One of the three dimensional teachings and the doctrines stated in the Book by the greatest theologian of all time (Apostle Paul) is the doctrine of Hope. He spoke within the confines of Faith, Love and Hope. He wrote to the churches based on what he felt they lacked. According to the Apostle, Faith is the belief and trust in the Gospel of Christ, hence the reason he stated he was not ashamed of the Gospel of Christ because it is the power of God unto salvation. Love according to the Apostle was the love for God as demonstrated in the love we have towards each other. The Apostle defines hope as the confident expectation we have of the Lord’s return to marry His bride; the one He got engaged to before He left to be with the Father.
The Epistles written to the Churches by the Apostle are based on what the individual churches were missing or coming short of. For example to the Church at Corinth, the Apostle could not write about any other topic but love towards one another because they had so much trouble applying Love towards one another, although they were saved by their Faith in Jesus. So to the Church at Corinth, between Faith, Love and Hope, Love would be the greatest because they had passed the test of trusting in God but couldn’t go beyond Love to Hope because they were found lacking in the issue of love towards one another. They had to perfect that aspect before they could be taught to Hope for the coming of Christ.
To the Church at Thessalonica, which seems to the perfect church, they knew Faith in Christ and there was Love between the brethren; the Apostle took them beyond the two dimensions of Faith and Love into the third, which is the issue of hoping for the coming again of Jesus to rapture the church. Therefore for the church at Thessalonica, between Faith, Love and Hope, Hope would be the greatest and ultimate. It is this Hope we want to describe from the words of Jesus in this piece of artifact.
Jesus knowing He was on His way out of planet earth continued to speak to His disciples about how He was going to be killed and raised up on the third day and ascend to heaven to be with His Father. He also emphasized to the disciples about His coming back for the bride. He said: “in my Father’s House, there are many mansions but I go to prepare a place”. This was with the intention of coming back to take us to the place He has gone to prepare – the right hand of the Father forever more. This is in similitude with the Jewish custom of marriage, where the bridegroom goes to prepare a place for his new bride before going back to pick the bride from her father’s house.
He told them about the hope they should have for His coming back when He compared the Kingdom of God to the very prevalent and popular parable of the Ten Virgins. One very important thing we have to know in this parable is that there is a bridegroom who is going to come back for his wife. This bridegroom is Jesus who is coming back for His bride (The Church) at an appointed time set by the Father as confirmed in Matthew 9:14-15 and John 3:27-30. In other words, the Church should be expectant of the husband-to-be (Jesus) to return at any time known to the Father of the bridegroom. In the same sequel, the bride is the Church as specified in 2Corinthians 11:2.
Concurring to the Jewish custom, the bridegroom proceeds from his house with some of his close allies to go to the bride’s home where diverse ceremonies will be conducted followed by a procession back to his house sometimes at twilight. The virgins, mentioned in the parable were to wait and expect the bridegroom as he comes from the bride’s house. Everybody in the convoy was expected to carry a lamp each because the festivities could last for several days – as the time was not disclosed to anyone. To say this in another way, they all had to be prepared and equipped from the beginning till the end of the festivities.
The lamps in those days were not operated with batteries or other medium like we have today. They were made up of a small oil tank, a wick with a rag soaked oil on the end of it which would require continued soaking to maintain the flame at the other end. Part of the preparation for the described activities was for the carriers of the lamp to have extra oil in another vessel incase the festivities continued for another number of days, like we said there was no time tag on when the bridegroom would appear at the scene and they had to wait for him. This will bring us to a demarcation between the virgins; five of them were described as wise while the remaining five were described as foolish. The wise virgin were wise because they carried an extra container which contained oil for the continual lighting of their lamps should the bridegroom be delayed.
Alas, the bridegroom was delayed as Jesus explained further. The Ten Virgins all slumbered and slept off, which means the time, was somehow extended beyond their thinking and imagination. This also implies that there is always a set time for the oil to finish and be replenished by them. This is where the complications will arise, as some of the virgins did not have extra oil for their lamps.
As they all slumbered and slept, there was a cry in the middle of the night that the bridegroom had appeared and immediately the virgins had to stand up, trim their lamps so they could follow the procession. The wise trimmed their lamps and went with the bridegroom while the foolish ran out on oil because they were simply not prepared enough for the bridegroom. They were advised by the wise ones to go into the shops to buy more oil because the oil they had couldn’t be shared. So the bridegroom ended up with the five wise virgins in the procession who went in with him and the door was shut. The foolish virgins missed the party and when they came back begging to go into the party, they found the door had been shut because they were not ready to go in at the time appointed. They ended up in a place where there was weeping and gnashing of teeth.
As we unpack the meaning of this parable, we would find out that Jesus compared the Kingdom of God with this story, which He is featured playing more than one role. He is the bridegroom, He is the Light and He is the oil. The oil is symbolic of the FAITH that we have in God that brings salvation, which is the only guarantee that we have if we must go to that place where Christ has gone to prepare. The five wise virgins were saved and when the time came they were ready (they made Heaven); the five foolish ones reflect this set of people who enjoy the benefits of the Christians without trusting in the saving grace of God, hoping that through their association with fellow believers, they could be saved. The oil could not be shared because one person’s faith cannot save the other.
In conclusion, we have seen from this little but important story, the future. There is Heaven for those who are saved and Hell for those who are not saved.
C H Spurgeon said, “Heaven is a prepared place for prepared people. If you do not learn Heaven’s language on earth you cannot learn it in the world to come”.