Proper 27 Series A
1 Thessalonians 4:13–18
The Gospel Prepares Us for Our Heavenly Bridegroom’s Coming
The Day of the Lord is “darkness, and not light” (Amos 5:18, 20) for all who trust in their own righteousness and piety. The Lord will not accept their “burnt offerings and grain offerings,” nor will He look upon their “peace offerings” (Amos 5:22). Instead, He desires a heart of faith that trusts in Him, which lets “justice roll down like waters, and righteousness like an ever-flowing stream” (Amos 5:24) in love for the neighbor.
In order for the “lamps” of our lives to burn brightly with such love, we must be filled with the “oil” of forgiveness through faith in our Bridegroom, Jesus Christ (Matthew 25:1–4). Therefore, as we await His coming, wisdom directs us “to the dealers” (Matthew 25:9), that is, to the ministers of His Gospel. Thus we wait upon the Lord, and we “encourage one another with these words” (1 Thessalonians 4:18). Waking or sleeping, we are prepared to meet Him when He comes “with a cry of command, with the voice of an archangel, and with the sound of the trumpet of God,” and “we will always be with the Lord” (1 Thessalonians 4:16, 17).
Rev. Dr. Daniel J Brege
“For when the foolish took their lamps, they took no oil with them, but the wise took flasks of oil with their lamps.” (Matthew 25:3,4)
When Jesus spoke in parables He frequently gave no explanation. No doubt this was intentional, for it caused His people to wrestle with Scripture to discern an appropriate interpretation. Such Scripture included the Apostolic writings as these gave official detailed doctrine for Christ’s Church.
The ten virgins in the parable each possessed a lamp. One can understand the “lamp” in the parable to be that which outwardly identifies a Christian. Baptism fits as such an outward identification. All ten virgins had the mark of being a Christian; we could simply say they were all baptized into Christ. Our Triune God had brought them into His family, and thus all were initially saved.
As the parable progresses we observe that five virgins had the necessary oil to burn in their lamps, while the other five had insufficient oil. When the bridegroom’s arrival was close, the lamps were to shine-forth and illumine Him. The five with insufficient oil could shed no light upon His pending arrival. What then is the oil?
Some have considered the oil (with the lamp’s flame) in the parable to be a Christian’s good works, the foundational work being love. Truly such love shining from a Christian illuminates Christ, for without Him and His love we can do nothing. Understanding the oil to be good works flowing from one’s salvation at first seems untenable since it appears to put good works into the formula for determining one’s salvation. Scripture informs us that good works are necessary, however they are not necessary to save us. The good works produced by those who believe in Jesus will automatically flow from their faith in Christ. Christians are not consciously performing good works in order to be saved. Thus it comes as no surprise that on Judgment Day the saved will ask in befuddlement, Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you a drink? And when did we see you a stranger and welcome you, or naked and clothe you? [Mt 25:37-39]. James explains the necessity of good works by challenging: So also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead. But someone will say, “You have faith and I have works.” Show me your faith apart from your works, and I will show you my faith by my works [2:17,18].
Of good works Jesus says, By this my Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit and prove to be my disciples…You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit and that your fruit should abide…these things I command you, so that you will love one another [Jn 15:8,16a,17]. In His Sermon on the Mount Jesus gave a command that readily relates to the lit lamps in the parable of the Ten Virgins: Let your light shine before men that they may see your good works and glorify your Father who is in heaven [Mt 5:16].
So how can the five foolish virgins have no good works? They have no good works because they have abandoned the faith. Or to put it another way, they have ceased believing and trusting in Jesus, and disconnected from Him they can do nothing to illuminate Him. Or to put it another way, they did not continue in Christ’s word, by which Christians are empowered unto good works. Or to put it another way, they grieved the Holy Spirit who, through the Word of Christ, works all good within us.
In summary: Be ready for Christ’s return; have oil in your lamps. That is, continue in His Word, through which He gives us the Spirit, by whom we are established in faith, from which good works naturally flow.
The Parable of the Ten Virgins
Τότε ὁμοιωθήσεται ἡ βασιλεία τῶν οὐρανῶν δέκα παρθένοις, αἵτινες λαβοῦσαι τὰς λαμπάδας [a]ἑαυτῶν ἐξῆλθον εἰς [b]ὑπάντησιν τοῦ νυμφίου.
“Then the kingdom of heaven will be like ten virgins who took their lamps[a] and went to meet the bridegroom.[b]
a. Matthew 25:1 Or torches
b. Matthew 25:1 Some manuscripts add and the bride
Then the kingdom of the heavens will be likened to ten virgins going to the feast of the bridegroom. This is “last days” theology. The kingdom shall be likened to… (See 1 Thessalonians 4) Going out to see a conquering King. All turn and ride out to meet him. They are a part of the visible church. They know Christ is coming back. But not all have ears to hear. They have faith in their membership, faith in their faith.
πέντε δὲ [c]ἐξ αὐτῶν ἦσαν [d]μωραὶ καὶ πέντε φρόνιμοι.
Five of them were foolish, and five were wise.
Five were morons, five were wise, prudent, "sober minded."
]αἱ γὰρ μωραὶ λαβοῦσαι τὰς λαμπάδας αὐτῶν οὐκ ἔλαβον μεθ’ ἑαυτῶν ἔλαιον•
For when the foolish took their lamps, they took no oil with them,
The morons took lamps for themselves but not oil with them. They were thinking of themselves and not the bridegroom and the sustaining oil. Historically oil is faith, the means by which the bridegroom is received. They were unthinking. Consider the seed in the shallow soil enamored by the pomp and thrill.
αἱ δὲ φρόνιμοι ἔλαβον ἔλαιον ἐν τοῖς [f]ἀγγείοις μετὰ τῶν λαμπάδων [g]ἑαυτῶν.
but the wise took flasks of oil with their lamps.
The mindful/proper ones took oil. They took the Sacraments with them. They knew what they hand in themselves was not enough. See the parable of the wedding feast.
χρονίζοντος δὲ τοῦ νυμφίου ἐνύσταξαν πᾶσαι καὶ ἐκάθευδον.
As the bridegroom was delayed, they all became drowsy and slept.
All die. The morons and prudent alike. Be about the business of the day. See Lazarus. Jesus knows what he's going to do when He get there. He will raise them up.
μέσης δὲ νυκτὸς κραυγὴ γέγονεν• Ἰδοὺ ὁ [h]νυμφίος, ἐξέρχεσθε εἰς ἀπάντησιν [i]αὐτοῦ.
But at midnight there was a cry, ‘Here is the bridegroom! Come out to meet him.’
In the middle of the night a cry occurred. Right here and now in time and space reality the bridegroom. They greet the victorious heroic conquering King. The only thing dead people can do is hear. The voice is passive.
τότε ἠγέρθησαν πᾶσαι αἱ παρθένοι ἐκεῖναι καὶ ἐκόσμησαν τὰς λαμπάδας [j]ἑαυτῶν.
Then all those virgins rose and trimmed their lamps.
They all were raised and prepared their lamps. All will be raised. There is no mention of the Bride hence they are virgins. The marriage had not yet been consummated. This is how it will look appear function within the Church militant.
αἱ δὲ μωραὶ ταῖς φρονίμοις εἶπαν• Δότε ἡμῖν ἐκ τοῦ ἐλαίου ὑμῶν, ὅτι αἱ λαμπάδες ἡμῶν σβέννυνται.
And the foolish said to the wise, ‘Give us some of your oil, for our lamps are going out.’
"Our wicks are being extinguished" they are thinking only of themselves.
ἀπεκρίθησαν δὲ αἱ φρόνιμοι λέγουσαι• Μήποτε [k]οὐ μὴ ἀρκέσῃ ἡμῖν καὶ ὑμῖν• [l]πορεύεσθε μᾶλλον πρὸς τοὺς πωλοῦντας καὶ ἀγοράσατε ἑαυταῖς.
But the wise answered, saying, ‘Since there will not be enough for us and for you, go rather to the dealers and buy for yourselves.’
The mindful answered there absolutely will not be enough. The oil is the means to receive the bridegroom. The oil sellers are not open and you cannot buy it. There is nothing left to tell you. Jesus gave up all of His and faced the outer darkness. That is why the Christian's judgment day is Good Friday.
ἀπερχομένων δὲ αὐτῶν ἀγοράσαι ἦλθεν ὁ νυμφίος, καὶ αἱ ἕτοιμοι εἰσῆλθον μετ’ αὐτοῦ εἰς τοὺς γάμους, καὶ ἐκλείσθη ἡ θύρα.
And while they were going to buy, the bridegroom came, and those who were ready went in with him to the marriage feast, and the door was shut.
As they were going to buy the bridegroom came and the door was slammed shut. You do not need to hear this. Your name has been tattooed into Him. The prepared are those who know they are not the prepared.
ὕστερον δὲ ἔρχονται καὶ αἱ λοιπαὶ παρθένοι λέγουσαι• Κύριε κύριε, ἄνοιξον ἡμῖν•
Afterward the other virgins came also, saying, ‘Lord, lord, open to us.’
ὁ δὲ ἀποκριθεὶς εἶπεν• Ἀμὴν λέγω ὑμῖν, οὐκ οἶδα ὑμᾶς. 13 γρηγορεῖτε οὖν, ὅτι οὐκ οἴδατε τὴν ἡμέραν οὐδὲ τὴν [m]ὥραν.
But he answered, ‘Truly, I say to you, I do not know you.’
Later the rest came and cried, “Lord, Lord, open to us” and He replied "I do not know you". Not everyone who says "Lord, Lord will enter" The will of the Father is Jesus…faith…
γρηγορεῖτε οὖν, ὅτι οὐκ οἴδατε τὴν ἡμέραν οὐδὲ τὴν [m]ὥραν.
Watch therefore, for you know neither the day nor the hour.
Watch! Be on the lookout for you know not the day or the hour.
ESV® Text Edition: 2016. Copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers
The Greek New Testament: SBL Edition. Copyright © 2010 by Society of Biblical Literature and Logos Bible Software