We find three consecutive parables of significant length in Matthew 25, and they all share one theme in common:What should the followers of Jesus do while we await His return?
These parables indicate that there is a considerable span of time to be expected between the first and second comings of Christ. Moreover, some believers will apparently act faithfully in the interim, while others will act faithlessly. Each parable contains a different shade of meaning about what God expects of us in the meantime.
Be ready: The Parable of the Wise and Foolish Virgins (vs. 1-13) emphasizes that preparation and readiness is essential among the followers of Christ. The similarities between the two groups of virgins (bridesmaids today) are that they are both invited to the wedding, the bridegroom is delayed, they fall asleep, and the bridegroom arrives suddenly at midnight. The difference is that the wise virgins had prepared ahead of time and brought enough oil with them. The foolish ones are those woefully unprepared. Because they were not ready, they missed the coming of the bridegroom and were kept outside in the darkness.
Be industrious: What does spiritual readiness look like? The Parable of the Talents (vs. 14-30) reveals that there is an expectation of industriousness or work that Christians ought to be engaged in. The two commended servants both put their capital to work, increasing the principal and doubling it over the time while they waited for the master to return. They rolled up their sleeves and invested their energies in the world. The condemned servant, however, took the easy/lazy route and simply buried the talent entrusted to him, only returning to the master what was originally his. As a result, that wicked servant is thrown into the outer darkness. The message is that Christians need to be engaged and active in the world while we await our Savior's return.
Be compassionate: Finally, the true nature of this readiness and industriousness is revealed in the heart of the Parable of the Sheep and the Goats (vs. 31-46). It is compassion that God wants to see on the part of His servants. When the King returns, the basis for separation between sheep and goats (saved and unsaved) will be how they treated "the least of these." Did we feed the hungry? Give water to the thirsty? Clothe the naked? House the homeless? Welcome the stranger? Care for the sick? Visit the prisoner? The group that does these things is welcomed into eternal dwellings while the group that does not is cast into "eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels."
There is no middle ground cited in any of these parables.
Remember, it is extremely important what you do as you await the Return of Christ in the meantime!