‘The Faithful Slave’ Passes the Test!
“It is the appointed time for the judgment to start with the house of God.”—1 Peter 4:17.
1. What did Jesus encounter when he inspected the “slave”?
AT Pentecost 33 C.E., Jesus appointed a “slave” to provide food at the proper time for his “domestics.” In 1914, Jesus was enthroned as King, and soon it was time to inspect that “slave.” For the most part, he found that the “slave” had proved itself “faithful and discreet.” Hence, he appointed it “over all his belongings.” (Matthew 24:45-47) However, there was also an evil slave, who was neither faithful nor discreet.
“That Evil Slave”
2, 3. Where did “that evil slave” come from, and how did it develop?
2 Jesus spoke of the evil slave immediately after discussing “the faithful and discreet slave.” He said: “If ever that evil slave should say in his heart, ‘My master is delaying,’ and should start to beat his fellow slaves and should eat and drink with the confirmed drunkards, the master of that slave will come on a day that he does not expect and in an hour that he does not know, and will punish him with the greatest severity and will assign him his part with the hypocrites. There is where his weeping and the gnashing of his teeth will be.” (Matthew 24:48-51) The expression “that evil slave” draws our attention to Jesus’ preceding words about the faithful and discreet slave. Yes, the “evil slave” came from the ranks of the faithful slave.a How?
3 Before 1914, many members of the faithful slave class had high hopes of meeting with the Bridegroom in heaven that year, but their hopes were not fulfilled. As a result of this and other developments, many were disappointed and a few became embittered. Some of these turned to ‘beating’ their former brothers verbally and consorting with “confirmed drunkards,” religious groups of Christendom.—Isaiah 28:1-3; 32:6.
4. How did Jesus deal with the “evil slave” and with all who have shown the same spirit?
4 These former Christians came to be identified as the “evil slave,” and Jesus punished them with “the greatest severity.” How? He rejected them, and they lost out on their heavenly hope. They were not, however, immediately destroyed. They first had to endure a period of weeping and gnashing of teeth in “the darkness outside” the Christian congregation. (Matthew 8:12) Since those early days, a few other anointed individuals have shown a similar bad spirit, identifying themselves with the “evil slave.” Some of the “other sheep” have imitated their unfaithfulness. (John 10:16) All such enemies of the Christ end up in the same spiritual “darkness outside.”
5. How did the faithful and discreet slave react, in contrast with the “evil slave”?
5 Nonetheless, the faithful and discreet slave went through the same tests as “that evil slave.” Rather than becoming embittered, however, they were readjusted. (2 Corinthians 13:11) Their love for Jehovah and their brothers was strengthened. As a result, they have been “a pillar and support of the truth” during these tumultuous “last days.”—1 Timothy 3:15; 2 Timothy 3:1.
Discreet and Foolish Virgins
6. (a) How did Jesus illustrate the discretion of his faithful slave class? (b) Before 1914, what message did anointed Christians proclaim?
6 After speaking of “that evil slave,” Jesus gave two parables to show why some anointed Christians would prove to be faithful and discreet while others would not.b To illustrate discretion, he said: “The kingdom of the heavens will become like ten virgins that took their lamps and went out to meet the bridegroom. Five of them were foolish, and five were discreet. For the foolish took their lamps but took no oil with them, whereas the discreet took oil in their receptacles with their lamps.” (Matthew 25:1-4) The ten virgins remind us of anointed Christians before 1914. They had calculated that the bridegroom, Jesus Christ, was about to make an appearance. Hence, they “went out” to meet him, boldly preaching that “the appointed times of the nations” would end in 1914.—Luke 21:24.
7. When and why did anointed Christians ‘go to sleep,’ as it were?
7 They were correct. The appointed times of the nations did end in 1914, and God’s Kingdom under Christ Jesus went into operation. But that was in the invisible heavens. On earth, mankind began to suffer foretold “woe.” (Revelation 12:10, 12) A time of testing ensued. Not understanding things clearly, anointed Christians thought that “the bridegroom was delaying.” Confused and facing hostility from the world, generally they slowed down and virtually stopped the organized public preaching work. Like the virgins in the parable, spiritually speaking they “nodded and went to sleep,” even as unfaithful professed Christians did after Jesus’ apostles died.—Matthew 25:5; Revelation 11:7, 8; 12:17.
8. What led to the cry: “Here is the bridegroom!” and what was it time for anointed Christians to do?
8 Then in 1919 something unexpected happened. We read: “Right in the middle of the night there arose a cry, ‘Here is the bridegroom! Be on your way out to meet him.’ Then all those virgins rose and put their lamps in order.” (Matthew 25:6, 7) Just when things seemed darkest, there was a call to get active! In 1918, Jesus, “the messenger of the covenant,” had come to Jehovah’s spiritual temple to inspect and cleanse God’s congregation. (Malachi 3:1) Now, anointed Christians needed to go out and meet him in the earthly courtyards of that temple. It was time for them to “shed forth light.”—Isaiah 60:1; Philippians 2:14, 15.
9, 10. In 1919, why were some Christians “discreet” and some “foolish”?
9 But wait! In the parable, some of the young women had a problem. Jesus continued: “The foolish said to the discreet, ‘Give us some of your oil, because our lamps are about to go out.’” (Matthew 25:8) Without oil, the lamps would not give light. Lamp oil thus reminds us of God’s Word of truth and his holy spirit, which empower true worshipers to be light bearers. (Psalm 119:130; Daniel 5:14) Before 1919, discreet anointed Christians had diligently sought to discern God’s will for them, despite their temporary weakened state. Hence, when the call came to give forth light, they were ready.—2 Timothy 4:2; Hebrews 10:24, 25.
10 Certain anointed ones, however, were unprepared to make sacrifices or expend personal effort—although they earnestly desired to be with the Bridegroom. So when it was time to get active in preaching the good news, they were not ready. (Matthew 24:14) They even tried to slow down their zealous companions, asking, in effect, for some of their oil supply. In Jesus’ parable, how did the discreet virgins respond? They said: “Perhaps there may not be quite enough for us and you. Be on your way, instead, to those who sell it and buy for yourselves.” (Matthew 25:9) Similarly, loyal anointed Christians in 1919 refused to do anything that would diminish their own capacity to bear light. Thus, they passed inspection.
11. What happened to the foolish virgins?
11 Jesus concludes: “While [the foolish virgins] were going off to buy, the bridegroom arrived, and the virgins that were ready went in with him to the marriage feast; and the door was shut. Afterwards the rest of the virgins also came, saying, ‘Sir, sir, open to us!’ In answer he said, ‘I tell you the truth, I do not know you.’” (Matthew 25:10-12) Yes, some were unprepared for the Bridegroom’s arrival. Thus, they failed inspection and lost the opportunity to attend the heavenly marriage feast. How tragic!
The Parable of the Talents
12. (a) What did Jesus use to illustrate faithfulness? (b) Who was the man who “went abroad”?
12 After illustrating discretion, Jesus went on to illustrate faithfulness. He said: “It is just as when a man, about to travel abroad, summoned slaves of his and committed to them his belongings. And to one he gave five talents, to another two, to still another one, to each one according to his own ability, and he went abroad.” (Matthew 25:14, 15) The man in the parable is Jesus himself, who “went abroad” when he ascended to heaven in the year 33 C.E. But before his ascension, Jesus committed “his belongings” to his faithful disciples. How?
13. How did Jesus prepare a large field of activity and authorize his “slaves” to do business?
13 During his earthly ministry, Jesus began to prepare a large field of activity by preaching the good news of the Kingdom throughout the land of Israel. (Matthew 9:35-38) Before he “went abroad,” he entrusted that field to his faithful disciples, saying: “Go therefore and make disciples of people of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the holy spirit, teaching them to observe all the things I have commanded you.” (Matthew 28:18-20) With these words, Jesus authorized his “slaves” to do business until his return, “each one according to his own ability.”
14. Why were not all expected to do the same amount of business?
14 That expression indicates that not all first-century Christians had equal circumstances or possibilities. Some, like Paul and Timothy, were free to have the fullest possible share in the preaching and teaching work. The circumstances of others may have severely limited their freedom of action. For example, some Christians were slaves, and others were sickly, advanced in age, or had family responsibilities. Of course, certain congregation privileges were not open to all disciples. Anointed women and some anointed men did not teach in the congregation. (1 Corinthians 14:34; 1 Timothy 3:1; James 3:1) Still, whatever their personal situation, all of Christ’s anointed disciples—men and women—were assigned to engage in business, making good use of their opportunities and circumstances in the Christian ministry. Their modern-day counterparts do the same.
Inspection Time Begins!
15, 16. (a) When was it time to settle accounts? (b) What new opportunities to ‘do business’ were granted to faithful ones?
15 The parable continues: “After a long time the master of those slaves came and settled accounts with them.” (Matthew 25:19) In 1914—certainly a long time after 33 C.E.—Christ Jesus began his royal presence. Three and a half years later, in 1918, he came to God’s spiritual temple and fulfilled Peter’s words: “It is the appointed time for the judgment to start with the house of God.” (1 Peter 4:17; Malachi 3:1) It was time to settle accounts.
16 What had the slaves, Jesus’ anointed brothers, done with the King’s “talents”? From 33 C.E. onward, including the years leading up to 1914, many had been working hard at Jesus’ “business.” (Matthew 25:16) Even during the first world war, they had shown a strong desire to serve the Master. Now it was fitting to give faithful ones new opportunities to ‘do business.’ The time of the end of this system of things had arrived. The good news had to be preached worldwide. “The harvest of the earth” had to be reaped. (Revelation 14:6, 7, 14-16) The final members of the wheat class had to be located and “a great crowd” of other sheep gathered in.—Revelation 7:9; Matthew 13:24-30.
17. How did faithful anointed Christians ‘enter into the joy of their master’?
17 Harvesttime is a joyful time. (Psalm 126:6) It is fitting, then, that when in 1919, Jesus entrusted his faithful anointed brothers with increased responsibility, he said: “You were faithful over a few things. I will appoint you over many things. Enter into the joy of your master.” (Matthew 25:21, 23) Moreover, the joy of the Master as newly enthroned King of God’s Kingdom surpasses our imagination. (Psalm 45:1, 2, 6, 7) The faithful slave class share that joy by representing the King and increasing his interests on earth. (2 Corinthians 5:20) Their delight is seen in the prophetic words of Isaiah 61:10: “Without fail I shall exult in Jehovah. My soul will be joyful in my God. For he has clothed me with the garments of salvation.”
18. Why did some not pass inspection, and with what result?
18 Sadly, some did not pass inspection. We read: “The one that had received the one talent came forward and said, ‘Master, I knew you to be an exacting man, reaping where you did not sow and gathering where you did not winnow. So I grew afraid and went off and hid your talent in the ground. Here you have what is yours.’” (Matthew 25:24, 25) Similarly, some anointed Christians had not engaged in “business.” Before 1914 they had not enthusiastically shared their hope with others, and they did not want to start in 1919. How did Jesus respond to their insolence? He took away all their privileges. They were ‘thrown out into the darkness outside, where their weeping and the gnashing of their teeth would be.’—Matthew 25:28, 30.
The Inspection Continues
19. In what way does the inspection process continue, and what are all anointed Christians determined to do?
19 Of course, the majority of those who were to become Christ’s anointed slaves during the time of the end were not yet serving Jehovah when Jesus began his inspection in 1918. Did they miss out on the inspection? Not at all. The inspection process only began in 1918/19 when the faithful and discreet slave as a class passed the test. Individual anointed Christians continue under inspection until their sealing is made permanent. (Revelation 7:1-3) Realizing this, Christ’s anointed brothers are determined to keep on faithfully ‘doing business.’ They are determined to be discreet, keeping an abundant oil supply so that the light will shine brightly. They know that when each one reaches the end of his life course in faithfulness, Jesus will receive him into the heavenly dwelling place.—Matthew 24:13; John 14:2-4; 1 Corinthians 15:50, 51.
20. (a) What are the other sheep today determined to do? (b) Of what are anointed Christians aware?
20 The great crowd of other sheep have imitated their anointed brothers. They are aware that their knowledge of God’s purposes brings great responsibility. (Ezekiel 3:17-21) Hence, with the help of Jehovah’s Word and holy spirit, they too keep their oil supply abundant through study and association. And they let their light shine, sharing in the work of preaching and teaching and thus ‘doing business’ along with their anointed brothers. However, anointed Christians are keenly aware that the talents were placed in their hands. They must render an account for the way the Lord’s belongings on earth are administered. Even though they are few in number, they cannot abdicate their responsibility to the great crowd. With this in mind, the faithful and discreet slave continues to take the lead in caring for the King’s business, grateful for the support of devoted members of the great crowd. These recognize the responsibility of their anointed brothers and feel privileged to work under their oversight.
21. What exhortation applies to all Christians from before 1919 down to our day?
21 Thus, although these two parables shed light on events in 1919 or thereabouts, they apply in principle to all true Christians throughout the last days. In this way, while the exhortation that Jesus gave at the end of the parable of the ten virgins applies in the first place to anointed Christians before 1919, in principle it still applies to every Christian. May all of us, then, take to heart Jesus’ words: “Keep on the watch, therefore, because you know neither the day nor the hour.”—Matthew 25:13.
a In a comparable way, after the death of the apostles, “oppressive wolves” came from the ranks of anointed Christian elders.—Acts 20:29, 30.
b For another discussion of Jesus’ parable, see Worldwide Security Under the “Prince of Peace,” published by Jehovah’s Witnesses, chapters 5 and 6.
Can You Explain?
• When did Jesus inspect his followers, and what did he find?
• Why did some anointed Christians develop the spirit of “that evil slave”?
• How can we show ourselves to be spiritually discreet?
• Imitating Jesus’ faithful anointed brothers, in what way can we keep ‘doing business’?
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WHEN DOES JESUS COME?
In Matthew chapters 24 and 25, Jesus is said to “come” in different senses. He does not need to move physically in order to “come.” Rather, he “comes” in the sense of turning his attention to mankind or to his followers, often for judgment. Thus, in 1914 he “came” to begin his presence as enthroned King. (Matthew 16:28; 17:1; Acts 1:11) In 1918 he “came” as messenger of the covenant and began judging those claiming to serve Jehovah. (Malachi 3:1-3; 1 Peter 4:17) At Armageddon, he will “come” to execute judgment on Jehovah’s enemies.—Revelation 19:11-16.
The coming (or, arriving) referred to a number of times at Matthew 24:29-44 and 25:31-46 is at “the great tribulation.” (Revelation 7:14) On the other hand, the coming referred to a number of times at Matthew 24:45 to 25:30 has to do with his judging professed disciples from 1918 onward. It would not be reasonable to say, for example, that the rewarding of the faithful slave, the judgment of the foolish virgins, and the judgment of the sluggish slave, who hid the Master’s talent, will take place when Jesus “comes” at the great tribulation. That would imply that many of the anointed will be found unfaithful at that time and will thus have to be replaced. However, Revelation 7:3 indicates that all of Christ’s anointed slaves will have been permanently “sealed” by that time.
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The “evil slave” received no blessings in 1919
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The wise virgins were ready when the bridegroom arrived
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The faithful slaves had engaged in “business”
The sluggish slave had not
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The anointed and the “great crowd” continue to let their light shine