Joke of the week
A Christmas joke, not offensive.
TOP 10 USES FOR HOLIDAY FRUITCAKES
10. Use slices to balance that wobbly kitchen table.
9. Use instead of sand bags during El Nino.
8. Send to U.S. Air Force, let troops drop them.
7. Use as railroad ties.
6. Use as speed bumps to foil the neighborhood drag racers.
5. Collect ten and use them as bowling pins.
4. Use instead of cement shoes.
3. Save for next summer’s garage sale.
2. Use slices in next skeet-shooting competition.
1. Two words pin cushion.
Why does winter always come before Christmas?
Today is the first day of winter, falling this year on December 21. Christmas is December 25. Every year, winter comes before Christmas and lasts nearly three months after Christmas. Winter is a dreary season, at least in the cold, dark, rainy Pacific Northwest where I live.
I want to put a positive spin on the fact that Christmas always comes in this most dismal season. It is a reminder that we live in a dismal world. Ever since our first parents fell in Eden the human race has lived in a world of trouble, pain, disappointment, and death. But the birth of our Lord, which we celebrate at Christmas, gives hope to mankind. The carol runs, “A thrill of hope, the weary world rejoices, for now there dawns a new and glorious morn.”
We celebrate Christmas with lights everywhere: on Christmas trees, with candles on the mantel, with lights strung along the edges of our roofs, with brightly illuminated store fronts. Those lights cheer us in the gloom of winter. Think of them as representing the Light of the World, the Son of God, born into this world “to save us all from Satan’s power,” as another carol puts it.
Winter does not end with Christmas. It drags on for three more months (five months if you live in Minnesota). Likewise, we still live in a world of sin. But the incarnation of Jesus Christ, which we remember at Christmas, is the basis for the Christian’s hope that the present dark age will end “when he comes to reign.”
It’s too late now
Too late to order books from Saluda Press and have them before Christmas, unless you live in Tacoma, WA. If you live in Tacoma and order by tomorrow I will deliver them to you. But you can order now and have them before New Year’s Day. If you are contemplating starting a new Bible study in the New Year, let me recommend James: A Study Guide: Practical Wisdom for Challenging Times, just $13.95, or The Letters of Peter: A Study Guide: Hope and Truth for Troubled Times, just $15.95. Both prices include shipping and tax. Go to Buying My Books at the top of this page, or by on Amazon. Start the year off right by digging into God’s Word with the aid of one of these study guides.
Parables of the Kingdom: Parable of the Ten Virgins: Matt. 25:1-13
Jesus spoke this parable after his admonition to watch and be ready for his coming (Matthew 24:36-51). Read those verses first, for they cast light on the meaning of the parable. Indeed, all of chapter 24 provides the context in which the parable was given. The whole of chapter 24 deals with the end of the age, which (perhaps to our surprise) begins with the destruction of Jerusalem in 70 AD. It seems the end of the age covers a long time, the last 2000 years! That is a topic for another day.
Because the end of the age has gone on so long, we are prone to forget that some day when we don’t expect it Jesus will return to earth with rewards and punishment for mankind. He warns us in Matthew 24:42-44 to watch and be ready.
- Who does the bridegroom represent?
- Who do the ten virgins represent?
- What do their lamps represent?
- What does the delay of the bridegroom represent?
- What does the delay of the bridegroom result in?
- What does oil represent?
- The five wise virgins thought to bring extra oil. What does that picture?
- The five foolish virgins didn’t think to bring oil. What does that picture?
- What is represented by the shutting of the door?
- What is the main point of this parable?
Exposition of the Parable
Some features of the parable are strange to modern readers. It isn’t hard to see that the bridegroom represents Christ, and the bridegroom’s coming represents Christ’s return at the end of the age. That we understand from other Scripture. But where is the bride? Are the ten virgins the attendants of the bride, bridesmaids, as it were?
To answer these questions we need to know something about wedding customs in Jesus’ time. According to the commentaries, after the betrothal formalities and ceremonies the bride-to-be remained in her father’s house until the groom came to take her to his own home. The approximate time of his coming was known, but the exact time was unannounced—it was to be a surprise.
A Hebrew Christian congregation, Congregation Netzer Torah Yeshua, has posted a description of wedding customs in first century Judaism at www.messianicfellowship.50webs.com/weddingritual. Part of that description describes the coming of the bridegroom:
The coming of the Bridegroom and the Wedding Begins
Since the time of his arrival was a surprise – the bride and her bridal party were always to be ready – this is the background of Yeshua’s parable (Matthew 25:1-13). It was customary for one of the groom’s party to go ahead of the bridegroom, leading the way to the bride’s house – and shout – “Behold, the bridegroom comes.” This would be followed by the sounding of the shofar. At the sounding of the shofar the entire wedding processional would go through the streets of the city to the bride’s house. The groomsmen would again set up the huppah [the canopy under which the couple took their vows]:
- Again the couple would say a blessing over the cup of wine.
- The ceremony finalized the promises and vows.
- The pinnacle of this joyful celebration was the marriage supper:
- It was much more than just a sit down dinner for all the guests.
- It included seven full days of food, music, dance and celebration – (J0hn 14:10-12)
- After the festivities the husband was free to bring his bride to their new home to live together as husband and wife in the full covenant of marriage.
Bearing these things in mind, we can begin to interpret this parable.
As noted above, the bridegroom is the Lord Jesus and his coming for his bride is his Second Coming. It seems that the ten virgins represent members of the kingdom of heaven, the Visible Church. Why isn’t the Church represented by the bride herself, since the New Testament refers to the Church as the Bride of Christ (Revelation 19:7, 21:2, 21:9, 22:17)? The answer probably lies in the fact that the virgins fall into two groups, one of which has a bad end and one a good end. The bride is but one person; she can’t represent both groups. In this parable the virgins have to fill in for the Church.
Interpreting the meaning of the lamps and the oil is possibly the hardest part of the parable, and commentators differ here. Some see the oil as the Bible, the Word of God; others say the oil represents the Holy Spirit. One commentator sees the oil as the desire for salvation; others see it as a Christian’s good works.
I believe we can correctly interpret the oil by recognizing that the foolish virgins had oil in their lamps at the beginning as well as the wise virgins, but because he was delayed they didn’t have enough oil to last until he appeared. Bearing that in mind, I interpret the oil as faith. The wise virgins had saving faith. Saving faith is persevering faith. The foolish virgins represent those in the Church who begin a life of faith, but their faith peters out and does not last. The faith of those represented by the foolish virgins is like the seed sown in the soil that had no depth of earth in the Parable of the Sower (Matthew 13:20-21). It sprang up enthusiastically, but withered away when times got tough.
Just before he told this parable, Jesus had declared that the love of many would grow cold because of the long period of wickedness to take place before he returns:
And because lawlessness will be increased, the love of many will grow cold. But the one who endures to the end will be saved. Matt. 24:12-1
What then is the main point of the parable? Is it that we should not be surprised that Christ has not yet returned, after such a long time? Is it that we need to have saving faith, a faith that perseveres through hard times and even persecution? Is it that members of the Church whose faith withers away will be shut out of Christ’s kingdom? No; all those things are true, but the Lord himself tells us plainly what the point of the parable is in v. 13: “Watch therefore for you know neither the day nor the hour.”
Watching doesn’t mean always thinking about the Second Coming All the virgins, the wise as well as the foolish, slumbered and slept. Watching means being ready when the time comes. Everyone needs to be ready by repenting of his or her sins and casting himself or herself on Christ in faith that he has paid for all of one’s sins and won eternal life for all who believe. Are you ready? Get ready now. When Christ returns it will be too late to go and buy oil.