The “Sign” of Its Approach
1. Why should we be excitedly interested in knowing about the nearness of the Millennium?
WHEN we look at it according to what the Bible says about it, the Millennium is a thing very much to be desired for all mankind, the living and the dead. That is why the announcement that it has approached is most welcome news for all who understand. We ought to be excitedly interested in knowing what valid reasons we have for being convinced that it has approached. What are they? Shall we take time to consider some of them?
2. (a) What gathering that we see going on is, in itself, clear evidence that the Millennium has approached? (b) Who leads the “war” on God’s side, and in what capacity is he already serving?
2 From our consideration of the Millennium thus far, we are aware of the fact that it must be preceded immediately by the most destructive war in all human history, “the war of the great day of God the Almighty” at Har–Magedon. We can now see the political rulers or “kings of the entire inhabited earth” being gathered, under forces beyond human control, for that War of all wars. This fact should in itself be a clear evidence that the hoped-for millennium that follows the War has also approached. (Revelation 16:13-16) Taking an active part in that war, on the side of God the Almighty will be the Leader of God’s heavenly armies, the one called Faithful and True, the Word of God. Already, before this Har–Magedon war begins, this heavenly Leader is a King. “Upon his head are many diadems,” and, “upon his outer garment, even upon his thigh, he has a name written, King of kings and Lord of lords.” (Revelation 19:11-16) So he is already reigning as King before he enters upon that thousand-year-long period of reigning with his 144,000 Christian joint heirs.—Revelation 12:5; 14:1-4; 20:4-6.
3. With reference to the beginning of Christ’s premillennial reign, what did John see when the first two seals of the scroll were opened (Revelation 6:1-4)?
3 The reference to the beginning of this premillennial reign of this King of kings, Jesus Christ, is made in an earlier picture of world events of our twentieth century. This picture is given in chapter six of Revelation, in which the apostle John tells us about what he saw when the Lamb of God, Jesus Christ, starts opening up the seven seals that seal shut the “scroll” that he has received from the hand of God who sits on the heavenly throne. Says John: “And I saw when the Lamb opened one of the seven seals, and I heard one of the four living creatures say with a voice as of thunder: ‘Come!’ And I saw, and, look! a white horse; and the one seated upon it had a bow; and a crown was given him, and he went forth conquering and to complete his conquest. And when he opened the second seal, I heard the second living creature say: ‘Come!’ And another came forth, a fiery-colored horse; and to the one seated upon it there was granted to take peace away from the earth so that they should slaughter one another; and a great sword was given him.”—Revelation 6:1-4.
4, 5. (a) In that rider on the fiery-colored horse, what do we see symbolized? (b) Who went forth at that time to conquer completely, and how did this set the stage for Psalm 2:1-6 to be fulfilled?
4 Here we see the symbols that depict the first world war, which broke out in the year 1914 C.E., but which was merely a forerunner to the second world war that took peace away from the earth for six more years. That first of world wars marked the time when the righteous warrior, Jesus Christ, received the heavenly crown and went forth against his enemies on the earth, to win the fight, to conquer completely his earthly enemies. This meant that he would later be fighting on God’s side in the “war of the great day of God the Almighty” at Har–Magedon. His being crowned as King in heaven at the time of the first world war sets the stage for the fulfillment of the words of Psalm Two:
5 “Why have the nations been in tumult And the national groups themselves kept muttering an empty thing? The kings of earth take their stand and high officials themselves have massed together as one against Jehovah and against his anointed one [his Christ, Greek Septuagint Version], saying: ‘Let us tear their bands apart and cast their cords away from us!’ The very One sitting in the heavens will laugh; Jehovah himself will hold them in derision. At that time he will speak to them in his anger and in his hot displeasure he will disturb them, saying: ‘I, even I, have installed my king Upon Zion, my holy mountain.’”—Psalm 2:1-6; compare Acts 4:24-30.
6. Have world wars and the United Nations unseated Jehovah’s King on Mount Zion, and what will the outcome of the war at Har–Magedon assure to us?
6 In spite of all the tumult that has disturbed the nations since the first world war of 1914-1918 C.E., Jehovah has had his King, his Son Jesus Christ, seated upon the heavenly seat of royal government, Zion. (Revelation 14:1; Hebrews 12:22) Neither World War I nor World War II nor the United Nations organization succeeded in unseating this Messianic King. The “war of the great day of God the Almighty” at Har–Magedon will confirm him in his heavenly throne, and he will be on hand there to begin his millennial reign with his loyal 144,000 joint heirs. (Revelation 19:19-21) For this vital reason the promised Millennium with life-giving blessings for mankind is assured to us. It has approached!
7. Why are we not like that ancient “wicked and adulterous generation,” and yet where do we find a “sign” given by Jesus for us to consider?
7 Despite the above-presented evidence, many skeptical persons will demand a “sign” before they decide to be convinced that the Millennium has really approached, yes, will begin within our generation. We are not of that “wicked and adulterous generation” of religious scribes and Pharisees of nineteen centuries ago, who wanted a sign from Jesus Christ, to convince them that he was the Messiah. (Matthew 12:38, 39) However, we do have the description of a “sign” that was given by Jesus Christ himself, and since he made it available for us, we would be keeping ourselves in serious ignorance by refusing to consider it. The description is made available for us in chapters twenty-four and twenty-five of Matthew, chapter thirteen of Mark and chapter twenty-one of Luke. The description of the sign was given to his apostles upon request, not to prove that he was the Messiah or Christ but to indicate that certain promised future events were near at hand, about to be fulfilled. It was given on the eleventh day of the spring month of Nisan of the year 33 C.E., three days before his violent death.
THE PROPHECY OF THE “SIGN”
8. How did Jesus indicate that he would go away, and what words would be said on his return?
8 Jesus had just predicted something that sounded very terrible to Jewish ears, namely, the destruction of their temple at Jerusalem. There he had declared to his religious opposers: “Look! Your house is abandoned to you. For I say to you, You will by no means see me from henceforth until you say, ‘Blessed is he that comes in Jehovah’s name!’” (Matthew 23:38, 39) This indicated that he was going away. When he returned, there would be those who would take up the prophetic words of Psalm 118:26 and say: “Blessed is he that comes in Jehovah’s name!”
9. How did Jesus indicate that those words welcoming his return would not be used by worshipers at Jerusalem’s temple?
9 Evidently it was not at the material temple in Jerusalem that the worshipers of Jehovah would welcome with those prophetic words the one coming in Jehovah’s name. This is what Jesus made to appear very plainly, according to the account that follows his portentous words: “Departing now, Jesus was on his way from the temple, but his disciples approached to show him the buildings of the temple. In response he said to them: ‘Do you not behold all these things? Truly I say to you, By no means will a stone be left here upon a stone and not be thrown down.’”—Matthew 24:1, 2.
10. On the Mount of Olives overlooking the temple, what question did four apostles ask Jesus, and how do various translations render their question?
10 The twelve apostles made no inquiry about this frightful prophecy until they got over onto the Mount of Olives, which overlooks Jerusalem and from which a fine view could be got of that temple that had been renovated by King Herod the Great. The view seems to have stirred a momentous question among four of the apostles, which also aroused the interest of the others, for we read: “While he was sitting upon the Mount of Olives, the disciples approached him privately, saying: ‘Tell us, When will these things be, and what will be the sign of your presence [pa·rou·siʹa, Greek] and of the conclusion of the system of things?’” (Matthew 24:3) Young’s Literal Translation of the Holy Bible translates their words from the Greek to read: “Tell us, when shall these be? and what is the sign of thy presence, and of the full end of the age?” Rotherham’s The Emphasised Bible reads similarly: “Tell us when these things shall be,—and what the sign of thy presence and the conclusion of the age.” Archbishop Newcome’s New Translation (Corrected Text) reads: “What will be the sign of thy appearance, and of the end of the age?”—1808 edition.
11. (a) When did destruction of Jerusalem’s temple take place, but what else did not also occur then? (b) Hence, what would it be natural for us to do respecting history?
11 We today know when the destruction of the literal temple of Jerusalem took place. It was nineteen hundred years ago, in the summer of the year 70 C.E., when the Roman legions under General Titus destroyed the whole city. (Luke 21:20-24) But what about those other things, the “sign” of Christ’s Parousia (presence, appearance) and of the conclusion of the age or system of things (or, the statea), as included in the disciples’ question? True, the full end or conclusion of a Jewish state or system of things was reached in the year 70 C.E., but not the conclusion of the larger system of things of which that Jewish system was merely a prophetic pattern or type. Also, the Parousia, presence or appearance of the Lord Jesus Christ did not occur in that year. Since we are living in this twentieth century C.E., the most natural thing to do would be to look into the history of this twentieth century of ours to determine whether the foretold “sign” has appeared during our own generation.
12. In view of what Stephen said about Christ’s first coming, why should we ask whether the apostles were inquiring about Jesus’ “coming” or “Advent”?
12 We should note that the disciples asked about the Parousia of the Lord Jesus Christ. In so doing, were they asking about his “coming”? His “Advent,” as some call it? This question deserves to be raised, because the Christian martyr Stephen, when speaking about the first “coming” of the Lord Jesus, said to the Jewish Sánhedrin in Jerusalem: “Which one of the prophets did your forefathers not persecute? Yes, they killed those who made announcement in advance concerning the coming [eʹleu·sis, Greek] of the righteous One, whose betrayers and murderers you have now become.” (Acts 7:52) We notice that, when speaking about Christ’s first coming, Stephen used, not the word pa·rou·siʹa, but the Greek word eʹleu·sis. These two Greek words are not only different in form and derivation but also different in meaning.
13. By derivation, what does the word parousía literally mean, but what do authorities on Greek words explain it to mean?
13 The word pa·rou·siʹa literally means “a being alongside,” it being drawn from the Greek preposition paraʹ (“alongside”) and ousía (a “being”). Liddell and Scott’s A Greek-English Lexicon, Volume II, page 1343, column 2, gives as the first definition of parousía the English word “presence.” It gives as the second definition thereof arrival, and then adds: “Especially visit of a royal or official personage.” In agreement with this the Theological Dictionary of the New Testament (by Gerhard Friedrich), in Volume V, gives as “The General Meaning” the English word “Presence.” (Page 859) Then, as “The Technical Use of the Terms,” in Hellenism, it gives “1. The Visit of a Ruler.” On page 865 it says concerning “The Technical Use of pareimi [verb] and parousía in the N.T.”: “In the N.T. the terms are never used for the coming of Christ in the flesh, and parousía never has the sense of return. The idea of more than one parousía is first found only in the later Church.”
14. (a) According to the technical use of the Greek term in Hellenism, what expression would be used instead of “presence”? (b) In what translations is parousía consistently rendered “presence,” with what contrast shown in Philippians 2:12?
14 So, then, Jesus’ disciples were asking, not about his “arrival,” but about after his arrival. They were asking about his “presence.” And if, instead of using the word “presence,” we resort to “the technical use of the terms” in Hellenism, the disciples would be understood to ask Jesus: “What will be the sign of your [visit as a royal personage] and of the conclusion of the system of things?” A “visit” includes more than an “arrival.” It includes a “presence.” In the so-called New Testament the Greek word parousía occurs twenty-four times, and in all its occurrences there, not only the New World Translation of the Holy Scriptures translates the word every time as “presence,” but also other translations do so, as Young’s Literal Translation of the Holy Bible, of 1862 C.E.; Wilson’s The Emphatic Diaglott, of 1857-1863 C.E.; and Rotherham’s The Emphasised Bible, of 1897 C.E. We note how fittingly “presence” and “absence” are contrasted, in Philippians 2:12, where the apostle Paul says: “You have always obeyed, not during my presence only, but now much more readily during my absence.”
THE PARABLE OF THE TEN VIRGINS
15. A number of features of the “sign” foretold by Jesus call for Parousia to be rendered how, as in, for instance, which parable?
15 The meaning of “presence” for parousía is called for in a number of features of Jesus’ prophecy on the “sign” of the Parousia and the conclusion of the system of things. For instance, let us consider that portion of the prophecy which is generally spoken of as the parable of the wise and foolish virgins. Jesus had just prophesied about the “faithful and discreet slave” and the “evil slave,” and now he prophesies of another feature in connection with his Parousia. “Then,” says he, “the kingdom of the heavens will become like ten virgins that took their lamps and went out to meet the bridegroom. Five of them were foolish, and five were discreet. For the foolish took their lamps but took no oil with them, whereas the discreet took oil in their receptacles with their lamps.”—Matthew 25:1-4; 24:45-51.
16. In what sense are the women “virgins,” according to the introduction of the parable?
16 First of all, we should note that this parable involves a class of people and so is not to be applied in its completeness to the life and death of each individual. Those involved are “virgins” in a particular sense, inasmuch as they represent the “kingdom of the heavens,” because “then,” as Jesus said, “the kingdom of the heavens will become like [what?] ten virgins.” This is the “kingdom” of which Jesus spoke earlier in his prophecy, saying: “This good news of the kingdom will be preached in all the inhabited earth for a witness to all the nations; and then the end will come.”—Matthew 24:14.
17. (a) Whom do the “virgins,” being ten in number, picture? (b) When did the parable begin to be fulfilled, and why then?
17 The number “ten” being Scripturally a number signifying perfection as regards earthly things, the “virgins” in being ten in number would picture all Christians who are in line or who profess to be in line for the heavenly kingdom in joint heirship with Jesus Christ. When, therefore, did the prophetic parable begin to have its fulfillment? On Sunday, Sivan 6, the Festival Day of Pentecost, of the year 33 C.E. How so? Because then the virgin class came into existence. This was because the faithful disciples of Jesus Christ, who were gathered together in an upper room in Jerusalem, were on that day baptized with the holy spirit. They were thereby begotten of God to be his spiritual sons in a position to be ‘heirs of God’ and “joint heirs with Christ.” (Romans 8:17) But, in the Bible, heirs are usually the sons; and why is it that, in the parable, all the members of the spirit-begotten congregation of Christ’s disciples are pictured as females, as virgin girls who, on a wedding night, go out to meet the bridegroom? and who is this “bridegroom”?
18. In connection with marriage matters, to whom did John the Baptist compare himself and Jesus, and to whom did John direct his own disciples?
18 First of all, this “bridegroom” is the resurrected, glorified Lord Jesus Christ. John the Baptist spoke of him from that standpoint and accordingly compared himself with the “friend of the bridegroom.” In those days the “friend of the bridegroom” generally arranged for the marriage between the bridegroom and the bride. On the night of union of the two engaged persons, more attention was focused on the bridegroom than on the friend of the bridegroom. And so John the Baptist said to his disciples whom he was preparing for Jesus Christ as their figurative “bridegroom”: “I am not the Christ, but, I have been sent forth in advance of that one. He that has the bride is the bridegroom. However, the friend of the bridegroom, when he stands and hears him, has a great deal of joy on account of the voice of the bridegroom. Therefore this joy of mine has been made full. That one must go on increasing, but I must go on decreasing.” (John 3:28-30) Rightly, then, John directed his disciples to Jesus.
19, 20. (a) How does Jesus, in parable and in Revelation, compare himself with a bridegroom? (b) Correspondingly, what is the New Jerusalem called?
19 On his own part, Jesus compared himself with a bridegroom in another parable that he spoke. This was the parable of the “marriage feast” that a king prepared for his son, and this son stood for the Son of the great King of Eternity, Jehovah God. (Matthew 22:1-14) And in the Revelation, which Jesus Christ received from God and transmitted to the apostle John, Jesus as the Lamb of God is likened to a bridegroom who gets married to the congregation of his disciples, in these words: “Let us rejoice and be overjoyed, and let us give him the glory, because the marriage of the Lamb has arrived and his wife has prepared herself. Yes, it has been granted to her to be arrayed in bright, clean, fine linen, for the fine linen stands for the righteous acts of the holy ones. . . . Write: Happy are those invited to the evening meal of the Lamb’s marriage.” Furthermore, the apostle John tells of an angel who came to him and says:
20 “He spoke with me and said: ‘Come here, I will show you the bride, the Lamb’s wife.’ So he carried me away in the power of the spirit to a great and lofty mountain, and he showed me the holy city Jerusalem coming down out of heaven from God and having the glory of God.” —Revelation 19:7-9; 21:9-11.
21. In Ephesians 5:23-27, to what does Paul compare the relationship between Jesus Christ and his congregation?
21 The apostle Paul compares the relationship between Jesus Christ and his congregation of 144,000 joint heirs to that of a husband and wife. He writes: “A husband is head of his wife as the Christ also is head of the congregation, he being a savior of this body. In fact, as the congregation is in subjection to the Christ, so let wives also be to their husbands in everything. Husbands, continue loving your wives, just as the Christ also loved the congregation and delivered up himself for it, that he might sanctify it, cleansing it with the bath of water by means of the word, that he might present the congregation to himself in its splendor, not having a spot or a wrinkle or any of such things, but that it should be holy and without blemish.”—Ephesians 5:23-27.
22. Where does the marriage take place, and why does Jesus’ parable make no mention of the bride of the bridegroom?
22 The marriage of the Bridegroom Jesus Christ and his congregational “bride” is, of course, to take place in heaven, where they will be united together with the blessing of Jehovah God, the heavenly Father. However, it is to be noted that in the parable of the ten virgins there is no mention made of the bride. This is done in order to avoid confusion of thought. It is, in fact, because the “bride” is drawn or selected from the “ten virgins” themselves. The selected “virgins” are the “happy” ones who are “invited to the evening meal of the Lamb’s marriage.” (Revelation 19:9) In harmony with this, Jesus’ parable shows the qualified “virgins” as going through the door into the wedding feast chamber. Just how they qualify, the parable goes on to illustrate.
23. The fact that the members of Christ’s congregation are likened to “virgins” puts what requirements upon them?
23 The members of Christ’s bridal congregation are likened to “virgins” for more than the reason that they are betrothed to a virgin Bridegroom. They are “virgins” in a further spiritual sense. Just as a virgin girl is clean, chaste, untouched sexually, so these faithful members of the Christian congregation must be pure and clean by separateness from this world, not having any connections with the religious and political organizations of this world. They do not join in any union of Church and State. They maintain their spiritual virginity by not involving themselves with the affairs of this world. (2 Timothy 2:3, 4) This is what is meant when it is said concerning the 144,000 who are seen standing with the Lamb of God on the spiritual Mount Zion: “These are the ones that did not defile themselves with women [like the religious harlot, Babylon the Great, and her daughters]; in fact, they are virgins. These are the ones that keep following the Lamb no matter where he goes.”—Revelation 14:4; 17:3-5.
24. What does James 1:26, 27 say about the required cleanness of those likened to virgins?
24 As regards the required cleanness, the disciple James says: “If any man seems to himself to be a formal worshiper and yet does not bridle his tongue, but goes on deceiving his own heart, this man’s form of worship is futile. The form of worship that is clean and undefiled from the standpoint of our God and Father is this: to look after orphans and widows in their tribulation, and to keep oneself without spot from the world.”—James 1:26, 27.
GOING OUT TO MEET THE “BRIDEGROOM”
25. How did Christ’s congregation, at Pentecost of 33 C.E., start out with the religion pure and undefiled from God’s standpoint, and what evidence did they have of this?
25 On the Festival Day of Pentecost of the year 33 C.E., when the holy spirit descended as a baptism upon the faithful disciples of Jesus Christ as they waited in Jerusalem, the Christian congregation started out with the “form of worship that is clean and undefiled from the standpoint of our God and Father.” They were spiritually a virgin class, separated from the religious organization that had rejected Jesus Christ and brought about his impalement by the Roman governor Pontius Pilate. (Acts 2:1-42) They started out with the teachings of the Messiah Jesus and the teachings of his twelve apostles, and kept themselves from that “crooked generation” that was steeped in unscriptural religious traditions handed down from misguided forefathers. (Acts 2:40; Galatians 1:13-17; Matthew 15:1-9) The baptism of the holy spirit along with the gift of tongues was an evidence that they had the true religion, and they knew it. Now they must remain “virgin” in it.
26, 27. (a) In a spiritual way, to whom did the Christian congregation become betrothed on Pentecost of 33 C.E.? (b) How did Paul, like a “friend of the bridegroom,” speak to Christians in 2 Corinthians 11:2-5?
26 It was on that day (Sivan 6, 33 C.E.) that the Christian congregation became espoused, betrothed, promised in marriage to the heavenly Bridegroom, Jesus Christ. All those who thereafter became additions to that original congregation of 120 disciples at Jerusalem became part of that betrothed class and were obliged to keep themselves “virgin.” To this fact the apostle Paul refers, when he warns the Christians at Corinth against breaking their engagement to Jesus Christ and getting married to a false Christ. Somewhat like a “friend of the bridegroom,” Paul says:
27 “I am jealous over you with a godly jealousy, for I personally promised you in marriage to one husband that I might present you as a chaste virgin to the Christ. But I am afraid that somehow, as the serpent seduced Eve by its cunning, your minds might be corrupted away from the sincerity and the chastity that are due the Christ. For, as it is, if someone comes and preaches a Jesus other than the one we preached, or you receive a spirit other than what you received, or good news other than what you accepted, you easily put up with him. For I consider that I have not in a single thing proved inferior to your superfine apostles.”—2 Corinthians 11:2-5.
28. How were the disciples told, both by Jesus and by angels, that he would come like a Jewish bridegroom to take them home?
28 Their marriage to the virgin Bridegroom in heaven was to be in the indefinite future, some time distant from that espousal day of Pentecost of 33 C.E. Fifty-two days before that, on the night of his betrayal by the unfaithful apostle Judas Iscariot, Jesus had said to his faithful apostles: “In the house of my Father there are many abodes. Otherwise, I would have told you, because I am going my way to prepare a place for you. Also, if I go my way and prepare a place for you, I am coming again and will receive you home to myself, that where I am you also may be. And where I am going you know the way.” (John 14:2-4) Forty-two days after that, when he was ascending from the Mount of Olives and into the sky before the eyes of a number of his disciples, two angels appeared to them and said: “Men of Galilee, why do you stand looking into the sky? This Jesus who was received up from you into the sky will come thus in the same manner as you have beheld him going into the sky.” (Acts 1:9-11) Hence, the disciples knew that, like a Jewish bridegroom on the wedding night, the departed Jesus would come to take them to his heavenly Father’s home, even as Jesus had previously assured them.—John 14:1-3.
29. (a) When did the “virgin” class start out to meet the Bridegroom? (b) What question now arose, and what is indicated in the fact that both kinds of virgins were equal in number?
29 With that prospect of the wedding occasion, the espoused-virgin class set out to meet the Bridegroom, to welcome him and to rejoice with him. They had to keep on the watch, for they knew “neither the day nor the hour.” (Matthew 25:13) How many of those who started out on the day of Pentecost of 33 C.E. and the thousands of those who joined them later would prove to be like the “discreet” virgins of the parable, and how many like the “foolish” or indiscreet virgins? The parable pictures the number of the discreet and the number of the foolish as being equal, to indicate that there was an equal opportunity for all who really start out, and also in order not to indicate that there would be more of the one kind than of the other kind; the matter was left indefinite. But the parable did foretell that not all of those setting out as “virgins” would prove worthy of being admitted to enter in and enjoy the “evening meal of the Lamb’s marriage.”—Luke 12:35-38.
30. (a) What distinguished the discreet virgins from the foolish ones? (b) Did all start out with burning lamps, and so what was the vital question in this respect?
30 What, then, was it that distinguished the discreet or prudent virgins from the foolish or imprudent virgins? This: “The foolish took their lamps but took no oil with them, whereas the discreet took oil in their receptacles with their lamps.” (Matthew 25:3, 4) Yet all of them knew that their having lighted lamps clear to the end of the welcoming procession would be an identification of them, a proof of their worthiness to be admitted to the wedding feast. In view of this they needed enough oil to last them until the wedding procession reached the home of the bridegroom. What, in the fulfillment of the parable, was pictured by the oil? They started out to meet the bridegroom before his arrival was announced, and their lamps were burning when they started out. So at least there was then oil in their lamps. But was it enough to keep their lamps burning till the wedding procession entered the bridegroom’s house?
31, 32. (a) The purpose of the parable was to show what with respect to those symbolic “virgins”? (b) What waiting attitude must they maintain, as expressed by Paul in Philippians 3:20, 21?
31 The oil was an illuminating liquid. Without it the wick in the lamp would not give a steady, continuous light. What did their carrying a lighted lamp to the wedding feast symbolize? In answer to this question, we must remember the purpose for which Jesus gave this parable. The purpose was to show that those who desired to gain admittance to the heavenly marriage would have to bear a certain identification, a certain personality, and they would have to retain this clear down to the finish, no matter at what time the wedding procession began and carried on until it finally reached the Bridegroom’s home for his “bride.” For one thing, the “kingdom of the heavens” class, while on earth amid this bedarkened world, would have to remain “virgin” in a spiritual way. They had their hopes fixed on the heavenly Bridegroom, and this attitude allowed for no contamination of themselves with the unclean world. They must “keep following the Lamb no matter where he goes.” (Revelation 14:4) They must keep like the apostle Paul, who said:
32 “Our citizenship exists in the heavens, from which place also we are eagerly waiting for a savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, who will refashion our humiliated body to be conformed to his glorious body according to the operation of the power that he has, even to subject all things to himself.”—Philippians 3:20, 21.
33. (a) How long must they retain this spiritual virginity, in order to prove worthy of what? (b) How did Jesus speak of their reflecting this acceptable condition?
33 So their sustained spiritual virginity is because of their desire and determination to prove worthy to be accepted by the heavenly Bridegroom as his “bride.” Their daily lives must reflect this amid the darkness of this world of mankind. In his Sermon on the Mount in the year 31 C.E., Jesus Christ the Bridegroom said to his disciples: “You are the light of the world. A city cannot be hid when situated upon a mountain. People light a lamp and set it, not under the measuring basket, but upon the lampstand, and it shines upon all those in the house. Likewise let your light shine before men, that they may see your fine works and give glory to your Father who is in the heavens.”—Matthew 5:14-16.
34. According to Paul’s words in Philippians 2:14-16, how were the Christians to shine?
34 The apostle Paul also said to fellow Christians: “Keep doing all things free from murmurings and arguments, that you may come to be blameless and innocent, children of God without a blemish in among a crooked and twisted generation, among whom you are shining as illuminators in the world, keeping a tight grip on the word of life, that I may have cause for exultation in Christ’s day, that I did not run in vain or work hard in vain.”—Philippians 2:14-16.
35. So what, then, is pictured by the virgins’ holding up their lighted lamps, and this in expectation of what?
35 For the “kingdom of the heavens” class to shine as “the light of the world,” they must engage in “fine works” that glorify the heavenly Father; they must do all things without murmuring and arguments, keep themselves blameless and innocent as far as their Christian lives are concerned, proving themselves to be without blemish as children of God. They must do this in expectation of the Bridegroom’s coming to take them to his heavenly Father’s home. Their doing all this is pictured by the virgins’ holding up their lighted lamps. It is something that will delight the Bridegroom amid the world’s night of darkness.
THE SYMBOLIC OIL AND RECEPTACLES
36. What does the “oil,” as an illuminating liquid, picture?
36 What, then, does the oil, the illuminating liquid, picture? It symbolizes that which keeps the “kingdom of the heavens” class shining as illuminators amid a bedarkened world. Accordingly, it would picture the “word of life,” on which they must keep a “tight grip”; for it is written: “Your word is a lamp to my foot, and a light to my roadway.” (Psalm 119:105) “The very disclosure of your words gives light, making the inexperienced ones understand.” (Psalm 119:130) As a picture, the “oil” would also include the holy spirit of God, for this holy invisible active force of God aids one in understanding God’s Word. (John 16:13) Also, this holy spirit in a Christian manifests itself in fruitage, in the fruits of the spirit such as love, joy, peace, long-suffering, kindness, goodness, faith, mildness, self-control. (Galatians 5:22, 23) Such spiritual “oil” has illuminative power.
37. What does the virgins’ having a supply of oil in their “receptacles” picture, and why so?
37 In the parable, the “virgins” had to have a supply of oil in receptacles, from which they could pour it into the lamps that they carried. They could not make their own bodies “receptacles” by drinking the oil and then, as it was needed, regurgitating it into the lamps to keep them burning. However, having “receptacles” filled with oil meant that they had an oil supply in their possession, not, of course, in their personal bodies, as containers. So the “kingdom of the heavens” class does have in its possession, yes, has within itself, a supply of God’s Word and his holy spirit. Fittingly, then, the “receptacles” pictured in the parable stand for the members of the “virgin” class themselves as possessors of the symbolic “oil.” They certainly do need an ample supply of such “oil” as they go forth to meet the Bridegroom and join his procession.
38. What, then, is symbolized by the virgins’ lamps, and in what way is there a shining?
38 In the parable, the ten virgins used oil lamps for brightening up the night scene. What, then, do those lamps picture in the fulfillment of the parable today? The same thing as the oil “receptacles” do, for the ancient lamps carried illuminating oil the same as the supply “receptacles” did. The members of the “kingdom of the heavens” class are themselves the symbolic lamps. Not that they swallow oil to the full and then pour oil all over themselves and set fire to themselves so as to become “living torches” lined up along the procession route like self-sacrificing martyrs in honor of the Bridegroom. No, but they are filled with God’s enlightening Word and his holy spirit, and this makes them shine in a spiritual way to the honor of the glorious heavenly Bridegroom. They themselves, because of their spiritual qualities, are “illuminators in the world.” Because of the kind of lives that they live under the influence of God’s Word and spirit, they shine to His glory.
39. (a) Why did the “virgins” not know how long they would have to wait for the bridegroom? (b) What did the discreet virgins therefore find it advisable to do?
39 Inasmuch as no hour of the night was set for the bridegroom to leave the house where his bride was given to him and thereafter to lead a procession back to his own home for married life, the virgins of the parable did not know exactly how long they might have to wait for the bridegroom to put in appearance. So they did not know how long they might have to keep their lamps burning. It would be advisable therefore for them to have not only filled lamps but also a receptacle filled with additional oil. The “discreet” or prudent virgins saw this and “took oil in their receptacles,” along with their lighted lamps. The “foolish” or indiscreet, imprudent virgins did not do so, and their foolishness in this regard became evident in course of time.
40. (a) In fulfillment of the parable, how do the “discreet” virgin class take along oil in their receptacles? (b) How does this aid them to prove true to their betrothal to their Bridegroom?
40 In the fulfillment of the parable, those pictured by the “discreet” five virgins take along extra oil in their receptacles, so to speak, by filling themselves up with the Word of God, having it in their minds and their hearts by means of private personal study, by attending Christian meetings where God’s Word is taught and discussed and by making use of that Word of God through sharing it with others. They pray for God’s spirit and seek to be continually “filled with spirit.” (Ephesians 5:18) In any future time of emergency this fullness of the spiritual “oil” would help them to renew their powers of endurance and to keep on shining as the “light of the world” in proof that they were holding true to their betrothal to their heavenly Bridegroom.
“WHILE THE BRIDEGROOM WAS DELAYING”
41. (a) When did Gentiles first become part of the “chaste virgin” class that went out to meet the Bridegroom? (b) Because of what happened to the Jews in 70 C.E., did the “virgins” meet the Bridegroom then?
41 In the autumn of the year 36 C.E., the door was opened for uncircumcised non-Jews, Gentiles, to be converted to the Christianity that is the “form of worship that is clean and undefiled” from the standpoint of God. These believing Gentiles received God’s holy spirit and its gifts the same as the Jewish believers had on the day of Pentecost in 33 C.E. (Acts 10:1 to 11:18; 15:7-19) Thus these also became part of the “chaste virgin” class that is ‘promised in marriage’ to Christ. (2 Corinthians 11:2) From then onward they had a part in the fulfillment of the parable of the “ten virgins” and, to use the language of the parable, they “took their lamps and went out to meet the bridegroom.” In the year 70 C.E. the city of Jerusalem and its gorgeous temple were destroyed by the Roman legions, but, although that horrible destruction was an expression of God’s judgment against the unbelieving, antichristian Jews, the “chaste virgin” class did not meet up with the heavenly Bridegroom whom they had gone out to welcome.—Luke 21:20-24; Matthew 24:15-22; Mark 13:14-20.
42, 43. (a) Toward the end of the first century, what revelation must have encouraged the “chaste virgin” class in its hope, but how did that revelation end? (b) In his first letter written thereafter, to whose presence already did John refer?
42 Years went by, and toward the end of the first century C.E., about the year 96 C.E., the apostle John received the marvelous Revelation with what it had to reveal about the heavenly Bridegroom Jesus Christ and his “bride,” who was pictured as the New Jerusalem. (Revelation 21:1 to 22:17) This must have been of untold encouragement to the “chaste virgin” class who were still persisting in their hopes of meeting the returning Bridegroom. However, the heavenly Bridegroom closed that Revelation, saying: “He that bears witness of these things says, ‘Yes; I am coming quickly.’” In response, the aged apostle John replied: “Amen! Come, Lord Jesus,” and then John added in closing: “May the undeserved kindness of the Lord Jesus Christ be with the holy ones.” (Revelation 22:20, 21) Possibly two years after that, about 98 C.E., the apostle John wrote the first of his three letters, and in it he said:
43 “Young children, it is the last hour, and, just as you have heard that antichrist is coming, even now there have come to be many antichrists; from which fact we gain the knowledge that it is the last hour.” “We know that every person that has been born from God does not practice sin, but the One born from God watches him, and the wicked one does not fasten his hold on him. We know we originate with God, but the whole world is lying in the power of the wicked one.”—1 John 2:18; 5:18, 19.
44. (a) John’s death thereafter opened up the way for the coming of whom? (b) By then how brightly must the lighted lamps of the “ten virgins” class have been burning, and what hope was there of meeting the Bridegroom?
44 Shortly after writing his three letters and also the life account of Jesus known as the Gospel of John, the aged apostle must have died, doubtless the last of the “twelve apostles of the Lamb.” John’s passing would therefore allow for the gradual opening of the door to the incoming, not of Christ the Bridegroom, but of the antichrist, concerning whom John had warned. (2 Thessalonians 2:7, 8) Then the “light of the world” was almost snuffed out. The symbolic “lamps” of the class pictured by the “ten virgins” must have burned very low. In fact, the number of true “virgins” must have become very few. Other interests, mundane material interests, rather than the desire for the return of the Lord Jesus, must have occupied the attention of those who were merely professing Christians. So long a time was passing, and yet he did not put in appearance.
45. How was it fulfilled that, “while the bridegroom was delaying, they all nodded and went to sleep,” especially by Constantine’s time?
45 This was what the parable of the ten virgins foretold in these words: “While the bridegroom was delaying, they all nodded and went to sleep.” (Matthew 25:5) Likewise, within the religious group that professed to be the Christian congregation, the members were growing tired of waiting for the Bridegroom’s coming. In fact, with the so-called “conversion” of Constantine the Great and his making the professed Christianity of his day the State Religion of the Roman Empire, there appeared to be no need for the return of Christ. Christendom was now established, many of the religious bishops of the churches became allied with the Roman State and began reigning in a religious sense. Not only were the genuine apostles of Jesus Christ asleep in death, but these professed Christian bishops fell asleep to Christian responsibility and the need to keep the Christian congregation pure, free from the philosophies and traditions of men, and the need to keep absolutely pure and spotless from the world in a clean, undefiled form of worship before God.
46. (a) How does this sleeping of the “ten virgins” class parallel what Jesus foretold in the parable of the wheat and the weeds? (b) How long was the spiritual sleeping to last, and at what time was fulfillment of the parable’s final feature to be located?
46 This religious situation seems to parallel that which was pictured in Jesus’ parable of the wheat and the weeds, in which he said: “The kingdom of the heavens has become like a man that sowed fine seed in his field. While men were sleeping, his enemy came and oversowed weeds in among the wheat, and left.” (Matthew 13:24, 25) Only after a long growing season would the harvest come and the time for the parabolic “man” to come to the harvest work and order the weeds to be pulled out and the pure “wheat” to be gathered into his storehouses. Interestingly, in explaining all this parable, Jesus used the same expression that his apostles used when asking him the question recorded in Matthew 24:3. Jesus said: “The harvest is a conclusion of a system of things.” (Matthew 13:39) Till the conclusion of the worldly system of things was yet a long time, and the sleep foretold in the parable of the “ten virgins” proved to be a long one. The fulfillment of the final features of the parable of the virgins was to be part of the “sign” that we are in the “conclusion of the system of things.”
a The Sacred Writings of the Apostles and Evangelists of Jesus Christ Commonly called the New Testament, by Campbell, Macknight and Doddridge, of 1828 C.E.