The parable of the ten virgins (think of them as “bridesmaids”) has often been unnecessarily complicated by excessive interpretation. I see it as a brilliantly simple illustration of the truth Jesus taught in the previous chapter: People get ready…He is coming back!
The point of the parable is stated clearly in verse 13. We don’t know when Jesus will return for His bride, so we should be alert and prepared at all times. One day that unexpected (see 24:44) “midnight cry” will come (v.6), the door will be shut (v.10), and all that will matter is your relationship with Jesus (v.12). The five foolish bridesmaids claimed to know the Groom (“Lord, lord, open to us!”), but in the end He did not know them. They professed knowledge of Him, but they were not prepared to “endure to the end” (see 24:13).
The “parable of the talents” is one of my favorites (v.14-30). A talent was a large amount of money, something like 50-75 lbs. of silver.
This story builds on the theme of the preceding one, except the emphasis is not whether the servants will be surprised when the Master returns, but whether they have been good stewards of His resources.
Until Jesus returns, His disciples are to be “good and faithful servants” (v.21, 23) who are wise, industrious stewards of the opportunities and abilities He has entrusted to us. To do so is to “enter into the joy of your Master.”
The “wicked and slothful servant,” on the other hand, will be cast out (v.26, 30). I like D.E. Garland’s comment:
When Christ returns, He will not ask “Did you get the date right?” but “What have you been doing?”
The dramatic scene of judgment (v.31-46) pictures King Jesus seated on His glorious throne. In His role as Shepherd-King, He will separate the sheep from the goats.
Scholars have attached many meanings to this passage. I believe Jesus is speaking generally about the judgment that is to come, and that He is teaching His disciples — just days before His death — these basic truths:
All people are either saved or lost. There is no other category.
All people will face divine judgment. The lost will be judged for their sins at the Great White Throne (Revelation 20:11-15) and the saved will be judged for their works at the Judgment Seat of Christ (Romans 14:10-12, 2 Corinthians 5:10).
All people will be judged by Jesus Himself. It is Jesus, “the Son of Man,” who sits in judgment in verse 31.
All people will be judged based on their response to Jesus. When judgment is passed in verses 40 and 45, the basis is what was or was not done “to me (Jesus)”.
All people will spend eternity either in heaven or in hell. The “sheep” (v.34) will be welcomed into the heavenly kingdom, but the “goats” (v.41) will be sent away to “the eternal fire prepared for the devil” — hell.