Wednesday, January 20, 2016, 6:11 a.m. – The Lord Jesus put in mind the song “To Be Like Him.” Speak, Lord, your words to my heart. I read Matthew 25:1-13 (NASB).
“Then the kingdom of heaven will be comparable to ten virgins, who took their lamps and went out to meet the bridegroom. Five of them were foolish, and five were prudent. For when the foolish took their lamps, they took no oil with them, but the prudent took oil in flasks along with their lamps. Now while the bridegroom was delaying, they all got drowsy and began to sleep. But at midnight there was a shout, ‘Behold, the bridegroom! Come out to meet him.’ Then all those virgins rose and trimmed their lamps. The foolish said to the prudent, ‘Give us some of your oil, for our lamps are going out.’ But the prudent answered, ‘No, there will not be enough for us and you too; go instead to the dealers and buy some for yourselves.’ And while they were going away to make the purchase, the bridegroom came, and those who were ready went in with him to the wedding feast; and the door was shut. Later the other virgins also came, saying, ‘Lord, lord, open up for us.’ But he answered, ‘Truly I say to you, I do not know you.’ Be on the alert then, for you do not know the day nor the hour.”
The bridegroom in this parable is Jesus Christ, our Lord and Messiah. He is our God and creator, the second person of our triune God – Father, Son and Holy Spirit. He left his throne in heaven, took on human form, and entered this world as a baby through the womb of a woman. Yet, the woman became pregnant of the Holy Spirit, not of man, and she remained a virgin until after she gave birth. So, when Jesus walked the face of this earth, he was fully God yet fully man. He suffered as we suffer, and he was tempted in like manner as we are also tempted, yet without sin. He healed the sick and afflicted, raised the dead, delivered people from demons, performed many miracles, comforted the sorrowful and encouraged the timid. As well, he preached repentance for the forgiveness of sins and for eternal life with God in heaven. He said that if we want to come after him, we must deny self, die daily to sin, and follow him in obedience to his will for our lives (Lu. 9:23-25).
But, he was hated by the religious leaders of his day, because he told them the truth about their sin and their eternal destiny, because he didn’t follow their religious customs and human traditions, because he healed on the Sabbath, and because he claimed to be who he is – God. So, they had him arrested on false charges, mocked, beaten, and crucified on a cross, although he had done no wrong. When he died, our sins died with him, they were buried with him, and when he was resurrected, he rose victorious over sin, hell, Satan and death. After he rose from the dead, he appeared to many people, I think maybe as many as 500, including his eleven disciples (Judas had killed himself by this point). Sometime after Jesus was resurrected, he went back to heaven to live with the Father. He told his followers that he was going to prepare a place for them, and that one day he would come back to get them.
This is a lot like how marriages were conducted in Jewish households. Engagements were as binding as a marriage, yet without consummation of the relationship. After the engagement, the man prepared a place for his bride, and when the home was ready, he came to get her and they consummated their marriage and lived together thereafter. The Bible often describes our relationship with Jesus Christ in like manner. Right now he is in heaven making a home for us. We are in an engagement period with our Lord. We have been saved, we are in the process of being saved, and one day, when he returns, our salvation will be complete, and our relationship consummated. And, we will be forever with our Lord.
So, who are these virgins? Well, if Jesus Christ is the bridegroom, and they are the ones waiting for him, i.e. it is their Lord they are awaiting (See: Matt. 24:42), it would appear that they somehow represent the church, the body of Christ.
Let’s look at some of the symbols here. They were virgins. Not one of us is born a spiritual virgin. We are all born into sin, without God, and without hope. All of us have sinned, and we come up short of attaining the glory of God in our own flesh. Not one of us deserves or can do anything to earn our own salvation. We are all destined to spend eternity in hell, in eternal punishment. The only way we can become pure is through faith in Jesus Christ, via his blood shed on the cross for our sins. When we believe in Jesus Christ to be Lord and Savior of our lives, by the Spirit we die with Christ to sin, and we are resurrected with Christ to newness of life, “created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness” (Eph. 4:24). When we believe in Jesus Christ, his righteousness is, thus, credited to our accounts so that we are no longer destined for hell, but we have the promise of eternal life with God.
All of the virgins had lamps to light their way. In the Psalms we read that God’s word is a lamp unto our feet and a light unto our path (Ps. 119:105). In the Gospels we read that we are the light of the world, and that we should not hide our lights, but to let them shine before all mankind for all to see, so that they can see our good works, of the Spirit of God, and glorify our Father who is in heaven (Matt 5:14-16). Jesus said, “I am the Light of the world; he who follows Me will not walk in the darkness, but will have the Light of life” (Jn. 8:12). So, the light is Jesus, the truth, the Word of God, the righteousness of God, his gospel, and it is his living word living within us and out through us, i.e. it is our witness and testimony for Jesus Christ. It is the opposite of darkness, which is Satan, lies, unrighteousness, and wickedness (sin).
So, what or who provides the oil for the light in our lamps? What does the oil represent? Well, first of all God the Father sent his Son Jesus Christ to be a sacrifice for the sins of the world, i.e. to take the punishment for our sin so that we could be set free from slavery to sin and have the hope of eternal life with God. So, he is the provider of the oil. When we believe in Jesus Christ, and we die with him to sin, and we are resurrected with him to newness of life, which is the working of the Holy Spirit in regenerating us, we are indwelt and empowered with the Holy Spirit, who is the one who keeps our lights burning. So, the oil in our lamps is the Holy Spirit, who counsels, teaches, instructs, comforts, encourages, urges, strengthens and empowers us to keep our lights – Christ and his word; his righteousness, purity, love, grace, salvation, and witness – burning for Jesus Christ.
Wise and Foolish
Yet, only half the virgins had enough oil to last them until the day the bridegroom arrived. When the cry at midnight rang out, “Here’s the bridegroom! Come out to meet him!”, the virgins lacking in enough oil tried to get some of the wise virgins’ oil, because their lamps were going out, but the wise virgins knew that this was not something they could share, i.e. the foolish virgins needed to buy their own oil, but it was too late. While they were on the way to buy the oil, the bridegroom returned. The virgins who were ready went with him to the wedding banquet, and the door was shut. The foolish virgins begged the bridegroom to let them inside, but he told them, “I don’t know you.” And, then we have a warning here to keep watch, because we don’t know the day or the hour our Lord will come.
So, how is this to be applied to our lives? If you read commentaries on the Bible, you will find that there are many different interpretations of this passage. So, I will share what I believe the Lord is teaching me, based upon the Word of God and what it teaches us.
I believe this can be interpreted two different ways. One way is to see the foolish virgins as those who have a profession only of faith in Jesus Christ, but they never did receive Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior of their lives. They may have the appearance of righteousness, but it is dead works, based in the flesh, and not in the Spirit. Or, they may profess Christ with their lips, but never show any evidence of change of heart toward God and away from sin. This would be why their oil didn’t last, because it was superficial only, i.e. their faith never really took root, so the “Spirit” (oil) was not the Holy Spirit in their lives, but was all emotion and/or intellect. And, that is why it burned out. It didn’t last. This reminds me of the parable of the sower and the person who accepted the gospel with joy and enthusiasm, at first, but he has no root (Jesus, the Spirit), so he lasts only a short time. When trouble and persecution comes, because of the word, he quickly falls away (Matt. 13:1-23).
The other way of looking at this passage is in light of the parallels between the Jewish marriage and wedding and our relationships with Jesus Christ. We are presently in an engagement period with our Lord. We are saved, we are being saved, and we will be saved when he returns, when our marriage with him will be consummated and we will celebrate the wedding feast. While we wait for our Lord’s return, his grace teaches us to say “No” to ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives (See: Tit. 2:11-14). All throughout the New Testament we are warned against falling away, and we are encouraged over and over again to live up to the profession we make, i.e. to live for our Lord like we say we believe. And, we are taught how to live for God and how to walk in his holiness and righteousness, in the power and working of his Spirit within us, as we yield control of our lives over to the Spirit, and surrender our lives to God for his service.
Jesus said that if we continue in his word, we are truly his disciples (Jn. 8:31-32). We learn that God’s grace is extended to us, provided we continue in his kindness. Otherwise, we can be cut off from the vine, just as the Jews were cut off from the kingdom of heaven due to unbelief (Ro. 11:17-24). Paul taught that we are saved by the gospel, if we hold firmly to the word which he preached (1 Co. 15:2). Paul taught that God has “reconciled you by Christ’s physical body through death to present you holy in his sight, without blemish and free from accusation—if you continue in your faith, established and firm, not moved from the hope held out in the gospel” (Col. 1:21-23). We read in Hebrews that “We have come to share in Christ if we hold firmly till the end the confidence we had at first” (chap. 3). And, John said this: “See that what you have heard from the beginning remains in you. If it does, you also will remain in the Son and in the Father. And this is what he promised us—even eternal life” (I John 2:24-25).
Jesus said: “Truly, truly, I say to you, if anyone keeps my word, he will never see death” (Jn 8:51). “If anyone loves me, he will keep my word, and my Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him. Whoever does not love me does not keep my words. And the word that you hear is not mine but the Father’s who sent me” (Jn. 14:23-24). John said: “By this we know that we have come to know Him, if we keep His commandments. The one who says, “I have come to know Him,” and does not keep His commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in him; but whoever keeps His word, in him the love of God has truly been perfected. By this we know that we are in Him: the one who says he abides in Him ought himself to walk in the same manner as He walked” (1 John 2:3-6). “Those who obey his commands live in him, and he in them. And this is how we know that he lives in us: We know it by the Spirit he gave us” (1 John 3:24).
In whatever way you may choose to interpret this passage, though, one thing is perfectly clear. Jesus died that we might die to sin and live to righteousness (1 Pet. 2:24). He died that we might no longer live for ourselves, but for him who gave his life up for us (2 Co. 5:15). He died that the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us who walk not according to the flesh, but according to the Spirit, for if we walk according to the flesh, we will die, but if by the Spirit we are putting to death the deeds of the flesh, we will live (Ro. 8:1-14). If we claim to have fellowship with God, yet we walk in darkness (sin), we are liars, and the truth is not in us (1 Jn. 1:6). God so loved the world that he gave his one and only begotten Son that whosoever believes in him should not perish, but have everlasting life. “Believes” is present tense, not past tense. We can’t get to heaven on a past profession of faith in Jesus Christ. Our faith needs to be current. We need to be abiding in Christ.
To Be Like Him / An Original Work
March 16, 2014 / Based off Scripture
Crucified you are with Jesus.
To be like Him, oh, you’ll be,
Because He died at Calv’ry,
So from sin you’d be free.
Oh, what joy He brings into your life,
Giving life with Him endlessly.
Oh, what plans He has for your life.
Share the gospel faithfully.
Show the people He loves them.
Now His witness you’ll be.
Tell the world of sin about Jesus,
How He died for them on a tree.
Purifying hearts, He saves them,
Who believe on Christ, God’s Son.
Turning now from their idols,
New lives they have begun.
Jesus saves from sin; we’re forgiven.
Over sin, the vict’ry He won!
When He comes again to take us
To be with Him evermore,
There will be no more crying.
Gladness will be in store.
Heavens joys will now overtake us:
We’ll be with our Lord evermore.