When Oil Runs Out
Matthew 25:1-13 (1) Then shall the kingdom of heaven be likened unto ten virgins, which took their lamps, and went forth to meet the bridegroom. (2) And five of them were wise, and five were foolish. (3) They that were foolish took their lamps, and took no oil with them: (4) But the wise took oil in their vessels with their lamps. (5) While the bridegroom tarried, they all slumbered and slept. (6) And at midnight there was a cry made, Behold, the bridegroom cometh; go ye out to meet him. (7) Then all those virgins arose, and trimmed their lamps. (8) And the foolish said unto the wise, Give us of your oil; for our lamps are gone out. (9) But 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. (10) And 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. (11) Afterward came also the other virgins, saying, Lord, Lord, open to us. (12) But he answered and said, Verily I say unto you, I know you not. (13) Watch therefore, for ye know neither the day nor the hour wherein the Son of man cometh. Today's text is the parable of the ten virgins, five of whom are wise and five foolish, a parable of the kingdom of heaven's culmination at the Second Coming of the Lord Jesus Christ (Who is portrayed here as the Bridegroom). Like other parables and discourses, it speaks of Christ then separating out what has no place in the eternal kingdom (c/w MAT 13:24-30; MAT 13:36-43; MAT 13:47-50; MAT 24:36-51; MAT 25:31-46 et. al.). Church members are as virgins presented to Christ (2CO 11:2) and thus this parable implies that on Judgment Day it will be found that there were church members who are not God's elect, “For many are called, but few are chosen” (MAT 22:14). The parable also reaffirms that continual vigilance is needed because the time of Christ's coming is unknown: “Watch therefore, for ye know neither the day nor the hour wherein the Son of man cometh” (MAT 25:13). Note that ALL of the virgins slumber and sleep as they await their Bridegroom/Christ (MAT 25:5-6): the wise virgins who are welcomed by the Bridegroom at His coming (MAT 25:10) had no “insider information” about the time of His coming. It stands to reason that if the wise don't know that time, the foolish definitely don't know that time. How many professing Christians, though, have shown themselves foolish by presuming to have figured out what is only known by the Father: “But of that day and that hour knoweth no man, no, not the angels which are in heaven, neither the Son, but the Father” (MAR 13:32)? When the Bridegroom came, ALL the virgins trimmed their lamps (v. 7) but the foolish virgins' lamps had gone out for lack of oil (v. 8), and a trimmed empty lamp is no better than an untrimmed empty lamp: the trimming adds no more life than does a fine wool suit to a corpse. The foolish virgins had not brought any oil with them besides what was in the lamp at the beginning (vs. 2-4). The implication is that their religion looked no further than this world. Their affection was for things of earth, not heaven (MAT 6:19-21 c/w COL 3:1-2); they had not “...laid up in store for themselves a good foundation against the time to come...” (1TI 6:19). Woe unto those who align with Christ only for the immediate and tangible benefits of something in this world: the praise of men, social acceptance, business connections, entertainment, political power, and so forth! What light they have is not true light: “Take heed therefore that the light which is in thee be not darkness” (LUK 11:35). Such light is like the will-of-the-wisp, the ignis fatuus (foolish fire) that is said to appear over bogs and marshes, leading travelers from safe paths. Over against the foolish virgins' empty form of godliness (2TI 3:5) is true godliness which “...is profitable unto all things, having the promise of the life that now is, and of that which is to come” (1TI 4:8). That is true light which men may see, be drawn to safely, and so glorify God (MAT 5:14-16). The foolish virgins said to the wise, “...Give us of your oil; for our lamps have gone out” (v. 8). Their imperative demand sounds like they thought they should be entitled to it. There is nothing new under the sun or even before the Son. The wise virgins answered, “...Not so; lest there be not enough for us and you...” The righteous are scarcely saved (1PE 4:18); they dare not spend for others. Paul, out of concern for the lost among his own nation, once said, “For I could wish myself accursed from Christ for my brethren...” (ROM 9:3). But what he could wish, he didn't; he was a wise virgin. Now it is evident that eternal life is according to grace, not debt or works (ROM 4:4-5), and the wise virgins who shall live with Christ in the eternal kingdom are only wise through Christ Who is made their wisdom through grace (1CO 1:30). Thus, the denial of the demand for sharing oil speaks against the notion that one sinner can draw off the grace of another for eternity's sake and further speaks against the error of praying to saints (Catholicism) or being baptized for dead ancestors (Mormonism). Further, the grace that one has been given is his responsibility to now access and exercise by faith (ROM 5:2). In the present, “...the just shall live by faith” (ROM 1:17; GAL 3:11; HEB 10:38), i.e., “...by his faith...” (HAB 2:4), his own and not another's. So, “...every man shall bear his own burden” (GAL 6:5) and “...work out his own salvation...” (PHIL 2:12). The merits of one saint shall stay him well but are not coat-tails that another can ride upon for salvation in this life. When Israel was ripe for God's judgments, He said, “Though these three men, Noah, Daniel, and Job, were in it, they should deliver but their own souls by their righteousness, saith the Lord GOD” (EZE 14:14). Neither can one draw on the grace of another after death: the rich man in hell appealed in vain for help from Abraham and Lazarus (LUK 16:22-25). Abraham will be no more help to a sinner after death than he was to the same sinner who falsely assumed he shared Abraham's blessing while he lived: “...think not to say within yourselves, We have Abraham...” (MAT 3:9). In vs. 10-12 of our parable, eternity's door is shut for good. Christ “...shutteth, and no man openeth” (REV 3:7). Once this door is shut, it remains shut, sealing the saved within and the rest without. This is as the door of Noah's ark (GEN 7:11-24), and all the too-late cries of the likes of Esau (GEN 27:34-40; HEB 12:16-17) or, “Lord, lord...” (MAT 25:11; MAT 7:22) change nothing. Let not sinners deceive themselves by hanging their hopes of eternal life on a future Christ Who deserves no present devotion, admiration or preparation. The assurance of eternal life is found not in those who look past Christ but those who look daily for Him and act in faith accordingly: Titus 2:11-14 (11) For the grace of God that bringeth salvation hath appeared to all men, (12) Teaching us that, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly, in this present world; (13) Looking for that blessed hope, and the glorious appearing of the great God and our Saviour Jesus Christ; (14) Who gave himself for us, that he might redeem us from all iniquity, and purify unto himself a peculiar people, zealous of good works. (HEB 9:28) So Christ was once offered to bear the sins of many; and unto them that look for him shall he appear the second time without sin unto salvation.