I have always struggled with Jesus’ parable of the Ten Virgins (Matthew 25: 1-13). How is it that all ten were looking for the coming of the Bridegroom (Jesus), implying that all ten were believers, since I doubt non-believers would be looking for His return, and yet only five of the ten are considered wise and make it into the marriage feast? The other five are considered foolish and end up locked outside only to hear those horrible words from our Lord, “I do not know you.”
If all ten virgins were believers, can believers still find themselves locked out of the Kingdom? Certainly that seems to be one of the lessons in the parable, and yet such a notion flies totally against what many Christians believe today. What are we to make of this? Has modern eschatology somehow become skewed? Has mine?
This morning’s devotional from Watchman Nee addressed the subject as follows:
“It was the bridegroom’s tarrying that brought to light the state of the virgins. How can I be prepared for the Lord’s coming? There are some of us who would have been ready had He come five years ago, but who would not if He came today. It is good to be prepared should He come now, but it is no less important to keep prepared, should He tarry. Can we wait and still be ready? Some people can wait three days, but not three years. Some could hang on for three years at a pinch, but they may be required to watch for thirty. For consider this: if the bridegroom had come before midnight, all the virgins would have been wise! It was His delay which exposed their folly. May God preserve me from becoming foolish with the passing years! One thing only can insure me against the test of time: His Spirit’s fullness. Let me but know His constant filling and there will not lack oil in my lamp when that great midnight cry goes forth.”
Some have suggested that this 'Parable of the Ten Virgins' teaches that it is possible for one lose their salvation. That’s a concept that that many of us would no doubt balk at, and yet the idea does at least seem to be presented in Jesus’ parable. What are we to make of that?
Is the old adage, “once saved, always saved” really true? I’ve heard it said that, “only God can grant salvation and therefore only God can take it away.” Again, what are we to make of that?
Nee speaks of the “test of time.” Often the New Testament refers to a “testing of our faith,” such as in 1 Peter 1:7. Is Jesus referring to one of these tests, and if so, what happens to those who perhaps fail the test? Are they like the five foolish virgins? Do they risk hearing the “I do not know you” from our Lord? Why would Jesus even say such a thing if the possibility of such a situation were not true?
“And someone said to him, ‘Lord, will those who are saved be few?’ And he said to them, “Strive to enter through the narrow door. For many, I tell you, will seek to enter and will not be able. When once the master of the house has risen and shut the door, and you begin to stand outside and to knock at the door, saying, ‘Lord, open to us,’ then he will answer you, ‘I do not know where you come from.’ Then you will begin to say, ‘We ate and drank in your presence, and you taught in our streets.’ But he will say, ‘I tell you, I do not know where you come from. Depart from me, all you workers of evil! In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth, when you see Abraham and Isaac and Jacob and all the prophets in the kingdom of God but you yourselves cast out. And people will come from east and west, and from north and south, and recline at the table in the kingdom of God. And behold, some are last who will be first, and some are first who will be last.” (Luke 13: 23-30; ESV)
It’s been suggested by some that this passage by Luke applies only to the Jewish people and not to the church today. Maybe, and maybe not. What if we’re wrong in our interpretations? Does that mean that we will find ourselves among those “weeping and gnashing of teeth” that Luke quoted Jesus as saying?
“So do not become proud and conceited, but rather stand in awe and be reverently afraid. For if God did not spare that natural branches [because of unbelief], neither will He spare you [if you are guilty of the same offense]. Then note and appreciate the gracious kindness and the severity of God: severity toward those who have fallen, but God’s gracious kindness to you – provided you continue in His grace and abide in His kindness; otherwise you too will be cut off (pruned away).” (Romans 11: 20b-22; Amplified)
Paul’s “provided you continue” almost sounds conditional. Is that what he’s saying? Maybe that’s why Solomon said, “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge; fools despise wisdom and instruction.” (Proverbs 1:7; ESV)
And so here we are. I know all the arguments and Scriptures that speak to the contrary; I’ve preached many of them myself over the years. However, what can I say? My many questions remain unanswered. I will close this morning’s musing by echoing Watchman Nee’s prayer, “May God preserve me from becoming foolish with the passing years!” and may I “know His constant filling and there will not lack oil in my lamp when that great midnight cry goes forth.”
Give me oil in my lamp, keep me burning
Give me oil in my lamp, I pray
Give me oil in my lamp, keep me burning
Keep me burning till the break of day
And I will sing Hosanna, sing Hosanna
Sing Hosanna to the King of kings
Sing Hosanna, sing Hosanna
Sing Hosanna to the King
Peace and Blessings.