Three Characteristics of Salvation, Part 1: Endurance
1Then shall the kingdom of heaven be likened unto ten virgins, which took their lamps, and went forth to meet the bridegroom. 2And five of them were wise, and five were foolish. 3They that were foolish took their lamps, and took no oil with them: 4But the wise took oil in their vessels with their lamps. 5While the bridegroom tarried, they all slumbered and slept. 6And at midnight there was a cry made, Behold, the bridegroom cometh; go ye out to meet him. 7Then all those virgins arose, and trimmed their lamps. 8And the foolish said unto the wise, Give us of your oil; for our lamps are gone out. 9But the wise answered, saying, Not so; lest there be not enough for us and you: but go ye rather to them that sell, and buy for yourselves. 10And while they went to buy, the bridegroom came; and they that were ready went in with him to the marriage: and the door was shut. 11Afterward came also the other virgins, saying, Lord, Lord, open to us. 12But he answered and said, Verily I say unto you, I know you not. 13Watch therefore, for ye know neither the day nor the hour wherein the Son of man cometh.
- Prepare to go the Distance
- Salvation means Everything or it does Nothing
- Those who are Saved, Endure & those who Endure are Saved
- Fill your tanks while there is time
In this well-known Parable, Jesus relates the story of two groups of young ladies on their way to participate in a wedding procession. One group (the foolish virgins) was unprepared for the bridegroom’s late arrival and ran out of oil for their lamps. They were unable to get more oil for their lamps before the final ceremony begun and were shut out of the wedding party.
To fully grasp this story, it is useful to note a few background details about wedding ceremonies in Jesus’ day. In that period in Middle-Eastern culture, wedding ceremonies lasted seven days; on the seventh day, the bridegroom would take the bride from her father’s house. He would arrive with a wedding party of mostly men and his bride would join him with her own wedding party. Typically, the bridegroom’s arrival took place late at night and no one quite knew when he would come. But as soon as people saw him arriving with his entourage, some type of alert was made.
Those who listened to Jesus relate this parable fully understood that any sensible member of the bridal party would certainly make provision for the bridegroom’s (possible) late arrival. What elevated this story from the mundane was that Jesus’ applied it to Salvation.
In the story Jesus exhorts His audience to prepare for a long wait; He asserts that Salvation must be all consuming; and He establishes endurance as a unique characteristic of Christians/Believers.
Very early in the parable Jesus reveals the single quality that distinguished the wise virgins from the foolish virgins: preparedness. Both groups were aware of the uncertainty of the bridegroom’s arrival because, in that culture, that was to be expected. However, only the wise virgins prepared themselves. Similarly, it is fairly common knowledge today that death is uncertain; no one knows exactly when he/she will die (not even those who attempt suicide). Moreover, Jesus also makes it plain that no one knows when He will return for His bride, the church. Therefore, with such great uncertainty preparedness is the only way to guarantee survival.
So the vital question is, ‘How does a believer prepare?’ In the parable, the wise virgins prepared themselves for the uncertainty by carrying extra oil. In Scripture, when oil is associated with lamp light it usually signifies the Word of God. Just as lamps need oil to give physical light, likewise Christians need The Word of God to give spiritual light:
“But he answered and said, It is written, Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God.” ~ Matthew 4:4
“Thy word is a lamp unto my feet, and a light unto my path; The entrance of thy words giveth light; it giveth understanding unto the simple.” ~ Psalm 119:105, 130
In other words, to prepare for an unsure survival to the end, whether by death or Jesus’ arrival Christians MUST maintain a reservoir full of God’s Word!!! It is Gods Plan to prepare (sanctify) Christians for the great Wedding Feast in Heaven through His Word. Without God’s Word working in our lives we will not be prepared.
“Sanctify them through thy truth: thy word is truth.” ~ John 17:17
“…Christ also loved the church, and gave himself for it; That he might sanctify and cleanse it with the washing of water by the word, That he might present it to himself a glorious church, not having spot, or wrinkle, or any such thing; but that it should be holy and without blemish.” ~ Ephesians 5:25b-27
The lack of preparation seen in the foolish virgins further suggests that being a part of the wedding ceremony was not as important to them as it was to the wise virgins. It did not captivate the attention of the foolish virgins. The same is clearly true of many Christians today. Careers/career-building, family, security and lifestyle, to name a few, often distract us. To be clear, the merit of each of these items is not necessarily the issue, rather it is that they distract Christians from our main purpose and goal: Salvation.
If we are going to be in the bridal party, then we must not be distracted from properly preparing ourselves for it. We know Jesus is coming back, we know we may die before He does, but, in both cases, we do not know WHEN. If we are not COMPLETELY focused on His return, if we are distracted (by anything), then we WILL NOT be able to prepare properly and we WILL NOT be ready. If Salvation is to achieve its work in us, then it must be everything to us.
“Again, the kingdom of heaven is like unto treasure hid in a field; the which when a man hath found, he hideth, and for joy thereof goeth and selleth all that he hath, and buyeth that field. Again, the kingdom of heaven is like unto a merchant man, seeking goodly pearls: Who, when he had found one pearl of great price, went and sold all that he had, and bought it.” ~ Matthew 13:44-46
Thirdly, in applying the parable to Salvation, Jesus reveals an amazing truth: The saved are those who are there at the end! The foolish virgins had left to get their oil replenished and when they came back the door had already been closed. As was their custom, when the bridegroom retired to the bride-chamber with his bride the doors to the house were shut and no one, not already inside the house, was allowed to enter. The foolish virgins were not there at the end and so were not saved!!! Jesus was not suggesting that their Salvation was forfeit, but rather that they were never really saved at all. This is shown clearly in vs. 12, where the bridegroom (Jesus) declares they are unknown to Him. In other words, no relationship had ever existed between the bridegroom and the foolish virgins!
The absence of a relationship is explained in vs. 8 and 9, where the foolish virgins ask the wise for some of their oil. The wise (rightfully) refuse because they wanted to make sure that they had enough for the wedding procession. However, the application to us is that God’s Word (which never changes) does a unique Work in each individual’s life and so cannot be “transferred” to another person. My reservoir of the Word is uniquely suited to me. On The Day of Judgment, it will be impossible to confer the transformation wrought in my life by God’s Word onto someone else:
“…work out your own salvation with fear and trembling. For it is God which worketh in you both to will and to do of his good pleasure.” ~ Philippians 2:12b-13
In some ways this is like the Parable of the Sower. The foolish virgins did receive some oil (the word) at the beginning, BUT their lamps did not hold enough oil for the work of salvation to be complete. Likewise, the “bad” soils in the Parable of the Sower all were unsuitable for the seed (the word) that they received. Though the seed did grow in some of the “bad” soils, that growth was not sustainable because the soils were unprepared to receive it; so salvation never came, the seed/word was never established in them. Indeed, one chapter earlier (and again in 10:22), Jesus said:
“And because iniquity shall abound, the love of many shall wax cold. But he that shall endure unto the end, the same shall be saved.” ~ Matthew 24:12-13
Endurance, the ability to stick it out, to persevere is a defining characteristic of true Salvation. Those who endure are those who are saved; those who are saved endure.
Finally, time was a deciding factor in the fate of the foolish virgins. Presumably, they had time to get it right (i.e., to get the extra oil they needed) before the trumpet announcing the bridegroom’s arrival sounded. However, for whatever reason, they didn’t. When they finally faced the consequence of their misjudgment, it was too late. Some, though not all of us (for many people are dying unexpectedly as this is being read), still have time to get the extra oil needed: we still have time to fill up on the Word of God and allow it to do its inimitable work in our lives. The question is, “Will we do what we KNOW is right?”, or “Will we find ourselves on the outside of the wedding feast?”
- How full is your vessel?
- Are you completely focused on Salvation?
- If you know what you need, will you do what you must?