As Jesus approached Jerusalem, he took some time to prepare his disciples for his departure “because they thought that the kingdom of God should appear immediately” (19:11). The Jews expected their “Messiah to appear in power and glory and to set up His earthly kingdom, defeating all their political and military enemies” (note on Luke 19:11). In spite of his repeated warnings, some of Jesus’ followers still didn’t realize he was about to be crucified. Rather than stating the truth plainly, Jesus once again used a parable to explain what was going to happen. He told them, “A certain nobleman went into a far country to receive for himself a kingdom, and to return. And he called his ten servants, and delivered them ten pounds, and said unto them, Occupy till I come” (Luke 19:12-13). Jesus’ description of heaven as a “far country” suggested that he would be away for a long period of time. The fact that he would eventually return meant that there would be some type of continuation or follow up to his earthly ministry. In other words, Jesus’ resurrection was not the conclusion of his work on Earth. The ten servants were most likely representative of all who would serve Christ as ministers of the gospel until Jesus’ second coming, but this may have been a direct reference to the Jewish believers that would be given the responsibility of establishing Christianity among the Jews in Jerusalem.
In his parable, Jesus said the nobleman gave each of his ten servants a pound of silver and told them to “Occupy till I come” (Luke 19:13). The Greek term translated occupy, pragmateuomai (prag-mat-yoo´-om-ahee) means “to busy oneself with that is to trade” (G4231), the implication being that the king’s servants were to be involved in business matters, making a living for themselves and earning a profit for their master. Although it may seem unusual for God’s work to be likened to a profitable business, Jesus was clearly telling his disciples that he expected them to be doing something while he was gone. Jesus went on to say, “And it came to pass, that when he was returned, having received his kingdom, then he commanded these servants to be called unto him, to whom he had given the money, that he might know how much every man had gained by trading” (Luke 19:15). This part of Jesus’ parable could be a reference to the rapture, a moment in time that the Apostle Paul referred to as the sudden coming of the Lord, of which he said, “For the Lord himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God: and the dead in Christ shall rise first” (1 Thessalonians 4:16). Sometime following this, there will be an event referred to as the judgment seat of Christ. At that time, Christians will be held accountable for their actions while they were alive on Earth (Romans 14:10, 2 Corinthians 5:10).
In his parable of the pounds, Jesus gave examples of the type of rewards Christians can expect to receive at the judgment seat of Christ. He said, “Then came the first saying, Lord thy pound hath gained ten pounds. And he said unto him, Well, thou good servant: because thou hast been faithful in a very little, have thou authority over ten cities” (Luke 19:16-17). The faithful servant’s reward was described as “authority over ten cities.” The ten cities most likely represented a spiritual jurisdiction equivalent to what we might think of today in the United States as a voting district. Even though Jesus will not be an elected official when he reigns on Earth, he will have a political system that he will use to govern the world. The purpose of the servant’s delegated authority might be to enforce spiritual laws that were identified and/or established during Jesus’ ministry e.g. “These things I command you, that ye love one another” (John 15:17). Although Christians will not receive punishment at the judgment seat of Christ, Jesus indicated there would be negative consequences for failing to produce revenue for his kingdom. He said, “And another came, saying, Lord, behold, here is thy pound, which I have kept laid up in a napkin: for I feared thee, because thou are an austere man: thou takest up that thou layedst not down, and reapest that thou didst not sow…And he said to them that stood by, Take from him the pound, and give it to him that hath ten pounds” (Luke 19:20-24).
Even though it wasn’t specifically stated, it could be assumed that by taking away of the wicked servant’s pound, the master was removing him from his position. This doesn’t mean that Christians can lose their salvation, but it does suggest that our position in God’s kingdom is dependent upon our obedience. The reason Jesus used money to represent the resources his disciples received from him may have been because he wanted them to realize that their spiritual gifts were valuable and he expected them to be used frequently to do his work. While he was in prison, Paul identified various motivations for preaching the gospel and said, “Some indeed preach Christ even of envy and strife; and some also of good will” (Philippians 1:15). Paul went on to say, “What then? notwithstanding, every way, whether in pretense, or in truth, Christ is preached; and I therein do rejoice, yea, and will rejoice. For I know that this shall turn to my salvation through your prayer, and the supply of the Spirit of Jesus Christ, according to my earnest expectation and my hope, that in nothing I shall be ashamed, but that with all boldness, as always, so now also Christ shall be magnified in my body, whether it be by life, or by death. For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain” (Philippians 1:18-21). In other words, Paul expected to be judged not just by Christ, but by Christ’s example, and he didn’t want to be ashamed when he was asked to account for the result of ministry.