Contrary to what many churches now teach, not everyone who thinks or "believes" they are going to enter the Kingdom of Heaven will actually enter therein. Being convinced in our mind that something is going to happen, will not make it happen. This is not what Jesus taught regarding genuine "belief" or the type of faith required to inherit the Kingdom.
Unfortunately "belief" and "faith," like so many other words found in the Scriptures, have been redefined over the years, being transformed by modern, unbiblical definitions.
The type of faith and "belief" required to enter the Kingdom of Heaven involves much more than mental convincing, fuzzy feelings, or even a thorough head-knowledge of the Scriptures. It requires a unique relationship based on the Word of God that testifies to what is actually happening in one's heart--and there will be tangible evidence of this relationship, if it is genuine.
This is the reason Jesus uses marriage as the basic theme of this parable. When a man and a woman love and trust one another and desire to have an exclusive family relationship, they enter into a morally and legally binding interactive marriage relationship, where they are able to function in the world morally and legally as one unified body/physical structure.
From a distance, Jane Jones can think and "believe" that she is going to become the wife of John Johnson all she wants to, but until they are actually introduced, develop a friendship, and pledge themselves to one another in marriage, Jane Jones will never be Jane Johnson.
When this principle is applied to our relationship as the Bride (believers) to Christ (the Bridegroom), it becomes clear that it is not wishful thinking called "belief" or a giant leap into the dark called "faith" that brings about this exclusive relationship between Christ and His Bride.
Neither are we all automatically "the children of God" simply because He has created us. As a result of the fall of mankind in the Garden of Eden, we are all actually headed for hell. We cannot blame Adam or Eve or anyone else for our sin.
Blaming others is not going to change our situation. Humans make choices every day and it is a fact that we choose to sin. However, instead of sinning our way down the broad road to hell, we have been given a way out of our dilemma. God has provided that Way through Christ alone. With the help of God, we can choose to make Christ and His Word preeminent in our life.
Neither baptism nor membership in a church nor any other religious/humanitarian organization can bring about this exclusive relationship with God. Only by the grace of God, can we be given an understanding of His Word and the amazing value it has.
Out of an heart of gratitude, by submitting to that precious Word and the preeminence of Christ, alone as Lord...and in response to the value of all He has suffered on our behalf to keep us from the fires of hell, we can therefore repent of our sin and be sealed in this relationship by the power of the Holy Spirit.
When this happens, we are purchased...betrothed...bound to Christ--His concerns become our concerns and we begin to align our will with His, joining other genuine believers, carrying the message of salvation through the shed blood of Christ throughout the entire world, to those who are waiting to hear what Christ has done for them, so they may also enter into His family. . .until the day He returns and the wedding actually takes place.
The virgins went forth.
Jesus tells us in this first verse of Matthew 25, that when the virgins (i.e. unmarried women) "went forth" to meet the Bridegroom, they took their lamps. So we understand that these virgins are going somewhere to meet the Bridegroom and this journey is going to require the use of lamps.
As we consider this, let us take care not to jump over the steps Jesus establishes to get us from point "A" to point "B" and thereby miss the importance of the details regarding this journey. The main focus of the story is not about meeting Christ for the first time. These virgins already know who Christ is and they are waiting to join Him at the Great Marriage Supper of the Lamb. This parable is about what must happen after they are called, but before they can enter into the Marriage Feast.
The harsh reality is that unless we actually take the steps required to arrive safely to this event, we will not be found among the wise virgins who actually do, one day, enter into the Marriage Feast. This is the real message Jesus wants us to receive. He is warning us not to be deceived--we must remember to take something very important with us if we want to safely arrive at our desired destination.
The virgins knew that they would need lamps, so this is what they took when they went forth. What do the lamps symbolize and why did they need them?
The lamps represent the Word of God and the Word is vital because it contains the light (Holy Spirit) that will show them "the Way." In other words, it is the Spirit of God that will illuminate the path they are to take, because the Spirit of God resides in the Word of God . . . and Jesus Christ is the "Word" and the "Way."
"And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us, (and we beheld his glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father,) full of grace and truth" (John 1:14)
"Jesus saith unto him, I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me" (John 14:6).
These virgins know the value of Christ and His Word. They know that He is also "the Way" to the Father and the Kingdom of Heaven. But let us not forget the importance of all Christ is. He also is "the Truth," as much as He is the Way, for we are only "going forth," if we are following Truth. And without the Truth, we would never be able to recognize the Way or find the Life God intended us to have now and for eternity.
Today we have a "word-fad" that is reminiscent of this idea of "going forth." A "word-fad" is some word or phrase that is unnecessary, yet repetitiously used to fill in sentences. One such word a few years ago was the word, "basic" and "basically."
However, the word-fad phrase right now is: "going forward." While it is good to "go forward"... instead of backward in life, some repeatedly use this phrase just to sound trendy and fill in a blank spot in their sentence.
But then there are others. . . intentionally using it to change our minds about what "going forward" really means.
By hearing this phrase over and over again, they would have us believe that our objective in life is to "go forward" regardless of the cost or without considering where "going forward" is ultimately going to take us. Certainly the devil, himself, is committed to going forward, trampling anything that gets in the way of his agenda.
However, just moving forward does not guarantee progress or growth. If we do not see the Way clearly and are not committed to the reality of the Truth, then instead of arriving at the imagined destination of our choosing, we may very likely lose our Life by falling off a cliff or into the pit.
The Only Way
This is the path or "the Way" that will lead the virgins to the Bridegroom and the Kingdom of Heaven where the marriage supper will take place.
Why will the virgins need their lamps to see the path?
This is a most important journey. The virgins have been called and are now attempting to go forth through a very dark, fallen world full of spiritual as well as physical dangers and pitfalls, to meet the Bridegroom, Jesus, at the Marriage Supper of the Lamb. "And he saith unto me, Write, Blessed are they which are called unto the marriage supper of the Lamb. And he saith unto me, These are the true sayings of God." (Revelation 19:9)
But there is a huge difference between being "called," being "chosen," and being "faithful."
"The Called, and Chosen, and Faithful."
The foolish virgins make a crucial mistake. They fail to take any oil with them for their lamps.
What good is a lamp, if you don't have any fuel to light the lamp? If a lamp does not have the specific type of fuel to function as a lamp, these virgins will not be able to follow the Way to the Marriage Feast and will be left in a very dangerous situation, stumbling around in the dark.
. . . And what good is the Word of God (lamp) if it cannot serve its intended purpose?--if it is a rewritten perversion of the Word or if the real Word just sits on the shelf gathering dust?
. . . Or how can one benefit from the Word, if it is read as just another text book, instead of being given preeminence and welcomed into the heart of a person as the actual Word/Voice of the Living God?
Considering this fact, we see how it becomes possible to memorize the Scriptures--to thoroughly know what the Word says, without ever really allowing the Word of God to penetrate our heart and engage our life or result in a genuine relationship with Christ.
In other words, mere head knowledge is not enough to bring about a true conversion to Christ. There must be a deep response to that Word, involving complete repentance, acknowledging Jesus as preeminent Lord.
If Jesus is not given His rightful position as Lord and self remains on the throne, no conversion has taken place. Belonging to Jesus just remains a lovely thought in our memory bank located next to the last Disney movie we saw. To experience a genuine conversion to Christ, the power of the Word of God must be successfully transfered from the mind to the heart.
When a true conversion to Christ actually takes place, one becomes a wise virgin able to understand the value of the oil and will seek it out because she realizes that her faith to be saved initially came from the Word and the Word will therefore continue to be her Source of faith. Faith is not something we can conjure up ourselves...only God's Word and Spirit can supply the faith to faithfully complete the journey God has set before us.
(4) But the wise took oil in their vessels with their lamps.
There are also five wise virgins. Since wisdom comes from the Word of God, we know that these virgins are wise because they long to hear the sound of the Voice of the One they love. So they keep recalling everything He has ever done and ever said, meditating on His every Word and action, in order to find the strength and guidance they need to follow the Way He has set before them.
When the Word of God is preeminent and valued, the Holy Spirit, which resides in the Word, will illuminate the Word, providing the correct interpretation so the true Bride of Christ will be prepared to see the path she must follow to meet Him at the Marriage Supper. The preeminent functions of God's Spirit are to teach, interpret the Word, and bring the Word of God to our remembrance...in addition to using the Word to comfort us.
One characteristic of wisdom is found in the ability to understand that life is filled with times of famine as well as times of feasting and that it is, therefore, wise to prepare. "Boast not thyself of tomorrow; for thou knowest not what a day may bring forth" (Proverbs 27:1).
The wise virgins know that carrying lamps will do them no good unless they remember that their lamp (Word of God) also requires oil/the Spirit of God to light their way, therefore they faithfully pay attention to the details and bring oil for their lamps.
(5) While the bridegroom tarried
Jesus Christ will tarry. He will give us as much time as possible and every opportunity to receive His Word, so one day we can be blessed by living forever in the new home He is presently preparing for those who really love Him. (John 14:2)
While Christ's arrival is delayed, we find them all sleeping. There is nothing wrong with resting while they wait, but some of them are not ready and should, no doubt, have been preparing instead of sleeping.
(6) And at midnight there was a cry made,
go ye out to meet him.
Nevertheless, His coming will not be delayed forever. One day, very soon, we will hear a cry announcing His return and will be instructed to go forth to meet Him. Perhaps some of us have already heard the cry and are already preparing to enter into the Marriage Feast.
Trimming the Lamps
(7) Then all those virgins arose, and trimmed their lamps.
When all of the virgins heard the cry, they arose and "trimmed" (Greek #2889) their lamps, meaning that they prepared their lamps and made their lamps ready for that spiritual journey as the final events of this fallen world began to unfold...eagerly pressing toward that moment when they would finally see the face of the One they love with all their heart.
True love is a very splendid thing--when it is mutual. Marriage without love is a disaster.
Jesus died so His Bride could have eternal life. He is not going to enter into a loveless, disastrous marriage. Since the Holy Spirit is God and "God is love," (1 John 4:8) we can conclude that these five wise virgins are actually igniting the love God has placed in their heart as they have eagerly received His Spirit, which resides in His Word.
This is not just a story about personal choices. This is a story that describes genuine faith and love. Neither genuine faith nor real love can be faked--either you have it or you don't. Real faith comes by hearing the Word of God (Romans 10:17). It is impossible for anyone to conjure up real faith. Jesus is the sole "Author and Finisher of our faith" (Hebrews 12:2). He is the One who gives us the faith to be faithful.
For this reason, the parable of the Ten Virgins is a "So Be It" story. Some will arrive and some will not. So be it. God already knows who the five foolish virgins are and who the five wise virgins are. Nothing surprises Him.
However, it is also a "Wake Up" call for those who really love Him, but have become distracted by the things of this world. Now is the time to focus on the most important thing in life--the preeminence of Jesus Christ and His Word. When we really love Jesus, He and His Word will be preeminent in our life.
As time was running out, some of the foolish virgins began to stir from their slumber:
(8) And the foolish said unto the wise,
The foolish became anxious because they realized that they were really not prepared to meet the Bridegroom. Now they wanted the wise virgins to give them their oil, because their own lamps had gone out.
(9) But the wise answered, saying,
The wise virgins would not be wise if they were selfish. Therefore, there has to be another reason why the wise virgins would not give the foolish virgins any of their oil. Perhaps this type of "oil" is not something one person can give to another, but is something each virgin must acquire herself. Because of this, each wise virgin only had just enough oil for her own personal journey.
So they told the foolish virgins to go purchase oil for themselves. But it was too late.
How to Buy Oil
The foolish virgins were told to go BUY oil, but in Acts ch. 8, Peter sternly rebukes Simon, the former sorcerer, for trying to buy the power of the Holy Spirit, when he says in verse 20:
"...Thy money perish with thee, because thou hast thought that the gift of God may be purchased with money."
This is another example where the Scripture appears to contradict itself, which is a clue that we need to take a closer look at what God is revealing, because the Word of God never contradicts itself.
If we look carefully, we can determine that this issue, at its foundation, is about using money to buy the Holy Spirit, so we must conclude that somehow oil/Holy Spirit must be BOUGHT/purchased/acquired with something other than money.
So what is equal, in a sense, to money and yet not money?
It also must be something everyone has, even if they are confined to their bed and unable to work.
Isn't time often equated to money? Haven't we heard it said, "Time is money"?. . .and so it is.
So how can we invest our time to get the Holy Spirit? . . .and why can't the foolish virgins get back in time with the oil?
If the Holy Spirit/oil resides in the Word of God, the oil can be acquired through diligent study/extraction of the oil from the Word by investing our time/life in that process because we understand just how valuable it is.
Money then. . .
. . .becomes time
. . .and time
. . .becomes life.
But the foolish virgins did not see the value in listening to the Voice of God, so they did not invest the time required to acquire the oil and ran out of time.
It became impossible to recapture the time they wasted, so when the Bridegroom arrives, they are not prepared. . .and are left behind.
The Parable of the 10 Virgins is followed by the Parable of the Talents, in this same chapter, which serves as a second witness to the fact that God is verifying that entering the Kingdom of Heaven will require making some type of "investment."
Some servants multiplied the valuable thing they had been given (the "talents," symbolizing the time they had been given to extract the Spirit from the Word of God and bringing the benefits into their life).
. . .However, one lazy servant did not care enough to use any method available to invest any amount of time in any way in this endeavor.
. . .Therefore, what he had been given, was taken away from him, and he was cast into outer darkness where there was weeping and gnashing of teeth.
While the foolish virgins went off to try to acquire oil at the last minute, the Bridegroom came in the meantime and the wise virgins--those who had been prepared and ready--went in with Him to the marriage. And the door was shut.
(11) Afterward came also the other virgins, saying,
Later the foolish virgins, who had failed to follow His Word and prepare, came and begged the Lord to open the door and let them in.
(12) But he answered and said,
When He heard them knocking, He told them that He did not even know them...They were not the Bride that had developed a deep relationship with Him through His Word...They were not among those who loved the sound of His Voice and were prepared and waiting for Him. They were, in fact, strangers to Him.
(13) Watch therefore, for ye know neither the day
Here is the lesson of Christ: Watch. You do not know the exact moment He is coming back for those who really love Him. Be ready. Be prepared. Be listening to His Word and following His will, taking the specific path He has laid out for you, so you can find your way through this dark, fallen world to the Marriage Supper of the Lamb.
These are the true sayings of God.
Holy Spirit-led Works
When the end comes and the books are opened, the works that the Holy Spirit has actually called believers to do will be rewarded...However the crowns believers receive will be cast at the feet of our Lord...because they rightfully belong to Him...because it is His Word and His Spirit that actually brought about these works...anything done through self-motivation and our own power are worthless rags to Him.
Only works accomplished through the specific Word of God, the leading of His Spirit, and empowered by His Spirit will qualify...and even in this case, these works are still only regarded as our "reasonable"/expected service in light of all He has done for us.
How will the true Bride know prophecy? How will she be able to discern the signs of the times and understand what lies ahead?
The true Bride is indwelt by the Spirit of God which resides in the Word of God. It is the Spirit of God who will lead her, because Jesus Christ is the Word.
Because of her relationship with Jesus Christ through the Word of God and His Spirit, the Bride knows, without a doubt, in her heart who the real Jesus is--what He has said, what He has done, and what He is likely to do in the future, because of the unbreakable promises He has made.
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Be prepared to be eternally blessed.