12. The day of judgment, 24:1-25:46

iii] "Watch!"


Having dealt with the destruction of the temple and the signs of his coming, Jesus sets about encouraging his disciples to be watchful.


In the face of the coming of the Son of Man, be faithful and wise servants - be children of faith.


i] Context: See 24:1-11.


ii] Structure: How to live awaiting the coming day:

Be prepared, v36-44:

Saying, v36-41;

"concerning that day and hour no one knows ...."

"as were the day of Noah,

so will be the coming of the Son of Man ....."

Saying, v42;

"stay awake, for you do not know

on what day your Lord is coming."

Parable - the diligent home owner, v43-44;

"you also must be ready."

Be faithful, v45-51:

Parable - the diligent slave, v45-51;

"who then is the faithful and wise servant .....?"


iii] Interpretation:

For the wider interpretation of chapters 24-25 see 24:1-14.


Two points are made in this passage:

No one knows the exact day of Jesus coming in judgment. It will be the same as in the days of Noah. People will be caught unawares, so be prepared, v36-44.

There will be a delay in the coming of Jesus, and when he does come, it will be a time when we least expect it. So, in the interim, be faithful to the task set by the master. The task is unstated, but the primary task is always faith and its fruit love, v45-51.


As Ridderbos explains "the aim of these predictions is not the satisfaction of human curiosity, but the strengthening of the faith of the community and its life as a result of this expectation for the future." In the passage before us we are encouraged, with a view to our understanding of the end-times, to be faithful and wise servants. The only problem we face is that the "work" is left undefined. Still, it's not hard to identify the "work" Christ has in mind, namely, the strengthening of our faith, of reliance in the grace of God realized in Christ. As Ridderbos puts it, the work is "the strengthening of the faith of the community and its life."


iv] Synoptics:

It is usually argued that both Matthew and Luke at this point are dependent on Q (an early gospel document). First, from Q, we have a saying of Jesus regarding his coming, v36-41, then the "keep awake" saying from Mark 13:35, then back to Q, the parable of the diligent home owner, v43-44, and the parable of the diligent slave, v45-51.


v] Exposition: A simple exposition of this passage may be found in the linked pew-level Sermon Notes.

Text - 24:36

Watchfulness enjoined on Jesus' disciples, v36-51; i] Be prepared, v36-44: a) No one knows the day or hour, v36 - obviously referencing the day of Christ's coming / appearing. As already noted in these studies, the "coming / presence" and "appearing / manifestation" of Christ refers to his coming to execute judgment. The immediate realization of this coming is focused on the "desolating sacrilege", v15, of the armies of Rome gathered before Jerusalem, which event leads to the destruction of the city, the desecration of the temple, and the political and social upheaval associated with this catastrophe in 70AD. These events, which occurred in the lifetime of "this generation", v34, serve as a paradigm of Christ's ultimate "coming", his coming into the presence of the Ancient of Days to take up his throne and execute universal judgment. So, "that day", v36, is a day of divine judgment upon Jerusalem, and as with all such days of divine judgment, it culminates in the final day when everything is set right. In the terms of earthly time, the full realization of this terrible day of judgment remains a divine initiative and thus no one knows "that day and hour."

de "but" - but/and. Transitional, indicating a step in the discourse.

oiden (oida) perf. "[no one] knows" - [concerning that day and hour, no one] has known. The perfect here is best expressed in the present tense.

peri + gen. "about" - Expressing reference / respect; "about, concerning."

thV hJmeraV (a) gen. "[that] day" - the day. A measure used to determine a period of time.

oude ..... oude "not even [the angels in heaven] nor" - neither ..... nor. A negated coordinate construction.

twn ouranwn (oV) gen. "[the angels] in heaven" - [the angels] of heaven. The genitive is adjectival, possibly possessive, "the angels who belong to heaven, or idiomatic / locative, "the angels who reside in heaven", as NIV.

oJ uiJoV "the Son" - Missing in some manuscripts, but it is obvious why it would be left out. The proper limitations attached to Christ's humanity do not limit his divinity.

ei mh "but [only the Father]" - except [the father alone]. Introducing an exceptive clause expressing a contrast by designating an exception.


b) The first example of a people being caught out by a day of judgment, a coming / appearing of God, is Noah's generation, v37-39. As with Noah's generation, the Son of Man's divine "coming" will catch most of the people of Israel unawares, but as Noah and his family were able to prepare for the coming day, so watchful believers are able to prepare for that day. Tradition tells us that the Christian church evacuated Jerusalem before the Roman siege, moving to Pella across the Jordan river.

gar "-" - for. Here emphatic rather than cause / reason, so best left untranslated.

wJsper ..... ouJtwV "as" - as, just as ..... so also. A comparative construction, producing a comparison between the days of Noah and the days of the Son of Man. In both situations, people were caught up in their daily life and then faced an unexpected divine judgment (a coming).

tou Nwe gen. "[the days] of Noah" - The genitive is adjectival, idiomatic / temporal; "the days when Noah was alive."

hJ parousia (a) "the coming" - [thus will be] the coming, presence, arrival. Nominative subject of the verb to-be. The word is best understood as a divine appearing in judgment. For example, the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah is a "coming / appearing" of God.

tou uiJou (oV) gen. "of the Son [of Man]". The genitive is adjectival, idiomatic / temporal, "at the time when the Son of Man comes." The genitive tou anqrwpou, "of man", is adjectival, relational; see 8:20.


gar "for" - Introducing a causal clause explaining the comparison between the days of Noah and the days of the Son of Man.

wJV ..... wJtwV "-" - as [they were in those days before the flood, eating and drinking, ......... (v38) ..... until the flood came and took away everything] so also [will be the coming of the son of man]. A comparative construction with wJV, "as", introducing the protasis, and wJtwV, "so also, in this way", the apodosis. The comparison between the days of Noah and the days of the Son of Man is developed over this and the next verse.

en + dat. "in [the days]" - Temporal use of the preposition; "during the days .."

taiV "before [the flood]" - the [before the flood]. The article serves as an adjectivizer, turning the prepositional phrase, "before the flood", into an attributive modifier of "days"; "the days which were before the flood." Note the temporal use of the preposition pro, "before".

trwgonteV (tinw) pres. part. "eating" - [they were] eating, consuming (noisily, ie., going for it) [drinking, and marrying, and being given in marriage]. This participle, as with "drinking", "marrying", and "being given in marriage", forms a periphrastic imperfect construction - the imperfect verb to-be, h\san + the participle; "in the days before the flood they were eating and drinking, ....", ESV. Serving to express everyday life.

acri + gen. "up to" - until. Introducing a temporal clause of time up to; "right up to the day when Noah went into the ark", Barclay.

h|V rel. pro. "-" - which [day noah entered into the ark]. Intensive; "until that very day when."


ouk egnwsan (ginwskw) aor. "they knew nothing" - they did not know. They were unaware, suspected nothing, "did not realize", TEV.

eJwV + ind. "until" - Introducing a temporal clause expressing a period of time up to when: "until".

hren (airw) aor. "took" - [the flood came and] took up. Took away, swept away, destroyed.

aJpantaV (aJpas) adj. "them all" - everything.

ouJtwV "this is how [it will be]" - thus, so [will be]. Expressing the manner in which the action may be played out; See v38; "it will be just like this."

kai "-" - and. Adjunctive; "This is the way it will also be when the Son of Man comes."

hJ parousia tou uiJou tou anqrwpou "the coming of the Son of Man" - the coming / presence of the son of man [will be this way / thus]. For the syntax, see 8:20. "The coming" refers to an enactment of divine judgment, and this will be executed by the Son of Man. Jesus' adoption of the enigmatic messianic title "Son of Man" is quite apt here as he is referencing Daniel's "Son of Man", the one who comes to the Ancient of Day to receive glory and power, Dan.7:13-14. As already noted, the "coming" is heavenward for enthronement and judgment, rather than a coming to earth. The direction of Christ's coming is somewhat confusing, but is none-the-less experienced on earth, eg., the destruction of Jerusalem / the destruction of the world in the last day. The timing is also confusing given that all such "comings" are consequent on Christ's "coming / appearing" with the "watchful" in heavenly assembly, eg., the ascension of Christ / the resurrection of believers. Time, as we know it, is an element of creation and is not a heavenly reality. As I would often remind my scripture class, God is greater than Dr. Who. God can be at the beginning of time and at the end of time at the same time.


c) The second example of those caught out by the coming day is revealed in the illustration of the worker in the field and the woman at the mill, v40-41. Many a sermon has made the point that Jesus is obviously going to return during the day as these activities don't take place at night - although they do now!!!! Although it is often assumed that it is best to be "taken" (raptured) to heaven on that terrible day, it is more than likely that those who are "taken" are the ones who are swept way by the fire of judgement - It could be dangerous to put up our hand and say "please take me"! Being "left" alive on that day is the better option. So, be vigilant!

There is little agreement as to where to place the next paragraph. Probably v42 is best placed with v40 and 41, but note NIV.

tote adv. "then" - Temporal adverb; "at that time", rather than "then".

paralambanetai (paralambanw) pres. "will be taken" - [two men will be in the field, one] is taken [and one is left]. A futuristic present - the first of four running into v41.


alhqousai (alhqw) pres. part. "[two women] will be grinding" - [two women] grinding. The participle could be adjectival, attributive, limiting "two", presumably "two women", "two women who are grinding", but Olmstead is probably on the mark when he suggests it is a periphrastic future, with the verb to-be e[sontai assumed, as NIV.

en "with [a hand mill]" - in, by, with [the millstone, one is (= will be) taken, one is (= will be) left]. Obviously an instrumental sense here, "grinding by means of a millstone", "with", as NIV.


d) Be prepared, v42.

oun "therefore" - Inferential, drawing a logical conclusion.

grhgoreite (grhgorew) imp. "watch" - keep awake. The figurative use of a word drawn from the role of a guard who is keeping watch, awake to the task, and alert at all times. An English "be prepared" may cover the sense. Of course, prepared in what sense? There is always the inclination to moralize, but perseverance of faith is surely the key to finding ourselves alive, "left alive", on the last day when the Lord comes.

oJti "because" - that. Introducing a causal clause explaining why believers should keep watch.

poia/ hJmera/ (a) dat. "on what day" - [you do not know] on which day [the Lord of you comes]. A dative of time which may be properly translated "when"; "you do not know when the Lord is coming." Luke has "hour", while Matthew combines the two in 25:13.


e) This short teaching parable makes the point that the coming day will catch people by surprise, so be watchful, be ready, be prepared, v43-44: Jesus again illustrates how unexpected the end will be. The coming of the Son of Man is similar to the uninvited visit of a thief. We don't know when a thief will strike, and in the same way, we don't know when the Son of Man will come. Constant vigilance must therefore be our aim.

de "-" - but/and. Here transitional, indicating a step in the discourse. Certainly not adversative, "but", as ESV.

ginwskete (ginwskw) pres. imp. "understand [this]" - know [this]. Possibly an emphatic imperative, "keep this clearly in mind", NEB. It is also possible to take the verb as indicative, "you know (you understand the following situation where the owner of a home is inevitably going to be caught out by a thief because he can never know at what time the thief is going to strike)"; "It is obvious that", Barclay.

oJti "-" - that. Introducing a dependent statement of perception expressing what the reader should know.

ei + pluperf. ind. ...... an + aor. ind. .... an + aor. ind. "if ....." - if, as is not the case, [the householder had known at what watch in the night the thief was coming], then [he would have been on the watch, and] then [he would not have allowed his house to be broken into]. Introducing a conditional clause, 2nd. class where the proposed condition in the protasis is untrue;

h/dei (oida) pluperf. "had known" - "Had any inkling."

poia/ fulakh/ dat. "at what time of night" - in which watch. The dative is strictly local, expressing sphere, within which watch, although the sense is temporal, so "if the owner of the house had known when the thief was coming." The night watch consists of blocks of three hours.

diorucqhnai (diorussw) aor. pas. inf. "be broken into" - [the house of him he would not have allowed] to be dug through, broken though to. As in digging through a mud brick wall. The infinitive is complementary, completing the sense of the verb "allow, permit." The accusative subject of the infinitive is thn oikian, "the house."


dia touto "so" - This causal construction serves to introduce an important proposition based on the previous verses, so inferential, "therefore", rather than causal, "for this reason", as NIV.

kai "[you] also" - and. Adjunctive, "also".

eJtoimoi adj. "must be ready" - [you] be ready. Predicate adjective. Further indicating that the sense of "watch" is "be prepared" - persevere in faith.

oJti "because" - that. Introducing a causal clause explaining why believers must be ready.

wJra/ (a) "at an hour" - [in which] hour [you do not think, the son of man comes]. Dative of time, "at a time when you are not expecting him."


ii] This second short teaching parable makes the point that the faithful and wise servant is at work in the master's household when he arrives, v45-51. This illustration serves to encourage faithful service as we await Christ's parousia. As noted above, the "work" is undefined. For the individual believer, the essential work is reliance / faith in the faithfulness of Christ. Such a "work" saves us, blesses rather than curses, and eternally so in the day of judgment, the day of Christ's "appearing / coming." Such a "work" guarantees that we will not be put out "with the hypocrites, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth." The fruit of faith (eg., love of the brotherhood, "making disciples of all nations") is a product of the "work", the imperfection of which is covered by the faithfulness of Christ and thus our eternal reward is not put at risk by the stain of the old Adam.

fronimoV adj. "wise" - [who then is the faithful and] thoughtful, sensible, intelligent [slave]. Nominative subject of the verb to-be.

katesthsen (kaqisthmi) aor. "has put in charge" - [whom the master] appointed. "Set over", TH.

epi + gen. "of" - upon, on [the slaves of the household of him]. Expressing subordination; "over".

dounai (didwmi) inf. "to give" - to give. The infinitive here expresses either purpose, or consequence, although often the difference becomes blurred, so "in order to give."

autoiV dat. "them" - to them [food]. Dative of indirect object.

en + dat. "at [the proper time]" - in [time]? Here adverbial, temporal, as NIV.


makarioV adj. "it will be good for" - blessed, happy [is the slave]. Predicate adjective.

autou gen. pro. "whose [master]" - [the master] of him [having come]. The genitive is adjectival, possessive, or idiomatic / subordination, "master over him."

poiounta (poiew) pres. part. "[finds him] doing" - [so finds whom] doing. The participle serves as the accusative complement of the direct object o}n, "whom", of the verb "to find."

ou{twV adv. "so" - Adverb of manner.

elqwn (ercomai) aor. part. "when he returns" - having come. The participle is adverbial, temporal, as NIV; "when he comes home", TEV.


amhn legw "I tell [you] the truth" - amen/truly I say [to you]. Serving to underline the statement that follows.

uJmin dat. pro. "to you" - Dative of indirect object.

oJti "-" - that. Introducing an object clause / dependent statement of indirect speech expressing the content of what the master will say.

epi + dat. "of [all]" - upon, on [all the possessions]. Expressing influence / control; "over all his possessions."

autou gen. pro. "his" - of him [he will appoint him]. The genitive is adjectival, possessive.

toiV uJparcousin (uJparcw) part. "possessions" - the possessions. The participle serves as a substantive; "everything he owns", NJB, "property", NEB, "over all his goods", Morris.


ean + subj. "[but] suppose" - [but/and] if, as the case may be, [this wicked slave says in the heart of him ......... (v49) ....... ](v50) then [the master of that slave will come on a day which he does not expect .......... (v51) ...........]. Introducing a conditional clause , 3rd class, where the proposed condition has the possibility of coming true, here as a hypothetical case. If the disciple is not prepared, then he will be caught out and punished accordingly.

oJ kakoV douloV ekeinoV "that servant is wicked" - that wicked servant. The change to a "wicked servant" in the context seems incongruous which is why some translations give the sense "but if he is a bad servant", ie., acts badly as described, then ......

en "to himself" - [says] in the heart of him. Locative, expressing space/sphere - inward reasoning.

mou gen. pro. "my [master]" - The genitive is adjectival, of subordination.

cronizei (cronizw) pres. "is staying away a long time" - is lingering, delaying, taking his time, not likely to come back for a long time. "If however, the watchman is untrustworthy, he mutters to himself, 'my master will not be back right away; and, maybe, he will never come back'", Junkins.


kai "and [he] then" - and. Coordinative; "if that wicked servant says ..... and he begins to beat ..... and (de) eats and (kai) he drinks ...."

arxhtai (arcomai) aor. subj. "he begins" - he begins. This subjunctive, as with the subjunctives eiph/, "says", v48, and esqih/, "eat", and pinh/, "drink", serve together to form the protasis of the conditional clause. Luke rightly has "eat" and "drink" as complementary infinitives to the verb "he begins", which is how we would express the clause in English, as does the NIV. "Starts beating the other servants", CEV.

tuptein (tuptw) inf. "to beat" - The infinitive is complementary, completing the sense of "begins"; "begins to mistreat / abuse / treat unlovingly."

touV sundoulouV (oV) "fellow servants" - the fellow slaves [of him]. "Fellow servants."

meta + gen. "with" - [and he eats and drinks] with. Expressing association; "in company with drunkards."

twn mequontwn (mequw) gen. pres. part. "drunkards" - the ones being drunk. The participle serves as a substantive.


oJ kurioV (oV) "the master" - the lord = the head of the home. Introducing the apodosis of the conditional clause commenced at v48.; "then the head of the home ...."

tou doulou (oV) gen. "of [that] servant" - The genitive is adjectival, of subordination.

en + dat. "on" - [will come] on [a day]. Temporal use of the preposition.

h|/ dat. "when" - which. Plummer argues that this is a case of the relative pronoun having been attracted by the dative "day" and so is not "by which", or "in which", but then as Culy notes, where the relative pronoun and its antecedent are governed by the same preposition, the preposition is omitted in the relative clause. So, en ... en h|/ = "on a day when ..... and at an hour when ...."

ou prosdoka/ (prosdokaw) "does not expect" - he does not expect [and at an hour which he does not know]. The master will come back unexpectedly. "When he least expects him and at an hour which he does not know", Cassirer.


dicotomhsei (dicotomew) fut. "he will cut [him] to pieces]" - [and] he will cut in two [him]. The phrase is used of slicing up a sacrificial victim. The language is strong, serving to make an impact, but probably too strong for Western ears; "that servant's master will return suddenly ...... and will punish him severely and send him off to share the penalty of the unfaithful - to his bitter sorrow and regret", Phillips.

qhsei (tiqhmi) fut. "assign" - [and] he will put, place [the portion of him with]. "Make him share the fate of", TEV. "Treat him the same way as", TH.

twn uJpokritwn (hV) "the hypocrites" - one who pretends to be other than he really is*. Nominative subject of the verb to-be. Luke has "unbelievers".

klauqmoV (oV) "weeping" - [there will be] loud crying. The anguish and suffering of the lost.

twn odontwn (wn ouV) gen. "teeth" - [and grinding] of teeth. The genitive is adjectival, attributive, "teeth grinding", or verbal, objective, "gnashing of teeth."


Matthew Introduction



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