Most Believers are anxiously awaiting the return of Yeshua, and see the events around us pointing strongly to a very near time. For some, it is the extreme desire to get out of the world and be at rest, to no longer fighting all the evil around us. I am one those of those someone’s.
I delight in living on this planet, in its beauty, and changeableness, never from one day to the next being quite the same. I love meeting people, and talking about Abba, and all of the Scriptures, of Yeshua and what he has done for us, and what will be coming soon. However, many of the people I meet are less than interested in what I am interested in, and some are downright opposed to it. This lessens my enjoyment of this life. I also am growing older, and suffer from many difficulties and pains due to many ills, and thus long for the new body we are promised, but despite my problems and my aching body, I enjoy my life, and what Abba has provided for me. Thus I plead daily with Abba to send Yeshua soon. I want to go Home.
It is not given to us to know exactly when Yeshua is to come, although there are still prophecies that are as yet to be fulfilled for that return. Many Scriptures are somewhat difficult to understand, and for me, one of the more peculiar symbols in Scripture is a description of how we are to be in these days leading up to the Day of Jacob’s Trouble. The symbology that perplexes me is is that of the ‘oil’ in the lamps of the Wise Maidens in the Parable of the Ten Virgins. Just what kind of ‘oil’ is in the lamps of those who are admitted to the Bridal Chamber to be with the Bridegroom?
On a superficial level, one thinks, well, the five Foolish Bridesmaids must not actually be infilled with the Ruach haKodesh, or must have grieved the Ruach haKodesh away. Yet that cannot be so, or why are they invited to be Bridesmaids? And if Foolish, why are they invited at all? Why is their oil insufficient to the moment?
I have determined that the ‘oil’ in the lamp is a clear reference to a quality we must have, and actions we must perform, but it is not so easy to explain my gut knowledge of what is needed to be known of the Beidegroom. The oil in the parable is not a reference to the residence of the Ruach haKodesh within us, although that indwelling is necessary for Believers to do anything that could be acceptable to G-d. The Holy Spirit enables us, teaches us, and leads us. But evidence of what we are to be and do is not so plainly spelled out to us modern readers of this Parable.
In searching for information, I looked to the Scriptural text surrounding the Parable.
Matthew 25:1-13 (CJB)
1 “The Kingdom of Heaven at that time will be like ten bridesmaids who took their lamps and went out to meet the groom.
2 Five of them were foolish and five were sensible.
3 The foolish ones took lamps with them but no oil,
4 whereas the others took flasks of oil with their lamps..
5 Now the bridegroom was late, so they all went to sleep.
6 It was the middle of the night when the cry rang out, ‘The bridegroom is here! Go out to meet him!’
7 The girls all woke up and prepared their lamps for lighting.
8 The foolish ones said to the sensible ones, ‘Give us some of your oil, because our lamps are going out.’
9 ‘No,’ they replied, ‘there may not be enough for both you and us. Go to the oil dealers and buy some for yourselves.’
10 But as they were going off to buy, the bridegroom came. Those who were ready went with him to the wedding feast, and the door was shut.
11 Later, the other bridesmaids came. ‘Sir! Sir!’ they cried, ‘Let us in!’
12 But he answered, ‘Indeed! I tell you, I don’t know you!’
13 So stay alert, because you know neither the day nor the hour.
This is superficially a very plain Parable with what appear to be obvious symbols in it, but it is not definitive about what oil it is that the Wise Virgins have in their lamps, and that the Foolish Virgins did not bring with them to refill their lamps. So there must be a meaning obscured by the text…symbolism in the words that must be present but we not aware of, but was common knowledge in the days that Yeshua walked the earth. This lack of clarity is offset by the fact that no one in this time searching out the information about the meaning of oil is entirely deficient in knowledge of this tale.
The Parable of the Ten Virgins is a favorite one in many churches and synagogues. Indeed, I have heard this parable again and again, and I know that we must somehow be like the Wise Maidens to be accepted of the Bridegroom. Most people I have listened on this subject believe that being ‘Born Again’ makes us one of the Wise, and that the “oil’ is the indwelling of the Holy Spirit. Others state that simply Believing in Yeshua makes us the Wise Maiden with the right kind and quantity of oil, and that the Foolish Virgins are just not in a relationship with Yeshua. But it is never quite explained in a way I have understood clearly, and since we approach the day that the Bridegroom we are waiting for is to appear, I want to be sure I know what it is I am to know and do.
We are told frequently that oil often represents the annointing of the Holy Spirit, or even is the Ruach himself…but that is not something we can give to another person simply because they request it, and whatever the ‘oil’ is, it must be an item that can be purchased. We also know that the Five Maidens who came well supplied with oil are called wise, or common sensible.
Wisdom is not for sale, but knowledge is, and one thing is obvious in the parable…the Foolish Maidens were unprepared for the coming of the Bridegroom in that they had oil that burnt out quickly, or that was unsuitable in some way, and sputtered out on being lit, and did not bring additional oil against the long wait for the Bridegroom. Wisdom and Common Sense certainly references a kind of knowledge that is used to prepare for future needs. We can buy information and schooling, and practice whatever that information leads us to in understanding. But knowledge is not sufficient in itself to be a provision for the future. Action based on knowledge must be taken to lay-up that provision against future need…indeed the action is the price that we pay for the ‘oil’ we are storing up against the future.
How to get Oil
In the time this Parable was first taught by Yeshua, anything that was needed to live was grown or produced by individual effort. If you needed oil, particularly for a lamp that was to burn cleanly, you needed olives. Produing a grove of olive trees is not something quickly or easily done, and waiting for an olive tree to mature from a newly rooted slip from an existing olive tree requires time, patience, and attentive care for the sapling.
After some three to five years, a healthy slip will grow into a young tree that will bear fruit on the previous year’s new growth, and during that time, the sapling requires diligent care. In a dry area where Olives are happy to grow, their roots seeking deep in the earth to find the water from long past rains, a sapling must be coddled a little, and fed nutrients from composted materials that have been soaked in water to release the minerals the young tree needs. In time, the tree will fruit, and both food and oil can be obtained from its fruit.
Certainly, a person can go to the oil sellers and buy oil already pressed, but they must purchase that oil with the fruits of their labor in another endeavor, or with the fruits of their families labors…but that kind of oil is not the source of the light that Believers are to burn.
Proverbs 6:20-23 (KJV)
20 My son, keep thy father’s commandment, and forsake not the law of thy mother:
21 Bind them continually upon thine heart, and tie them about thy neck.
22 When thou goest, it shall lead thee; when thou sleepest, it shall keep thee; and when thou awakest, it shall talk with thee.
23 For the commandment is a lamp; and the law is light; and reproofs of instruction are the way of life:
Believers are to shed light as a natural fruit of their actions. We are to be an example, and walk in righteousness to the best of our ability. Believers in Yeshua’s day were enjoined by Yeshua, and by every other person with any understanding to act in righteousness. Obedience to the declared commandment to love G-d and to love one another, and all the commandments that derive from these two great summaries of the Torah is a given in the daily walk of any Disciple of Yeshua.
Burning Oil Creates Visibility.
Another point we must notice is the sheer practical fact that the ‘oil’ in the lamps that the maidens carry are to light the way of the Bridegroom, since he will be coming unexpectedly, and late in the evening. Yet, knowing that we are to give the Bridegroom light to see by is an unsettling idea. Why would Yeshua, as a Bridegroom, need to see us to recognize us? Are we not in him, and him in us?
Matthew 5:14-16 The Scriptures
“You are the light of the world. It is impossible for a city to be hidden on a mountain.
“Nor do they light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a lampstand, and it shines to all those in the house.
“Let your light so shine before men, so that they see your good works and praise your Father who is in the heavens.
Next in the parable is the fact that the Bridegroom comes too soon for the unprepared, Foolish Maidens, and they are shut out of the Bridal Chamber…presumably the Kingdom of G-d. The foolish ones when they have purchased their oil, and come back to the Bridal chamber then pound on the door, and beg for admittance, but the Bridegroom refuses, and tellingly says, “I don’t know you.” If they were chosen Bridesmaids, they should have been familiar to the Bridegroom, or at least recognizable in some way…not complete strangers. The foolish ones have lamps, and now have oil, but are not known to the Bridegroom. Why?
I believe that the telling phrase in the parable is not the lamps, nor the oil, but the fact that the Bridegroom does not know the foolish Bridesmaids. He does not recognize them, because they are not shedding light that can identify them as his. We know that Yeshua is all seeing in his G-dly nature through the Ruach haKodesh, but the Bridegroom in the Parable is a term of simplification…stripping away Yeshua from the Bridegroom, and leaving a man who is not able to see who the Foolish Bridesmaids are, despite the light shining from the burning of the oil they finally have in their lamps. It is more truly a kind of ‘forbidden fire’.
Lighting a lamp with oil in it is a seemingly simple action, but ‘light’ has a meaning of its own in Scripture. Believers are to be a light to others, who know less than they do, or have never heard of Yeshua, but ‘light’ is a term that also represents how we act as servants of G-d. Consequently, having knowledge is not sufficient in itself…a wise Bridesmaid must do something to provide that light. The actions must also provide a ‘good’ light, not cast a ungly, distorting glare.
Earlier in Matthew, we have a moment when a lack of knowledge and a lack of right action producing fruit will cause people who appear to be followers of Yeshua to be instead refused entrance to the Kingdom of heaven.
Matthew 7:19-23 (CJB)
19 Any tree that does not produce good fruit is cut down and thrown in the fire!
20 So you will recognize them by their fruit.
21 “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord!’ will enter the Kingdom of Heaven, only those who do what my Father in heaven wants.
22 On that Day, many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord! Didn’t we prophesy in your name? Didn’t we expel demons in your name? Didn’t we perform many miracles in your name?’
23 Then I will tell them to their faces, ‘I never knew you! Get away from me, you workers of lawlessness!’
Believers in Yeshua are branches that grow from the Olive Tree Root that is Yeshua. Those branches that do not produce fruit from which oil can be pressed cannot be anything but dry withered limbs to be cut from the tree, and tossed into the fire. The question then remains, what produces the right kind of oil?
We have foolishness and wisdom as two types of Believer, for people can believe wholeheartedly in Yeshua, and even feel attached to him, yet not ever know him, nor be known of him, because they do nothing that he wants…nothing to produce the fruit from which oil is pressed, and later lit, giving evidence of who they are. One can by one’s rebelliousness against G-d be in constant, deliberate, or careless disobedience to him, even when projecting an appearance of G-dly behavior and action, and be walking in constant, unrepentant unrighteousness.
Knowledge is not enough, and understanding is not enough. We have heard from the very first day of our understanding of Yeshua as our Saviour that we are to trust him, lean on him, and obey him. If we do not do that, we are workers of lawlessness who do not do what Yeshua’s Father in heaven wants. Without obedience, without some action to reflect our having heard what Yeshua taught, we can produce no fruit by which to be recognized, and have no oil of our own, separate from the Ruach haKodesh, that we can light a lamp from, and shine.
It is not enough to be dressed for the Bridal occasion, and attend the ceremony. We are sinners, and we have no true righteousness of our own…only the attempt to obtain it by obedience, and by seeking to know the Bridegroom, so that when he comes, he will recognize us as one of his own.
It is not enough to have oil to burn, but that we have pure, virgin olive oil that we have produced from our own labor as part of the Olive Tree to help light the world. We have to prepare in advance for the time soon to come, to lay up oil from our own attempts to obey G-d, and to produce the fruits of righteousness.
We will be known by our fruit in the darkness of the night Yeshua returns in. Little or great, we must have some ability to burn brightly to show him as he returns that we have been preparing all this time for his arrival, and that we have heard what his desires are. We are to walk in righteousness and produce fruit. That is the ‘oil’ that will burn brightly enough for us to be recognized no matter how dark it gets.