Watch therefore, for you know neither the day nor the hour wherein the Son of man comes.
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)Matthew 25:13. Watch, therefore, &c. — See, therefore, that your mind be always awake and watchful, and that you maintain an habitual readiness for the coming of the bridegroom, not presuming on preparations to be made hereafter, lest you meet with a sad disappointment: for ye know neither the day nor the hour wherein the Son of man cometh — To receive his prepared people to himself, and for ever to exclude the backslider, the hypocrite, and the sinner, from the glories and joys of his heavenly kingdom; or when he cometh to call you hence by death, or to summon you to his bar. Remember your life is a vapour, which appeareth for a little while, and then vanisheth; work while it is day, before the night come when you cannot work. Take care especially that you have oil in your vessels, and that you keep your lamp burning, for unless you attend to these things you watch in vain; these being the great, and indeed the only distinguishing difference between the wise and the foolish virgins here spoken of. Upon the whole, in this parable the characters and final judgment of the subjects of the kingdom of heaven are described, that is to say, of persons who have enjoyed the outward dispensation of the gospel, and by professing themselves to be Christians, pretended to honour Christ. Some, with the fair light of an outward profession in their hands, have the principles of the divine life in their hearts, a stock of oil to keep that light continually burning, both pure and clear, by which means they persevere in holiness to the end. But others, having the blaze of a profession, and nothing to keep it alive, it must needs end in smoke and darkness, failing them when they have most occasion for it. The midnight cry, raised at the coming of the bridegroom, shows, not only that the day of judgment will take place when by the generality it is not looked for, but how suddenly and unexpectedly some are called away by death, so that little or no preparation can be made for the awful event in the confusion and perplexity of a death-bed sickness. In this parable, therefore, our Lord has taught us that unless we persevere in grace, having it always in possession, and even in exercise, as occasion requires, we shall be excluded from the abodes of the blessed without remedy, though we may have expressed considerable zeal and diligence in the service of Christ for a time: also, that the grace of other men, and their piety and virtue, will stand us in no stead at the hour of death or at the day of judgment. To conclude, as the parable represents the suddenness with which Christ frequently comes to call individual persons off the stage of life, it shows us both the folly and danger of delaying true and vital religion to a deathbed, and powerfully enforces habitual watchfulness upon all men, in every age, from the consideration of the uncertainty of human life; and strongly enforces the advice of Eliphaz, Acquaint now thyself with him, and be at peace; and more especially the declaration and exhortation of Christ, Behold, I come quickly: hold that fast which thou hast, that no man take thy crown: for, if any man draw back, my soul shall have no pleasure in him.
The Son of man cometh - This refers, doubtless, to his coming in the day of judgment. The circumstances of the parable do not seem at all to apply to his coming to destroy Jerusalem, but are aptly expressive of his advent to judge the world.Matthew 13:1-58, in the parable of the sower, and of the tares of the field. But in most parables he doth not so; but from something going before or coming after gives us light enough to know what his main design was, and leaveth to us by that to interpret the several parts of the parable. Here he hath left us a sufficient light to know his meaning:
From his discourse in the latter end of the foregoing chapter, where he had been pressing the duty and prudence of watchfulness, from the uncertainty of the time of his coming. It is manifest that he is pursuing the same design still, by the epi parabolh, or the saying with which he closes this parable, Matthew 25:13,
Watch therefore, for ye know neither the day nor the hour wherein the Son of man cometh. This watchfulness we had interpreted by an opposition to sin, both of omission and commission: taking heed of having our hearts overcharged with surfeiting and drunkenness, and cares of this life, Luke 21:34,36; taking heed of smiting our fellow servants, eating and drinking with the drunken; discharging our trusts faithfully, ministers giving to the household of Christ their portion in due season, Matthew 24:45,49; being ready for the coming of Christ, Matthew 24:44; praying, Luke 21:36. This our Lord had pressed there particularly on ministers; he is here in this parable pressing the same duty on all; and in this parable further opens the duty of watchfulness, not only as opposed to slumbering and sleeping, but as comprehending a getting of ourselves ready, as he had said, Matthew 24:44; and this readiness he also further openeth in this parable, under the notion of having not only lamps, but oil in our lamps.
To these purposes he takes up this parable, which we shall not so well understand without understanding their usual rites and customs at weddings, which were these:
1. Their marriages were ordinarily in the night.
2. They usually had young men that attended the bridegroom, and young virgins that attended the bride at her father’s house. The young men attended the bridegroom. These were called the children of the bride chamber, or the friends of the bridegroom or bride, Mark 2:19 John 3:29.
The wedding being in the night, there was need of lamps. When the bridegroom came, the bride maids, who were attending the bride, went forth to meet the bridegroom, with lamps lighted, to conduct him and his companions into the house, and to her who was to be the bride.
When they were entered the door was shut, and the marriage proceeded. Our Saviour now, to quicken his auditors to the watchfulness before spoken of, supposes such a marriage, and ten virgins, the usual number at such solemnities. He supposes these ten virgins to have been half of them wise and half foolish: the wisdom of the one he makes to lie in getting their lamps ready and furnishing themselves in time with oil to feed them, that they might not go out, either while they waited for his coming, or in their conduct of him. The folly of the others he makes to lie in their want of this care, so as when the bridegroom came their lamps were out: they would have borrowed oil of the others, but they had none to lend them, so as they were shut out of the door of the bridal house, and though they knocked could obtain no entrance.
It is not hard now to apply the several parts of the parable to the end for which this parable is brought, provided that we do not expect that similitudes should run on four feet, or that every minute circumstance in a parable should be fitted in the explication.
The kingdom of heaven (which in Scripture always signifies that of grace or glory) here signifieth that of grace. The state of the church is likened to ten virgins: these ten virgins are professors; their lamps and their going forth to meet the bridegroom, signify their joint profession of the gospel, and their expectation joyfully to meet Christ, who is the bridegroom here meant. Psalm 45:14 John 3:29.
Five of them were wise, and five foolish. This signifieth the difference of professors; some have lamps, make a profession, but have no truth of grace; others have the root of the matter in them, a true faith and love, which feeds men’s profession.
The bridegroom’s tarrying signifies Christ’s delaying to come to judgment. Their slumbering and sleeping signifies the infirmities of the best, who sleep, though their hearts wake; and the deeper security of others in their sinful state. The coming of the bridegroom at midnight signifieth Christ’s coming in a dark time of troubles and afflictions, or at a time not looked for. The virgins trimming their lamps upon the cry made, signifies the care of pious souls, more especially upon any notices of Christ’s coming, to prepare themselves for the meeting and reception of him. The foolish virgins late discerning that their lamps were out, and that they wanted oil, lets us know that hypocrites and formal professors will too late know that profession without a root of faith and true regeneration will serve them in no stead. Their asking the wise virgins to lend them some of their oil, with their refusal, because then they should not have enough for themselves, lets us know the woeful shifts that hypocrites will at last be put to, and how vain their hopes are, who hope to be relieved from the grace and good works of others. Their going to buy oil, and their being shut out before they returned, and knocking in vain, and in vain crying, Lord, open to us, lets us know, that as the tree falls so it must lie; that after our buying time in this life, mentioned Isaiah 55:1,2, is expired, our state will be determined; that we are concerned to take the counsel of Solomon, Ecclesiastes 9:10, Whatsoever thy hand findeth to do, especially for our souls, to do it with thy might; for here is no work, nor device, nor knowledge, nor wisdom, in the place, whither thou goest.
Therefore we are all concerned to watch, that is, to look that we have not only lamps, but oil to feed our lamps, and to keep our lamps burning, because we know, that the Bridegroom Christ will come, and we do not know at what time he will come, to the general judgment, or our particular judgment; for when we die, we can do no more to make ourselves ready for the great coming of Christ to judge the world, but must appear before him as we go out of this world. No oil after the determination of our lives will be to be bought, no further preparation of ourselves is to be made, as our life leaveth us judgment will find us.
for ye know neither the day nor the hour; of death, or of judgment, or of the coming of the son of man, of one or the other; for it is added,
wherein the son of man cometh: that he will come is certain, and that quickly; the time is fixed, but when it will be is unknown; and therefore it becomes us to be our watch and guard. This last clause is not in the Vulgate Latin, nor in the Syriac, Arabic, Persic, and Ethiopic versions, and was wanting in three of Beza's copies, but is in most Greek copies, and in Munster's Hebrew Gospel, and seems to be necessary.Watch therefore, for ye know neither the day nor the hour wherein the Son of man cometh.
EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)Matthew 25:13. he moral, γρηγορεῖτε, watch; not directed against sleep (Matthew 25:5) but against lack of forethought. The reference of the parable to the Parusia, according to Weiss (Meyer), is imposed upon it by the evangelist.13. Watch therefore] Our Lord’s explanation of the parable, shewing the true purport of it.Matthew 25:13. Γρηγορεῖτε, watch ye) He who watches will have not only his lamp burning, but also oil in his vessel: he who has oil in his vessel is not greatly held, even by sleep; see Matthew 25:5.Verse 13. - Watch therefore. This is the lesson which the Lord draws from the parable, as elsewhere he gives the same warning, e.g. Luke 12:35, repeated by the apostle (1 Thessalonians 5:2, 6). Ye know neither the day nor the hour [wherein the Son of man cometh]. The words in brackets are omitted by the earlier uncials, the Vulgate, Syriac, etc., and are to be regarded as an exegetical interpolation (comp. Matthew 24:42). Tertullian well says, "Ut pendula expectatione solicitude fidei probetur, semper diem observans, dum semper ignorat, quotidie timens quod quotidie sperat" ('De Anima,' 33). It remains to observe that, mystically, Christ is the Bridegroom, who celebrates his nuptials with his bride the Church, and comes to conduct her to heaven; those who are ready will accompany him and enter into the joy of their Lord; those who have not made their calling sure will be shut out.
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