November 4

Much more could be said about the parable we looked at Sunday from Matthew 25:14-30.  One of the ideas is works righteousness: the idea that it is our works that save us.  Or in this case, it is our lack of works that sends us to hell.  Both this parable and the one that follows in Matthew seem on the surface to teach that if you do not do good works (either by not using your talent or not caring for the “least of these my brothers”) that you will not get into heaven. 
If you first look at the second parable of the sheep and the goats it is important to realize right from the beginning that there is a division between the sheep (Christians) and the goats (Non-Christians).  So the results for both group is determined already from the beginning and so the works credited to the sheep and debited from the goats is not the determining factor that determines who gets into heaven or hell.  So the idea of doing certain actions (feeding the hungry, visiting the sick or imprisoned) is not what saves them.  From other passages in the Bible, we can understand this judgement determines rewards in heaven (1 Cor 3:15) or degrees of punishment in hell (Luke 12:47-48).  Also from other passages, there will be two judgement times at the end of the age; The Bema Judgement and the Great White Throne.  The Bema Judgement (Rev 20:4-6) is just for the righteous who have trusted in Jesus as their righteousness.  Adding into Luke 19:19 about ruling cities, it seems to imply that those who were faithful with more responsibilities on earth will have more responsibilities during the millennium (more cities).  If this is the case, the works of the Christians (sheep) seem to determine positions in heaven, not whether or not they are worthy of heaven based on their works.  It is only “by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— not by works, so that no one can boast.” (Eph 2:8)
The Great White Throne judgement (Rev 20:11-15) is just for the unrighteous (the goats), who do not know Christ.  And this trial is apparently based somewhat on works (the books) because they do not have Christ’s righteousness (his good works) substituted for their own (i.e. their names were not in the book of Life).  All of those who are part of this judgement are condemned to the lake of fire.  In the book of Revelation, at least 1000 years past between these two judgements.  It appears in Matthew’s parable, the sheep and the goats are squished together with no mention of the intervening 1000 years which we read about in Rev 20.
So using this parable to help interpret the one starting in Matt 25:14, we see that works does not determine the outcome of heaven or hell but positions in each.  So what does Matthew then mean when he says the third servant is “thrown outside into darkness where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth”?  As I mentioned in my sermon, Matthew uses extremely large quantities (a talent is a very large amount of money).  Perhaps, Jesus is exaggerating in this parable account for some unwritten reason.  In order to make a point, Jesus often uses exaggeration (i.e. cutting off your hand if it sins, or plucking out an eye).  So if Jesus is using exaggerated amounts of money, he may have exaggerated the fate of the third servant and in a sense is saying what Paul later says in 1 Cor 3:15; they will be saved but not have anything of worth in heaven (i.e. treasures in heaven from Matthew 6:20).  We are going to at treasures in heaven next Sunday.