Reflection on Matthew 25: How to Become Wise Virgins
Sister Mu Zhen,
Peace to you in the Lord! I’m so happy you’ve written. You’ve mentioned in your letter that the day of the Lord’s coming is near, and that you are intentionally reading Scripture and praying more, and doing more work for the Lord so that you can be one of the wise virgins who is vigilantly awaiting the Lord’s coming. However, these things have not sharpened your spiritual acuity or increased your faith or love for the Lord. You’re confused about whether you can be counted as a wise virgin by seeking this way and would like to know what sort of practice you should have to be able to welcome the Lord. Sister Mu Zhen, this question you’ve raised is critical for whether or not we can welcome the Lord. All of us want to be wise virgins who can welcome His return and attend the banquet of the kingdom of heaven with Him—no one wants to be a foolish virgin and be cast aside by the Lord, but what kind of practice is actually being a wise virgin? I’d like to share my personal understanding of this issue—I hope it’ll be helpful for you.
The Lord Jesus said, “Then shall the kingdom of heaven be likened to ten virgins, which took their lamps, and went forth to meet the bridegroom. And five of them were wise, and five were foolish. They that were foolish took their lamps, and took no oil with them: But the wise took oil in their vessels with their lamps” (Matthew 25:1–4). From the Scripture we can see that the wise virgins are those who vigilantly await the Lord’s coming, proactively preparing oil for their lamps; they ultimately welcome the Lord’s return and attend the banquet of the kingdom of heaven. A lot of brothers and sisters read this passage and understand it as: As long as we frequently read the Scripture, pray watchfully, keep to the Lord’s way, apply ourselves to the Lord’s work and spread the, that is preparing oil. Those who do all of these things are the wise virgins and when the Lord returns they will certainly attend the banquet with the Lord. But are what the Lord refers to as wise virgins really like this? Let’s look back on the Pharisees—they were constantly hoping for the coming of the Messiah, and for the sake of welcoming Him, they not only were very familiar with the Scripture and upheld the law and commandments, but they also often interpreted the Scripture for believers and prayed for them, and even spread the gospel of Jehovah God to the ends of the earth. So based on that kind of understanding, the Pharisees’ actions should have counted as wise virgins preparing oil, and they certainly should have been able to welcome the Messiah and gain God’s . But was that really the case? When the Lord Jesus became flesh to work and speak, the Pharisees entirely lacked hearts of reverence for God, and even though they saw that His words and work possessed power and authority and had come from God, not only did they not seek and investigate them with an open mind, but instead stubbornly clung to their own notions and imaginings, thinking that anyone who wasn’t called Messiah wasn’t the Lord. They also delimited God’s work and words within the confines of the Scripture at that time, condemned the Lord’s work and words as outside the bounds of the Old Testament and thus rejected them. They also madly fabricated rumors, slandered, and blasphemed the Lord Jesus, ultimately nailing Him to the cross. Thus, they earned God’s damnation and punishment. We can see from the facts of the Pharisees’ resistance to God that just reading the Scripture, being vigilant in prayer, keeping to the Lord’s way, and working for the Lord does not count as being a wise virgin.
Then what really is a wise virgin? Let’s take a look at a verse from the Bible: The Lord Jesus said, “And at midnight there was a cry made, Behold, the bridegroom comes; go you out to meet him” (Matthew 25:6). The Lord’s words show us that the wise virgins have hearts of reverence for God and that in the matter of welcoming the Lord’s coming, they focus on listening to the voice of the Lord. If they hear that someone has borne witness that the Lord has returned, and is working and uttering words, wise virgins won’t blindly pass judgment. Instead, they will actively seek and investigate this, seriously ponder it, and from this they are able to recognize the voice of the Lord, welcome His return, be raptured up before God’s throne, and attend the banquet of the kingdom of heaven. It’s just like the story of the Samaritan woman in the Bible. When she heard the Lord Jesus say to her, “For you have had five husbands; and he whom you now have is not your husband: in that said you truly” (John 4:18) she recognized from His words that the Lord Jesus was Christ. This is because she knew that only God can see into all things and can give voice to the secrets people hide—He spoke out on all that she had done, and outside of God, no one possesses that kind of authority and power. This is how she recognized the Lord Jesus as Christ and that He was the Messiah who was to come. Just as the Samaritan woman said to the crowd, as recorded in the Bible: “Come, see a man, which told me all things that ever I did: is not this the Christ?” (John 4:29) We can see from this that the Samaritan woman’s wisdom lay in her ability to discern God’s voice. When she heard that this was God’s voice, she was able to accept it, and thus received the salvation of the Lord Jesus. The Bible shows us that Peter, Nathanael, and others were also able to recognize God’s voice through what the Lord Jesus said, and they determined that He was. This is why they gave up everything they had to follow the Lord—this kind of person is a wise virgin. However, those who are just as arrogant as the Pharisees were, who cannot hear God’s voice, who hear God’s voice but do not seek or accept it, or who even hate and reject the truth, are all foolish virgins and are destined to be cast out and eliminated by the Lord.
Now we understand from these facts that the most crucial point for being wise virgins is being able to hear God’s voice—this is what makes them intelligent. In Revelation Chapters 2 and 3, “He that has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches” is mentioned a number of times, and in Revelation 3:20 it says: “Behold, I stand at the door, and knock: if any man hear My voice, and open the door, I will come in to him, and will sup with him, and he with Me.” We can see from these prophecies that in the Lord’s return in the last days He will utter more words, making being attentive to listening to the Lord’s words and being able to recognize His voice extremely important. This also relates to the very important question of whether we’ll be able to welcome the Lord and be raptured up before His throne. So how can we recognize the voice of God, then? Next, let’s fellowship on several principles of how to discern the voice of God.
1. Everything uttered by God is the truth. It can give people the sustenance they require, and provide them with a path of practice
The Lord Jesus said, “I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man comes to the Father, but by Me” (John 14:6). And in the Gospel of John 1:1–2, it is written: “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. The same was in the beginning with God.” In addition, there’s John 1:4: “In Him was life; and the life was the light of men.” God Himself is the truth, the way, and the life, and all of the words expressed by Him are the truth. They can provide sustenance for mankind in accordance with what they need and give them a path of practice. Looking back on the Age of Law, human beings didn’t understand what life is, nor did they know how to worship God. That’s why God issued the commandments through Moses, so that people could keep to the commandments and that would guide them in their lives, allowing them to learn how to worship God. Just as it says in the Ten Commandments: “I am Jehovah your God, which brought you out of the land of Egypt, from the house of bondage. You shall have none other gods before Me. … You shall not bow down yourself to them, nor serve them: for I Jehovah your God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children to the third and fourth generation of them that hate Me, And showing mercy to thousands of them that love Me and keep My commandments” (Deuteronomy 5:6–7, 9–10). “You shall not kill. Neither shall you commit adultery. … Neither shall you bear false witness against your neighbor. Neither shall you desire your neighbor’s wife, neither shall you covet your neighbor’s house, his field, or his manservant, or his maidservant, his ox, or his ass, or any thing that is your neighbor’s” (Deuteronomy 5:17–18, 20–21). The laws and commandments showed people that they were created by God and that they ought to worship Him; they also learned that violating the laws and commandments is sinning. God also told people how to offer up sacrifices if they had sinned, and otherwise what sort of punishment they should receive. The people of the time received the sustenance of the truth and then had a specific path of practice. People’s lives and behaviors became more and more regulated and they began to have lives of proper humanity. In the Age of Grace when the Lord Jesus came to work, He spoke quite a lot targeting the needs of the people of the time, teaching them to confess and repent, that they should be forgiving and tolerant with others, to love others as themselves, and to be the light and the salt. Once people understood the truth they had new paths of practice when they encountered issues and this gave them sustenance for their lives—they were no longer constrained by the law. As an example, Peter asked the Lord Jesus, “Lord, how oft shall my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? till seven times?” (Matthew 18:21). Jesus responded to Peter, “I say not to you, Until seven times: but, Until seventy times seven” (Matthew 18:22). We can see here that the words expressed by the Lord Jesus were all the truth, the way, and the life; they provided the sustenance of what people needed and gave them a path of practice. This is one characteristic of the words of God.
2. God’s words all possess power and authority, and are an expression of God’s disposition
We all know that in the beginning, God used words to create the heavens, the earth, and all things. The moment He uttered something, it came to be, just as it says in Psalm 33:9: “For He spoke, and it was done; He commanded, and it stood fast.” In the age of the Old Testament, God promised that the descendants of Abraham would be like the stars in the sky and the sand on the shore, and everything happened just as God had promised. Even now, Abraham’s descendants are in every corner of the world, and every single thing that God has said has been fulfilled, one by one. In the Age of Grace, the winds and seas could be calmed by a single utterance from the Lord Jesus, and with the words “Lazarus, come forth” (John 11:43), Lazarus, who had been dead for four days, walked out from his tomb. All of this is because of the authority and might of God’s words. The Lord Jesus also said, “But whoever drinks of the water that I shall give him shall never thirst; but the water that I shall give him shall be in him a well of water springing up into everlasting life” (John 4:14). “I am the resurrection, and the life: he that believes in Me, though he were dead, yet shall he live: And whoever lives and believes in Me shall never die” (John 11:25–26). “Truly I say to you, All sins shall be forgiven to the sons of men, and blasphemies with which soever they shall blaspheme: But he that shall blaspheme against the Holy Spirit has never forgiveness, but is in danger of eternal damnation” (Mark 3:28–29). The Lord Jesus’ words possess power and authority; they are able to fully convince people’s heart and mind, and we can hear God’s voice within them. God’s words not only direct and rule all things, but they are also able to bestow life and the truth upon us. They can also promise us blessings, and they can curse all those who rebel against and resist God. God’s words show us that He treats all those who believe in and love Him with mercy and love, while those who are rebellious and contrary see His majesty and wrath. We can see God’s righteous, inviolable disposition—all of God’s words are an expression of His disposition, and what He has and is. Even more, they carry the unique authority of the Creator. This is why, when attempting to determine whether something is the voice of God, we must see if those words possess power and authority, and whether they are an expression of God’s disposition as well as what He has and is.
3. The words expressed by God can open up the mysteries behind God’s work of management
The Lord Jesus said, “So shall it be in the end of this world. The Son of man shall send forth His angels, and they shall gather out of His kingdom all things that offend, and them which do iniquity; And shall cast them into a furnace of fire: there shall be wailing and gnashing of teeth. Then shall the righteous shine forth as the sun in the kingdom of their Father. Who has ears to hear, let him hear” (Matthew 13:40–43). “Not every one that said to Me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that does the will of My Father which is in heaven” (Matthew 7:21). The Lord Jesus told us that in the end of the world, God will dispatch angels to separate good from evil, and that all people will be sorted according to their kind: the wheat from the tares, the good servants from the evil servants, and the wise virgins from the foolish virgins. Only those who follow the directives of the Heavenly Father will enter into the kingdom of heaven. In addition, the Lord Jesus prophesied that He would certainly return, that in the last days the Son of man would do the work of judgment and make a group of overcomers before the disaster, that the tabernacle of God is among mankind, and that Christ’s kingdom would appear. All of these mysteries were things that none of us as humans knew, and none of us would have been able to explain them, so why could the Lord Jesus say these things? It’s because the Lord Jesus is God Himself—He is the Lord of heaven, and only God Himself knows what kind of people can enter the kingdom of heaven, how God works in the last days, and what mankind’s destination and outcome will be. Only God’s utterances can reveal the mysteries of God’s management work. The Lord Jesus once said, “I have yet many things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now. However, when He, the Spirit of truth, is come, He will guide you into all truth: for He shall not speak of Himself; but whatever He shall hear, that shall He speak: and He will show you things to come” (John 16:12–13). It is evident that when the Lord returns He will utter all truths that we as humans require and openly reveal the mysteries of God’s entire management plan to save mankind. The wise virgins have a heart and a spirit, and when they hear God’s words, they will certainly recognize His voice from those words.
4. God’s words bring mankind’s corruption and inner thoughts into the light
Man was created by God, and God knows the deepest depths of humans’ hearts. He has His finger on the pulse of our innermost thoughts—only God’s words can reveal the truth of our corruption by Satan and expose all of the corruption that resides deep in our hearts. This is something that no human being could do. Just as the Lord Jesus said, “That which comes out of the man, that defiles the man. For from within, out of the heart of men, proceed evil thoughts, adulteries, fornications, murders, Thefts, covetousness, wickedness, deceit, lasciviousness, an evil eye, blasphemy, pride, foolishness: All these evil things come from within, and defile the man” (Mark 7:20–23). After we were corrupted by Satan we started relying on our own arrogance, crookedness and deceit, selfishness and despicableness, evilness and greed, and other satanic dispositions in our words and actions, and interactions with others. When someone else’s words or actions seem to impinge upon our own face, status, or interests, we engage in intrigue, we become jealous and combative, or even being able to hate that person. If we give things up and expend ourselves for the Lord and work hard for Him for a long time, we start to feel that we have built up some leverage. We start to demand rewards and blessings from God, and feel that it’s something we rightly deserve. When something that is out of line with our notions occurs (such as financial troubles at home, misfortunes in life, disasters or calamities) we still misunderstand and blame God. Sometimes we even deny or oppose Him. If God didn’t expose these corruptions and rebellions, we would be completely unable to know ourselves, and we would still live within our own notions and imaginings, believing that our actions were in line with. Wouldn’t that be fooling both ourselves and others, and misleading ourselves? The Lord Jesus revealed all of our corruption which is the only way we have gained true understanding of our own satanic dispositions, and have seen the truth of how we’ve been corrupted by Satan. It’s only through this that we’ve been better able to cast off our corrupt dispositions.
On top of that, God’s words are the light. Anything that is dark and evil will be revealed by the light of God’s words, and Satan’s tricks are also all exposed through His words. Just like the Pharisees who seemed to be people who devoutly served God in the eyes of the Jewish believers—but the Lord Jesus could see into their nature and essence of loving that which was unrighteous and hating the truth. He exposed them, saying things such as “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for you are like to white washed sepulchers, which indeed appear beautiful outward, but are within full of dead men’s bones, and of all uncleanness” (Matthew 23:27). “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for you compass sea and land to make one proselyte, and when he is made, you make him twofold more the child of hell than yourselves” (Matthew 23:15). It’s only through the revealing words of the Lord Jesus that we were able to realize that as people, we can only see others’ outward appearances, but God can see into the depths of our hearts. He can see into our nature and essence; He can see who has true faith, who is just seeking satiation, and who hates the truth. God has a grasp on all of this. Through what is revealed by God’s words we can gain true discernment over the Pharisees’ nature and essence of being hypocritical and enemies of God.
God’s words are the utterances of the Creator for all of mankind. They are expressions of the truth, the way, and the life, and they can provide us with all that we need. They can resolve all of our difficulties and problems, pointing out a path of practice for us. God’s words possess power and authority and unlock all mysteries. They expose man’s corruption, they judge man’s unrighteousness and save us from evil. These are all unique characteristics that only God’s words possess. Once we’ve grasped the principles of discerning God’s voice, when we do hear God’s utterances we’ll be able to feel it within our soul. We’ll be able to see that God’s words are things that no human being could say and that there are mysteries contained within them that people could not fathom on their own. When we have that sort of feeling we must approach God’s word carefully, and seriously seek and investigate. And as long as we do determine that it is God’s voice, that it is an expression of the truth, we must accept and submit to it. This is the only way to be a wise virgin and is the only way we’ll be able to welcome the Lord’s return.
Sister Mu Zhen, I hope that this fellowship has been helpful for you, and I hope that we can all be wise virgins who very carefully seek and listen for the voice of the returned Lord. That way we can welcome the Lord as soon as possible and attend the banquet with Him!
Thanks to the Lord’s enlightenment and guidance!
May 24, 2018
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