Does Your Lamp Have Oil?
Bible Reading for: November 9
One doesn’t need a lamp until it is dark. When darkness comes, will you shine forth the light of the indwelling Holy Spirit? Does your lamp have oil?
Today’s reading can be broken down into three segments, The Parable of the Ten Virgins, The Parable of the Talents, and The Final Judgment. This chapter is part of what is commonly referred to as “The Olivet Discourse”. I have neglected to mention that we have been reading in this discourse, and that is an unintended, but perhaps “Freudian” oversight. I have to admit I’ve tended to shy away from addressing certain Scripture with which even the greatest theologians of all time have disagreed. If they can disagree about what certain Scripture means, then I doubt I am able to shed any significant light on the subject.
Still, it seems a bit cowardly to avoid wrestling with the Scripture, so I’ve decided to try and address The Parable of the Ten Virgins today. I’ve struggled with the deeper meaning of this parable, so I figure we’ll try to hash it out together here in this blog. The main theme of the parable is about being ready for Christ’s return, but knowing the theme doesn’t really do this parable justice. Let’s see if we can go further. First let’s review the parable.
Matthew 25:1-13 ESV
“Then the kingdom of heaven will be like ten virgins who took their lamps and went to meet the bridegroom. Five of them were foolish, and five were wise. For when the foolish took their lamps, they took no oil with them, but the wise took flasks of oil with their lamps. As the bridegroom was delayed, they all became drowsy and slept. But at midnight there was a cry, ‘Here is the bridegroom! Come out to meet him.’ Then all those virgins rose and trimmed their lamps. And the foolish said to the wise, ‘Give us some of your oil, for our lamps are going out.’ But the wise answered, saying, ‘Since there will not be enough for us and for you, go rather to the dealers and buy for yourselves.’ And while they were going to buy, the bridegroom came, and those who were ready went in with him to the marriage feast, and the door was shut. Afterward the other virgins came also, saying, ‘Lord, lord, open to us.’ But he answered, ‘Truly, I say to you, I do not know you.’ Watch therefore, for you know neither the day nor the hour.
First, we need to understand the context of this parable. Jesus has been answering the question “What will be the sign of your coming?” Here in Matthew 25 He is now talking about the coming judgment. A couple of commentaries I’ve read say that the parable of the ten virgins tests the faith of Israel, the parable of the talents tests the faithfulness of Jesus’ followers, and the story about the final judgment applies to the gentile nations and tests their right of admission into the Kingdom. I have paraphrased that last sentence from “Thru the Bible with J. Vernon McGee”, by the way.
By the tradition of the day, a Jewish wedding began with the Bridegroom going to the house of the Bride. After this, the Bridegroom and Bride went to the Bridegrooms house for the Marriage Supper. Two of my primary commentaries have a different opinion about when the marriage itself takes place. One claims that the marriage takes place at the Bride’s home before they go to the Groom’s for supper, the other claims that the marriage takes place at the Groom’s home prior to the supper. I’m not sure which is accurate, and I wonder if the difference doesn’t exist because of opposing positions the commentators have taken with regard to the Rapture.
If the Bridegroom is Christ, then the Bride would be the Church, correct? If this story is a picture of the end times, then the question is how can there be believers, represented by the virgin attendants, who are not part of the Church represented by the Bride. Now it is significant that the Bride is not actually mentioned in the parable itself. There are those who believe the Rapture will occur before the tribulation, and so the parable takes place after the wedding and represents the Lord’s second coming after the Church has been taken out of the world. Others believe that the church will not be removed prior to the tribulation, so the parable takes place before the wedding and prior to the Church being taken out of the world.
I don’t wish to get into a debate about Pre & Post Tribulation theories. My view, at least at the moment, is that the ten virgins are part of the wedding party. They are intended to enter the Groom’s domain for the purpose of celebrating the wedding feast.
As Christians, we are to have the light of Jesus Christ shining within us. The source of this light is Jesus’ Holy Spirit which resides within us. Oil throughout the Bible is used as a symbol for God’s Holy Spirit. Just a reminder here, when we speak of Oil in biblical terms we are always referring to Olive Oil. So, as we look at the symbolism of the lamps, we find that they only reveal an outward appearance. If you see someone with a lamp you will typically assume that it can produce light. The fact is, however, that we cannot tell if the lamp will cast off light until night comes and the lamp is lit. If the lamp does not have oil it will not produce light.
I’ve mentioned before that I’m worried about the state of many individuals in America today who claim to be Christians but don’t really have the light of Christ residing in their hearts. My evidence for this is the statistic that over 70% of Americans claim to be Christians. If this were true, America would be a very different place. Our entertainment alone would be radically different. No, there are many who claim to be Christians who have never truly submitted their life to the authority of Jesus Christ. If you don’t do that, you don’t receive the Holy Spirit. If you don’t have the Holy Spirit, there is no oil for your lamp.
It is only as the trouble and struggles of the end times grow to their most frenetic that many alleged Christians will discover that their lamps are empty. At that time, they will be too late to get what they need. Obviously, there is more we could discuss about all of this, but I’m already over 1,000 words so I’m going to have to cut this off here. The question each of us must answer, however, is this: “Do you have oil in your lamp?” Do you have the Holy Spirit residing within you? The test of that is the evidence your life shows of His working within and through you. Do you live your life for yourself or for Him? When He comes will He find you ready – your lamp full? I hope so brother, I hope so!
Vivere Victorem! (Live Victorious!)
Your brother and servant in Christ,
Dying to self, living to serve!
Alternate Reading Plans
Bible Order: John 14-16
Old Testament Only: Jeremiah 32:36–34:22
New Testament Only: Titus 2–3