By Way of Introduction
The need to be honest and objective in our reading and
interpretation of God’s Word, as we sincerely focus on the Lord himself and
truly submit to him and to what He is
seeking to reveal to us through his Scriptures, that need has always been
great, but never greater than in the momentous days of our generation. Both the
Lord himself and his apostles repeatedly warned that in the last days there
would be many false prophets and prophecies, teachers and teachings, all trying
their utmost to entice the saints away from the simplicity that is in Christ.
We were never told that such “prophets” and “teachers” would necessarily be
non-Christians. In fact, there is every possibility that any true and
valued servant of the Most High at some point or other misinterprets the
Scriptures and to some degree becomes an instrument in the hands of the master
confuser. For this reason Paul charged his co-worker Timothy as solemnly as he
did; and for that same reason the Holy Spirit charges us just as solemnly:
seek to commend yourself to God as a workman who, because of his
straightforward dealing with the word of truth, has no reason to feel any
shame” (2 Tim. 2:15 -Weymouth).
We pray that this unpretentious article may be such a “straightforward
dealing with the Word of Truth”, useful to the Spirit of Truth in encouraging,
blessing and helping many of his beloved children to be joyfully awake and
ready at the moment of the “appearing in glory of our great God and Savior
Jesus Christ” -
Ten Tired Girls
Does the fact that in
most Bible versions the ten young ladies are called “virgins”, make you think
of something unspoiled, something which must be a fitting description of true Christians? Think again. The term is used in much the
same way as we in our day would use the word “girls”, or “young ladies”, or,
more exactly: “young, unmarried women”, the friends of the bride. Compare Acts
21:9 and 1 Cor. 7:25-34, etc., where the same word is used. The circumstance
that they were unmarried does not have any direct bearing on the parable’s
All of them dozed off; is that a sign of
unpreparedness on the part of all of them? It certainly is! Hold on
though, it was not that sleep which made the foolish ones foolish, nor did it
make the wise ones less wise. This will be realized when we understand why
the Lord called some foolish and some wise. From verse 13 it is clear that the
Lord means his followers to “watch”, not to “sleep”. But He does not say that a
“sleeping” Christian should be categorized among the five foolish virgins. If
that were so, all ten would have been called “foolish”.
here we have ten unmarried girls, all friends of the bride, all waiting for the
bridegroom and all dozing off. But there the similarities end.
Together, Yet Poles Apart
On occasions the Lord
likened his followers to people, who were either/or. But on two occasions only did He call them either wise, or foolish (Mt. 7:24-27; Lk. 6:47-49; Mt 25:1-13). It is very important to get this:
we are talking of followers, all kinds of followers. Yet to our Lord a
very clear and definitive dividing line was visible among them, a line which
frequently is not so clearly visible to us.
his very first parable He compares all those who hear his Word, and possibly
relish it, to either a wise builder, or a foolish one. He does so in the
context of the “many” followers, who profess his “lordship” and do all kinds of
wonderful things in his name, but without belonging to him.
He tells us his final verdict will be: “I never knew you ...” Jesus
never denies their religiosity; but He does deny there is any true relationship
with himself. What, in the Lord’s judgment, makes them foolish? Is it not the
fact that they seek to build without any proper “foundation”?
what is it that makes others wise or true followers? Simply the fact
that they build on a good and solid “foundation”. This foundation is the Word
of Christ, heard (and relished) and acted on: a
personal relationship between the follower and his Lord.
is no doubt then that the two builders together represent all of
Christ’s followers, or, simply, all of Christianity. But what serious Bible
reader would contend that the foolish builder, the one without foundation, the
one whose “world” comes crashing down, is meant to give us some kind of a
picture of born-again believers, albeit “backslidden” born-again
believers? Especially in the light of that preceding verse of Matthew 7:23?
The awesome day is coming, when our Lord will declare He never knew
them. They may have all the semblance of truth, discipleship, perhaps holiness,
even of miracle-performers, but at that “moment of truth” everything comes
tumbling down and is seen for what it really is: a mere heap of rubble. The one
absolutely vital part was missing: the solid foundation. Through this parable
the Lord wants us to take stock of our own condition before Him, but also to see
through the beautiful “houses” in “Christianity”. He certainly wants to
teach us to humbly discern the absence of a true foundation in the lives and
homes of our loved ones. In that way He might use us to alert and help our
“professing” relatives and friends before disaster strikes.
we must ask ourselves the inevitable question: If in no way we can
conceive of the foolish builder as representing true believers; not even
backsliding believers - and if we must thus admit that Jesus was giving us in
the foolish builder an exclusive picture of clever “make-belief” believers,
then, what could now possibly
lead us to conclude that the “five foolish virgins”, in total contrast, do
represent true, born-again, believers?
Watch That Line!
In the parable of the ten virgins, one of
his very last ones, the scene is very different, but again it is all concerned
with Christ’s followers, and, again, the number is split right down the middle.
Again it is an “either/or” situation. Either we are “have not” Christians, or
we are “have” Christians. Either we have the “name of being alive”, or we “are
alive” (Rev. 3:1). Either we are Christ’s followers
so-called, or we are Christ’s followers, period. Either we are foolishly
pretending to wait for the Bridegroom, or, by grace, we are waiting for
Him, expecting Him at any moment, even if, unwisely, dozing off when his
arrival takes longer than expected.
the foolish builder was typified by going without a foundation, the foolish
virgins are typified by going without oil. Jesus specifically mentions
them as taking no oil along with their lamps. That is what marked them
builder would be so incredibly foolish as to build a house on the sand, never
thinking of the approaching weather conditions? And what young lady, even in
all the excitement of the great feast, would be so stupid as to take an oil
lamp along, in case night should fall before the appearance of the bridegroom,
and yet not bother about the oil? From Jesus we learn that half of
“Christianity” is that foolish. In the first parable He teaches us that this is
because the Word is not taken seriously. The parable of the ‘virgins’
shows us it is because the Holy Spirit is not taken seriously. The two
always go together. Most of us have to admit that we too were there, on that
side of the dividing line. Then, perhaps suddenly, perhaps gradually, our eyes
were opened and we saw the need of a foundation for our life’s house. We saw
that we were in darkness and desperately needed light, and so, by his grace, we
surrendered to our Lord and Savior. Through his grace we became “wise” (2 Tim. 3:15; Titus 2:11-14)! No more need to sing: “Give me oil in my lamp, keep me burning!” He
IS our oil.
A Right Mixture!
One notable difference between the two
parables is the fact that in this one the foolish and the wise are so
completely intermingled. If you weren’t aware of the presence or absence of
oil, you would not be able to tell them apart. There is no doubt the Great
Storyteller wants us to notice this detail: the greatest of all mix-ups.
He wants us to be fully aware that even if the Kingdom of Heaven is now among us (see footnote), this should not lead
us to think that the great adversary is already bound and out of the picture.
Jesus wants us to realize that Satan is still very much in the picture.
The complete mixture in the parable of the virgins points straight at what Paul
later confirms: “The mystery of iniquity is already at work ...” (2 Thes. 2:7). It also must remind us of four of the seven kingdom
parables in Matthew 13. Here we find other word pictures drawn by our Lord to
point out to us how, right from the outset and all through this kingdom
age, there would be the satanic negative, feverishly working away among all the
divine positive: “the weeds among the wheat”, “the birds in the mustard plant”,
“the leaven in the dough” and “the dragnet with bad and good fish”. In each one
He gives us most valuable teaching, so we may know ‘where we are’ in
regards to God’s work at this time, and where we are in regards to Satan’s.
Then, almost at the end of his earthly ministry, in the parable of the virgins,
He gives us a glimpse of the very conclusion of the age. He unfolds the
final act of the long drawn out drama, when the false are screened out from
among the true, the foolish out from among the wise. The climax of the age,
naturally, is the appearing of the Bridegroom. The wise ones have oil and light
and get to see him (1 John 3:2). They go with him into the feast. The
foolish girls never even get to see him ...
Oil, Oil, Oil ...
Lest it spill, neither the wise, nor the
foolish, carried oil in the lamps, except perhaps just that little bit
that would keep the wick burning while they were traveling. Oil was carried in
a tiny “vessel” or container and transferred, all or in part, to the lamp when
the moment of need had arrived. The wise were wise, because they carried this
vessel filled with oil.
three occurrences of “oil” in this parable (Mt. 25)
are the very first in the New Testament and, without question, they symbolize
the Holy Spirit. Commentators are in agreement that this would be the true
Biblical perspective. It follows that the five without oil represent professing
“Christians”. They have lamps, but cannot produce light. They are
merely keeping up appearances. They do not represent possessing
Christians (who have the oil to burn in the lamps). The foolish ones
represent “Christians”, of whom men may say at the grave side: “We know
so-and-so was a good Christian man or woman”, but of whom the Bridegroom will
say: “I know you not!” That devastating verdict is practically the same as the
one we found in chapter 7:23. Only a person, any person, regenerated,
indwelt and sealed by the Holy Spirit of promise, the guarantee of the eternal
inheritance (Rom. 8:9; Eph.
1:13-14), can be said to
“carry oil” and therefore to be among the five wise virgins.
other words, a huge part of “Christianity” (remember: Jesus splits it right
down the middle) belongs to “it”, but not to Him. For them Christianity is not Christ,
it is tradition, liturgy, Sunday (or Sabbath)-“worship”, hierarchy, baptism,
other ‘sacraments’, penitence, sacrifice, good works, austerity, you name it,
possibly even home-schooling and home-churching. Excellent at keeping up
appearances they may be, yet behind the façade there is a gaping void. The
“oil” of the Holy Spirit does not burn in their hearts. It does not shine out
through their eyes and mouths and hands into the dark night of this world until
the moment of the Bridegroom`s appearance. Indeed it cannot burn there,
because there is none.
More Than One Twinkling of an
We must assume that the Lord speaks
to us in this parable about the coming rapture of the saints, which takes place
when He comes for them. We only need to examine the parable in the light of 1
Corinthians 15 and 1 Thessalonians 4. The “bridegroom” clearly enough is a
picture of our Lord Himself, and, even though the “bride” is not mentioned at
all in the story, just as obviously, the virgins do represent Christ’s
followers, that is, they are identified with the bride and expecting to enter
into the wedding feast through the open door.
the whole true church of Christ be raptured in the “twinkling of an eye”, i.e.
all those truly redeemed, or ... should we look for one rapture now and then
another one later on, at a “second twinkling of an eye”? Must the “last
trumpet” sound a second time? If the “foolish virgins” represent true
Christians, though backslidden, to whom the door is closed, then, clearly, we
are bound to believe in a partial rapture, or, more correctly, in two partial
raptures. Then half the true Christians will be with the Bridegroom,
celebrating the Marriage of the Lamb, while the other half are left to face the
maulings of the Beast in the Great Tribulation. Eventually, so it is believed
by those who take this line, these will also have sufficient “oil” and the
Bridegroom will then “know” them and “open the door” to them after all. The
idea is that the “wise virgins”, though not perfect when the bridegroom
appears, are “pure enough” Christians. They can go in just as they are, but the
“foolish ones” need a thorough “purification” first, which they will get in the
Great Tribulation, a kind of “purgatory” for them.
problem with this view is that it alienates us from the Gospel of the grace of
God. Do its proponents really search the Scriptures as diligently as the
Bereans of Acts 17? There is one vital question we MUST ask again and again:
“What really does the Word say?” Not doing so in a humble and prayerful
attitude, gets us into hot water doctrinally.
does not require a huge amount of time and effort to have a good look at THE
rapture passage of 1 Thessalonians 4, for instance. Speaking about the
resurrection of the saints, brought from the dead with Christ at the moment of
his appearing (vss. 14 and 16), Paul mentions that they are the ones who
had “fallen asleep in Him” and were “dead in Christ”. Can that mean anything
but ALL those Christians, who throughout past centuries were truly born of the
Spirit? If very many of these “saints”, for the larger part of their earthly
Christian lives, failed to live like saints, sadly remaining on lower
levels than their Lord had intended for them, does that cause them to be only
“half-in-Christ”, or “one-third-in-Christ”? True Christians are declared to be
in Christ, period. Paul does not address issues of carnality here, as he does
in other chapters, only the fact that true Christians “are in Christ”, even if
they have seemingly passed from the scene. He tells us they will be truly
raised and raptured in Christ. He does not say that this resurrection and this
rapture will only happen to a certain section of them. Of course, their
unfaithfulness, disobedience, worldliness, etc. must be dealt with; but
that will be at the judgment seat of Christ (1 Cor. 3). Interestingly, in the following parable of Mt. 25, the one about the
talents, Jesus himself draws our attention to this fact.
It should be clear then that the term “in
Christ” includes all true Christians in the resurrection of the
saints and in the rapture.
It All Happened Before, Sort of ...
Lot, called “righteous” or “just” by Peter
no less than three times, was “raptured” out of Sodom (2 P. 2:6-8), not because he was an exemplary saint, but simply because through
faith he belonged to God. Peter also speaks about Noah. Noah was everything
that Lot should have been, but wasn’t. Conditions in Noah’s time may have been
even worse than those that prevailed in Sodom and Gomorrah. At any rate they
were universal, whereas the S&G situation was local. Peter would have been
correct in calling Noah “righteous”, but he goes further and describes him as
“a preacher of righteousness”. Some difference! Even if much in Lot’s life and
testimony was negative (just think of the sordid epilogue of Gen. 19), our Lord
himself uses both Noah and Lot (Lk. 17:26-30) as “precedents” or examples of the “Great Escape”, the rapture of his ekklesia,
the church, in which there will be millions of spiritual Noahs, and, most
likely, even more millions of spiritual Lots, all receiving at last the full
inheritance for which the Holy Spirit had sealed them when they first believed (Eph. 1:13-14).
other words, the “oil lamps” of the many “spiritual Lots” throughout the
centuries may have produced more “smoke” from their “wicks” (or “flaxes”) than
“flame”, yet the Lord states that He will not extinguish that flame, however
small (Is. 42:3; Mt. 12:20). What the smoking lamp needs (if
there is oil in it), rather than being put out, is an adjustment of the wick.
That is what will restore a bright flame. It is not a question of the oil. The
oil is there, but it has been obstructed in the wick.
the picture is of two categories of people. Paul mentions them in 1
Corinthians 2 & 3. There is the “natural or psychic” man and there is the
“spiritual” man. But then he does go on to a third category, or sub-category:
the “carnal” man, a true Christian, but not living out the spiritual
life, rather allowing the flesh to have the last word on many issues.
our parable we are also faced with two categories first: foolish virgins (no
oil, no light) and wise virgins (no lack of oil and, normally, no lack of
light). However, that is where we discover there is a third category: among the
wise virgins foolishness may creep in. They may leave their wick unattended and
the light goes down and down, being replaced with smoke. In Paul’s terminology:
the Spirit is there, they are spiritual, i.e. truly born of the Spirit, yet the
flesh (carnality) may easily encroach, threatening to take over. In Luke 9:27,
Romans 12:1-2; Galatians 2:20; 5:16-26; 6:14, and other verses, we are
instructed as to how to keep these “wicks” of ours properly “trimmed”, so that
the Lord’s light and testimony may freely shine, continually energized by the
oil of the indwelling Spirit. On another occasion, when illustrating the
constant need to be ready for his return, the Lord tells his disciples to let
their “loins be girded” and their “lamps burning” (Lk. 12:35).
All ten virgins woke with a start when the
call sounded, all started to trim their wicks. Yet, however much the foolish
ones trimmed, they were unsuccessful. No light was produced. The verb usually
translated “trim”, can be equally well translated “light”. If they lit their
wicks, there would be a momentary flicker, but mostly smoke. The lack of oil
made any useful flame impossible. Whatever there was, it soon went out. That is
what we are told.
makes us think of those “Christians” of Hebrews 6:4-6, who stopped short of
true repentance and regeneration. Twice it says of them that they “tasted”. It
is the key word in that passage. Countless multitudes on all continents insist
on being called “Christians”, but all they have ever done is taste a bit here
and taste a bit there. They keep on “tasting” without ever drinking. The
important thing to note is that “tasting” is not “drinking” (compare Mat. 27:34). We might say that the lamps and the wicks of the
foolish virgins had a “taste” of oil to them, but the oil was missing!
possibility of a lack of oil in Christianity has had to be taken into account
ever since the days of Simon-the-sorcerer (Acts 8:9-23). However, by now it should be clear that the
situation has taken on crisis proportions. Untold millons of
so-called “Christians”, blissfully dozed off, are unaware of what is upon them.
It is their oil crisis. There is no crisis with the One who supplies the
“oil”. His supply is unlimited for all who discover their need and come to him.
At the time of writing it is still not too
All of Us Together!
There is a popular idea that the Lord is now
preparing his Church in these last days for that moment of his return. To
many it follows that now, on the eve of his arrival, worldwide revival is about
to break out. The thought is that the many thus prepared will go with Him in
the rapture. Those that did not allow Him to prepare them, or revive them, will
would be like a mother, who usually speaks of the two children she has
at home as if they were her only ones, somehow forgetting the other eight,
grown up and married, who are hers just as much as the two youngest ones.
many seem to have lost sight of the fact that the Lord has always been
preparing his Church. The company of the redeemed, still alive on earth when
the trumpet sounds, is no more than a remnant of the complete Church. Obviously
we are not meant to think of a present-day-remnant-only that will be
caught away. It will happen to the whole Church of Christ, all those of
the present and all those of the past. In fact, this is Paul’s argument
in 1 Thess. 4. The saints still alive will not precede the ones whose bodies
slept in Jesus. Rather, once they have come back from the dead, ALL will
go to meet the Lord in the air together!
apostle wants us to understand that true Christians “are all one in
Christ Jesus”. That is not an ideal, it is a wonderful spiritual reality,
all the more wonderful, when we remember that, at the time of writing, he was
addressing those pretty carnal Galatians (3:28).
In Christ there can be no division, not between past and present Christians,
and not between spiritual and carnal Christians.
the other hand, the divisions among true Christians-on-earth cannot be denied.
They are not only obvious, they are also painful and harmful. These things will
be sorted out perfectly, however, by our Lord as “we all appear
before the judgment seat of Christ” (2 Cor. 5:10), but (and again by his grace) we may be before him in much
prayer even now, seeking to be useful to him in the healing of
misunderstandings, hurts and rifts among all of his true children. At the same
time, whenever it would seem some kind of practical unity can be achieved among
Christians on the basis of compromising the truth revealed in God’s Word, those
who are “wise - and wide awake” will know how to value God’s Word far above all
be wise like the “wise virgins” is to believe in our Lord and Savior Jesus
Christ with all our heart, and so to be sealed by the Holy Spirit
of promise (Eph. 1:12-14). That wisdom is evidenced by the presence
of the Holy Spirit in our lives. From the moment in which He takes up his
abode, there is an indivisible unity with ALL who are his children (of whatever
creed, denomination or time period). That perfect unity in Christ cannot
fail to be perfect also in our joint resurrection, rapture and before his
is this indivisible unity, but in Christ there also is a total division,
which cannot be unified, a division from ALL who are not
indwelled by the same Holy Spirit. The ones may look exactly like the others,
do the same things, attend the same meetings and speak the same words, but the
presence or absence of the “oil” of the Holy Spirit fixes that awesome, eternal
gulf between the two groups.
..? Christianity ..?
What a spectacle to see all of those girls
lying about and asleep. None of them should have been. The point the Lord makes
is that, with not knowing the exact time of the bridegroom’s coming, they
should have been wide awake, all of them. Five of them should have used their
precious time to hurry and get oil while they still could. But the other five?
What should they have been doing? What else but to keep on nudging the foolish
ones, waking them up, persuading them of the lateness of the hour. They all
slept, no noticeable difference among them. A sad spectacle, indeed. Like
it or not, consider it negative or whatever, it is the prophetic and
absolutely realistic picture of the whole of present day Christianity on
the eve of his return. It is the culmination of long centuries of wholesale
backsliding. Parents in one generation, true Christians, stop taking the Lord
and his Word seriously. The result? Their children, the next generation, though
still insisting on calling themselves Christians, in all likelihood
never have a personal experience with the Savior.
brings us to the “A” word: APOSTASY. We find the Lord telling us
in this parable that Christianity as a whole will be found to be “apostate”
when He returns. “Apostasy???” Perhaps one of those high sounding
theological concepts that you never quite understood, but were afraid to ask
about? Paul prophesies about it in 2 Thess. 2:3, where it may be translated
“falling away”, or something similar. In Matthew 25 it is the Lord himself, who
paints us a very sad picture. Christian apostasy is always one of two kinds,
but in this parable we find both kinds together.
Much of Christianity is apostate in that it still has the name, certain
traditions and values, but .. nothing more! If it does not have the
Spirit of Christ, then it “is none of his” (Rom. 8:9). It may still have much of the form, but it is an empty form. This
apostasy is aptly illustrated by the five foolish virgins, who carry the lamps,
but not the oil.
The other kind of apostasy happens when an individual Christian (that is, a
true one, one who has oil), or a Christian home, or a whole
congregation, wanders away from closely following the Lord. It is often
referred to in the epistles to the seven churches in Revelation 2 and 3. It
ranges there from a creeping indifference to their Lord in the first letter, to
a complete independence from him in the last one. Five of the seven Christian
congregations are told to “repent”.
we have seen above, when this apostasy occurs among true Christians who,
furthermore, refuse to repent, the following generation will almost inevitably
experience the other kind of apostasy, the one we mentioned first. They will be
no more than so-called, or nominal, “Christians”.
five wise virgins, instead of being wide awake, straining to hear the
bridegroom’s call, and seeking to wake up their five foolish friends, chose
rather to relax with them, to take things easy, possibly telling each other:
“Well, at least we’ve got our oil, so why worry?” In this second kind of
apostasy there is no “oil crisis”, that is absolutely clear. However, as
we have seen, it is just as clear that every true believer will have a “judgment-seat
crisis”. Interestingly we get the word “crisis” from the Greek; it
literally means “judgment”. Every single one of us will have to answer before
that tribunal about the things done in the body, whether good or bad (2 Cor. 5:10).
gives us a general picture of sleeping Christians at the time of his
return, more like “churchianity” in reality then Christianity,
a picture of true Christians all mixed up with pseudo Christians. The
situation reminds us of that awful apostasy in Elijah’s time. But hold on! When
it seemed there was no one left who followed the Lord but God’s
one prophet, he was told there were still 7,000 who, like him, had
not bent their knee to Baal (Rom.
11:3-4). They were the
wonderful exception to the rule. God
is looking for present day exceptions! For “virgins”, who are not only wise because they
have their oil, but who are also wide awake and doing his work! As
always, his grace is sufficient, for you and for me!
we leave you with Paul’s last instructions to Timothy:
“I, therefore, give you a
solemn charge, before God, and the Lord Jesus Christ, who will judge the living
and the dead at the time of his return and the setting up of his kingdom.
Preach the Word of God. Be instant in season and out of season. Show people
where they are wrong; rebuke them if necessary. Patiently exhort and teach. For
the time will come when people will not listen to sound teaching, but in accord
with their own godless desires they will employ teachers who please them and
amuse them, and they will turn away their ears from the truth and listen to
But watch in all things. Bravely endure
suffering. Do the work of an evangelist. Fulfil your ministry to the full. I
am now ready to die as a sacrifice unto God. The time of my departure is at
hand. I have fought a good fight. I have run my race. I have kept the faith.
Henceforth there awaits me a crown of righteousness which the Lord the
righteous Judge will give me at the day when I see him. But not only give to
me, but give to all those who love his coming and presence” - 2
Tim. 4:1-8 (PG Parker).
Christ’s coming to earth, and through his life, death, resurrection, and
Pentecost, He firmly established his Kingdom as a "beachhead" on what Satan,
the "prince of this world", considers his territory. His “ekklesia”,
indwelt by his Holy Spirit, in
the world, but not of the world (John 17), is that “beachhead”.
may contact Jim by e-mail at: firstname.lastname@example.org.
more excellent articles by Jim on a number of subjects, go to www.ntmu.net.
© 10/00 Jim van Heiningen, Apartado 31, 29700 Vélez-Málaga, Spain
Permission to copy, or otherwise
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