Jesus, in speaking of his return, asked the question regarding whether he would find "the faith" when he returned. (Luke 18:8, Rotherham's Emphasized Bible) Jesus was pointing out that the true faith, the faith that was once for all delivered to the saints (Jude 1:3), would be extremely hard to find when he returns. Jude points out "the faith" had already been delivered "once for all." How was it delivered?
God has revealed his truth by means of his holy spirit through the prophets in the Old Testament and through Jesus and his apostles in the New Testament. (Mark 12:36; Luke 4:11; 10:21; 24:27,44; Acts 1:16; 2:33; 10:38; 28:25; Hebrews 1:1,3; 3:7; 1 Peter 3:10-12; 2 Peter 1:21) God, by means of his holy spirit, especially led the apostles into all the truths concerning Christ and what he said, and thus "the faith" was delivered once for all time to saints in the first century. (John 14:26; 16:4-13; Acts 1:2; Galatians 1:12; Ephesians 3:5; 1 Thessalonians 1:5; 2 Timothy 2:2) The truths revealed to the apostles and made available to us are recorded in the Bible (the commonly-accepted 66 books) itself. (Ephesians 3:3-12; Colossians 1:25,26; 1 John 4:6) Of course, without the holy spirit, these things that are recorded will still be a mystery to us. -- Mark 4:11; 1 Corinthians 2:7-10.
Part of the truth revealed by means of the holy spirit was that there was to be an apostasy, a "falling away" from the truth of God's Word, with strong delusions. (Matthew 13:24-30; Acts 20:29,30; 2 Thessalonians 2:1-12; 1 Timothy 4:1-3; 2 Timothy 4:3,4) This falling away had already begun in the first century, with some receiving a different spirit and preaching "another Jesus"; the apostasy was restrained for only a short while. (2 Thessalonians 2:7; 1 John 2:18,19; 2 Corinthians 11:4) The apostasy spread rapidly after the death the apostles and developed into the great "Man of Sin", or more correctly "Lawless Man", or "Illegal Man", a great religious system, which claimed to have the authority to add to God's Word since their revelation was allegedly of God's Spirit. The central doctrine became the false teaching that Jesus had to be God Almighty in order to provide atonement for sins. With this spirit of error in mind, the writings of the apostles were totally reinterpreted to accommodate the error, and many of the Hellenic Jewish philosophies were adapted and added to and blended in with the New Testament, even as the Jews had done with the Old Testament.
Isaiah, in prophesying concerning the stone of stumbling (Isaiah 8:14; Romans 9:23) to both the houses of Israel (Romans 9:6,31; 11:7; 1 Corinthians 10:18; Galatians 6:16), warns us: "To the law and to the testimony! If they do not speak according to this word, it is because there is no light in them." (Isaiah 8:20, New King James Version) The "law", of course, is what we call the Old Testament; the "testimony" of this prophecy is the testimony of the apostles, as given in the New Testament. This the way to test the spirits. (1 John 4:1) It is to these and through these scriptures that the holy spirit today gives true direction, and anything not in agreement with these scriptures is not of the light of the day. (John 11:9; 1 Thessalonians 5:5) The distortion of who Jesus truly was and is -- who while on earth before his death was only human, a little lower than the angels, who gave his flesh for the life of the world -- is one of the greatest stumbling blocks to understanding the true Gospel revealed in scripture. Thus Jesus becomes a stumbling stone, not only to the house according the flesh which was corrupted from true doctrine (Israel after the flesh -- Luke 13:25-28; Romans 9:30-33), but also the house which claims Jesus, which has also become corrupted from true doctrine through spiritual fornication. -- Matthew 27:21-23; Revelation 2:13-15,20-24.
Thus, it is due to the great apostasy, wherein "the faith" that was once delivered to saints has been greatly obscured by the traditions and doctrines of man, that we can understand why Jesus asked: "However, when the Son of Man comes, will He find [the] faith on the earth?" (Luke 18:8, New American Standard) The Greek has the definite article before the word "faith." Jesus was not talking about faith in just anything. Everyone who has some kind of hope has faith in something, although that faith may be false to its promise. Jesus was talking about "the" faith, that is, "the faith" that was about to be delivered to the saints, and to some extent, had already been so delivered, but was not to be fully understood until after the "spirit of truth" should be sent to the apostles.
It is to this, "the faith that was once delivered," the "servant" of the master was to be faithful and wise in providing food for the household of faith. That faith, as has already been shown, was given in the first century in the Bible. Thus, in the time of Jesus' parousia, Jesus finds that very few of the servants can be actually called "faithful and wise" in stewardship. Indeed, we believe that most of Christ's servants today fall into the category of "that servant" (Luke 12:47) "who didn't know, and did things worthy of stripes." (Luke 12:48, World English Bible translation) Such will have to receive some disciplining for this, but will be able to easily respond to such disciplining, so that their anguish will not be so great.
We believe that the next largest group of Christ's servants today are in the category of those shown as "that servant, who knew his lord's will, and didn't prepare, nor do what he wanted." (Luke 12:47) This second "servant" class will have to receive discipline, which, for them, will be harder to respond to than the first class mentioned above.
The next is "that servant" who is called the "bad servant" (usually rendered "evil servant" -- Luke 12:45,46), those who would symbolically "beat" the fellow servants into a form of sectarian subjection, so as to bring Christ's servants under some kind of sectarian leadership. These may be aligned with the spirit of a spiritual "pride". These evidently receive the most severe disciplinary punishments. Such will certainly receive great anguish when they learn that they are positioned far below the high and lofty grandeur that they had positioned in their imagination for themselves. While Jesus does not in this parable condemn them to the second death, it is quite possible, however, that some of this class may have sinned as new creatures, thus bringing the second death upon themselves.
The category with the least amount is, of course, is that depicted by "the faithful and wise steward." (Luke 12:42-44) These are probably those who receive the reward of joint-heirs with Christ, who have overcome so as that they no longer can be hurt by the second death. (Revelation 2:11) They will have been perfected in discipline, having proven themselves incorruptible. (See our study: With What Kind of Body Will We Be Raised?) However, it is possible also that some who fail to attain that joint-heirship but who come so close to that faithfulness that they have such little difficulty in later overcoming, that they would not be accorded a separate classification in this parable.
It is not for any of us, however, to point the finger at another and say, "you are this or that 'servant'." We are to show love to all of the household of faith, and leave the judging up to Jehovah through Jesus.
See also my study:
The Faithful and Wise Servant and Other Servants
The Faithful and Wise Servant and Other Servants