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Above All Else, Get Oil: Then the Kingdom of Heaven Shall Be Like... Chapter 1

Updated: Jul 8


"Then the kingdom of heaven shall be likened to ten virgins who took their lamps and went out to meet the bridegroom.  2 Now five of them were wise, and five were foolish.  3 Those who were foolish took their lamps and took no oil with them,  4 but the wise took oil in their vessels with their lamps.” – Matthew 25:1-4

 

Much like the mural on my childhood church’s wall, Jesus paints a picture for us in Matthew 25 of what it means to be wise instead of foolish, and it all comes down to having oil. This parable has captured the imaginations of countless through the ages, with its vivid imagery and clear warning. Much like the gift of disillusionment, however, the warning in this passage also stands as a gift. Warnings from our Master’s heart are more than just calls to prepare: they are invitations to pursue true knowledge of Him. If He warns against something, then I can find His heart and perfect will in the opposite. The invitation, then, in Matthew 25 is this: there is a way to get so much oil in my lamp, I have an overflow that prepares me as a Bride on the day of our wedding.  I want to be that Bride! I will heed the warning, take up the calling, and by His Spirit, get oil on reserve that blazes as a beacon for His returning. Matthew 25 is the “how-to” guide on how to start that spark.


When we study passages of scripture, it’s important that we study the context of the individual verses. We can break verses into bite-size pieces (individually) but, much like our High-School English teachers taught us: the context is the clue to the meaning of the individual verse. Matthew 25, then, isn’t simply a stand-alone passage about lamps and oil; there is no chapter breakdown in the original text; so Matthew 25 is a continuation of Matthew 24. In fact, Matthew 24-25 is a well-known passage known as the Olivet Discourse. These two chapters deal with the fall of Jerusalem in 70 AD as well as end-time events that have yet to take place. I understand that differing theological opinions abound regarding end-time prophecy, especially as it relates to Matthew 24. I have my theory but I also understand that we will one day all stand in awe at the outworking of God’s plan. Therefore, I leave room for different ideas and interpretation. However, in presenting this passage and for the sake of continuity of thought in this book, I will take the stance that these events were not all fulfilled in 70 AD. I will not attempt to belabor this section as an exhaustive eschatological study; I will leave that to another. However, I believe that the described tumultuous time in history is a type and shadow of greater turmoil to come and we must understand the nature of the end-times in order to understand Matthew 25.

 

The Nature of Prophecy


When studying Matthew 24 and 25, we must keep in mind that prophecy very often has a progressive fulfillment- meaning that there are stages of fulfillment in the prophecy where the first stage is fulfilled then many years later another stage is fulfilled. An example of this is found in Isaiah 40:3-5:


“…A voice of one calling: in the desert prepare the way for the Lord; make straight in the wilderness a highway for our God. Every valley shall be raised up, every mountain and hill made low; the rough ground shall become level and the rugged places a plain. And the glory of the Lord will be revealed and all mankind together will see it.”


We know that this scripture was partially fulfilled with John the Baptist, who was the forerunner for Christ’s first coming. For when asked by the Pharisees who John was (as it related to his calling), John said of himself, “I am the voice of one calling in the wilderness, ‘Make straight the way of the Lord!’” (John 1:23). John clearly believed he was a fulfillment of Isaiah’s prophecy. It is abundantly clear that this passage in Isaiah spoke of the coming Messiah, Jesus the Christ, as “the glory of God revealed” on earth. And yet, this is not the end of the story.

There is more to this passage - a 2nd stage that has yet to be fulfilled. Multiple passages tell us that the physical earth will be literally shaken before and at the coming of Jesus. One such passage is found in Haggai 2:6-7; 21-22a:

 

“For thus says the Lord of hosts: ‘Once more (it is a little while) I will shake heaven and earth, the sea and dry land; and I will shake all nations, and they shall come to the Desire of All Nations, and I will fill this temple with glory,’ says the Lord of hosts…21-I will shake heaven and earth. 22 I will overthrow the throne of kingdoms; I will destroy the strength of the Gentile kingdoms…”

 

The writer of Hebrews quotes this passage in Haggai telling us that it has yet to be completed (Heb. 12:25-29). God will once again, literally shake the earth, literally moving mountains, changing the topography of the land and sea, and we are waiting for that day. This will be fulfilled at the coming of Christ, when the full glory of God will be revealed and literally every eye will see God (Zech. 14:14; Rev. 1:7). Our hearts are longing for Isaiah 40:3-5 to be completely fulfilled! There are many passages like this that have partial fulfillments or shadow fulfillments. It’s one way we can trust the Lord’s words: what He did in the past, he will do again. It’s the beauty of partial and total fulfillment in prophetic passages. Matthew 24:1-3 shows the same kind of dual understanding. To understand Matthew 25, we must briefly look at the portions of Matthew 24 that have yet to be fulfilled.

 

The Matthew 24 Context


“Jesus left the temple and was walking away when his disciples came up to him to call his attention to its buildings. 2. “Do you see all these things?” he asked. “I tell you the truth, not one stone here will be left on another; every one will be thrown down.” 3. As Jesus was sitting on the Mount of Olives, the disciples came to him privately. “Tell us,” they said, “when will this happen, and what will be the sign of your coming and of the end of the age?” (Matt. 24:1-3)

 

In verse 2, Jesus brought some very sobering news to his disciples. As they were admiring the beauty of the Jewish Temple, Jesus rather frankly prophesied that the temple would be destroyed. This would have been topsy-turvy to their understanding of Messiah’s role in the earth. They would have expected then what we are looking forward to: God’s temple being established as a praise in all the earth, not its total destruction and removal (Isaiah 62:7). We do, indeed, look forward to the day when a new, eternal temple will be established in a New Jerusalem! But before that Day comes, it is more than likely that another earthly temple will be built in Jerusalem. We know Jesus’ prophecy that the temple would be destroyed had its 1st stage of fulfillment in 70 A.D. when the Romans completely destroyed Jerusalem and the temple buildings. There has been no temple since.

But scripture strongly seems to indicate that a 2nd stage of fulfillment will come to pass (I say “seems” to leave room for any uncertainty, but please understand moving forward, I will speak emphatically.) According to Daniel 9:27 and 2 Thessalonians 2:3-4, there will be a temple again before Christ’s 2nd coming. It will be rebuilt in the end of the End of Days only to be destroyed again at the end of all things.


Note that the disciples asked 2 questions in one:

 

 1)When will the temple be destroyed

 

AND


2) What will be the sign of the end of the age and Your coming (they tied these 2 events together).

 

Jesus mainly addresses the latter question. Some things he said can partially be applied to the age when the temple was destroyed, but not completely. You may be thinking, “That’s fine and dandy, Desiree, but how does this apply to getting oil in my lamp?”  Hang with me, Reader, because it most certainly does. You see, when Jesus emphatically shared the necessity of getting oil in our lamps, it was in an End-Time context. Although every generation has needed to have oil on reserve, it is the generation that will see the total fulfilment of the Olivet Discourse that needs to especially be ready.


So, the disciples asked Jesus, “What will be the sign of the end of the age and your coming?” fully implying that Jesus will come at the end of the age/time/world as we know it. Then Jesus answered:


 “Watch out that no one deceives you. 5 For many will come in my name, claiming ‘I am the Christ’ and will deceive many. 6 You will hear of wars and rumors of wars, but see to it that you are not alarmed. Such things must happen, but the end is still to come. 7 Nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. There will be famines and earthquakes in various places. All these things are the beginning of birth pains [sorrows NKJV]…”

 

Jesus spoke in verse 8 of the “beginning of birth pains”  – a time frame that will be a marker in history that sets off a chain of events that usher in the coming of Christ. Much like contractions begin to build and get stronger and stronger before hard labor begins, so wars, natural disasters, pestilence (like Covid) and racial tensions will increase more and more until the “hard labor” events begin ushering in Christ’s return. Almost every scholar believe that these events will happen BEFORE the Tribulation. Why? Because Jesus said “the end isn’t yet…it’s just the beginning of birth pains…” In other words, the earth won’t be in full labor, per-say: it’s just beginning to birth the new literal Kingdom of God.


9 Then you will be handed over to be persecuted and put to death and you will be hated by all nations because of me. 10 At that time many will turn away from the faith and will betray and hate each other, 11 and many false prophets will appear and deceive many people. Because of the increase of wickedness, the love of most will grow cold, 13 but he who stands firm to the end will be saved. And the gospel of the kingdom will be preached in the whole world as a testimony to all nations…and THEN the end will come.

 

According to Jesus, the beginning of birth pains comes just before a time of great trouble for the church. Most Pre-tribulation scholars – those who believe in a rapture of the church before the tribulation - believe that verse 9 through the rest of the chapter only applies to people who are left behind after the rapture. In other words, they believe if you know Jesus now, you won’t be here for the rest of what Jesus says. For those who believe the church will remain through some or all of the tribulation period (Mid and Post-tribulationists), they believe that this verse applies to all believers. Why? Because they believe the church will go through some amount of great trouble, enduring persecution and even betrayal, but coming forth victoriously at Christ’s return.  My advice? It is much wiser to be READY to face trouble…even death...for our Lord Jesus than it is to expect to escape pain and trouble. Countless saints before us and present believers in persecuted countries have already laid down their lives for the sake of the call of Christ. Corrie Ten Boom, a survivor of the Holocaust, lived this lesson firsthand. She and her family were believers who were thrown into the concentration camps for hiding Jews in their home. She lost all of her family under the anti-Christ spirit of Naziism. In a letter she wrote in 1974, she said of persecution and preparedness:

 

My sister, Betsy, and I were in the Nazi concentration camp at Ravensbruck because we committed the crime of loving Jews. Seven hundred of us from  Holland, France, Russia, Poland and Belgium were herded into a room built for two hundred. As far as I knew, Betsy and I were the only two representatives of Heaven in that room.

 

We may have been the Lord’s only representatives in that place of hatred, yet because of our presence there, things changed. Jesus said, “In the world you shall have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world.” We too, are to be overcomers – bringing the light of Jesus into a world filled with darkness and hate.

 

Sometimes I get frightened as I read the Bible, and as I look in this world and see all of the tribulation and persecution promised by the Bible coming true. Now I can tell you, though, if you too are afraid, that I have just read the last pages. I can now come to shouting “Hallelujah! Hallelujah!” for I have found where it is written that Jesus said, “He that overcometh shall inherit all things: and I will be His God, and he shall be My son.”…There are some among us teaching there will be no tribulation, that the Christians will be able to escape all this. These are the false teachers that Jesus was warning us to expect in the latter days. Most of them have little knowledge of what is already going on across the world. I have been in countries where the saints are already suffering terrible persecution. In China, the Christians were told, “Don’t worry, before the tribulation comes you will be translated – raptured.” Then came a terrible persecution. Millions of Christians were tortured to death. Later I heard a Bishop from China say, sadly,“We have failed. We should have made the people strong for persecution, rather than telling them Jesus would come first. Tell the people how to be strong in times of persecution, how to stand when the tribulation comes, – to stand and not faint.”

 

I feel I have a divine mandate to go and tell the people of this world that it is possible to be strong in the Lord Jesus Christ. We are in training for the tribulation, but more than sixty percent of the Body of Christ across the world has already entered into the tribulation. There is no way to escape it. We are next. Since I have already gone through prison for Jesus’ sake, and since I met the Bishop in China, now every time I read a good Bible text I think, “Hey, I can use that in the time of tribulation.”  Then I write it down and learn it by heart.”


I move forward in this blog echoing what Corrie Ten Boom expressed: be so deeply rooted in Christ, that you are willing to lay down your life when times of trouble come, expecting that they will come as surely as our Lord will come. The gospels clearly tell us that Believers are appointed, not to God’s wrath, but to the tribulation and pain that the enemy is currently pouring out and will be greatly pouring out on God’s people before Christ’s return. In fact, in the Olivet Discourse, Jesus says:

 

22 If those days had not been cut short, no one would survive, but for the sake of the elect those days will be shortened….29 Immediately after the distress of those days, ‘the sun will be darkened and the moon will not give its light; the stars will fall from the sky, and the heavenly bodies will be shaken.’ 30 At that time the sign of the Son of Man will appear in the sky and all the nations of the earth will mourn. They will see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of the sky with power and great glory. 31 And he will send his angels with a loud trumpet call, and they will gather his elect from the four winds, from one end of the heavens to the other.

 

            Matthew ends chapter 24 with the parable of the Faithful Servant and the Evil Servant. In it, Jesus says:

 

45 “Are you a wise and faithful servant of the Lord? Have I given you the task of managing my household, to feed my children day by day? 46 Blessings on you if I return and find you faithfully doing your work. 47 I will put such faithful ones in charge of everything I own! 48 “But if you are evil and say to yourself, ‘My Lord won’t be coming for a while,’ 49 and begin oppressing your fellow servants, partying and getting drunk, 50 your Lord will arrive unannounced and unexpected, 51 and severely whip you and send you off to the judgment of the hypocrites; there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth. (TLB)

 

It is from this story that Matthew 25 begins. So, I ask again: what is the context for the parable of the wise and foolish virgins? It is the tendency for his servants to drift away from faithfulness, especially in the end-time events that proceed Christ’s judgment and return. This parable echoes another ancient teaching that is found in the Jewish scholarly work entitled “RESHITH CHOKMAH”, translated, “The Beginning of Wisdom”. In it, the author urges: "Our wise men of blessed memory say, 'Repent whilst thou hast strength to do it, whilst thy lamp burns, and thy oil is not extinguished; for if thy lamp be gone out, thy oil will profit thee nothing'.” (from Adam Clarke's Commentary, Electronic Database. Copyright © 1996, 2003, 2005, 2006 by Biblesoft, Inc.) So, Jesus being a good Jewish Rabbi, most likely was pointing his listeners back to this teaching when he taught this parable. In it, Jesus was essentially crying out, “This is the beginning of wisdom: to repent and give your all to God with whole heartedness while you can!”

Before we proceed any further, Reader, I urge you to search your heart. Have you considered that dark days could happen in your lifetime? Have you considered that taking up your cross and following Him may cost you your possessions, your loved ones, or your life? This is the cost of discipleship, especially as The Day of Christ’s Return grows closer. Jesus calls us to “endure” for a reason, but he promises eternal reward for those who will. If there is anything in your heart that questions, “Am I willing? Am I ready?” then take a moment right now and talk to the Lord, repenting of whatever sins you need to confess, casting off whatever weights that hinder you; for only then, can you truly be found ready with oil in your lamp for the journey ahead.

 

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