Bible Study Guides – Parable of the Talents, Part I

July 23, 2006 – July 29, 2006

Key Text

“Well done, [thou] good and faithful servant: thou hast been faithful over a few things, I will make thee ruler over many things: enter thou into the joy of thy lord.” Matthew 25:21.

Study Help: My Life Today, 113.


“It is the faithfulness, the loyalty to God, the loving service, that wins the divine approval. Every impulse of the Holy Spirit leading men to goodness and to God, is noted in the books of heaven, and in the day of God the workers through whom He has wrought will be commended.

“They will enter into the joy of the Lord as they see in His kingdom those who have been redeemed through their instrumentality. And they are privileged to participate in His work there, because they have gained a fitness for it by participation in His work here. What we shall be in heaven is the reflection of what we are now in character and holy service. Christ said of Himself, ‘The Son of man came not to be ministered unto, but to minister.’ Matthew 20:28. This, His work on earth, is His work in heaven. And our reward for working with Christ in this world is the greater power and wider privilege of working with Him in the world to come.” Christ’s Object Lessons, 361.

1 What led the Saviour to leave Heaven, endure the cross, and despise the shame of coming to this world? Hebrews 12:2.

note: “Before the universe has been clearly presented the great sacrifice made by the Father and the Son in man’s behalf. The hour has come when Christ occupies His rightful position and is glorified above principalities and powers and every name that is named. It was for the joy that was set before Him—that He might bring many sons unto glory—that He endured the cross and despised the shame. And inconceivably great as was the sorrow and the shame, yet greater is the joy and the glory. He looks upon the redeemed, renewed in His own image, every heart bearing the perfect impress of the divine, every face reflecting the likeness of their King. He beholds in them the result of the travail of His soul, and He is satisfied. Then, in a voice that reaches the assembled multitudes of the righteous and the wicked, He declares: ‘Behold the purchase of My blood! For these I suffered, for these I died, that they might dwell in My presence throughout eternal ages.’ And the song of praise ascends from the white-robed ones about the throne: ‘Worthy is the Lamb that was slain to receive power, and riches, and wisdom, and strength, and honor, and glory, and blessing.’ Revelation 5:12.” The Great Controversy, 671.

2 In what joy will all the saved share? Matthew 25:21.

note: “What revelations will be made in the day of judgment! Many who have called themselves Christians will be found to have been not servants of God, but servants of themselves. Self has been their center; self-service has been their lifework. By living to please themselves and to gain all they could for themselves, they have crippled and dwarfed the capabilities and powers entrusted to them by God. They have not dealt honestly with God. Their lives have been one long system of robbery. These now complain against God and their fellow men, because they are not recognized and favored as they think they ought to be. But their unfaithfulness will be revealed in that day when the Lord judges the cases of all. He will return ‘and discern between the righteous and the wicked, between him that serveth God and him that serveth Him not.’ [Malachi 3:18.]

“In that day those who think that God will accept meager offerings and unwilling service will be disappointed. God will not put His superscription upon the work of any man, high or low, rich or poor, that is not done heartily, faithfully, and with an eye single to His glory. But those who have belonged to the family of God here below, who have striven to honor His name, have gained an experience that will make them as kings and priests unto God; and they will be accepted as faithful servants. To them the words will be spoken, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant: . . . enter thou into the joy of thy lord.’ [Matthew 25:21, 23.]” Review and Herald, January 5, 1897.

3 What will be the joy of Christ? Isaiah 53:11.

note: “Ever before Him, Christ saw the result of His mission. His earthly life, so full of toil and self-sacrifice, was cheered by the thought that He would not have all this travail for nought. By giving His life for the life of men, He would restore in humanity the image of God. He would lift us up from the dust, reshape the character after the pattern of His own character, and make it beautiful with His own glory.

“Christ saw of the travail of His soul and was satisfied. He viewed the expanse of eternity and saw the happiness of those who through His humiliation should receive pardon and everlasting life. He was wounded for their transgressions, bruised for their iniquities. The chastisement of their peace was upon Him, and with His stripes they were healed. He heard the shout of the redeemed. He heard the ransomed ones singing the song of Moses and the Lamb. Although the baptism of blood must first be received, although the sins of the world were to weigh upon His innocent soul, although the shadow of an unspeakable woe was upon Him; yet for the joy that was set before Him He chose to endure the cross and despised the shame.” The Ministry of Healing, 504.

4 In what will the saints rejoice in glory? 1 Thessalonians 2:19, 20.

note: “Where the treasure is, there the heart will be. In every effort to benefit others, we benefit ourselves. He who gives money or time for spreading the gospel enlists his own interest and prayers for the work, and for the souls to be reached through it; his affections go out to others, and he is stimulated to greater devotion to God, that he may be enabled to do them the greatest good.

“And at the final day, when the wealth of earth shall perish, he who has laid up treasure in heaven will behold that which his life has gained. If we have given heed to the words of Christ, then, as we gather around the great white throne, we shall see souls who have been saved through our agency, and shall know that one has saved others, and these still others—a large company brought into the haven of rest as the result of our labors, there to lay their crowns at Jesus’ feet, and praise Him through the ceaseless ages of eternity. With what joy will the worker for Christ behold these redeemed ones, who share the glory of the Redeemer! How precious will heaven be to those who have been faithful in the work of saving souls!” Thoughts From the Mount of Blessing, 90, 91.

5 In the parable of the talents, what had the individuals done which led their Lord to speak such words of commendation? Matthew 25:20, 22.

note: “When the cases of all come in review before God, the question, What did they profess? is never asked, but, What have they done? Have they been doers of the word? Have they lived for themselves? or have they been exercised in works of benevolence, in deeds of kindness, in love, preferring others before themselves, and denying themselves that they might bless others?

“If the record shows that this has been their life, that their characters have been marked with tenderness, self-denial, and benevolence, they will receive the blessed assurance and benediction from Christ, ‘Well done,’ ‘Come, ye blessed of My Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world.’ [Matthew 25:23, 34.]

“Christ has been grieved and wounded by our marked selfish love, and indifference to the woes and needs of others.” Review and Herald, July 13, 1886.

6 What did the man do who had one talent? Matthew 25:25.

note: “You are not rich toward God. May the Lord open your eyes to see and your heart to feel, and cause you to manifest Christian zeal. Oh, how few feel the worth of souls! How few are willing to sacrifice to bring souls to the knowledge of Christ! There is much talking, much professed love for perishing souls; but talk is cheap stuff. It is earnest Christian zeal that is wanted—a zeal that will be manifested by doing something. All must now work for themselves, and when they have Jesus in their hearts they will confess Him to others. No more could a soul who possesses Christ be hindered from confessing Him than could the waters of Niagara be stopped from flowing over the falls.” Testimonies, vol. 2, 233.

“Those who bury their talents in this world are not pleasing God. . . .

“What is our position in the world? We are in the waiting time. But this period is not to be spent in abstract devotion. Waiting, watching, and vigilant working are to be combined. Our life should not be all bustle and drive and planning about the things of the world, to the neglect of personal piety and of the service that God requires. While we should not be slothful in business, we should be fervent in spirit, serving the Lord. The lamp of the soul must be trimmed, and we must have the oil of grace in our vessels with our lamps. Every precaution must be used to prevent spiritual declension, lest the day of the Lord overtake us as a thief. That day is not to be put far off; it is near, and no man should say, even in his heart, much less by his works, ‘My Lord delayeth His coming,’ [Matthew 24:48.] lest for so doing his portion be appointed with hypocrites and unbelievers.” Ibid., vol. 5, 276, 277.

7 How did the servant feel because his Lord asked him to invest the talent where it would increase? Matthew 25:24.

note: “Brethren and sisters, I wish to excite in your minds disgust for your present limited ideas of God’s cause and work. I want you to comprehend the great sacrifice that Christ made for you when He became poor, that through His poverty you might come into possession of eternal riches. Oh! do not, by your indifference to the eternal weight of glory which is within your reach, cause angels to weep and hide their faces in shame and disgust. Arouse from your lethargy; arouse every God-given faculty, and work for precious souls for whom Christ died. These souls, if brought to the fold of Christ, will live through the ceaseless ages of eternity; and will you plan to do as little as possible for their salvation, while, like the man with the one talent, you invest your means in the earth? Like that unfaithful servant, are you charging God with reaping where He has not sown, and gathering where He has not strewed?” Testimonies, vol. 5, 271.

8 To whom did the servant’s talents belong? Luke 19:23.

note: “The Lord has given to every man his work. His servants are to act in partnership with Him. If they choose, men may refuse to connect themselves with their Maker; they may refuse to give themselves to His service, and trade upon His entrusted goods; they may fail to exercise frugality and self-denial, and may forget that the Lord requires a return of what He has given them. All such are unfaithful stewards.

“A faithful steward will do all he possibly can in the service of God; the one object before him will be the great need of the world. He will realize that the message of truth is to be given, not only in his own neighborhood, but in the regions beyond. When men cherish this spirit, the love of the truth and the sanctification they will receive through the truth, will banish avarice, overreaching, and every species of dishonesty.” Review and Herald Supplement, December 1, 1896.

9 How did this servant’s Lord judge him? Luke 19:22, 24.

note: “He who embezzles his Lord’s goods not only loses the talent lent him of God, but loses eternal life. Of him it is said: ‘Cast ye the unprofitable servant into outer darkness.’ [Matthew 25:30.] The faithful servant, who invests his money in the cause of God to save souls, employs his means to the glory of God and will receive the commendation of the Master: ‘Well done, thou good and faithful servant: . . . enter thou into the joy of thy Lord.’ [Matthew 25:21, 23.] What will be this joy of our Lord? It will be the joy of seeing souls saved in the kingdom of glory.” Testimonies, vol. 3, 387.

10 What was the final sentence of the unprofitable servant? Matthew 25:30.

note: “In the great judgment day those who have not worked for Christ, those who have drifted along, carrying no responsibility, thinking of themselves, pleasing themselves, will be placed by the Judge of all the earth with those who did evil. They receive the same condemnation.” Christ’s Object Lessons, 365.

Bible Study Guides – Parable of the Talents, Part II

July 30, 2006 – August 5, 2006

Key Text

“His lord said unto him, Well done, good and faithful servant; thou hast been faithful over a few things, I will make thee ruler over many things: enter thou into the joy of thy lord.” Matthew 25:23.

Study Help: Testimonies, vol. 1, 656–660.


“The parable of the talents has not been fully understood. This important lesson was given to the disciples for the benefit of Christians living in the last days. And these talents do not represent merely the ability to preach and instruct from the word of God. The parable applies to the temporal means which God has entrusted to His people. Those to whom the five and the two talents were given, traded and doubled that which was committed to their trust. God requires those who have possessions here, to put their money out to usury for Him—to put it into the cause to spread the truth. And if the truth lives in the heart of the receiver, he also will aid with his substance in sending it to others; and through his efforts, his influence, and his means, other souls will embrace the truth, and begin also to work for God. I [Ellen White] saw that some of God’s professed people are like the man who hid his talent in the earth. They keep their possessions from doing good in the cause of God. They claim that these are their own, and that they have a right to do what they please with their own; and souls are not saved by judicious efforts made by them with their Lord’s money. Angels keep a faithful record of every man’s work, and as judgment passes upon the house of God, the sentence of each is recorded by his name, and the angel is commissioned to spare not the unfaithful servants, but to cut them down at the time of slaughter. And that which was committed to their trust is taken from them. Their earthly treasure is then swept away, and they have lost all. And the crowns they might have worn, had they been faithful, are put upon the heads of those saved by the faithful servants whose means was constantly in use for God. And everyone they have been the means of saving, adds stars to their crown in glory, and increases their eternal reward.” Testimonies, vol. 1, 197, 198.

1 What will be said to everyone who enters the kingdom of God? Luke 19:17, first phrase; Matthew 25:23.

note: “God requires all to do with faithfulness the duties of today. This is much neglected by the larger share of professed Christians. Especially is present duty lost sight of by the class . . . who imagine that they are of a finer order of beings than their fellow mortals around them. The fact that their minds turn in this channel is proof that they are of an inferior order, narrow, conceited, and selfish. They feel high above the lowly and humble poor, such as Jesus says He has called. They are forever trying to secure position, to gain applause, to obtain credit for doing some great work that others cannot do. But it disturbs the fine grain of their refined organism to associate with the humble, the unfortunate. They mistake the reason altogether. The reason why they shun any of these duties not so agreeable is found in their supreme selfishness. Dear self is the center of all their actions and motives.” Testimonies, vol. 2, 466, 467.

2 In what way may our means be so used as to bear fruit throughout eternity? Psalm 112:9.

note: “God will furnish facilities so that the faithful steward of His entrusted means shall be supplied with a sufficiency in all things, and be enabled to abound to every good work. ‘As it is written, He hath dispersed abroad; he hath given to the poor: his righteousness remaineth forever. Now he that ministereth seed to the sower both minister bread for your food, and multiply your seed sown, and increase the fruits of your righteousness.’ 11 Corinthians 9:9, 10. . . .

“The Lord now calls upon Seventh-day Adventists in every locality to consecrate themselves to Him and to do their very best, according to their circumstances, to assist in His work. By their liberality in making gifts and offerings, He desires them to reveal their appreciation of His blessings and their gratitude for His mercy.” Testimonies, vol. 9, 132.

3 Is it the amount or the motive that makes a gift acceptable to God? Matthew 10:42.

note: “ ‘Be not forgetful to entertain strangers: for thereby some have entertained angels unawares.’ Hebrews 13:2. These words have lost none of their force through the lapse of time. Our heavenly Father still continues to place in the pathway of His children opportunities that are blessings in disguise; and those who improve these opportunities find great joy. ‘If thou draw out thy soul to the hungry, and satisfy the afflicted soul; then shall thy light rise in obscurity, and thy darkness be as the noonday: and the Lord shall guide thee continually, and satisfy thy soul in drought, and make fat thy bones: and thou shalt be like a watered garden, and like a spring of water, whose waters fail not.’ Isaiah 58:10, 11.

“To His faithful servants today Christ says, ‘He that receiveth you receiveth Me, and he that receiveth Me receiveth Him that sent Me.’ No act of kindness shown in His name will fail to be recognized and rewarded. And in the same tender recognition Christ includes even the feeblest and lowliest of the family of God. ‘Whosoever shall give to drink,’ He says, ‘unto one of these little ones’—those who are as children in their faith and their knowledge of Christ—‘a cup of cold water only in the name of a disciple, verily I say unto you, he shall in no wise lose his reward.’ Matthew 10:40, 42.” Prophets and Kings, 132.

“Poverty need not shut us out from showing hospitality. We are to impart what we have. There are those who struggle for a livelihood and who have great difficulty in making their income meet their necessities; but they love Jesus in the person of His saints and are ready to show hospitality to believers and unbelievers, trying to make their visits profitable. At the family board and the family altar the guests are made welcome. The season of prayer makes its impression on those who receive entertainment, and even one visit may mean the saving of a soul from death. For this work the Lord makes a reckoning, saying: ‘I will repay.’ ” Testimonies, vol. 6, 347.

4 What things does the apostle mention that may be so used as to insure to us eternal life? 1 Timothy 6:18, 19.

note: “Day by day we may be laying up a good foundation against the time to come. By self-denial, by the exercise of the missionary spirit, by crowding all the good works possible into our life, by seeking so to represent Christ in character that we shall win many souls to the truth, we shall have respect unto the recompense of reward. It rests with us to walk in the light, to make the most of every opportunity and privilege, to grow in grace and in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ, and so we shall work the works of Christ, and ensure for ourselves treasure in the heavens.” Review and Herald, January 29, 1895.

“God desires the willing service of our hearts. He has endowed us with reasoning faculties, with talents of ability, and with means and influence, to be exercised for the good of mankind, that we may manifest His spirit before the world. Precious opportunities and privileges are placed within our reach, and if we neglect them, we rob others, we defraud our own souls, and dishonor our Maker. We shall not want to meet these slighted opportunities and neglected privileges in the day of judgment. Our eternal interests for the future depend on the present diligent performance of duty in improving the talents that God has given into our trust for the salvation of souls.” Counsels on Stewardship, 127.

5 What forcible illustration does Daniel give to represent the condition of those who are saved? Daniel 12:3.

note: “The Lord has often given me [Ellen White] a view of the situation and wants of the scattered jewels who have not yet come to the light of the present truth, and has shown that the messengers should speed their way to them as fast as possible, to give them the light. Many all around us only need to have their prejudices removed and the evidences of our present position spread out before them from the Word, and they will joyfully receive the present truth. The messengers should watch for souls as they that must give account. Theirs must be a life of toil and anguish of spirit, while the weight of the precious but often-wounded cause of Christ rests upon them. They will have to lay aside worldly interests and comforts and make it their first object to do all in their power to advance the cause of present truth and save perishing souls.

“They will also have a rich reward. In their crowns of rejoicing those who are rescued by them and finally saved will shine as stars forever and ever. And to all eternity they will enjoy the satisfaction of having done what they could in presenting the truth in its purity and beauty, so that souls fell in love with it, were sanctified through it, and availed themselves of the inestimable privilege of being made rich, and being washed in the blood of the Lamb and redeemed unto God.” Early Writings, 61.

6 Who are illustrated by the parable of the talents? Matthew 25:14.

note: “By pouring the whole treasury of heaven into this world, by giving us in Christ all heaven, God has purchased the will, the affections, the mind, the soul, of every human being. Whether believers or unbelievers, all men are the Lord’s property. All are called to do service for Him, and for the manner in which they have met this claim, all will be required to render an account at the great judgment day.

“But the claims of God are not recognized by all. It is those who profess to have accepted Christ’s service who in the parable are represented as His own servants. . . .

“To His servants Christ commits ‘His goods’—something to be put to use for Him. He gives ‘to every man his work.’ [Matthew 25:14; Mark 13:34.]” Christ’s Object Lessons, 326.

7 Is everyone responsible? and to what extent? Matthew 25:15.

note: “Every servant has some trust for which he is responsible; and the varied trusts are proportioned to our varied capabilities. In dispensing His gifts, God has not dealt with partiality. He has distributed the talents according to the known powers of His servants, and He expects corresponding returns.” Testimonies, vol. 2, 282.

“However large, however small, your talents, remember that what you have is yours only in trust. Thus God is testing you, giving you opportunity to prove yourself true. To Him you are indebted for all your capabilities. To Him belong your powers of body, mind, and soul, and for Him these powers are to be used. Your time, your influence, your capabilities, your skill—all must be accounted for to Him who gives all.” Ibid., vol. 7, 281.

8 What period of time is referred to in the parable of the talents? Matthew 25:19.

note: “With what intense interest is the examination of the talents carried on in the judgment, that the improvement may be noted, or the deficiency revealed. Eternal life or death hangs upon the decision of this investigation. Though the participants in the work of the Lord have to acknowledge that they can claim no merit, that their talents are those that have been delivered unto them, that there could have been no gain without the deposit, no interest without the principal, by diligent trading God has been glorified. Those who have made use of their intrusted gifts have gained other talents. They do not feel that they have done more than their duty. The capital was the Lord’s, and the treasure is his, and they are satisfied that their work meets the Master’s approval. But he who faithfully fulfilled his trust has abundant reward; for the Lord restores to him both principal and interest, and makes him ruler over all that he hath. The recipient of this mercy realizes that all his success is of the Lord; for had not the Saviour bestowed upon him his love and mercy, the trader would have been bankrupt for eternity. But mark this: when the Lord scrutinizes the talents, and notes their improvement, he bestows upon the diligent trader his approbation, and rewards him as though all the merit were of the human actor.” Review and Herald, March 7, 1893.

9 In what way are we to lead others to Christ? Matthew 5:16.

note: “God holds you as His debtor, and also as debtor to your fellow men who have not the light and truth. God has given you light, not to hide under a bushel, but to set on a candlestick that all in the house may be benefited. Your light should shine to others to enlighten souls for whom Christ died. The grace of God ruling in your heart, and bringing your mind and thoughts into subjection to Jesus, would make you a powerful man on the side of Christ and the truth.” Testimonies, vol. 4, 52.

The Parable of the Talents

A few days before His crucifixion, Jesus told some parables. The first parable is about ten virgins looking for the coming of the bridegroom. Because of a delay, all of them fell asleep. When they were awakened, five of them who had made preparation had extra oil for their lamps. The other five who were foolish had no oil and their lamps went out.

The next parable about the talents appears to be built on the parable of the virgins by way of practical application to our lives and Christianity.

Matthew 25:13–30 “Watch therefore, for ye know neither the day nor the hour wherein the Son of man cometh. For [the kingdom of heaven is] as a man travelling into a far country, who called his own servants, and delivered unto them his goods. And unto one he gave five talents, to another two, and to another one; to every man according to his several ability; and straightway took his journey. Then he that had received the five talents went and traded with the same, and made [them] other five talents. And likewise he that [had received] two, he also gained other two. But he that had received one went and digged in the earth, and hid his lord’s money. After a long time the lord of those servants cometh, and reckoneth with them. And so he that had received five talents came and brought other five talents, saying, Lord, thou deliveredst unto me five talents: behold, I have gained beside them five talents more. His lord said unto him, Well done, [thou] good and faithful servant: thou hast been faithful over a few things, I will make thee ruler over many things: enter thou into the joy of thy lord. He also that had received two talents came and said, Lord, thou deliveredst unto me two talents: behold, I have gained two other talents beside them. His lord said unto him, Well done, good and faithful servant; thou hast been faithful over a few things, I will make thee ruler over many things: enter thou into the joy of thy lord. Then he which had received the one talent came and said, Lord, I knew thee that thou art an hard man, reaping where thou hast not sown, and gathering where thou hast not strawed: And I was afraid, and went and hid thy talent in the earth: lo, [there] thou hast [that is] thine. His lord answered and said unto him, [Thou] wicked and slothful servant, thou knewest that I reap where I sowed not, and gather where I have not strawed: Thou oughtest therefore to have put my money to the exchangers, and [then] at my coming I should have received mine own with usury. Take therefore the talent from him, and give [it] unto him which hath ten talents. For unto every one that hath shall be given, and he shall have abundance: but from him that hath not shall be taken away even that which he hath. And cast ye the unprofitable servant into outer darkness: there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth.”

We all want to be that servant who hears the words, “Well done thou good and faithful servant.”

The Bible has much counsel to servants. Paul counseled the Ephesians, “Servants, be obedient to them that are [your] masters according to the flesh, with fear and trembling, in singleness of your heart, as unto Christ; Not with eyeservice, as menpleasers; but as the servants of Christ, doing the will of God from the heart.” Ephesians 6:5, 6. Obedience is always a sign of a servant. Doing the will of God from the heart is the key. It is an obedience that must come from the heart.

“We have by grace been chosen as His servants. A servant means a worker, one who bears cares, burdens, responsibilities.” Manuscript 81, July 18, 1893. “It is those who profess to have accepted Christ’s service who in the parable are represented as His own servants.” Christ’s Object Lessons, 326.

If we are to be found good and faithful servants, first we have to respond to the call of a servant and be found faithful. We must be mindful that all things that a servant possesses are gifts from the Master. “There are different kinds of gifts, but the same Spirit. There are different kinds of service, but the same Lord. There are different kinds of working, but the same God works all of them in all men. Now to each one, the manifestation of the Spirit is given for the common good. To one, there is given through the Spirit the message of wisdom; to another, the message of knowledge by means of the same Spirit; to another faith by the same Spirit; to another gifts of healing by that one Spirit; to another miraculous powers; to another prophecy; to another distinguishing between spirits; to another speaking in different kinds of tongues; and to still another the interpretation of tongues: All these are the work of the one and the same Spirit. And He gives them to each one just as He determines.” I Corinthians 12:4–11.

“We are to realize that it is not our goods we are handling, but the Master’s entrusted capital for us to invest and increase as wise stewards of our Lord’s goods, that we may return to Him His investment with usury.” Manuscript 81, July 18, 1891.

“The talents that Christ entrusts to His church represent especially the gifts and blessings imparted by the Holy Spirit.” Christ’s Object Lessons, 327. This is the point of the parable. But it also includes the special gifts of the Spirit. “The special gifts of the Spirit are not the only talents represented in the parable. It includes all gifts and endowments, whether original or acquired, natural or spiritual. All are to be employed in Christ’s service.” Ibid., 328. Every talent or ability that we have belongs to Christ, and we are to employ them for His service.

In Romans 12:4-8 we are shown how each individual is the recipient of an important gift that, when brought together, makes a whole. “Just as each of us has one body with many members, and these members do not have all the same functions: so in Christ, we who are many, form one body, and each member belongs to all the others. We have different gifts according to the grace given us. If a man’s gift is prophesying, let him use it in proportion to his faith. If it is serving, let him serve. If it is teaching, let him teach. If it is encouraging, let him encourage. If it is contributing to the needs of others, let him give generously. If it is leadership, let him govern diligently. If it is showing mercy, let him do it cheerfully.” (Paraphrased.) Paul represents these gifts as being parts of the body. Christ is the one who makes up the body giving to each person a different gift. As we use these different gifts, we are functioning as a body.

“The talents are not apportioned capriciously. He who has ability to use five talents receives five. He who can improve but two, receives two. He who can wisely use only one, receives one. None need lament that they have not received larger gifts; for He who has apportioned to every man is equally honored by the improvement of each trust, whether it be great or small. The one to whom five talents have been committed is to render the improvement of five; he who has but one, the improvement of one. God expects returns ‘according to that a man hath, and not according to that he hath not.’ II Corinthians 8:12.” Christ’s Object Lessons, 328.

“And likewise he who [had received] two, gained two more also. But he that had received one went and dug in the ground, and hid his lord’s money.” Matthew 25:17.

When we look at the parable, one man receives five talents, one man receives two talents, and one received one. Two of them brought a return. The one who was given five talents brought back five more, and the one who was given two also increased, bringing back two more. However, both of these men received the same commendation, teaching us that it is not the amount of talents that we have that is important to God; it is all about what we do with what we have been given. “But he that received one went and dug in the ground, and hid his lord’s money. After a long time the lord of those servants came, and settled accounts with them.” Matthew 25:18, 19.

“We are all entrusted with the goods of heaven—talents of intellect, wealth, reason, and we are not to regard lightly any of these gifts. They are the Lord’s capital, to be used, sanctified, and returned to the Lord improved by use. To every man God has given his work, and all will have to stand before the judgment seat of Christ to give an account of what they have done for their Master. …

“The more we have of this world’s goods, the greater will be our accountability to God. Let the question be asked sincerely, heartily, What do I with my Lord’s entrusted talents? There are those who have great light, great opportunities; they realize the Master’s kindly affections, and are stirred to make returns. But other influences come in.” Bible Echoes, June 6, 1898.

Satan is out there battling against each one of us to bring other influences into our lives to divert our attention from what we should be doing. “Take heed to yourselves, lest at any time your hearts be overcharged with surfeiting, and drunkenness, and cares of this life, and [so] that day come upon you unawares.” Luke 21:34. If we become overcharged with these things and forget what we are supposed to be doing, then we could be found unfaithful, like the servant who hid his talents in the ground.

One of the most overwhelming flaws in humanity is selfishness. It was this very thing that prompted the servant to hoard what was given him. He was afraid that God was going to claim something that he didn’t want to give—he was “afraid to trust God; afraid that God will require something they claim to be their own. They hide their talent in the earth, fearing to invest it anywhere, lest they be called to give back the improvements to God. … Because they have but one talent, they are afraid to trust it with God, and they hide it in the earth.” The Review and Herald, February 23, 1886. This servant was unwilling to give God what belonged to Him. What this man did not realize was the ultimate damage done by selfishness. “You that are placing your talents of means in a napkin, and hiding them in the earth, who are building houses and adding land to land, God calls upon you, ‘Sell that ye have, and give alms.’ [Luke 12:33.] There is a time coming when commandment keepers can neither buy nor sell. Make haste to dig out your buried talents. If God has entrusted you with money, show yourselves faithful to your trust; unwrap your napkin, and send your talents to the exchangers, that when Christ shall come, He may receive His own with interest.” Counsels on Stewardship, 40.

There are several ways that we bury our talents in the ground. One way is through the misuse of our mental faculties. “The Lord desires us to obtain all the education possible, with the object in view of imparting our knowledge to others. None can know where or how they may be called to labor or to speak for God. Our heavenly Father alone sees what He can make of men. There are before us possibilities which our feeble faith does not discern. Our minds should be so trained that if necessary we can present the truths of His word before the highest earthly authorities in such a way as to glorify His name.” Christ’s Object Lessons, 333, 334. One of the best ways to educate our mind is through witnessing. As we witness we use the things that we have learned, and as we share them with others, God gives us more.

There is one thing in this world that has the power to make or break any good thing. It is the power of speech. This can be the greatest blessing or the greatest curse depending on how it is used. “The power of speech is a talent that should be diligently cultivated. Of all the gifts we have received from God, none is capable of being a greater blessing than this. With the voice we convince and persuade, with it we offer prayer and praise to God, and with it we tell others of the Redeemer’s love. How important, then, that it be so trained as to be most effective for good.” Christ’s Object Lessons, 335. Our speech can be used for the Lord, but it can also be used for Satan. If we want our speech to be pure, our hearts need to be pure. We need to watch and be aware of the effect we have on others through this powerful medium. When speaking of the things that God has given as gifts to use in His service, this one, as the Bible says, has the power for great good or great evil.

Another gift that God has endowed us with is our influence. Whether we realize it or not, everything that we do influences another being in some way. It is for this reason that we need to exercise a spirit of joy and kindness. “Every soul is surrounded by an atmosphere of its own—an atmosphere, it may be, charged with the life-giving power of faith, courage, and hope, and sweet with the fragrance of love. Or it may be heavy and chill with the gloom of discontent and selfishness, or poisonous with the deadly taint of cherished sin. By the atmosphere surrounding us, every person with whom we come in contact is consciously or unconsciously affected.” Ibid., 339.

Time is another talent. What do we spend our time on? Is it worthy of a Christian, and enriching to the Christian walk? “Our time belongs to God. Every moment is His, and we are under the most solemn obligation to improve it to His glory. Of no talent He has given will He require a more strict account than of our time.” Ibid., 342. It may come as a surprise to many that it is the account of our time that we are held the most accountable. Our very lives are not our own, but His. Given this, how we spend the time that we are given is very important to God.

Health is often something that is taken for granted; however, health is another thing that needs to be worked with and increased. “Health is a blessing of which few appreciate the value; yet upon it the efficiency of our mental and physical powers largely depends. Our impulses and passions have their seat in the body, and it must be kept in the best condition physically and under the most spiritual influences in order that our talents may be put to the highest use.

“Anything that lessens physical strength enfeebles the mind and makes it less capable of discriminating between right and wrong. We become less capable of choosing the good and have less strength of will to do that which we know to be right.” Ibid., 346. Health is something to be guarded. The mind and the body sympathize with each other and every power of the will is necessary to overcome that which would be more difficult without good health.

Lastly, finances are a talent. “Our money has not been given us that we might honor and glorify ourselves. As faithful stewards we are to use it for the honor and glory of God. Some think that only a portion of their means is the Lord’s. When they have set apart a portion for religious and charitable purposes, they regard the remainder as their own, to be used as they see fit. But in this they mistake. All we possess is the Lord’s, and we are accountable to Him for the use we make of it. In the use of every penny, it will be seen whether we love God supremely and our neighbor as ourselves.” Ibid., 351. It is an individual work to see to it that the Lord is pleased with our stewardship. He is faithful to help us in every area that we may lack, to help us be faithful.

The importance of using our God-given gifts is not often fully acknowledged. “When Philip found Jesus, he immediately went to find Nathanael, and when he had found him, he said, ‘We have found Him of whom Moses in the law, and the prophets, did write, Jesus of Nazareth, the son of Joseph.’ And Nathanael said, ‘Can there any good thing come out of Nazareth? Philip saith unto him, Come and see.’ This is what you should do,—invite others to come, and hear and see for themselves whether your words are true, and your religion genuine. When Jesus saw Nathanael, he said, ‘Behold an Israelite indeed, in whom is no guile.’ Nathanael was astonished, and said, ‘Whence knowest thou me?’ And Jesus said, ‘Before that Philip called thee, when thou wast under the fig-tree, I saw thee.’ Nathanael exclaimed, ‘Rabbi, thou art the Son of God; thou art the king of Israel.’ [John 1:45–49.]

“Here is an example of how we may put our talents out to the exchangers. Philip communicated his knowledge to another, and so brought a soul to Christ. The light given us of Heaven is to be communicated to others in this way. If you have given light to one soul, you have enlightened one hundred, for that one will communicate the light to others, and so it will go on continually increasing.” The Review and Herald, April 30, 1889.

When the misuse or neglect of our gifts becomes perpetual, eventually they are taken away. “Take … the talent from him, and give it unto him which hath ten talents.” Christ’s Object Lessons, 364. This is not an arbitrary act of God, but rather a result of our own neglect. “Talent employed increases the gift but when used only to bless self, it diminishes, and finally is withdrawn.” The Southern Watchman, October 9, 1901. “Upon the slothful servant the sentence was, ‘Take therefore the talent from him, and give it unto him which hath ten talents.’ [Matthew 25:28.] Here, as in the reward of the faithful worker, is indicated not merely the reward at the final judgment but the gradual process of retribution in this life. As in the natural, so in the spiritual world: every power unused will weaken and decay. Activity is the law of life; idleness is death. ‘The manifestation of the Spirit is given to every man to profit withal.’ I Corinthians 12:7. Employed to bless others, his gifts increase. Shut up to self-serving they diminish, and are finally withdrawn. He who refuses to impart that which he has received will at last find that he has nothing to give. He is consenting to a process that surely dwarfs and finally destroys the faculties of the soul.” Christ’s Object Lessons, 364.

It is wholly unnecessary that we should be stripped of God’s gifts. He has given them to us with our best interest at heart and also the best interest of others with whom we come into contact. When we use these precious endowments to His glory, we will never lack any good thing. It is His joy to give to us and care for us. He works with us day by day, hour by hour to enrich what He has given us if we allow Him. “When we give ourselves wholly to God and in our work follow His directions, He makes Himself responsible for its accomplishment. He would not have us conjecture as to the success of our honest endeavors. Not once should we even think of failure. We are to co-operate with One who knows no failure.” Ibid., 363.

“So he who had received five talents came and brought five other talents, saying, Lord, you delivered to me five talents: look, I have gained five more talents beside them. His lord said to him, Well done, good and faithful servant: you were faithful over a few things, I will make you ruler over many things: enter into the joy of your lord. He also who had received two talents came and said, Lord, you delivered to me two talents: look, I have gained two more talents besides them. His lord said to him, Well done, good and faithful servant; you have been faithful over a few things, I will make you a ruler over many things: enter into the joy of your lord.” Matthew 25:20–23.

Let us each be blessed through the use of the blessed talents, aptitudes, and gifts that we are given by a generous Father who wishes to bless us and asks us nothing in return but to use those blessings to enrich others and, ultimately, ourselves.

Jim Stoeckert works as an assistant with the Faith Haven Christian School and as head of maintenance for Steps to Life. He also serves the Prairie Meadows Church as head deacon. Jim can be reached by e-mail at: or by phone at 316-789-5559.

Pen of Inspiration – Talents

Christ on the Mount of Olives had spoken to His disciples of His second advent to the world. He had specified certain signs that were to show when His coming was near, and had bidden His disciples watch and be ready. Again He repeated the warning, “Watch therefore; for ye know neither the day nor the hour wherein the Son of man cometh.” [Matthew 25:13.] Then He showed what it means to watch for His coming. The time is to be spent, not in idle waiting, but in diligent working. This lesson He taught in the parable of the talents.

The kingdom of heaven,” He said, “is as a man traveling into a far country, who called his own servants, and delivered unto them his goods. And unto one he gave five talents, to another two, and to another one; to every man according to his several ability; and straightway took his journey.” [Verses 14, 15.]

The man traveling into a far country represents Christ, who, when speaking this parable, was soon to depart from this earth to heaven. The “bondservants” (R.V.), or slaves, of the parable, represent the followers of Christ. We are not our own. We have been “bought with a price” (I Corinthians 6:20), not “with corruptible things, as silver and gold, … but with the precious blood of Christ” (I Peter 1:18, 19); “that they which live should not henceforth live unto themselves, but unto Him which died for them, and rose again” (II Corinthians 5:15).

All men have been bought with this infinite price. By pouring the whole treasury of heaven into this world, by giving us in Christ all heaven, God has purchased the will, the affections, the mind, the soul, of every human being. Whether believers or unbelievers, all men are the Lord’s property. All are called to do service for Him, and for the manner in which they have met this claim, all will be required to render an account at the great judgment day.

But the claims of God are not recognized by all. It is those who profess to have accepted Christ’s service who in the parable are represented as His own servants.

Christ’s followers have been redeemed for service. Our Lord teaches that the true object of life is ministry. Christ Himself was a worker, and to all His followers He gives the law of service—service to God and to their fellow men. Here Christ has presented to the world a higher conception of life than they had ever known. By living to minister for others, man is brought into connection with Christ. The law of service becomes the connecting link which binds us to God and to our fellow men.

To His servants Christ commits “His goods”—something to be put to use for Him. He gives “to every man his work.” Each has his place in the eternal plan of heaven. Each is to work in co-operation with Christ for the salvation of souls. Not more surely is the place prepared for us in the heavenly mansions than is the special place designated on earth where we are to work for God.

The talents that Christ entrusts to His church represent especially the gifts and blessings imparted by the Holy Spirit. “To one is given by the Spirit the word of wisdom; to another the word of knowledge by the same Spirit; to another faith by the same Spirit; to another the gifts of healing by the same Spirit; to another the working of miracles; to another prophecy; to another discerning of spirits; to another divers kinds of tongues; to another the interpretation of tongues: but all these worketh that one and the selfsame Spirit, dividing to every man severally as He will.” I Corinthians 12:8–11. All men do not receive the same gifts, but to every servant of the Master some gift of the Spirit is promised.

Before He left His disciples, Christ “breathed on them, and saith unto them, Receive ye the Holy Ghost.” John 20:22. Again He said, “Behold, I send the promise of My Father upon you.” Luke 24:49. But not until after the ascension was the gift received in its fullness. Not until through faith and prayer the disciples had surrendered themselves fully for His working was the outpouring of the Spirit received. Then in a special sense the goods of heaven were committed to the followers of Christ. “When He ascended up on high, He led captivity captive, and gave gifts unto men.” Ephesians 4:8. “Unto every one of us is given grace, according to the measure of the gift of Christ,” the Spirit “dividing to every man severally as He will.” Ephesians 4:7; 1 Corinthians 12:11. The gifts are already ours in Christ, but their actual possession depends upon our reception of the Spirit of God.

The promise of the Spirit is not appreciated as it should be. Its fulfillment is not realized as it might be. It is the absence of the Spirit that makes the gospel ministry so powerless. Learning, talents, eloquence, every natural or acquired endowment, may be possessed; but without the presence of the Spirit of God, no heart will be touched, no sinner be won to Christ. On the other hand, if they are connected with Christ, if the gifts of the Spirit are theirs, the poorest and most ignorant of His disciples will have a power that will tell upon hearts. God makes them the channel for the outworking of the highest influence in the universe.

The special gifts of the Spirit are not the only talents represented in the parable. It includes all gifts and endowments, whether original or acquired, natural or spiritual. All are to be employed in Christ’s service. In becoming His disciples, we surrender ourselves to Him with all that we are and have. These gifts He returns to us purified and ennobled, to be used for His glory in blessing our fellow men.

To every man God has given “according to his several ability.” Matthew 25:15. The talents are not apportioned capriciously. He who has ability to use five talents receives five. He who can improve but two, receives two. He who can wisely use only one, receives one. None need lament that they have not received larger gifts; for He who has apportioned to every man is equally honored by the improvement of each trust, whether it be great or small. The one to whom five talents have been committed is to render the improvement of five; he who has but one, the improvement of one. God expects returns “according to that a man hath, and not according to that he hath not.” II Corinthians 8:12.

In the parable he that had “received the five talents went and traded with the same, and made them other five talents; and likewise he that had received two, he also gained other two.” [Matthew 25:16, 17.]

The talents, however few, are to be put to use. The question that most concerns us is not, How much have I received? but, What am I doing with that which I have? The development of all our powers is the first duty we owe to God and to our fellow men. No one who is not growing daily in capability and usefulness is fulfilling the purpose of life. In making a profession of faith in Christ we pledge ourselves to become all that it is possible for us to be as workers for the Master, and we should cultivate every faculty to the highest degree of perfection, that we may do the greatest amount of good of which we are capable.

The Lord has a great work to be done, and He will bequeath the most in the future life to those who do the most faithful, willing service in the present life. The Lord chooses His own agents, and each day under different circumstances He gives them a trial in His plan of operation. In each true-hearted endeavor to work out His plan, He chooses His agents not because they are perfect but because, through a connection with Him, they may gain perfection.

God will accept only those who are determined to aim high. He places every human agent under obligation to do his best. Moral perfection is required of all. Never should we lower the standard of righteousness in order to accommodate inherited or cultivated tendencies to wrong-doing. We need to understand that imperfection of character is sin. All righteous attributes of character dwell in God as a perfect, harmonious whole, and every one who receives Christ as a personal Saviour is privileged to possess these attributes.

And those who would be workers together with God must strive for perfection of every organ of the body and quality of the mind. True education is the preparation of the physical, mental, and moral powers for the performance of every duty; it is the training of body, mind, and soul for divine service. This is the education that will endure unto eternal life.

Of every Christian the Lord requires growth in efficiency and capability in every line. Christ has paid us our wages, even His own blood and suffering, to secure our willing service. He came to our world to give us an example of how we should work, and what spirit we should bring into our labor. He desires us to study how we can best advance His work and glorify His name in the world, crowning with honor, with the greatest love and devotion, the Father who “so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life.” John 3:16.

But Christ has given us no assurance that to attain perfection of character is an easy matter. A noble, all-round character is not inherited. It does not come to us by accident. A noble character is earned by individual effort through the merits and grace of Christ. God gives the talents, the powers of the mind; we form the character. It is formed by hard, stern battles with self. Conflict after conflict must be waged against hereditary tendencies. We shall have to criticize ourselves closely, and allow not one unfavorable trait to remain uncorrected.

Let no one say, I cannot remedy my defects of character. If you come to this decision, you will certainly fail of obtaining everlasting life. The impossibility lies in your own will. If you will not, then you can not overcome. The real difficulty arises from the corruption of an unsanctified heart, and an unwillingness to submit to the control of God.

Many whom God has qualified to do excellent work accomplish very little, because they attempt little. Thousands pass through life as if they had no definite object for which to live, no standard to reach. Such will obtain a reward proportionate to their works.

Remember that you will never reach a higher standard than you yourself set. Then set your mark high, and step by step, even though it be by painful effort, by self-denial and sacrifice, ascend the whole length of the ladder of progress. Let nothing hinder you. Fate has not woven its meshes about any human being so firmly that he need remain helpless and in uncertainty. Opposing circumstances should create a firm determination to overcome them. The breaking down of one barrier will give greater ability and courage to go forward. Press with determination in the right direction, and circumstances will be your helpers, not your hindrances.

Be ambitious, for the Master’s glory, to cultivate every grace of character. In every phase of your character building you are to please God. This you may do; for Enoch pleased Him though living in a degenerate age. And there are Enochs in this our day.

Stand like Daniel, that faithful statesman, a man whom no temptation could corrupt. Do not disappoint Him who so loved you that He gave His own life to cancel your sins. He says, “Without Me ye can do nothing.” John 15:5. Remember this. If you have made mistakes, you certainly gain a victory if you see these mistakes and regard them as beacons of warning. Thus you turn defeat into victory, disappointing the enemy and honoring your Redeemer.

A character formed according to the divine likeness is the only treasure that we can take from this world to the next. Those who are under the instruction of Christ in this world will take every divine attainment with them to the heavenly mansions. And in heaven we are continually to improve. How important, then, is the development of character in this life.

The heavenly intelligences will work with the human agent who seeks with determined faith that perfection of character which will reach out to perfection in action. To everyone engaged in this work Christ says, I am at your right hand to help you.

As the will of man co-operates with the will of God, it becomes omnipotent. Whatever is to be done at His command may be accomplished in His strength. All His biddings are enablings.

Christ’s Object Lessons, 325-333.

Inspiration – Spare It This Year Also

Christ in His teaching linked with the warning of judgment the invitation of mercy. “The Son of man is not come,” He said, “to destroy men’s lives, but to save them.” Luke 9:56. “God sent not His Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through Him might be saved.” John 3:17. His mission of mercy in its relation to God’s justice and judgment is illustrated in the parable of the barren fig tree.

Christ had been warning the people of the coming of the kingdom of God, and He had sharply rebuked their ignorance and indifference. The signs in the sky, which foretold the weather, they were quick to read; but the signs of the times, which so clearly pointed to His mission, were not discerned.

But men were as ready then as men are now to conclude that they themselves are the favorites of heaven, and that the message of reproof is meant for another. The hearers told Jesus of an event which had just caused great excitement. Some of the measures of Pontius Pilate, the governor of Judea, had given offense to the people. There had been a popular tumult in Jerusalem, and Pilate had attempted to quell this by violence. On one occasion his soldiers had even invaded the precincts of the temple, and had cut down some Galilean pilgrims in the very act of slaying their sacrifices. The Jews regarded calamity as a judgment on account of the sufferer’s sin, and those who told of this act of violence did so with secret satisfaction. In their view their own good fortune proved them to be much better, and therefore more favored by God, than were these Galileans. They expected to hear from Jesus words of condemnation for these men, who, they doubted not, richly deserved their punishment.

The disciples of Christ did not venture to express their ideas until they had heard the opinion of their Master. He had given them pointed lessons in reference to judging other men’s characters, and measuring retribution according to their finite judgment. Yet they looked for Christ to denounce these men as sinners above others. Great was their surprise at His answer.

Turning to the multitude, the Saviour said, “Suppose ye that these Galileans were sinners above all the Galileans, because they suffered such things? I tell you, Nay; but, except ye repent, ye shall all likewise perish.” [Luke 13:23.] These startling calamities were designed to lead them to humble their hearts, and to repent of their sins. The storm of vengeance was gathering, which was soon to burst upon all who had not found a refuge in Christ.

As Jesus talked with the disciples and the multitude, He looked forward with prophetic glance and saw Jerusalem besieged with armies. He heard the tramp of the aliens marching against the chosen city and saw the thousands upon thousands perishing in the siege. Many of the Jews were, like those Galileans, slain in the temple courts, in the very act of offering sacrifice. The calamities that had fallen upon individuals were warnings from God to a nation equally guilty. “Except ye repent,” said Jesus, “ye shall all likewise perish.” For a little time the day of probation lingered for them. There was still time for them to know the things that belonged to their peace.

“A certain man,” He continued, “had a fig-tree planted in his vineyard; and he came and sought fruit thereon, and found none. Then said he unto the dresser of his vineyard, ‘Behold, these three years I come seeking fruit on this fig-tree, and find none: cut it down; why cumbereth it the ground?’ ” [Luke 13:6, 7.]

Christ’s hearers could not misunderstand the application of His words. David had sung of Israel as the vine brought out of Egypt. Isaiah had written, “The vineyard of the Lord of hosts is the house of Israel, and the men of Judah His pleasant plant.” Isaiah 5:7. The generation to whom the Saviour had come were represented by the fig tree in the Lord’s vineyard—within the circle of His special care and blessing.

God’s purpose toward His people, and the glorious possibilities before them, had been set forth in the beautiful words, “That they might be called trees of righteousness, the planting of the Lord, that He might be glorified.” Isaiah 61:3. The dying Jacob, under the Spirit of inspiration, had said of his best-loved son, “Joseph is a fruitful bough, even a fruitful bough by a well; whose branches run over the wall.” And he said, “The God of thy Father” “shall help thee,” the Almighty “shall bless thee with blessings of heaven above, blessings of the deep that lieth under.” Genesis 49:22, 25. So God had planted Israel as a goodly vine by the wells of life. He had made His vineyard “in a very fruitful hill.” He had “fenced it, and gathered out the stones thereof, and planted it with the choicest vine.” Isaiah 5:1, 2.

“And He looked that it should bring forth grapes, and it brought forth wild grapes.” Isaiah 5:2. The people of Christ’s day made a greater show of piety than did the Jews of earlier ages, but they were even more destitute of the sweet graces of the Spirit of God. The precious fruits of character that made the life of Joseph so fragrant and beautiful were not manifest in the Jewish nation.

God in His Son had been seeking fruit, and had found none. Israel was a cumberer of the ground. Its very existence was a curse; for it filled the place in the vineyard that a fruitful tree might fill. It robbed the world of the blessings that God designed to give. The Israelites had misrepresented God among the nations. They were not merely useless, but a decided hindrance. To a great degree their religion was misleading, and wrought ruin instead of salvation.

In the parable, the dresser of the vineyard does not question the sentence that the tree, if it remained fruitless, should be cut down; but he knows and shares the owner’s interest in that barren tree. Nothing could give him greater joy than to see its growth and fruitfulness. He responds to the desire of the owner, saying, “Let it alone this year also, till I shall dig about it and dung it; and if it bear fruit, well.” [Luke 13:8.]

The gardener does not refuse to minister to so unpromising a plant. He stands ready to give it still greater care. He will make its surroundings most favorable, and will lavish upon it every attention.

The owner and the dresser of the vineyard are one in their interest in the fig tree. So the Father and the Son were one in their love for the chosen people. Christ was saying to His hearers that increased opportunities would be given them. Every means that the love of God could devise would be put in operation that they might become trees of righteousness, bringing forth fruit for the blessing of the world.

Jesus did not in the parable tell the result of the gardener’s work. At that point His story was cut short. Its conclusion rested with the generation that heard His words. To them the solemn warning was given. “If not, then after that thou shalt cut it down.” [Verse 9.] Upon them it depended whether the irrevocable words should be spoken. The day of wrath was near. In the calamities that had already befallen Israel, the owner of the vineyard was mercifully forewarning them of the destruction of the unfruitful tree.

The warning sounds down along the line to us in this generation. Are you, O careless heart, a fruitless tree in the Lord’s vineyard? Shall the words of doom erelong be spoken of you? How long have you received His gifts? How long has He watched and waited for a return of love? Planted in His vineyard, under the watchful care of the gardener, what privileges are yours! How often has the tender gospel message thrilled your heart! You have taken the name of Christ, you are outwardly a member of the church which is His body, and yet you are conscious of no living connection with the great heart of love. The tide of His life does not flow through you. The sweet graces of His character, “the fruits of the Spirit,” are not seen in your life.

The barren tree receives the rain and the sunshine and the gardener’s care. It draws nourishment from the soil. But its unproductive boughs only darken the ground, so that fruit-bearing plants cannot flourish in its shadow. So God’s gifts, lavished on you, convey no blessing to the world. You are robbing others of privileges that, but for you, might be theirs.

You realize, though it may be but dimly, that you are a cumberer of the ground. Yet in His great mercy God has not cut you down. He does not look coldly upon you. He does not turn away with indifference, or leave you to destruction. Looking upon you He cries, as He cried so many centuries ago concerning Israel, “How shall I give thee up, Ephraim? How shall I deliver thee, Israel? … I will not execute the fierceness of Mine anger. I will not return to destroy Ephraim; for I am God, and not man.” Hosea 11:8, 9. The pitying Saviour is saying concerning you, Spare it this year also, till I shall dig about it and dress it.

With what unwearied love did Christ minister to Israel during the period of added probation. Upon the cross He prayed, “Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do.” Luke 23:24. After His ascension the gospel was preached first at Jerusalem. There the Holy Spirit was poured out. There the first gospel church revealed the power of the risen Saviour. There Stephen—“his face as it had been the face of an angel” (Acts 6:15)—bore his testimony and laid down his life. All that heaven itself could give was bestowed. “What could have been done more to My vineyard,” Christ said, “that I have not done in it?” Isaiah 5:4. So His care and labor for you are not lessened, but increased. Still He says, “I the Lord do keep it; I will water it every moment; lest any hurt it, I will keep it night and day.” Isaiah 27:3.

“If it bear fruit, well; and if not, then after that” [Luke 13:9]—The heart that does not respond to divine agencies becomes hardened until it is no longer susceptible to the influence of the Holy Spirit. Then it is that the word is spoken, “Cut it down; why cumbereth it the ground?” [Luke 13:7, last part.]

Today He invites you: “O Israel, return unto the Lord thy God. … I will heal their backsliding, I will love them freely. … I will be as the dew unto Israel; he shall grow as the lily, and cast forth his roots as Lebanon. … They that dwell under his shadow shall return; they shall revive as the corn, and grow as the vine. … From Me is thy fruit found.” Hosea 14:1–8.

Christ’s Object Lessons, 212–218.

Inspiration – Instruction to Church Members

In the Church today there are tares among the wheat. Christ declared: “The kingdom of heaven is likened unto a man which sowed good seed in his field: but while men slept, his enemy came and sowed tares among the wheat, and went his way. But when the blade was sprung up, and brought forth fruit, then appeared the tares also. So the servants of the householder came and said unto him, Sir, didst not thou sow good seed in thy field? from whence then hath it tares? He said unto them, An enemy hath done this. The servants said unto him, Wilt thou then that we go and gather them up? But he said, Nay; lest while ye gather up the tares, ye root up also the wheat with them. Let both grow together until the harvest: and in the time of harvest I will say to the reapers, Gather ye together first the tares, and bind them in bundles to burn them: but gather the wheat into my barn.

“Then Jesus sent the multitudes away, and went into the house: and His disciples came unto Him, saying, Declare unto us the parable of the tares of the field. He answered and said unto them, He that soweth the good seed is the Son of man; the field is the world; the good seed are the children of the kingdom; but the tares are the children of the wicked one; the enemy that sowed them is the devil; the harvest is the end of the world; and the reapers are the angels. As therefore the tares are gathered and burned in the fire; so shall it be in the end of the world. The Son of man shall send forth His angels, and they shall gather out of His kingdom all things that offend, and them which do iniquity; and shall cast them into a furnace of fire: there shall be wailing and gnashing of teeth. Then shall the righteous shine forth as the sun in the kingdom of their Father. Who hath ears to hear, let him hear.” Matthew 13:24–30, 36–43.

Read this instruction carefully, doing all in your power to understand the parable. The Holy Spirit will impress the minds of those who desire a clear comprehension of this parable.

How the Growth of the Gospel Seed is Hindered

The Saviour said again: “Hear ye therefore the parable of the sower. When any one heareth the word of the kingdom, and understandeth it not, then cometh the wicked one, and catcheth away that which was sown in his heart. This is he which received seed by the wayside. But he that received the seed into stony places, the same is he that heareth the word, and anon with joy receiveth it; yet hath he not root in himself, but dureth for a while: for when tribulation or persecution ariseth because of the word, by and by he is offended. He also that received seed among the thorns is he that heareth the word; and the care of this world, and the deceitfulness of riches, choke the word, and he becometh unfruitful.” Matthew 13:18–22.

Those who do not follow true Christian principles, whose natural and cultivated tendencies to wrong have not been changed by the grace of God, have no root in themselves; and therefore they lose the interest which they once felt in the truth. They return to their sinful practices. They may continue to make a profession of Christianity, but they do not honor the truth. They do not go on from grace to grace. For a time they are neither cold nor hot, but they finally become hardened to all good impressions. They grow careless, worldly, inattentive. They hear the truth, but do not receive it. Of this class Christ says: “Every one that heareth these sayings of mine, and doeth them not, shall be likened unto a foolish man, which built his house upon the sand: and the rain descended, and the floods came, and the winds blew, and beat upon that house; and it fell: and great was the fall of it.” Matthew 7:26, 27.

Of Chorazin and Bethsaida, cities in which so many of Christ’s mighty works were done, which were exalted to heaven by being honored with His presence, the Saviour declared: “Woe unto thee, Chorazin! woe unto thee, Bethsaida! for if the mighty works, which were done in you, had been done in Tyre and Sidon, they would have repented long ago in sackcloth and ashes. But I say unto you, It shall be more tolerable for Tyre and Sidon at the day of judgment, than for you. And thou, Capernaum, which art exalted unto heaven, shalt be brought down to hell: for if the mighty works, which have been done in thee, had been done in Sodom, it would have remained until this day. But I say unto you, That it shall be more tolerable for the land of Sodom in the day of judgment, than for thee.” Matthew 11:21–24.

Those who have been favored with great light and many opportunities, but who have not accepted the light nor improved the opportunities, who have not followed correct principles in dealing with their brethren or with unbelievers, will receive punishment in accordance with their sin. They will meet with some sad surprises in the last great day, when every case shall be brought up in review before God. In their record they will see that which will fill them with shame, but nothing can be changed. All is beyond recall.

Christ has made every provision for the sanctification of His Church. He has made abundant provision for every soul to have such grace and strength that he will be more than a conqueror in the warfare against sin. The Saviour is wounded afresh and put to open shame when His people pay no heed to His word. He came to this world and lived a sinless life, that in His power His people might also live lives of sinlessness. He desires them by practicing the principles of truth to show to the world that God’s grace has power to sanctify the heart.

Church Members Are to Help One Another

Christ has given direction for their guidance, declaring that they are to show Christian interest in one another. If one commits sin, do not talk of it among yourselves. Go first to the one who has offended. “Tell him his fault between thee and him alone: if he shall hear thee, thou hast gained thy brother.” Matthew 18:15. “If thou bring thy gift to the altar, and there rememberest that thy brother hath aught against thee; leave there thy gift before the altar, and go thy way; first be reconciled to thy brother, and then come and offer thy gift.” Matthew 5:23, 24. Do church members obey this word? Suppose that in every institution established among us, in publishing houses, sanitariums, and schools, God’s people had sought to understand and follow His plan, as it is outlined in the Old and New Testaments. Suppose that the instruction given by Christ to the children of Israel had been woven into the life-practice. Would not we as a people stand today on vantage ground?

The instruction given in Matthew presents the work that must be done to keep the Church purified from error and defilement. The brethren in the Church are to be faithful to one another, and this is in every sense applicable to the sisters also. When you bring an offering to God, ask yourself, Am I cherishing wrong feelings toward any of my brethren in the faith? If you are, do all in your power to be reconciled to the one with whom you are at variance.

It is a sin to cherish anger against a brother or a sister in the Church. Christ treats anger as murder. He declares, “I say unto you, That whosoever is angry with his brother without a cause”—O, how much there is of this in the Church today!—“shall be in danger of the judgment: and whosoever shall say to his brother, Raca, shall be in danger of the council: but whosoever shall say, Thou fool, shall be in danger of hell fire.” Matthew 5:22. God has a controversy with that man. He thinks he has occasion for feeling angry, for calling his brother raca, “vain fellow;” but these passionate words are a savor of death unto death. He who utters them is not co-operating with God, but with Satan. In heaven his wicked railing is placed in the same list as swearing.

The Review and Herald, April 1, 1902.

Keys to the Storehouse – Scorched and Withered

I am losing my interest in the truth I once had, and some of the old ways and practices are creeping back into my life. Why is this happening?

Oh no! The seed of life is withering because the heart has been hardened (turned to stone) in its own habits and the seed has no root. When the sun shines, the little seed is scorched and withered. No more light or seed can fill the heart and life because the first seed withered and became darkness and this is why interest in the truth leaves. Only as you advance in the opening light of God’s word will you receive more light. If you do not advance in that light, the seed will wither and die.

Oh what a terrible loss it is to let a seed wither and die because a heart would not change!

“Some fell upon stony places, where they had not much earth: and forthwith they sprung up, because they had no deepness of earth: And when the sun was up, they were scorched; and because they had no root, they withered away.” Matthew 13:5, 6.

The truth you heard fell upon stony places—a heart that would not change, and “the seed sown upon stony ground finds little depth of soil. The plant springs up quickly, but the root cannot penetrate the rock to find nutriment to sustain its growth, and it soon perishes. … Like the rock underlying the layer of earth, the selfishness of the natural heart underlies the soil of their good desires and aspirations. The love of self is not subdued.” Christ’s Object Lessons, 46.

Without yielding yourself totally to the control of God’s word, you have no root and therefore you lose the interest you once felt in the truth. You have not been born again. The root cannot get nourishment from a stone and therefore the seed withers. That is why the Lord needs to give you a new heart.

“Those who do not follow true Christian principles, whose natural and cultivated tendencies to wrong have not been changed by the grace of God, have no root in themselves; and therefore they lose the interest which they once felt in the truth. They return to their sinful practices.” Atlantic Union Gleaner, January 17, 1906.

None need be so foolish as to cultivate that heart of stone where God’s word cannot take root and grow. Pray right now to claim the promise:

“Lord, my heart is failing because of its hardness. Your precious seed is withering because of the stony ground. Please replace it with a new heart and a new spirit. Take away the stony heart so your seed may take root and find nourishment to grow and flourish amidst your sunshine. And as the sun rises in the sky, so let the Son of Righteousness rise in my heart to melt the stone and prepare the way for more seed.” See Ezekiel 36:26, 27.

Use this key to enter the heavenly storehouse. It is time for the seed to take root and to flourish in the sunshine of God’s word.

Inspiration – Preparation of the Soil

Throughout the parable of the sower [Luke 8:5–8], Christ represents the different results of the sowing as depending upon the soil. In every case the sower and the seed are the same. Thus He teaches that if the word of God fails of accomplishing its work in our hearts and lives, the reason is to be found in ourselves. But the result is not beyond our control. True, we cannot change ourselves; but the power of choice is ours, and it rests with us to determine what we will become. The wayside, the stony-ground, the thorny-ground hearers need not remain such. The Spirit of God is ever seeking to break the spell of infatuation that holds men absorbed in worldly things, and to awaken a desire for the imperishable treasure. It is by resisting the Spirit that men become inattentive to or neglectful of God’s word. They are themselves responsible for the hardness of heart that prevents the good seed from taking root, and for the evil growths that check its development.

The garden of the heart must be cultivated. The soil must be broken up by deep repentance for sin. Poisonous, Satanic plants must be uprooted. The soil once overgrown by thorns can be reclaimed only by diligent labor. So the evil tendencies of the natural heart can be overcome only by earnest effort in the name and strength of Jesus. The Lord bids us by His prophet, “Break up your fallow ground, and sow not among thorns.” “Sow to yourselves in righteousness; reap in mercy.” Jeremiah 4:3; Hosea 10:12. This work He desires to accomplish for us, and He asks us to co-operate with Him.

The sowers of the seed have a work to do in preparing hearts to receive the gospel. In the ministry of the word there is too much sermonizing, and too little of real heart-to-heart work. There is need of personal labor for the souls of the lost. In Christlike sympathy we should come close to men individually, and seek to awaken their interest in the great things of eternal life. Their hearts may be as hard as the beaten highway, and apparently it may be a useless effort to present the Saviour to them; but while logic may fail to move, and argument be powerless to convince, the love of Christ, revealed in personal ministry, may soften the stony heart, so that the seed of truth can take root.

So the sowers have something to do that the seed may not be choked with thorns or perish because of shallowness of soil. At the very outset of the Christian life every believer should be taught its foundation principles. He should be taught that he is not merely to be saved by Christ’s sacrifice, but that he is to make the life of Christ his life and the character of Christ his character. Let all be taught that they are to bear burdens and to deny natural inclination. Let them learn the blessedness of working for Christ, following Him in self-denial, and enduring hardness as good soldiers. Let them learn to trust His love and to cast on Him their cares. Let them taste the joy of winning souls for Him. In their love and interest for the lost, they will lose sight of self. The pleasures of the world will lose their power to attract and its burdens to dishearten. The plowshare of truth will do its work. It will break up the fallow ground. It will not merely cut off the tops of the thorns, but will take them out by the roots.

Christ’s Object Lessons, 56, 57.

Parables of the Investigative Judgment

There is a need for God’s people to understand the relationship of the investigative judgment and the wedding banquet. Many people are aware of the warning given in Malachi 3:1–3 regarding the work of the purification of God’s people and the removal of sin, but there is a deeper meaning, which needs to be understood.

“Behold, I will send my messenger, and he shall prepare the way before me: and the Lord, whom ye seek, shall suddenly come to His temple, even the messenger of the covenant, whom ye delight in: behold, he shall come, saith the Lord of hosts. But who may abide the day of His coming? and who shall stand when He appeareth? for He is like a refiner’s fire, and like fullers’ soap: And He shall sit as a refiner and purifier of silver: and He shall purify the sons of Levi, and purge them as gold and silver, that they may offer unto the Lord an offering in righteousness.” Malachi 3:1–3, KJV.

Another important reference in the Bible about the investigative judgment that is very informative of this important event and the wedding banquet is recorded in Matthew 22:1–14:

“Jesus spoke to them again in parables, saying: ‘The kingdom of heaven is like a king who prepared a wedding banquet for his son. He sent his servants to those who had been invited to the banquet to tell them to come, but they refused to come.’

“Then he sent some more servants and said, ‘Tell those who have been invited that I have prepared my dinner: My oxen and fattened cattle have been butchered, and everything is ready. Come to the wedding banquet.’

“But they paid no attention and went off—one to his field, another to his business. The rest seized his servants, mistreated them and killed them. The king was enraged. He sent his army and destroyed those murderers and burned their city.” Verses 1–7.

This much of the parable refers to the Jewish nation prior to the first advent and up to the destruction of Jerusalem in 70 A.D.

“Thus the Jewish people sealed their rejection of God’s mercy. The result was foretold by Christ in the parable. The king ‘sent forth his armies, and destroyed those murderers, and burned up their city.’ The judgment pronounced came upon the Jews in the destruction of Jerusalem and the scattering of the nation.” Christ’s Object Lessons, 308, 309.

“Then he said to his servants, ‘The wedding banquet is ready, but those I invited did not deserve to come. So go to the street corners and invite to the banquet anyone you find.’ So the servants went out into the streets and gathered all the people they could find, the bad as well as the good, and the wedding hall was filled with guests.” Matthew 22:8–10.

With this information we see that verses 8–10 represent the Christian church from the first advent to the close of probation.

In verse 11 the king comes in to begin the investigative judgment. The remainder of the parable (verses 12–14) is a description of what happens to those who do not make the appropriate preparation to attend the wedding banquet.

The Spirit of Prophecy provides an interesting introduction to this parable. It is found in Christ’s Object Lessons, on page 307.

“In this parable, as in that of the great supper, are illustrated the gospel invitation, its rejection by the Jewish people, and the call of mercy to the Gentiles. But on the part of those who reject the invitation, this parable brings to view a deeper insult and a more dreadful punishment. The call to the feast is a king’s invitation. It proceeds from one who is vested with power to command. It confers high honor.”

In the book, The Great Controversy, we are given the following explanation of this parable:

“In the parable of Matthew 22 the same figure of the marriage is introduced, and the investigative judgment is clearly represented as taking place before the marriage. Previous to the wedding the king comes in to see the guests, to see if all are attired in the wedding garment, the spotless robe of character washed and made white in the blood of the Lamb. Matthew 22:11; Revelation 7:14. [Emphasis supplied.] He who is found wanting is cast out, but all who upon examination are seen to have the wedding garment on are accepted of God and accounted worthy of a share in His kingdom and a seat upon His throne. This work of examination of character, of determining who are prepared for the kingdom of God, is that of the investigative judgment, the closing of work in the sanctuary above.” The Great Controversy, 428.

Many do not realize their spiritual need. This is why we need to understand these parables because they refer to each one of us in these last days. The following is a statement about the man who came in without a wedding garment:

“The man who came to the feast without a wedding garment represents the condition of many in our world today. They profess to be Christians, and lay claim to the blessings and privileges of the gospel; yet they feel no need of a transformation of character. They have never felt true repentance for sin. They do not realize their need of Christ or exercise faith in Him. They have not overcome their hereditary or cultivated tendencies to wrongdoing. Yet they think that they are good enough in themselves, and they rest upon their own merits instead of trusting in Christ. Hearers of the word, they come to the banquet, but they have not put on the robe of Christ’s righteousness.” Christ’s Object Lessons, 315.

There will be many who will be speechless because they never overcame their hereditary or cultivated tendencies to wrongdoing. We may wonder why the man was speechless. Here is a brief statement about his condition:

“In the parable, when the king inquired, ‘How camest thou in hither not having a wedding garment’ [Matthew 22:12]? the man was speechless. So it will be in the great judgment day. Men may now excuse their defects of character, but in that day they will offer no excuse.” Ibid., 317.

The judgment day in this statement refers to the execution phase of the judgment following the millennium.

Solemn will be the day of final decision. In prophetic vision, the apostle John describes it: “I saw a great white throne, and Him who sat on it, from whose face the earth and the heaven fled away; and there was found no place for them. And I saw the dead, small and great, stand before God; and the books were opened: and another book was opened, which is the Book of Life: and the dead were judged out of those things which were written in the books, according to their works.” Revelation 20:11, 12, KJV.

“Sad will be the retrospect in that day when men stand face to face with eternity. The whole life will present itself just as it has been. The world’s pleasures, riches, and honors will not then seem so important. Men will then see that the righteousness they despised is alone of value. They will see that they have fashioned their characters under the deceptive allurements of Satan. The garments they have chosen are the badge of their allegiance to the first great apostate. Then they will see the results of their choice. They will have a knowledge of what it means to transgress the commandments of God.” Ibid., 318, 319.

The Spirit of Prophecy is very clear that this work of purification of God’s people is to be completed during the time of the investigative judgment.

“Christ had come, not to the earth, as they expected, but, as foreshadowed in the type, to the most holy place of the temple of God in heaven. He is represented by the prophet Daniel as coming at this time to the Ancient of Days: ‘I saw in the night visions, and, behold, one like the Son of man came with the clouds of heaven, and came’—not to the earth, but—‘to the Ancient of Days, and they brought Him near before Him.’ Daniel 7:13.

“This coming is foretold also by the prophet Malachi: ‘The Lord, whom ye seek, shall suddenly come to His temple, even the Messenger of the covenant, whom ye delight in: behold, He shall come, saith the Lord of hosts.’ Malachi 3:1. The coming of the Lord to His temple was sudden, unexpected, to His people. They were not looking for Him there. They expected Him to come to earth, ‘in flaming fire taking vengeance on them that know not God, and that obey not the gospel.’ II Thessalonians 1:8.

“But the people were not yet ready to meet their Lord. There was still a work of preparation to be accomplished for them.” The Great Controversy, 424.

There is an interesting explanation about this preparation in The Great Controversy, 425.

“Another message of warning and instruction was to be given to the church.

“Says the prophet: ‘Who may abide the day of His coming? and who shall stand when He appeareth? for He is like a refiner’s fire, and like fullers’ soap: and He shall sit as a refiner and purifier of silver: and He shall purify the sons of Levi, and purge them as gold and silver, that they may offer unto the Lord an offering in righteousness.’ Malachi 3:2, 3.” Ibid., 423.

Let us consider a second parable about the investigative judgment. It is the parable describing the two classes of servants in Matthew 24:45–51.

“Who then is the faithful and wise servant, whom the master has put in charge of the servants in his household to give them their food at the proper time? It will be good for that servant whose master finds him doing so when he returns. Truly I tell you, he will put him in charge of all his possessions.” Verses 45–47.

Revelation 3:21 says: “To him who overcomes, I will give the right to sit with Me on My throne, just as I overcame and sat down with My Father on His throne.”

“But suppose that servant is wicked and says to himself, ‘My master is staying away a long time,’ and he then begins to beat his fellow servants and to eat and drink with drunkards.” Matthew 24:48, 49. Not literally drunk, but drunk with false teachings, with ecumenical compromise of truth, such as teaching that the atonement was completed at the cross.

“The master of that servant will come on a day when he does not expect him and at an hour he is not aware of. He will cut him to pieces and assign him a place with the hypocrites, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.” Verses 50, 51.

A description of these unfaithful servants is found in the following statements.

“The Lord has a controversy with His professed people in these last days. In this controversy men in responsible positions will take a course directly opposite to that pursued by Nehemiah. They will not only ignore and despise the Sabbath themselves, but they will try to keep it from others by burying it beneath the rubbish of custom and tradition. In churches and in large gatherings in the open air, ministers will urge upon the people the necessity of keeping the first day of the week.” The Review and Herald, March 18, 1884.

The rejection of the seventh day Sabbath is a sign that these people have also rejected the ministry of Christ and His blood of atonement in the Most Holy Place of the sanctuary of the new covenant in heaven.

“As the storm approaches, a large class who have professed faith in the third angel’s message, but have not been sanctified through obedience to the truth, abandon their position and join the ranks of the opposition. By uniting with the world and partaking of its spirit, they have come to view matters in nearly the same light; and when the test is brought, they are prepared to choose the easy, popular side. Men of talent and pleasing address, who once rejoiced in the truth, employ their powers to deceive and mislead souls. They become the most bitter enemies of their former brethren. When Sabbathkeepers are brought before the courts to answer for their faith, these apostates are the most efficient agents of Satan to misrepresent and accuse them, and by false reports and insinuations to stir up the rulers against them.” The Great Controversy, 608.

Then the Spirit of Prophecy says that this church represented by these two classes of servants is the same church that is represented by the ten virgins.

“Here is brought to view the church living in the last days, the same that is pointed out in the close of chapter 24. In this parable their experience is illustrated by the incidents of an Eastern marriage.” Ibid., 393.

“The parable of the ten virgins of Matthew 25 also illustrates the experience of the Adventist people. In Matthew 24, in answer to the question of His disciples concerning the sign of His coming and of the end of the world, Christ had pointed out some of the most important events in the history of the world and of the church from His first to His second advent; namely, the destruction of Jerusalem, the great tribulation of the church under the pagan and papal persecutions, the darkening of the sun and moon, and the falling of the stars. After this He spoke of His coming in His kingdom, and related the parable describing the two classes of servants who look for His appearing.” Ibid.

The Spirit of Prophecy has a considerable amount of information on this parable. This parable, Matthew 25:1–13, is a description of the church during the time the investigative judgment is in session. Matthew 25:1–7 is as follows:

“At that time the kingdom of heaven will be like ten virgins who took their lamps and went out to meet the bridegroom. Five of them were foolish and five were wise. The foolish ones took their lamps but did not take any oil with them. The wise ones, however, took oil in jars along with their lamps. The bridegroom was a long time in coming, and they all became drowsy and fell asleep.” Verses 1–5.

The phrase “they all became drowsy and fell asleep” refers to the churches’ experience before October 22, 1844. Also, “to sleep” in this context is a symbol meaning that the individual or church is not awake to the truth. During the period just before 1844 the whole church was asleep on the knowledge of the new covenant sanctuary in heaven and the ministry of Jesus in that sanctuary. No one on earth knew about the Bible truth concerning this sanctuary. They all were asleep.

“At midnight the cry rang out: ‘Here’s the bridegroom! Come out to meet him!’ ” Verse 6.

“The coming of Christ, as announced by the first angel’s message, was understood to be represented by the coming of the bridegroom. The widespread reformation under the proclamation of His soon coming, answered to the going forth of the virgins [Matthew 25:1]. In this parable, as in that of Matthew 24, two classes are represented. All had taken their lamps, the Bible, and by its light had gone forth to meet the Bridegroom. But while ‘they that were foolish took their lamps, and took no oil with them,’ ‘the wise took oil in their vessels with their lamps’ [verses 3, 4]. The latter class [the wise virgins] had received the grace of God, the regenerating, enlightening power of the Holy Spirit, which renders His word a lamp to the feet and a light to the path [Psalm 119:105]. In the fear of God they had studied the Scriptures to learn the truth, and had earnestly sought for purity of heart and life. These had a personal experience, a faith in God and in His word, which could not be overthrown by disappointment and delay. Others ‘took their lamps, and took no oil with them.’ They had moved from impulse. Their fears had been excited by the solemn message, but they had depended upon the faith of their brethren, satisfied with the flickering light of good emotions, without a thorough understanding of the truth or a genuine work of grace in the heart. These had gone forth to meet the Lord, full of hope in the prospect of immediate reward; but they were not prepared for delay and disappointment. When trials came, their faith failed, and their lights burned dim.” The Great Controversy, 393, 394.

The passing of time referred to in this statement was the time they expected the Lord to come in the spring of 1844. The believers were disappointed when the Lord did not come at that time and there resulted a seeming delay.

“In this time of uncertainty, the interest of the superficial and halfhearted soon began to waver, and their efforts to relax; but those whose faith was based on a personal knowledge of the Bible had a rock beneath their feet, which the waves of disappointment could not wash away. ‘They all slumbered and slept’ [Matthew 25:5], one class in unconcern and abandonment of their faith, the other class patiently waiting till clearer light should be given.” Ibid., 394.

A further explanation of this event is found as follows:

“ ‘While the bridegroom tarried, they all slumbered and slept. And at midnight there was a cry made, Behold, the bridegroom cometh; go ye out to meet him. Then all those virgins arose, and trimmed their lamps.’ Matthew 25:5–7. In the summer of 1844, midway between the time when it had been first thought that the 2300 days would end, and the autumn of the same year, to which it was afterward found that they extended, the message was proclaimed in the very words of Scripture: ‘Behold, the Bridegroom cometh!’ ” Ibid., 398.

Ellen White has more to say of this event as follows:

“In the parable of Matthew 25 the time of waiting and slumber is followed by the coming of the bridegroom. This was in accordance with the arguments just presented, both from prophecy and from the types. They carried strong conviction of their truthfulness; and the ‘midnight cry’ [Matthew 25:6] was heralded by thousands of believers.

“Like a tidal wave the movement swept over the land.” Ibid., 400. This message sparked a renewed interest in the study of the Word.

“At the call, ‘The Bridegroom cometh; go ye out to meet Him,’ the waiting ones ‘arose and trimmed their lamps’ [Matthew 25:6, 7]; they studied the word of God with an intensity of interest before unknown.” Ibid., 402.

“Then all the virgins woke up and trimmed their lamps.” Verse 7.

The following describes three separate texts as talking about the same event: “The coming of Christ as our high priest to the most holy place, for the cleansing of the sanctuary, brought to view in Daniel 8:14; the coming of the Son of man to the Ancient of Days, as presented in Daniel 7:13; and the coming of the Lord to His temple, foretold by Malachi [Malachi 3:1–3], are descriptions of the same event; and this is also represented by the coming of the bridegroom to the marriage, described by Christ in the parable of the ten virgins, of Matthew 25.

“In the summer and autumn of 1844 the proclamation, ‘Behold, the Bridegroom cometh,’ was given. The two classes represented by the wise and foolish virgins were then developed—one class who looked with joy to the Lord’s appearing, and who had been diligently preparing to meet Him; another class that, influenced by fear and acting from impulse, had been satisfied with a theory of the truth, but were destitute of the grace of God. In the parable, when the bridegroom came, ‘they that were ready went in with him to the marriage’ [Matthew 25:10].” The Great Controversy, 426.

Notice the order of events in the following statement:

“The coming of the bridegroom, here brought to view, takes place before the marriage. The marriage represents the reception by Christ of His kingdom. The Holy City, the New Jerusalem, which is the capital and representative of the kingdom, is called ‘the bride, the Lamb’s wife.’ Said the angel to John: ‘Come hither, I will show thee the bride, the Lamb’s wife.’ ‘He carried me away in the spirit,’ says the prophet, ‘and showed me that great city, the holy Jerusalem, descending out of heaven from God.’ Revelation 21:9, 10. … Christ, as stated by the prophet Daniel, will receive from the Ancient of Days in heaven, ‘dominion, and glory, and a kingdom;’ He will receive the New Jerusalem, the capital of His kingdom, ‘prepared as a bride adorned for her husband.’ ” Daniel 7:14; Revelation 21:2. “Having received the kingdom, He will come in His glory, as King of kings and Lord of lords, for the redemption of His people, who are to ‘sit down with Abraham, and Isaac, and Jacob,’ at His table in His kingdom (Matthew 8:11; Luke 22:30), to partake of the marriage supper of the Lamb … .”

“The proclamation, ‘Behold, the Bridegroom cometh,’ in the summer of 1844, led thousands to expect the immediate advent of the Lord. At the appointed time the Bridegroom came, not to the earth, as the people expected, but to the Ancient of Days in heaven, to the marriage, the reception of His kingdom. ‘They that were ready went in with Him to the marriage: and the door was shut’ [Matthew 25:10]. They were not to be present in person at the marriage; for it takes place in heaven, while they are upon the earth. The followers of Christ are to ‘wait for their Lord, when He will return from the wedding.’ Luke 12:36. But they are to understand His work, and to follow Him by faith as He goes in before God. It is in this sense that they are said to go in to the marriage.” Ibid., 426, 427.

This next statement makes very clear what knowledge it was that separated the wise virgins from the foolish virgins.

“In the parable it was those that had oil in their vessels with their lamps that went in to the marriage. Those who, with a knowledge of the truth from the Scriptures, had also the Spirit and grace of God, and who, in the night of their bitter trial, had patiently waited, searching the Bible for clearer light—these saw the truth concerning the sanctuary in heaven and the Saviour’s change in ministration, and by faith they followed Him in His work in the sanctuary above. And all who through the testimony of the Scriptures accept the same truths, following Christ by faith as He enters in before God to perform the last work of mediation, and at its close to receive His kingdom—all these are represented as going in to the marriage.” Ibid., 427, 428.

(Unless appearing in quoted references or otherwise identified, Bible texts are from the New International Version.)

Maurice Hoppe is Director of the Steps to Life Training Programs and a member of the Steps to Life Board. The Training Program for Ministers and Church Leaders is a correspondence course that prepares individuals to serve as a pastor or Bible worker. Preparing for the Final Conflict is a correspondence course for the laity. Both of these courses teach present truth that will be an anchor for the soul during the storm of opposition and persecution just ahead. He and his wife also have a correspondence course offered through Revelation Ministry. He can be contacted at:

Editorial – Sinners in Zion, part 2

The sinners in Zion are the same as the tares who are in the church. “There are many sinners in Zion, and they are likened to tares among the wheat.” Review and Herald, November 10, 1893.

Jesus gave many illustrations to help us understand the difference between the true Israel (church) and Israel (professed church) according to the flesh. Romans 9:1–8. One illustration is that of the true vine. (See Desire of Ages, 830.)

There is an outward connection that apparently is part of the vine, but really is not, and there is an inner vital connection that makes a person part of the vine. The one with the outer connection only is a professed Christian, a professed church member, his name is on the roll on this earth but he is not really a member of the true church, he is a false or pretended brother or believer. Testimonies to Battle Creek Church, 64. When tested this person does not produce fruit. It is the same with the tares, they look like wheat but they are pretended or false brethren or believers and do not produce fruit. Christ Object Lessons, 71, 72. Notice how the following quotations explicitly state these facts: “The branch which does not derive its nourishment from the vine, is unable to bear fruit. Having no real, vital connection with the vine, not receiving the sap which flows through the parent stock, it is fruitless. So it is with those who are not truly united to Christ. They may claim to know him, their names may be on the church roll, but unless they are living branches of the True Vine, this is of no value. There is a union with the church that avails nothing with God. Their profession will not save them, for their want of faith, their lack of fruit, proves that they are false branches.” Signs of the Times, December 3, 1896. (A false branch, a pretended or false brother or believer, cannot be a true brother or believer, and a true brother is obviously a member of the true church, because we are all brethren. Matthew 23:8.)

“Faith is that mysterious and mighty principle that attracts the soul of man to God. As the sapless branch is united to the living vine, so we must be connected with Christ. There are two kinds of connection between the branches and the vine stock. One is visible, but superficial. The other is invisible and vital. So there is an apparent union, a membership with the church, and a profession of religion, which, though in itself good, is too often unaccompanied by saving faith in Jesus or living obedience to the commandments of God. The branches that are connected with Christ, the living vine, will make it manifest by bearing much fruit in good works to the glory of God. But the branches which have nothing but an apparent union, will be fruitless. As the branch cannot possibly bring forth fruit without a vital connection with the parent stock, so the Christian can be fruitful in good works only as union with Christ is made and preserved. The ruin [the sifting of the sinners in Zion] of those who are not connected with Christ, is as complete as though they had no name to live; for they are dead. Christ compares them to lifeless branches that are gathered and burned in the fire.” Signs of the Times, July 27, 1888.

See also Christ Object Lessons, 216, 279, 304.

So the sinners in Zion are outward, professed members of the body of Christ, the true church, but their profession is not accompanied by the real vital connection to Christ, which would enable them to overcome sin. During the time of the shaking and sifting they will be sifted (separated) from the loyal and faithful and true. Notice that the 1886 statement (see Manuscript Release, vol. 12, 324; or Selected Messages, vol. 2, 380) does not say that they will be sifted from the church organization; it distinctly says that they will be sifted from the loyal and true and that this is a most terrible ordeal. In a later article in Land Marks we will look at inspired statements about this sifting process in more detail but for now let us notice just who Zion is. There is a Zion according to the flesh, according to profession—all those who profess the Seventh-day Adventist faith—but, “He whom God accounts a citizen of Zion is he that ‘speaketh the truth in his heart;’ ‘that backbiteth not with his tongue,’ ‘nor taketh up a reproach against his neighbor.’ ” Education, 235, 236. [All emphasis supplied.]

“False brethren will continue to increase.” Signs of the Times, January 3, 1884.

“When trees without fruit are cut down as cumberers of the ground, when multitudes of false brethren are distinguished from the true, then the hidden ones will be revealed to view, and with hosannas range under the banner of Christ.” Testimonies to the Battle Creek Church, 64.

The End