Chapter 8: Matthew 24–25; Joseph Smith—Matthew

New Testament Student Manual, 2014


Introduction and Timeline for Matthew 24–25; Joseph Smith—Matthew

Chapters 24–25 of Matthew contain what is sometimes called the Olivet Discourse, so named because the Savior delivered it on the Mount of Olives. After spending much of the final week of His mortal ministry teaching at the temple, Jesus looked back on the temple and its surrounding structures and prophesied: “I say unto you, There shall not be left here one stone upon another, that shall not be thrown down” (Matthew 24:2; Joseph Smith—Matthew 1:3). Peter, James, John, and Andrew later approached Jesus privately with two questions: (1) “When shall these things be?”—referring to the destruction of the temple; and (2) “What shall be the sign of thy coming, and of the end of the world?” (Matthew 24:3; see also Mark 13:3–4). In Matthew 24 and Joseph Smith—Matthew, you will study the Savior’s response to these two questions.

lesson 8 timeline

Commentary for Matthew 24–25; Joseph Smith—Matthew

Joseph Smith—Matthew; Matthew 24. Comparison of Matthew 24 and Joseph Smith—Matthew

After Jesus Christ prophesied the destruction of the temple and the city of Jerusalem, His disciples asked Him two questions (see Matthew 24:3; Joseph Smith—Matthew 1:4). In Matthew’s account it is sometimes difficult to determine which question Jesus answered in which verses. However, the changes found in the Joseph Smith Translation of Matthew 24, known as Joseph Smith—Matthew in the Pearl of Great Price, clearly separate the answers to the two questions. The Savior’s answer to the disciples’ first question about the destruction of Jerusalem is found in Joseph Smith—Matthew 1:5–21, and His answer to their question about the Second Coming and the end of the world is found in Joseph Smith—Matthew 1:22–55.

Jerusalem temple

My Father’s House, by Al Rounds. The Jerusalem temple is depicted as seen from the Mount of Olives, with the Garden of Gethsemane in the foreground.

Joseph Smith—Matthew 1:2–4; Matthew 24:1–3. Destruction of the Temple and of Jerusalem

As described in these verses, the Savior prophesied that the temple in Jerusalem would be destroyed, a prophecy that was fulfilled about 40 years later when the Jews were fighting for freedom from their Roman rulers. In A.D. 70, after months of intense fighting between the Roman army and Jewish rebels, the rebels took refuge within the walls of Jerusalem, and the Romans laid siege to the city. The famine and hunger that followed were so severe that some resorted to cannibalism. Any Jew caught trying to escape was crucified in front of the walls of the city for all inside to see.

The Jewish historian Flavius Josephus described the destruction and violence that occurred when the Roman army finally broke into the city and set the temple on fire:

“While the temple blazed, the victors plundered everything that fell in their way and slaughtered wholesale all who were caught. No pity was shown for age, no reverence for rank; children and greybeards, laity and priests, alike were massacred; every class was pursued and encompassed in the grasp of war. … There were the war-cries of the Roman legions sweeping onward in mass, the howls of the rebels encircled by fire and sword, the rush of the people who, cut off from above, fled panic-stricken only to fall into the arms of the foe. … You would indeed have thought that the temple-hill was boiling over from its base, being everywhere one mass of flame, but yet that the stream of blood was more copious than the flames and the slain more numerous than the slayers” (Josephus, The Jewish War, trans. H. St. J. Thackeray, Loeb Classical Library [Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1928], 257).

In the end, the magnificent temple was destroyed and has not been rebuilt since. Josephus estimated that 1,100,000 Jews perished in the conflict.

sculpture depicting objects from temple

Detail from the Arch of Titus in Rome. This arch depicts Roman soldiers carrying objects from the temple of Jerusalem. The Arch of Titus was built in A.D. 81 to commemorate the destruction of Jerusalem and the temple by the Roman general Titus and his armies. As prophesied by Jesus Christ, not one stone of the temple was left standing on another (see Matthew 24:2).

Photograph by Richard L. W. Cleave

Joseph Smith—Matthew 1:4; Matthew 24:3. What Is “the End of the World”?

Part of the second question that the disciples asked the Savior included the phrase “the end of the world.” The Prophet Joseph Smith (1805–44) explained the meaning of this phrase while commenting on the parable of the wheat and the tares (see Matthew 13:36–43): “According to [the Savior’s] language, the end of the world is the destruction of the wicked; the harvest and the end of the world have an allusion directly to the human family in the last days, instead of the earth, as many have imagined” (Teachings of Presidents of the Church: Joseph Smith [2007], 300). Thus, the end of the world is not the end of the earth but the end of wickedness.

Joseph Smith—Matthew 1:5–6, 9, 22; Matthew 24:4–5, 11, 24. “Take Heed That No Man Deceive You”

Many of the Savior’s prophecies about the destruction of Jerusalem can also apply to our day, when we are preparing for the Second Coming of the Savior (see Joseph Smith—Matthew 1:5–21). The Savior taught that false Christs and false prophets would arise and would “deceive many … if possible,” including, as recorded in verse 22, “the very elect, who are the elect according to the covenant.”

The term elect refers to “those who love God with all their hearts and live lives that are pleasing to Him” (Guide to the Scriptures, “Elect”; scriptures.lds.org). In some instances, it refers more specifically to baptized members of the Church. President Harold B. Lee (1899–1973) taught that “‘according to the covenant’ means members of the Church of Jesus Christ” (The Teachings of Harold B. Lee, ed. Clyde J. Williams [1996], 401; see also D&C 29:7; 33:6).

Much of what Jesus taught in the Olivet Discourse was to prepare His disciples, both then and now, so they would not be deceived and overcome by evil. Elder M. Russell Ballard of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, while commenting on these prophecies made by the Savior, cautioned Church members not to accept unauthorized teachings:

video icon“As Apostles of the Lord Jesus Christ, it is our duty to be watchmen on the tower, warning Church members to beware of false prophets and false teachers who lie in wait to ensnare and destroy faith and testimony. Today we warn you that there are false prophets and false teachers arising; and if we are not careful, even those who are among the faithful members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints will fall victim to their deception.

“President Joseph F. Smith gave wise and clear counsel that applies to us today:

“‘We can accept nothing as authoritative but that which comes directly through the appointed channel, the constituted organizations of the priesthood, which is the channel that God has appointed through which to make known His mind and will to the world. … And the moment that individuals look to any other source, that moment they throw themselves open to the seductive influences of Satan. … Whenever you see a man rise up claiming to have received direct revelation from the Lord to the Church, independent of the order and channel of the priesthood, you may set him down as an impostor’ (Gospel Doctrine, 5th ed. [1939], 42)” (“Beware of False Prophets and False Teachers,” Ensign, Nov. 1999, 62).

Joseph Smith—Matthew 1:11. “Remaineth Steadfast”

The Savior taught that in the perilous times that were coming for the Jews in Jerusalem, those who remained “steadfast” would be saved. This teaching applies to our day as well. Elder David A. Bednar of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles defined what it means to be steadfast:

“A person who is steadfast and immovable is solid, firm, resolute, firmly secured, and incapable of being diverted from a primary purpose or mission. …

“A building or structure that is stable and immovable must be built upon a strong foundation. If you and I desire to become steadfast and immovable disciples of the Master, we must build appropriately and effectively upon Him as our foundation. …

“As we become more spiritually mature and increasingly steadfast and immovable, we focus upon and strive to understand the fundamental and foundational doctrines of the restored gospel of Jesus Christ. Disciples who are steadfast and immovable do not become fanatics or extremists, are not overzealous, and are not preoccupied with misguided gospel hobbies” (“Steadfast and Immovable, Always Abounding in Good Works,” New Era, Jan. 2008, 2, 4–5).

Joseph Smith—Matthew 1:12–20, 31–32; Matthew 24:15–22. What Is the “Abomination of Desolation”?

The Bible Dictionary helps us understand what “abomination of desolation” means:

“Daniel spoke prophetically of a day when there would be ‘the abomination that maketh desolate’ (Dan. 11:31; 12:11), and the phrase was recoined in New Testament times to say ‘the abomination of desolation, spoken of by Daniel the prophet’ (Matt. 24:15).

“Conditions of desolation, born of abomination and wickedness, were to occur twice in fulfillment of Daniel’s words. The first was to be when the Roman legions under Titus, in A.D. 70, laid siege to Jerusalem (Matt. 24:15; JS—M 1:12).

“Speaking of the last days, of the days following the Restoration of the gospel and its declaration ‘for a witness unto all nations,’ our Lord said: ‘And again shall the abomination of desolation, spoken of by Daniel the prophet, be fulfilled’ (JS—M 1:31–32). That is, Jerusalem again will be under siege.

“In a general sense, abomination of desolation also describes the latter-day judgments to be poured out upon the wicked wherever they may be. And so that the honest in heart may escape these things, the Lord sends His servants forth to raise the warning voice, to declare the glad tidings of the Restoration, lest ‘desolation and utter abolishment’ come upon them [D&C 84:114]” (Bible Dictionary, “Abomination of desolation”).

Destruction of Jerusalem

Destruction of Jerusalem, by Gary L. Kapp

Joseph Smith—Matthew 1:12; Matthew 24:15. “Stand in the Holy Place”

Elder Bruce R. McConkie (1915–85) of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, referring to the events leading up to the destruction of Jerusalem in A.D. 70, stated that “the counsel that the saints should then ‘stand in the holy place’ meant that they should assemble together where they could receive prophetic guidance that would preserve them from the desolations of the day” (The Mortal Messiah: From Bethlehem to Calvary, 4 vols. [1979–81], 3:430).

Modern scriptures refer to standing in “holy places” (D&C 87:8; 101:22). President Ezra Taft Benson (1899–1994) noted that today, “holy places consist of our temples, our chapels, our homes, and stakes of Zion, which are, as the Lord declares, ‘for a defense, and for a refuge from the storm, and from wrath when it shall be poured out without mixture upon the whole earth’ (D&C 115:6)” (The Teachings of Ezra Taft Benson [1988], 106).

While serving in the Presidency of the Seventy, Elder Dennis B. Neuenschwander similarly noted: “For Latter-day Saints, such holy places include … our homes, sacrament meetings, and temples. Much of what we reverence, and what we teach our children to reverence as holy and sacred, is reflected in these places. The faith and reverence associated with them and the respect we have for what transpires or has transpired in them make them holy” (“Holy Place, Sacred Space,” Ensign or Liahona, May 2003, 71).

Joseph Smith—Matthew 1:13–20; Matthew 24:16–22. “Flee into the Mountains”

Prior to the Roman siege of Jerusalem in A.D. 70, Christians living in Jerusalem remembered that the Savior had warned, “Then let them who are in Judea flee into the mountains,” and they fled to a city called Pella in the northern foothills of the Jordan Valley. Though the Jews living in Jerusalem experienced starvation and eventual destruction during the Roman siege, those who heeded the Savior’s warning safely escaped.

The Savior’s prophecy recorded in Matthew 24:16–22 refers both to the great tribulation suffered by the Jews in A.D. 70 and to great tribulations in the latter days. In A.D. 70, things became so bad that if the Lord had not intervened and shortened those tribulations, the Jewish people would have been annihilated. The Lord’s intervention will also be necessary in the last days in order for His people to survive.

Joseph Smith—Matthew 1:22; Matthew 24:24. “If Possible, They Shall Deceive the Very Elect”

Joseph Smith—Matthew 1:21–22 signals the transition from events associated with the destruction of Jerusalem to signs that will precede the Second Coming and the preparation the Saints must make to remain faithful during the last days. Many of the Savior’s warnings on the Mount of Olives were given to help the elect avoid being deceived during this time.

The phrase “if possible” suggests that if the elect are going to avoid being deceived, they must keep their covenants and hearken to the word of the Lord. Elder M. Russell Ballard shared an experience illustrating how a Church member overcame deception:

“One of my fine missionaries who served with me when I was the mission president in Toronto came to see me some years later. I asked him, ‘Elder, how can I help you?’

“‘President,’ he said, ‘I think I’m losing my testimony.’

“I couldn’t believe it. I asked him how that could be possible.

“‘For the first time I have read some anti-Mormon literature,’ he said. ‘I have some questions, and nobody will answer them for me. I am confused, and I think I am losing my testimony.’

“I asked him what his questions were, and he told me. They were the standard anti-Church issues, but I wanted a little time to gather materials so I could provide meaningful answers. So we set up an appointment 10 days later, at which time I told him I would answer every one of his questions. As he started to leave, I stopped him.

“‘Elder, you’ve asked me several questions here today,’ I said. ‘Now I have one for you.’

“‘Yes, President?’

“‘How long has it been since you read from the Book of Mormon?’ I asked.

“His eyes dropped. He looked at the floor for a while. Then he looked at me. ‘It’s been a long time, President,’ he confessed.

“‘All right,’ I said. ‘You have given me my assignment. It’s only fair that I give you yours. I want you to promise me that you will read in the Book of Mormon for at least one hour every day between now and our next appointment.’ He agreed that he would do that.

“Ten days later he returned to my office, and I was ready. I pulled out my papers to start answering his questions, but he stopped me.

“‘President,’ he said, ‘that isn’t going to be necessary.’ Then he explained: ‘I know that the Book of Mormon is true. I know Joseph Smith is a prophet of God.’

“‘Well, that’s great,’ I said. ‘But you’re going to get answers to your questions anyway. I worked a long time on this, so you just sit there and listen.’

“And so I answered all his questions and then asked, ‘Elder, what have you learned from this?’

“And he said, ‘Give the Lord equal time.’

“May we engrave that thought on our minds and carry it with us as we walk through this process of mortality. Let us give the Lord equal time” (“When Shall These Things Be?” Ensign, Dec. 1996, 60).

Joseph Smith—Matthew 1:23; Matthew 24:6. “See That Ye Be Not Troubled”

Some of the events that will precede the Second Coming—including “wars, and rumors of wars”—sound ominous, but the Lord counseled, “Be not troubled, for all I have told you must come to pass” (Joseph Smith—Matthew 1:23). This counsel teaches that the signs of the times need not bring us only fear, but they can also provide assurance that the Lord is in control and that prophecy is being fulfilled. During a time of economic and social turmoil, when many people were troubled about the future, President Thomas S. Monson encouraged Latter-day Saints:

“Though the storm clouds may gather, though the rains may pour down upon us, our knowledge of the gospel and our love of our Heavenly Father and of our Savior will comfort and sustain us and bring joy to our hearts as we walk uprightly and keep the commandments. There will be nothing in this world that can defeat us.

“My beloved brothers and sisters, fear not. Be of good cheer. The future is as bright as your faith” (“Be of Good Cheer,” Ensign or Liahona, May 2009, 92).

Joseph Smith—Matthew 1:27; Matthew 24:28. “Wheresoever the Carcass Is, There Will the Eagles Be Gathered Together”

The Savior taught that one of the signs of the times would be the establishment of His Church and the gathering of the Saints to it from around the world: “And now I show unto you a parable. Behold, wheresoever the carcass is, there will the eagles be gathered together; so likewise shall mine elect be gathered from the four quarters of the earth” (Joseph Smith—Matthew 1:27). Elder Bruce R. McConkie taught: “In the parable, as here given, the carcass is the body of the Church to which the eagles, who are Israel, shall fly to find nourishment” (Doctrinal New Testament Commentary, 3 vols. [1965–73], 1:648).

church meeting in Africa

Elder Dallin H. Oaks of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles discussed how Saints today are blessed as they gather in stakes throughout the world: “With the creation of stakes and the construction of temples in most nations with sizeable populations of the faithful, the current commandment is not to gather to one place but to gather in stakes in our own homelands. There the faithful can enjoy the full blessings of eternity in a house of the Lord. There, in their own homelands, they can obey the Lord’s command to enlarge the borders of His people and strengthen her stakes (see D&C 101:21; 133:9, 14). In this way, the stakes of Zion are ‘for a defense, and for a refuge from the storm, and from wrath when it shall be poured out without mixture upon the whole earth’ (D&C 115:6)” (“Preparation for the Second Coming,” Ensign or Liahona, May 2004, 8).

Joseph Smith—Matthew 1:28–29; Matthew 24:7. Earthquakes and Other Natural Disasters in Various Places

The Savior’s teachings in the scriptures indicate there will be an increase in wars and rumors of wars and also in natural disasters as His Second Coming approaches; the scriptures also teach that these have a purpose (see D&C 43:25–26; 88:88–90). President Joseph F. Smith (1838–1918) explained some of these purposes: “We believe that these severe, natural calamities are visited upon men by the Lord for the good of his children, to quicken their devotion to others, and to bring out their better natures, that they may love and serve him. We believe, further, that they are the heralds and tokens of his final judgment, and the schoolmasters to teach the people to prepare themselves by righteous living for the coming of the Savior to reign upon the earth” (Teachings of Presidents of the Church: Joseph F. Smith [1998], 393). As Samuel the Lamanite told the people of his day, these events are foretold “that ye might know of the signs of his coming, to the intent that ye might believe on his name” (Helaman 14:12).

earthquake damage

Earthquakes will be in diverse places, such as this one in Haiti.

Joseph Smith—Matthew 1:30; Matthew 24:12–13. Iniquity Shall Abound before the Savior’s Return

Jesus warned that because of the great iniquity of the world, “the love of men shall wax cold” (Joseph Smith—Matthew 1:30). This is one of the promised signs of our time. President Ezra Taft Benson declared: “We constantly hear or read of wars and rumors of wars. Atheism, agnosticism, immorality, and dishonesty are flaunted in our society. Desertion, cruelty, divorce, and infidelity have become commonplace, leading to a disintegration of the family. Truly we live in the times of which the Savior spoke, when ‘the love of men shall wax cold, and iniquity shall abound’ [D&C 45:27]” (Come unto Christ [1983], 111–12).

Joseph Smith—Matthew 1:31; Matthew 24:14. The Gospel of the Kingdom “Preached in All the World”

Numerous latter-day scriptures affirm that in the last days the gospel will go to the four corners of the earth—to every nation, kindred, tongue, and people (see Mosiah 3:20; D&C 133:37). Many obstacles must be overcome before this can happen. However, as Elder M. Russell Ballard pointed out, these changes may occur quickly: “This work is moving; it is beginning to cover the earth. While it is true that many of our Heavenly Father’s children have never had the opportunity to hear the message of the Restoration, it is also true that the circumstances preventing them from receiving the gospel could quickly change” (“When Shall These Things Be?” 60).

Joseph Smith—Matthew 1:36; Matthew 24:30. “The Sign of the Son of Man”

The Prophet Joseph Smith stated: “Then will appear one grand sign of the Son of Man in heaven. But what will the world do? They will say it is a planet, a comet, etc. But the Son of Man will come as the sign of the coming of the Son of Man, which will be as the light of the morning cometh out of the east” (Teachings: Joseph Smith, 252–53).

Joseph Smith—Matthew 1:37. “Whoso Treasureth Up My Word, Shall Not Be Deceived”

From the Savior’s words, it is evident that placing a high priority on the word of God will be critical in overcoming the deceptions of the last days. Commenting on this scripture passage, Elder Bruce R. McConkie discussed what it means to treasure up the Lord’s word: “It is not sufficient merely to know what the scripture says. One must treasure it up, meaning take it into his possession so affirmatively that it becomes a part of his very being; as a consequence, … one actually receives the companionship of the Spirit” (Doctrinal New Testament Commentary, 1:662).

young woman reading scriptures

President Harold B. Lee noted that some Church members seek information from unreliable sources concerning the signs that will precede the Second Coming. He specifically recommended that Church members study Matthew 24; Joseph Smith—Matthew; and Doctrine and Covenants sections 38, 45, 101, and 133. President Lee then stated: “These are some of the writings with which you should concern yourselves, rather than commentaries that may come from those whose information may not be the most reliable and whose motives may be subject to question” (“Admonitions for the Priesthood of God,” Ensign, Jan. 1973, 106).

Joseph Smith—Matthew 1:38–40; Matthew 24:36. No Man Knows the Time of His Coming

Though Jesus has not revealed the time when He will come again, He has used the analogies of the fig tree (see Matthew 24:32–33; Joseph Smith—Matthew 1:38–39) and a woman in travail (see 1 Thessalonians 5:3) to assure us that we can know when His coming is near. By using the analogy of the fig tree, Jesus refrained from specifying the exact day or the hour when He would return, but He taught that He would return in the season when the promised signs are shown. Commenting on the timing of the Second Coming of Jesus Christ, Elder M. Russell Ballard stated:

“I am called as one of the Apostles to be a special witness of Christ in these exciting, trying times, and I do not know when He is going to come again. As far as I know, none of my brethren in the Quorum of the Twelve or even in the First Presidency knows. And I would humbly suggest that if we do not know, then nobody knows. … The Savior said that ‘of that day, and hour, no one knoweth; no, not the angels of God in heaven, but my Father only’ (JST, Matt. 1:40).

“I believe that when the Lord says ‘no one’ knows, He really means that no one knows” (“When Shall These Things Be?” 56).

Joseph Smith—Matthew 1:41–43; Matthew 24:37. “As It Was in the Days of Noah”

The days of Noah were “corrupt before God” and “filled with violence” (Genesis 6:11–12; Moses 8:28). Elder Joseph B. Wirthlin (1917–2008) of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles affirmed this comparison between the days of Noah and the last days: “In terms of the sin, evil, and wickedness upon the earth, we could liken our time to the days of Noah before the flood” (“Our Lord and Savior,” Ensign, Nov. 1993, 5). Furthermore, as in the days of Noah, many people will be living their everyday lives and ignore the warnings of the prophets and the signs leading up to the destruction of the wicked.

Joseph Smith—Matthew 1:44–45; Matthew 24:40–41. “One Shall Be Taken, and the Other Left”

The Apostle Paul wrote that at the Second Coming of Jesus Christ, “the dead in Christ shall rise,” and the Saints who are alive upon the earth “shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord” (1 Thessalonians 4:16–17; see also D&C 27:18; 76:102; 88:96; 109:75). On the other hand, “all the proud and they that do wickedly” will not abide the Lord’s coming, which will cleanse the earth by fire (D&C 64:24; see also Malachi 3:2; 4:1; D&C 101:24–25).

Joseph Smith—Matthew 1:46–54; Matthew 24:42–51. Being Prepared for the Second Coming

As recorded in Matthew 24:42–51, the Savior taught His disciples to be watchful and ready for His coming. In modern revelation we are told that if we are prepared, we need not fear (see D&C 38:30). Elder Dallin H. Oaks encouraged us to be prepared always for the Second Coming:

video icon“While we are powerless to alter the fact of the Second Coming and unable to know its exact time, we can accelerate our own preparation and try to influence the preparation of those around us. …

“What if the day of His coming were tomorrow? If we knew that we would meet the Lord tomorrow—through our premature death or through His unexpected coming—what would we do today? What confessions would we make? What practices would we discontinue? What accounts would we settle? What forgivenesses would we extend? What testimonies would we bear?

“If we would do those things then, why not now? Why not seek peace while peace can be obtained? If our lamps of preparation are drawn down, let us start immediately to replenish them” (“Preparation for the Second Coming,” 8–9).

Matthew 25. Three Parables of Preparation

Matthew 25 is a continuation of the Savior’s teaching on the Mount of Olives. The three parables in Matthew 25 each teach how to be prepared to meet the Lord when He comes again.

Matthew 25

Parable

Main Message

Verses 1–13

Ten virgins

Prepare spiritually for the Second Coming.

Verses 14–30

Talents

We are accountable to the Lord for what we have done with spiritual gifts. He will reward us for developing those gifts.

Verses 31–46

Sheep and goats

The Lord will judge each of us. Those who have faithfully served their fellowman will sit on “his right hand.”

Matthew 25:1–13. Parable of the Ten Virgins

The parable of the ten virgins alludes to several Jewish wedding customs. Traditionally, the bridegroom, accompanied by his close friends, would go at night to the bride’s house. Following the completion of the wedding ceremonies there, the wedding party would proceed to the groom’s house for a feast. Wedding guests who joined the procession were expected to carry their own lamps or torches. The “bridegroom” in this parable represents the Savior (see Matthew 9:15; John 3:28–29), and His arrival with the wedding procession represents His Second Coming. The tarrying of the bridegroom teaches that the Lord has His own timetable for His Second Coming.

Parable of the Ten Virgins

Parable of the Ten Virgins, by Dan Burr

Elder Dallin H. Oaks spoke about the ten virgins who had been invited to join the wedding party: “The ten virgins obviously represent members of Christ’s Church, for all were invited to the wedding feast and all knew what was required to be admitted when the bridegroom came. But only half were ready when he came” (“Preparation for the Second Coming,” 8).

The oil in this parable represents spiritual preparation. In reference to the parable of the ten virgins, the Lord revealed to the Prophet Joseph Smith:

“And at that day, when I shall come in my glory, shall the parable be fulfilled which I spake concerning the ten virgins.

“For they that are wise and have received the truth, and have taken the Holy Spirit for their guide, and have not been deceived—verily I say unto you, they shall not be hewn down and cast into the fire, but shall abide the day.

“And the earth shall be given unto them for an inheritance” (D&C 45:56–58; see also D&C 63:54).

President Spencer W. Kimball (1899–1985) discussed what the oil symbolizes and why it cannot be shared with those who are foolish:

“The kind of oil that is needed to illuminate the way and light up the darkness is not shareable. How can one share obedience to the principle of tithing; a mind at peace from righteous living; an accumulation of knowledge? How can one share faith or testimony? How can one share attitudes or chastity, or the experience of a mission? How can one share temple privileges? Each must obtain that kind of oil for himself. …

“In the parable, oil can be purchased at the market. In our lives the oil of preparedness is accumulated drop by drop in righteous living. Attendance at sacrament meetings adds oil to our lamps, drop by drop over the years. Fasting, family prayer, home teaching, control of bodily appetites, preaching the gospel, studying the scriptures—each act of dedication and obedience is a drop added to our store. Deeds of kindness, payment of offerings and tithes, chaste thoughts and actions, marriage in the covenant for eternity—these, too, contribute importantly to the oil with which we can at midnight refuel our exhausted lamps” (Faith Precedes the Miracle [1972], 255–56).

Matthew 25:10–12. The Dangers of Procrastination

Elder Lynn G. Robbins of the Seventy made this observation about why the unwise virgins found the door closed and why they were denied entrance: “The closed door is a poignant reminder that ‘this life is the day for men to perform their labors’ (Alma 34:32). … The fact that the five foolish virgins knocked, expecting to enter the marriage supper, indicates one of two things: (1) they thought they could prepare themselves after the Bridegroom came, or (2) knowing that they at first had not been prepared to enter, they were hoping for mercy. Either way, the door was shut” (“Oil in Our Lamps,” Ensign, June 2007, 47).

President Henry B. Eyring of the First Presidency warned: “There is a danger in the word someday when what it means is ‘not this day.’ ‘Someday I will repent.’ ‘Someday I will forgive him.’ ‘Someday I will speak to my friend about the Church.’ ‘Someday I will start to pay tithing.’ ‘Someday I will return to the temple.’ ‘Someday …’ The scriptures make the danger of delay clear. It is that we may discover that we have run out of time” (“This Day,” Ensign or Liahona, May 2007, 89).

Matthew 25:14–30. The Parable of the Talents (see also Luke 19:11–27)

In the Savior’s time, a “talent” was a unit of weight and also a large sum of money. In modern usage, the word “talent,” as used in this parable, has come to represent any spiritual gift or any skill or ability given to us by God, and the parable teaches that we are responsible to use these gifts wisely and profitably. The Second Coming is represented by the arrival, “after a long time,” of a master who had entrusted his servants with talents (Matthew 25:19). The servant who doubled his two talents received the same commendation as the one who doubled his five talents (see Matthew 25:21, 23); each was expected to try to improve on what he had been given. Thus, in the end, only the servant who did nothing with his talent was rejected by his master. President James E. Faust (1920–2007) of the First Presidency explained that the Lord will hold all people accountable for what they do with their talents:

“Some of us are too content with what we may already be doing. We stand back in the ‘eat, drink, and be merry’ mode when opportunities for growth and development abound. We miss opportunities to build up the kingdom of God because we have the passive notion that someone else will take care of it. The Lord tells us that He will give more to those who are willing. They will be magnified in their efforts. … But to those who say, ‘We have enough, from them shall be taken away even that which they have’ [2 Nephi 28:30].

“The Lord entrusts all of His servants, including every priesthood holder, with spiritual talents. … While we are not all equal in experience, aptitude, and strength, we have different opportunities to employ these spiritual gifts, and we will all be accountable for the use of the gifts and opportunities given to us” (“I Believe I Can, I Knew I Could,” Ensign, Nov. 2002, 50).

Matthew 25:31–46. The Parable of the Sheep and the Goats

In the Savior’s time, sheep and goats typically grazed together, but they were separated at the end of the day. In this parable, the separating of the sheep and goats represents the Judgment that will occur at the Savior’s Coming. The righteous will receive a place at the King’s right (representing a place of honor and power), and the unrighteous will be assigned to the King’s left (representing disfavor). This judgment will largely be based on how well individuals have shown their love for God by caring for others (see Matthew 25:34–46; see also Matthew 22:35–40). As in the two previous parables in Matthew 25, the righteous are prepared because of what they have done, while the unrighteous are unprepared because of what they have neglected to do.

sheep and goats

Sheep and goats grazing together

Photograph by James Jeffery

Referring to the parable of the sheep and the goats, Elder Joseph B. Wirthlin testified: “At the final day the Savior will not ask about the nature of our callings. He will not inquire about our material possessions or fame. He will ask if we ministered to the sick, gave food and drink to the hungry, visited those in prison, or gave succor to the weak [see Matthew 25:31–40]. When we reach out to assist the least of Heavenly Father’s children, we do it unto Him [see Matthew 24:40]. That is the essence of the gospel of Jesus Christ” (“The Great Commandment,” Ensign or Liahona, Nov. 2007, 30).

    Points to Ponder

  • How does knowing the signs of the Savior’s Second Coming help you to have hope and confidence in the Savior and prepare for the last days?

  • As you study the parable of the ten virgins (Matthew 25:1–13), what can you learn from the detail that the bridegroom came at “midnight,” while the wedding guests “slumbered and slept”? How does this apply to our preparation for the Savior’s Second Coming?

  • Consider the three parables found in Matthew chapter 25. How does each of the following help us prepare to meet the Lord? (1) Doing things that invite the Holy Spirit into our lives. (2) Doing good with the gifts and opportunities the Lord has given us. (3) Caring for those around us who are in need.