Where, Lord?

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Vultures?

In Luke’s Gospel, Jesus tells His followers what His future coming will be like and how He will appear.  The first section in Chapter 17 concerns how many may grow tired of waiting for His coming or may be enticed to follow another leader who claims to knows where Christ is:

22 And He said to the disciples, “The days will come when you will long to see one of the days of the Son of Man, and you will not see it. 23 They will say to you, ‘Look there! Look here!’ Do not go away, and do not run after them. 24 For just like the lightning, when it flashes out of one part of the sky, shines to the other part of the sky, so will the Son of Man be in His day. 25 But first He must suffer many things and be rejected by this generation. 

The next section describes the conditions in the world before His coming.  Many people will be living a life of carpe diem or living a life of “eat, drink, and make merry, for tomorrow we die.”

26 And just as it happened in the days of Noah, so it will be also in the days of the Son of Man: 27 they were eating, they were drinking, they were marrying, they were being given in marriage, until the day that Noah entered the ark, and the flood came and destroyed them all. 28 It was the same as happened in the days of Lot: they were eating, they were drinking, they were buying, they were selling, they were planting, they were building; 29 but on the day that Lot went out from Sodom it rained fire and brimstone from heaven and destroyed them all. 

This final section is the one that is often taken out of context and used to prove a belief that is based on misreadings elsewhere, in particular the idea that Jesus will come secretly to gather His elect, an idea that is contradicted in verse 24 above that says His coming will be like lightning flashing from one part of the sky to the other.  Therefore, we need to look at this passage carefully:

30 It will be just the same on the day that the Son of Man is revealed. 31 On that day, the one who is on the housetop and whose goods are in the house must not go down to take them out; and likewise the one who is in the field must not turn back. 32 Remember Lot’s wife. 33 Whoever seeks to keep his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life will preserve it. 34 I tell you, on that night there will be two in one bed; one will be taken and the other will be left. 35 There will be two women grinding at the same place; one will be taken and the other will be left.36 [Two men will be in the field; one will be taken and the other will be left.”] 37 And answering they *said to Him, “Where, Lord?” And He said to them, “Where the body is, there also the vultures will be gathered.”

Taking a Passage Out of Context

This is a lengthy passage as a whole, yet taken in its full context, it seems fairly easy to follow.  However, many Bible teachers today wrest certain portions out of their contexts in order to promulgate their own views.  Doing so is called “proof-texting.”

The portion of this passage that is often used to proof-text for a certain position is verses 31-35, where Jesus says two people may be performing certain tasks together, yet one of the two will “taken away.”

Clearly, the question may remain as to the destination of those who are taken, and even some of Jesus’ disciples ask Him, “Where, Lord?”

The context itself should provide enough clues for an interpretation, for Jesus alludes to the days of Noah and to the destruction of Sodom in the previous verses.  Yet still the possibility exists that Jesus may be referring to an escape from these disasters, a meaning that is clearly advocated by many “secret rapture” Bible teachers.  Recent books and films have depicted such an escape provided believers before the dreaded Tribulation period, and many in the Church today have accepted this teaching.

However, Jesus answers the disciples’ question by saying, “Where the body is, there also the vultures will be gathered” (37).  His statement implies, however, that those taken are taken in death.  The image Jesus uses is of a vulture, not a dove or a pigeon.  When I see a vulture rise from the road ahead, I know that there will be a dead animal there when I arrive.

Again, this passage is often used by secret rapture teachers to persuade Christians that they will escape the conditions of this world during a Great Tribulation, one which these teachers believe is depicted graphically in the Book of Revelation.  In the parallel passage in Matthew’s Gospel, however, Jesus’ statements about being “taken” come after His description of the  Great Tribulation, and His description depicts graphically how all will see His appearing, coming out of the sky with “power and great glory.”

29 “But immediately after the tribulation of those days the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light, and the stars will fall from the sky, and the powers of the heavens will be shaken. 30 And then the sign of the Son of Man will appear in the sky, and then all the tribes of the earth will mourn, and they will see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of the sky with power and great glory. 31 And He will send forth His angels with a great trumpet and they will gather together His elect from the four winds, from one end of the sky to the other.

This Second Coming to gather His elect will not be secret by any means, but very visible, and a trumpet will sound, signalling His coming.

An Example

Recently, Tim LaHaye, the author of the very popular Left Behind series of novels, responded to criticism, specifically that his films about the Rapture are not biblical.  (Article from Charisma Magazine)   Understandably, since LaHaye  has become extremely popular because of his books and films, he has a lot at stake if his rapture theories are ultimately rejected.

LaHaye responds by saying that anyone who rejects the rapture obviously does not believe God’s Word, the Bible:

God’s Word is just that—God’s words, and He meant what He said. Those who do not believe in the rapture do not understand that the first teaching of the rapture dates back to the first century when the Holy Spirit inspired the Apostle Paul to write it into the Holy Scripture.

Lahaye says that his critic, William Lane Craig, believes the Bible should be taken spiritually, allegorically or symbolically.  LaHaye opposes this view:  “The problem with this is it eliminates 28 percent of the Bible from our understanding and removes the ‘blessed hope of Christ’s return’ for His church, which is clearly taught in Titus 2:12-14.”

The problem here, however, is that the passage Tim LaHaye refers to from Titus does not even remotely describe the rapture, for Jesus is described as appearing in “glory”:  

12 instructing us to deny ungodliness and worldly desires and to live sensibly, righteously and godly in the present age, 13 looking for the blessed hope and the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior, Christ Jesus, 14 who gave Himself for us to redeem us from every lawless deed, and to purify for Himself a people for His own possession,zealous for good deeds.  (Titus 2:12-14)

Also, we have seen in previous blogs that reading the Bible only literally is inadequate (see my blog titled “Seeing Beyond the Literal” from May of 2014).  Jesus Himself, the Logos, the Word of God incarnate, spoke in parables, used analogies, used metaphors and other forms of imagery to communicate to His disciples.  And the Apostle Paul himself constantly used analogies that are not intended to be taken literally, but figuratively.

In addition, Paul’s teaching in I Thessalonians 4 describes the Second Coming of Christ, not the rapture as so many dispensationalists have decided to proclaim, again taking this passage out of its true context:

13 But we do not want you to be uninformed, brethren, about those who are asleep, so that you will not grieve as do the rest who have no hope. 14 For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so God will bring with Him those who have fallen asleep in Jesus. 15 For this we say to you by the word of the Lord, that we who are alive and remain until the coming of the Lord, will not precede those who have fallen asleep. 16 For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first. 17 Then we who are alive and remain will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and so we shall always be with the Lord. 18 Therefore comfort one another with these words.

This is clearly not a description of a secret rapture, but instead a description of the Second Coming of Christ.  Note the shout, the voice of the archangel, and the sounding of the trumpet of God.  

Likewise, the Apostle Paul relates in I Corinthians 15:51-58 a very similar teaching, one which offers specifics on the fate of those who have already died:

51 Behold, I tell you a mystery; we will not all sleep, but we will all be changed, 52 in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet; for the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised imperishable, and we will be changed. 53 For this perishable must put on the imperishable, and this mortal must put on immortality. 54 But when this perishable will have put on the imperishable, and this mortal will have put on immortality, then will come about the saying that is written, “Death is swallowed up in victory. 55 death, where is your victory? O death, where is your sting?” 56 The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law; 57 but thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.

Note again the sounding of the trumpet, a common feature of the Second Coming descriptions, yet the trumpet is inconsistent with the secret rapture teachings of LaHaye, Hal Lindsay, and others (see, for example, this website: Rapture Site).

While these “Secret Rapture” teachers may be well-meaning, the Word of God needs to be interpreted meaningfully and thoroughly, rightly dividing the Word of Truth, as Paul wrote to the Corinthians,

Now we have received, not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, so that we may know the things freely given to us by God, 13 which things we also speak, not in words taught by human wisdom, but in those taught by the Spirit, combining spiritual thoughts with spiritual words” (1 Corinthians 2:13).

This is what I hope we will do in these blog postings.

 

 

Current Misreadings

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Dispensationalism

I am not a dispensationalist, particularly in terms of eschatology, the doctrines of the “End Times.” Even more significantly, I do not believe in an arbitrary division between the Early Church, the age of the Apostles, and the later history of the Church in terms of the Holy Spirit’s gifts.  

In extreme forms, some dispensationalists have even advocated the abolition of water baptism and declared that the Jews will one day  be saved by following the Law of Moses, offering sacrifices in a rebuilt Temple in modern-day Jerusalem.

When Jesus promised the gift of the Holy Spirit, the one member of the Godhead Who would be our “Paraclete,” or “one called alongside to help,” Jesus never said or even implied that the Holy Spirit’s presence or power would be diminished, particularly in these latter days when the Church needs the Holy Spirit’s power as much as ever before.  

I believe that the gifts and calling of God are without repentance (Romans 11:29), and the One who gives us that power is the Holy Spirit.  

In fact, the “Great Commission” Jesus gave his disciples before His ascension, as written in Matthew 28, clearly states that the power to minister through the Holy Spirit is for all Christians throughout the world.  This “baptism” is different from the “indwelling” Jesus gave to His disciples shortly after His resurrection, as it says in John’s Gospel:  

So when it was evening on that day, the first day of the week, and when the doors were shut where the disciples were, for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood in their midst and *said to them, “Peace be with you.” 20 And when He had said this, He showed them both His hands and His side. The disciples then rejoiced when they saw the Lord.21 So Jesus said to them again, “Peace be with you; as the Father has sent Me, I also send you.” 22 And when He had said this, He breathed on them and *said to them,“Receive the Holy Spirit.  (John 20:19-22).

Jesus also made this promise after His resurrection and before His ascension to Heaven:

Afterward He appeared to the eleven themselves as they were reclining at the table; and He reproached them for their unbelief and hardness of heart, because they had not believed those who had seen Him after He had risen. 15 And He said to them, “Go into all the world and preach the gospel to all creation. 16 He who has believed and has been baptized shall be saved; but he who has disbelieved shall be condemned. 17 These signs will accompany those who have believed: in My name they will cast out demons, they will speak with new tongues; 18 they will pick up serpents, and if they drink any deadly poison, it will not hurt them; they will lay hands on the sick, and they will recover.” (Mark 16:14-17)

Notice that these promises are for all who believe, even those who proclaim His good news to the rest of the world.  The only stipulation Jesus gives is that they believe in Him.

Later, before His ascension, Jesus tells the disciples to wait in Jerusalem for a very special gift:

Gathering them together, He commanded them not to leave Jerusalem, but to wait for what the Father had promised, “Which,” He said“you heard of from Me; for John baptized with water, but you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit not many days from now.” (Acts 1:4-5)

The disciples had already received the indwelling Holy Spirit as John relates (see above), but Jesus follows up this statement with a promise that in its context includes all Christians, not just the Early Church:

 He said to them, “It is not for you to know times or epochs which the Father has fixed by His own authority; but you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be My witnesses both in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and even to the remotest part of the earth.” (Acts 1:7-8)

The remotest part of the earth undoubtedly includes where all of us are living today.

This Gift is For All Who Call on the Name of the Lord

Many will strongly disagree with me, but I will attempt to provide a concise statement that proves the Holy Spirit was poured out on all flesh, or “all mankind,” not just the disciples in Early Church.  See this passage from the Prophet Joel:  

It will come about after this
That I will pour out My Spirit on all mankind;
And your sons and daughters will prophesy,
Your old men will dream dreams,
Your young men will see visions.
Even on the male and female servants
I will pour out My Spirit in those days.  (Joel 2:28-29)

This is the same prophecy that the Apostle Peter quotes on the Day of Pentecost, when he spoke to the people gathered who had heard the followers of Jesus speaking in their own languages and seeing the fire of the Holy Spirit.

The Apostle Paul’s Statement About the Spiritual Gifts

The First Letter to the Corinthians contains a statement that many dispensationalists use to prove that the Holy Spirit’s gifts that were poured out on the Day of Pentecost  are no longer being given to the Church.  Indeed, this passage is part of their rationale that supposes all manifestations of the gifts may even be demonic, or demon-inspired.

This is the passage:

Love never fails; but if there are gifts of prophecy, they will be done away; if there are tongues, they will cease; if there is knowledge, it will be done away. For we know in part and we prophesy in part; 10 but when the perfect comes, the partial will be done away. When I was a child, I used to speak like a child, think like a child, reason like a child; when I became a man, I did away with childish things. For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face; now I know in part, but then I will know fully just as I also have been fully known. 13 But now faith, hope, love, abide these three; but the greatest of these is love. (I Corinthians 13:8-13)

Clearly, this passage teaches that one day gifts of prophecy and glossolalia (tongues) will no longer be necessary at a future time, for they will either cease or be “done away.”  The question is, when will this cessation occur?  

The specific indicator in the passage declares that “when the perfect comes, the partial will be done away.”  The dispensationalist’s  reationale is that the “perfect” is the completion of the New Testament Scriptures, whose existence meant that the Holy Spirit’s gifts to lead and instruct the Church were no longer necessary.

This teaching is problematic for a number of reasons, not the least of which is that the Scriptures are still not accessible to many people because of the many needs for translations.   

More significantly, however, this teaching is self-contradictory in the sense that the word “perfect” obviously includes all the Scriptures, even I Corinthians Chapters 12 and 14 , both of which provide a thorough teaching on the gifts of the Holy Spirit.

Why is it that those who believe and accept the Scriptures as the inerrant and infallible Word of God arbitrarily delete whole passages, declaring them essentially irrelevant, to have passed away, or to have ceased, particularly when the rest of the teachings in the Word contradict their beliefs?

A Rebuttal Based on Sound Exegesis

I believe that the context of Paul’s statement about some of the gifts passing away needs to be consistent with the entire letter to the Corinthians, not just a single phrase that is incorrectly interpreted, or even added to.

Thus, Paul speaks of seeking the greater, or  the “best,” gifts (I Corinthians 12:31), for example, and he even declares that those who disagree with him are not to be recognized:

If anyone thinks he is a prophet or spiritual, let him recognize that the things which I write to you are the Lord’s commandment. But if anyone does not recognize this, he is not recognized.  Therefore, my brethren, desire earnestly to prophesy, and do not forbid to speak in tongues. 40 But all things must be done properly and in an orderly manner. (I Corinthians 14:37-40)

In addition, see what Paul writes in the first chapter of his letter:

I thank my God always concerning you for the grace of God which was given you in Christ Jesus, that in everything you were enriched in Him, in all speech and all knowledge, even as the testimony concerning Christ was confirmed in you, so that you are not lacking in any gift, awaiting eagerly the revelation of our Lord Jesus Christ, who will also confirm you to the end, blameless in the day of our Lord Jesus Christ. (I Corinthians 1:4-8)

This passage couldn’t be more clear in terms of providing a context for the entire letter.  Paul commends the Corinthian Church for being enriched in all speech and knowledge (allusions to the spiritual gifts he later teaches about in chapter 12: 4-11), and he states specifically that the Corinthians are not lacking in any gift as they await the “revelation” or “parousia,” a specific reference to the second coming of the Lord.  Paul writes that Jesus Christ will “confirm you to the end”  in the “day of our Lord Jesus Christ,” another specific reference to the Second Coming.

Therefore, the Apostle Paul does not write inconsistently.  He first praises the Corinthians for being enriched with the spiritual gifts of the Holy Spirit, then later exhorts them to “covet” the best gifts while awaiting the Second Coming, an event that we still await today.  

Decently and in Order

Most definitely, some problems existed within the Corinthian Church concerning spiritual gifts.  The Corinthians were misusing the gift of tongues, for example, calling attention to themselves instead of glorifying God in their prayers.  Paul strongly relates that in their gatherings the gift of prophecy should be used predominantly, particularly if no one is present who can interpret what the tongues-speaker is saying.  

Paul says that he speaks in tongues more than any of them, yet in the assembly he would rather speak in such a way that all may say “amen” to his utterances.

This is a particular problem in many churches today, and it is one of the reasons why many well-meaning church leaders declare that speaking in tongues should be forbidden. 

Speaking Mysteries

The problem derives from a great misconception about the purpose of this gift.  Today, the perception is that these utterances are messages from God to the gathered believers, necessitating the contribution of one who has the gift of interpretation.  In fact, Paul relates, the opposite is true:

For one who speaks in a tongue does not speak to men but to God; for no one understands, but in his spirit he speaks mysteries. But one who prophesies speaks to men for edification and exhortation and consolation.  One who speaks in a tongue edifies himself; but one who prophesies edifies the church.

However, an understanding of the contexts of the relevant passages reveals that speaking in tongues is not a message from God to the church, but instead is a message from the speaker to God in the form of a mystery, or prayer.  

Even in the example of the Day of Pentecost, the gathered listeners heard in their own languages how the disciples were “speaking of the mighty deeds of God” (2:11), in effect, speaking words of praise to Him.  

Paul attempts to correct the problems in Corinth of speaking an unknown language with the following teachings. 

Therefore let one who speaks in a tongue pray that he may interpret. For if I pray in a tongue, my spirit prays, but my mind is unfruitful. What is the outcome then? I will pray with the spirit and I will pray with the mind also; I will sing with the spirit and I will sing with the mind also. Otherwise if you bless in the spirit only, how will the one who fills the place of the ungifted say the “Amen” at your giving of thanks, since he does not know what you are saying?

Paul suggests that they be sure an interpreter is present, one who has the Gift of Interpretation of Tongues.  Otherwise, he writes, those who do not understand will be unable to say “Amen” at the close of the prayer.

In addition, he strongly advises that believers seek the Gift of Prophecy so they can speak the words of God in a known language:  “Now I wish that you all spoke in tongues, but even more that you would prophesy; and greater is one who prophesies than one who speaks in tongues, unless he interprets, so that the church may receive edifying” (I Corinthians 14:5)  

This Gift of Prophecy is given by the Holy Spirit in order to offer words of comfort, edification, and exhortation to the Body of Christ (I Corinthians 14:3).  It is not intended only to offer a prediction of future events, though in the mouth of a “Prophet” or “Prophetess” such utterances may occur, as they did in the Book of Acts. 

According to the Apostle Paul, we must continue to seek to exercise the Gift of Prophecy:  “Therefore, my brethren, desire earnestly to prophesy, and do not forbid to speak in tongues, a gift which Paul implies is useful when we do not know how to pray. 

However, all things must be done properly and in an orderly manner” (I Corinthians 14:39).

 

Conclusion

You may recall the words of Jesus, Who gave in Mathew 10 the following admonition to His followers:

You will even be brought before governors and kings for My sake, as a testimony to them and to the Gentiles. But when they hand you over, do not worry about how or what you are to say; for it will be given you in that hour what you are to say. For it is not you who speak, but it is the Spirit of your Father who speaks in you. (Matthew 10:18-20)

This a description of what prophecy is and how it is exercised.  It reveals one reason, I believe, why the Lord want us to allow the Holy Spirit to give us the gift of prophecy, for He wants us to know what He is saying to us.  To be sure He meant the Gentiles also, not just His immediate followers, He said, “And other sheep I have, which are not of this fold: them also I must bring, and they shall hear my voice; and there shall be one fold, and one shepherd. …My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me (John 16:10, 17).

Finally, in a further demonstration of the Gifts of the Holy Spirit in the 4th Chapter of Acts, following the healing of the lame beggar and Peter and John’s subsequent arrest, we read of a fresh infilling of the Holy Spirit in the gathered believers after the two apostles have been released:  “And when they had prayed, the place where they had gathered together was shaken, and they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak the word of God with boldness”  (Acts 4:31).

May we all seek and pray for a fresh infilling of the Holy Spirit.

 

 


The Parable of the Ten Virgins

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As a child growing up, I loved reading and hearing the parables Jesus told in His messages.  Like most children, I loved hearing these stories, even though I didn’t always understand their meanings.

In an earlier blog, I wrote about the “Parable of the Sower” in Mark’s Gospel, a story that conveys the principles for understanding all parables, according to Jesus’ own words (Mark 4:13).  In Chapter 4, He relates that the stories He is telling convey spiritual truths that could only be understood by those who were given the “mystery of the Kingdom of God,” or those who are like good soil–deeply receptive to the messages in the stories and not influenced by  the destructive influences of Satan or the world .

In the Matthew’s  Gospel, Chapter 25, we find another significant parable that conveys more secrets divine that  God wants to reveal to His followers.

25 “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.’ 10 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. 11 Later the other virgins also came, saying, ‘Lord, lord, open up for us.’ 12 But he answered, ‘Truly I say to you, I do not know you.’ 13 Be on the alert then, for you do not know the day nor the hour. (Matthew 25:1-13)

In many ways, the meanings of this parable seem fairly easy to understand.  In a number of places in the New Testament, for example, we are informed that Jesus Christ is like a Bridegroom, who will come some day to receive His Bride the Church.  Jesus is clearly declaring in His parable that He is the Bridegroom.

A Great Mystery

Likewise, the Church is seen in many places as the Bride of Christ.  One of the clearest examples is in Paul’s Letter to the Ephesians:

25 Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself up for her, 26 so that He might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, 27 that He might present to Himself the church in all her glory, having no spot or wrinkle or any such thing; but that she would be holy and blameless. 28 So husbands ought also to love their own wives as their own bodies. He who loves his own wife loves himself; 29 for no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as Christ also does the church, 30 because we are members of His body. 31 For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and shall be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh. 32 This mystery is great; but I am speaking with reference to Christ and the church.  (Ephesians 5:25-32)

Note the very last verse.  It says that the relationship Christ has with His Church is like a human marriage, and Paul’s conclusion is that husbands ought to love their wives in the same way Christ loves the Church.  Paul concludes that this analogy is a great “mystery,” one which reveals the love Christ has for the people who make up His Body, the Church.

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Who Are the Virgins?

In Christ’s parable, we hear of ten virgins who await the coming of the Bridegroom.  They wait with their lamps lit, but five of the ten are foolish and do not have extra oil in case the Bridegroom’s coming is delayed.  Consequently, when their Lord’s coming is delayed and the virgins fall asleep, five of them find that they haven’t enough oil to keep their lamps lit for the Lord’s arrival.

The lesson, Jesus says, is that we need to be prepared for His arrival, for we do not know the day nor the time of His coming.  We don’t want to miss Him when He comes!

This is where a point-by-point explanation of Jesus’ parable becomes difficult, for clearly the ten virgins are not depicted in the story as the Bride.  Instead, they are depicted as bridesmaids who are charged with welcoming the Bridegroom to the wedding feast.

Does this mean they are not  Christians?  Aren’t they part of the Body of Believers who make up the Church?

Most analogies, or stories told to make a point, break down logically at some point, for no analogy is perfect since it doesn’t describe the true situation completely.  It only relates the truth metaphorically or analogically, in the form of a comparison.  Comparing two things completely is not possible since they are separate similar, but not the same.  

The only thing that matches that thing completely is that thing itself!

My sense is that the ten virgins in the story are also part of the Bride of Christ, but in this case they only represent those Christians who will be alive when Christ comes again.  Therefore, if Christ comes for His Bride during our lifetimes, we are told, we need to be ready.  The virgins aren’t criticized for falling asleep, nor for letting their lamps run low.  Only the five foolish virgins are disadvantaged, however,  because they were not ready with sufficient oil in their lamps.  They didn’t have an extra supply of oil, so they tried to get some from the five wise virgins, who said that they wouldn’t have enough either if they gave some of their own away.  Ultimately, the five foolish virgins go out to purchase some from dealers in the middle of the night, an unlikely time for sure!  Then they had the door to the wedding festival shut on them and the Lord denied them entrance.

The Application

I believe that the most important question about the parable, therefore, is what is the oil?  What does it represent?  How can we be sure we are prepared?  Does Jesus mean that we all need to buy a lot of olive oil and keep a supply with us?

Searching the Scriptures, we find many depictions of the Holy Spirit of God, who is portrayed as a “violent rushing wind” and “tongues as of fire” on the Day of Pentecost when the first believers in the Church were filled or immersed in the Holy Spirit (Acts 2:1-4).  The Holy Spirit is also seen as a dove when Jesus was baptized by John the Baptist (John 3:13-17). 

However, oil in the Scriptures is often used as another metaphor for the Holy Spirit.  Jesus said “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because He anointed me to preach the gospel to the poor…” (Luke 4:18). 

Later in Luke’s The Acts of the Apostles, Peter says to the gentiles gathered at Cornelius’ house in Caesarea, “You know of Jesus of Nazareth, how God anointed Him with the Holy Spirit and with power, and how He went about doing good and healing all who were oppressed by the devil, for God was with Him” (Acts 10:38). 

After Peter’s message, the impact is immediate:  “While Peter was still speaking these words, the Holy Spirit fell upon all those who were listening to the message. 45 All the circumcised believers who came with Peter were amazed, because the gift of the Holy Spirit had been poured out on the Gentiles also” (Acts 10:44).

 We can conclude, then, that to have sufficient oil for the appearing of the Lord Jesus, when He comes to gather His Church, means to be filled with the Holy Spirit so that we may “let our light shine” to the world and those around us, regardless of our circumstances.

How Are We Filled?

Reading the Acts of the Apostles, we find many times when the followers of Christ were not only filled with the Holy Spirit, but also were refilled or remained filled.  The Apostle Paul wrote that if we live according to the Holy Spirit in us, we will not fulfill the desires of the flesh, but instead will manifest the “fruit” of the Holy Spirit (Galatians 5:16-24).  

Thus, we need to invite the Spirit of God to constantly fill us with His power and the manifestation of His Spirit.  We do this by asking, for we have not if we ask not (James 4:2).  In addition, we must be on guard against “quenching” the Holy Spirit, as Paul related to the Thessalonians: 

Rejoice always; 17 pray without ceasing; 18 in everything give thanks; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus. 19 Do not quench the Spirit; 20 do not despise prophetic utterances. 21 But examine everything carefully; hold fast to that which is good; 22 abstain from everyform of evil.  (I Thessalonians 5:16-22)

Following Paul’s teachings, dying to ourselves and allowing the Holy Spirit to live the life of Christ in us, we will be like the wise virgins in Christ’s parable, for our lamps will be continually filled as we wait for His coming.

 


 

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