“Shout! It’s Midnight And The Bridegroom Is Here!”

MATTHEW 25:6: “But at midnight there was a shout,  Behold, the bridegroom!  Go out and meet him.

MARRIAGE TRADITIONS TODAY versus BIBLICAL TIMES:

My grandson is getting married to a lovely girl on the 4th of July.  My wife and I asked him why on the 4th?  He answered us by saying, “At least we won’t forget our Anniversary.”  I don’t think he was serious, just giving his grandparents something to ponder, grinning the whole time at the blank stare on our faces.

Today’s groom stands at the front of auditorium, facing the invited guests.  Perhaps pulling out his handkerchief, wiping his perspiring forehead in expectation.  And then, the bride walks down the long aisle in all her arraignment, with music playing, and the people who are standing with bent necks, anticipating her arrival to her awaiting bridegroom.

THE PARABLE OF “TEN VIRGINS”:

This story meshes well with what we know of marriage customs in the ancient near east.  If the groom did not live to far from the bride’s home, he had some close friends go to her home (usually the home of her father or brother) where various preliminary festivities and ceremonies would take place.  Then there would be a procession through the streets, commonly after nightfall, to the home of the groom, where the main festivities would take place, often for many days.  Guests and even some of the “bridesmaids” might wait along the way to the groom’s house, intending to join the procession.  Everyone in the procession was expected to carry his or her own torch.  Those without a torch could safely be assumed to be “party crashers” or even brigands (Marriage customs of old were found in, God With Us- Themes From Matthew by D. A. Carson).

MATTHEW 25:1-13 AMP.

[1]  “THEN THE kingdom of heaven shall be likened to ten virgins who took their lamps and went to meet the bridegroom.  [2]  Five of them were foolish (thoughtless, without forethought) and five were wise (sensible, intelligent, and prudent).  [3]  For when the foolish took their lamps, they did not take any [extra] oil with them;  [4]  But the wise took flasks of oil along with them [also] with their lamps.  [5]  While the bridegroom lingered and was slow in coming, they all began nodding their heads, and they all fell asleep.  [6]  But at midnight there was a shout, Behold, the bridegroom!  Go out to meet him!  [7]  Then all those virgins got up and put their own lamps in order.  [8]  And the foolish said to the wise, Give us some of your oil, for our lamps are going out.  [9]  But the wise replied,  There will not be enough for us and for you; go instead to the dealers and buy for yourselves.  [10]  But while they were going away to buy, the bridegroom came, and those who were prepared went in with him to the marriage feast; and the door was shut.  [11]  Later the other virgins also came and said, Lord, Lord, open [the door] to us!  [12]  But He replied, I solemnly declare to you, I do not know you [I am not acquainted with you].  [13]  Watch therefore [give strict attention and be cautious and active], for you know neither the day nor the hour when the Son of Man will come.”

WHAT’S A “PARABLE”?

Everyone likes a good story.  A few people like poetry, a few others like technical studies, and still others delight in ABSTRACT thought and advanced philosophy.  But everyone LIKES a good story.

Many PARABLES Jesus told were a certain kind of story.  The word “parable” itself can cover an immense range of literature: it can, among other things, refer to a proverb (Luke 4:23), a nonverbal symbol or image (Hebrews 9:9), or an obscure saying (Matthew 15:35), some kind of comparison without the benefit of a plot (Matthew 15:15), and so much more.

But in Matthew 25:1-13, I was interested in a parable that tells us a story.  All the elements in the story fit the story itself; but the story as a whole, and sometimes some of its parts, shed light on something outside the story, because that “something” is usually said to be like what takes place in the story.  And if the story has a surprise ending, it can very quickly communicate large new horizons of understanding to the readers (that’s you and me), or the hearer (that’s you and me)!

NOT GASOLINE BUT “OIL”:

It has been reported that every year, at least a half-million people in America call for help because they have run out of gas.  Besides flat tires, dead batteries, misplaced keys (sorry honey), running out of fuel ranks right up there with the reasons why people call for roadside assistance.

I can understand this happening a generation or two ago, when gas gauges were not entirely accurate; when warning lights of our day were non-existent.  But now we have automatic, verbal warning messages, telling us that the fuel is running low; giving us perhaps and hour or more of driving.  And that’s not enough.  Progressively, urgent warnings, indicating just how many estimated miles of driving we have left.  So one might say, most people running out of gas…are without excuse.

The verses in Matthew 25, it’s NOT gasoline that’s lacking but “oil”; the FUEL burned in lamps during Jesus’ day.  By this detective work, I believe the five foolish virgins really didn’t “run out” of oil; they never had it to begin with!

“EXTRA OIL” (verse 3).

There is a footnote in the NET Bible (New English Translation) that says the word “extra” is not found in the Greek text.  It has been inserted in some translations because of the context implied.  So why do we think that the 5 BRIDESMAIDS brought any oil at all?  Perhaps because of what it says in verse 8:  “…for our lamps are going out.”

THE LAMPS:

The word used for LAMP in Matthew 25:1-13 is the word, Lampas.  They were NOT like what my wife has collected over our married life: no glass chimney, no wick or adjusting device, nor attached tank where the oil could be stored.

The LAMPS were similar to the picture above: large, flat, bowl with a rag-like “wick” that could be attached to a pole for an outdoor torch to illuminate one’s steps in the darkness.

What were the reasons that the WISE VIRGINS brought oil?  The “oil” was carried in flasks and added to the lamps in time of need.  I believe there must have been some residue of oil on the rag or wick on the 5 EMPTY LAMPS, that quickly burned out after being lit.  That might explain why all 5 torches went out at the same time.

Perhaps, too, these foolish ‘ladies’ wanted to minimize their foolishness; describing their dilemma as “going out” to look less foolish.

Being Prepared!  That’s The bottom Line.

Whether the oil represents:  your faith, the Holy Spirit, or Christian character.  It really doesn’t matter.  Why?  Because each feeds the other.  It could be any or all three Jesus had in mind.  The MAIN MESSAGE is to be READY, PREPARED, ALL AT THE SAME TIME!

Even though He DELAYS:

I heard a story once, about a young couple’s first date as they were recounting the events in a small bible study group.

The young lady was all dressed up, looking beautiful and patiently awaiting for her date to arrive.  After time had passed for his arrival by an hour, she decided, I’ve been ‘stood up’ on this date.  So, she took off her make-up, got into her pajamas, made some popcorn, and decided to watch her favorite DVD movie, with her dog, curled up on the couch.

Then, the door bell rang and she went to the door to see who it might be.  It was HER DATE!  He looked somewhat amazed and said, “I’m two hours late and you’re not ready?”

JESUS said, don’t let My return sneak up on you.  Be ready at all times:

“For you yourselves know perfectly well that the day of the [return of the] Lord will come [as unexpectedly and suddenly] as a thief in the night.  When people are saying, All is well and secure, and,  There is peace and safety, then in a moment unforeseen destruction (ruin and death) will come upon them as suddenly as labor pains come upon a woman with child; and they shall by no means escape, for there will be no escape.  But you are not in [given up to a power of] darkness, brethren, for that day to overtake you by surprise like a thief”  (1 Thessalonians 5:22-4 AMP).

THE TEN BRIDESMAIDS:

Jews often went to weddings and wedding were common in Jesus’ day (His first miracle was performed at a wedding celebration).  Since Jesus was telling this parable to the DISCIPLES (His followers) and not to the religious left (Pharisees, Sadducees and scribes), I believe that the “ten” represented the Church as a whole [Ephesians 5:23-32; Revelation 22:17]. 

“The [Holy] spirit and the BRIDE (the church, the true Christians) say, Come!” (Revelation 22:17).

THE LAMPS WERE… Olive Oil Lamps.

In this story, Matthew 25:1-13;

JESUS=the bridegroom.

THE FOLLOWERS OF CHRIST CAN BE DIVIDED INTO TWO CAMPS:

1.  FIVE FOOLISH=five FOOLISH FOLLOWERS.

2.  FIVE WISE=five FAITHFUL FOLLOWERS of Christ.

This parable is more like an allegory than a parable that has one primary point!  There must be PRETENDERS and TRUE BELIEVERS (true worshipers) present in today’s Church:

PRETENDERS:

“Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, pretenders (hypocrites)!  For you are like tombs that have been whitewashed, which LOOK BEAUTIFUL on the outside but inside are full of dead men’s bones and everything impure”  (Matthew 23:27).

“TRUE WORSHIPERS”:

“A time will come, however, indeed it is already here, when the TRUE (genuine) WORSHIPERS will worship the Father in spirit and in truth (reality); for the Father is seeking just such people as these as His worshipers”  (John 4:23 AMP).

THE “PLOT” THICKENS–Grooms Delay:

“While the bridegroom lingered and was slow in coming, they all began nodding their heads, and they fell asleep”  (verse 5).

You might think that only the 5 “FOOLISH” BRIDESMAIDS would have fell asleep while the 5 WISE VIRGINS would have been working and preparing for the marriage feast.  But that was not the case.  We are SAVED by God’s MERCY AND GRACE and NOT by our WORKS.

DOZING OFF WHILE WAITING:

There’s no moral blame attached to the sleeping; both the wise and the foolish virgins succumb to drowsiness.  But the groom’s delay distinguishes between the wise and the foolish.  The former prepare for the possibility of the groom’s delay by bring EXTRA oil, and the latter are unprepared.  With that said, the preparedness of the wise can neither be transferred nor shared: 

“Watch therefore [give strict attention and be cautious and active], for you know neither the day nor the hour when the Son of Man will come” (25:13).

I have heard over the years, people in the Church telling others, “I’ve always been a Christian!”; “My mom and dad were deacon and deaconess”; “My mom and dad, their mom and dads; and their…we’ve always been a Christian family.”  Those testimonies are all well and fine, however, as personal salvation is just that!  It’s a personal choice! Like the “oil”, it can’t be transferred nor shared.

THE POINT OF NO RETURN:

The “foolish” members of the wedding party were told to go out and purchase their own oil (Matthew 25:9).  As the five were out ‘doing their thing’, the torchlight parade took place.

The groom and the 5 Wise members entered the celebration hall and the doors were closed.  The foolish five, then came with what they should have already dad but…it was too little, too late.  They weren’t allowed to enter and join in the wedding celebration.  Even then, the five virgins pled, “Lord, Lord, open [the door] to us!”  But they were sent away with the words,  I don’t know you!”

JESUS then concludes this parable in applying this principle to His disciples (and thus the Church).  He urges His disciples to:  WATCH!  UNDERSTAND! BE READY!

In Matthew 24:42-44, we see all three PREPARATIONS.  The Greek Word for WATCH; gregoreo; meaning “spiritual alertness.”

JESUS also reminds and warns us as His disciples in this parable, there will be a number of people who look like Christians, who associate with Christians, who even think they’re Christians (“pretenders”); who will be shocked to learn they are NOT saved at the return of the Lord.

This blog is not seeking to create uncertainty or doubt in the heart of the Christian.  I am not seeking to rob the Christian of his assurance.  But the blog IS seeking to warn those who have a FALSE assurance but NOT salvation.

“BUT UNDERSTAND this, that in the last days will come (set in) perilous times of great stress and trouble [hard to deal with and hard to bear].  For people will be lovers of self and [utterly] self-centered, lovers of money and aroused by an inordinate [greedy] desire for wealth, proud and arrogant and contemptuous boasters.  They will be abusive (blasphemous, scoffing), disobedient to parents, ungrateful, unholy and profane,  [they will be] without natural [human] affection (callous and inhuman), relentless (admitting of no truce or appeasement); [they will be] slanderers (false accusers, troublemakers), intemperate and loose in morals and conduct. uncontrolled and fierce, haters of good.  [They will be] treacherous [betrayers], rash, [and] inflated with self-conceit.  [They will be] lovers of sensual pleasures and vain amusements more than and rather than lovers of God”  (2 Timothy 3:1-4).

“For [although] they hold a form of piety (true religion) [‘they will maintain the outward appearance’], they deny and reject and are strangers to the power of it [their conduct belies the genuineness of their profession]”  (verse 5).

“Through It All”–The Good News Revealed (PART 2)

Andrae Crouch  wrote a song I was familiar with during the 1970’s.  I sang it, church choirs sang it, radios played it, all during wars and “rumors of wars” of that era.  Here are a few of the lyrics and chorus:

I’ve had many tears and sorrows, I’ve had questions for tomorrow,

There’ve been times I didn’t know right from wrong;

But in every situation God gave blessed consolation That my trials come

to only make me strong.

Through it all,    Through it all,    I’ve learned to trust in

Jesus,  I’ve learned to trust in God;  Through it all,

Through it all,    I’ve learned to depend upon His Word.

In PART 1, the emphasis was placed on The Bad News; lawlessness, iniquity in the world, the government, the church and society as a whole.  In PART 2, my intentions are placed on “The Good News Revealed” and getting “Through It All”.

GOOD NEWS FOUND IN GOD’S WORD

THEREFORE, SINCE we are justified (acquitted, declared righteous, and given a right standing with God) through faith, let us [grasp the fact that we] have [the peace of reconciliation to hold and enjoy] peace with God through our Lord Jesus christ (the Messiah, the anointed One).  Through Him also we have [our] access (entrance, introduction) by faith into this grace (state of God’s favor) in which we [firmly and safely] stand. And let us rejoice and exult in our hope of experiencing and enjoying the glory of God.  Moreover [let us also be full of joy now!] let us exult and triumph in our troubles, and rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that pressure and affliction and hardship produce patient and unswerving ENDURANCE.  And ENDURANCE (fortitude) develops maturity of character (approved faith and tried integrity).  And character [of this sort] produces [the habit of] joyful and confident hope of eternal salvation.  Such hope never disappoints or deludes or shames us for God’s love has been poured out in our hearts through the Holy Spirit Who has been given to us”  (Romans 5:1-5–Amplified Bible).

WOW!  When I read those five verses, I high-lighted some key words in my Bible regarding our pilgrimage in the “Through It All”:

–Justified through faith.

–Peace with God, through our Lord Jesus.

–Standing safely by His grace.

–Exult and triumph in the “Bad News”; our troubles.

–ENDURANCE

–Mature character.

–Confident hope.

–God’s LOVE has been poured out into our hearts.

–As believers, we have been given the Holy Spirit.

Let’s go back and look at what Jesus told His disciples and, to us too in Matthew 24:12, 13:

And the love of the great body of people will grow cold because of the multiplied lawlessness and iniquity”  (verse 12). 

THAT’S THE BAD NEWS!

“BUT he who ENDURES to the end will be saved”  (verse 13

I love the “BUTs” in Scripture. When you see the word, it means the previous statement is cancelled out!

THAT’S THE GOOD NEWS!  And that is why I capitalized the word ENDURANCE when I saw it in Romans 5:1-5.

SAVED FROM THE BAD NEWS BY ENDURANCE

According to the Expository Dictionary Of Bible Words, the word “endurance” in the Greek language is hypomeno; a variant form of meno, with the primary meanings “endure,” “bear patiently.”  References to the perseverance of believers who “stand firm (i.e. endure) to the end” are found in Matt. 10:22, 24:13; Mark 13:13.  See also Jas. 5:11.  The virtue of LOVE is said to “endure” all things in 1 Cor. 13:7.

Now if anyone could understand “endurance” through getting the bad news, it would be Jesus.  Christ Himself is said to “have endured” much persecution, including death on the cross.  Talk about bad news!  When Jesus was telling His disciples, how people would be saved in the midst of lawlessness and iniquity through endurance, He knew what was about to come; He knew that He would have to endure “Through It All”; shed His blood on the cross for all mankind to receive [SALVATION].

GOD’S WORD GIVES HOPE IN BAD NEWS

“But the Word of the Lord (divine instruction, the Gospel) ENDURES (“stands firm”, “lasts”) forever.  And this Word is the GOOD NEWS which was preached to you”  (1 Peter 1:25).

Can I hear an AMEN to that verse?  That’s it in a nut shell.  God’s Word is your source for the Good News; when you were treated unfairly and you have convince yourself ‘no more church for me’.  Or, every time you talk about Jesus at work, you get ‘dirty looks’ or worse.  So you don’t want to be offended or offend someone else; you repel reading the Word and distrust and desert Him, Whom you ought to trust and obey (Matt. 24:10).  Because of your disobedience to His Word, you stumble and fall away, your love grows cold.

“WE ARE NOW GOD’S CHILDREN” THAT’S REALLY GOOD NEWS!

“Beloved, we are [even here and] now God’s children; it is not yet disclosed (made clear) what we shall be [hereafter], but we know that when He comes and is manifested, we shall [as God’s children] resemble and be like Him, for we shall see Him just as He [really] is.  And everyone…STOP!

The everyone isn’t everyone in the sense that everyone that is in the church on Sundays is automatically included.

“And everyone who has hope [resting] on Him cleanses (purifies) himself just as He is pure (chaste, undefiled, guiltless)”  (1 John 3:2, 3–Amplified Bible).

The apostle continues addressing the everyone s in verse 4:

“Everyone who commits (practices) sin is guilty of lawlessness; for [that is what] sin is, lawlessness (the breaking, violating of God’s law by transgression or neglect–being unrestrained and unregulated by His commands and His will.”

“Wait a minute here, is John saying that when you become a Christian, a born-again believer in Jesus the Christ, you will never sin again?”  No, that’s not what is being said here.  John further explains the meaning of lawlessness or iniquity in verse 6. He changes our thoughts from everyone to no one:

“No one who abides in Him [who lives and remains in communion with and in obedience to Him–deliberately, knowingly, and habitually] commits (practices) sin.  No one who [habitually] sins has either seen or known Him [recognized, perceived, or understood Him, or has had an experiential acquaintance with Him].”

MORE “GOOD NEWS”!

In this mystery of lawlessness mentioned in 2 Thessalonians 2:7, there is a Light in the “through it all s” and John elaborates in 1 John 3:

No one born (begotten) of God [deliberately, knowingly, and habitually] practices sin, for God’s nature abides in him [His principle of life, the divine sperm, remains permanently within him]; and he cannot practice sinning because he is born of God”  (verse 9–Amplified Bible).

After studying God’s Word in my Bible, looking at the headlines in the newspaper and on television has given me hope.  I am standing firm in endurance until God calls me home.  The mystery of lawlessness is no longer a mystery.  Because the Holy Spirit is holding back, restraining lawlessness until the church is raptured; or taken up.  With Holy Spirit’s residence residing in believers, He will be removed at the same instance as the church; no more restraint of lawlessness in the world.

My personal belief is for those that remain, that accept Jesus as Lord and Saviour during the tribulation, the Holy Spirit will be upon them, not in them. as He was in the Old Testament.

Jesus gives us this Good News in conclusion to His disciples–us too:

“And this GOOD NEWS of the kingdom (the Gospel) will be preached throughout the whole world as a testimony to all the nations, and then will come the end”  (Matthew 24:14).

“GOSPEL PREACHED”  (MATTHEW 24:14)

I found some interesting points to leave you with from the Christian Almanac for 1990 (the numbers have obviously changed):

–The Gospel has been preached to over four billion people.

–Christian churches now exist in 251 countries of the world.

–Every year about four billion Gospel tracts are distributed around the globe.

–The entire Bible, or portions of it have been translated into some 2,062 different languages.

–Bibles are available to around 98 percent of the world’s population.

–The Gospel is also preached in over 2000 radio and television stations and religious shows can be seen to many more thousand secular stations.

Never in the entire course of history has the Gospel been preached in all the world; to all nations as right now!  Every nation on the face of the earth today has heard the Gospel message as Jesus prophesied they would before the end comes.

HERE’S THE GOOD NEWS IN TIMES OF LAWLESSNESS

So if Jesus was right in His saying and the Bible is true, we are now living in the time of the End!  While we are enduring, Jesus tell us what we must do; even knowing the statistics contained in the Christian Almanac:

“WATCH therefore [give strict attention, be cautious and active], for you do not know in what kind of day [whether a near or remote one] your Lord is coming”  (Matthew 24:42).

“UNDERSTAND this: had the householder known in what [part of the night, whether in a night or a morning] WATCH the thief was coming, he would have WATCHED and would not have allowed his house to be undermined and broken into”  (Matthew 24:43).

“You also must BE READY therefore, for the Son of Man is coming at and hour when you do not expect Him”  (Matthew 24:44).

As the Gospel continues to be preached to all the nations as it should, Jesus doesn’t want us to put our hands behind our heads, take a deep sigh of relief, because we are at the End!

Jesus wants us to:  Watch, be active, understand, watch some more, and be ready!  As the expression says, It ain’t over until it’s over” and at the writing of this blog, it ain’t over yet!