“Then the kingdom of heaven shall be likened to ten virgins who took their lamps and went out to meet the bridegroom. Now five of them were wise, and five were foolish. Those who were foolish took their lamps and took no oil with them, but the wise took oil in their vessels with their lamps. But while the bridegroom was delayed, they all slumbered and slept. “And at midnight a cry was heard: ‘Behold, the bridegroom is coming; go out to meet him!’ Then all those virgins arose and trimmed their lamps. And the foolish said to the wise, ‘Give us some of your oil, for our lamps are going out.’ But the wise answered, saying, ‘No, lest there should not be enough for us and you; but go rather to those who sell, and buy for yourselves.’ And while they went to buy, the bridegroom came, and those who were ready went in with him to the wedding; and the door was shut. “Afterward the other virgins came also, saying, ‘Lord, Lord, open to us!’ But he answered and said, ‘Assuredly, I say to you, I do not know you.’ “Watch therefore, for you know neither the day nor the hour in which the Son of Man is coming.
In Matthew 25 Jesus is continuing His response to the initial question in the beginning of chapter 24. “Tell us when will these things be? And what will be the sign of your coming, and of the end of the age?” Jesus responds and expounds on the events leading up to His return and the signs of the times for that generation. He sets the tone for the intensity of the tribulation, that it will be greater than any other time frame in all of human history. The physical earth will be shaken as well as every sphere of society. Sin will reach to its full maturity and there will be a great falling away in the church due to mass deception. He explains how we are to respond with watchfulness and to be ready; fully engaged with what He is doing. As I write this, I am struck by the words of Jesus. I have spoken with many leaders who express the reason that they don’t talk about the end times and the negative trends revealed through the scripture is because it is irrelevant and not helpful to building community or advancing the gospel. Well, it seems that Jesus considered this information to be relavent and a necessary message in making disciples. And indeed the gospel would be incomplete without the final chapter of redemptive history. In His wisdom, as a friend, He is giving to us His plans and His heart that we may know how to respond to the unique dynamics of that day.
One of the parables He uses to communicate what He is looking for in His Church, leading up to His return, is the one of ten virgins. Here the Lord communicates what He considers wise and foolish. All ten were “virgins” and were waiting for the bridegroom; so we can infer that all ten are “believers.” They know the bridegroom message and have said yes to Jesus. They all had lamps. Lamps carry the light for others to see, these are ministries that the virgins were given to steward. And not just official “ministries” but their lives as christians lived out in the world. Oil, from a Jewish and historical perspective, can represent the Holy Spirit and life with the Spirit. In this parable it speaks of intimacy with God through connectedness with His Spirit. All ten virgins were asleep while waiting for the Bridegroom. They were all walking through the mundane and routines that are unavoidable in this life. The difference comes with what they did in the waiting. Five of them took the time that it takes to get oil; while the other five spent their time shining their lamps or just did other things. Jesus said those who were wise took time and energy to cultivate intimacy on the inside, in the secret place. He said that the foolish did not focus on the inside, but were preoccupied with the external life. The wise were living before the eyes of God, while the foolish lived before the eyes of man.
Midnight is the darkest time of the night. It is in the darkest hour of human history that the voice will be heard declaring that the bridegroom is coming. I long to be that voice! To be like John the Baptist who had lived his life in the wilderness, preparing his generation for Jesus’ first coming. He recognized Jesus and proclaimed, “behold, the Lamb of God!” I want to be that voice for His second coming. I believe that many across the earth will embody this voice for their generation.
The wise had oil in their lamps and were ready to participate in the final consumation of the marriage supper of the lamb; The covenant of Jesus and His Bride. The foolish did not have enough oil and were not ready to participate in the most significant time frame of human history. The wise could not give their oil. Intimacy can not be imparted; it can only be cultivated in the relationship of the individual and Jesus. So the foolish were shut out. This reminds me of when Jesus spoke of many coming to Him saying all the wonderful things they did in His name, yet He will say “I never knew you.” Some commentators say that the foolish virgins were ones who fell away and cast into Hell; while others say that they enter into the kingdom, but do not participate in the move of God or the celebration. Honestly I am not sure which side I land on in these two stances, but neither one of those is where I want to be.
Many, including my self, apply this not only to the end times, but also to the small moves of God leading up to that time frame. Looking back through history, we can see the Lord coming in manifest ways like tides of the ocean rolling in upon the shores. It is possible to miss what the the Lord is doing because you are not connected to Him in the day to day. He so yearns for partnership with us and He desires to do amazing things through our lives. I want to know what He is saying in every season and want to do what I see Him doing. When I see Him face to face, I want a familiarity from knowing Him in this life. Though He is beyond comprehension, there is much of Him that I can know today through an ongoing conversation that He has already initiated.
Written by Zack Roberts