I was talking with some friends recently about the crisis of identity the modern church finds herself in. Jesus clearly talked about it when he told the parable of the ten virgins in Matthew 25. He said that the Kingdom of Heaven is like ten virgins who are bridesmaids taking lamps to go meet the groom. Jesus then divides them into two groups: five wise and five foolish. Here’s how Jesus said we could tell them apart. The foolish took no oil for their lamps, but the wise had extra containers. Around midnight when everyone was nodding off and falling asleep there was a shout that the groom had arrived. All ten virgins grabbed their lamps so they could navigate the dark, but the lamps of the foolish had gone out.
Let’s pick up the parable directly out of God’s Word, starting to read at Matthew 25:8. “But the foolish bridesmaids said to the wise ones, ‘Give us some of your oil, because our lamps have gone out.’ But the wise bridesmaids replied, ‘No, because if we share with you, there won’t be enough for our lamps and yours. We have a better idea. You go to those who sell oil and buy some for yourselves.’ But while they were gone to buy oil, the groom came. Those who were ready went with him into the wedding. Then the door was shut. Later the other bridesmaids came and said, ‘Lord, lord, open the door for us.’ But he replied, ‘I tell you the truth, I don’t know you.’
The ten virgins all represent believers of Jesus. Believers carry the light representing Christ, the Light of the world. The only difference is five are foolish and five are wise. All ten are redeemed by the blood of Jesus, and therefore Christians. The disparity between the two groups is shown in who has oil, not who has lamps, and ultimately in the outcome of their lives here on earth. The groom shows up at the midnight hour, the darkest time for humanity. Five enter inside the kingdom of heaven, and five are locked out of the kingdom in darkness. Darkness is a place of little to no revelation.
There are two big questions we should be asking here. First, what does the oil represent that lights up the lamps? Second, where is the kingdom of heaven?
The oil that lights up the lamp is faith, but you need to understand more about this simple answer. Faith is sourced and refined by intimate knowledge of God’s Word because it includes a virtue best described as trust. The better you know someone of excellent character, the better you trust them. We know God by being intimately acquainted with His words, promises, and precepts. God’s word is His wisdom. The five wise virgins were not better or more righteous than the five foolish. They were much wiser because they pursued getting a supply of real oil, real fuel, that produced illumination. They were unwilling to give their oil away because they understood authentic intimacy is not something that can be borrowed.
A neglectful parent can’t borrow from his spouse’s close relationship with their grown child after those formative years are gone. “Honey share with me how wonderful it was to hold little Charlie on your knee and tell him stories when he was five.” You can’t do that. You can’t borrow intimacy that you’ve neglected. You must get your own ‘oil’. Midnight is coming but there is still time if you’re hearing this warning.
With regard to the question, “Where is the kingdom of heaven?” we need to once again hear Jesus. In Matthew 6 He instructs us to pray for God’s Kingdom to come, and His will be done here on earth, as it is in Heaven. The kingdom here is the context of God’s governance on earth. It’s not Heaven, or Jesus would have said Heaven. So, God’s Kingdom is meant to be working here on earth, just as it is in Heaven. It truly is the government OF the place called Heaven, which means operationally, things happen in accordance to God’s ways. Being born again is the only way to be a child of God, but getting wisdom is the only way to live the full life of a child of God. This parable tells us that you can have one without the other.
The ten virgins represent the modern church. Yes, there is a crisis of identity because if you’re holding a lamp and you’ve got no fuel, you’re only going through the motions. You don’t truly have the power of light. The moment we hit the darkest hour and it’s time to get results, answers, move through the darkness quickly, you will need genuine fuel. You can’t borrow your grandfather’s intimacy with God. You won’t be able to ride on your Mom’s trust in the Word. You can’t leverage that faithful church member’s dedication to God. Get your own intimacy of God’s Truth. Get your own trust in Father’s promises. This is no time for lamp-waving. You can tap genuine oil for your spiritual lamp, but now is the time. Say no to borrowed intimacy and be wise to pursue time with God through knowing His word, will and way.
Father God now is the time to fuel up on Your word. Lead me every day to where you’d have me pursuing Your truth for my life. When the cry goes out in the midnight hour I want to be ready to move in Your light. Fill me Lord with Your Spirit, Your power, and the revelation of Your word. I want to be a hearer of Your word who quickly obeys Your every command. I don’t want to live off of someone else’s experience or this thing called borrowed intimacy. In my life ... let there be light, in the Name of Jesus! Amen.
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