[b]How Will We Come? [/b]
[i]by Alan Martin[/i]
Then the kingdom of the heavens shall be likened to ten virgins who took their lamps and went out to meet the bridegroom. Now five of them were wise, and five were foolish. The Greek word for wise is φρονιμοι, the same word Jesus used in the parable of the wise and foolish builders. Jesus described the wise builder as one who not only hears the word of God, but after hearing, puts what he has heard into practice. Conversely, the same word for foolish is used in both parables; it is the Geek word μωραι, meaning dull or stupid. Jesus described the foolish builder as one who hears the word of God but fails to put what he has heard into practice.
Applying this understanding to the ten virgins, we have five whose habit was to hear the word of God and put it into practice and five whose habit was to hear the word of God without practicing the doing of it. In this parable, however, the distinction is indicated in another manner. Jesus first mentions that the foolish virgins took lamps but did not take vessels of oil along with their lamps.
The wise He said, took oil in their vessels with their lamps. The Holy Spirit would have us to see that it is in the practicing of what we hear that we secure the oil for our vessels. Peter even said so while speaking to the Sanhedrin: We are witnesses of these things and so is the Holy Spirit Whom God has given to those obeying Him. Paul indicated that God gives His Spirit and works miracles among us through the hearing of faith. He certainly meant the hearing under of faith, for this is what he called all the Gentiles to, the hearing under (obedience) of the faith.
The parable continues to unfold illustrating that all ten virgins experienced the same conditions.
They all experienced a time of waiting, a long delay. They all experienced becoming drowsy and they all fell asleep. They were all awakened with a start in the middle of the night by a cry that the Bridegroom was coming and it was time to go out to meet him. They all awakened to the same urgent need for something for light! It was the middle of the night, thick darkness, and they needed light in order to be able to make their way to the meeting place without stumbling. Can you imagine waking up in the pitch blackness and attempting to make your way without a lamp unto your feet and a light unto your path? Their lamps were simply an earthen vessel with an oiled wick aflame that had to be carried delicately. There was a great danger of stumbling over unseen rocks, roots, or uneven ground, dropping or jostling the lamp and suddenly finding oneself with a snuffed out lamp in pitch darkness.
It is in the middle of the darkness that the wisdom of the prudent became apparent, for during the long delay the oil in all the lamps had been used up. Flames must be kept burning to have light and be able to light other lamps, but to have continuous flame one must have continuous oil. This is where the foolish virgins had been short-sighted. Like those in II Peter who have not given all diligence to add to their faith, virtue, knowledge, godliness, brotherly kindness, and love. Not having those things in an abounding measure, Peter warns will result in our becoming near-sighted and blind. Thus was the state of the foolish virgins as they go to trim their lamps and discover the problem is not with the wick, they have run out of oil, their wick is nearly dried out. Wicks that burn need to be trimmed, that is they need the burnt, brittle area clipped off so that a brighter flame can become a brighter light. The foolish virgins first assumed that the problem was with their wicks, but became alarmed to discover that their oil had run out. A trimmed wick, in a good vessel, is completely useless without the oil.
The reaction of the foolish virgins was predictable and common among far too many believers today. They turned to their wise fellow virgins and begged their help. Seeing the vessels of oil in their sisters hands they asked them to share from their supply. The answer they received was not what they had hoped for: Not ever! That's right, it was not a simple no, for there was a Greek word for simply no; the answer here was Not ever! How could a fellow virgin be so calloused as to give such an answer for such an earnest request for help? The answer was not callous, simply wise; because, the prudent virgins realized that it would take all the oil in their vessel to bring their own wicks back to full light. The answer was Not ever, lest there not be enough for us and you.
If you have ever used an oil lamp, you will understand that an oil lamp will not work unless it contains a sufficient amount of oil. The wise virgins realized that the oil in their lamps was so low it would take all the oil they had brought along to re-kindle a full flame upon their own lamp. There was no point sharing, for it would likely take all the oil on hand just to keep five lamps burning. Five burning lamps are better than ten partially filled useless lamps; they wisely refused to risk otherwise.
There was no other answer to give in the situation but for the wise to instruct their foolish companions to hurry to the ones selling oil and buy for themselves. Reluctantly and remorsefully, the foolish virgins had no other choice but to go back by the very way they had previously come. Moreover, they had to do so without the benefit of a good light from their lamp. It is difficult enough to carry a good lamp, fully alight; how much harder was it for them to attempt to retrace their journey while attempting to preserve the dying flame on their empty lamps. The difficulty must have been nearly unbearable, for their progress would necessarily be slow and arduous, all the while filled with the anxious thoughts of would they be in time. Moreover, in the back of their minds, would they not all have been convicted for the missed opportunities they had to purchase extra oil while it was near and readily available. Now it was midnight, no stores were open, visibility was extremely limited, and yet they were forced to press on in their dim hope.
While the journey for the foolish became tedious, anxious, and somber, the journey for the wise virgins became a joyful celebration in the presence of the bridegroom and the bounties of the wedding feast. Isn't that the way it is today with many fellow virgins? We all have trials, we all have to wait, we all find ourselves in a crisis needing light to make our way. Those with the oil of the Holy Spirit are the over-comers. The wise virgins who hear the word of God and put it into practice are purchasing the anointing oil of the Holy Spirit in due season and their vessels are full. Jesus called them the ready ones a word which comes from the Greek word meaning fit. Only believers full of the Holy Spirit are ready and fit for the marriage feast of the Lamb. They are the only ones experiencing the fullness of the abundant life of Jesus. They are the ones who are counting it all joy, whose weaknesses are becoming those areas where Christ strength is being perfected. They are the ones feasting on the fruit of the Holy Spirit. Their joy is full, Christ's peace is guarding their hearts and minds, and they have entered into His rest. They are living in the righteousness, peace and joy in the Holy Spirit.
While the wise virgins are celebrating, the foolish virgins have had to retrace their journey, going backwards to purchase the oil that they had neglected to buy when the time was right. Notice, that the voice of the bridegroom will awaken all virgins, but it will not fill all their lamps with oil. The oil of the Holy Spirit will be given to everyone who asks, but the voice of the bridegroom does not make up for the choice of not asking. The consequences for not being fit, not being a ready one, are the whole point of this parable. How shall we escape if we neglect so great a salvation! Be very careful then how you hear, with the measure you mete, it will be measured to you. Whoever has he will be given more and he will have abundance; but whoever does not have, even what he thinks he has will be taken from him. Have we checked our oil lately? Do we actually have oil, or could we be those who think we have, only to be shocked to discover our lamps are going out?
The foolish virgins eventually came. The actual wording of the Greek expresses it this way, falling short they came. Yes, the same word used in Romans 3:23 For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God. The same word used in Hebrews 12:15 Looking carefully lest anyone fall short of the grace of God. The same word found in Hebrews 4:1 Therefore, since a promise remains of entering His rest, let us fear lest any of you seem to have fallen short of it.
May the grace of God lead us to carefully examine ourselves to see the true condition of our waiting for His return. There is not a doubt that He will come, and there is not a doubt that we will come. The question is HOW will we come? Will we be fit, the ready ones, or our coming fall short?
SI Moderator - Greg Gordon