, and talents in the kingdom of God. In Matthew 25:14-30, Jesus commends faithful work and prudent planning. Wise stewardship and putting what he has given us to work for him. This attitude stands against inactivity, self-focused well-being, and giving up.
The wealthy man is Christ and the servants in charge of his affairs are those that are professing Christians. Jesus has given us full power of attorney to manage what has been given to our care. The first two servants immediately put what they have been given to work. They undertook the responsibility and were given the reward. They were honored for their faithfulness like 1 Corinthians 3:8 tells us, “…each one will receive his own reward according to his own labor.”
The third servant on the other hand, buried his money and took advantage of his master’s absence. His lack of responsibility guaranteed that the resources given to him in trust would never earn any profit. The delay of the master no doubt reinforced and emboldened the unfaithful servant’s complacency. The problem was the faithless servant’s own wicked laziness. In reality, this man lacked both fear and respect for the master. The unprofitable servant pictures an unbeliever. Indifference, disobedient, self-willed in his behavior, and morally unfaithful.
If you knew Jesus were returning tomorrow, would you live differently? Recently I had a woman tell me that she would be angry if she knew the Lord were going to return tomorrow. She said her anger would be at herself because she knows many people that do not have a relationship with the Lord and has not shared the Good News. Take this as an opportunity to stay alert for chances to share the gospel with those that are not walking with Jesus. “Therefore, you also must be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at an hour you do not expect” (Matthew 24:44). “Therefore, stay awake—for you do not know when the master of the house will come, in the evening, or at midnight, or when the rooster crows, or in the morning” (Mark 13:35).